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CHAPTER IV: QUALIFICATIONS

Lifestyle question

A Mature Human Being, 1. Discrimination, 2. Dispassion, 3. Control of the Mind, 4. Control of Senses, 5. Doing What Is Appropriate to Your Nature (Svadharma), The World Does Not Need Fixing, My Relative Nature, 6. Single-Pointedness, 7. Forbearance, 8. Devotion, 9. Faith , 10. Burning Desire for Freedom, A Qualified Teacher, Walk the Talk, The Grace of God.

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Lifestyle question

Postby Mira » Tue Jun 02, 2015 4:16 pm

Hello everyone,
I am excited that Shining world now has a forum! I love Vedanta and this jiva has a clear understanding of her true nature (Thanks to James and Ted Schmidt and the wonderful Shining world website).

My question is about the inherent hectic nature of life in western society. I have a pre-teen daughter, husband, a demanding but enjoyable career, and hobbies (trail running, yoga, travel). Some days I realize that life in Samsara can move so fast that I barely have time to reflect. I realize that this is all very rajasic in nature--and I am always trying to minimize, decrease new assignments. I'm not complaining--for the most part, I just observe and enjoy the merry-go-around of life.

But I want to establish a spiritual practice too. I want to ask forum members what practice do you have that brings you back to inquiry and reflection. Prayer? Japa? Meditation? When? How long?

For me right now, it's just trail running--the solitude in nature allows reflection on (my)self. But I would like a practice at home too. I try to read a verse of the Gita every night (and reflect) as my practice. But I would like to do more.

I would love to hear all about your spiritual practice.

With thanks,
Mira
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Re: Lifestyle question

Postby Stan » Wed Jun 03, 2015 3:42 am

Welcome to the forum Mira . Isn`t it wonderful how Shiningworld has helped us all ?
To me, your question brings forth another question....If `practice` brings us back to "Inquiry and reflection", what would bring us back to practice ? As you say, life in samsara is so fast moving. I too look forward to hearing what other members find helpful in keeping them `on track`.
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Re: Lifestyle question

Postby Vinay » Wed Jun 03, 2015 6:05 am

To me, your question brings forth another question....If `practice` brings us back to "Inquiry and reflection", what would bring us back to practice ?


I think the answer to this question is Mumukshutvam (burning desire for liberation). The stronger your desire to be free of Samsara, the more dedicated will you be in your practice, assuming that you have the other required qualifications.

With regards to the original question..

I don't have any specific practice. I never did Japa or meditation. The first thing I did after I found Ramji's teachings 3.5 yrs back was to simplify my life, and I am still simplifying.

When you remove distractions from your life, you start noticing your Vasanas. And Vasanas being painful, if you're a committed Vedantin, you'll automatically apply the teachings.

The 2nd thing I did was I always started the day listening to one of Ramji's videos. This made me Sattvic and put the teaching at the forefront of my mind for the rest of the day. So instead of reading scripture at night, I would recommend doing it the first thing in the morning.

So I would say that these 2 things made the biggest difference in my life.
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Re: Lifestyle question

Postby Mira » Wed Jun 03, 2015 2:03 pm

Thanks very much, Stan and Vinay for your replies.
Stan--I would say that dedication and discipline are needed to keep up a practice.

Vinay--thanks for your useful tips. I like the idea of reading a passage of scripture in the morning as it will set up the day in a Sattvic mindset (as you say). I will give that a try.

Would you mind sharing some examples of how you might have simplified your life? I try to stay away from work situations that I know will bring me a lot of stress (even if the samsaric payoff is high). I have very few material desires (e.g., shopping etc..) so a lot of time and energy is saved that way. But it's not enough and I am wondering what else I can do to decrease mental activity--so I would appreciate any examples.
Thanks!
Mira
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Re: Lifestyle question

Postby Vinay » Thu Jun 04, 2015 3:14 am

I did the following:

1) I started working from home and reduced my workload. I was no longer interested in making lots of money so I just do the bare minimum to keep my business running.

2) I streamlined my financial commitments/investments even if it wasn't the best option financially because I didn't want any distractions from that side.

