Scratching a Beat book surface


Some books, more or less in the order in which they appear in this photo:

Mountains and Rivers Without End. Gary Snyder. Deluxe Audio Edition. 1996/2013.

Six Selections from Mountains and Rivers Without End, Plus One. Gary Snyder. 1970-79 edition. Signed by author.

Mountains and Rivers Without End. Gary Snyder. 1996/1997. Signed by author.

Cold Mountain Poems: Twenty-Four Poems by Han-Shan. Trans.Gary Snyder. 2013 edition.

This Present Moment: New Poems. Gary Snyder. 2015.

The Back Country. Gary Snyder. 1968.

Blame it on Japhy Ryder: Memoir of a Dharma Bum Who Survived. Philip Bralich.2012.

The Dharma Bums. Jack Kerouac. 1958 (1976 edition).

Trip Trap: Haiku on the Road. Jack Kerouac, Albert Saijo, and Lew Welch. 1973, 1998.

How I Work as a Poet & Other Essays. Lew Welch. 1973, 1983.

Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On The Road (They’re not what you think). John Leland. 2007.

Outspeaks a Rhapsody. Albert Saijo. 1997.

When I was Cool: My Life at the Jack Kerouac School: A Memoir. Sam Kashner. 2003.

Naked Angels: The Lives & Literature of the Beat Generation. John Tytell. 1976.

The Typewriter is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation. Bill Morgan. 2020.

Scratching the Beat Surface. Michael McClure. 1982.

Howl and other poems. Allen Ginsberg. 1956, 1994. Signed by the author.

I Greet you at the Beginning of a Great Career: The Selected Correspondence of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg (1955-1997). ed Bill Morgan.2015.

Writing Across the Landscape: Travel Journals 1960-2010. Lawrence Ferlinghetti. 2015.

Crowded by Beauty: The Life and Zen of Poet Philip Whalen. David Schneider. 2015.

Episodes. Pierre Delattre. 1993

An Autobiographical Novel. Kenneth Rexroth. 1964. 1991 edition.

In the Sierra: Mountain Writings. Kenneth Rexroth. 2012.

World Outside My Window: The Selected Essays. Kenneth Rexroth. 1987.

Assays. Kenneth Rexroth. 1961.

A Jamie De Angulo Reader.  ed. Bob Callahan. 1979.

The improper Bohemians: Greenwich Village in its Heyday. Allen Churchill. 1959.

Reclaiming San Francisco: History, Politics, Culture: A City Lights Anthology. Ed. James Brook, Chris Carlsson, & Nancy Peters. 1998.

The Destruction of California. Raymond Dasmann. 1966.

Estero: A West Marin Quarterly. Vo 1, No 1. Summer 1992

Jumping Out of Bed: Poems. Robert Bly. 1987.

Mostly California. Don Blanding. 1948.

The Beats: From Kerouac to Kesey, an Illustrated Journey Through the Beat Generation. Mike Evans. 2007

^ ^ ^ ~~~ ^ ^ ^

True nuff stuff

My Christmas Letter to Social Media: I Hate You

Here’s an enjoyable, insightful little piece I just read, over at Adventure Journal.


My Christmas Letter to Social Media: I Hate You

Adulting is hard when it’s deep in the West and you’re in the Mid. Tip: Stay off your phone this holiday season.

By Paddy O’Connell

December 21, 2016

You drop your bag at the foot of the twin bed in what used to be your childhood bedroom. But the Metallica, Weezer, and No Doubt posters have long been ripped off the walls and replaced by a new coat of paint. Your mother’s Christmas knickknacks are all over the house and your father can’t stop playing Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and Dean Martin holiday records. Hot apple cider is bubbling in the percolator, TBS is repeating A Christmas Story on a weeklong 24-hour loop, and you are rehearsing your answer to the standard issue, 12-million times repeated by extended family members question: “So, how’s things?”

Yep, you’re back home for Christmas while, according to Instagram, everyone out west is skiing eyeball-deep blower pow. Your skier heart is pa rum pum pum bummed out. But I say to hell with that.

