Renewal is in the air during this time of spring and Easter. I hope that all of you are well and thriving, and always like to hear back about your thoughts and good works.
Many in the Christian faiths will be focusing on Jesus "raising from the dead" during this time. While contemplating this, I felt that even Jesus Himself would look upon our times and the needs of today's world and perhaps say, yes, learn and be inspired from my life, but please also raise yourselves from the dead this year! So many are living lives that are not conscious and aware -- in fact, nearly all of us could be improving ourselves and living much more vibrant and alive lives than we do.
CLICK HERE to read "Raise YOURSELF From the Dead this Easter"
The Birth of a New, Delicious Creation!
Recently, a student from one of my Learning Annex courses on "Getting Your Spiritual Book Published Without Selling Your Soul" was kind enough to invite me to join her in a weekend "bookmarketing blast-off" with John Kremer, who is considered by many to be the top expert in the field.
The 3-day seminar with just 22 students was very generous and full of good information and lots of humor. John has been meditating for decades through the Transcendental Meditation program, and his equanimity was evident, especially in contrast to many of the other bookmarketing/publicity experts who seem to often use adrenalin to push people to buy their goods. I found John's approach to be refreshing and inspiring in light of my own feeling to focus on my works as service more than with any kind of greed-based manipulations. Of course, this approach brings its own challenges, and so I was hoping that this weekend workshop would help me to clarify how to find the right balance between offering good works freely to the world and "paying the rent."
At one point, John was talking about how to get more traffic to your website, and I shared that without any major effort other than creating good offerings, my website has received a great ranking by google, and that 500 people a day come from all around the world to enjoy our offerings of free multimedia spiritual resources at www.nightlotus.com.
That sounded impressive enough until John asked, "How much revenue does that bring in?" and I responded that it didn't really bring in any revenue to speak of, and that it actually costs me money to offer. He asked how that could be, and I explained that everything on the website is offered for free, which brought a bit of laughter from this book marketing class.
During the rest of the weekend, John teased me occasionally about this, in a friendly way, saying things like, "Here's how to generate more sales -- unless you're like Sharon who wants to give everything away for free." Of course, John also understood because he is a very generous person, whose website at www.bookmarket.com has a great deal of useful information for authors that is available to read and download for free, along with his paid offerings.
Well, in the fertile ground of this weekend, a new creation was born. It started when Jill, the student and friend who had invited me to join in the workshop, came up with a phrase for me. It was soon after we'd been learning about how great it is to actually have a brand name associated with our works. She started calling me "The Fantastic Monastic," and others in the class also joined in. From this came an idea for a new company that would be able to sell various goods and allow me to continue to offer my spiritual works freely.
And thus was born: The Fantastic Monastic Chai Company, beginning with my special mix of real, authentic, fresh-brewed chai tea and spice that you can make easily, in just a few minutes. Fantastic Monastic Spicy 'n' Sweet Snax and other non-food products are also in the works.
Soon after the workshop, some of my creative and intelligent monastic friends from Atma Jyoti Ashram in Borrego Springs, California, joined in and helped to conceive and draw the logo of our fantastic monastic:
Please visit our new webpage at:
Currently In The Works: The Diamond Sutra
About a month ago, I received the following email from a fellow named Bruce, who had visited our Sanskrit Spiritual Scriptures page. Bruce wrote:
Hi. I love the way you chant in English the ancient texts. I have just completed a website called: www.diamondsutra.us and I have included your site in the Links page.
Is there any way you could do a chanting rendition of the Diamond Sutra like you did for the Bhagavad Gita? This text is probably the most important one in the Buddhist canon, and there is so much merit from hearing it, that I can’t help wishing there was a version chanted by you. I think many would find profound inspiration from such a rendition. If a donation would help, I could probably raise $1000 for such a good cause. Again, thanks so much.
I agreed to delve into this project, and thought it would also be a good opportunity to study Buddhism deeply through one of its great scriptures.
Hidden for centuries in a sealed-up cave in northwest China, this copy of the 'Diamond Sutra' is the world's earliest complete survival of a dated printed book. It was made in AD 868. Seven strips of yellow-stained paper were printed from carved wooden blocks and pasted together to form a scroll over 5m long. Though written in Chinese, the text is one of the most important sacred works of the Buddhist faith, which was founded in India.
On the day I started working on this project, after spending several hours gathering various translations of the text, I hopped out to run some errands, and stopped at the local "new age" store to pick up some magazines from the back porch. As I turned the corner, the whole back porch was filled with Buddhas -- large, small, wooden, dark, light, laughing, serious. . . and a fellow was unpacking them from his van to be sold in the store as a special offering. A bit giddy from the good omen of walking into a garden of Buddhas just hours after entering the realm of Buddhism, the van driver and I had some fun and friendly conversation, which ended with my giving him a copy of the Glorious Bhagavad Gita: Sung in English, and him giving me this beautiful Buddha statue:
This Diamond Sutra project has become a bit more expanded as I realized that none of the translations I found were as good as they could be, although each had some well-expressed sections. So I've been going word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence, and concept-by-concept, using about 10 translations to create a new translation that will hopefully make the deep teachings of this advanced and challenging text a bit more accessible to spiritual seekers around the world. These teachings are definitely meant to twist the mind in new ways!
Here is one of the more accessible excertps of this Diamond Sutra dialogue between the Buddha and his enlightened disciple Subhuti. The audio of this text being sung in English in a style reminiscent of traditional Buddhist chanting should be available on our Chanting and Devotional Singing page within the next couple months.
Chapter 3 . THE BODHISATTVA'S VOW
The Buddha said: "Subhuti, all Bodhisattvas and Mahasattvas should hold this thought:
All living beings, whether born from the womb or hatched from the egg, whether they transform like butterflies or arise miraculously, whether they have a body or are formless, whether they are capable or born from eggs, wombs, humidity or by transformation, with or without form, whether capable of profound thoughts, or of no thoughts at all, I vow to lead every individual being to Nirvana, and not until they are all safely there will I reap my reward and enter Nirvana!
And when this innumerable, immeasurable, infinite number of beings has become liberated, we do not, in truth, think that a single being has been liberated.
Why is this so?
In reality there is no such thing as an I who liberates, and no other who is liberated. If a Bodhisattva holds on to the idea that a self, person, living being, or life span exists, that person is not a true Bodhisattva!"
A Fanciful Flight
Recently the same Atma Jyoti monks who designed the Fantastic Monastic logo above invited me to their Borrego Springs ashram for "a surprise." I couldn't get any more information from them about the surprise, other than that I would be different after experiencing it, and that I had to come soon or it would be gone.
It turns out that a fellow who sells ultralite flying machines -- which are basically like a motorcycle that flies -- was in Borrego for a few weeks, and was offering flights around the amazing terrain of that area. It was quite an elevating experience, which was also captured on video.
The driver and I both had microphones and headsets, so we could converse along the way. One of the first bits of dialogue came after we swooped way up high into the sky for the first time.
"Oooooh, I'm only a little bit scared."
"Well, I shouldn't be scared, I'm ready to go anytime."
"Yeah, me too."
"Hey, you shouldn't be ready to go -- you're driving!!!"
CLICK HERE to watch a music video of this flight in streaming realplayer.
This video was filmed and edited by Swami Tarakananda, even though he put my name in the credits as editor (I helped with the beginning).
Help with realplayer here
Visit the Atma Jyoti Ashram website for wonderful spiritual writings, photos, and videos from Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and other traditions at www.atmajyoti.org.
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