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Arun Gandhi: Mahatma Gandhi and Visions of Peace

By body mind spirit, Conscious Living, Moral Intelligence, Spiritual Intelligence, Strengths, Values, Vision No Comments

The grandson of Mahatma Gandhi talks about how the principles of nonviolence apply to the struggle for gay rights–and how all of us are a vital part of the pursuit for truth.
by Alan Davidson

One of the signs of Mahatma Gandhi’s profound influence was how many people have followed in his footsteps, from Martin Luther King Jr. to Archbishop Desmond Tutu to the Dali Lama. In a very direct hands-on way, Gandhi’s work has been continued by his own grandson, Arun Gandhi, who has opened a center in this country dedicated to teaching Gandhi’s principles.

Another of Gandhi’s followers has been the Rev. Mel White, who has used Gandhi’s teachings about civil disobedience to organize nonviolent protests of the “spiritual violence” against gays preached by the Methodists, Baptists, Catholics, and many of this country’s mainstream denominations. To learn more about Gandhi, Rev. White sought out Arun Gandhi’s help, even traveling to India with him. In return, Arun Gandhi has joined Mel White for six of his civil disobediences.

Arun Gandhi was born in the Phoenix Ashram in South Africa, which Mahatma Gandhi founded in 1903 when he was first testing his ideas about nonviolence. Arun’s parents carried on the work of the ashram, and Arun felt the center’s efforts probably contributed to the fall of apartheid.

While a young boy, Arun went to live with his grandfather in India for 18 months, during which time the elder Gandhi set aside time every day to be with the boy, despite his demanding schedule. “He thought it was very important to give proper training and proper guidance to young people,” Arun says. “He just found the time for them. He was so disciplined in everything that he did that he was able to allot an hour for me and he did it.”

In working for gay rights and for that which is human in all of us, we felt we could learn a lot from the man continuing Gandhi’s work. Arun Gandhi was happy to talk to OutSmart, and share some of his vision about the ongoing and everchanging search for truth.

Alan Davidson: The M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in Memphis … how did it come to be in Tennessee? That’s a far cry from South Africa and India.

Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi

Arun Gandhi: I moved from South Africa to India in 1956. I lived there for 30 years with my wife and family. My wife and I were really involved with the “low-caste, untouchable people.” We did some work with them using Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence. It was a very successful program. We were able to change the lives of many thousands of people.

During that work, it occurred to me that it would be interesting to do a comparative study of prejudices. Why do we as human beings have so many prejudices? I had experienced color prejudice in South Africa. Then I saw the caste prejudice in India. I had read about the race prejudice in the United States. So I wanted to do a comparative study of these three prejudices and write a book. I got a fellowship, to come here to Mississippi and study the race question in 1987.

In 1988 my mother suddenly became very ill in South Africa and she subsequently died. I had to go there for her funeral. That was the first time I saw the total destruction of the institute that grandfather had started in 1903, where my parents had worked their whole life to promote the institute and its philosophy. It pained me to see a life’s work gone down the drain. I felt I needed to do something about it. I spoke to a lot of people to start an institute there again and continue, but I didn’t get very much response. People at that time in 1988 in South Africa were not yet ready for change.

So I came back to the U.S. to finish my study and I spoke to a lot of people about this idea. Everybody felt that if I couldn’t do it in South Africa, why not do it here in the United States? And so we started the institute in Memphis. The reason why we chose Memphis was that the Christian Brothers University gave us hospitality on the campus and I

thought it was a very good deal. So I accepted it and, of course, it’s turned out to be appropriate, because Dr. King was assassinated in this city. So it’s the right place to do this work.

You mentioned your parents’ lifetime work in South Africa. I believe a piece of that was with the Phoenix Ashram that your grandfather had started. It was burned and destroyed at some point.

Phoenix was where I was born. It was a living institute. So it was very painful for me to see the whole thing totally destroyed and almost wiped off the face of the earth.

Do you feel the principles that your grandfather began in 1903 and that your parents worked toward contributed to the fall of apartheid?

Yes. I think all of this work that had been done for many years by various people ultimately contributed to the dismantling of apartheid.

Working for Gay & Lesbian Rights

Let’s talk about Reverend Mel White. How did you meet Reverend White?

I first received a letter from him when he was in Dallas. He said he had a small church there for the gay and lesbian community and he wanted to train them in nonviolent techniques. Would I come there and do some workshops? I had the opportunity to go to Dallas for another engagement and he came to my lectures. And we discussed the possibility again. He had to suddenly give up that place and move back to California, and we’ve maintained the friendship. Then I took a group to India to visit Gandhi’s India; Reverend Mel White joined that group and we spent three weeks together on that tour. We became very close friends. He was very interested in Gandhi and his techniques. Our friendship just grew from that.

In terms of what your grandfather started and then Martin Luther King Jr. coming and doing his work in the ’60s with the race prejudice, it seems Mel White is a new incarnation working again–with a different slant on prejudice, but using the very same principles.

Yes. I think he’s done a wonderful job. He has really studied the techniques and is doing a marvelous job of bringing about a change through love and understanding.

And you found yourself demonstrating in Cleveland at the annual United Methodist Church convention and were arrested on behalf of gay and lesbian rights.

Yes, in fact last night I was here in Memphis at a gay and lesbian function. Matthew Shepard’s mother came and spoke to the group.

She seems to be another person who has taken a tragedy in her life and turned it to compassion.

Judy Shepard, founder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation

She did. I was just marveling as I was listening to her speak. Grandfather came out of hate. Martin Luther King came out of a hateful atmosphere. Hate has given rise to some very important people and important theories. Not that I am speaking for hate, but you know it’s just a coincidence that another hateful incident has given rise to another wonderful person like Judy Shepard, who has made it her life’s mission to go out and change the world.

The MTV awards were broadcasting live. Eminem is one of the rappers who is known for his antigay, antiwomen, and antirace remarks. Immediately after his performance, MTV ran a promotional spot with Judy Shepard about stopping the hate and stopping the violence. I thought that was a nice way that the broadcasting system could counter-balance that message from the rapper.

Are you involved in other things with Reverend White and gay and lesbian issues?

Mel White, founder of SoulForce

I did receive an invitation from Mel White asking me to come to Washington, D.C., in November. They are having a big demonstration there. [On November 14, 2004 Mel White’s Soulforce gathered 250 people at the National Shrine in D.C. to protest the exclusion of GLBT Catholics by the Catholic Church; 104 people were arrested.] We need to work together to get rid of all this hate and prejudice. It’s not right to hate people because of the color of their skin or their race or their religion or their habits.

Satyagraha & Ahisma: In Pursuit of Truth and Nonviolence

I would like to discuss some of the primary principles that you work with. One of the first problems of teaching these principles is the difficulty of translating them into English. Satyagraha comes from the Sanskrit, I believe.

It’s a combination of two words, truth and force. And it can be translated to mean various things. [Some translate satyagraha as “soulforce,” from which Rev. Mel White got the name of his group, Soulforce.] I usually translate it to mean pursuit of truth. I feel this is closest to what grandfather was practicing when he said we are constantly in search of truth. If we have an open mind and we sincerely pursue that truth, then the likelihood of our finding it would be good.

