September 16, 2014 on 10:46 am

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Dear Spiritual Explorer: I see a lot of people wearing yin yang jewelry.  What does that concept of yin yang really mean? Aster P., Washington, DC


Yin Yang Necklace

Dear Aster: I find it necessary to mention that we also carry a Yin Yang Necklace in sterling silver which I like because it is both exotic and simple at the same time, reflecting the yin yang philosophy here.

There are many examples ad ways to describe the concept of yin yang.  One of the simplest I have found is that while the symbols seem to be opposite to each other, yet it is in their melting and finally coming together that is remarkable.  The concepts of black and white, good and evil, red and black, all seemingly opposite, stand almost in conflict with each other.  The idea of yin and yang is that yin eventually turns into yang and yang eventually turns into yin.  It is more of a concept of polarity than opposition.

What I have always found undesirable in traditional religions is their tendency to see the world in very black and white ways; instead of viewing gradations in culture and concepts, some wish to stuff differences into categories of good and evil or black and white, restricting harmony, broadmindedness, openness, thus fostering anger and hatred in many cases.  Fundamentalism is another word for that particular kind of view.

When I was 17 years old I would watch philosopher and teacher Alan Watts on television.  Dressed in a white smock, he would draw on this board in a very graceful way, describing the interplay of yin and yang in the world. One of the things he taught was how western thought had a tendency to view things oppositionally and fundamentally.  He said that when a westerner viewed a tree, he or she would see the tree as a separate, discrete item; however, an easterner would see the tree as part of the grass, the sky and the air, thus opening one’s imagination and view.

Yin and yang perspectives are not just limited to cultural views.  Yin represents the feminine, more passive aspects of things such as the moon, darkness, quiet, and receptivity. Yang is more masculine reflecting penetration, the sun and contraction.

When I studied macrobiotics, all food was describe in terms of yin and yang also.  Sugar and drugs were considered yin; and meat and some kinds of grains were considered more yang.  However, even in considering those items, gradations were considered. So salt, which most people would consider yang, might have some yin qualities if minerals were added.  So the yin and yang concepts were never absolutes. There was more breadth of awareness and more flexibility and relativity as consciousness and awareness should be. This is also reflective of a basic  philosophy that allows for difference and tolerance.

Thanks for writing. Spiritual Explorer

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September 12, 2014 on 11:03 am

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Dear Spiritual Explorer: I have been told that journaling is a way to achieve long-term goals. What do you think of that? Rose P., Milwaukee, WI

Third Eye Chakra Journal

Third Eye Chakra Journal

Dear Rose: I too have heard of successful accomplishment of a goal through journaling. Of course, it is but one aspect of attaining a goal. It is a great way to announce your intention to yourself by purchasing a journal to inscribe your wishes. While we have journals that attend to every chakra in the human body, I recommend for you the Ajna Third Eye Chakra Journal.

The Ajna Third Eye Chakra Journal speaks to accessing the third eye, which is the seat of intuition. According to a very intuitive friend of mine, it is the third eye that bypasses conscious deliberation and actually goes right to the subconscious mind where unmanifest dreams and goals begin.

Focusing on the third eye itself is a great way to become quiet within yourself and bring into clarity what is perhaps a wish or desire that you have not allowed yourself to realize. Suddenly in that quiet time, it’s as if your dreams and wishes solidify and materialize and thereby rise to the surface of your conscious mind. I would recommend then that you immediately take that goal that appears and flesh it out with details in your journal.

Journal your thoughts about your dream and how you want to accomplish this. During the day as thoughts occur about this desire of yours, you may continue to insert them into your journal.

Then throughout the day, I would suggest that you unfocus your mind on what you have initially brought to your journal. In that way, without having your ego thoughts about whether or not you can accomplish this dream, you may allow more thoughts to come to the surface without interference of any negativity. Again, remember to journal these thoughts in your Ajna Third Eye Chakra Journal.

My intuitive friend also recommends that you allow your consciousness to focus upon the heart chakra also and bring both of them into play as you plan your intention. When one brings the heart together with the Ajna chakra, you are thus bringing your passion and your insight into the accomplishment of your goal. It is also recommended that you might want to play some third eye chakra music to enhance this experience.