3) I reduced or stopped my interactions with Rajasic people. In general I reduced my social activities.

4) I limited my reading or watching of news which agitated my mind.

It is not that I was able to do all this in one go. This was a gradual process and it is still continuing. As I gained more confidence in the teaching and more discrimination (Viveka), I simplified more and more.

Hope this helps..
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Re: Lifestyle question

Postby Mira » Thu Jun 04, 2015 5:04 pm

Thanks, Vinay. Your post is very helpful. I also find myself trying to 'downsize' in similar ways.

Vinay wrote: When you remove distractions from your life, you start noticing your Vasanas. And Vasanas being painful, if you're a committed Vedantin, you'll automatically apply the teachings.


I'm glad you brought up the issue of vasanas. It's really interesting to see what particular bundle of vasanas one is. Now I just observe them, and they don't bother me much, even if I indulge them. Some vasanas are still binding for me, but I just see them for what they are. That way, it's not painful--since there is no real sense of a 'doer' who is trapped by the vasanas. Just the vasanas arising within the self. Hope that is helpful

Thanks again.
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Re: Lifestyle question

Postby Vinay » Sat Jun 06, 2015 4:13 am

Just remembered.. Maybe this will help.

Sadhana Panchakam is a text on spiritual practices to be followed by a student written by Adi Shankara himself. Some points looks a little extreme probably because it was written for Sannyasis. But it's good idea to read the points from time to time when our practice gets lax.

Here is the link:
http://i.imgur.com/Sn242cu.jpg?1
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Re: Lifestyle question

Postby Mira » Sat Jun 06, 2015 10:17 am

Vinay,
Thanks for the list of Sadhanas. It's great to have the master himself chime in too ;).
James also talks about most of these--but it's great to have them listed like that.
Many thanks,
Mira
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Re: Lifestyle question

Postby Andrew » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:40 pm

Hi Mira,

Just my 2 cents worth. In your first post you said that Western life was 'inherently hectic'. One strategy I discovered was simply to challenge that notion. I do not believe Western life is hectic, but that we have been made to believe that it is and act accordingly. We are bombarded in our media with the notion that we all lead a 'fast paced life'.

However, the average Westerner has more leisure time, money and education than at any other point in history. Is life really that busy? We are being told constantly that it's high stress, fast paced and intense. As I've told my clients (I'm a body worker), "if you think your life is stressful now, imagine being a Medieval peasant farmer." All of a sudden, our air conditioned cars, vacation time and leather furniture seems like a lot better of a deal.

The reason we are being told that 'life is fast and complex' is so that companies can sell us products to solve problems we didn't have. Never in my life have I had trouble in the morning making coffee and yet, there used to be a '5 hour energy drink' commercial whereby the poor fellow's life was SOOO FAST that he couldn't make coffee so he had to take the short cut and buy 5 hour energy before staggering out the door!

The promise of technology from the post WWII era onwards was all about 'labor saving' devices. Many of them were quite useful. Why lug huge blocks of ice around when you can have a fridge? Why use a clothing mangle when you can use a washer/dryer? All of those things did actually save time.

However, a lot of modern tech now isn't about freeing up time, it's about status and entertainment. Being able to watch DVDs in my car while checking my Facebook status through a voice activated computer has added no value to my life nor saved me any time. It just shows that I've got thousands of dollars to drop on a new car.

I think that 'modern life is so fast' is just a little idea that keeps circulating around and needs to be killed off. We actually have enormous amounts of time available to us but our minds are scattered and we keep buying into the assumption that we're so super busy. Like people in airports on their laptops. They just HAVE to make a show of that fact they are 'working' while other people are sitting in their Hawaiian shirts waiting to go on vacation...lol...Then they board the plane, more 'work' as well as ostentatiously loud business calls on their phones before the stewards clamp down on electronics.

