October 2006

In this Newsletter:


Dear Friends,

Welcome to our Autumn 2006 newsletter. I've taken the liberty of adding some new and old friends to this mailing -- some have officially subscribed and others I've included after our recent or past connections. If any of you would prefer to not receive these occasional, usually quarterly, newsletters by email, please feel free to take advantage of the "unsubscribe" link at the bottom of this newsletter. I won't take it personally; we all have our email preferences. Only a few of the hundreds of subscribers have opted out over these past couple years, so I wanted to make sure you are aware of this option if you'd prefer to read these newsletters on our website rather than receiving them by email.

Spirituality in America

This was the title of a panel discussion that I was invited to participate in, along with famed Christian mystic Matthew Fox, Jewish-Hindu-Buddhist-Sufi scholar extraordinaire Nathan Katz, the Very Reverend Brian Baker, and accomplished documentary filmmaker Stephen Crisman at the Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival in beautiful Sun Valley, Idaho in September 2006.

During this spiritual film festival week, we enjoyed hours upon hours of intelligent spiritual conversation. My co-panelists and new friends are all doing exciting and good works in the world. Matthew Fox has teamed up with rapper Professor Pitt to create a multifaceted approach to uplifting and healing a group of people who need it the most -- inner city schoolchildren. (CLICK HERE for more info about Matthew's "reinventing education" project)

Nathan Katz is the founding chair and professor of Miami University's Department of Religious Studies. One of his exciting projects is to bring specifically designed spirituality-based classes to the university's other curriculums, such as health care, law, and education -- in effect, bringing a spiritual point of view into all these other courses of study. (CLICK HERE for more info about Nathan's Center for the Study of Spirituality)

Reverend Brian Baker is the dean of Trinity Cathedral in Sacramento, and enthusiastically seeks and finds ways to bring spiritual nourishment to the masses there.

With Dr. Nathan Katz, Reverend Brian Baker, and Dr. Matthew Fox

We shared meals and long walks together amidst the beauty of Sun Valley, Idaho, chatting about topics large and small, cosmic and mundane. With each of us being quite eclectic in our own right, together we created an interesting tapestry of colorful expressions and ideas.

An email sample of our zenlike conversations:

Upon seeing this photo from our panel discussion, Matthew Fox emailed to say: "Beautiful!  On stage, you look like the goddess herself presiding over the setting.  How fitting!"

To which I responded: "You're so generous and lofty! And here the main thing I noticed about the photo is that I was the only one not covering my genitals ;)"

To which Matthew responded: "That's what's makes you goddess-like!"

This week also brought another opportunity to contemplate the state of spirituality in America and throughout the world today and historically, through conversation and the nearly 40 amazing spiritual films from all kinds of traditions that were shown during the week. Right after arriving, and with only an hour of sleep, I was interviewed on local Sun Valley television about the topic of "Spirituality in America". However, I was surprised to find the interviewer focusing mostly on the social and political climate, such as his passionate question about a new law proposed in Idaho that would "close the door to gay marriage forever!" and his disgust over how right wing politics has hijacked religion for their own interests. As somewhat of a monastic, I was a little surprised to see just how much spirituality has become entangled with politics.

Click Here to watch this television interview

My work was cut out for me in this interview, and, I considered, perhaps also in today's world dialogue about spirituality. Of course, hijacking religion for political gain is nothing new in the history of human beings, but what I learned from this interview and other discussions is that while you might say the "right" is hijacking "religion," you could equally say that the "left" is hijacking "spirituality" with the same intensities of "we're right and you're wrong" that are displayed on the other side of each political spectrum. Anger is still anger, and hate is hate, whether this hatred is coming from Muslim extremists, Christian right-wingers, or new age leftists.

In my understanding, the goal of spirituality is to lift us up into greater realms of divinity, compassion, and wisdom, so that, through these qualities, we grow and mature into the great summit of spiritual and personal liberation, a bigger, more eternal picture, within which all the troubles of this world are like an insignificant itch.

As the great Indian sage Shankaracharya exhorts, "Day and night, dusk and dawn, winter and spring come forth again and again!    Time rolls on, life is fleeting;   nevertheless the winds of desire do not leave him. In childhood, one is attached to play;   in youth, one is attached to a young woman;   in old age, one is attached to anxiety, but to the supreme Brahman (the absolute divinity beyond the waves of this world), alas, no one is attached!"

(CLICK HERE to listen to Bhaja Govindam sung in Sanskrit and translated into English)

Many saints and sages of all religions have lived in much more turbulent times than our current circumstances, and yet have guided those who are interested in following an authentic spiritual life to move beyond the endless waves of entanglements in worldly gains, losses, achievements and tragedies, and to enter into the holy temple of divine communion, spiritual liberation -- the source of grace, refuge from storms of worldly life, and shining land beyond the tumultuous ocean of worldly existence.