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September 10, 2014 on 11:02 am

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Dear Spiritual Explorer: I am a Tibetan Buddhist from the Kagyu tradition. I do not have a teacher but my spiritual home is Samyeling. I have just bought a red bone mala from the Tibetan Nuns Project. I want it for counting mantras. Is this okay or should I not use it? I am now using a wooden mala. I thought if I used a yak bone mala, it might help the yak it came from. Thank you for your time. Many blessings. Kay M., Middlesborough, CLE

Bone Neck Mala

Bone Neck Mala

Hello Kay: I thought that was a wonderful sentiment you shared when you said that if you were to use the yak bone mala, it would help the yak it came from. It shows that your heart is certainly in the right place. Bone from your average bone mala usually comes from the yak, ox or water buffalo. We have a bone neck mala which utilizes buffalo bones.

In bone malas coming from Nepal which traditionally uses yak sources, the bone is left over after using the yak for food. And since they do not believe in being wasteful, every part of the yak, which includes its bones, is used to make the bone mala.

I have also seen the bone malas sold by the Tibetan Nuns Project, which is a worthy organization that cares for Tibetan nuns. These bone malas are very beautiful and worthy of purchase.

I have read that bone malas are generally used when doing wrathful practices, and traditionally, only then. A wrathful practice is a practice where the deity is visualized in wrathful form. When one speaks of a wrathful practice, this does not mean anger, as we commonly know it. Wrathfulness indicates the power to overcome obstacles and ego. This “wrath” emanates from a place of compassion and love. However, I have also read that before one uses a bone mala it is best to be “empowered” and permitted by your teacher to perform these wrathful practices utilizing a bone mala.

The deities that one invokes for a wrathful practice are usually portrayed as being quite scary. There are images of these deities that contain fangs with the deity draped in animal skins wrapped around the waist and bone ornaments while trampling upon a corpse. Kali is considered a “wrathful” deity, but in her case, she has her feet upon the God Shiva, and that is a whole different mythology there. But again, the deities are called upon to eradicate the ego, which is a formidable opponent, as we practitioners well know.

From my own practice I am quite respectful of a bone mala since I feel it also carries the quality of impermanence and victory over life and death. Therefore, I feel more serious when using my bone mala. However, I personally have never discriminated between bone malas and other malas made of gems or wood.

However, you speak of being in the Tibetan tradition so I recommend you consult perhaps on the Internet with other opinions of bone malas, including your tradition (Samyeling), which I also found on line after reading your letter. It appears to be quite a beautiful place.

Thanks for writing about bone malas. It was a pleasure answering your letter. Spiritual Explorer

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September 5, 2014 on 11:12 am

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Dear Spiritual Explorer: I am so thrilled that I just purchased my very first home and now wish to decorate it in the most spiritual way possible. Any suggestions? Rose P., Berlin, Germany


OM Wood Plaque

Dear Rose: I am happy to suggest our Om Wood Plaque, which has a beautiful wood background that lends a very rustic quality. The Om Wood Plaque also has an antique mode about it. A lovely blue color border evocative of the sky, which adds a very peaceful quality to the Om plaque, frames it.

It is interesting that usually a person’s first entrée into spiritual life is by chanting the Om sound. It is the foremost mantra that teachers and students alike utilize when teaching yoga or other spiritual studies. I have heard people say that Om is where the heart is, and so I feel that can translate this saying into how you feel about your Om Wood Plaque which you may lovingly and reverentially gaze upon throughout your days or nights.

Continuing in this vein, the wonderful thing is that you never have to be without your Om. Om is something that you may repeat for yourself throughout your day. Om is the primal sound of mantras and usually precedes the recitation of many of them.

I have seen Reiki Masters and other persons interested in cleansing a home or room utilize the word Om to destroy negative vibrations within the home, perhaps also utilizing a piece of sage which has been lit.

Whether you say Om Shanti, meaning Om Peace, or Om Namah Shivaya, meaning I am Shiva or the simple recital of Om, you are sure to bring peace into your being.

The Om Wood Plaque is also full of interesting raised detail. It is easy to hang on your walls and can be thought of as a piece of art also. The Om Wood Plaque is 12” x 14.5” and therefore can be easily transported from room to room depending upon your taste.