What would it be like if the 'hectic life' meme isn't actually true? :shock:

Anyways, as for keeping the Sattva going:

(a) Regular meditation. I particularly liked Eknath Easwaran's "passage medition" as well as japa.
(b) Regular listening to teachings. I have James' "complete Vedanta" course on my tablet (yay, useful technology!).
(c) Regular reading of teachings.
(d) Gave up watching the news years ago. Don't read newspapers or read online news beyond the odd headline or two. I have an annoying neighbour who keeps asking me "DID YOU HEAR ABOUT XYZ?" and I say "No, I didn't. I don't watch tv news". Doesn't ever seem to stop him though...lol

Best wishes,

Andrew
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Re: Lifestyle question

Postby Mira » Wed Jun 17, 2015 9:40 am

Hi Andrew,
I enjoyed your post a lot! There is much truth in it. We do have more leisure time (where we are not simply trying to make ends meet) than in past centuries. And I am so grateful for that as I would not have time to spend on the Shining World website otherwise! And of course, it's great to have the technology that gave us the website in the first place. I cannot even imagine how my existential questions would ever have been answered without encountering Vedanta and James via the internet. So yes, I'm agreed this is actually a good eon in western society with respect to having the time and means for self-knowledge and realization.

While I understand your point about advertising and unnecessary stuff--it does not apply to me personally as I don't even have a TV and don't follow pop-culture etc so most of the time I am unaware of advertising and products.

I think my problem is more work-related ambition. I have a great job and a good salary, and yet, there is always a drive to do more and more. I have now become quite aware of this and I'm trying to downsize--but the rajasic habit of overachieving is so ingrained in me (and perhaps in modern-day society) that it can be hard to even see it sometimes with clarity. However, by the same token, James does not need to bother with all his travels, talks and taking on the extra effort of replying to satsang questions and coming up with this terrific website & forum. I'm so grateful that he did all that, of course. I'm guessing it was dharmic for him to do as much as he does for us and I express my gratitude to him and Sundari for that.

Similarly, I'm trying to figure out a dharmic lifestyle for myself. At the very least, I want to be able to contemplate the teachings every single day--not because I have to anymore, but simply because I love them. I want to move away from trying to fit Vedanta and self-knowledge into my busy life. That is, I feel it should be the other ways around. That is, Vedanta should be primary and the rest of my life should really revolve around it.

Thanks for your input about your practice. I notice that both you and Vinay listen to a lot of James' talks and videos. Do you find that even a few minutes everyday day of listening can be helpful? With the Gita, I find that even reading a couple of verses really focuses the mind on self-knowledge.

Finally, in case it's helpful to anyone else out here, I find that Karma yoga is a single best antidote to the stress of a busy life.

Thanks again,
Mira
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Re: Lifestyle question

Postby JamesRam » Sat Jun 20, 2015 8:25 am

Hi Mira,

I read the posts with reference to lifestyle and your apparent self's rajasic nature. Both Vinay's and Andrew's answers are excellent. Usually, people know the answer to their questions and I think your statement that work related ambition is causing the rajas...of course it is caused by rajas in the first place...is correct. Also, your statement that your life should revolve around the teaching and not that the teaching should be squeezed into your life is also correct. But I think the solution lies in WHY you are ambitious? What result do you want? It seems that the question about what to do is motivated by ambition's negative consequences: stress and a desire for a simpler life. The means to gain the perfect satisfaction of self knowledge is peace of mind and the way to get it is to look at each activity and see what kind of guna it produces and then eliminate the activity. You have to let go of something to gain something. It is difficult because it exposes the ego's insecurities and creates a resistance. You don't tackle the big things...the job itself...you just chip away around the edges, patiently removing small gratuitous activities. Little by little the rajas diminishes and the sattva increases.

Ramji
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Re: Lifestyle question

Postby Mira » Sat Jun 20, 2015 2:48 pm

Namaste Ramji,
It is a pleasure to hear from you. First of all, I would like to express my deep and heartfelt gratitude to you and Sundariji for giving us the teachings of Vedanta in such an accessible manner and for the beautiful Shining World website.

Thanks for your reply and it makes total sense. Importantly, it gives me a practical strategy to keep chipping away at my rajasic lifestyle and increase sattva. Thanks also for your explanation that a sattvic lifestyle will allow the perfect satisfaction of self-knowledge. That is so obvious, of course, but this jiva actually needed to hear that!

