This building has staying power

Thailand, hmmmm…a long way from my Electric Soul Yoga L.A. home.

For  three weeks, my travels have taken me to India, where my guru held Yajna lectures that captivated thousands of people with his supreme teachings from the Bhagavad Gita.  But still, the heat, congestion and filth of India have wedged deep into my skin.

Next stop was Malaysia, where Swamiji’s daughter offered a different set of Yajna lectures and again revealed ancient truths of Life against a backdrop of beautiful buildings, mosques, and malls! The eternal and the mortal.

Final stop led me to Thailand – beaches, shops, massage and time. Time to digest the intensity of the lessons I have  listened to with rapt attention.

What I have learned during these three weeks is what I already knew: that  there is one thing for certain in life and that is death.

When we die, we cannot take our families or friends with us.  We cannot take fame or fortune, toys or joys.  All we take with us when we go is our ignorance or our knowledge.

If we practice bhoga, our mind is on the world and we spend our time chasing happiness/peace as if it were a prize one receives for winning a race or solving a puzzle. The happiness/peace that we feel is always dependent upon a person, place or thing and therefore, not only is it not lasting, it is never really peaceful.

If this is the life we lead, at best we will live it again and again like a dog chasing its tail. At worst, we slide back like a car in a ditch losing traction, never freeing itself from the mud.

If we live a life of yoga, our mind leaves the terrestrial and aims for the transcendental.

Thumbs up

We rise above life’s pitfalls. Fame, fortune, pleasure, pain, honor and dishonor, remain at our feet. We chase just like the bhogi.   But the yogi chases the truth, the ultimate in the human experience, growing.

Rather than an endless cycle of emptiness, we reach a state of total fulfillment. Instead of temporary relief from misery, there is permanent bliss.

Indeed we are all going to leave this earth someday.   But today, we are here and the only thing that truly matters, the only thing worth living for, is the peace we are searching for.

For years, I have said: “The only way out is in.”

Dig in!  Any achievement in this world cannot be taken out. No trophy, no award, no plaque, no building.

May we all reach for the supreme every day and let our actions and our thoughts direct us toward the peak of creation. The knowledge that comes from living that life can take us out of this world!



As I sit nine stories up on the rooftop of a prestigious hotel in Chennai, India, eating an amazing Mezza Platter and Aqua Salad along with a “detox” drink, the gentle breeze moving through my hair, keeping the sweat from the heat of the day out of my eyes, I smile at the stern law of causation: we reap what we sow and we sow what we reap.

Green grows the rushes, O

Here I sit poolside, and below me is filth and starvation. Without understanding what the world is and how it works, I would be left crippled in despair at what my eyes reveal to me, a world that is both so cruel and yet so kind. Instead, I marvel in the ultimate knowledge, that I am not the man who sits perched up in a lounge chair and below me, they are not the poor who lay on the hot concrete as their bed.

We are both the Self and we are both suffering greatly as we are lost in our ignorance. I earned my seat from all the choices I have made. They have earned their seat by their actions. We both sit ultimately in the same position, as we are lost in a world that only exists out of our illusions, confusions and delusions that stem from the misapprehension of our true identity.

I befriended the manager of the apartments where a few of us devotees are staying, and he insisted that I come to his home.

So my brother, Justin, and I ventured off in a rickshaw to his home to meet his son and his wife.  He was so  proud of his tiny one-bedroom unit, which sat on top of a street filled with noise, pollution and unbearable stench.


He insisted on giving us a present because in India the guest is god, and we did him a huge blessing by visiting his home.  Do I even bother discussing that philosophy versus the inconvenience most of us feel when someone is in our home?

Needless to say, that little experience was truly a gift that he gave to us.  My wife and I have guests all the time. In fact, our home is like a hotel – people coming in and out, but we always feel we are being of service and not the receiver of the gift.

What I experienced today brought home everything Swamiji has taught me: the gift is in the giving… there has to be someone to “give to” in order to give. Therefore, the giver is grateful to the recipient for allowing them to do what brings the most satisfaction in life, giving!


I was left today with this thought, or I should say this question: Eric, are you involved in what you see in the world or involved in what is the source that makes you see?