Enjoy this Om Wood Plaque and congratulations on your new acquisition. From what I have been told by people who live in Germany, to own your own home in a small country is quite a major accomplishment.

Om Shanti!

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September 3, 2014 on 11:34 am

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Dear Spiritual Explorer: A friend of mine lost her husband, and I feel at a loss to convey how I feel. Can you suggest some gift or token perhaps that I may offer her? Raymond P., Minneapolis, MN


“With Sympathy” Greeting Card

Dear Raymond: Sometimes a simple gesture in the form of a sympathy card is enough. A packet of three With Sympathy Greeting Cards is available at Ma’s India. I know how we all wish we could do something to alleviate someone’s pain in the moment. And sometimes people are often at a loss to convey in words the sympathy they are feeling for this person’s loss. But it has been my experience that a look, a gentle arm or hand touch and/or a card expressing sympathy is enough.

I appreciate our Sympathy cards with a splendidly drawn lotus on the front. Lotus flowers have strong symbolic ties to many Asian religions, especially throughout India. The lotus flower starts as a small flower down at the bottom of a pond in the mud and muck. It slowly grows up towards the water’s surface, continually moving towards the light. Once it comes to the surface of the water, the lotus flower begins to blossom and turns into a beautiful flower.

In Hinduism and Buddhism the lotus flower is a symbol for awakening to the spiritual reality of life, and in truth, when we are faced with a catastrophic event such as the loss of a dear one, sometimes the only consolation is to turn inside and seek comfort from our own spiritual reality.

Many people have asked what is the difference between empathy and sympathy. Extending sympathy towards your friend is what I would consider less personal. The word sympathy means “with feeling.” And that is what you wish to impart to a grieving person. Sometimes people wish to extend an empathetic gesture towards someone grieving and it is not aptly appropriate in all instances. For example, somebody still fresh from losing a loved one might just wish a light feeling of sympathy to be extended towards them because they are not prepared at that time for an overly emotional empathetic expression such as “I know what you are feeling; I lost my husband too.” Such a statement might be appropriate at some later time, but it somehow smacks of thinking of one’s own grief and looking for consolation. At some subsequent time, if the grieving person is open, then it might be a wise choice to share one’s grief.

To be safe, one should extend sympathy initially and then be prepared to wait for when the grieving person opens himself or herself to a more empathetic gesture.

In any case, I think the With Sympathy cards will always carry just the right sentiment in all situations.

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August 29, 2014 on 10:51 am

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Dear Spiritual Explorer: I read where Tibetan Temple incense is used for empowerment rituals. Could you explain this? Ronald R., Seattle, WA


Tibetan Temple Incense

Dear Ronald: I particularly like this Tibetan Temple Incense because the very name reminds me of the many Tibetan Temples that abounded in Tibet before the invasion by the Chinese who destroyed so many of them. It is one of the great tragedies in spiritual annals. But you cannot annul or destroy the influence of the Tibetan legacy when noting that Tibetan incense follows recipes said to have come from the Buddha 2,500 years ago. Tibetan incense is evocative of the times when Tibetan monks used the scent ever lingering to protect their temples, both large and small.

More than other incenses created to cast a desirable influence in the air and evoke spiritual feelings, Tibetan Temple incense when used during its mysterious and esoteric rituals attracts the positive and repels the negative in an environment.

As you have noted, Tibetan Temple incense is used for empowerment rituals. A Tibetan empowerment is a ritual in Vajrayana Buddhism which initiates a student into a particular tantric deity practice. A Tibetan tantric practice is not considered effective until a qualified master has effectively transmitted the power of that practice to the student. In fact, an individual is not allowed to engage in a deity practice without proper instruction for that practice.

Tibetan rituals are always dependent upon transmission of mantra and practice. This can be done through a Tibetan lama initiating a student into a particular practice or lineage. For example, the Dalai Lama has always been known to initiate students into his lineage through perhaps a simple gesture, acknowledgment or gifting of a shawl of that lineage.

Usually, however, a Tibetan empowerment practice is transmitted secretively, only for the eyes of the student and the teacher. When a student becomes empowered through this practice, it usually conveys a strong connection and attachment to his teacher. You can be sure that during that initiation, Tibetan incense is always present.

