Oops He Did It Again!

It may seem weird to use a Britney Spear’s song title for a book review about Zen Buddhism. However, we’re talking about Brad Warner’s latest book “It Came from Beyond Zen! More Practical Advice from Dogen, Japan’s Greatest Zen Master”. Warner is well known for dropping some popular cultural throughout his books. (Full disclosure, I doubt he’s a Britney fan.)

As for truth in advertising, the title fits the reality. Again, Warner goes through the teachings of Dogen and breaks it down so us non-Japanese speaking, non-Chinese speaking, non-practicing Buddhists can understand the frequent twists and turns that Zen writings can take. First Warner translates the texts into a layman’s translation, then follows that with some information about other English translations and explains his personal interpretations on what each writing means. Therefore, Warner is one of my favorite writers when it comes to Zen Buddhism. He works hard so it’s accessible for everyone.

I know it’s a short review, but what more can I say? Researched, thought provoking writings presented in an accessible, fun manner.

Learn more about “It Came from Beyond Zen!” here.

Buddhism 101

When it comes to religion, I’m quite the fan of Buddhism. And believe me when I say I have read more than my fair share of intro to Buddhism type books. That’s why I’m excited to tell you I recently read my new favorite book of the genre, “Buddhism 101” by Arnie Kozak, PhD.

The cover describes “Buddhism 101” as a “Crash Course in Buddhism”, and what an amazing crash course it is! Despite its diminutive size, perfect for carrying in a purse (ask me how I know), “Buddhism 101” leaves no stone unturned. Kozak covers everything Buddhism, not just separating schools, but discussing the subtleties of the religion as they vary by country. He starts at the very beginning, before Buddha was Buddha, and leads you through a time line that eventually spans the globe to today.

“Buddhism 101” does more than just describe the religion, it addresses many questions that a specifically Western audience might ask, and discusses Buddhist practices in the modern Western world. Want to know enough about Buddhism to discuss it intelligently? Want to see if Buddhism is right for you? “Buddhism 101” will handily address both those questions.

Learn more about “Buddhism 101” here.

Don’t Be a Jerk

Brad Warner is one of my favorite authors on the subject of Zen and I loved his latest book “Don’t Be a Jerk: And Other Practical Advice from Dōgen, Japan’s Greatest Zen Master”, which is his interpretation of Dōgen’s “Shōbōgenzō”. This is a book that has greatly influenced all of Warner’s writing and I assume his practice. I found “Don’t Be a Jerk” interesting and inspiring. I’m happy to get to share an excerpt from the book’s introduction with you.

Don’t Be a Jerk
An Introduction from Brad Warner

It used to be that nobody outside the worlds of stuffy academics and nerdy Zen studies knew who Dōgen was. And while this thirteenth-century Japanese Zen master and writer is still not one of the best-known philosophers on the planet, he’s well-known enough to have a character on the popular American TV series “Lost” named after him and to get referenced regularly in books and discussions of the world’s most important philosophical thinkers.

Unfortunately, in spite of all this, Dōgen still tends to be presented either as an inscrutable Oriental speaking in riddles and rhymes or as an insufferable intellectual making clever allusions to books you’re too dumb to have heard of. Nobody wants to read a guy like that.

You could argue that Dōgen really is these things. Sometimes. But he’s a lot more than that. When you work with him for a while, you start to see that he’s actually a pretty straightforward, no-nonsense guy. It’s hard to see that, though, because his world and ours are so very different.

A few months ago, my friend Whitney and I were at Atomic City Comics in Philadelphia. There I found “The War That Time Forgot”, a collection of DC comics from the fifties about American soldiers who battle living dinosaurs on a tropical island during World War II, and Whitney found a book called “God Is Disappointed in You”, by Mark Russell. The latter was far more influential in the formation of this book.

The publishers of that book, Top Shelf Publications, describe “God Is Disappointed in You” as being “for people who would like to read the Bible…if it would just cut to the chase.” In this book, Russell has summarized the entire Christian Bible in his own words, skipping over repetitive passages and generally making each book far more concise and straightforward than any existing translation. He livens up his prose with a funny, irreverent attitude that is nonetheless respectful to its source material. If you want to know what’s in the Bible but can’t deal with actually reading the whole darned thing, it’s a very good way to begin.