I just returned home, leaving the pristine and long-anticipated skiing conditions of Colorado for the frozen flatness of Chicago. This may come as a surprise but there’s not a lot of skiing to be had on Michigan Avenue or Lake Shore Drive. I knew before I left the stormy Roaring Fork Valley that I would be exchanging the personal glory of frigid face shots for the shared hilarity of my incredibly loud and lovable Midwest Irish family. During the drive back I told myself to push pause on my skiing desires, retire from Social Media perusing for a bit, and commit to the moment, enjoy what was happening rather than pining over my skiing have nots. It’s been fun but it hasn’t been easy.

On Day One I lit the tree with my father while my mother gave her artistic guidance from the living room and classic carol crooners spun on the record player. With hands that smelled like pin needle sap, we clinked glasses and toasted a job well done before sharing laughs about Christmases past. I went upstairs to retrieve my phone, which was purposefully placed in time out, and “checked in.” Just a quick look for any new texts or emails, I thought. It went something like this:

Oh, nothing new, hmmm. Okay, well, I’ll just jump on Facebook quickly and see what’s hap…ooooooh, jeebus! Great, Trump has given the nod to another jackhole who…this political tilt-a-whirl is nauseating. Instagram, I’ll try Instagram. Ugh, Aspen and Telluride got big storms. Jackson Hole, the deepest December ever, huh? Alta is double overhead. And every pro who’s ever been pro is in all these spots being awesomely pro. Awesome, awwweeeesoooome.

I flipped my phone across the room and on to my bed. I was pissed, and then I was pissed that I was pissed.

F-word you, Social Media! Yeah, I said it. Stop making me feel bad. I shouldn’t have FOMO while I’m hanging with my family and friends for Christmas. It’s called adulting. And yes, sometimes it hurts my ski bum heart but it’s what adults do. I’ve had years of snow-filled turkey sammich Thanksgivings and mountain town Christmas get-togethers that were sadder than the plot to a Hallmark Channel movie. The skiing was great, it was all-time, but it didn’t really feel like the holidays.

I’ve only been home for a handful of days now but my brother and I saw the new Star Wars flick in a movie theater that must have been sponsored by La-Z-Boy, I’ve giggled with my nephews and high-fived with my nieces, talked music and mountains with my aunt, cursed the mediocrity of the Bears with my father, made cranberry bread with my mother, had deep conversations over coffee…you get the picture. So take that, you model-pretty pro skiers, with your holiday heli trips and untracked glory runs. While you’re skiing smile-deep pow these next two weeks I’ll be practicing armpit farts with my nephew Charlie and stuffing my face with ham and Grandma’s mashed taters. Enjoy your frozen beef jerky and lonely mistletoe.

This holiday season, if you return to the flatlands like me, soak in those precious magical moments with your friends and family. Stop the thumb scrolling and put the phone down. Look around you. Yeah, it’s not the mountains but it is pretty damn special. And when you get back to the ski town you call home, ski your ass off…and get the shot, because IG or it didn’t happen, bro. Now, go get a mug of nog and sing Jingle Bells with your fam. Skiing pow is great, sure, but Social Media never knit anyone a sweater for Christmas.

On a shelf – one

 one shelf in the studio








in order of appearance upon the shelf:

Sacred Journey: The Ganges to the Himalayas. Howard, David. 2004

The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Baldock, John, ed. 2013

Trekking Mount Everest. Uchida, Ryohei. 1991

Passage Through India: An Expanded and Illustrated Edition. Snyder, Gary. 2009 (1983)

Neuli Cried in the Himalayas. Pun, Khakendra. 1999.