Tibetan Temple Incense is very earthy incense and is evocative of that special mystery that one feels when contemplating the temples of Tibet. You can be assured that the ingredients are all-natural and are infused with that special quality that distinguishes Tibetan incense from all others. Tibetan incense has always been my favorite.

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August 27, 2014 on 10:51 am

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Dear Spiritual Explorer: I have just purchased the Saraswati Statue Sitting and would like to know if there is a special mantra I may invoke to access her gifts. Roland P., Boston, MA


Saraswati Statue

Dear Roland: There is a special Vandana mantra that is recited by Saraswati devotees every morning for good luck. While I would like to tell you what it is, there are actually several variations of this mantra which actually just means holy song. Because of space and personal constraints I am unable to tell you which mantra to choose. However, my suggestion is that you look at your beloved Saraswati Statue and intuit the mantra which suits you in your devotion, while of course consulting our beloved Internet for the precise version. Notice that I have capitalized the word internet thus conveying at that time its sacred purpose.

Saraswati, Goddess of knowledge and the arts, represents the free flow of wisdom and consciousness. Chants to Saraswati often begin and end Vedic lessons.

Saraswati is the daughter of Lord Shiva and the Goddess Durga. It is believed that Saraswati endows humans with the powers of speech, wisdom and learning.

Saraswati has four hands representing the four aspects of human personality in learning: mind, intellect, alertness and ego. Saraswati is usually viewed as having sacred scriptures in one hand and a lotus, the symbol of true knowledge, in her second hand.

With Saraswati’s other two hands she plays the music of love and life on a string instrument called the veena. Saraswati is dressed in white, the symbol of purity, and rides on a white swam.

It was thought that only the learned and the erudite attached great importance to the worship of the Goddess Saraswati, usually harkening to the times when the caste system predominated and there was little flexibility or mobility in attaining different stations of life. However, one familiar with Hindu mythology knows that Saraswati is also a symbol of divine compassion and therefore makes her wisdom and knowledge available to all those who seek to avail themselves of her guidance.

Again, for an auspicious and fortuitous day, it i recommended to recite the Saraswati mantra before you start your day! Good luck in choosing the appropriate mantra for yourself.

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August 22, 2014 on 11:07 am

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Dear Spiritual Explorer: I am a singer and have always had sore throat problems, probably from too many vocal engagements. But I am writing to tell you how much your Throat Chakra Candle has helped me. Now after an engagement, I remember to meditate on the Throat Chakra Candle and I feel it has helped me immeasurably. Thank you. Rose B., Austin, TX


Throat Chakra Candle

Dear Rose: I have often talked about the power of intention and prayer, and your writing to me telling me how much you have been assisted by the Throat Chakra Candle only confirms what I know to be true. Oftentimes we are in despair about some health problem that continues to linger on, not aware that there is sometimes invisible help in the form of meditation and intention that can assist us. We find ourselves relying upon medications to heal our problems, not realizing that our illnesses might sometimes have psychological or spiritual origins that can be helped through intention, focus, prayer and meditation.

I particularly have been interested in the brilliantly blue Throat Chakra Candle we carry. Frankly, it is just beautiful to gaze at; the sky-blue color alone brings rest and relaxation to one’s eyes,and therefore, carries over to soothe the mind and heart.

The throat chakra is associated with upper lungs, bronchials, esophagus, trachea, vocal chords, thyroid, and neck, so it is no surprise that you in your work feel good about meditating on our Throat Chakra Candle.

The throat chakra is known as the devotional chakra. A friend of mine had a personal experience of her throat chakra opening when she met a Tibetan teacher who was very practiced in chanting. Obviously, her throat chakra resonated with something that was very strong in this master.

Chanting and singing are often thought of as healing to the throat chakra. Sometimes the throat chakra has been blocked through personal experiences that one is not even aware of. For instance, a friend of mine who was in a difficult circumstance found it difficult to shout out her fear; in fact, she felt that her throat chakra closed in that instance. Apparently, the trauma remained post experience, and her throat felt blocked and solid. Seeking advice from a spiritual teacher, she was told to begin chanting and focusing on her throat chakra. After many months she could feel that space in her throat chakra begin to open, and now feels convinced that if ever in a similar experience, she will be able to shout out what she is feeling.

Thanks so much for your comments about our Throat Chakra Candle!