Am I involved in thought, perception and emotion, or involved in that which enlivens my thoughts, perceptions and emotions?  Have you ever asked yourself these questions?

Your answer will reveal to you where you are and why I have my answer….



You've gotta have heart

Since February marks the month of love, thanks to a great marketing scheme known as Valentine’s Day, I would like to share with you a wonderful experience I recently had, co-officiating at a wedding.

A wedding at its heart is a uniting between two people, and the ultimate in ceremony.  I could talk about how today, weddings become about everyone else but the couple.  Or how they are about everything else, except the ceremony.  Families battling to get what they want or who they want, but why talk about that insanity?

My recent experience featured a couple who made their wedding ceremony truly theirs.  They accommodated family and guests but never at the expense of their beliefs and the space they wanted to create to seal their commitment to one another.

I cannot begin to explain how profound it was for me to be so close to them at that moment, but I will try.  As I watched them, I realized that everything the two of them had ever done had led them to this moment.

I did have the honor of knowing the bride, Leah, since birth; she is my 1st cousin on my mother’s side.  I remembered random moments of Leah in her parents’ kitchen laughing; sitting in the back seat of a car; playing on the beach; all these moments leading up to this one moment that will define a part of her forever.  I looked at Fane, her husband, and not needing to know his history, I knew it had led him to her.

Watching them look at each other, I saw them recognize the miracle in finding each other. I witnessed them “seeing” one another.  It is a look that cannot be described and it blew me away. In days to come, that look may never be recaptured. It may become clouded by life and all of its challenges. But it will never be forgotten.  For if they can remember it, then they will always be together.

Parties, presents and hoopla are great – the problem is at the time when a couple should be preparing themselves for a life commitment, their focus is on the party!  Aside from your child’s birth, there is no greater moment and nothing as powerful as the moment you are standing beside your partner, looking into their eyes, making a lifelong promise.  Everything leading up to that moment has to be in preparation for it, so that one can live up to the promise they are making.   Sometimes the only thing that can hold together a marriage is that single moment shared together.  You do not want to miss it or obscure it.

This couple and their wedding,  perfectly prepared by themselves, executing with precision the environment they envisioned for their moment of truth.  They personalized the most personal experience that is done publicly.

A marriage needs a witness only because of this magical law of nature: “The observer changes the observed”. Everything we do, with a witness present, makes us more attentive, more aware and more sensitive to our actions.

Therefore, a witness for a couple getting married helps work the couple into a heightened state of awareness that they need when making a life commitment.  I cannot begin to explain how profound it was for me to be so close to them at that moment.

A wedding ceremony has been a practice throughout the history of man.  We seem to have an inherent need to celebrate, articulate, and consecrate to help assimilate the moments and events that are important to us.  Sometimes, yes, we make too big a deal about things – but not when it comes to marriage.


Marriage IS a big deal; make a big deal out of it! Take the time to prepare yourself, focus on the eye contact shared during your ceremony.  Soak in every minute and hold on tight – you are in for the ride of your life!

While you are on that ride, you will need a place to go back to in order to ground yourself.  You will go back to your ceremony and the clarity you had at that moment. It is that clarity and that pledge to one another that gets you through anything, IF you have this insight and knowledge at the time you say “I do”.

Beyond the wedding, vows and preparation, we must understand that if we do not know what love is, any and all relationships will be transitory, at best.

Know that love is sacrificial not preferential. Love is universal and not unilateral. Love is a permanent state of mind, not a temporary emotion.

It is the life’s work for all of us to love. If we love in this way, the heaven we all are looking for will be right here on Earth!



WWJD – Yoga?

A national yoga leader responds to Christian vocal opposition.

By Eric Paskel

Yoga has allowed me to recover from addictions, to build a livelihood and a mission greater than a paycheck, and to have a satisfying, long-lasting marriage.  I am not preaching on street corners nor banging Bibles. Yoga is not my religion, but it allows me to find faith and focus.

After hearing Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler’s objection to the physical practice of yoga, calling for Christians to not practice, I cannot stay silent.

“That’s just not Christianity,” Mohler told The Associated Press. He said, “Christians who practice yoga ‘must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga’”.

He is not the first to oppose this healing, powerful practice for millions of Americans and humans around the world. He will not be the last either.