Into Tibet: The CIA’s First Atomic Spy and His Secret Expedition to Lhasa. Laird, Thomas. 2003

Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land. French, Patrick. 2003

Tibet’s Great Yogi Milarepa: A Biography from the Tibetan being the Jetsun-Kahbum or Biographical History of Jetsun-Milarepa. Evans-Wentz, W.Y. trans. 1928

Rainbows Appear: Tibetan Poems of Shabkar. Shabkar, , trans. Mattieu Ricard. 2002

Lost Horizon. Hilton, James. 1933

Beyond the House of the False Lama: Travels with Monks, Nomads, and Outlaws. Crane, George. 2006

The Violet Shyness of Their Eyes: Notes from Nepal. Scot, Barbara. 1993

Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey Into Bhutan. Zeppa, Jamie. 2000

Married to Bhutan: How One Woman Got Lost, Said I Do, and Found Bliss. Leaming, Linda. 2011

The Gods Drink Whiskey: Stumbling Toward Enlightenment in the Land of the Tattered Buddha. Asma, Stephen. 2006

Comes the Peace: My Journey to Forgiveness. Meston, Daja Wangchuk and Clare Ansberry. 2007

Caves in the Desert: Travels in China. Woodcock, George. 1988.

Sleeping in Caves: A Sixties Himalayan Memoir. Stablen, Marilyn. 2003

Hard Travel to Sacred Places. Wurlitzer, Rudolph. 1995.

Indian Embers. Lawrence, Lady (Rosamond Napier). 1949 (1991)

The Man Within My Head. Iyer, Pico. 2013

The Census Taker: Stories of a Traveler in India and Nepal. Stablen, Marilyn. 1985

Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown: A Mountain Journal. Watts, Alan. 1974

Yellow River Odyssey. Porter Bill. 2014.

The Distant Land of My Father (novel). Caldwell, Bo. 2002

Watching The Tree: A Chinese Daughter Reflects on Happiness, Traditions, and Spiritual Wisdom. Yen Mah, Adeline. 2002

The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom. Winchester, Simon. 2009

The Devil Soldier: The American Soldier of Fortune Who Became a God in China. Carr, Caleb. 1995

White Lama: The Life of Tantric Yogi Theos Bernard, Tibet’s Lost Emissary to the New World. Veenhof, Douglas. 2011

Life and Teachings of the Masters of the Far East. vol 2. Spalding, Baird T. 1927

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. Gilbert, Elizabeth. 2007

The Signature of All Things: A Novel. Gilbert, Elizabeth. 2014

Walking Up and Down in the World: Memories of a Mountain Rambler. Blanchard, Smoke. 1984

Coping with India. Wood, Robert. 1990

The Japanese Way: Aspects of Behavior, Attitudes, and Customs of the Japanese. Takada, Noriko and Rita Lampkin. 1996

Fodor’s Exploring China. Sixth Edition.

Pacific Century: The Emergence of Modern Pacific Asia. Borthwick, Mark. 2007


In the minutes that remain….

Just received this letter from Iram Ali, over at – democracy in action

Dear Friend,

Last week, hundreds of MoveOn members and allies, led by Muslims who would be affected by Donald Trump’s registry, marched to the White House as part of a big campaign to demand that President Obama do his part to prevent the registry from being built.

People from all backgrounds showed up to stand with Muslim communities. We chanted, we sang, we marched, and we listened to stories of those who have been directly affected by the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), which is the Bush-era registry program used to target and detain immigrants from Muslim-majority countries. We called on President Obama to shut down NSEERS, completely, once and for all, before Trump takes office.

And we have some amazing news to share: We won!

President Obama and the Department of Homeland Security are officially shutting down NSEERS once and for all.1 There’s much more to do, but today’s victory puts one more critical hurdle in Trump’s way to prevent him from targeting Muslim communities and starting a Muslim registry.

In these moments, before Trump takes office, it’s important to begin building broad coalitions—especially to stand in solidarity with communities that will be on the front lines of Trump’s vicious policy agenda. Our march and campaign did just that—it brought together a diverse group of people to stand with Muslim communities and fight back against the entire idea of a “Muslim registry.” And we worked closely with our allies at DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving), whose membership was directly affected by NSEERS. The march last week showed what’s possible when people stand together and rise together.

If you’re not on Twitter, you can share the Facebook album by clicking here.