But the western philosophy comes from the possession of truth. In the west, people feel they have the truth and there’s no pursuit of truth. You know there is a very big difference between the two. When you feel that you possess the truth, then you don’t change or you don’t search for anything, you just hold on to your antiquated ideas in the belief that that is the truth. Whereas, truth, nobody really has the truth, and so we have to search for it. And so I consider grandfather’s philosophy a pursuit of truth.

That’s one of the things that scares me about fundamentalism, whether it is Christian or Islam, or Hinduism, is that possession of the truth. The belief that I have been given the law. And anything outside of that is to be destroyed or disrespected or hated. They don’t look at the scriptures as a text that illuminates the truth.

That’s the tragedy today. Much of the violence and the hate and the prejudices in the world are by people who believe they possess the truth.

There is a quote that Ram Dass is fond of using that comes from your grandfather’s book, “Experiments in Truth.” It’s something like this, ” I am a human being and the truth is ever-changing and evolving, and as a human being I must commit to the truth and not to consistency.” I think it illuminates what you were saying. We as human beings are fallible and the truth is evolving and changing. And that we must commit to that evolutionary process as opposed to appearing to be right or appearing to be consistent.

As I remember it, it was during an interview with some correspondent that he mentioned it. The journalists were perturbed by what they called his inconsistency. He would say one thing today and then a week later he would change. They said, “How do we keep up with you if you are so inconsistent?” And that’s when he made this remark, that the truth is ever-changing. I see new versions of it every day. How can I be wedded to consistency when I am pursuing truth?

One of the things that I respect so much about your grandfather is how he used his life as a laboratory. Even in regards to diet and nutrition, he was tinkering and changing and evolving the effect of food on his spiritual practices and the quality of his life. It takes a lot of courage to experiment in that way all the time.

Let’s talk about ahimsa, which is a real difficult word to translate.

Yes, it is. Most people have translated ahimsa to mean nonviolence, but grandfather translated it to mean love. The reason behind that is, he says when you say nonviolence, then you become sort of dogmatic because there are certain times in life when some violence becomes inevitable. And if you are wedded to nonviolence, then you won’t do anything, you won’t do the right thing.

For instance, the controversy in 1916, when he set up his ashram. At that time the Jains controlled the city. There were many stray dogs and many of them became rabid. They threatened the human population. So the mayor of the city wanted to catch these dogs and put them to sleep because there was no other treatment that they could think of. The Jains felt this was violence and they objected to it. So the mayor came and asked grandfather, What should I do? and grandfather said, Of course you have to catch the dogs and put them to sleep, put them out of their misery. And so this whole thing between the Jains and grandfather went on for several months.

That is when grandfather said there is much violence in nonviolence and nonviolence in violence. If we are wedded to nonviolence, we can’t let the dogs suffer and we can’t let the people be threatened by these dogs. It’s more nonviolent to put them to sleep than to let them live and threaten the world.

That brings to mind a quote from the founder of Aikido, the Japanese martial arts. He says the ultimate goal of war is love. I know people who practice Aikido. They call it the Dance of the Tao, the expression of love in action. How it is really about conflict resolution as opposed to overthrowing or defeating your opponent. It sounds like they are saying the similar thing you described with the dogs.

One of the things I appreciate about ahimsa is that nonviolence, or love, must be in thought, word, and deed … how it has to infuse your whole being and personality.

This is not something that you can put on and off at will, it’s something that has to be a part of your nature. You have to live it. You have to live what you want others to learn. That is one of the reasons why grandfather became so successful in teaching people, because he lived it. He showed by his lifestyle, the importance of what he was talking about.

One of the books about your grandfather that I have found so inspirational is “Gandhi, The Man” by Eknath Eswarren. It’s a very simple book, but really brings out the qualities and the principles. And he talks fundamentally about the Bhagavad-Gita and how that was an influence on your grandfather and his thinking.

Actually, he was influenced by all the religions. One of the most important statements that he made was that a friendly study of all the scriptures is the sacred duty of every individual. He emphasized the word friendly. A lot of people have made critical studies, but not so many have made friendly studies. If we make a friendly study of all the scriptures, we will find the wisdom in all of them. We would then be able to take that wisdom and incorporate it in our lives. And thereby enhance our own beliefs and not diminish our beliefs. So that’s what he did, he studied all the scriptures and he took from every religion what he found important and incorporated it in his lifestyle. He was impressed with the Bhagavad-Gita. He said the Sermon on the Mount was also just as important as the Gita to him. He found tremendous similarities between the Sermon on the Mount and the Bhagavad-Gita.

Your grandfather also read Thoreau and his treatise on civil disobedience. And that was one of his inspirations in South Africa.

He had started his civil disobedience campaign in South Africa before he read Thoreau. It was in prison he came across this book and he started reading it. He was so happy and jubilant to know that a scholar like Thoreau was writing about the same thing he was already practicing. He just felt that it was an endorsement of what he was doing and he got more inspiration from that.

Ignorance Is the Enemy

Your grandfather said, “Evil and injustice and hatred exist only insofar as we support them.” This comes back to the definition of Satyagraha and Ahimsa being love. It’s this belief that love is all that there is and that evil is an illusion.

Yes, it’s an illusion. It’s a sort of mental state. You know, if we believe that some people are evil, or some people are born evil, then we will believe in that kind of thing. But there’s no truth behind it, and the truth is people are not born evil, people are made evil by circumstances. So yes, these illusions that we live with, they have no scientific basis.

So it’s the belief that no matter who you are dealing with, that you can call forth the love that’s at the very core of their being.

That’s exactly what it’s based on. That you appeal to the goodness in the person and every person has that goodness in him or her. And it’s just a question of appealing to that.

Your grandfather said that we have a moral obligation to not cooperate with evil just as we have an obligation to cooperate with all that is good. I heard that used by Germans who opposed the Nazis. One of the important distinctions that I repeatedly hear your grandfather made about the British is that they are not our enemy, it’s the untruth, it is the ignorance that is the enemy.

Right. The whole nonviolence concept is to attack the wrong–not the person, but the problem. Generally in violence we attack the person and we forget about the problem. And we think that by eliminating the person, we can do away with the problem. After killing each other, we realize we haven’t really achieved anything at all. One of the examples that I use is Nazism. We fought WWII and we lost 68 million human lives in order to get rid of Nazism. But what we succeeded in doing was getting rid of the Nazis, but Nazism still lives and thrives and threatens the whole world. The hate and the prejudice, that philosophy of Nazis is still there, so what did we achieve with the sacrifice of 68 million human lives if we were not able to get rid of that problem? That is the distinction. In nonviolence you focus on the problem and eliminate the problem instead of focusing on the individual and eliminating the individual.

We Are Violent Every Day

You have done a really good job of mapping out the different kinds of violence, physical versus passive. For all the physical violence that there is in our society, in our world, it seems that the passive is much more pervasive.

Yes, in fact I would say for every physical act, there is at least one hundred passive acts of violence that we commit today. Many of these we do without even knowing it, and that is what creates all this violence in the world. The thing that we need to do, each one of us, is to acknowledge our own violence–and we can acknowledge that only when we learn about it and do some introspection.