Leaders from many major religions have charged their followers to avoid yoga, fearing it is a “false religion” or incompatible with their teachings. In this most recent outcry, Mohler said yoga is not a Christian pathway to God, objecting to “the idea that the body is a vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine”.

I agree with his last statement.  A physical practice cannot get you to a spiritual place.  A yoga pose does not help you meet God.

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But it does create a release and relieves the pressure, so those who practice are in a more conducive space to connect to something higher than their self-centered ego. The physical yoga he is talking about is just a beginning.

Nowhere in the coverage of Mohler’s statements did he mention that  he  tried a yoga class. Ignorance had Blacks as slaves, millions of Jews killed and Arabs dismissed as a race of terrorists. Ignorance creates fear and loathing of anything we do not know.  Ignorance creates a reality that is not real. FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real. It is perhaps the oldest story.

Yoga is nothing more than a process for attaining Self-realization. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit yuj – which means to connect or to join. The word religion comes from the Latin religare – which means to join or to connect.

A physical yoga practice, known as Hatha Yoga, is nothing more than an exercise to cleanse and keep the body fit. The real practice of yoga is found in three parts:  Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Gnana Yoga.

In Karma Yoga,  the body is used as a vehicle of service to help others and serve the world to make it a better place.

Bhakti Yoga, is when all emotion is directed toward a universal identification with all beings.  It is where one sees the touch of God in everything.

Gnana Yoga is the practice of the intellect, where one studies scripture to stay focused on life’s highest principles. It was Jesus Christ who said “the Kingdom of God is within you”.  Yoga positions a person to love all and serve the world.

If that conflicts with any religion, then those religious leaders must not be interested in helping others, in loving others, in studying universal teachings from great masters who have, frankly, spoken those identical words.

At the root of physical yoga is breath and movement. Go for a jog, ride your bike, spend time at the gym on the treadmill – breath and movement. Are those physical exercises not considered Christian, even if they give us the peace of mind needed to make a difference in the world? If these disciplines give us the clarity to focus on what is really important, the meaning behind the madness, are they not Christian?

Hatha Yoga has a ceiling. It is a great way to get started, to dip your toes into the philosophies of the other three streams. We are over-amped, overstimulated and undernourished.  Physical yoga levels the playing field, bringing people to a starting point to figure out their higher purpose.

People are so out of control that when they breathe deliberately and move the body, it creates calmness, space and clarity.  Positive energy to eliminate stress, tension and confusion.


Jesus Christ was perhaps the greatest yogi who ever lived. He embodied every value of yoga. Just as Christianity is misunderstood and misrepresented, so is yoga mistaken for a cultish belief system. In reality, yoga  is nothing more than a path for clarity and peace.

The great Vedanta scholar, Swami Parthasarathy, says in his book, The Eternities, “There is enough bad in the best of us and enough good in the worst of us that it would behoove all of us not to judge any of us”.

I put that before Mohler. Jesus Christ said: “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world”.

Yoga brings you to the precipice of looking inward, so you can do the real work.

Eric Paskel, owner of Electric Soul Yoga.  He is based in Los Angeles.

Almost perfect triangles

Have you ever sat back and thought about where we would be as humans if we used the time we spend learning how to make a living, on learning how to make a life?


I think we can agree that it takes about 18 years to ramp up and then start the process of making a living.

So we graduate from high school and do not further our education. We find a job and we begin… not knowing how many twists and turns we will take just to “like” what we are doing and be able to support ourselves.

Now let us assume we take a longer road that has us extending our education. We have the career we want. We make all the money we could ever dream of making. But does this make a life?

If it did, it would mean that everyone that likes what they are doing and makes a sufficient amount of money to meet their needs would not have addictions, divorce, depression, anxiety and a host of other disorders that too many people suffer from.

Way, way too much time, effort and finances go into making a living.

All other animals are able to make a living, in just a few years after birth. But, we the kings and queens of the Earth, spend our entire lives trying to earn, maintain, save and for what?

Everything we do, we do so that we can be happy. Every single action we take, including all of our intentions come back to this one thing… happiness.

Making a living is important. But it does not make a life. In fact, I say that no matter what kind of living you make, it can never make a life. But if you make a life you will never be without a living!