Just yesterday, a reporter asked Donald Trump if he was reconsidering his proposals of building a Muslim registry or banning Muslims. Trump responded, “You know my plans.”2

After campaigning on anti-Muslim policies, Trump seems to be doubling down on making sure that his proposals become a reality. Well, we’re not stopping, either.

And today’s news shows what’s possible when we stand up and fight back against fascism: we win.

Last week, we also delivered over 341,000 signatures to the White House, collected by and allied organizations, including DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving), CREDO Action, MomsRising, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, and the ACLU. This coalition of groups is representative of the larger, diverse, vocal, and committed constellation of organizations who will not stand silently by as anti-Muslim attacks accelerate and discriminatory policies are enacted.

This outpouring of public support—in the form of hundreds of thousands of signatures and hundreds of marchers—shows what’s possible when we stand together. We are the majority. And we will continue to win.  

Thanks for all you do.

—Iram, Maria, Scott, Mark, and the rest of the team

P.S. Click here to watch and share an AJ+ video on Facebook that discusses our march to the White House and further explains the NSEERS program.

P.P.S. If you’re not on Facebook or Twitter, please forward this email to your friends and family so they hear about the wonderful news!


1. “Obama to Dismantle Visitor Registry Before Trump Can Revive It,” The New York Times, December 22, 2016

2. “Trump on the future of proposed Muslim ban, registry: ‘You know my plans,’” The Washington Post, December 21, 2016

Want to support our work? The MoveOn community will work every moment, day by day and year by year, to resist Trump’s agenda, contain the damage, defeat hate with love, and begin the process of swinging the nation’s pendulum back toward sanity, decency, and the kind of future that we must never give up on. And to do it we need your ongoing support, now more than ever. Will you stand with us?

Yes, I’ll chip $5 a month.

No, I’m sorry, I can’t make a monthly donation.

Contributions to Civic Action are not tax deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes. This email was sent on December 22nd, 2016.

White Nationalism in the White House

Wednesday, Dec 21, 2016 06:00 AM -0700

As a white nationalist, what do you do? A conversation with a scholar of America’s extreme right

“Part of the [alt-right] coalition is relatively angry people with guns. Part of the coalition is intellectuals”

A.C. Thompson, ProPublica

This originally appeared on ProPublica.

Chip Berlet has spent the past four decades studying right-wing political movements as a writer, activist and scholar. Now retired, he worked for many years as a senior analyst at Political Research Associates, a think tank based in the Boston area.

Working with Matthew Lyons, Berlet co-wrote “Right-Wing Populism: Too Close for Comfort,” which traces the politics back to the 1600s. He’s well-positioned, then, to make sense of the forces propelling President-elect Donald Trump’s ascendance. While many observers have portrayed Trump’s rise as a total break from the traditions of American politics, Berlet takes a different view: As he and Lyons write, “demagogic appeals,” “demonization” and apocalyptic thinking “have repeatedly been at the center of our political conflicts, not on the fringe.”

Berlet, who has written for The New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Sun-Times and many other publications, currently serves as an advisor for the Center for Right-Wing Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. We spoke to him Dec. 12 from his home in Massachusetts. (This interview has been edited for clarity.)

If you were going to add a new chapter to your book, if you were going to describe this moment, what would you say?

Well, first, I’m writing a new book for Routledge about it, so I’m immersed in it. I’ll tell you, the use of conspiratorial rhetoric and bigoted rhetoric targeting and demonizing ‘others’ is nothing new in American politics. It comes and goes in cycles that are not regular. So it’s not a pendulum. There’s no time frame. It has to do with the actual conditions people are experiencing — or think they’re experiencing, because people’s perceptions of their status are just as important as their actual status. If people have been pushed down the economic, social or political ladder, well, that’s real. If people feel they’ll be pushed down the ladder, that’s real, too.

I did a bunch of interviews before the election down in San Antonio, just talking to dozens of people. A lot of the sentiment was, ‘We’ve been screwed over, now we’re going to screw them over.’ It wasn’t so much that people liked Trump — or Clinton. They figured both parties were ridiculous. And neither of them was going to do what they promised, because politicians never do. So to hell with the whole system.