Mel White points out that in the gay and lesbian community it’s so easy to think about the hate that is generated by the fundamentalist Christians toward homosexuals. He also points out how many times we have responded with anger and resentment and hate toward fundamentalist Christians. Even though we are often oppressed, we can be just as oppressive in our own views and attitudes and behavior.

Right, it’s the whole question of an eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind. So if somebody hates something and we hate them back, it’s not going to solve the problem.

I think we’ve come back to the quote that you often use, “Be the change you wish to see.” How we begin to look within ourselves and make the changes within our own inner-self and personality so that we can make a change in the world.

I was very happy, Judy Shepard yesterday concluded a lecture with that quote, “We must be the change we wish to see.”

Satyagraha and Alcoholism

In modern psychological parlance, I hear a lot about the word “boundaries.” Particularly in situations like tragic alcoholism, drug abuse, or violent behavior–how you have to “exercise your boundaries” or use “tough love” to work with somebody who is suffering in that way. How would you suggest using the principles of ahimsa or satyagraha in working with people who are chemically dependent or abusive in different ways?

First of all, not cooperating with them in their evil, whatever evil they are doing. At the same time, teaching them better ways of taking them out of it and reforming them to love and understanding. By condemning them because of what they are doing, we won’t bring about any change. We will only reinforce their beliefs and push then lower down in whatever they are doing.

Judging them in a sense.

Yes. If we respond with understanding and love and yet be very clear that we are not going to support their bad habits.

Well, it’s a fine line of finding that place of noncooperation and yet patiently offering that love and support at the same time.

In grandfather’s case, he had to deal with his eldest son, who got into bad company and became alcoholic and all kinds of bad habits. Then he needed money to support those bad habits and he went around the country taking loans from people on the basis of his father’s reputation. His father then had to make a public statement and ask people not to give him any support in spite of the fact that he was his son. He said, “I disown him because of his bad habits. I would like him to come back and live with me and I would support him and take care of him, but not his bad habits.”


You talk about anger and how it is the initial source of so much of the other violence that we see. You make the analogy about electricity and anger being similar.

Our responses to people are conditioned by anger. We get angry because somebody said something or did something to us, and we respond or retaliate immediately. When we do that in anger, we are being violent; whether passively violent or physically violent. That aggravates the situation and it escalates from there.

So the thing that we need to learn is not to respond in anger. When we are in an angry mood, we are not in control of our minds. When we are not in control of our minds, we end up doing the wrong thing, making the wrong choices. We have got to learn to take time out and regain control of our minds and then make the proper response to that situation.

I don’t advocate walking away and forgetting about it. I do advocate walking away for a little while to be able to gain control of your mind. But we have to come back and face the situation, once we have control of our mind, and try to find an adequate solution to the problem. This is something that we need to work on throughout our lives. I think that it should be a part of our training all the time. We have to continuously develop techniques and control over our minds and not just do it at the moment of crisis.

You’re saying it’s a daily spiritual practice.

Yes, it’s a spiritual practice. It’s a way of being able to control our emotions. The analogy about electricity is that it is a very powerful source of energy. It’s very deadly if we abuse it, but yet we channel it and bring it into our life and we use it for all the good things that we use electricity for. And in the same way, we ought to be able to channel anger, because it’s the same kind of energy. It’s very deadly if we abuse it, but very useful and good if we can channel it properly and use it effectively.

Your grandfather suggested that you keep an anger journal.

He said it is the only way of getting anger out of your system and it becomes your textbook of your emotions. The journal then will give you a guide about what you need to do, what you have done, and how you have changed–then over the years you can study your emotions. So it serves two purposes. It helps you be able to get control of your mind and get the anger out onto paper, but he always advocated that we should the journal with the intention of finding a solution to the problem and not just pour the anger out. You know a lot of people have been writing anger journals and they just simply pour their anger out into the journal. So that when they went back and read the journal a few weeks later or a few days later, they just were reminded of the anger. It all came back to them. But if you write it with the intention of finding a solution, then you get into that mental attitude of trying to work out a solution to the problem.

In our psychologically hip society, we are so good at just dumping. This is a way of vacating and seeing the end of it.

Making Time for Children

You wrote once about living with your grandfather in India. You said for the 18 months that you lived with him that he allotted a certain amount of time for you each day. It is so amazing to me that with all the demands on his time and his attention, he would create for you, a young boy, that time with him.

He thought it was very important to give proper training and proper guidance to young people–you know, whoever was living with him at that time. He just found the time for them. He was so disciplined in everything that he did, that he was able to allot an hour for me and he did it.

I think in our society here in the United States, how many parents are so busy working and running and doing, and yet there is so little quality time with their children.

We are motivated by selfishness and self-centeredness. We are always thinking about what’s good for us and what do we need to do and so on. So we are selfishly motivated. But if we look at what’s good for our children and do what’s right for them, then it would be a very different kind of situation.

Daily Spiritual Practices

Would mind sharing which spiritual practices that you use in your life right now? Certainly selfless service is an important part of your spiritual practice, but what else do you do?

Well, I do meditation, and of course yoga and selfless service as you said.

What form of meditation do you practice?

I do active meditation. I don’t lock myself in a room or anything like that. Wherever I am, sometimes even on airplanes when I am travelling somewhere, I have developed the technique of being able to turn my gaze inward and be to myself even in the midst of all the people. I meditate on some important quotations, important things from scriptures that I’ve taken, important quotations from grandfather’s writings or writings from other important people. I reflect on them and see how they can be incorporated in my own life.

I practice vipassana or mindfulness meditation and I have found that to be very valuable. Mindfulness was the first tool that I had in working with my anger or with my grief that didn’t feel like running away from it. It allowed me to sit with it and be with it in a way that wasn’t destructive.

“We Must Be the Change We Wish to See”

Terrence McKenna paraphrases your grandfather as saying, “In the big picture of things, I’m not sure if what I do is important, but I do know that it is vitally important that I do it.” It impressed me. Somebody like your grandfather who has had such an incredible contribution to this last century and to the quality of life, to say it might be insignificant of what I do, but it’s vitally important that I do it.

A lot of us have this big picture before us and we want to change the whole world. Yet none of us have the capacity to do that. Because we don’t have that capacity, we get so disillusioned and we don’t do anything at all. We realize and bring about a change by doing little things. And those little things add up and we make the change happen.

You’re saying we are crippled by our own fears and inadequacies….

We get disillusioned because we want to change the whole world, and then we realize we don’t have the power to do that, so then we don’t do anything at all. But if we can change one person at a time or one thing at a time, that little change then adds up and contributes to the eventual change of the world.

The ripple effect, and I think we come back to changing ourselves.

Exactly, that is where the old quotation of, “We must be the change we wish to see” in the world.

Conflict resolution is getting a lot of attention these days and how do we constructively do that in a business situation or in our personal lives. And I was wondering if the institute offers programs around that?

What we really focus on more is not just conflict resolution but how do we avoid conflict. Being able to resolve a conflict after it occurs is one thing, but how do we avoid conflict all together. That is another thing that we need to focus on. We seem to ignore that aspect of it very much.