There are two types of education: Servile and Liberal. Servile is the
type of education taught in schools throughout the world. They teach us to earn, to become an expert in a particular field so we can provide ourselves with the material necessities to survive.

There is no end to this type of education. One can go on and on through his entire life without reaching the end.

The other type of education is Liberal. This type of education helps one learn how to handle the world, to deal with life, and to reach the ultimate state of human perfection, Self Realization.

With a Liberal education you learn to think for yourself, reason, reflect, contemplate and question. There is an end to this type of education; it ends with the student unveiling his true identity, his “god head”.

Words to live by

A Liberal education will find you happiness at every corner. With a Servile education you will look for happiness around every corner.
With a Servile education someone will push information into you.

Whereas with a Liberal education, someone will help pull the information out of you. Here is an example to help underscore how great a difference there is between the schools. When sitting in a room at night that is lit, you will notice the light bulbs illuminating that particular room. However, the light bulbs in that room cannot light another room! Those lights have only one use and its limited to that room. Now take a flashlight in your hand and walk with it. The flashlight lights up every room you enter. Wherever you go, there is light!

Life has an infinite amount of rooms and the education we spend our entire lives obtaining, only prepares us to shed light on one room!

Liberal education allows us to shed light on any room we are in. Yet nobody is registered for this school of thought.

No doubt it is difficult to break away from the herd, the “everybody
is doing it mentality”
. But once you look at the “it” that everyone is doing, you will see that the “it” does not work.

A universal law of life is what we feed grows. Happiness is most important to us all. It is why we do everything we do. However, our “guide to happiness” is obviously turned off. Otherwise all of us could claim happiness, since we are basically all moving every day through the same hoops.

Maybe its time we stop feeding ourselves with the thought that making a living, (career, relationship, family, power, fame) is how to achieve the happiness.

Maybe the thought of making a life (our bodies, our vehicles of service, our minds filled with love and gratitude, and our intellects focused on the most noble principles and teachings) is where it is at.

Let us grow a relationship with ourselves and the world that is harmonious; allow every thought, and action align with that, and let us surround ourselves with people who support our quest.

The only real way to make a living is to make a life!

We can start to make a life anytime. But it is much easier to do
it before we have made a mess.

I am not saying do not go after a formal education to seek a career. What I am saying is let us make sure we get a life so we do not create strife. Then we can keep our husbands and our wives!

Last, but not least, by this time (assuming you are still reading) you
must be asking how do I get a Liberal education?

The way to get started is to begin questioning everything!  Questioning is the birth of all creation. There is no creation without questioning. If you simply follow the herd, then at best all you can do is imitate. But as soon as you begin to really question, a whole new world comes to life.

Look at all the inventions that have been created throughout the world; all the miracle surgeries and drugs, all the transportation, architecture, art, etc., were created by people thinking for themselves which comes from questioning. Do not take anything for granted. Do not have any preconceived notions.

Question everything and you will be on your way out of the box. You will break away from the herd and begin to make a life.



The insanity of humanity has us always looking for something other than what we have. The “more” factor has steadily increased throughout our history.  We build things we want, obtain them and then, create more.

Socrates, a famous philosopher, walking through a street fair one day, observing the vendors and all their wares, is quoted as saying, “Its amazing all the things man can do without”.

My teacher, Swami Parthasarathy, says, “We keep building malls that maul us”.


To me it seems we have a constant “want” list that never ends.  No sooner we receive an item on our “want” list, we are already looking at the next item that we just have to have.

The questions we need to answer are:  Why do we want?  What are we looking for?  Why don’t we want what we have?

Let’s examine these questions further.

Our first question, is why do we want?

In order to answer such a question we have to know what want means.

It is defined as, to be without, to lack, to desire greatly, to seek or capture.  A want is something we can do without.  If we have what we need, why is there a drive for more?

All animals, except for the rat, are content when their needs are satiated.  They do not seek more. This is the law of the animal kingdom.

This is only partially true for humans.  For instance after a big meal are we interested in food?  The answer should be known unless we have a serious problem.  Once we are full, there is no thought of food, until we get hungry again.  It is a temporary piece of mind.