Thanks again and much gratitude. I'll be sure to report back.
Mira
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Re: Lifestyle question

Postby Andrew » Tue Jun 23, 2015 2:01 pm

Hi Mira,

I was going to mention in my original post about a friend of mine who is 'Tv-less'. People treat her like she has some bizarre social disability. "Ohh...no TV? You want me to get you one?" She says "NO! I DON'T HAVE ONE ON PURPOSE!" :D

We do have TV, but it doesn't get a lot of use and we absolutely never take it seriously for 'news' because it's just a waste of time.

Your point about having the time to spend online to study and finding Vedanta and James' teaching is exactly how I feel too. It occurred to me the other day just how fortunate myself and others I know are to have the opportunity to be contemplative and study 'deep' things. We could just as equally be reading supermarket checkout magazines and worrying about the Kardashians et al but we're not, thankfully! (pop culture reference)

As for practice, I do find listening to one of James' lectures each day is really helpful. I purchased the 'complete Vedanta course' and went through 'Berlin Talks' twice and I'm working on my second run through the Gita. Typically, I will listen for 30-60 mins a night before bed. That's a really great resource so I thoroughly recommend getting that because there's a LOT of material there. I also really liked the online lectures of Swamini Prakashananda (London, UK) and Swami Tadatmananda (New Jersey). They are especially good if the minutiae of Sanskrit terminology appeals to you.

I understand your 'career Vasana'. The little piece of subtle body programming that I struggle with is this: "I am a man and I am supposed to be a provider and at this stage in my life, I should have earned more money."

Of course, Vedantically this is pure nonsense...lol...but that little gremlin hasn't been cut down to size yet. Still working on that one! Of all the 101 gratuitous thoughts that I threw overboard in the last 2+ years, that one has been a little more resistant.

Fact is, right now my wife and I enjoy a very good but modest existence. She is the principal wage earner and I am both self employed and I have a part time job also. My earnings can be erratic but somehow, we always get by. We live in a very safe, quiet place, in good health and without fear. When I bitch about shortness of money I slap myself and say "Go and check the global poverty index and then STFU". In terms of American materialist standards, we are very low in the pecking order, but in terms of the rest of the world we are practically royalty. Bottom line is that what I lack in $$, I gain in free time and I can use that for self inquiry.

Bottom line is that everything is really 'A-OK'.

Also, thank you James for your input because what you wrote applies to me too!

Andrew
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Re: Lifestyle question

Postby Mira » Tue Jun 30, 2015 6:19 pm

Thanks, Andrew. I really enjoyed your post and your insights.

I thought I would report back on my progress at chipping away at my ambition vasana. As Ramji said, it's not been easy. The ego is insecure and resistant. However, the 'chip away' advice was really good. That allows the vasana to be tackled in small doses.

For example, the ambition vasana reared it's head this week. I immediately applied the teachings...that I am whole and complete and obviously the vasana does not have any impact on me. However, it was interesting to observe that these binding vasanas are so entrenched that they are near-automatic. I observed the vasana and it's force (which was tremendous). However, since it was observed, the vasana did not result in actions that were too adharmic. However, even then, it did disturb the piece of mind of this jiva quite a bit.

I think that the best way for this jiva to tackle these binding vasanas is in small measures. Trying as best as possible to not violate dharma when the vasana arises with all its force. Hopefully, the next time it arises, this jiva will apply the teachings and be able to give into the vasana even less, until eventually it binds no more. Peace of mind is so valuable now to this jiva that even a little disturbance feels really awful.

But, of course, as Andrew says, everything is A-OK. Observing these trenchant vasanas really make clear that there is no doer and it's the energies that make the apparent world go around. It's Ishawara's will as to what happens in the apparent world. It will be interesting to see how Ishwara decides this particular tussle. ;).
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Re: Lifestyle question

Postby Anja » Fri Sep 30, 2016 5:18 pm

Mira wrote:
But I want to establish a spiritual practice too. I want to ask forum members what practice do you have that brings you back to inquiry and reflection. Prayer? Japa? Meditation? When? How long?