Sometimes I use the analogy of a smoker who goes on smoking. And then develops cancer and goes to the doctor and says, “Cure me of this cancer.” And the doctor says, “You have to give up smoking and change your lifestyle.” And he says, “Nope. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to continue the way I am, but you’ve got to cure me.” Conflict resolution is somewhat like that. If we continue to do all the things that generate conflicts and then we try to find ways of resolving that peacefully. And sometimes we succeed and sometimes we don’t because we are contributing to fueling the fire so we can’t put out the fire.

In closing, if there were anything you would like to offer to our gay and lesbian readers that we could do to continue to heal the prejudice and ignorance around us?

Well, I would just like to say, don’t feel that you are alone in the world. There are many millions of people who are being hated and discriminated against because of other reasons. We all need to come together to change the world and get rid of all the hate and the prejudice and hopefully create a world where we can all live in peace and harmony with each other. This we can do only through love and respect for each other. Not through violence and counter-hate.

One of the unfortunate things that I see in the gay and lesbian community, even though we are often subjected to great violence and oppression and suppression, we can be just as hateful to other members of our own community.

Last night I saw that. Some gays and lesbians had written some poems and they were reading them (at the benefit with Judy Shepard). Some of them had some very harsh things to say about the rest of the community. I thought that was sort of eye-for-an-eye kind of attitude. Which is not going to get anybody anywhere.


By Cosmic Care, Environmental Care, Fun and Fabulous, Human Rights/Justice, Moral Intelligence, Values, Vision No Comments

What Will You Do?

FOUR YEARS. GO. is a campaign to change the course of history. The next four years will determine the quality of life on this planet for the next 1,000 years. There is still time to act, but no time to waste.

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Rich German: Creating Abundance Through Contribution

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Creating Abundance Through Contribution – (How I Gave Away 30,000 Books and Raised $30,000 for Homeless Children in 30 days)

By Rich German

A little less than a year ago, I decided I wanted to support a charity through my business. When I began to think about the countless charities that exist and all the important causes in need of support, I got a little overwhelmed and did not know which direction to go.

So as I normally do when posed with a quandary or question, I walked down to the beach and asked the ocean for some guidance.  I sat down on the sand, crossed my legs, faced my open hands out towards the beautiful Pacific Ocean and quietly asked, ”What should I do?”

I do this often and the answers always appear. This time was no different. Over the next few days I received many signs pointing me in the direction of supporting homeless children. First I got an email from a friend about the problem of youth homelessness in the United States. The next day I was driving down the road and passed a bus with a huge sign on its side with the face of a homeless little girl. The next day another email appeared in my inbox about homeless children here in the US. I quickly realized I had found my cause.

I began to research the issue and was astounded at what I discovered. I live in Orange County, California, one of the wealthiest counties in the country. To my shock, I learned there are 22,000 homeless kids right here in my own backyard. Nationwide the numbers are massive…1.6 MILLION children, yes, 1,600,000 experience homelessness each year.

As I researched more I discovered that, although there are many amazing organizations doing great work for homeless youth around the country, there is not an umbrella organization that is bringing them all together to create a national awareness and solution campaign.

I knew I had found my mission.

The next question I faced was where to begin to tackle such a huge epidemic. I decided that the first step was to create massive awareness. As I began talking about the cause with friends, the majority of people, like me, had no clue as to the depth of the issue.  What could I do to create major awareness? What could be done to shine the light on this dark reality?

I went back to the beach for the answer. Again the answer came:  get mass media exposure through making a documentary film. Great idea, right? Only one problem. I have never made a film before and knew nothing about how to make one.

I liked the idea, a lot, and decided to interview some local film production crews. As always happens, once you have clarity and passion for something, the wheels of the universe begin to turn and align things for you. I spoke to three awesome production companies, and one located right here in Orange County (Change For Balance Productions) not only produces incredible, high-conscious films but they were already working locally with homeless youth. We partnered up with the intention of making an Academy Award-winning level film.

I came up with the title Generation Why?  As in, WHY are there 1.6 million homeless children in the wealthiest country in the world?

In addition to the film crew I brought in a couple other partners. One is an amazing woman who not only spent her entire youth in and out of the foster system but also shares the passion for creating a solution for homeless youth. The other is a dear friend who specializes in coaching teenagers.

The first step we took was to create a “teaser trailer,” a 2.5-minute video which would hit people right in the heart and shed some light on the cause.

And then to really get things going, I made a pretty bold business decision. In September of 2010, I published my second book, Monetize Your Passion, and instead of selling it, I decided to give it away for free to anyone in the world who wanted it. People first needed to watch the trailer and then we asked for a completely optional charity donation in exchange for the book. In the first month, we gave away over 30,000 books and raised over $30,000.

In my eyes, this was a massive win-win. Most importantly, we raised $30,000 for the Gen Why Project. But from a pure business standpoint, not only were 30,000 people exposed to the book (and my work), but in order to get the book, everyone had to give me their email address. In just one month I added over 30,000 people to my database to whom I could promote my products and services. Again, a massive win-win…a great start in both awareness and fundraising for the project and huge exposure for my business.

Side note: I was privileged to have the amazing Alan Davidson orchestrate the entire free book promotion…no small task to pull off.

Since the book launch, the team has formulated and implemented many ideas to raise awareness and create solutions. The truth is, I don’t know exactly HOW we are going to accomplish our goals, but I know that the “how” is not really my job. My job is to stay focused on our intention – support homeless youth – and then be open to all the signs that show up. And when they do, it is all about ACTION.

One of our focuses has been getting some major celebrities on board to endorse the project. And recently we got the blessing of the Tonight Show‘s music director, Rickey Minor. Rickey is not only the bandleader for Jay Leno but his band was the band on American Idol for multiple seasons. He is highly connected. Again we stay focused on the intention and all the right people show up.

The exciting part is that this project is still in its infancy, and I know in my heart and soul it will become huge. When I look back at the success we have already had, some keys come to mind. These, of course, are all things you can do in your own life and business.

The Five Keys to Success:

Key #1: The first key is ASKING. Again, when faced with a question, instead of going into my mind to find the answer, I went into my heart and essentially offered the question to the universe. Now I know this may sound a bit airy fairy to some people, but my advice is not to knock it until you try it.

Key #2: The second key is a desire, a PASSION, to contribute. This entire ride began as a result of my desire to make a difference. As we have all heard over and over again, if we help enough people get what they want, all of our needs will be more than met.

Key #3: The third key has been COLLABORATION. Whatever your dream is, there is no need to do it on your own. It would have been impossible to make the progress we have made without the support of others – from the help of people like Alan Davidson, to my incredible Gen Why team, to the nonprofit organization who took us under their umbrella, to all the celebrities, volunteers, mentors and other incredible souls who are showing up daily to get on board with the Gen Why Project.

Key #4: The next key is to KEEP YOUR EGO IN CHECK. We have one rule on the team, and that is, if anyone ever starts to make the project about themselves personally (vs. the children we are supporting), the rest of the team will beat them over the head with a large stick. No egos allowed!

