Reply To: Hello! I’m happy to be here

  • Don Salmon

    July 3, 2023 at 1:39 pm

    Hi Andrei:

    You got my attention again when you mentioned Easwaran. His translations of the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads and the Dhammapada are among the most popular, and are praised by many critics as well. He was a professor of English at the University of Berkeley, so his mastery of the language (at least, of English!) is not surprising.

    He has several collections of sacred poetry that are quite wonderful, “God Makes the Rivers to Flow” being my favorite.

    He also, speaking of practice, had a very simple 8 point program. As far as I can recall (it’s been many years since I looked at it, but it’s easy to find online, I’m sure), it involved sacred study, slowing down, repeating a mantra, his own unique form of meditation which involved memorizing sacred passages and reciting them very very slowly (almost like the Lectia Divina of Christianity).

    I think he, like every other good meditation teacher, understands the balance of practice vs non practice. Nowadays, people like to teach non practice from the beginning, but after some decades of attempting this, people start to realize that it hasn’t taken them very far or deep. But that’s another point.

    Personally, I’ve found that learning to spontaneously shift attention is the key. I’ll leave with one beautiful example. Loch Kelly studied with Buddhist masters of Mahamudra and Dzogchen in Tibet some 40 years ago. They taught mostly “pointing out” exercises. Something that in a way involves no effort, but actually involves a shift of attention.. One of my favorites is this little animation, involving recognizing the “spacious awareness” which is always present underlying all mental/emotional activity (very similar to Krishnamurti’s choiceness awareness”):

    Now the quite clever practice in shifting attention from Loch: he had a group of 80 people, all doing the same basic Zen counting practice:

    Inhale – count 1


    Inhale – count 2


    And you continue this way, counting inhalations up to 10, then go back to 1. If you lose track, you start over again.

    That’s it.

    He divided them into two groups, 40 each. One group simply received the above instructions.

    To the second group he said, “Do not make any effort to concentrate on the breath. Simply allow the breath to be present in the background of completely open, effortless, relaxed awareness.

    The results?

    Not ONE of the 40 people getting the basic instructions was able to get to 10.

    EVERY single person in the 2nd group effortlessly reached 10, over and over again.

    As the Zen teacher said to the student who asked him to sum up Zen as simply as possible, “Attention.”

    The student said maybe that was too simple. “Can you say something else?”

    “Attention, attention.”

    “But,” the student complained, “what does attention mean?”

    “Attention means attention.”