New Online Course: Q&A with the BMCM Programs Team

We're excited to announce the launch of a new six-week online course focusing on instruction in meditation and the eight points. The new course launches on February 24. This post features an interview with the BMCM Programs Team, in which they answer questions about the new course and its content. Learn more about the course.

 Photo from our interview with the BMCM programs team!

Photo from our interview with the BMCM programs team!

It's great to see a new type of program being offered. Can you give us an overview of the new course?
Sure! We're thrilled to be trying out this new type of online learning. This new course is a six-week introductory program to learn meditation. Each week we'll cover one or two of the eight points so that by the end you'll have learned the whole program and have everything you need to start your practice, with plenty of support and inspiration along the way.

That sounds really helpful. How will participants be engaging with the material and the course?
Each week we'll be sharing readings or videos from Eknath Easwaran, the founder of passage meditation, so you can get instruction directly from him. These will be complemented by videos from BMCM presenters, who will offer suggestions on how to implement these instructions in your own life. We'll also be sharing video stories from our worldwide community of meditators sharing tips on how they use the eight points, and describing how they've seen the benefits in their own lives.

We'll also be offering a discussion forum, where participants can ask questions and share reflections about their own experiments with passage meditation. You'll be able to share as much or as little as you like, and will have the opportunity to call on the group for shared wisdom!

How is this course different from other BMCM offerings?
We have lots of programs for friends who are already established passage meditators, and you can learn more about them on the Programs page on our website. For anyone who is looking to start a passage meditation practice, in addition to this course we have two other offerings: our free, one-hour webinars, and our in-person introductory weekend retreats.

Our webinars are a great opportunity for anyone, anywhere, to learn the basic instructions in passage meditation. It's a free offering held several times a year. But, it's only an hour! This course will provide much more in-depth instruction, and allow you to actually try out this practice and have an opportunity to come back and ask questions based on your experience. There will be lots of opportunity for interaction with the presenters as well as with your fellow participants, so you'll experience spiritual community too.

Our introductory weekend retreats are held at our beautiful retreat house in Northern California, and each retreat has around 20 participants. This is a wonderful immersive experience, since you'll be participating in workshops on the eight points, with plenty of time for trying out meditation and getting questions answered. Of course, not everyone can travel to California! The online course allows you to get in-depth instruction regardless of where you are in the world, and to self-pace your participation so that it works for your schedule.

Speaking of schedules, how much time will this take?
We recommend that you plan on spending around an hour a week going through the course material. In addition, we recommend that you start meditating for 30 minutes every morning as soon as you can. The course is completely self-paced, so you can manage your participation to fit your needs. You're welcome to participate in discussions as much or as little as you like.

Who is this course right for?
Short answer? Anyone who's interested in meditation!

If you don't know anything about meditation, this course will give you everything you need, and will give you time and space to figure out if this practice is right for you. The same holds if you do know about meditation, but are looking to see if passage meditation is a good fit for you.

If you've read some of Easwaran's books before, or learned the instructions in meditation, and are working on starting a daily practice – this course will be a great help! Each week we'll help you integrate this practice into your own life and make it a habit.

If you're already a passage meditator, this course is a good resource for anyone in your life who's been looking to find out more. If you need an extra boost yourself, or if you're not yet practicing all the eight points, you might find it helpful too.

Where can we register?
You can visit our webpage for the course and register there. Don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions – we hope you'll join us in February!

Easwaran on Gandhi and the Bhagavad Gita

This week we're pleased to share an excerpt from Eknath Easwaran's book Gandhi the Man. In this excerpt Easwaran explains how the timeless wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita was at the core of Gandhi's strength.

Activists and scholars have studied what they call “Gandhian politics” and “Gandhian economics,” but few have asked the questions which really count. How did he do it? From what did he draw his strength? How did such an ordinary little man, an ineffectual lawyer without a purpose, manage to transform himself into someone able to stand and fight alone against the greatest empire the world has known, and win – without firing a shot?

One American journalist who had been following Gandhi’s work for years with mounting admiration finally asked him with the terseness of a newsman: “Can you tell me the secret of your life in three words?”

“Yes!” chuckled Gandhi, who could never resist a challenge. “‘Renounce and enjoy’!”

Gandhi was quoting from the Isha Upanishad, one of the most ancient of the Hindu scriptures. For him the whole of the Bhagavad Gita was only a commentary on these three simple words, which encompass the summit of human wisdom. They mean that in order to enjoy life, we cannot be selfishly attached to anything – money, possessions, power or prestige, even family or friends. The moment we are selfishly attached, we become their prisoner.