Key #5: The final key is PATIENCE. This is one I struggle with daily.  I want it ALL to happen…and I want it to happen NOW. I need to remind myself almost on a daily basis that things are in motion and it will all happen in perfect timing.

Let’s end this with a few simple exercises for you. First, make sure to review the 5 keys above and relate them to your life.

Key #1: Are you asking for the answers to the questions you have?
Key #2: Do you have a strong passion to make a difference in the world?
Key #3: Are you open to collaborating with others to make it happen (vs. trying to compete with others and do it on your own)?
Key #4: Is your ego in check?
Key #5: Do you have patience or is your motto “I want patience and I want it NOW!”?

Now here are two action steps you can take…

1)    Define your passion

–    What are you passionate about?
–    What contribution/difference are you on this planet to make?

If you struggle with defining your passion, I suggest you do two things.  First, go to the beach (or a park or a lake or anywhere in nature you prefer) and put the question out there. Next, read Chapter 6 of Monetize Your Passion.

2)    Write out a plan

Once you get some clarity on your passion, start on a plan that includes specific outcomes and some of the action steps you can take to get there. Inspired action is the key to turning your vision into your reality.


Rich German

Rich German is recognized as one of the most accomplished and popular business and life coaches in the world. Since 1999, he has conducted over 16,000 individual coaching sessions and has led numerous training seminars for thousands more. He is also a certified meditation teacher.

Rich’s clients not only get the results they are looking for, but they also experience great quantities of happiness.  He assists people on shifting from a work-style to a lifestyle. The goal is to be RICH IN LIFE! A prolific writer, Rich is the co-author of the bestselling book, Living the Law of Attraction, plus a series of short spiritual books titled Wisdom from the Path.  His newest book, Monetize Your Passion, is now available.

Click here for your Free copy of Rich German’s book Monetize Your Passion

Epistemology of Perception

By body brilliance, body mind spirit, Health & Wellbeing, Vision One Comment

by Sandeep

Originally posted at: Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother/

How do we in the role of the subject perceive an object?   What is the state of our consciousness with respect to the object ?  This is referred to as the epistemology of perception. In this post, I will first survey perception (Pratyaksha) as outlined by Vedanta and then discuss how  Sri Aurobindo augmented this theory in the light of his own supramental experiences.   By giving new meaning to the four terms Vijnana, Prajnana, Samjnana and Ajnana listed in the Aitereya Upanishad, Sri Aurobindo presented a fresh perspective on the epistemology of perception.

Perception in Vedanta

According to Indian philosophy, it is One Consciousness (Brahma-Chaitanya) which has “become” (i.e. which underlies) the world in its various forms such as man, animals, plants and even the supposedly inanimate objects.  Everything has the same consciousness within it although the outward expression differs in degree and intensity.   In the phenomenal world, consciousness has veiled its full power and plunged into what may be called  (spiritual) Ignorance or Nescience.   In case of the supposedly inanimate mineral kingdom, this consciousness is said to be veiled by a state of inertia (Tamas).  This veiling is denoted as Maya (Illusion) and it is this Nescience which is the cause of all empirical distinctions between the Knower, the Known and Knowledge.  There would be no Nescience if we were fully conscious because then the distinction between subject and object would not exist; everything we perceive would be seen as part of the One Self.  The act of perception must be understood in the light of this ontological background.   Every act of perception (Pratyaksha) may be regarded as a realization of the One Self by an unveiling of the nescience which currently exists between the subject-consciousness and the object-consciousness, the Knower and the Known.

The phenomenon of perception can be illustrated in the words of Vacaspati Mishra who said: “Every one who deals with an object first intuits it, then reflects upon it, then appropriates it, and then resolves or determines, this is to be done by me, and then he proceeds to act.“   In accordance with this example, it is possible to identify three stages of perception[JS]:

1. Indeterminate apprehension:  The subject consciousness registers a change in the sense-input.   This stage occurs at the level of the sense-mind (Manas).  The mind must be attentive or attached to the organ.  If the mind is inattentive, no perception occurs even if the external sense-organ is active.   This is observed in the phenomenon of absent-mindedness where one says, “I didn’t hear that song even though it was playing.

2. Determinate apprehension: The mind (Chitta) takes the form of the object (Chitta-Vritti).  The mind is said to be active in perceiving an object, and not a passive recorder of impressions.   It is said to capture an impression of the external object.   Here, one may take the analogy of a camera which has a photographic film (or pixel buffer, if we use the analogy of the digital cameras) onto which all the sense-impressions are united into a single image.

3. Cognition / Apperception: In this stage, the mind, in its cognitive aspect (Buddhi) alongwith the ego-sense(Ahankara), utilizes past memories (Samskaras) to resolve and act on the object.   According to Vedanta, one part of the  mind becomes the object (i.e. by imaging the object within our consciousness) and another part of the mind observes this internal image and manipulates it using the intellect.  The first part is the determinate apprehension discussed in the preceding paragraph while the second part is cognition.

This figure indicates the various stages in perception


The figure below is a picturesque view of the division that occurs in the mind during the second (determinate apprehension) and third (cognition) stages described above.

Epistemology of Perception


The various ancient Indian schools of philosophy such Nyaya, Mimansaka, Sankhya, Jaina, Buddhism, Vedanta offered their own variants on the epistemology of perception.  The  full discussion of these variants can be read in Jadunath Sinha’s excellent two-volume set Indian Psychology. (link)

Arthur Avalon in his book Serpent Power presents the perspective of Tantra on perception.   Tantra denotes the object as Artha and subject as Sabda.   The part of the mind which becomes the object, which images the object within the subject-consciousness, is called subtle Artha.    The other part of the mind, which cognizes this subtle image, is denoted as subtle Sabda.

The object perceived is called Artha, a term which comes from the root “Ri” which means to get, to know, to enjoy.  Artha is that which is known, and which therefore is an object of enjoyment.  The mind as Artha-that is, in the form of the mental impression-is a reflection of the outer object or gross Artha.  As the outer object is Artha, so is the interior subtle mental form which corresponds to it. That aspect of the mind which cognizes is called Sabda or Nama (name), and that aspect in which it is its own object or cognized is called Artha or Rupa (form). The outer physical object of which the latter is, in the individual, an impression is also Artha or Rupa, and spoken speech is the outer Sabda. Subject and object are thus from the Mantra aspect Sabda and Artha-terms corresponding to the Vedantic Nama and Rupa, or concepts and concepts objectified. As the Vedanta says, the whole creation is Nama and Rupa. Mind is the power (Sakti), the function of which is to distinguish and identify (Bheda samsarga-vrtti Sakti).   Perception is dependent on distinguishing and identification.  In the perception of an object that part of the mind which identifies and distinguishes, or the cognizing part, is subtle Sabda, and that part of it which takes the shape of the object (a shape which corresponds with the outer thing) is subtle Artha.  The perception of an object is thus consequent on the stimultaneous functioning of the mind in its twofold aspect as Sabda and Artha, which are in indissoluble relation with one another as cognizer (Grahaka) and cognized (Grahya). Both belong to the subtle body. [AA]

Sri Aurobindo on perception

Sri Aurobindo’s augmented the Vedantic theory of perception based on his spiritual experience of the Supramental World (Maharloka or Vijnanaloka).  In this world, ideas are not abstractions but always concrete realities inseparable from the objects they define.  A good example of this would be simultaneously experiencing the power of the burning light and the substance of the fire within it [SALD].  He coined the term Real-Idea to define this experience.