After she’d been reading “God Is Disappointed in You” for a while, Whitney showed it to me and suggested I try to do the same thing with “Shōbōgenzō: The Treasury of the True Dharma Eye”. This eight-hundred-year-old classic, written by the Japanese monk Eihei Dōgen, expounds on and explains the philosophical basis for one of the largest and most influential sects of Zen Buddhism. It’s one of the great classics of philosophical literature, revered by people all over the world. However, like many revered philosophical classics, it’s rarely read, even by those who claim to love it.

I immediately thought it was a cool idea to try to do this with “Shōbōgenzō”, but I didn’t know if it would work. I’ve studied “Shōbōgenzō” for around thirty years, much of that time under the tutelage of Gudo Wafu Nishijima. Nishijima Roshi was my ordaining teacher, and he, along with his student Chodo Mike Cross, produced a highly respected English translation that was for many years the only full English translation available. I had already written one book about “Shōbōgenzō”, called “Sit Down and Shut Up” (New World Library, 2007), and had referenced “Shōbōgenzō” extensively in all five of my other books about Zen practice.

My attitude toward “Shōbōgenzō” is somewhat like Mark Russell’s attitude toward the Bible. I deeply respect the book and its author, Dōgen. But I don’t look at it the way a religious person regards a holy book. Zen Buddhism is not a religion, however much it sometimes looks like one. There are no holy books in Zen, especially the kind of Zen that Dōgen taught. In Dōgen’s view everything is sacred, and to single out one specific thing, like a book or a city or a person, as being more sacred than anything else is a huge mistake. So the idea of rewriting Dōgen’s masterwork didn’t feel at all blasphemous or heretical to me.

But “Shōbōgenzō” presents a whole set of challenges Russell didn’t face with the Bible. The biggest one is that the Bible is mainly a collection of narrative stories. What Russell did, for the most part, was to summarize those stories while skipping over much of the philosophizing that occurs within them. “Shōbōgenzō”, on the other hand, has just a few narrative storytelling sections, and these are usually very short. It’s mostly philosophy. This meant that I’d have to deal extensively with the kind of material Russell generally skipped over.

Still, it was such an interesting idea that I figured I’d give it a try. My idea was to present the reader with everything important in “Shōbōgenzō”. I didn’t summarize every single line. But I have tried to give a sense of every paragraph of the book without leaving anything significant out. While I’d caution you not to quote this book and attribute it to Dōgen, I have tried to produce a book wherein you could conceivably do so without too much fear of being told by someone, “That’s not really what Dōgen said!” Obviously, if a line mentions Twinkies or zombies or beer, you’ll know I’ve done a bit of liberal paraphrasing. I have noted these instances, though, so that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

About Brad Warner:
Brad Warner is the author of Don’t Be a Jerk and numerous other titles including Sit Down & Shut Up, Hardcore Zen, and Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate. A Soto Zen priest, he is a punk bassist, filmmaker, Japanese-monster-movie marketer, and popular blogger based in Los Angeles. Visit him online at www.hardcorezen.info.

Excerpted from Don’t Be a Jerk ©2016 by Brad Warner. Published with permission of New World Library. http://www.newworldlibrary.com

10 Mindful Minutes: A Journal

I’ve always liked Goldie Hawn. When I was younger I watched her on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In”, “Private Benjamin”, “Protocol” (No, dear, I’m not a chicken; I’m an emu.), “Wildcats”, “Death Becomes Her”, and “First Wives Club”. I like that her and Kurt Russell are still together after all these years. I’m not saying I’m an expert on all things “Goldie”, I’m just saying it came as quite a surprise to find out that she’s kind of a well-known figure in the mindfulness movement.

