Swami Sarvapriyananda on the Upanishads & the Hard Problem of Consciousness (#48)

Swami Sarvapriyananda was appointed as Minister and Spiritual Leader of the Vedanta Society of New York, and assumed his duties there on January 5, 2017. He served as assistant minister of the Vedanta Society of Southern California for 13 months, beginning on December 3, 2015.

Swami joined the Ramakrishna Math and Mission in 1994 and received Sannyas in 2004. As assistant minister, Swami Sarvapriyananda gave regular evening classes in the Hollywood Temple, assisted Swami Sarvadevananda with major pujas, delivered Sunday spiritual talks at each of the Southern California centers, and led monthly retreats at Vivekananda House. He also gave retreats here and at centers throughout the U.S.

Before being posted to the VSSC’s Hollywood Temple, Swami served as an acharya, instructor, of the monastic probationers’ training center at Belur Math. He has served the Ramakrishna Math and Mission in various capacities including being the Vice Principal of the Deoghar Vidyapith Higher Secondary School, Principal of the Shikshana Mandira Teacher’s Training College at Belur Math, and the first registrar of the Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University at Belur Math. Swami holds a degree in Business Management from the Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar.

In this episode, we discuss...

  • The evolution of eastern religious interests within American culture
  • What Vedanta contributes to the conversation on the so-called "hard problem" of consciousness"
  • Introduction to the Vedas including the history of the Upanishads and their exploration of consciousness 
  • The relationship between Atman and Brahman
  • The Bhakti approach to god vs. a more visceral experience of god
  • The “New Atheists” 
  • Ramakrishna’s spiritual path, and his four main teachings
  • The rise of fundamentalist dogmas in different religions and how to respond 
Jacob Kyle, Host of CHITHEADS

Jacob Kyle, Host of CHITHEADS

Vera de Chalambert on Interspirituality and the Dark Night of the Soul (#47)

Vera de Chalambert, MTS,  is a spiritual storyteller and Harvard educated scholar of comparative religion. She speaks and writes about spiritual culture, mindfulness in the modern world and the Divine Feminine and has been a speaker at the Science and Nonduality Conference in the US and Europe, Sister Giant in Washington DC and other gatherings around the world. Vera holds a Master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School where she studied comparative mysticism and a Bachelors degree from the University of Florida in Religion and Literature. Her work explores the meeting place of creativity, psychology and spirituality and is informed by insights from both Eastern and Western philosophies. Vera is a graduate of the Barbara Brennan School of Healing and has been a student of Jason Shulman's Nondual Healing work. She is deeply influenced by Buddhist and Kabbalistic lineages and is a lover of the world’s great wisdom traditions. Vera's recent work has been on the topic of Holy Darkness and exploration of the Dark Goddesses associated with transformation and initiation found in the world's spiritual lineages, the most well known of whom is the Hindu Goddess Kali. Vera is a mother and a devotee of the Great Mother in all her forms. She is working on her first book on the Dark Feminine.

David Vago on Contemplative Neuroscience (#46)

David Vago is Research Director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He is an associate professor in the department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. He also maintains an appointment as a research associate in the Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory (FNL), Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), Harvard Medical School. He has completed post-doctoral fellowships in the department of Psychiatry at BWH, the Utah Center for Mind-Body Interactions within the University of Utah Medical School, and the Stuart T. Hauser Research Training Program in Biological & Social Psychiatry. David has previously held the position of Senior Research Coordinator for the Mind & Life Institute and is currently a Mind and Life Fellow, supporting the Mind and Life mission by advising on strategy and programs. He received his Bachelors Degree in Brain and Cognitive Sciences in 1997 from the University of Rochester. In 2005, David received his Ph.D. in Cognitive and Neural Sciences with a specialization in learning and memory from the department of Psychology, University of Utah.

Jeffrey Lidke on the Goddes, Nepal and the Sri Yantra (#45)

Jeffrey S. Lidke earned his M.A. (1996) and Ph.D. (2000) in South Asia Religion and Philosophy from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his B.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Colorado (1990). He was a Fulbright Dissertation Fellow to Nepal in the 1996-97 academic year. During his graduate years, Lidke devoted himself to Sanskritic languages, both classical and vernacular, with training from several teachers, including Gerald Larson, Nandini Iyer and Sthaneshwar Timalsinsa. Currently, he is chair of the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Berry  College where he has taught since 2003. After two years as editor for the Southeast Review of Asian Studies (SERAS), Lidke is now attending to the publication of his recent research on the neuroscience of contemplative practice as well as three book projects: the long overdue The Goddess Beyond and Within the Three Cities: Śākta Tantra and the Paradox of Power in Nepāla-Maṇḍala a textbook for Cognella Academic Publishing on the world's religions titled World Religions: A 21st Century Primer and a reissue of his first book,Viśvarūpa Maṇḍir: A Study of Chaṅgu Nārāyaṇa, Nepal's Most Ancient Pagoda (to appear in a newly titled, revised and updated edition,  with proceeds going toward the rebuilding of Changu Narayan, one of several Nepalese UNESCO heritage sites severely damaged by the 2015 earthquake). Dr. Lidke's publications and current projects can be found here: https://berry.academia.edu/JeffreyLidke