That’s a pretty dreary place to be in a democracy.

Late in the campaign, Trump gave a speech in Florida in which he claimed, “Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty” in order to enrich her friends and allies within the financial global elite. What did you make of that messaging?

Near the end, after Steve Bannon got involved, the stuff Trump said about the international banks, that was a dog whistle. The thing about that kind of dog whistle, the coded language, is that it’s heard differently by different audiences. So if you’re an angry farmer in Nebraska and someone talks about “international banks” you think Wall Street maybe. But if you’re in a white supremacist movement or wrapped up in conspiracy theories about money manipulation you think Jews.

Where does this conspiratorial thinking come from?

It’s a narrative in the U.S. that goes back to the late 1800s. It developed originally from a series of panics about the Illuminati and the Freemasons. And then in the 1900s, in Russia, they published the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ (the bogus text used to stir up fears that Jews were plotting to take over the planet) and it actually borrows from the original two books about the Freemason conspiracy.

People will say to me, “Well, nobody really believes this stuff.” But as a reporter I go out and talk to people who do believe it. And they can talk about it for hours. They can go into mind-numbing explanations about how the Jews control everything.

What are you most concerned about at this moment?

Even before the election you had the armed occupation at the federal preserve in Oregon. A few days ago you have this guy walking into the pizza place in D.C. There are armed people who think that liberals and gay people and Jews and Mexicans and Muslims are an existential threat to the constitution of the United States. They hear this every day on AM radio, every day on the internet, every day from some of their pastors.

At some point it’s going to slip one way or another: either we will slip back towards a consensus that armed violence is not a solution, or armed violence will grow.

In your view, what message are they getting from the incoming president?

That there are evil people destroying America and it’s a conspiracy and time is running out and we should do something about it — that’s what millions of people hear Trump saying.

So it’s a very drastic message coming from the president-elect that you worry will lead to very drastic actions by people on the ground.

Even before the election I was saying that the rhetoric used by Trump was going to cause violence before and after the election. That was easy to predict. It’s sociology 101. If you scapegoat a group from a high public place for long enough it’s inevitable that some people will act out on that belief and say, “If they’re so evil and they’re out to destroy America, why don’t we get them before they get us.” Some scholars call this scripted violence.

You’ve described the alt-right and white supremacist movements as a very small group of people…

Yeah, a couple hundred thousand.

So why should we be worried about them right now?

They have a lot of guns [laughs]. The alt-right is a coalition. Part of the coalition is relatively angry people with guns. Part of the coalition is intellectuals who have an idea of racial nationalism, which is very popular in right-wing populist movements in Europe. The alt-right believes in racially separate nation-states. Which begs the question: As a white nationalist, what do you do? Do you send people away? Do you force them out? Do you kill them?


^ ^ ^ ^ ^

Musical Passages, 2016, combined list

This year has seemed unusually strange and often tragic to me, as to many of the people I know and talk with on a regular basis. One factor, of course, is the insane American political campaigns and outcomes, and the implications for all of us, all over the world, for our planet itself, and for all Earthly creatures everywhere. Another factor has been the large number of famous and beloved musicians who passed away this year. Of course, many millions of people, of all kinds, died this year—an estimated 58+ million individuals, — and with a few days left till the end of the year, many more people, hundreds of thousands, will be added to this number. No way of knowing how many musicians, even famous musicians, will be among them. But the number of famous musicians who have departed this year has been startling somehow and, of course, saddening. I’m not entirely sure why, of all the various kinds of beloved and publicly celebrated persons who have died this year, so many of us have felt so impacted by the passing of many or “our” musical “stars”, but so it is.

I’ve listed below some names of various departed musicians (and some persons publicly involved in music), whom I feel are likely to be familiar to a majority of my American readers. The notes come from lists on wikipedia; I’ve combined and reduced the entries found there to form this personalized, highly selective list. If you think of other departed musicians who are on your own list, let me know. Of course I’ve left dozens of names off this particular listing.

