Virtual Satsang

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Archive for the ‘Seva’ Category

Without A Home

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One of the most moving documentaries about homelessness is now out on DVD. If you can please support the film makers. If not, rent/borrow and watch this beautiful film. The DVD has many special features that are also worth watching:

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Written by virtualsatsang

November 10, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Posted in Seva, Social Justice

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Crowdsourcing with Samasource

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San Francisco based Samasource, is one of many companies who’ve taken the mechanical turk concept, and exported it to the developing world. These social entrepreneurs are not only providing jobs and opportunities to this generation of workers in the developing world, but they are helping companies in poor countries establish a foothold in the global economy. Look for them to start taking on increasingly more complex projects.

Below is a recent and inspiring BBC story about Samasource:

Written by virtualsatsang

June 22, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Posted in Seva, Social Justice

Caring for the mentally ill in Madurai, India

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[Seva Series: Profiles of seekers dedicated to the service of others.]

Krishnan Narayanan abandoned his promising career as a high-end chef, to devote his life to care for the mentally ill who live on the streets of his native Madurai, India. Besides providing food on a regular basis, Krishnan also takes care of other basis needs such as providing access to clean clothes and baths. He is also in the process of raising money to complete his dream project of providing housing for 400 of his regular “clients”.

These acts of kindness have serious implications for him personally. As a brahmin, he isn’t suppose to eat with, let alone bathe members of lower castes.

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June 6, 2011 at 7:45 am

Posted in Health, Seva, Social Justice

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Checklist to help you find the right Yoga classes and teachers

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Towards the end of Kenneth Liberman’s essay on The Reflexivity of the Authenticity of Hatha Yoga1, he provides guidelines that can be used to distinguish what can be “… authentic in yoga today”. I’m listing them below because I thought the items he lists would also be useful for finding teachers and classes.

I personally prefer smaller, more intimate classes, taught by teachers who are attentive to the needs and safety of their students. I find classes taught by “celebrity” teachers, in trendy studios, to be disappointing. With the right teacher, larger classes can work. But I find popular teachers to be more “performance-oriented”, and thus their classes tend to be distracting, if not outright competitive. I prefer teachers who are service-oriented, humble, and familiar with the psychological & spiritual benefits of asana practice. Thus, I love the following guidelines I culled from Kenneth Liberman’s essay.

Fortunately, I’ve found teachers that have guided my practice. These days my asana practice is primarily a home practice. But through regular private sessions and workshops with my teacher, my practice remains vibrant as ever.

  • First among them is the resolve of yoga to overcome egoism. This especially conflicts with contemporary Western culture and its individualism and its idolatry of celebrity; but anything that results in inflating ego cannot be considered a yoga practice. It is the considered opinion of two millennia of yoga practice that egocentrism leads to ruin, so techniques for reducing obsessiveness with which a student pursues his or her self-image and interests need to be preserved.
  • The system of yoga of Patanjali and all yogis since have included yamas and niyamas or something similar, that refers to basic moral practices such as honesty, good will, selflessness, and the like, without which a daily practice cannot be considered “authentic” yoga. Accordingly, these need to be made part of the regular and daily instruction in yoga classes worldwide.
  • The point of teaching asana is to lead students to a pacification of nervous energy so that spiritual rewards of simpler ways of being can be experienced for oneself. … Can there be an authentic yoga that is not oriented toward cultivating spiritual motives? Doing yoga is not like doing chin ups, and the thoughtful cultivation of one’s nerves and energies has a spiritual purpose. This does not mean it has to be worded or clothed in Hinduism, but it is to be felt along with “the exercise” and within part of the exercise. And in this regard, asana and pranayama must provide skillful guidance, for only confusion will result without it.
  • Karma yoga involves social service, which itself can contribute in a powerful way to the reduction of egoism. In the modern fitness marketplace, where the disciples are motivated primarily by the desire for an attractive body, social service can be employed as a radical method to redirect consciousness.
  • Finally, there is the large region of yoga that involves tapas or self-control that may involve “forceful repression” (i.e., hatha yoga). … Simplicity should be taught and practiced for it is the very heart of yoga. … somehow its practice must be introduced into the modern yoga studio instead of lines of yoga wardrobe. … A fundamental yoga practice that is given short shrift even in the classic texts and commentaries is pratyahara — the withdrawal of one’s natural circumspective inquiry from the pursuit of external sources for happiness and the simultaneous cultivation of internal resources for enduring satisfaction.


  • (1) Liberman questions “… the belief of many modern practitioners that there was once an original and pure yoga that now serves as the basis for the contemporary practice of yoga.”

    Written by virtualsatsang

    May 2, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Posted in Sadhana, Seva, Yoga

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    Malas

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    • Women Conquering Holy Ground: BBC’s Heart and Soul profiles women from three major faith traditions who are venturing into traditionally male dominated roles — presiding over worship rituals.

