Tag Archives: Spiritual

The Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda

Summary
  1. Mukunda experiences a miraculous recovery at a young age and after that is set on pursuing a spiritual life. This book walks us through that journey, what he learned from his master Sri Yukteswar, the benefits of meditation/yoga and striving to attain enlightenment. Beautifully written and inspiring book
Key Takeaways
  1. Born in 1893 near the Himalayas
  2. Since childhood his family followed a guru. He was miraculously saved by this guru when he had a fatal illness and after that he sought to be a yogi. He later learned this same guru had spiritually baptized him and predicted he would book a yogi
  3. Plants have feelings and respond to how we treat them
  4. True love has no boundaries, no conditions and does not change
  5. The wise treat all as equals as they see the striking similarity amongst all men
  6. Staring fear in the face dampens or removes that fear
  7. Be comfortable with your money and situation. Extravagance will only bring discomfort
  8. Speaks about his guru’s influence on him, how he worked in the spiritual realm and how much he taught him
  9. The unfailing composure of a saint is impressive beyond any sermon 
  10. What one cannot find from within one will never find from the outside
  11. Wrath springs only from thwarted desires
  12. The more bliss one feels during meditation the closer one is to God. Desire for material things is endless but this bliss would never be given up. Outward longings drive us from bliss within and these false pleasures only impersonate true happiness
  13. Tells of the incredible works his master confers
  14. Following yogic principles does not require one to be a recluse. It can actually enhance performance, relationships, happiness and more by helping you focus on what’s important, removing fleeting pleasures and attains mental detachment from things and results
  15. Complete unity with spirit and total awareness is the goal
  16. Kriya yoga helps unite the body, mind and spirit and accelerates this process through deep breathing, focus and mantras
  17. Devil = maya = illusions
  18. Yogananda was told early on in his journey that his purpose was to bring kriya yoga and his master’s other teachings to the west
  19. Humility is god-like
  20. Spent time in America in 1920 to spread the teachings of his master and established the Self Realization Fellowship
  21. Describes some of his time with Mother Theresa and Gandhi
  22. Speaks to the importance of forgiveness, universal and uncompromising love and nonviolence in Gandhi’s and everyone’s life
What I got out of it
  1. Very powerful book which inspires one to reach for one’s full spiritual potential. The descriptions of some of his, his master’s and other spiritual sage’s feats are hard to believe but point to a higher plane that is available to everyone if one is devoted to reaching it