It happens that I personally knew, somewhat, more than one or two of the persons named here, but only on a more or less superficial or casual basis. There are a few more whom I had simply met only once or twice in a mostly conventional manner. In some additional cases I have felt somewhat privately “connected” simply through sharing personal friends and/or friends-of-a-friend, without ever having known the musicians directly. But I wasn’t particularly close to any of these talented persons. Much as I love a lot of the music, I can’t I say I was among the most intense super-big-fans of any of the great stars who have departed this year. So I haven’t been quite so deeply devastated by their deaths, not like so many of their serious fans (and of course their family and friends!) have been. Still, just like everyone else, I certainly feel their loss. I really love so much of the music left to us by these amazingly talented individuals, and where it applies, of course have really enjoyed being personally acquainted, howsoever slightly, with a few of them. Some of my friends are pretty big fans of these stars, and I feel most sorry for them. It has been kind of startling at times to learn of the passing of all these artists, so many of whom have been such a part of our lives over the years through the magic of their music.

(All the following notations are straight from wikipedia.)



Long John Hunter , 84, American blues guitarist and singer-songwriter. [74]

Robert Stigwood, 81, Australian band manager (Bee Gees, Cream) and film producer (Grease, Saturday Night Fever , Evita). [89]


David Bowie, 69, English singer-songwriter, musician (“Space Oddity“, “Heroes“, “Starman“), and actor (Labyrinth, Zoolander).[215]

Glenn Frey, 67, American singer-songwriter, musician (Eagles) and actor (Jerry Maguire).[385]


Signe Toly Anderson, 74, American singer (Jefferson Airplane).[592]

Paul Kantner , 74, American musician (Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship) and songwriter (“Wooden Ships“).[602]

[my note: Lovely Signe was the original lead singer for the Airplane, but left in 1966 and was “replaced” by lovely Grace Slick. Signe and Paul both passed away on the same day, but in different locations and totally unrelated circumstances.]



Vanity, 57, Canadian singer (Vanity 6), actress (The Last Dragon), and evangelist.[279]



Sir George Martin, 90, British Hall of Fame record producer (The Beatles), composer, arranger and engineer, six-time Grammy Award winner.[178]


Keith Emerson, 71, English progressive rock and rock keyboardist (The Nice; Emerson, Lake & Palmer).[214]



Dennis Davis, 64, American drummer (David Bowie, Stevie Wonder).[101]


Prince, 57, American musician, songwriter (“Purple Rain“, “Little Red Corvette“) and actor, Oscar (1984) and Grammy (1984, 1986, 2004, 2007) winner. [386]



Scotty Moore, 84, American guitarist (Elvis Presley).[485]



Pete Fountain, 86, American jazz clarinetist.[98]


Bobby Hutcherson, 75, American jazz musician.  [249]



Marni Nixon, 86, American singer (The King and I, West Side Story, My Fair Lady) and actress (The Sound of Music), breast cancer.[41





Hidayat Inayat Khan, 99. English-French classical composer, conductor, and professor. His father was the famous Indian Sufi master and Indian classical musician Hazrat Inayat Khan; his mother was an American, Ameena Begum Khan (b. Ora Ray Baker).


Charmian Carr, 73, American actress and singer (The Sound of Music).[261]



Leonard Cohen, 82, Canadian singer-songwriter (“Hallelujah“, “Suzanne“, “First We Take Manhattan“), poet and novelist (Beautiful Losers).[88]


Leon Russell, 74, American Hall of Fame musician (The Wrecking Crew) and songwriter (“Tight Rope“).[195]


Mose Allison, 89, American jazz pianist, singer and songwriter (“Young Man Blues“).[217]


Pauline Oliveros, 84, American composer and accordionist.[398]



Greg Lake, 69, English singer and musician (King Crimson, Emerson, Lake & Palmer).[229]

Around the Studio – Part Two


Glazed ceramic lota (water pot). I made this.