The same is true for the rest of our lives. We chase something and obtain it only to have temporary satisfaction until we are off to the races again for more of what we have or something new.  We want food out of a hunger.  We want everything else because of a hunger as well.

That’s why we want!  We are hungry for the knowledge of our true Self. Those that are truly full have no wants. Wants are for those who are empty.

This brings us to our next question.

What are we looking for?

We just established that we want (seek) because we are empty. This means that what we are looking for is something to fill us.

Humans have looked everywhere. We have searched all over the world. There is virtually no place we have not discovered on earth.  But all that we have discovered is not what we are looking for, because no one has found contentment in people, places or things.  We are looking for something to fill the void that we all have.

If there was no void, there would be no searching, no misery, no more wanting. Anyone that is whole or full wants nothing else.

The history of man gives us an important clue as to where to find what we are seeking.  We have looked, since the beginning of man, outside of ourselves, including those, searching for a god, who have looked above and not within.

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We know that, whatever it is we are looking for, is not outside of ourselves, or we would have found it already.  This story exemplifies this truth.

Long ago man had very special powers.  However, over the years he began to abuse those powers greatly.  One day god had a meeting with his angels to discuss taking away man’s powers.

God asked his angels to help him find a solution as to where to hide those powers.  One angel suggested he hide them deep beneath the sea.  God answered that man is smart enough to discover the bottom of the sea one day.

Another angel recommended that he hide the powers in the sky.  God replied that man, one day, would discover and explore other planets.

Yet another angel spoke about hiding them in the bowels of the earth.  Once again god thought that man would dig and drill the earth dry and discover the powers.

Finally, one angel said, “let’s hide these powers within man himself.  If he finds them there, he will be worthy of their use”.  Finally, a thinking angel, and so it was!  The place that holds what we are looking for is deep within us.

The final question is, why don’t we want what we have?

This could not be simpler to answer.  We do not want what we have because we do not have anything. All there is in this world is as meaningful as the dream is to the person who just woke up!

Think about it, all through life we keep scrapping one thing of value, for the next once we realize the worth is higher.

I remember getting a big wheel.  It was red, shiny and my eyes caught fire just staring at it.  I still remember the thrill of riding it down the street.  The speed and handling were so much better than my measly tricycle that was once the apple of my eye.

The big wheel was it and the tricycle was no longer meaningful to me.

Needless to say our whole lives are like this.  From things, to places and even to people, we constantly keep discovering there is more than what we were clinging onto and this is just in the material world.

Many will not like hearing this, but even our partners and children become meaningless, once we are exposed to the brilliance of our true identity.

By meaningless, I am not, not, not, not, not saying we do not care or love them. Nor am I saying we do not have a duty to them.  What I am saying is that they no longer are our world.

Those of us with families or partners know that we do not stop craving for more once we have them. Then, if they were the answer, the search would be over. But it is not!

Those of us that want what we have use it as a discipline to stop accumulating more in all the areas that will never fill the void.  This is a partial fix.

We must continue to search.  Our work must not cease, but we need to understand our road map is way off.  We are going the wrong way if we are looking outside ourselves. The moment we look in we feel immediate relief and our journey to an everlasting happiness begins.

The world is an illusion that tempts us to jump into her arms only to find that she will not hold us, only toss us around and spit us out.

Dive into ourselves and we will be nesting in the bosom of heaven and from there, we will see everything else is meaningless.



In Chapter 13, verses 8-12 of the Bhagavad Gita, 20 qualities of a supreme human being are listed.  One of these qualities is “Service of the Preceptor”.  Why would serving your teacher be a quality necessary to become enlightened?


Let’s start by looking at what a Guru is.  Guru, in Sanskrit, is the same as teacher in English.  The first part of the word gu means dark and ru means light.  A Guru helps one transform his darkness (ignorance) into light (knowledge of the self).  Guru can be broken down further by saying G. U. R. U.

Ultimately, this is what any Guru worth his weight in gold tells his students. You are “you,” meaning that on a terrestrial level we are all unique.  Each individual has his own distinct nature and is driven by it throughout his life.  Only self effort can stop us from being a slave to our own personality.