The Bhagavad Gita by Eknath Easwaran

Summary

  1. The blind King Dhritarashtra asks Sanjaya to recount to him what happened when his family the Kauravas gathered to fight the Pandavas for control of Hastinapura. His family isn’t the rightful heir to the kingdom, but they have assumed control, and Dhritarashtra is trying to preserve it for his son Duryodhana. Sanjaya tells of Arjuna, who has come as leader of the Pandavas to take back his kingdom, with Sri Krishna as his charioteer. The Gita is the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna leading up to the battle
Key Takeaways
  1. Arjuna doesn’t want to fight. He doesn’t understand why he has to shed his family’s blood for a kingdom that he doesn’t even necessarily want. In his eyes, killing his evil and killing his family is the greatest sin of all. He casts down his weapons and tells Krishna he will not fight. Krishna, then, begins the systematic process of explaining why it is Arjuna’s dharmic duty to fight and how he must fight in order to restore his karma.
  2. Krishna first explains the samsaric cycle of birth and death. He says there is no true death of the soul — simply a sloughing of the body at the end of each round of birth and death. The purpose of this cycle is to allow a person to work off their karma, accumulated through lifetimes of action. If a person completes action selflessly, in service to God, then they can work off their karma, eventually leading to a dissolution of the soul, the achievement of enlightenment and vijnana, and an end to the samsaric cycle. If they act selfishly, then they keep accumulating debt, putting them further and further into karmic debt
  3. Krishna presents three main concepts for achieving this dissolution of the soul — renunciation, selfless service, and meditation. All three are elements for achieving ‘yoga,’ or skill in action. Krishna says that the truly divine human does not renounce all worldly possessions or simply give up action, but rather finds peace in completing action in the highest service to God. As a result, a person must avoid the respective traps of the three gunas: rajas (anger, ego), tamas (ignorance, darkness), and saatva (harmony, purity).
  4. The highest form of meditation comes when a person not only can free themselves from selfish action, but also focus entirely on the divine in their actions. In other words, Krishna says that he who achieves divine union with him in meditation will ultimately find freedom from the endless cycle of rebirth and death. He who truly finds union with God will find him even at the moment of death.
  5. Arjuna stills seem to need evidence of Krishna’s divine powers, so Arjuna appears to him in his powerful, most divine form, with the “power of one thousand suns.” Seeing Krishna in his divine state, Arjuna suddenly realizes what enlightenment can bring him in union, and he now completely has faith in the yogic path. He goes on to ask Krishna how he can receive the love of God, and Krishna reveals that love comes from a person’s selfless devotion to the divine, in addition to an understanding that the body is simply ephemeral — a product of prakriti, emerging from purusha, and is subject to endless rebirth. A person must let go of their body’s cravings and temptations and aversions to find freedom.
  6. The Gita ends with Krishna telling Arjuna he must choose the path of good or evil, as it his his duty to fight the Kauravas for his kingdom. In that, he is correcting the balance of good and evil, fulfilling his dharma, and offering the deepest form of selfless service. Arjuna understands and, with that, proceeds into battle.
What I got out of it
  1. Good, simple read which lays out basic Hindu principles like karma, letting go of desires in order to gain freedom

Ripples of Wisdom by Don Jose Ruiz

Ripples of Wisdom

Summary
  1. Don Jose Ruiz helps you become aware of an overcome self-doubt, self-deceit and fear to live a happy life filled with love
Key Takeaways
  1. “Everyone has the right to believe what they want to believe. They have the right to feel what they want to feel and go say what they want to say. If you take everything personally, you may feel defensive or hurt. Instead ofjuiding what others say listen and show respect. Remember everything isn’t ways about you.”
  2. “Making assumptions and then taking them personally is the beginning of hell. An assumption is just a lie you are telling yourself. This creates a big drama inside your mind, and you have no idea if it’s really truth or not. Be aware that most of the drama in your life is caused by an amazing, creative story you have made up. Ask questions before creating a story and find peace in truth.”
What I got out of it
  1. A beautiful book which echoes many of the same lessons his father (Don Miguel Ruiz) discusses in his fantastic books – The Four AgreementsMastery of Love and more. Namely, do not make assumptions, don’t take things personally, do your best and be impeccable with your word

