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Newsletter Number 65 • June, 2010

Even though our physical bookstore is closed, we will continue to keep our website up and running. We will also continue our monthly newsletter.

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Special Interview June Newsletter—June 2010

21st Century Books introduced many readers to Ramesh Balsekar and to Eckhart Tolle, long before Ramesh became world famous as the most prominent exponent of Advaita Vendanta and years before Tolle became a best –selling author and mainstream favorite receiving sponsorship from Oprah. It is our great pleasure to include in this month’s newsletter a fascinating article recounting the historic meeting between Tolle and Balsekar at Ramesh’s apartment in Mumbai. Our special thanks go to the author, Gautam Sachdeva, who has graciously granted us permission to reprint his article.

Because Dena and I had the good fortune and privilege to enjoy Satsang with Ramesh at his apartment in Mumbai (February 2004) Tony suggested that I write a few words about that experience in lieu of an introduction to the article.

The time we spent with Ramesh (about six two hour Satsangs) was very special and we continue to treasure it and the profound effects it has had upon us. It seems amazing that in this day and age a master, a sage, would make himself so available to anybody and everybody. But in the tradition of his Master, Nisargadatta, Ramesh opened up his home to all. As long as one waited outside the apartment about 15 minutes before the Satsang commenced and was able to hustle up the four flights to his apartment anyone could sit in a small room with the Sage and converse with him in the manner one might converse with his or her host in any normal setting.

The qualities that Ramesh exhibited included a scintillating intellect, playfulness, humor, warmth, and sincerity. He liked to laugh and to tease, but not in malicious way, in a way to get the subject to gain some perspective on his or her psychic or spiritual condition. Ramesh liked to shock people. For example he would say: “The Understanding can come at any time, even while you are sitting on the toilet, and if it does, don’t forget to wipe your ass before you get up.” Or, he often said, “If given the choice between “enlightenment” and a million dollars, take the money every time, because there is no such thing as enlightenment.

His system of teaching was to “give pointers”. He used the terms “sage” or “Ultimate understanding” to describe the maximum status that one could experience. (He would never say you could “achieve enlightenment” because according to his teachings becoming a sage was a matter of grace. The ultimate understanding of Advaita–which means non-dual or not-two—is to recognize on a very deep and visceral level that goes way beyond the understanding of the intellect, that “there is no doer”. Actions happen and deeds are done, but there is no personal doer. Once that “ultimate understanding” becomes imbibed on a very deep level, then life can be enjoyed with no sense of sin or guilt.

I was given the gift of having long discussions with Ramesh, which I have on CD’s. There is no question that the interface with a live sage had much more profound effects upon me that I could have achieved by just reading his books.

However, I would highly recommend reading many of his books (reviews available on our website) and many of you might find you resonate even more with his follower, Wayne Liquorman. Wayne’s books are also reviewed on our website and you can keep up with Wayne and perhaps have Satsang with him, by going to his website www.advaita.org. Dena and I have also benefited mightily from small group interaction with Wayne.

Enjoy the article below. We all found it very special and insightful.

Len

But, before you read the article I would like to give two very brief reviews of books I have read recently with some of you might find worth reading.

Suspended in Language; Niels Bohr’s Life, Discoveries, and the Century He Shaped, by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Purvis is a strange little book that can be read in a few hours. It is a 300 page biography done by cartoons. I think Bohr is possibly the most fascinating physicist of the 20th Century. If you have an interest in quantum mechanics and the interactions of some of the greats, including Einstein, Heisenberg, and many others, this is a book you will find interesting and captivating. Also the endnotes and bibliography are worth the price of the book itself.

How God Changes Your Brain, by Andrew Newberg, M.D., and Mark Robert Waldman breaks a lot of new ground in findings and studies done by leading neuroscientists. While there are things in the approach taken by the authors with which I disagree, the many breakthroughs and things I learned from this book kept me interested and excited for most of the book. If you want to learn how to live longer, keep your brain healthy, and enjoy and get more out of life this is definitely a book for you.

The book has great insights into how we are hard wired for “spirituality” and “metaphysics”. I learned a tremendous amount about how the brain and our thinking shape our reality. Moreover the authors provide eight proven techniques, most of which are simple and even fun, to exercise and tone up your brain. For that reason alone this is a must read!