For me right now, it's just trail running--the solitude in nature allows reflection on (my)self. But I would like a practice at home too. I try to read a verse of the Gita every night (and reflect) as my practice. But I would like to do more.

I would love to hear all about your spiritual practice.

With thanks,
Mira


There is nothing more to life itself than being a good actor in the role you choose to play. And if you don't know what role you choose to play, you might engage in mantra-jappa, meditation, reading the Bhagavad-Gita or anything that fits your moods.

What ever it is you don't like about your life, you can examine it by asking the right questions about it in the right mind-set.

If there is anything you like to change, just change it. And if you can not change it, accept it. And if you can not accept it, fight it.

What's the problem?
Anja
 

Re: Lifestyle question

Postby Pedro » Thu Oct 06, 2016 12:29 am

Hi Mira,

Good topic. This is my first post here on the forum. Me and my wife check the forum regularly and read some of the posts. There's some real nice stories and comments being put up by people like yourself and other members left and right. Really cool..

I like the question of this topic very much since I'm also curious how others manage their lifestyles. People who find themselves sucked into the (probably unending!) obsession with Vedanta I mean by that.

Great post by Andrew on the ability to live very calmly in the West too. I have thought about his post and think it is very true. Me and my wife have been able to create a very intentionally designed (non-hectic) lifestyle since we learned about the guna's a few years ago and I think this lifestyle has been possible largely because of living in the West.

Indeed there's a big lie-pie been eaten and passed on (and a false-waltz being danced!) which says life nowadays is hectic and busy! But if we shut out tv & media voices, get rid of / downgrade the car and stop going out to restaurants etc. we can lay on the couch reading Iron-man comics half of the week and eat well! At least here in Holland, if you're willing to live in a nerdy town...

Me and my wife did all of the above and we are indeed able to read comics on the couch for the better half of the week. This however, isn't happening at all because of countless rajasic and ambitious tendencies circling the depths of my causal waters. But this is another topic..

To answer your question regarding spiritual practice and lifestyle, this is my routine: In the morning I get up early, make a vegetable shake for me and my wife and then walk outside for 20-30 minutes listening to a Shiningworld satsang on earbuds.

I start work (and when I'm being a good little boy) write down a list of things to be thankful for on my computer and why I'm thankful to Iswara. On my desk I have an elephant to remind me of Iswara / Karma Yoga. Anything to remind me because I forget KY all the time.

I also have post-it's saying KY! on my desk. I work at home so I can stick post-its around my workspace until my world is yellow. At lunch I usually read something from Shining World (besides some news etc). I sleep for 40 minutes in the afternoon. This gets me a reset and a fresh mind for the 2nd part of the day.

For a long time I read Dayananda's Gita course in bed before sleep. I read the whole thing two or three times now. I don't read it at the moment but might pick it up again any day.

A steady ritual is that I'll put in my earbuds with a satsang on when I go to sleep. I put my MP4 player in my hand under the pillow and as I get sleepier I occasionally push the volumebutton to lower the volume and usually fall asleep with the satsang going. Then often at 2:00 or 03:00 I wake up in a daze, James still talking softly in my ears, and put the earbuds beside the bed (and then often go pee!).

I like going into sleep with my mind tuned into a satsang, and in the morning re-tune my mind onto the frequency of self-knowledge again on the morning walk. This seems to carry the scent of self knowledge quite well across the fields of daytime!

I don´t know about your mind, but mine is a terrible child. I have to keep it on a very short leash or it will whine me to death!

Pedro
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Re: Lifestyle question

Postby georgschiller » Sat Oct 08, 2016 7:29 am

That's so beautiful Pedro!!
I love your lifestyle and discipline :)

I have sometimes difficulty to motivate myself to listen to the the technical parts of Vedanta.

