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Bhangra: A New Style of Dance

Wait until you discover Bhangra, an exciting dance!

Have you had your Bhangra dance workout yet? Well, I discovered Bhangra dancing when Sat Pavan Kaur Khalsa, cousin of one of our community residents, came to stay with us for a while in the last few months.

Sat Pavan Kaur

Sat Pavan Kaur

Bhangra was created hundreds of years ago in the region of Punjab in India. It is the traditional music and dance which is used to celebrate the coming of spring and Vaisakhi (a Sikh festival which celebrates the harvest season). Get your dancing shoes on, because this is a high-energy music and dance from the heartlands of Punjab in northern India. This lively village sound has now fused with modern music genres like hop and reggae to gain popularity worldwide.

Bhangra reminiscent of Krishna Das’ compilations

Bhangra is reminiscent of what Krishna Das has done with his sacred Indian music sung at the feet of is guru Baba Neem Karoli many decades ago. He has contemporized many of the sounds of Indian spiritual kirtan. By doing this, he has made it easily sound harmonious and wildly popular to western ears.

Sat Pavan Kaur learned Bhangra in India as a youth and began teaching and performing professionally at the age of 17. She performs in Mexico, India, England, Canada and the U.S. Excitement is reaching a high pitch welcoming her to Kashi Ashram October 28-30 at our Diwali retreat. We have a chance to view this spirited and spiritual dance.

Watching this lithe woman perform both intricate and simple moves of dance, you witness high energy and the enthusiasm she emits. You cannot help but want to join in these movements which are both complex and yet simply rendered.

What to wear when dancing Bhangra

Women dancing modern Bhangra wear a traditional Punjabi dress known as a salwarkameez—long baggy pants tied at the ankle with a long colorful shirt. It is also customary that women adorn their outfits with colorful pieces of cloth wrapped around the neck. They are rich and vibrant colors of their native land of Punjab.

Other dress might include a turban tied differently from the traditional turban one sees Sikhs wearing in the street. You tie the turban before each show.

A kurt, a loose hanging Indian shirt, similar to a silk shirt, may be worn very loosely with embroidered attars. Finally, you tie a very decorated loincloth around the dancer’s waist,

Optional wear might be the chagi, a waistcoat with no buttons.

Invitation extended to Sat Pavan Kaur to do more Bhangra at Kashi

Sat Pavan Kaur has performed at Kashi in the past. It is great to see both old and young alike picking up the sounds so easily with great abandon. She is truly graceful and exciting to watch as she performs this lively ceremonial dance. We hope she comes more often to grace us with her enthusiasm and verve. See you soon, Sat Pavan Kaur!

If you have a question about “Bhangra,” or anything else, you can write me at Ask The Spiritual Explorer.

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Diwali Yoga Retreat at Kashi Ashram


Come and enjoy fun and sharing at Diwali Yoga Retreat

I am beginning to get excited at the advent of Diwali, October 28-30 at Kashi Ashram. Diwali is no somber yoga retreat attempting to still your mind and quiet your senses. On the contrary, we invite you to join in a delightful mixture of mellowness and fun sharing designed with your joy and happiness in mind.

Doris mistakenly suppresses her enthusiasm

My friend Doris was refusing attend any more yoga retreats, not that she doesn’t see the value of them. In fact, I knew her when she was a very lively person, while not totally in control of her reactions and emotions. She unfortunately was in a relationship with a man who didn’t appreciate her high spirits and loquaciousness. He felt she was not “serious enough.” So Doris embarked upon a spiritual program that contained some highly formalized disciplines. She tightened her belt and attempted to constrain some of that infectiousness into a tight corset of discipline. Her friends unfortunately felt she went too far and suppressed many of the qualities that were joyous for her.

Doris comes to Diwali at Kashi Ashram

Last year Doris came to Kashi Ashram with a downfallen face, asking where is the joy to yoga. She was surprised to learn that yoga could be both fun and serious. Fortunately she arrived at our Diwali retreat, which is always full of high spirits and joyous enthusiasm. Similar to Purim, a Jewish holiday, Diwali is upbeat, exciting and joyous. It is one of the most enjoyable Hindu holidays, including relaxation, conviviality with others and just plain joy.

What is Diwali?

Diwali is one of the biggest festivals of India. We celebrate it with great enthusiasm and happiness. While Diwali is traditionally celebrated for five continuous days, Kashi manages to consolidate spirit, lightness and joy in a weekend celebration.