It turns out that Goldie Hawn is an author! She has written an autobiography, “A Lotus Grows in the Mud”, and “10 Mindful Minutes”. Both books ended up on New York Time’s bestselling author’s list! This was all news to me when I was approached to review “10 Mindful Minutes: A Journal”. As you may already have guessed, I never read “10 Mindful Minutes”, so the good news is the journal is effective whether you’ve read the previous book or not. No more talk about the past then, let’s focus on the here and now and “10 Mindful Minutes: A Journal”.

Goldie Hawn at a book event.

The Journal is authored by Goldie Hawn with Jennifer Repo. I’m not sure how much of whose voice we’re hearing when reading the entries but there is a welcoming warmth in the tone of the writing. The book isn’t focusing on deep, obscure meditation practices. You’re reminded of the basics: sitting comfortably and focusing on your breath. The chapters are divided into specific areas of reflection, such as Discovering Empathy, Transforming Anger, and Cultivating Optimism. In the sections you’ll find meditation exercises, and most important to the book, space to journal your reflections after you finish them.

“10 Mindful Minutes: A Journal” works at guiding readers towards a daily reflective meditation practice so that after all the pages are filled, hopefully the practice still remains.

Paradise in Plain Sight: Lessons from a Zen Garden

by Karen Maezen Miller

In the early summer of 1997, my husband and I found ourselves in the backyard of an empty house on a quiet street in Sierra Madre, a suburb of Los Angeles. The backyard was Southern California’s oldest private Japanese garden, an oasis of ponds and pines that had stood mostly intact since 1916. It seemed like paradise with our name written all over it. We knew in our bones that the place could only be ours, and with it, the little house alongside it. The next day we put money down and a month later, moved in.

Once we arrived, we hit the bookstores and local nurseries. We studied up on Japanese gardens: their esoteric architecture, history and symbolism; and the very special way to rake, weed, prune, plant and water. We sought opinions, called in experts, and asked for conservative estimates — ha! — to redo this or that. The more we learned, the more we doubted. It was too much work. We were fools, without the right tools, training, or time. No wonder no one wanted to buy this place but us. It wasn’t paradise, but a colossal pain in the neck.

One day I ran across a single line in a thick book that made it all simple. It told the original meaning of the word “paradise” before it became a mythical ideal, imaginary and unattainable. Before it pointed somewhere else.

The word “paradise” originally meant simply an enclosed area.

Inside the word are its old Persian roots: pairi-, meaning “around,” and -diz “to create (a wall).” The word was first given to carefully tended pleasure parks and menageries, the sporting ground of kings. Later, storytellers used the word in creation myths, and it came to mean the Eden of peace and plenty.

But looking at it straight on, I could plainly see. Paradise is a backyard. Not just my backyard, but everyone’s backyard: the entire world we live in, bounded only by how far we can see.

There was only one thing to do. I began to garden. I got scratched, tired, and dirty. I pouted and wept, cursing the enormity of the task. I was resentful and unappreciative. But when I ventured afield, sidelined by things that seemed much more entertaining or important, I always came back to this patch of patient earth. Time after time I realized that the living truth of life is taught to me right here, no farther than the ground beneath my feet.

Sixteen years later, I do not know the chemistry of soils or the biology of compost. I have not mastered the nomenclature; I do not know the right time or way to prune. What I have learned instead is this: paradise is a patch of weeds.

What loyal friends, these undesirables that infiltrate the lawn, insinuate between cracks, and luxuriate in the deep shade of my neglect. Weeds are everywhere, showing up every day, my most reliable underlings. Weeds keep me going.

The most common weeds in the yard are crabgrass, dandelion, and chickweed. The most common weeds in the world are greed, anger, and ignorance.

Here are ten things to do to spare your garden from stubborn entanglements:

1. Blame no one. Blame is a powerful barrier: like prickly thistle, it spreads pain and disaffection. Blame turns the garden into a menace.

2. Take no offense. Consider the energy we expend to prolong fictional injuries. How hard is it to get over what’s already over? I know: it’s hard. But there’s a way.

3. Forgive. Forgiveness reconciles the rift between self and other. Forgive someone today—forgive yourself today— and feel the rift recede. Suddenly, it’s much easier to move on.