Read Ripples of Wisdom

How to Love by Thich Nhat Hanh

How to Love

Summary
  1. Thich Nhat Hanh distills love to some of its core attributes and reminds us that we cannot possibly love others until we love ourselves, it takes understanding to love and that love is made of four key elements – loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity
Key Takeaways
  1. True love is made of four elements: loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity
  2. You can’t offer happiness until you have it for yourself
  3. We can also call it inclusivesness or nondiscrimination. In a deep relationship, there’s no longer a boundary between you and the other person
  4. True love cannot be without trust and respect for oneself and for the other person
  5. There are three kinds of intimacy: physical, emotional, and spiritual
  6. Loving someone doesn’t mean saying “yes” to whatever the other person wants. The basis of loving someone else is to know yourself and to know what you need
  7. True love gives us a lot of space. It is not possessive by any means
  8. True love includes a sense of responsibility and accepting the other person as she is, with all her strengths and weaknesses. If you only like the best things in a person, that is not love. You have to accept her weaknesses and bring your patience, understanding, and energy to help her transform.
  9. Other people’s actions are the result of their own pain and not the result of any intention to hurt you. A wrong perception can be the cause of a lot of suffering. This is why, whenever we have a perception, we have to ask ourselves if our perception is right.
  10. To love is, first of all, to accept ourselves as we actually are
  11. I think of our behavior in terms of being more or less skillful rather than in terms of good and bad. If you are skillful, you can avoid making yourself suffer and the other person suffer. If there’s something you want to tell the other person, then you have to say it, but do so skillfully, in a way that leads to less rather than more suffering
  12. One way we nourish our love is by being conscious of what we consume. Many of us think of our daily nourishment only in terms of what we eat. But in fact, there are four kinds of food that we consume every day. They are: edible food (what we put in our mouths to nourish our bodies), sensory food (what we smell, hear, taste, feel, and touch), volition (the motivation and intention that fuels us), and consciousness (this includes our individual consciousness, the collective consciousness, and our environment).
  13. Our individual consciousness is influenced by the collective consciousness of our environment. We absorb and reflect what is around us.
  14. We should practice in such a way that every moment is fulfilling. We should feel satisfaction in every breath, in every step, in every action
  15. Meditation consists of generating three kinds of energy: mindfulness, concentration, and insight
  16. The notions and ideas we have about happiness can entrap us. We forget that they are just notions and ideas. Our idea of happiness may be the very thing that’s preventing us from being happy. When we’re caught in a belief that happiness should take a particular form, we fail to see the opportunities for joy that are right in front of us.
  17. Live in a way that encourages deep happiness in yourself and others. You can vow to bring joy to one person in the morning and to help relieve the suffering of one person in the afternoon. Ask yourself, “Who can I make smile this morning?” This is the art of creating happiness.
What I got out of it
  1. Quick but hugely helpful read about what it means to love and what kind of mindset and qualities it takes to have true, deep and lasting love

Read How to Love

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The Warrior Within: The Philosophies of Bruce Lee by John Little

Warrior Within

Summary
  1. Bruce Lee is much more than just one of the best martial artists of all time, he is a philosopher who sought to integrate his beliefs into everything he did. Lee outlines a framework in order to grow spiritually, mentally and emotionally by living in accordance with Tao, the way or nature.
Key Takeaways
  1. Tao – the way of nature or the creative force governing the universe
  2. “…the height of cultivation should move toward simplicity. It is the halfway cultivation that leads to ornamentation…The process to simplify is like a sculptor who continuously chisels away all the nonessentials until he creates a masterpiece.”
  3. Lee’s quintessential philosophical belief of flowing and not forcing what comes your way can easily be related to how water acts – “Empty your mind. Be formless. Shapeless. Like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.
  4. Like water, very little in life is static. Learn to adapt and change and grow. “To change with change is the changeless state.”
  5. There is no experience to be extracted from, or who can escape from, experience. There is simply experiencing
  6. Ultimately one should be “purposeless.” … a state of purposelessness (which is also a state of fluidity, empty-mindedness, or simply the everyday mind), the spirit harbors nothing in it, nor is it tipped in any one direction; it transcends both subject and object; it responds empty-mindedly to environmental changes and leaves no track.”
  7. True masters never feel the need to prove themselves – “…I have learned that challenging means one thing, but how you choose to react to it means something else entirely…If you are secure within yourself, you treat it very, very lightly…”
  8. Lee’s guide to self-enlightenment consisted of 4 steps:
    1. Research your own experience
    2. Absorb what is useful
    3. Reject what is useless
    4. Add what is specifically your own
  9. The true meaning of life lies in peace of mind and the highest rung on the ladder of individual achievement is the commitment to honest self-expression
What I got out of it
  1. One of the most powerful ideas I got from this book is the idea of being completely honest to yourself and expressing that truest version of yourself in everything that you do. His belief in flow, purposelessness and simplicity are all concepts that resonate deeply with me too. If you only know Bruce Lee for his movies and martial arts, this is a side of him worth exploring.