From this place, we can still participate in healing the problems in this world, and can do so in our own way and with a sense of peacefulness and trust. As the American Sage Peace Pilgrim said many times during her 30-year walk for peace, "If you want to bring peace, you must be peaceful."

Click the TV screen to watch a 60-minute documentary video of Peace Pilgrim that was scripted and edited for her foundation by Night Lotus Productions

CLICK HERE for help with realplayer

CLICK HERE to read a chapter about Peace Pilgrim in Secrets of Spiritual Happiness, titled "Spiritual Happiness in Action"


A Concert of Sacred Music

At the finale of this wonderful Spiritual Film Festival, I offered a concert of sacred music at the Sun Valley Opera House, with selections that the festival organizers had requested from our chanting and devotional singing webpage, including Shree Guru Gita, Amazing Grace, Bhaja Govindam, The Diamond Sutra, Shree Rudram, and Ave Maria.

Below, you can watch a video of the last song from this concert, an acapella rendition of Ave Maria, filmed in extreme close-up by Francesco Cabras, the Italian filmmaker who produced and directed the first place winning film at the festival, called The Big Question.


CLICK HERE to play Ave Maria in streaming realplayer format

CLICK HERE to play Ave Maria in flash format

CLICK HERE to play the whole concert in flash format


Visit our newly updated speaker pages at: www.spiritualityspeaker.com

Click on the TV to view a new 12-minute video showing samples from some of my previous speaking and singing events:

Or CLICK HERE to view in flash at Google Video

My speaking and singing events can now be booked through Otellus Speakers Bureau.



Beneficial words for contemplating today's events

Here's a chapter from Secrets of Spiritual Happiness that can help us to remember the higher wisdom in the midst of all of the recent world events:


Secrets of Spiritual Happiness
Secret #36 -- Trust the Perfection in Imperfection

The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection. -- Michelangelo

One concept that has been especially helpful to me on my journey of spiritual happiness is the idea that everything is always perfect - that this whole universe is perfect in a profoundly ultimate sense.   One Hindi poem says that not even a leaf moves without God's will.   Another poet declared that God can even hear the footsteps of an ant - imagine that!   The idea behind these images is that God is all-perfect and all-knowing, and that this universe is God's creation.

The awareness of universal perfection within the appearance of imperfection is a magical key to faith, and faith is a magical key to spiritual happiness.

It is easy to accept that anything that has taken form in this world is inherently imperfect, including people and institutions.   This is obvious from watching the doings of everyone from large corporations, to world politicians, to celebrities, to just about every kind of person who has lived on this earth.   Imperfection is quite obvious in this world.   However, what allows us to be spiritually happy, even in the face of worldly imperfection, is to open our eyes, minds, and hearts to discerning and accepting the idea of universal perfection.   A vision of universal perfection allows us to relax into the deepest levels of our spiritual selves.

CLICK HERE to read the rest of this chapter



* * * A Holiday Special * * *

The Glorious Bhagavad Gita: Sung in English

Two CDs for the Price of One

Once again, we are celebrating with a holiday sale: a 2 for 1 special on our 2-CD set of The Glorious Bhagavad Gita: Sung in English for readers of this newsletter.

All 18 chapters are
available to play online HERE

The 2-CD set is
available for purchase HERE

To receive this special offer, order the CD online or by mail, and write in your request to receive two CDs for the price of one. Give one as a gift and keep one for yourself, or give several as gifts.

CLICK HERE to download a PDF book of this entire text of the Glorious Bhagavad Gita in singable English, offered free by the Atma Jyoti Ashram.

We're on iTunes!

Three of our CDs are now available for purchase on iTunes. Just go to iTunes and do a search on "Kumuda," and you'll find our CDs: The Glorious Bhagavad Gita Sung in English, The Diamond Sutra, and Shree Guru Gita, with more to come. . .



* * * Happy Diwali * * *

Diwali is the Indian New Year, and also a celebration of the Goddess, Maha Lakshmi. This year, Diwali comes on October 21st, which is also my birthday. So here is my Diwali and birthday gift to you: The Shree MahaLakshmi Stotram in streaming realplayer.

Maha Lakshmi is the goddess of good fortune,
and this powerful hymn praises and invokes her blessings and abundance

Listen to the Maha Lakshmi Stotram



Visit our Chanting and Devotional Singing Page

With streaming audio of singing and chanting from Indian, Christian, Buddhist, and Sufi traditions


Play the kirtan chant "Om Shree Ganesha"

Play peaceful Sanskrit chanting of "Sri Guru Gita"


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