4. Do not compare. Satisfy yourself with what you have in hand. It may not look like much, but this right here is everything.

5. Take off your gloves. A nurseryman once told me, “A real gardener doesn’t wear gloves.” Native intelligence flows through your fingertips, wisdom received in direct connection with the world, telling you know how deep to dig and how hard to pull, when to gather and when to release. Self-defenses make you timid and clumsy.

6. Forget yourself. The world needs a few less people to own their own greatness and few more to own their own humility. When you can face reality without camouflage, yours is the face of compassion.

7. Grow old. It isn’t easy, it’s effortless.

8. Have no answers. In Zen, we don’t find the answers; we lose the questions. It’s impossible to comprehend the marvel of what we are, or to understand the mystery of life’s impeccable genius. Weed out the confusion that comes from trying to understand.

9. Seek nothing. Just for one moment take my word that you lack nothing. Have faith in yourself and the ground where you stand.

10. Go back to 1. The gardener’s job is always just beginning.

See more of Karen Maezen Miller’s beautiful garden and learn more about “Paradise in Plain Sight: Lessons from a Zen Garden” in this four and a half minute video.

About Karen Maezen Miller:
Karen Maezen Miller is a Zen Buddhist priest and teacher at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles. She’s the author of Hand Wash Cold, Momma Zen, and most recently Paradise in Plain Sight. Visit her online at www.karenmaezenmiller.com.

Adapted from the book Paradise in Plain Sight ©2014 by Karen Maezen Miller. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA.

Living the Season

At this point in my life I’ve read quite a few books about Zen Buddhism, and since it’s me I’ve forgotten a healthy chunk of what I’ve read. (Seriously, I’ve got an awful memory, even for things I really want to learn and retain.) However, despite my crappy memory I feel quite certain I’ve never encounter a Zen book quite like “Living the Season: Zen Practice for Transformative Times” by Ji Hyang Padma.

Often Ji Hyang Padma shares stories from her own life and own experiences making “Living the Season” part memoir. The Zen Buddhism discussed in the book is based on what is practiced in Korea, which you rarely read about in the West. I’d never seen it before so I found that very interesting. I learned that my favorite goddess, or Bodhisattva if you hang with the Buddhists, Kwan Yin, is referred to as Kwan Seum Bosal if you’re a Korean Buddhist. “Living the Season” has loads of exercises. Once Ji Hyang Padma gets you meditating the sky is the limit. Literally. One of the exercises is sky gazing!

Ji Hyang Padma’s writing is sincere in acknowledging what most of us already know, we’re in a time of upheaval and change. Her message is to understand how we’re all connected and work to be of service to each other and also be of service to our planet. All of this is conveyed in her beautiful voice, filled with authenticity. “Living the Season” is a story, a Zen practice, and a mission statement, not to be missed.

The Meaning of Life

By Brad Warner

In Zen we often say there is no meaning of life. When people first hear that, they think it sounds depressing. It sounds as if we’re saying that life is meaningless. But we’re not. We’re saying that any meaning you assign to life is, by necessity, incomplete. It cannot be otherwise. Trying to assign a meaning to life is like trying to stuff the whole ocean into a bucket.

But you can also say there is a meaning of life. It’s another one of those contradictions.

There isn’t a meaning of life in terms you could express as “Life means X, Y, and Z.” Yet meaning and life are intimately intertwined. Nishijima Roshi often said that there are two aspects of life, matter and meaning. These two aspects, he said, are manifestations of the same thing. It’s a different way of saying, “Form is emptiness and emptiness is form.”

Matter is matter. It’s books and tables and birds and 1962 Fender Jazz Bass guitars and so on. Meaning is that other, more nebulous side of life that can’t really be quantified. We experience meaning, so we know it’s real, even if we can’t weigh or measure it.

But what about when bad things happen to good people? If there really were a meaning of life and if there really was a God, surely my mother would have been spared the suffering she endured. If there really were a God there would be no war, disease, poverty, lousy boy bands, or crappy movies with all-star casts. How can there be any meaning to life if shit like that exists?