Angela Warburton on Chinese Medicine (#44)

With her extensive background in health sciences, including studies in nutrition and dietetics at McGill university, degree in Psychology and extensive and ongoing training in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Angela pulls from a diverse background to offer the wisdom of traditional medicines combined with the most up-to-date, relevant and impactful options available for her patients and students. Angela has additional training in applied mindfulness based mediation, and runs a weekly mindful meditation group out of her clinic in Toronto.

Loren Fishman on Yoga as Medical Treatment (#43)

In over two decades of practice, Dr. Loren Fishman has gained an international reputation as a back-pain specialist, a diagnostician and a pioneer in the treatment of many disorders, including piriformis syndrome, scoliosis, osteoporosis and rotator cuff tear. He has authored more than 90 academic journal articles and 10 books. 

A past president of the New York Society of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Dr. Fishman is currently an Assistant Clinical Professor at Columbia Medical School. He has recently published an innovative book about electrodiagnostic testing, published by Springer, and the book on yoga cures Healing Yoga.  His books on osteoarthritis and osteoporosis guide the workshops he teaches nationally and internationally.

Dr. Fishman studied yoga in India with BKS Iyengar, uses it in his rehabilitation practice and has written extensively about yoga as an adjunct to medical treatment.

Joe Loizzo on Meditation Research, Neuroplasticity and Contemplative Science (#25)

My guest in this episode is Dr. Joe Loizzo, who was a recent guest speaker at our conference on Buddhism. The organization Joe founded, the Nalanda Institute of Contemplative Science, was also our sponsor for this conference. It was an honor to talk to Joe about his life story, the latest meditation research, how the academy and the hospital are not comfortable homes for integrated contemplative work, a reappropriated approach to ethics, and how an internal experience of the chakras in personal practice relates to the science of the nervous system. 

Nina Rao on Kirtan, Hanuman and Devotion (#42)

Nina Rao learned traditional chants (bhajans) from her grandfather in a village in south India when she nine years old. The chants quietly stayed with her until she rediscovered chanting with Krishna Das in New York in 1996. Her childhood was spent living in and moving between many countries around the world and when she settled in New York her working life began in the banking world, switched to organizing and leading photographic wildlife safaris in Africa and India, and now for many years, is Krishna Das' business manager and assistant.

Nina tours with Krishna Das, playing cymbals and singing with him, and was honored in 2013 to accompany him at the Grammy Awards webcast performance. In 2007, she recorded the track 'Nina Chalisa' on Krishna Das' CD "Flow of Grace - Chanting the Hanuman Chalisa". In January 2013, she released her debut album, "Antarayaami - Knower of All Hearts". The double CD includes devotional kirtan, bhajan, and a variety of Hanuman Chalisa melodies including a duet with Krishna Das. Nina regularly leads kirtan, chanting of the Hanuman Chalisa, and sings for yoga classes in her hometown of Brooklyn, NY and beyond.

Chris Grosso on Compassion, Recovery and Spiritual Materialism (#41)

Chris Grosso is a public speaker, writer, director of education at Toivo by Advocacy Unlimited and author of Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshit Exploration of Spirituality (Beyond Words/Simon & Schuster), Everything Mind: What I’ve Learned About Hard Knocks, Spiritual Awakening and the Mind-Blowing Truth of it All (Sounds True) and Dead Set On Living (Simon & Schuster/New World Library-Spring 2018). He writes for ORIGIN Magazine, Huffington Post, and Mantra Yoga + Health Magazine, and has spoken and performed at Wanderlust Festival, Celebrate Your Life, Yoga Journal Conference, Sedona World Wisdom Days, Kripalu, Sun Valley Wellness Festival, and more.

Chris is passionate about his work with people who are in the process of healing or struggling with addictions of all kinds. He speaks and leads groups in detoxes, yoga studios, rehabs, youth centers, hospitals, conferences, and festivals worldwide. He is a member of the advisory board for Drugs over Dinner and hosts The Indie Spiritualist Podcast on Ram Dass’s esteemed Be Here Now Network.

