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Contemporary Classics in Vedanta




Vedanta Online

This issue features "Universal Values for the World Conscience" by Shelley Brown

Vedanta Glossary
of Sanskrit and Bengali words, with guide to English pronunciation

More Reviews of SHAFTS OF LIGHT


“Sister Gargi gathered notes she and other disciples had taken during her Guru’s lectures and received her Guru’s permission to edit them into a book form. For forty years she kept this treasure until the last year of her life when, with the collaboration of fellow Vedantin Shelley Brown, the notes were compiled and edited into this illuminating book of eight hundred aphorisms. These quotations are for the mind and soul like the calm within the storm—deeply permeated with the grace and radiance of God-Realization: ‘When the mind is perfectly still, the soul becomes Spirit.’”
—Light of Consciousness
“Selections are choice and provocative indeed and they convey much humour, depth and inspiration. . . . This is a book from which passages can be read either in the morning to set the tenor of the day or in the evening to lift and revitalize the consciousness after a busy or trying day.”
—The Beacon
“Swami Ashokananda’s instructions and teachings are written in an easy spoken manner for spiritual seekers who want to find their way to a higher state of being. Simple instructions urging us to change our way of life, of the way we think, so we can find the Spirit and reach the goal of experiencing God.”
“Vedanta’s eternal truths come alive in Swami Ashokananda’s down-to-earth words of encouragement and advice. These practical teachings can help readers from all faiths enjoy a deeper spiritual life.”
Leading Edge Review (Summer 2004)
“This book consists of spiritual teachings and practices based on Vedanta. It is meant for those who have developed distaste for a worldly life, characterized by sense enjoyments, and are, therefore, seeking the true meaning and purpose of human life. Equally useful for beginners as wee as advanced aspirants, the book does shed shafts of light, dispelling the darkness of ignorance from the reader's heart. For a beginner, the book is a path-breaker; for an advanced aspirant, reassuring and strengthening; and for one already established in the goal, well, it should be a sheer delight. The book will benefit aspirants at any level, since it deals with Self-knowledge and the means to attain it.
       . . . These meticulously recorded sayings have a rare appeal; their conversational tone and their superb topical classification make this book a spiritual manual of rare worth. There is a clear and steady flow in the subject from the beginning of the spiritual pursuit to its end.
      Inspiring and illuminating, this book is highly commended for anyone who has heard the call of the Spirit.”
Prabuddha Bharata (November 2004)

“This book could take you a hundred years to read properly. I do not mean this in any pejorative way—quite the reverse, in fact. For it is a collection of the most wonderful aphorisms, many spoken off the cuff by one who lived their meaning.

Shafts of Light is the last tribute to Swami Ashokananda by Sister Gargi before she died, and published posthumously. Collected from the notes taken over 40 years by disciples of Swami Ashokananda, including Sister Gargi, the aphorisms have been elegantly assembled into a number of different subject headings. Part One, called Spiritual Perspectives, includes sections on The Interference of the Ego and The Resplendent Self. Part Two, Spiritual Practice, has sections such as Change Yourself and See God in All, and so on.

Below I will mention three or four of the hundreds of gems within this small book, each of which would be good fro a day’s (if not a week’s) meditation:

“All great love becomes reverent. It is like the clam ocean reflecting the full moon and rising to it in the tides.”

“Purity in the highest sense comes when we are not aware of any kind of conflicting element within ourselves; when our being flourishes and functions without impediment, and on the highest level.”

“Be calm and accept with grace whatever comes. If you can make the mind perfectly calm, you will hear His voice deep within your heart.”

“I am fully convinced that until one has learned to serve a noble cause unselfishly, one is not fit for the deeper life of contemplation and meditation.”