    • Hula HoopGirl:

      Zamor is magnetic and incredibly talented, but what sets her apart from other Bay Area hoopers is her avid following, cultivated by Hooping! The Book!, an array of instructional DVDs and 72-hour teacher training program that has certified 570 instructors in 16 countries. Zamor is HoopGirl® — a persona that not only has allowed her to whittle her waist and tone her tummy but to explode into a fitness franchise.

      … “I wasn’t really looking for hooping,” she says. At 27, Zamor was a UC Santa Barbara PhD student struggling to find academic support for her interest in ethnomusicology and drumming. Frustrated, she dropped out from her program after receiving a master’s degree, traveled to Senegal to study djembe, returned to the States, enrolled in Pacifica Graduate Institute’s master’s program in mythology and depth psychology, and began working as a personal assistant. Amid the confusion, she says she didn’t have the power to envision a life outside her studies. “I wanted to be a healer but didn’t know it,” she says.

      … Next up, Zamor will be working on bringing that whole-body healing to women who may not be willing to step inside the hoop. She has expanded her business to include empowerment classes that honor the “divine, delicious feminine” and that will help women become a more supple, radiant, and luminous version of themselves, she says.

      These classes in “hooping outside the hoop” are geared toward helping others uncover the empowerment and sense of self-worth that Zamor has found through HoopGirl. Of course, unless Zamor is planning on turning out hundreds of successful fitness revolutionaries with profitable book deals of their own, it’s hard to say whether her personal transformation will be replicable. But with one irresistible smile from Zamor, it’s easy to see that the hoop has worked for her — and difficult to resist the urge to run out and buy one for oneself.

    • DIY Criminal Appeals Law: Sadly, this tragic story of an innocent man sent to prison for 21 years, is far from rare. (See for example this documentary on the Daryl Hunt case.) When overworked investigators and prosecutors rush to judgement, their mistakes end up sending innocent people to prison. Based on the many examples of botched investigations that have surfaced in recent years, there are probably many innocent people in death row. The self-taught investigator Carl King profiled in the story, personifies seva!!

    • INSIDE OUT:

      … is a large-scale participatory art project that transforms messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work. Everyone is challenged to use black and white photographic portraits to discover, reveal and share the untold stories and images of people around the world. These digitally uploaded images will be made into posters and sent back to the project’s co-creators for them to exhibit in their own communities. People can participate as an individual or in a group; posters can be placed anywhere, from a solitary image in an office window to a wall of portraits on an abandoned building or a full stadium. These exhibitions will be documented, archived and viewable virtually.

    Written by virtualsatsang

    March 7, 2011 at 8:11 am

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    Written by virtualsatsang

    February 14, 2011 at 6:18 am

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    • ABC News Beliefs program: This Shambala post highlighting an ABC interview with Matthieu Ricard led me to other videos from this ongoing series from ABC news. Here are episodes featuring meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein, and tensions between believers and the New Atheists.
    • The world’s disappearing food tribes: How traditional food production may offer the world a sustainable model. From this year’s Terra Madre conference:

    • Our Digital Afterlife: What happens to the bits you’ve generated and stored across many online services, after you pass away. I’ve actually been thinking about this topic a lot over the last few months. This NY Times magazine article and Forum interview (see audio below) should get more people motivated to start planning for the future of their digital assets. The services that exist at this point still seem rudimentary. For really heavy sharers (on Twitter, blogs, Facebook, etc.), I would love services able to produce digital biographies as well.

    • Sep/2000 Shambala interview with Jerry Brown: The interview was from a decade ago, but still, I’m hoping Jerry draws on some his past spiritual practices to govern California this time around.

      How serious would you say your engagement with Buddhism has been?

      I’d say that when I went to Japan it was very serious, because I practiced every day for six months and did four sesshins [traditional one week period of intense zazen]. This was at Kamakura; I did two sesshins under Yamada-roshi and two under Father Lasalle, a Jesuit at a Jesuit retreat house there.

      How much meditation do you do now?

      I haven’t been sitting lately, not like I should be. I have a cushion right in the middle of my room; it’s sitting there, but I’ve sat infrequently. It’s an intention, but not a strong enough intention! But definitely an intention.

      You visited Mother Theresa in Calcutta in 1987. What effect did this experience have on you?

      I spent about three weeks working there, mostly at her home for the dying, the Kalighat. I was very impressed and moved by the volunteers who came every day, by their presence and their serving attitude. People from around the world just showed up and helped bathe people, fed people, wash down the floors. It was a very good feeling to be involved in that.

      I experienced Mother Theresa as a person of really clear authority, something I hardly ever encounter. She was someone who spoke in such a way that I was inclined to listen, to follow. I felt this woman was speaking out of some enlightenment, some clarity in her way of seeing. When she said that this person lying on the floor from the streets of Calcutta is Jesus, and what you do for him, that is Jesus, well, it was not only supremely Christian, it was supremely compassionate. She manifested her being and was grounded in a way I’ve seen in very few people.

    Written by virtualsatsang

    January 17, 2011 at 7:51 am