Livia Cohen-Shapiro on Yoga as Somatic Psychology (#40)

Livia is a pioneer in the intersection of yoga and psychology with a dedication to embodiment. She is known for weaving together yogic teachings, disciplined asana and somatic psychology in clear and meaningful ways inspiring teachers and students alike towards greater safety, trust and the discovery of their own truth. She is known for her wit, humor and fierce-love as well as her ability to actually “teach” yoga so you make it your own. A scholar-practioner, her passion for learning and irreverent reverence is infectious. Her methods of teaching straddle old school lectures and new school unconventional experiential models. 

Igor Kufayev on Spanda, Quantum Physics, and the Role of the Teacher (#39)

An artist, Advaita Tantra master and founder of the Flowing Wakefulness community,
for over a decade Igor Kufayev has been serving as a conduit of transmission for
awakening towards the new era of heart-centered consciousness. Speaking from direct
realization of Oneness, he inspires all seekers of truth to recognize the fullest potential
present in human birth. Many have been touched by Grace and awakened in his
presence, as he continues working towards building a global community to serve as a
container for exploring possibilities for alternative, consciousness-based culture.
His involvement with sacred tradition expresses itself not only in scriptural exposition
and metaphysical discourse, but also as non-intellectual, heart-based illumination.
Though his methods are rooted in Shaiva Tantra, Igor remains elusive to categorization, maintaining that tradition is not a set of esoteric teachings and techniques but a vibrant field of energy enlivened in the hearts of those who go through this transformative process firsthand and bring these teachings to life. With a dedicated team of companions, Igor is working on creating centers for spiritual regeneration as facilities for research in consciousness, with bases in Europe, California and British Columbia. Traveling extensively with the programs mainly offered in North America and Europe, Igor currently resides in Mallorca, Spain. He lives with his partner, Amrita Ma Devi, and their two children — daughter Ramana, and son Keahnu. Vamadeva — from Sanskrit, the “preserving aspect of Shiva in his peaceful, graceful and poetic form” — is Igor's spiritual name.

Hari-kirtana das on Yoga Philosophy, Bhakti Yoga, and the Path to Self-Realization (#38)

Hari-kirtana das: A lifelong student of yoga, meditation, and Eastern spiritual philosophies, Hari-kirtana das lived full-time in devotional yoga ashrams and intentional spiritual communities from 1977 to 1981 and again from 1995 to 1998. He was formally initiated into the Gaudiya Vaisnava lineage of Bhakti Yoga in 1978. Hari-kirtana is an E-RYT 500 registered yoga teacher and received an 800-hour training certification from the Jivamukti Yoga School. He began teaching contemporary yoga classes in 2009 and has since gone on to develop Yoga Teacher Training courses and is a sought-after guest teacher for numerous Yoga Teacher Training programs. He leads yoga workshops, offers presentations for personal and professional development, and regularly takes students on yoga adventures to India. He currently lives and teaches in Washington, D.C. You can learn more about Hari-kirtana by visiting his website: hari-kirtana.com.  You can also find his new book on CreateSpace.com

Dr. Kelly Brogan on Holistic Psychiatry, Integrative Healing, and a Healthy Gut (#37)

Kelly Brogan, M.D. is a Manhattan-based holistic women’s health psychiatrist, author of the book, A Mind of Your Own and co-editor of the landmark textbook, Integrative Therapies for Depression. She completed her psychiatric training and fellowship at NYU Medical Center after graduating from Cornell University Medical College, and has a B.S. from MIT in Systems Neuroscience. She is board certified in psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine, and integrative holistic medicine, and is specialized in a root-cause resolution approach to psychiatric syndromes and symptoms. She is on the board of GreenMedInfo, Functional Medicine University, Pathways to Family Wellness, NYS Perinatal Association, Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, Mindd Foundation, the peer-reviewed, indexed journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, and the Nicholas Gonzalez Foundation. She is Medical Director for Fearless Parent and a founding member of Health Freedom Action. She is a mother of two.

Steven Peterson on Taoist Alchemy (#36)

Steve Peterson started Taoist Alchemy and Chi Kung on the recommendation of his family doctor.  The practices both had a dramatic effect on his health and set him on a new spiritual path.  He now teaches it to anyone and everyone who wants to learn.  In his day job, he manages software projects.  He lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his wife and family.