Following is the article by Gautam Sachdeva

In 2000, the publishing company Yogi Impressions was born. I actually had no intention to enter the publishing business. It was just that we had a hard time finding an appropriate publisher for my mother’s book on her visual experience of the awakening of the Kundalini. We finally decided to self-publish her book; my background in advertising gave me the confidence as I was familiar with the process of designing and printing. After we brought out her book, we had no plans to publish any more books.

My journey with Eckhart and Ramesh started, almost simultaneously, around this time. We soon found ourselves publishing Eckhart’s and Ramesh’s books. The next two titles we brought out were The Power of Now (Indian edition), and Ramesh’s bookThe Ultimate Understanding.

Thus began my journey in publishing. I soon found myself also donning the hat of spiritual publisher.

In those early years, I was fortunate to develop an intimate relationship with Ramesh as well as Eckhart. I met Eckhart on numerous occasions during his retreats across the world and also spent time, a few days before and after the retreats, with him. With Ramesh, I had no idea I would end up sitting at his feet for almost ten years and that he would become a father-figure to me and the biggest influence thus far in my life. For his teaching was a validation of my life experience.

It was with this background that, when Eckhart travelled to India in 2002 and visited Mumbai, I thought it would be wonderful if I could get the two of them together. After all, I found my life situation looking like the Caduceus of Mercury, the staff with two snakes wrapped around it in the form of a double helix. For destiny had intricately woven these two extraordinary beings and their teaching around me. I was quite excited and asked Ramesh if he would like to meet Eckhart, and he readily offered an evening invitation to tea.

Now, Ramesh used to enjoy having a dig at various teachers or, rather, their teaching. Especially those who had written books! It was simply part of his programming. And at the age of about eighty-five then, he had the conviction of his life’s experience behind him, and the authority of a wizened master of Advaita taking up after his guru Nisargadatta Maharaj. Ramesh’s position was clear: All there is, is Consciousness. And so, when the pleasantries were over, the flagbearer of Consciousness wasted no time.

Once we were seated, Ramesh asked Eckhart to explain the very first line in The Power of Now: ‘You are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold. That is how important you are!’

Ramesh looked squarely at Eckhart and raised the point that the ‘you’ was nothing more than a three-dimensional object through which Consciousness functioned. So, how could a three-dimensional object be ‘important’? In his satsangs, when asked a question along the lines of ‘What is the purpose of life?’ Ramesh would answer, “Who wants to know? A three-dimensional object? An object can never know the will of the Creator-Subject.” Ramesh went on to tell Eckhart that if, on the other hand, Eckhart was addressing the Consciousness, then Consciousness needn’t be told how important It is.

What was happening was clear. In order to drive home his point, Ramesh had taken Eckhart’s words and placed them in the context of his own teaching. Initially, Eckhart tried to explain his perspective but Ramesh did not give him a chance. Consciousness’s star advocate would have none of it for he was uncompromising in his concepts of the philosophy of Advaita. What happened at this juncture was a privilege to witness, as the greatest show on earth had begun.

Eckhart was very quick in realizing that this line of conversation would not go anywhere, and there was no point in even attempting to say anything at this stage. He dropped all further attempts to explain his point of view and slipped into silence. Some visitors in the room were trying to defend Eckhart for, in their eyes, Ramesh was not being ‘fair’. But Ramesh saw that Eckhart had dropped all resistance to what he said; in fact he wondered aloud why others were getting agitated when Eckhart wasn’t! In that moment, seeing Eckhart looking at him in stillness, it was as if Ramesh picked up the cue. Looking at Eckhart, he launched into what was to be one of the most lucid deliveries of his teaching. In half an hour, and without the slightest interruption, Ramesh, in a non-stop monologue, covered all his concepts of Advaita.