On the plane of mind you have abstractions. It is the mind’s way of representing realities of planes higher than the mind. Behind these abstractions there is a Reality. On the plane above the mind there are no abstractions, there are realities and powers. For instance, you form an abstract idea in the mind about the Supermind. When you get to the Supermind you find it is not an abstraction at all. It is more intensely concrete than Matter, something quite overwhelming in its concrete-ness. That is why I called it the Real-Idea and not an “abstract idea”. In that sense there is nothing more concrete than God. Even if we were on the pure mental plane we would find mind much more concrete and real. But as we are on the physical plane we always think the mind more abstract. Before the Supermind, Matter dwindles into a shadow. [PET ]

The supramental consciousness can be said to have two powers – apprehension and comprehension.

1. Apprehension (Pratyaya) is the basis of objective cognition.  This is equivalent to the mode of apprehension defined in the Vedantic theory of perception.  It is the gaining of relational knowledge of the object from the standpoint of the subject.  It is when the subject places an image of the object in front of it (within, not without) in order to build a relation with it.

2. Comprehension is gaining knowledge about the object from within – as if the object were part of one’s own self.   In this mode, knowledge is obtained because the consciousness perceives the other as part of one’s own self.    Such knowledge is more complete than the traditional form of relational knowledge gained through the subject-object differentiation.

Sri Aurobindo discovered that the all the perceptive powers of the human mind are actually derived from, but inferior to, the Supramental powers of Comprehension and Apprehension.   In the unenlightened man, the powers of apprehension are dominant while the powers of comprehension are imperfect and undeveloped.  This is in contrast to the Supramental plane, where the powers of comprehension operate perfectly while the powers of apprehension are rendered subordinate or redundant.  Sri Aurobindo augmented the Vedantic theory of perception by redefining the four terms Vijnana, Prajnana, Samjnana and Ajnana mentioned in the Aitereya Upanishad.

Aitereta Upanishad 3.2 Vijnana Prajnana Samjnana Ajnana

With reference to the verse above, Prajnana and Samjnana are powers of apprehension, while Vijnana and Ajnana are powers of comprehension.

  • Vijnana: The object is held as part of one’s own consciousness in order to gain complete knowledge of the truth and idea within it.
  • Ajnana: (note: Ajnana here does not mean ignorance but knowledge-will as in the word Agnya and Ajna Chakra) The object is possessed in the energy of consciousness.
  • Prajnana: The object is analyzed as separate from the subject in the outgoing movement of the apprehensive consciousness.
  • Samjnana: The object is analyzed in the in-bringing movement of the apprehensive consciousness.   This is awareness of the object by sense-contact.

We will now analyze the varied actions of these powers of consciousness in the three stages of spiritual growth of Man.

1. Unilluminated Mind: Samjnana and Prajnana dominate while Vijnana is poor and Ajnana is absent.

2. Intuitive Mind:  Partial Vijnana along with Prajnana and Samjnana.

3. Supramental Mind: Vijnana and Ajnana dominate.

Perception in the Unilluminated Mind

The unilluminated mind proceeds from ignorance to knowledge.  It’s primary power is apprehension (in the form of Samjnana and Prajnana) and then it tries to imperfectly gain comprehension (as Vijnana and Ajnana).  Sri Aurobindo defined the act of perception as follows.

As our human psychology is constituted, we begin with Samjnana, the sense of an object in its image; the apprehension of it in knowledge(Prajnana) follows.  Afterwards we try to arrive at the comprehension of it in knowledge (Vijnana) and the possession of it in power(Ajnana). There are secret operations in us, in our subconscient and superconscient selves, which precede this action, but of these we are not aware in our surface being and therefore for us they do not exist. If we knew of them, our whole conscious functioning would be changed. [SAKU1]

Comparing these terms to the Vedantic theory, the correspondence can be identified as

1. Samjnana = Indeterminate apprehension.   This is the action of Sense-mind (Manas)

2. Prajnana = Determinate apprehension.  This is the imaging of the object within the mind (Chitta-Vritti).

3. Vijnana functions in a much-diminished form as the cognitive mode of the intellect.

4. Ajnana is next to absent in the operation of the unenlightened man.

Perception in the Intuitive Mind

When the consciousness rises to the Intuitive Mind, one develops the four powers of Intuition.   The functioning of Vijnana is now half-awakened.   As Sri Aurobindo states in one of his unfinished commentaries on the Upanishads, Smriti(Intuition) is the link between Vijnana(Knowledge by Identity) and Prajnana(apprehension) because Smriti is innate perception; it is the latent memory of the truth which rises when within our consciousness, we have momentarily unified with the object-consciousness.

A still more indirect action of the vijnana is smriti; when the truth is presented to the soul and its truth immediately & directly recognised by a movement resembling memory—a perception that this was always true and already known to the higher consciousness. It is smriti that is nearest to intellect action and forms the link between vijnanam & prajnanam, ideal thought & intellectual thought, by leading to the higher forms of intellectual activity, such as intuitive reason, inspiration, insight & prophetic revelation, the equipment of the man of genius. [SAKU2]

Perception in the Supramental Mind

In the fully supramentalized being, the primary power is comprehension while the powers of apprehension become a secondary capability. As Sri Aurobindo defines it:

The basis of its action of the world will be the perfect, original and all-possessing Vijnana and Ajnana. It will comprehend all things in its energy of conscious knowledge, control all things in its energy of conscious power. These energies will be the spontaneous inherent action of its conscious being creative and possessive of the forms of the universe.  What part then will be left for the apprehensive consciousness and the sense? They will be not independent functions, but subordinate operations (Prajnana and Samjnana) involved in the action of the comprehensive consciousness itself.  In fact, all four there will be one rapid movement. If we had all these four, acting in us with the unified rapidity with which the Prajnana and Sanjnana act, we should then have in our notation of Time some inadequate image of the unity of the supreme action of the supreme energy.

If we consider, we shall see that this must be so. The supreme consciousness must not only comprehend and possess in its conscious being the images of things which it creates as its self-expression, but it must place them before it — always in its own being, not externally — and have a certain relation with them by the two terms of apprehensive consciousness. Otherwise the universe would not take the form that it has for us; for we only reflect in the terms of our organisation the movements of the supreme Energy. But by the very fact that the images of things are there held in front of an apprehending consciousness within the comprehending conscious being and not externalised as our individual mind externalises them, the supreme Mind and supreme Sense will be something quite different from our mentality and our forms of sensation. They will be terms of an entire knowledge and self-possession and not terms of an ignorance and limitation which strives to know and possess. [SAKU1]

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Saltwater Buddha: A Surfer’s Quest to Find Zen on the Sea

By body brilliance, body mind spirit, Breath, Conscious Living, Cosmic Care, Emotional Intelligence, Environmental Care, Fun and Fabulous, Moral Intelligence, Passion, Vision No Comments

This week with speak with the author of Saltwater Buddha, Jaimal Yogis.  Jaimal, a Zen surfer and journalist, wrote Saltwater Buddha to chronicle his late teens and early 20’s as he learned to surf and delved into Zen.  He shares with us some of the highlights from this time of his life, and also shares what a powerful metaphor the ocean has been for his spiritual life, especially given his passion for surfing.  He also shares some prescient observations about what it’s like being a young Buddhist, and what he notices that is different about the young generation of up-and-coming practitioners.