“This book is a valuable guide to the practice of Vedanta. More than 800 spiritual instructions—expressed in Swami Ashokananda’s engaging vernacular—illuminate the path to Self-Knowledge and bring Vedanta’s eternal truths to the modern mind . . . witty and wise, and down-to-earth words of encouragement and advice.”
—ONE! Magazine

“Huston Smith called Swami Ashokananada (1893–1969), head of the Vedanta Society of Northern California, ‘a brilliant and accomplished spiritual teacher in the West.' Sister Gargi, one of the editors of this illuminating collection of over 800 spiritual directives to his disciples over three decades, wrote a biography of him titled Shafts of Light. Here is a rich deposit of Hindu wisdom on all dimensions of a life lived in service of God: ‘This is a book about inner light—enlightenment—the light that floods the center of one's being in deepest meditation to bring peace and joy; the moment when all the knots of the heart unravel and one knows truly, who one is.' It is an excellent resource for anyone on the spiritual path with sections on spiritual perspectives, spiritual practice, and the experience of God. As an adherent of Advaita (nondual) Vedanta, Swami Ashokananda was a believer in the divinity of all life and he constantly tried to alert his disciples to the presence of the Supreme One within. He taught meditation and always emphasized the importance of attention and patience.

“'Spiritual growth is very, very slow.' Said Swami Ashokananda. ‘What is needed is continuity of effort.' There are many teachers in the people, places, and things around us. It is good to stay alert less we miss the divine speaking to us. ‘Suffering and misery are part of existence; let them do their job. Rise above them; then comes exultation.' Most of us squirm and try to evade the troubles that come our way. Here the advice is to move through them let them teach us what we must learn.

“We are glad to see that Swami Ashokananda emphasized enthusiasm as a virtue: ‘Our troubles in spiritual life are symptoms of our lack of enthusiasm. One sure way to overcome spiritual difficulties is to come in contact with people who are eagerly seeking God and learn from them.' Equanimity is another virtue: ‘Attachment to God—that is what is called detachment.'

“These wise teachings by Swami Ashokananda can be used as a light by all those on the path of spiritual maturity.”

—Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat in Spirituality & Health

(NOTE: Shafts of Light was reviewed in conjunction with The Vedanta Way to Peace and Happiness by Swami Adiswarananda in the SPIRITUAL READING section of the July 15, 2004 issue of Library Journal .)

“Vedanta, a kind of essentialized successor to Hinduism, and once a highly fashionable path, has been somewhat in abeyance of late; two recent publications suggest that its stock may once again be on the rise . . . While Vedanta itself may be a tough sell in the materialistic West, these works form an able introduction.”

Library Journal
“Every so often a special book comes out that we enjoy reading and is worth a special spotlight in our newsletter. We are therefore pleased to present Shafts of Light: The Selected Teachings of Swami Ashokananda for Spiritual Practice .”
"Gleaned from the notes taken by Sister Gargi and other disciples of Swami Ashokananda, the passages in this volume, many no longer than a sentence, are a treasury of guidance, clarity, and encouragement to spiritual sojourners. Vibrant and practical in style, the Swami’s words were especially directed to and for the Western mind and heart. . . . The section on spiritual practice is brimming with helpful tips."
—Sri Sarada Society Newsletter
“Indeed [ Shafts of Light ] is a very valuable presentation for the spiritual aspirants. They need lights—‘Lead kindly light, Lead thou me on.' For the seekers of light, this is a very valuable presentation.”
—SWAMI ATMASTHANANDA, Vice-President of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission
“To me the book is really illuminating. I sincerely appreciated Sister Gargi's describing the talks of Swami Ashokananda as a ‘spiritual treasure trove.'”
—SWAMI MUMUKSHANANDA, Head, Advaita Ashrama
“Shafts of Light is a beautifully compact publication and will, I am sure, be of great value to spiritual seekers around the world.”
“Those shafts of light emanating from a realized person are destined to enlighten immumerable souls.”

“Thanks very much for your thoughtfulness in sending me a copy of “Shafts of Light.” I’m glad to have it. I remember when you [Shelley Brown] were first wrestling with the daunting task of distilling the vast stores of learning and teaching embodied in these beliefs. Congratulations on this huge achievement.”

—WILLIAM ZINSSER, author of On Writing Well and Writing About Your Life







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