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Buddha Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom by Rick Hanson

Buddha Brain

Summary
  1. Buddha Brain takes ancient Buddhist practices and scientific data to show us how to strengthen our brain in order to have stronger relationships and an overall happier and more fulfilling life.
Key Takeaways
  1. Thoughts literally shape our brain. With this knowledge, be mindful of your thoughts as over time they will be ingrained
  2. If brain is cause of suffering it can also be its cure
  3. Wisdom is applied common sense. Let go of things that hurt and strengthen what brings joy
  4. When you see your body as distinct, as what defines you, that leads to suffering, fear and weakness as you take the body’s weaknesses and frailties for your own
  5. Simulating an amazing evolutionary advantage but it brings us out of the present moment – present only place where one can find true happiness and often induces negative emotions. Most emotions in real life not as intense as what we simulate and usually contains limiting or simplistic beliefs. Simulating makes you chase carrots which aren’t as good as you think they’ll be and sticks aren’t as bad
  6. First and second darts – mental and physical discomforts unavoidable (first dart) but our reactions to them often amplify the suffering (second dart). Our reactions to situations are either positive or negative cycles as it is reinforcing either way
  7. When aware that brain doesn’t know the difference between a thought and reality, you realize how important it is to control your thoughts and reactions to situations. Thoughts are reality
  8. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional
  9. Consciously look for positive experiences. Look for and let positive events sink in and savor it. Can infuse a negative memory with a positive to one to slowly uproot it
  10. Craving something, more than simply desiring it, is what leads to suffering. Can desire something without craving it to happen or play out a certain way
  11. With equanimity, things have only characteristics, not demands. Can view things as unbiased and not react in a negative way. Engaged with world but not troubled by it. Not disappointed or ecstatic with charms of life, simply see things as they are – neither good nor bad. Not reacting to reactions
  12. Aim for a mind with no preferences, free from reactions
  13. Recognize that pleasures and rewards are fleeting and often not nearly as great as what we build up in our heads
  14. Respond, don’t react
  15. Be careful about attributing intentions to others
  16. You don’t have to be the justice system. Trust that others actions, good or bad, will be rewarded or punished respectively
  17. Being mindful simply means having good control over your attention. One of the most important steps your an take to shape your thoughts, actions and brain. Best way to improve mindfulness is through meditation
  18. Try doing just one thing at a time in order to cultivate mindfulness. When washing dishes, wash dishes. Use recurring, everyday events such as going to the bathroom as reminders to be mindful
What I got out of it
  1. Dr. Rick Hanson gives a lot of pragmatic tips that you can work into your daily routine in order to be happier and learn to detach from your “self.” I think the three biggest concept are: learning to respond and not react, try to be as free from preferences as possible, and “good” events are rarely as good as we build up in our heads and “bad” events nearly never as devastating. Also, Hanson’s weekly newsletter, Just One Thing, offers some straightforward and helpful insights.

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Buddha Standard Time by Lama Surya Das

Buddha Standard Time

 