Vince: Hello Buddhist Geeks.  This is Vince Horn and I’m here today with our special guest.  He’s joining us from the West Coast, Jaimal Yogis. He’s a Zen practitioner, surfer, journalist and author of a recently released book called Saltwater Buddha: A Surfer’s Quest to Find Zen on the Sea.  Did you find Zen on the sea, Jaimal?

Jaimal: Yeah.  I mean in a manner of speaking, I think, in the same way that surfing for me is just part of my practice.  It’s just like coming back to meditation cushion every day.  And, then in it’s literal meaning, it’s being beyond this kind of concentration that is… sort of encompasses everything.  I wouldn’t have claimed to have found what the mantra is sort of referring to.  But, I do find that returning again and again into the water like a daily baptism for me.  It’s just a way to get back to sort of rinse clean and literally kind of washes… feels like it washes my thoughts into a more ordered manner or something like that.  So, it’s just another meditation practice and I think having a physical practice is really important as a mediator: something that keeps you connected to nature, something that keeps you in good health.  And surfing is a wonderful type of meditation as well because there’s a lot of movement and you are doing this thing where riding waves and you’re kind of emerging with your element like your medium, but, you also just a lot of waiting around.  So, there’s a lot of time where you’re just sitting looking at the horizon and, you know, you can focus on your breath sort of be in that appreciative space which I think appreciation is very close to our true nature.  You know, the more appreciative you are, I think, the closer you are to being in that natural mind.  That’s what I found, you know, that big enlightenment.  It’s definitely a daily, literal that keeps me sane. [laughs]

Vince: I figured because Saltwater Buddha is really kind of like an autobiographical work, you wrote about this particular period in your life where you were exploring Zen meditation, you know, in your late teens and 20’s and also at the same time exploring surfing.  So, yeah, given that it’s such an interesting combination, it’s one that as a Buddhist practitioner, I’d never heard before.  So, I was wondering if you could say a little bit about the time that you wrote about in this book and some of the highlights that you found most pressing during that period.

Jaimal: Sure.  It’s a broad topic.  The book covers a pretty large span of time.  It starts off when I ran away to Hawaii at the age of 16 and I was sort of a mischievous teenager getting into trouble, you know, experimenting with… just pushing the limits of the law, basically.  And so, I was on probation for getting a DUI and stuff.  And I figured I wasn’t sort of living my truth at that time.  I wasn’t living my potential really.  And, I think that dreams can play a big role as guidance.  And I started having these dreams about water and about waves and about islands.

And this was going back to sort of a flashback in time for me when I was living in Azores, Portugal.  My dad was stationed there where I lived close to the ocean.  And then we moved inland.  And so there was something about that time period, that connection that I had with the ocean that was coming back to me.  Then, ten years later, and that was all I knew at that point cause I was really at this point in my life not that connected to myself and to my heart.  And so all I had was this glimmer but I needed to change and it came in the form of this… of water, these dreams of islands.  And so, I took off.  I went to Somalia.  I ran away.  I left this memo hence on my bedroom that was saying that I’m somewhere in the world.  And that created a lot of havoc and it wasn’t the most compassionate thing to do to my family.  So, what it did do is it stirred things up enough… it was kind of like sometimes you just need to make a break, or really make a big change in your life to get on to a different path.  And that was really the beginning of my spiritual path.  And that’s where the book starts.

And when I go to Hawaii, I happened to take Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse with me.  I had been around meditation in my life cause my parents were meditators and that’s where I got my name.  I was named after this Indian guru in the Sikh tradition but I never really had done any of it myself.  And so, surfing was this incredible challenge for me that I too on I decided to stop doing any drugs or I was going to change my life and surfing was this challenge that I took on to help me and it seemed like a creative thing to do and I was also reading about the Buddha’s life or Herman Hesse’s sort of adaptation of the Buddha’s life and I also began meditating and so they kind of just always melded together and I saw these parallels.  I think because surfing is a, is an incredible challenge, people do it for 10, 20 years and you still feel very far from mastery.  It’s similar to meditation in that way in that you can do it every day for many years, it’s still, like your mind is always learning a new challenge and the ocean is always throwing in a challenge and I sort of see the ocean really as a metaphor for the mind and that was the way that my practice developed over the past ten years where I was, I ended up living in a Buddhist monastery going and traveling to different surf places, but I think because I began my past with these two things, sort of growing up together, meditation and surfing, they just blended together and I use the ocean as a metaphor for meditation and I use surfing as a sort of a tool for meditation.  So, I could say more about that, but I don’t know, is there a particular part of the book that you wanted to hear about, I could talk about it.

Vince: No, I think what you just said gives a nice kind of overview of the kinds of things and we can go more into the specifics and you started talking a little bit about the ocean and how it’s a metaphor for meditation and how meditation is a tool for surfing and so on.  I mean, that’s one thing that struck me, I mean, this is a powerful and ancient theme in almost all the world’s traditions, at least the ones that are probably near the ocean where you hear about the waves and the ocean and it’s usually used as a metaphor, right?  Like, it’s a way to describe something, but I’m thinking for a surfer, it must be a little bit more real for you, it must be a little more tangible for you and I was wondering if you could say a little more about that particular metaphor?

Jaimal: Yeah, there’s a few metaphors that get thrown out there a lot in mystical traditions.  One I really like is that we are like waves in the ocean.  A wave is basically a, it starts with wind blowing on the surface of the ocean, it trims up some ripples and those ripples become a veil to catch some more of the wind’s energy and the wind is basically pumping energy into the water, and it begins to spiral and it becomes this thing, it takes form.  It comes into being, at least, appearance-wise, of a separate kind of entity traveling across the ocean.  You see the swell, swells pick up on the feet and they travel hundreds of miles until they break shore.  Energy in motion stays in motion until it hits the sand and then the waves kind of take its most hard form and it pitches into that beautiful concave thing that we see on the beach and surfers love to ride.  The neat thing about that is that waves look so, like a portion of water that’s moving across the ocean, but what’s actually happening is the wind is just transferring, wind energy is just transferring between molecules.  So, if you leave a little stick on top of the ocean floating and a wave moves by, the stick will stay in one place and the wave will just pump through it.  It’s completely energy and it’s similar to the way we are, you know, it’s like we feel like we’re kind of like this separate mass.  We feel like there’s a veil between us and nature or something, like we are independent.  Like a wave, there’s no one atom or molecule that was in me or you when we were babies that’s in us now that we can replenish many times over and what holds us together is sort of mind or our memories and thoughts and similarly with the waves, it looks like a separate thing, but it’s never ever a part from the ocean then this thing that encompasses all the waves and so it’s a great metaphor, right?  It’s like Buddhists talk a lot about how you do have a self, it’s not, but the self is illusory in some sense and how is it a illusory?  Well, because it is connected to all things and all places.  That does seem like an abstract concept and I think if I wasn’t a surfer, I would take that wave metaphor and I would get it and be like “oh, that’s a good metaphor”, but it wouldn’t really think in deep and when you are following a wave and you’re studying them obsessively as surfers do, you really start feeling how these, how this energetic body of water works and how these things really can have individual character and also be part of the sea.  And I think it just deepens the metaphor and makes it much more real and it continues to come back to you every day as well.