However the Guru is not around to deal with the common bullshit that fills our lives (well mine is).  For those issues, we can go to 12 step meetings, therapists, friends, families and yoga classes.  The Guru is around to reveal the transcendental reality: that we are all the same.  The entire world is all The Self.  All births and deaths along with every species were born out of ignorance of The Self.

I know, now you want to know what is The Self.  You will have to come to a Yoga Shelter Teacher Training or read the Vedanta Treatise for that.  Actually, if one could find The Self that easily, I would be a millionaire.

Only one who is enlightened can share Realization with us. The Guru is completely fulfilled, totally self-sufficient, is devoid of wants and desires and has complete bliss.  This person does not want to be “served”, nor does he need to be.  We serve the Guru to save ourselves.

When we are grateful, our mind is at ease because we have or feel we have received.  Gratitude automatically manifests itself as service and when serving, we lose our self-centered mindset. Serving our teacher is the ultimate because he is giving the ultimate to us… Knowledge!  Knowledge is the only thing that can break the veil of ignorance, serving the person who has that knowledge is just plain smart.

Home is not a place where ignorance is bred, fed and served every day. Home is a place where light shines in every corner, where love is present regardless of circumstance, where it is safe to admit our insanity and where we are held in the bosom of pure consciousness.

Home is where your Guru dwells!  I surround myself with Swamiji in one form or another every day.  I stay in touch with those whom he teaches as well and whenever possible, fly to the ends of the world to be in his physical presence.

There has never been a place where I have felt so insignificant and so huge all at once. Never have I been shown such graciousness, compassion, acceptance and a good kick in the ass like I have at home with my Guru.

Hari Om,



It is common for us to want to “control” other people, places and things.  We often get caught up in a mental set where we are actively trying to control or believe we are controlling our surroundings which encompass others.

Control actually means to exercise restraint or direction over; to dominate, command or rule.  Many believe that if we can control “things,” then we will be stable and have piece of mind.

Sound familiar?

The problem with this way of thinking is two-fold. First, and probably most important, it has a human being looking outside of himself to create inner harmony.

It has us fixing, fidgeting, adjusting, and manipulating all to get the results we want from others so that we feel good about ourselves.

The problem with this scenario is that the world keeps changing. People have their own individual nature, which can’t be changed, and we all have our own agendas. How, then, can we control anyone?

So much of the tension and stress humanity suffers from is due to the enormous effort in trying to control our external environment.  What a thankless and exhausting job!

Secondly, since the beginning of man, we have had countless examples of humans searching for happiness and failing, when it is based on just external factors.

We have seen kings conquer nations only to want more.  Presidents leading nations, but still riddled by the passions of their loins.  Rich men clamoring for more riches. Women and men finding their soul mates and then losing their mind when their soul mate leaves them and the family unit. The dream of having a family come true, only to realize that it brings along a ton of work and often many problems.

So trying to govern, rule or dominate to get things just right will never work. If this was the way, then those with the most power would be the most happy.

We know that is not true; just ask Tiger Woods. The world bows to his talents. He does as he pleases and has what he wants. But his wanting more may have destroyed his family.

Now that we understand that trying to control others is exhausting and fruitless, let’s move on to how to use it and on whom.

Version 2

One of the greatest wonders of life is that there are so many things outside of our control: weather, traffic, making everybody like or love us, controlling our own children, what people say to us and how they say it, the economy, and our death, to name but a few.

Now we have a part to play in some of these things, yet we can’t control it all.  But what we can control is the only thing we need to in order to have a perfect life –  and that is ourselves.

Isn’t it fascinating that there are an infinite amount of things that we can’t control?  Yet the only thing we really can control is ourselves in order to have peace and prosperity.

Viktor Frankl was a Jew living in a concentration camp during World War II.  He was a psychologist before he was taken into the camp.  He watched his friends and family brutally tortured and killed almost everyday for years.  He realized he could not control what the Nazis were doing, but he could control his response!

He came up with a therapy where one becomes responsible for his/her own thoughts and actions completely free of the environment, even one like a concentration camp.  He became so empowered by being able to control his mindset that, even with the daily threat of his own life, he kept an attitude that nobody could control him except him.

How beautiful!

It is so great to be able to control ourselves in such a way that even in the worst circumstances, we can be at peace.