In the language of the Bhagavad Gita, detachment is “skillfulness in action.” A person who is worried about the outcome of his work does not see his goal; he sees only his opposition and the obstacles before him. Feeling unequal to the difficulties of his situation, he becomes resigned or resorts to violence out of frustration and despair. But the person who is detached from results and tries only to do his best without thought of profit or power or prestige does not waver when difficulties come. He sees his way clearly through every trial, for his eyes are always on the goal.

“By detachment I mean that you must not worry whether the desired result follows from your action or not, so long as your motive is pure, your means correct. Really, it means that things will come right in the end if you take care of the means and leave the rest to Him.”
–Gandhi

Detachment is not apathy or indifference. It is the prerequisite for effective involvement. Often what we think is best for others is distorted by our attachment to our opinions: we want others to be happy in the way we think they should be happy. It is only when we want nothing for ourselves that we are able to see clearly into others’ needs and understand how to serve them.

While he was pursuing his own career Gandhi had no access to the immense storehouse of creativity which lies within. It was only when he began to live for others that he found himself bursting with almost unharnessable power. By the time he was in his seventies his capacity for work was several times what it had been in his twenties, and in periods of intense crisis, which grew more and more frequent as his dedication deepened, he rose to even greater heights of energy and endurance. During the Round Table Conference he never got to bed before eleven at night and he woke up again at two in the morning. On his pilgrimage through the regions of Noakhali and Bihar during the Hindu-Muslim riots, at the age of seventy-seven, the schedule was the same.

But because he had learned not to worry about success or failure he could give all his attention to the work at hand, without feeling the burdens of anxiety or fatigue.

“Mr. Gandhi,” a Western journalist asked him once, “you have been working at least fifteen hours a day, every day, for almost fifty years. Don’t you think it’s about time you took a vacation?”

“Why?” Gandhi said. “I am always on vacation.”

It is the Bhagavad Gita which teaches most clearly this art of living in freedom. Gandhi is first and last a child of the Gita. No amount of study of his work in politics, economics, or nonviolent resistance can reveal the real source of his power. But Gandhi himself tells us with the profound simplicity of a child:

“The Gita has been a mother to me ever since I became first acquainted with it in 1889. I turn to it for guidance in every difficulty, and the desired guidance has always been forthcoming. But you must approach Mother Gita in all reverence, if you would benefit by her ministrations. One who rests his head on her peace-giving lap never experiences disappointment but enjoys bliss in perfection. This spiritual mother gives her devotee fresh knowledge, hope and power every moment of his life.”

It is one thing to translate the Gita into another language and quite a different thing to translate it into daily living. The first is an intellectual exercise on the surface level of the personality, no matter how much talent and scholarship may be involved. The second reaches into the utmost depths of consciousness and leads to the complete transformation of character and conduct.

If we can understand the Bhagavad Gita as a manual for daily living, we can understand Gandhi. But it is not possible to comprehend the Gita in this way without trying, as Gandhi did, to put it into practice.

 

Using Passages to Cultivate Qualities

As part of our ongoing conversation about “giving” resolutions among our community, and after listening to Easwaran's talk on meditation and selfless service, we recently received some great questions from friends regarding passage recommendations for cultivating positive qualities this coming year.

At Blog HQ, we are all meditating on “Prayer for Peace” by Hazrat Inayat Khan and wanted to share it among the blog community. One line that stands out is in the second stanza, “Send us Thy peace, O Lord, that we may think, act, and speak harmoniously.” We are intrigued by the challenge to align our thoughts, words, and actions in kindness and harmony. What a worthy challenge!

There are over 100 passages for meditation available online, and we know that many of you are using them for meditation. We'd love to hear from you in the comments below:

  • What qualities are you looking to cultivate this coming year, and what passages are you using?
  • If you were to meditate on “Prayer for Peace,” what qualities might you gain?

Prayer for Peace  – Hazrat Inayat Khan

Send us Thy peace, O Lord,
which is perfect and everlasting,
that our souls may radiate peace.

Send us Thy peace, O Lord,
that we may think, act, and speak harmoniously.

Send us Thy peace, O Lord,
that we may be contented and
thankful for Thy bountiful gifts.

Send us Thy peace, O Lord,
that amidst our worldly strife
we may enjoy Thy bliss.

Send us Thy peace, O Lord,
that we may endure all, tolerate all
in the thought of Thy grace and mercy.

Send us Thy peace, O Lord,
that our lives may become a divine vision,
and in Thy light all darkness may vanish.

Send us Thy peace, O Lord,
our Father and Mother,
that we, Thy children on earth,
may all unite in one family.