Antique cloisonné brass altar offering bowl (China). Birthday gift from my late wife. This bowl came through unscathed from the house fire that destroyed our home in Berkeley, except for one of the blue-green areas of the floral cloisonné design, which turned black.

Conch shell. From one of our sojourns in Hawai’i.

Daruma “doll” (image of Bodhidharma, c450-c550), Indian Buddhist Patriarch, introduced school of Dhyan (meditation) ie Chan / Zen, from India to China and Japan. Antique Japanese folk art (mengei), painted papier-maché. Such images are meant to be partly comic/satiric, partly sacred (somewhat reflective of the Zen spirit!). Such images were originally made by temple monks as votive souvenirs for pilgrims. They are regarded as good luck-bestowing objects. The artist-monk would leave the eyes blank. The pilgrim would paint-in one eye while praying for Daruma to grant a particular blessing, such as passing an exam, etc., then paint-in the other eye upon the prayerful wish being achieved.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~    0000 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Shri Guru Deva’s Birthday – 2016

Today, December 20, is the birthday anniversary of Shri Guru Deva, His Divinity Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Jagadguru Bhagavan Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math (December 20, 1868-May 20, 1953).



Shri Guru Deva was the beloved master of my teacher, His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (c1917-2008).

Therefore, I revere Shri Guru Deva as my Paramguru — my teacher’s master, my spiritual Grandfather Teacher.

Shri Guru Deva was celebrated as Maha Yogiraj (Greatest of Yoga Teachers) in the family of the Yogis of India and was held by the Gyanis (Jñanis), the Realized Sages, as personified Brahmanandam, Universal Bliss Consciousness. He was addressed by the world famous Oxford philosopher and president of India, Dr Radhakrishnan, as “Vedanta Incarnate”, Embodiment of Truth, the living fulfillment of the Vedic Wisdom of the Unified Wholeness of Reality.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My kind of bling


An example of my idea of “bling.”

Sometimes I wear this necklace (re-strung by me!) of beads from ancient Indo-Tibetan and Native American cultures. At center is a dzi (decorated agate), flanked by red coral, turquoise, and copal or “lesser amber” (semi-fossilized tree sap! ). These beads were each gifted to me over several years in the past by various teachers and other beloved spiritual friends.

Personal adornment pieces of this kind,—that is, items that have a private personal value, not one based on a financial market system, trendy fashion-driven tastes, or other arbitrarily-perceived and artificially-contrived material worth, are the only type of jewelry I like to wear or care to own. They are my kind of “bling.”

In my case, as with many other people with similar tastes in this regard, such items are worn for spiritual &/or physical & mental health benefits; and because they are material artifacts (sometimes even “tools”) of ancient cultural heritages in which such items are cherished in connection with an ageless tradition of spiritual enlightenment and knowledge of natural healing and medical science; and/or because such items hold a personal aesthetic and/or “sentimental” value. That is, the value is personal and both physiological while also somewhat “symbolic,” rather than necessarily being determined by “popular” &/or commercially-driven “market/fashion” trends (which of course are also symbolic!).

Beads and other personal adornment jewelry items made of these and similar kinds of traditional precious and semi-precious “gemstones,” metals, and other mineral and organic elements, have been worn for thousands of years among millions and millions of Hindus, Buddhists, and people of other traditional cultures, for their spiritual and medicinal benefits (& sometimes aesthetic value). It’s also definitely true, however, that within traditional societies, such articles also have served as items of barter-based economic-units, in lieu of paper and coin money printed and minted by government agencies, and thus are often prized for their financial value. Relatedly, they thus also become traditional signs of material/social prestige when worn as articles of traditional “fashion” apparel and adornment display. So, traditionally, they are at once spiritual and physical medicine items, objets-d’art for aesthetic pleasure, and social status display-items of wealthy “conspicuous consumption” (anonymous regional folk parallels of haute couture designer-label fashion jewelry), the equivalent of literal lumps or wads of cash itself worn as adornment — i.e., “bling” in all senses of the term.