How we celebrate Diwali

Different colorful varieties of fireworks associate with this festival. On this auspicious day, people light up divas (lamps) and candles all around their house. Participants invoke Goddess Lakshmi who presides over Diwali. Laxmi is always the divine Mother who gives prosperity and generosity to those who honor her. Her murti is a symbol of divine grace and abundance.

It is auspicious to start every Laxmi puja by saying Sri Ganesha’s name. In many instances, the Ganesh and Laxmi murtis sit on platforms and receive ritual baths.They sing a devotional song called aarti. At the end we distribute prasad  to everyone gathered after the puja is complete.

Don’t forget the Diwali gifts!

An important thing to remember is that this festival is never compete without an exchange of gifts.

Information on retreat

This retreat begins Friday, October 28 at 5:00 pm with gourmet vegetarian dining until Sunday, October 30 at 2:00 pm. It’s time to explore the sacred grounds of Kashi Ashram and it’s also time, to flow, dance and light up the night.

If you have a question about “Kashi’s Diwali Retreat,” or anything else, you can write me at Ask The Spiritual Explorer.

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Bhakti Yoga Speaks to Me

Bhakti yoga becomes a simple form of devotion

bhakti yogaI remember reading that in spiritual life, one is always at the beginning. And thus, today I find that as I explore bhakti yoga, I realize that it not only speaks to, but also confirms many aspects of myself. I always thought that Hinduism was a wonderful form of spirituality because it offers so many deities and systems from which to choose to dedicate one’s spirit. One need not have to fit a prescribed system.

Bhakti yoga is one of six systems of yoga revered throughout history as paths that can lead you to full awareness of your true nature. Other paths to self-realization are hatha yoga (transformation of the individual consciousness through a practice that begins in the body); jnana yoga (inner knowledge and insight); karma yoga (skill in action); kriya yoga (ritual action); and raja yoga (the eight-limbed path also known as the classical yoga of Patanjali. These paths aren’t mutually exclusive, although, for many, one path will resonate more deeply.

What is bhakti yoga?

In its purest form, bhakti yoga burns as a devotional fire in the heart. It is the result of overwhelming love for a deity, ideal or essence. Many examples of bhakti abound in the Hindu devotional world, particularly of devotees who shun the material world and renounce all pleasures. Their desire is to quiet the mind and know the self.

History of bhakti yoga

Historically, yoga represents a spirit of struggle and solitary pursuit of overcoming the body and mind. Those aspirants towards liberation believed that extreme asceticism and renunciation could lead to their final aspirations. But another idea began to form, an idea emphasizing the importance of channeling love towards God. This was formalized by the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita written somewhere between the third and second century BCI. The Gita is often called a “love song to God” expressing the idea that it’s possible to move towards self-realization by developing a connection to the heart. Thus began the realization of bahkti yoga.

Experience of devotion in bhakti yoga

Suddenly devotion is a legitimate route to enlightenment. The next question is, how does one become a devotee of bhakti yoga? My friend Della who considers herself a bhakti yogini has developed a practice of opening the heart. Every day she sits before Hanuman, a loving deity, who is the personification of an open heart. As Della chants to Hanuman, she also prays that her heart and mind may be cleansed of all impurities so that she may view humanity with love. Della also offers, as puja, to any number of murtis, prasad in the form of an offering of milk, fruit, and confections.

Della’s connection to bhakti yoga

During the day she is on the lookout for instances in which she may be of service to any who ask her for help. She volunteers at a local food kitchen on the weekends. Before her meals, she prays before eating, and thanks God for all her gifts.

The good thing about bhakti yoga is that one can devise one’s own practice. The practice arises out of and is fluid with the yearning of one’s heart. Della attempts to become aware of any criticism or blame towards herself and others.  As a result, she is much happier in her life. Free of the negativity that was her constant companion, Della feels that while she always seeks self-realization, in the seeking she misses the boat. Now it feels as if her practice brings her a feeling of comfort, solace and even bliss at times.

Bhakti yoga as gift

Bhakti yoga is a gift unto itself. As with any gift, if one practices it for the mere purpose of attaining another purpose, then the spirit can become lost. I find awareness to be the best antidote to this spiritual malady. It is what I can call returning to the moment because the moment is sufficient unto itself.

If you have a question about “bhakti yoga,” or anything else, you can write me at Ask The Spiritual Explorer.

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