Practice is very repetitive and it’s made that way on purpose.  We have to be reminded of these things every day.  Why?  Because our patterns are so ingrained that it takes an incredible amount of energy to change our habits.  And so, being reminded of that metaphor every day is something that I’m incredibly grateful for.

You don’t need to be a surfer to be reminded of that but you can find your own metaphors, you know.  I love that quote, that the earth speaks Dharma. You know, I think, whenever you’re outside and you’re just sort of connecting with the natural world in a way that deepens your relationship to it, you find these Dharma metaphors.  And this one is a good one that you can use but it’s not the only one.

Vince: Thank you for that.  It’s cool.  And just so people know and your book is really… it’s chockfull of metaphors along those lines.  It’s really deep in that way.  It’s a really interesting and complex metaphor itself, the entire book.  So, yeah, thank you for that.

Jaimal: Thank you.

Vince: So, you’re 29 right now and you’re going to be turning 30 pretty soon.  So, you’re kind of part of this… we could call younger generation in the Buddhist world.  And one thing we like to touch on a lot here in Buddhist Geeks is how Buddhism is being understood and practiced by people that are in the younger generation: the kind of third, fourth generation of Buddhist practice here in the West. And I think part of the reason is just because I’m young and I’m interested in that.

Jaimal: Uh, huh.

Vince: And then part of the reason is because people have really responded to it, the times that we have explored that.  People that listen to the show really find that interesting.  So, given that you’re part of this kind of younger generation and given that you started in your late teens and have been practicing now for over a decade, I figured it would be cool to get your take on what it’s like being a younger Buddhist and how it’s maybe distinct from past generation.  Cause we clearly live in a very different time.

Jaimal: You know, the main generation that I’ve watched that isn’t my own is my parents’ generation then.  There’s an obvious difference that they were getting interested in practice in the 60’s and so, you know, is sort of related with drugs and the political movements that were happening at the time.  There was such upheaval world and I think it was probably a very exciting time to be part of it.  And a lot of sincere practice going on… But it was almost like there was a huge… just like everything was getting through the pot, like “free love” and “meditation” and “screw Nixon.”  And these were part of it.  There’s nothing actually wrong with that.  I think there was a lot… a huge emphasis in that generation on these new experiences.  We’re not going to be part of the mundane world.  We’re going to do something utterly different and it’s about breaking down the system.  And I think, especially, because of a lot drugs, it was like the spirituality was associated with them saying that it was supposed to be like fireworks and crazy trips and, you know, sort of give all a high.  That’s one way to go about it.  But, what I see in this generation that excites me is that there really seems to be a desire to live in the world and take the structures that we have and infuse them and be able to bring practice into them and bring a truthful balance way of life into the world that we have.  And in doing so, you know, make the world a better place.

I think we needed that ruckus break from the more sort of entrenched pattern of norms that was happening back in the 50’s and 60’s to give us the gift of being able to now, in this generation, sort of say, “Well, it’s not all bad.  Maybe, I want to live and have a normal job and have a family and also live in a way that is true and in a way that’s in harmony.”  And I think that’s neat too because there really isn’t anything about practice that I think should make every day life so bad.  I think what practice in its most profound sense just makes the most mundane things like kind of juicy… just having an English muffin with your grandma kind of a thing.  Like, that moment is just as full as being at the Dead concert.

Trying to integrate practice into the everyday is…that’s how it becomes grounded in a society, in a culture and begins to become sustainable.  Because we’re still really in this process where Eastern thought and ideas and practice are just kind of trickling in to our society and in some ways they become like pop sort of wisdom.  And that takes its effect.  But real practice, that happens on an everyday level and really that’s still trying to be worked out, I see people doing that in a really beautiful way in our generation.  And hopefully that will continue.

But there are challenges.  I still find being a young Buddhist that I’ve sort of drifted in and out of having a really tight knit community of like-minded, similarly aged buddies to practice with.  When I lived in a Buddhist monastery when I was 18, it was this amazing time where all of a sudden it was just sort of the way that it worked.  Everyone was getting out of high school and for some reason there was this group of guys and girls who were really interested in like practicing a lot.  And we would go on retreats together and just to have that, those group of people who weren’t interested in partying a lot and, like our college years.  And here we were, we just wanted to go up to the monastery and be quiet and then talk about it.  And that was such a powerful time to have those three or four years where I had community in my early 20’s.  And it really laid a foundation and I’m still friends with all of those people.  And we now are busier and we have jobs and partners and whatnot.

But Kerouac, I remember, said like 18 is such a great time to practice the dharma and I think you are in kind of like a fearless, really open space at that time.  A hopefully, idealistic space.  Yeah, I could say more about that but I think community is really important and I’m glad to see things like Dharma Punks and other young practice groups springing up.  And I’m hoping Saltwater Buddha will bring some like minded, water folks together who are spiritually minded because there’s a lot of them out there that surfing is kind of like something has a little bit of like a too-cool-for-school attitude that when you join you’re a little bit cautious about letting people know your true self.  So I’m hoping this will help people take down their guard a little bit and just get together and sit together or whatever it is.

Vince: Nice.  Would you say that part of the reason you wrote the book was to actually get this kind of material out to the surfing community itself, more so than say the Buddhist community?

Jaimal: No, it was both.  It was…  I think a lot of surfers have an interest in Buddhism but maybe they’re always surfing so they haven’t really delved in.  Surfing is one of those things that tends to take over your life.  So I definitely…I hope people who are sort of wanting that introduction could get it through this. And that surfers who already had a Buddhist practice are [duking] it.  But I also thought, hoped, that Buddhist practitioners and really anyone would just kind of relate to the water metaphors.  And that’s been true.  I get more letters probably from people who are just sort of like, “I don’t meditate, I don’t surf, but there’s something about this metaphor that I really connect with.  It’s helping me in my life.”  And I think there’s something universal about water.  We are made of water.  Life is made possible by water.  It really is like this special, magical juju that just makes life on earth possible.  Life as far as we know it, possible.  It has all these incredible properties that no other substance on earth has.  And we use a lot of water metaphors in our life.  We’re always saying, “I’m in the flow today.  I’m drowning in work,” these things are close to us in our language.  We come from the sea original.  And so I’m just kind of hoping to tap a little bit of something in our collective unconscious about something that we all already know but maybe need to be reminded of.

Vince: Well, thanks Jaimal for taking the time to join Buddhist Geeks and share a little bit of about your book and also about your perspective as a young Buddhist practitioner.  It’s been really cool talking to you and wish you the best moving forward.

Jaimal: Thanks so much Vince.  This seems like just a great show.  I’m really happy that it’s out there and yeah, … keep on trucking.

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