But my interest in wearing such pieces is completely removed from the regional-cultural context of economic and “fashion” concerns. Most of my “spiritual bling” (amulets, and malas, that is, rosaries, and related items), I wear as necklaces or bracelets. Necklaces I almost always wear tucked under my shirt, and bracelets are often at least half covered by sleeve cuffs…. Almost no one ever notices them, and if someone does, only very rarely comments or asks questions about them. I don’t wear these things to display them, and in our cultural/social/regional setting, virtually no one who does notice them would thereby assume that I must be among a moneyed-elite, or that I know or care about fashion! On the other hand (so to speak!), so many people in our society these days—women and men, young and old, — do wear wrist malas and/or bead bracelets derived from malas, that there is perhaps almost nothing particularly noteworthy about seeing someone wear such an item.

Occasionally, however, a glimpse of some piece I am wearing will prompt a friendly vocal response, usually from someone who either recognizes an item for what it is, or else is favorably curious in a polite and kindly manner. Although I don’t wear my semi-private blingy things for such purposes, I’ve found these responses which they occasionally prompt from folks to be a delightful second-level benefit. I’ve met some very interesting people and made some good acquaintances through observant strangers striking up conversations based on their noticing a mala or other spiritually-significant item I am wearing. I consider this a very rich kind of “good medicine-blessing” in and of itself. I’ve never had any rude responses.

All the beads in the necklace shown in the photo were given to me with blessings from one or another of my spiritual teachers or other saintly persons I have met over the years. Other than the turquoise, they each were once parts of various Indo-Tibetan (Hindu and/or Buddhist) malas (rosaries).

Beads and other articles made from such natural materials have been cherished and utilized for thousands of years in India, Tibet, and trans-Himalayan cultural areas as sacred/medical aids to spiritual growth and physical health. Much of traditional Asian knowledge of the spiritual and physical benefits of gemstones and other minerals and related semi-precious substances comes from the ancient Indian Vedic civilization, especially the traditional natural medical and health system known as Ayurveda. Traditional Tibetan medicine is basically a slightly modified version of Indian Ayurveda. I’ll leave interested readers to their own research impulses for learning more about the role of malas/rosaries in Indo-Trans-Himalayan cultures, and about the spiritual and physical healing properties of precious metals and gemstones, as well as of “stones” such as turquoise, amber/copal, coral, and dzi (decorated and undecorated agates).

I’ve called these beads (mostly) Indo-Tibetan and/or Trans-Himalayan. It is in such cultural regions that the “raw” materials for most of these beads were actually fashioned into beads. However, most of the raw stones come from other areas.

The dzi in this necklace is from the ancient Indus-Saraswati River Valley Civilization of India. When given to me, many years ago, it was strung as the guru/witness bead on a mala (rosary) of Himalayan rock crystal (clear quartz) beads. The crystalline structure of agate is extremely close to that of quartz crystal and has a very similar vibrational frequency and effect.

The coral beads were also once part of a mala, and were probably originally traded from the Mediterranean, which is the ultimate regional source of most of the world’s genuine red coral. In recent decades, most red coral banks have been destroyed through non-sustainable commercial mass extraction practices and by general environmental degradation of marine systems. There is virtually no known red coral still growing in the world today. The “amber” (copal) beads — prehistoric solidified tree sap! — were also once part of a mala of 109 beads. They probably came to Tibet by way of the historical Zanzibar-India trade route from root deposit-beds within copal tree groves in Africa. Most of the world’s more fully-fossilized pieces of amber originate in the Baltic Sea region, traded from there across Europe and Asia for thousands of years.

These particular turquoise beads come from ancient Native American spiritual/cultural tradition, rather than Asian tradition. They were given to me by a Navajo (Diné) traditional elder. They are from the elder’s ancient family mine. Intriguingly, turquoise and coral (and various natural coral “substitutes”) are particularly prized for their subtle healing properties both within Tibetan and related Himalayan cultures, and within Navajo and Pueblo Native American cultures—one of several mysteriously parallel “trans-global” correspondences!