I get that. But the God I believe in doesn’t perform miracles. (More on that in a later chapter.) And the God I believe in isn’t just good, if good is just that which stands in contrast to evil. Joshu Sasaki Roshi, the Japanese Rinzai Zen teacher whom I quoted in the title of this book, said, “You are educated all your life to venerate God and reject evil. Zen education is totally different: it teaches you how to swallow God and the devil at once.”

When we talk about bad things happening to good people, using the word God can be problematic, as it can be in general. We tend to think of God as an independent agent who can work magic and fix bad situations. We have a long history of thanking God for things we like and cursing the devil for things we hate.

Many modern, rational people generally don’t believe in that kind of God. I certainly don’t. But we don’t need to leap to the conclusion that just because there isn’t a giant Santa Claus figure sitting on a throne up in heaven, therefore there is no meaning to life and there is no God.

The life we are leading right now is a manifestation of God. That we are alive is all the evidence we need to prove that God exists. I don’t mean that we need to postulate the existence of God to explain the fact that we’re here. I’m not talking about God as the first cause of everything. I’m saying that our direct experience of life is God. Life is God experiencing God, just as Dogen said when he said we are the eyes and ears “it” uses to experience itself.

As for annihilation, it is one of the crucial aspects of life that makes it what it is. It’s a cliché to say that we love our lives more because we know we’re going to lose them. But it’s not just that we will lose our lives at some undefined time in the future. We lose our lives every second of every day. The nature of the present moment is change, is annihilation.

It’s trendy these days to talk about “the now” and to celebrate the present moment. And that’s fine. It’s a good trend. But people often forget that the nature of the present moment is the total annihilation of what has gone before. The present moment is highly destructive as well as creative. This is why many of us fear it so much. The present moment is killing us!

But even this is a beautiful thing. The destructive power of the now, of God, is its way of creating us anew at every moment so that we can be here to enjoy its amazingness.

About Brad Warner:
Brad Warner is a Zen priest, filmmaker, blogger, and Japanese monster-movie marketer. He’s the author of Hardcore Zen; Sit Down & Shut Up; Sex, Sin & Zen; and most recently, There Is No God and He Is Always with You. Visit him online at http://hardcorezen.info/.

Excerpted from the new book There is No God and He is Always with You ©2013 by Brad Warner. Published with permission of New World Library http://www.newworldlibrary.com

The Buddha’s Apprentice at Bedtime

There is a lot to be said for a children’s books that entertains and educates both children and adults. So buckle in because I have a lot to say about “The Buddha’s Apprentice at Bedtime: Tales of Compassion and Kindness for You to Read with Your Child – Delight and Inspire” by Dharmachari Nagaraja.

The collection was inspired by the Jataka Tales, traditional stories offering guidance and wisdom which are believed to have been told by Buddha himself. The stories are focused on explaining the eight great principles that underpin Buddhism, known as the Eightfold Noble Path. “The Buddha’s Apprentice at Bedtime” also gives a brief overview of Buddhism, ideas of how to work with the stories and storytelling, and introducing meditation to children, if you’re so inclined.

However before you think Nagaraja brought us a book that is all work and no play, let me set your mind at ease. “The Buddha’s Apprentice at Bedtime” is filled with adorable and charming tales. You and your child won’t feel as if you’re being beat over the head with some sort of overbearing Buddhist message when reading these stories. Like the best children’s tales, there are lessons to be learned, but I wanted you to know it wasn’t some sort of indoctrination text. What it IS, is filled with stories of monkeys wearing high heels, beautiful horses mastering fear, little boys battling water serpents, tree spirits savings goats, and a Queen of monkeys teaching humans what it truly means to be a leader.

Monkeys with desserts and heels. Love it!

Last we’ve got to talk about the illustrations. “The Buddha’s Apprentice at Bedtime” is full color and fully illustrated. The art so adorable! I did a couple of scans that don’t do it justice, but you’ll at least get the idea, and the idea is that the art is fantastic! The book credits Sharon Tancredi with commissioned artwork. I’m not sure if that means we should be crediting Tancredi for all the magic the art imbues into the book or not, but the illustrations are a big part of what makes “The Buddha’s Apprentice’s at Bedtime” a great book.