Summary
  1. Surya Das walks us through how to live completely in the now, in “Buddha Standard Time.” We have the power to manipulate time by altering how aware and mindful we are of the present moment. The practices outlined within are increasingly important in today’s hectic day and age.
Key Takeaways
  1. Buddha Standard Time – timeless time, wholly now
  2. Issue trying to solve – how to wean yourself from the addictions that sap time and energy, to clear out all the debris and distraction. You have much more time than you think. In fact, you have all the time in the world
  3. The more concentration and awareness you can achieve, the more time disappears. It’s not time that we lack in our rushed lives, but focus
  4. Do not chase the small, ephemeral things that result only in loss and suffering if you become dependent on them (social media, fame, money, etc.)
  5. Become mindful of what you pay attention to and become more intentional, objective and observant to the minutiae of your life, the transient experiences. Increases self-control and mental discipline, transforms our attitudes and shifts more towards being more responsive, thoughtful, intentional and aware
  6. Nobody can make us angry if we don’t have seeds of anger in our own heart
  7. It is not what happens to us, but how we respond that determines our character and our destiny
  8. Smiling often is a great practice – it is free and spreads love and kindness
  9. People are terrible multitaskers
  10. Master the lost art of waiting and you’ll make friends with time and grow less bored, irritated or annoyed. Read, enjoy and appreciate the people and sites around you
  11. Take time to slow down – slow cooking, slow showers, slow walking, etc. All help you get back into the moment and appreciate the world around you
  12. The Sacred Pause – practice of creating a moment to respond consciously by breathing, waiting and considering things objectively before responding
  13. True realized masters are not beyond suffering and dissatisfaction but one with it
  14. Cultivate a beginner’s or “don’t know” mind – eliminates ego and wasteful thinking
What I got out of it
  1. Really got a lot out of this book and its tips, techniques and recommendations on how to slow down, be present and mindful. It’s not time that we lack, but focus.

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The Manuscripts Found in Accra by Paolo Coelho

Manuscripts found in Accra

Summary
  1. Before Jerusalem is attacked by the French in 1099, people gather to hear a Copt speak and ask him questions. This book is that dialogue which offers guidance on how to live our lives and which virtues to cultivate
Key Takeaways
  1. Believe only in the present moment
  2. In the cycles of nature, there is no such thing as victory or defeat, only movement. Both will pass so blame no one for your situation
  3. Only he who gives up is defeated. Everybody else is victorious
  4. Defeat is for the valiant and as long as you never give up, you never fail. Failure is forever
  5. Without solitude, no love can survive nor work grow. It is necessary and vital. Solitude required to understand who you are. Learn to accept solitude as a blessing
  6. We are afraid to change as we know and are comfortable with ourselves and our world. Be like nature and continually change
  7. For those who think change is dangerous, routine kills much more quickly
  8. People who find things ugly are only reflecting their own inner insecurities. The eyes are the window to the soul
  9. Enthusiasm is your sacred fire – do whatever it is that brings this out in you
  10. Cannot love if expect something in return. We need to love unflinchingly. We love because love sets us free. Let’s us say and feel things we never could have before
  11. Pleasing everyone is not noble. It shows lack of love for self
  12. Do not seek love for any price for love has no price
  13. Stay close to those who are not afraid to be vulnerable. Those who realize that the friendship is the end not a means
  14. Let your light shine forth and you will attract the right people and right situations
  15. Elegance lies in simplicity and not in the clothes you wear but how you wear them. Simplicity is the coming together of the true values of life and are the most extraordinary. Elegance cultivates beauty. Elegance makes no effort to be elegant
  16. Success is being able to go to bed each night with your soul at peace
  17. Love all and without expectation. You will always be the first to benefit
What I got out of it
  1. A very deep and inspirational read, per usual with Coelho. The ideas about happiness, success, love, enthusiasm and defeat all resonate with me and is something I try to keep in mind

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Super Brain by Deepak Chopra and Rudolph Tanzi

super brain

 

Summary
  1. Deepak Chopra and Rudolph Tanzi describe in Super Brain how to control your brain by learning how to the brain works and some inherent psychological fallacies.
 