Richard Smoley on Western Mysticism, Scientism, and God (#35)

Richard Smoley has over thirty-five years’ experience studying and practicing mystical spirituality and philosophy. His latest book is The Deal: A Guide to Radical and Complete Forgiveness. Other works of his are Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition; The Dice Game of Shiva: How Consciousness Creates the Universe; Conscious Love: Insights from Mystical Christianity; Forbidden Faith: The Secret History of Gnosticism; The Essential Nostradamus; and Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions (with Jay Kinney). Richard is the former editor of Gnosis: A Journal of the Western Inner Traditions. Currently he is editor of Quest: Journal of the Theosophical Society in America. His Web site is innerchristianity.com. Richard’s latest book, How God Became God: What Scholars Are Really Saying about God and the Bible, was published in June 2016.

Spring Washam on Ayahuasca, Healing and Meditation Practice (#34)

Spring Washam is a well known meditation and dharma teacher based in Oakland, California. She has studied numerous meditation practices and Buddhist philosophy since 1997. She is a founding member and core teacher at the East Bay Meditation Center located in downtown Oakland. She has practiced and studied under some of the most preeminent meditation masters in both the Theravada and Tibetan schools of Buddhism. She has completed a 6 year teacher training program under the guidance of Jack Kornfield and is now on the teacher’s council at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California. Spring is considered a pioneer in bringing mindfulness based healing practices to diverse communities and is committed to creating opportunities for disenfranchised people everywhere. She is also the founder of Lotus Vine Journeys, a Retreat company that connects Ancient Medicine to Buddhist wisdom. 

Eddie Stern on Ashtanga, Indian Thought and Injury (#33)

Eddie Stern is the co-founder of Ashtanga Yoga New York, the Brooklyn Yoga Club and the Broome Street Ganesha Temple. He studied Ashtanga Yoga under Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, of Mysore, South India, for 18 years. Eddie has published several books on Pattabhi Jois and Astanga Yoga, including a translation of Pattabhi Jois’s 1960 treatise, Yoga Mala. He co-founded the Urban Yogi program along with Deepak Chopra and Erica Ford, which introduces inner-city youth to yoga and meditation, teaching them powerful transformative tools that they can bring back into their communities, with some of the youth becoming teachers themselves. Eddie also leads a team that writes health and wellness curriculums, based on yoga and mindfulness, for under-served public school districts, which has been implemented in over 100 schools. His school wellness protocols have been studied by the University of San Diego, Long Island University and Stanford University, showing increases in GPA, attendance and physical fitness.  

Jeffery D. Long on Reimagining Religion, Hinduism, & Spiritual Pluralism (#32)

Jeffery D. Long is Professor of Religion and Asian Studies at Elizabethtown College, in Pennsylvania. He is associated with the Vedanta Society, DĀNAM (the Dharma Academy of North America) and the Hindu American Foundation. A major theme of Long's work is religious pluralism, a topic he approaches from a perspective informed by the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead and which he refers to as a "Hindu process theology." Dr. Long has authored three books, A Vision for Hinduism: Beyond Hindu NationalismJainism: An Introduction, and The Historical Dictionary of Hinduism. He has published and presented a number of articles and papers in various forums including the Association for Asian Studies, the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy, and the American Academy of Religion. He is currently working on three manuscripts: Indian Philosophy: An Introduction, a book on Hinduism in America, and another on Swami Vivekenanda and his teachings.

Sally Kempton on the Divine Feminine, Deity Yoga & Spiritual Pragmatism (#31)

Sally Kempton is a master of meditation, yoga philosophy, and practical tantric philosophy. Her retreats and workshops are known for creating breakthroughs, born of her ability to help people turn sublime truths into lived, and life-shifting, experience. Sally spent 20 years as a swami in a Vedic order, and has been studying and teaching spiritual wisdom for 40 years. She is the author of Awakening Shakti: The Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga and Meditation for the Love of It, a seminal book on basic meditation practice, and writes the popular Yoga Journal column, Wisdom. Learn more at sallykempton.com.

Rod Stryker on Tradition, the Goal of Practice, the Four Desires, and Politics (#30)

Rod Stryker (also known as Yogarupa) is widely considered one of the West's leading authorities on yoga, tantra and meditation. He has taught for more than thirty-five years, is the founder of ParaYoga® and author of The Four Desires: Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity, and Freedom. Rod has contributed to countless wellness publications and recently launched one of the most comprehensive online yoga teacher trainings in the world. At the forefront of integrating ancient yogic wisdom into a broad array of modern-day applications, he is a thought leader and mentor to thousands of ParaYoga practitioners and hundreds of teachers throughout the world. Rod lives in Colorado with his wife and four children.

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