Why bother trying to make anyone else anything other than who they are, when we can make ourselves into a supreme being, one who has complete dominance over his/her own desires, thoughts, emotions and actions.

“Work on ourselves, we find transformation and salvation; work on others, we find friction and frustration”.



I was listening intently to Swamiji lecturing during a small gathering at a man’s home in New York.  The setting was intimate; an informal lecture, where he spoke a few words and answered some questions before sitting down to a big feast in his honor.  He started to speak about “the” road map for happiness.  He spoke briefly about the three Yogas: Karma, Bhakti and Gnana.  As always, his words were powerful.  But if one did not listen closely, they were easy to lose because of their simplicity.  I took notes feverishly.


Swamiji spoke about dropping our selfishness.  He mentioned that what the world needs is not more social work, we are good at that, especially in America.  What we really need is more social consciousness. Then there will be no need for social work.

Somewhere in all of this, he casually threw out these words: “Everyone is grateful; gratitude is selfish; drop your gratitude and just be in Awe.”

I nearly threw up when I heard those words! I lifted my head to see the reactions of more than 50 people gathered around him. Nobody seemed to hear what I heard.

I looked to Swamiji’s students who had traveled with him from India. They, too, looked unaffected (and they had heard this before).  In my whole “spiritual” life, I have been taught to be grateful.  In one casual sentence, that was shut right down!

The lecture ended. I waited for the line of people thanking Swamiji to thin out before I approached him, desperate for answers.  Swamiji looked at me and said, “My beloved, sit, let’s talk, I know you have questions.” I told him I heard something in his words that I had never heard anyone say before – even him! – and it flipped me out.

I asked him what he meant by his gratitude statement. Like a proud parent, he immediately called over some of his students and announced, “Eric is brilliant. I travel the world speaking and nobody listens but him.”

I am never sure if Swamiji means what he says about me. But I know that even if he doesn’t, the fact that he goes out of his way to compliment me, tells me he cares. He knows that I need that from him. That is the mark of a truly great teacher: understanding his students’ needs and giving them what they need, when appropriate.

Swamiji said that gratitude is selfish. It is being thankful for what you have. I am grateful for my health, my family, my job, my students, my teachers, even grateful for others’ well-being – but really, it’s just saying YOU are thankful!

Swamiji went on to say that I/we must drop the “me, mine and I.” All gratitude does is bring everything back to “you,” even if you are thanking someone else.

I sat completely hunched over as if I had been diagnosed with cancer. This was some monumental shit that was going down.  He was dead-on! Even my attempts to count “my” blessings were selfish!

I then asked My Beloved (this is what we call each other): Where do I go from here?

With a big smile, he answered, “Awe. You need to simply be in Awe, my boy.”

He said Awe is the recognition of the Supreme, a feeling of reverence produced by something grand. It is admiration for the great mystery of Life.

He said, we don’t know where we came from. Don’t know where we’ll go. Don’t know when. We may know how our body functions but in many cases, we are not in control of it. Beyond the science, nobody can explain how an ear hears or how the eyes see.

He asked, “Who woke me up this morning? Some people never wake up. Why me? Some won’t make it through the day. Why me?”

For these reasons, and many more, he said, “Just have Awe. Just walk around and be in Awe of this great mystery called Life. Forget about gratitude; be in Awe.”

I have not told many about this conversation because he directed me not to. We agreed that it would only irritate most people because this kind of teaching is for people who already have a fairly alert intellect and understanding of the Vedanta philosophy. Well, as you can see, sometimes I am not a good student.

In order to stimulate some deep thinking, I must push some buttons. I understand that expressing gratitude is part of our culture. It is a way to convey that we care, to shift our minds from what we don’t have to what we do have.

However, shifting the mind is not getting beyond the mind.

To live where the mind is in control (emotions, likes, dislikes, worries over the past, anxiety over the future) is a dangerous neighborhood to inhabit. Focusing on possessions and relationships is just plain selfish.

Remember, the focus is not on you.  It is on how we can serve, and act without our “self” in mind.

Our freedom lies in service. We need to drop the little self and find the bigger one.

We must act without attachment, simply doing what we should, and be in Awe!

Wow, wow, wow!! This is one of my mantras.  Try it on.  It might spark that internal flame and take you beyond yourself!

Hari Om,