I mean I love the bhakti part, the devotional part, the part of developing gratitude
but I have difficulties motivating myself to continue studying all the terms technical parts of Vedanta :)

I mean don't misunderstand me, I am quite satisfied with the self-knowledge this mind has assimilated over the last 16 months which is probably the reason why I have difficulties continuing listening to technicalities of Vedanta (including sanskrit heavy talks by Swami Paramarthananda).
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Re: Lifestyle question

Postby Mira » Mon Oct 10, 2016 5:20 pm

Hi Pedro,
Welcome to the forum! It's good to have you here.

I see so much activity on the forum last few days. I guess I have a lot of catching up to do! It's just life has been a little hectic here.

Your lifestyle is so conducive to self-inquiry. It's great that you have achieved that. Thanks for sharing about your lifestyle. I enjoyed reading it!

On my end, my life has become a little more hectic than before (due to having to take on an extra assignment for a year at work). However, the self-assimilation has also speeded up! So now, even when life is hectic, there is inquiry all the time.

For example, it occurs to me that (any) situation is Ishvara unfolding and (since as the self I am not affected it) I can just take in (and enjoy) the experience. So even hectic or stressful situations are interesting when the perspective is that of the self :D.
Last edited by Mira on Mon Oct 10, 2016 6:59 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Lifestyle question

Postby Mira » Mon Oct 10, 2016 5:41 pm

Hi Georg!
I totally hear you. Sometimes, I don't want to read scripture either. For those times, I can highly recommend a book that I have recently discovered:
Day by Day with Rumi by Coleman Barks.
It's a poem by Rumi for every day of the calendar year and all the poems that I have read so far (started in mid-september) are about self-realization.

Here are some examples:
Oct 5
Hoping to be more alive

You are an ocean in a drop of dew,
all the universes in a thin sack of blood.

What are these pleasures then,
these joys, these worlds
that you keep reaching for,
hoping they will make you more alive?

Oct 3
Out Beyond

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language and even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.


Jan 1 (I just love this one!)

A just-finishing candle
A candle is made to become entirely flame.
In that annihilating moment
it has no shadow

It is nothing but a tongue of light
describing a refuge.

Look at this
just-finishing candle stub
as someone who is finally safe
from virtue and vice,

the pride and the shame
we claim from those.



Reading poetry about self realization is another form of bhakti for me these days :D.

Hope all is well with you, Georg :D. You must be missing Ramji!
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Re: Lifestyle question

Postby Pedro » Tue Oct 11, 2016 11:26 am

Hi Georg,

Thanks for the video's with James first of all. Nice stuff.

I think I get what your saying, you're cool with the bhakti and your understanding is solid, why bother with detailed technicalities? Sure. I would think so too.

If one wants, one can always get into details later right?

I'm definitely not a Sanskrit expert myself, or anything close. There is plenty of Sanskrit in Dayananda's Gita series, but most of it leaks out of my memory in a few minutes..

If you'd have it at hand, I think you will really love the Gita course though. I love Dayananda's clarity. He can explain gravitational theories to a sleeping snail.. ;) And get him to pray too. On his knees. Which is the purest bhakti. A snail on his knees!

What you say about discipline is cool and I'd like to take that compliment but I wouldn't say it's discipline. It looks like discipline though when written down there! But it's just that I grabbed the MP4 or Gita course again and again when I needed it 'to protect me from the world' (feeling bad) and this has become a colossal habit!

Vedanta weaved itself into everyday life out of my very basic desire to be a feelgood rabbit!

If I reduce my Vedanta time it will backfire on my mood because samsara rises up too much in my mind. And before I know it I'm whistling tunes of whineyness!

At present I run a music-studio from home, but when I discovered James and Vedanta a few years ago I had the IRS on my back laying claim on all my possessions which meant I had to take a crummy job somewhere so I started as a cleaner. In this way I could listen to the satsangs on my mp4 while cleaning toilets and classrooms. I did this for months and months. Since then this has become a big habit! Listening to satsangs on mp4 that is. I let go of the toiletcleaning in public buildings. ;)

I'm very curious about those Paramarthananda talks, although I must admit I usually have some trouble following the Indian English accent.

Do you have a link to public audiotalks by Paramarthananda? Or did you purchase them?
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