Key Takeaways

  1. Your brain is creating reality every minute – make it the reality you want to live in
  2. Adaptability is key to super brain and our survival. It is what has made us the most dominant species ever.
  3. 3 major strengths – letting go, being flexible and hanging loose.
  4. 3 obstacles – habits, conditioning, stuckness
  5. How to expand consciousness – put higher premium on being awake/aware, resist conformity, value yourself, help others, expose yourself to creativity (art, poems, literature, etc), read holy texts, question own beliefs, get past your own ego, aim for highest meaning of own life, can always improve oneself.
  6. 3 strengths – evolving, expanding, being inspired.
  7. 3 obstacles – contraction, fixed boundaries, conformity.
  8. Meditation can physically alter brain and turn on good genes ad then off bad genes
  9. Super brain is detached from the thoughts or feelings the brain is having. I am feeling X, not I am X. And leads to why am I feeling X
  10. Feelings do not want to be pacified, they want to be fulfilled
  11. 4 functions and phases of the brain (must balance all 4 aspects to live a balanced and healthy life) – Instinctive, Emotional, Intelligent, Intuitive
  12. Only a handful of things brain cannot adapt to – chronic pain and anxiety
  13. Successful people almost always better at “feeling” their way through situations
  14. Purpose of universe – to foster life and create experiences for these living things
  15. Successful people internalize every success and this becomes a reinforcing behavior
  16. 7 Balances (True success comes from balancing these 7 areas) Sleep, Physical, Focus, Time in, Down time, Play, Connection time
  17. 3 things you should know for yourself – Your highest vision, Your deepest love, Your longest reach
  18. You are connected to everything in this world. All life is one. People who are animal whisperer understand this. They are empathetic and can relate to the animals’ consciousness. The animal feels this and is why they are so comfortable around each other
  19. 7 degrees of enlightenment (None of these need to be forced and come at different times for different people): Inner calm, Feeling connected, Empathy deepens, Clarity dawns, Awareness becomes more acute, Truth reveals itself, Bliss grows in your life.
 
What I got out of it
  1. Super Brain offers some amazing insights into how to lead a more balanced and happier life. One of the only things you can truly control is your mind and your reactions. Foster the right kinds of thoughts and make sure you’re creating a reality you want to live in. Balance is absolutely vital for a happy and successful life and Chopra and Tanzi show you how to get there. An excellent read.

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Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

Summary

  1. Siddhartha is the story of the journey of a young man who experiences all the riches and desires any man can have but soon becomes bored with them. He strives for a life of simplicity, peace and wisdom and finds them in an unexpected place
Key Takeaways
  1. A goal stood before Siddhartha, a single goal: to become empty, empty of thirst, empty of wishing, empty of dreams, empty of joy and sorrow. Dead to himself, not to be a self any more, to find tranquility with an emptied heard, to be open to miracles in unselfish thoughts, that was his goal. Once all of my self was overcome and had died, once every desire and every urge was silent in the heart, then the ultimate part of me had to awake, the innermost of my being, which is no longer my self, the great secret.”
  2. Realizes he knows a lot, but nothing about himself
  3. “Nothing was, nothing will be; everything is, everything has existence and is present.”
  4. Siddhartha finally realized his goal was to be able, at all times, to feel and inhale the oneness. Knowledge of the eternal perfection of the world, smiling, oneness
  5. Wisdom which a wise man tries to pass on to someone always sounds like foolishness
  6. The opposite of every truth is just as true
  7. And this is now a teaching you will laugh about – “love, oh Govinda, seems to me to be the most important thing of all. To thoroughly understand the world, to explain it, to despise it, may be the thing great thinkers do. But I’m only interested in being able to love the world, not to despise it, not to hate it and me, to be able to look upon it and me and all beings with love and admiration and great respect.”
  8. He claims he has 3 skills – he can wait, fast and think. And while these do not seem like great skills, they preclude Siddhartha from becoming impatient and making irrational decisions, he can wait to eat longer than others and can think through difficult situations or problems
  9. “It is good,” he thought, “to get a taste of everything for oneself, which one needs to know. That lust for the world and riches do not belong to the good things, I have already learned as a child. I have known it for a long time, but I have experienced only now. And now I know it, don’t just know it in my memory, but in my eyes, in my heart, in my stomach. Good for me, to know this!”
  10. The perfected ones are always smiling
What I got out of it
  1. One of the few books that have had a profound influence on me. Siddhartha’s up and down journey and how he eventually reached peace and wisdom after suffering resonated a lot with me. One must first know lust and riches and the evils it brings before one sees the true beauty of giving it up

Buy Siddhartha

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