It was clear that Ramesh launched this monologue for he saw that Eckhart was sitting across him like an empty vessel - totally present in the moment. Sitting on the sofa across both of them, I witnessed what Ramesh would say was, “Consciousness speaking through one instrument and listening through another.” I also remember the thought arising that I did not see Eckhart look to the left or the right, or get distracted – like when you listen to someone for the sake of listening when actually your mind is dancing the jig elsewhere. He was totally ‘here’, eyes fixed on Ramesh, right till the end of this one-on-one satsang. It was clear that there was much more transpiring between Ramesh and Eckhart in that exchange than what we were witnessing. It seemed like a communication at many levels. I also remember thinking that had it been someone else in Eckhart’s place, perhaps this would have never happened as the person would have relentlessly defended his position and gotten into a conceptual debate. This I had seen happen a few times at Ramesh’s satsangs.

What impacted me most was how both of them were shining examples, living embodiments, of their respective teaching. Ramesh was being who he was, his natural self. He did not care what others in the room thought of his initial stance that could have been perceived as aggression. Thereafter, once Consciousness’s divine robot saw that there was someone across him who was willing to listen, the entire teaching flowed through him like the Ganga in spate. And Eckhart comfortably slipped into the ‘Now’ in order to let events play themselves out. Or did the Now slip into him?

For me, this indeed was the greatest show on earth. It was the show of two people simply being themselves; something as simple as that. I recently came across a chapter titled ‘When Two Masters Meet’ in Mooji’s book Before I Am. Mooji is a western teacher of non-duality (Advaita). In this chapter, when asked what happens when two Masters meet, he replies: “We entertain all kinds of fanciful notions that some cosmic shift should happen, like bringing two magnets together, and this is nonsense. There are no two masters meeting. What is the difference between the space in this room and the space in the kitchen? None at all.”

This is so true. Once Ramesh had said what he needed to say, some of us (including me!) heaved a sigh of relief when the tea and snacks were brought in. While having our tea, some voices were heard whispering, “How could Ramesh be like that? What an ego that man has!” Others were saying, “Why didn’t Eckhart give it back to Ramesh?”… and so on. The joke was that all this judging was happening as far as the rest of us, besides as far as Ramesh and Eckhart, were concerned. It was we who were carrying the ‘happening’ in our heads after it was over – the two of them looked the least bothered. Of course, this reaction some of us had was meant to be, for our framework of daily living is separation - ‘me’ and the ‘other’ - and all judgments arising consequently. After the tea, we had a merry time taking pictures together, exchanging hugs and laughter, and then I left with Eckhart and the group. I remember that while we were waiting below for the car, Eckhart laughed and just said, “Indian gurus talk a lot!”
—Life Positive magazine, February 2010 

For more information please visit
Gautam Sachdeva's website
http://gautamsachdeva.com/writing8.shtml

At times I am asked, “What was the best selling book of all time for 21st Century Books?”

I do not blink an eye or miss a beat.. the all time best seller is The Concise Yoga Vasistha or the more expanded version Yoga's Vasistha both translated by Swami Venkatesananda.

Since the inception of our bookstore (former) this has been our biggest seller followed closely by I Am That by Swami Nisargadatta.

As for fiction … again no contest it was Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. The book is classified as fiction, but is 90% memoir. It is also a  90% pure adrenalin rush. If you enjoyed the movie Slumdog Millionaire, you will thoroughly enjoy Shantaram.

Please go to our website www.21stbooks.com and read the detailed reviews of the above titles. (Remember, if ordering from Amazon to please access them from our web site.)

While you are there you may also want to check out our “Unique Categories” as well as our “Top Ten Lists” link.

All other books we have sold throughout the years are just variations of the themes expressed in the 3 above mentioned titles.

Of course if I was honest about this in the beginning I would have sold far less books.

Just like Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones once was quoted as saying, “All our songs are just a variation of “ Satisfaction.”

 

Some thoughts about judging ones past...

 

Intense loneliness and longing began when I was young.

 

It led to frustrating experimentation with paths that were dark.

But the dark paths eventually became a basis for the beginning of light.

So how can I judge the past events .. when the subsequent changes eventually lead to something greater.

Knowing this brings a peace to sad things and uncertainty to happy things.

An acceptance of this brings an evenness... neither a high nor a low, but a peaceful equilibrium is reached.

Because of being chosen instead of doing the choosing... I come to the realization that judging becomes a merry go round not getting me anywhere.

So there is peace recognized.. not necessarily the peace that passes all understanding.. but a playful relaxed state of being.

Love

Tony

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