Did I choose it for the spirit? Nope. I loved the goats and the camel.

And that’s what Nagaraja has given us; a really great book.

Follow Your Heart

An Excerpt from Chapter 5 of “Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi” by Brian Leaf

I have since found that feeling good about my work is absolutely crucial to my happiness. When I work a job that is out of line with my values, I become depressed, and when I am in dharma, following my heart, doing what I believe in and what feels right, I am filled with energy.

The Buddha called this “right livelihood.” He taught that one who seeks liberation cannot hope to find freedom on the backs of others. Right livelihood is critical to the spiritual path; often when people are out of line with their values they have to numb out or shut down, not only because they are bored and uninterested but also because the pain of being outside their morals or their heart’s call is too much to bear. Interestingly, yoga brings these issues to the surface. Many times I have seen students of yoga realize that their job is hurting them. Sometimes making a change is too much to face. In these cases, people usually stop practicing yoga, and the revelation fades.

One time I was in a new relationship and had moved far away from New Jersey to be with my girlfriend. I had been practicing yoga consistently for years, but without even noticing, I gave it up. A month later, browsing in a bookstore, I stumbled onto a quote from yoga teacher Dr. Jeff Migdow: “When people do yoga consistently they’re much more open to change. That’s the key: If I’m not open to making changes, then I won’t let myself be aware.”

The quote was a slap in the face. As if waking from a daze, I realized that I had not done postures in a month. And I saw that I had avoided yoga because it sharpened my awareness and showed me that I was unhappy. But because I had been unwilling to make a change — to move and leave the relationship — I had stopped doing the thing that increased my awareness. In this way, yoga is a catalyst that demands truth.

This truth includes, but is also subtler than, simply doing what is right or wrong, ethical or moral. It means listening to your heart’s call.

I love to share this with my tutoring students. I remember a student, Aidan, was considering college majors and said, “I’d love to be an architect, but the world needs environmental activists, so that’s what I’ll do.”

Aidan is correct. We do need environmental activists. But I believe that even more, we need people who are passionate about what they do, living from their heart. I don’t think one can actually serve the world best by assessing what the world needs. I think, instead, we serve the world best by responding to our heart’s call. Not our ego’s call, mind you, but our heart’s.

As an environmental activist, Aidan might make a difference. That’s true. But as an architect, Aidan will be following his bliss. He’ll be fulfilled and happy. He’ll be lit up and creative. He’ll be a beacon of light and energy. And, I trust, his environmental concerns will still find a very effective, perhaps more effective, medium — maybe he’ll design green buildings or discover environmentally sustainable building materials.

Joseph Campbell told his students, “If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living…Wherever you are — if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.”

And so, in our spiritual Easter egg hunt for the Keys to Happiness, we come to key number two:

Follow your heart.

Notice what gives you a feeling of rightness, ignites your creativity and passion, and makes you feel most alive, and pursue that.

Before every major decision, ask yourself, “Which choice feels right, is in line with my values, ignites my creativity and passion, and is an expression of my true self?”

And by the way, following your bliss does not automatically mean giving up your nine-to-five job at the insurance company to dust off your old Fender Stratocaster and get the college funk band back together. Sometimes the boring job at the insurance company is just right. Your bliss might be the paycheck that feeds your family and allows you to spend happy evenings and weekends together. Or not. Following your bliss only means tuning in to and following not your ego, not your mind, but your heart. Put another way, it means setting aside what you want and doing what God* wants for you. And God, I believe, communicates through our hearts and through a feeling of passion, vitality, and rightness.

About Brian Leaf:
Brian Leaf, M.A. is the author of Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi. He draws upon twenty-one years of intensive study, practice, and teaching of yoga, meditation, and holistic health. Visit him online at http://www.Misadventures-of-a-Yogi.com.