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August 20, 2014 on 11:07 am

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Dear Spiritual Explorer: I notice that your Bliss Singing Bowl repeats Om Mani Padme Hum around the exterior. Is that mantra of Indian or Tibetan origin? Ray S., San Diego, CA


Bliss Singing Bowl

Dear Ray: Om Mani Padme Hum started out as an Indian mantra and then progressed to being known as mainly as a Tibetan mantra. It is the sacred mantra for compassion and means Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus. Of course, the Jewel in the Lotus is the Buddha and devotees do many prostrations to the Buddha while reciting Om Mani Padme Hum. As you noted, the Buddhist mantra is repeated around the exterior of our Bliss Singing Bowl.

Tibetan Buddhists believe that saying the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum out loud or silently to oneself invokes the powerful benevolent attention and blessings of Chenrezig, the Tibetan Buddhist embodiment of compassion. Even better is to have your spoken mantra accompanied by the sounds invoked by the Bliss Singing Bowl, considered an exceptional singing bowl by singing bowl masters.

Spinning the written form of the Buddhist mantra around in a Mani wheel (or prayer wheel) is also believed to give the same benefit as saying this wonderful mantra. These Mani wheels are found everywhere in the lands influenced by Tibetan Buddhism.

Deep within the Bliss Singing Bowl is a Tibetan double dorje representing the indestructible diamond-like nature of the Buddha’s teachings. It is my understanding that this diamond like nature of Buddha’s teaching is expressed in the Vajrayana teachings of Buddhism. The belief is that through meditation and a qualified teacher one can bring about the full and direct experience of the nature of the mind. Mind in Vajrayana Buddhism is understood to be limitless like space, open, fearless and joyful.

You can experience on YouTube many renditions of singing bowls. For those in the know, one realizes that not all singing bowls are alike. Some sites on the Internet are specifically designated to show the differences in the sounds of the singing bowls. It’s my experience that one not only receives an extraordinary sound emitting from our Bliss Singing Bowl but is reminded through gazing at the double dorje inscribed on the bottom of the bowl to the diamond like nature of the Buddha mind. That is an invaluable tool of remembrance. Enjoy your singing bowl; it truly has an exceptional sound.

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August 14, 2014 on 11:00 am

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Dear Spiritual Explorer: What kind of power is in the Rudraksha Power Bracelet? I can really use some. Thanks. Raleigh D., San Diego, CA


Rudraksha Power Bracelet

Dear Raleigh: This Rudraksha Power Bracelet certainly does not appear to be a power amulet, totem or anything that on its face looks powerful. In fact, its very simplicity attests to a power that is beyond what one ordinarily thinks of power. It is Shiva power!

Th Rudraksha Power Bracelet is powerful in its simplicity; it bespeaks true spiritual power, which surpasses any attempt at material force, or power. It is the power of the god Shiva whose tears transformed to rudrakshas as he contemplated the suffering of humanity.

There are many types of malas consisting of different beads: some jade, some pearl, some agate or blue sapphire. All of these beads are considered powerful and are means to effect silent contemplation as one counts them one by one saying a sacred mantra.

However, the humble rudraksha beads while not as attractive or shiny as the other beads have in their rough-hewn nature a feeling of connection to the earth, which was Shiva’s gift as his tears fell to the earth.

When one does “japa” or recitation of mantra with the rudraksha beads, the mantra that would be most fitting would probably be the Om Namah Shiva mantra. Om Namah Shiva means I am Shiva, and when one recites, utilizing the rudraksha beads, I am Shiva in Sanskrit or English, you can count on feeling powerful, the true type of power that is inherent in devotional chanting.

As one chants Om Namah Shiva using the rudraksha beads to count with, one can bring to mind the great god Shiva, the Auspicious One, also known as Mahadeva. He is the Supreme God within Shaivism, one of the three most influential denominations in contemporary Hinduism.

Shiva is depicted as an omniscient, contemplative yogi who lives an ascetic life on Mount Kailash, as well as a householder who had three consecutive wives. Shiva is also the patron god of yoga and the arts.

As you place this Rudraksha Power Bracelet on your arm, I am willing to bet you will feel the power of Shiva if you call his name and recite his mantra. Shiva’s power awaits you!

Om Namah Shiva Ki Jai!

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