Excerpted from the book “Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi” ©2012 by Brian Leaf. Published with permission of New World Library http://www.newworldlibrary.com

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi Video Contest

To celebrate the launch of his new book, Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, author Brian Leaf is hosting a video contest with the theme “Insightful Yoga Comedy.” Video entries must be related to yoga, funny, insightful, and one to three minutes long. Each contest entry will be judged according to how well it meets these requirements. The Grand Prize winner will receive $250 and a signed copy of Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi. Two runner-ups will each receive $50 and a signed copy of Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi. Entries are due by 1/15/13 and must be submitted to misadventures.of.a.yogi@gmail.com. Give it a try!

Videos must be:
1. One to three minutes in length
2. Generally respectful of others. No videos intended to slander or harm any other person or their public image.

To enter, send a link to your video to misadventures.of.a.yogi@gmail.com along with your name, age, and city of residence. Write “Video Contest” in the email’s subject.
All entries must be received by midnight January 15, 2013.

Videos will be judged by Brian Leaf, author of Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, according to how well they achieve the contest’s themes (related to yoga, funny, insightful).

Winners will be announced on the Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi facebook page, www.facebook.com/Misadventures.of.a.Yogi, on Wednesday, February 20th at 3pm ET.

One Grand Prize winner will receive $250 and a signed copy of Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi.

Two Runner-Ups will each receive $50 and a signed copy of Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi.

Must be eighteen years or older to enter. No purchase necessary. Decisions are final.

Good luck!!

The Tibetans and The Grateful Dead

By Huston Smith

Mickey Hart, a drummer for the erstwhile Grateful Dead, is also a serious ethnomusicologist who now works with the Smithsonian Institution. Fascinated by the Tibetan monks’ multiphonic chanting, he put the infrastructure of the Dead to work and helped organize six sellout coast-to-coast tours with twelve of the Gyuto monks.

One evening the monks were returning to Mickey’s ranch, in Northern California, after a performance in the University of California’s Zellerbach Auditorium, in Berkeley. When the van reached the Marin side of the Richmond Bridge, out of the blue the monks asked the driver to pull over to the side of the road. They told Mickey that they sensed evil in the vicinity, and they wanted to alleviate it. Little did they know that at that moment they were passing San Quentin, a maximum-security penitentiary. Visibly moved, they asked if they could go into the prison and bless the inmates.

Mickey was skeptical, but he asked the sentry on duty, who referred the matter to his superior. The monks were admitted to the entrance, which was separated from the prison proper by about twelve yards. On the opposite side was an electric fence featuring elevated cages, which housed sharpshooters with cocked rifles.

The prison chaplain told us about a Christian group of prisoners who met regularly to pray and sing hymns. They were summoned, and for about half an hour they alternated with the monks, one group singing and praying, and the other group chanting. The monks were so moved by their encounter with the prisoners that they returned several times to repeat the ritual.

Later, I accompanied Mickey to the San Francisco Airport to say farewell to the monks, who where returning to India, for their final tour had ended. As the stairs for boarding the plane descended to the runway, the monks regrouped themselves and chanted a farewell blessing on the land that they were leaving. The passengers in the corridor who were proceeding to their departure gates were so captivated they stopped and clustered around the monks, listening intently. As the last monk disappeared into the plane and the door was closing, a woman asked us in wide-eyed wonder, “What was that all about?”

As if to answer her emphatically, Mickey shouted out to the departing monks the famous line from Star Wars, “May the Force be with you!”

Then, turning to me, Mickey said, “What am I saying? May the Force be with me! They already have it!”

About Huston Smith:
Huston Smith is recognized and revered as the preeminent teacher of world religions. Smith has taught at Washington University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Syracuse University, and the University of California, Berkeley. He has written fifteen books, including the classic “The World’s Religions”, which has sold over two million copies in many translations, and the New York Times bestseller “Why Religion Matters”. He has been bestowed with twelve honorary degrees and was the focus of the five-part television series “The Wisdom of Faith” hosted by Bill Moyers.

From the book “And Live Rejoicing”. Copyright © 2012 Huston Smith. Reprinted with permission from New World Library. www.NewWorldLibrary.com