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#1837 - Wednesday, June 23, 2004 - Editor: Jerry

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  • Jerry Katz
    #1837 - Wednesday, June 23, 2004 - Editor: Jerry Highlights Home Page and Archive: http://nonduality.com/hlhome.htm Letter to the Editors: Click Reply ,
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      #1837 - Wednesday, June 23, 2004 - Editor: Jerry

      Highlights Home Page and Archive: http://nonduality.com/hlhome.htm

      Letter to the Editors: Click 'Reply', compose your message, and 'Send'. All the editors will see your letter.

      If this email was forwarded to you and you would like to receive the Nondual Highlights each day, please visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NDhighlights

       


       

       
       
      Child poet Mattie Stepanek dies
      One of the best-selling poets in recent years
       
      http://edition.cnn.com/2004/SHOWBIZ/books/06/22/obit.stepanek.ap/index.html

      ANNAPOLIS, Maryland (AP) -- Mattie Stepanek, the child poet whose inspirational verse made him a best-selling writer and a prominent voice for muscular dystrophy sufferers, died Tuesday of a rare form of the disease. He was 13.

      Stepanek died at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, the hospital said. He had been hospitalized since early March for complications related to the disease that impaired most of his body's functions.

      In his short life, the tireless Stepanek wrote five volumes of poetry that sold millions of copies. Three of the volumes reached the New York Times' best-seller list. (Read the rest of the article at the link above.)
       

      For Mr. Thompson

      The people who like poetry are special.
      They are the same people who hear
      Lullabies and wind chimes
      When the birds are noisy together.
      They are the ones who see
      Star-gifts in every season--
      Tree-stars in the fall,
      Snow-stars in the winter,
      Dandelion-fairy-stars in the spring, and
      Lightning-bug-stars in the summer.
      They are the ones who have
      Favorite colors that are wonderful gifts
      Like sunset or rainbow or treasure.
      They are the ones who have
      Songs in their heart and
      Words in their minds that
      Come together and slip out
      Into the air or onto paper as a gift
      To someone else, or even themselves.
      The people who like poetry are probably
      The ones who really like life,
      And who know how to celebrate
      Even when things are sad or happy.
      We remember that sometimes,
      Even if we don't understand why,
      That the rain falls for a reason.
      We remember how important it is
      To play after a storm, just because
      We need to keep playing and living.
      And, we are the people who remember
      To say thank You to God for our gifts.

      May 1996

      *taken from Journey Through Heartsongs by Mattie J.T. Stepanek
      VSP Books, Alexandria, VA 2001

       


       
       
      Here are a couple of items I received in the last couple of days. The first is a book published by a new publisher: Non-Duality Press. It features the hard core nondual teaching of Sailor Bob Adamson. The book itself is a paperback that is very nicely designed and bound with a sturdy and soft paper and has a good quality binding.

      The second item listed is a video from Parabola. Parabola you may recognize as a highly regarded magazine. It's a very well done film with an appropriate score. I enjoyed watching it. Jerry's the kind of guy you're going to want to meet just to go out and take walk with and not necessarily say anything. I wish they played stuff like this on television.

      What's Wrong with Right Now Unless You Think About It, by Sailor Bob Adamson.
      http://www.non-dualitybooks.com/index.htm


      "Bob Adamson is an Australian who ended his spiritual search in 1976 in the presence of the renowned Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. Ever since, he has been helping others to end their search. When he says that he abides as That, it is a bold but convincing statement. ... Abiding as That, Adamson speaks with the authority, the force and the immediacy of truth." --Dennis Trunk

      In The Hands of Alchemy: The Art and Life of Jerry Wennstrom.
      A video by Parabola. Video clips and ordering info at this site:
      http://www.handsofalchemy.com/media/film/handsofalchemy.htm

      "I enjoyed this video very much. Jerry Wennstrom did what he had to do. He destroyed his paintings (about which a film had just been made!), gave away his money and possessions, and straight-out surrendered to existence. The video shows a guy who has, as poet David Whyte says in the video, claimed his happiness. If only there were about six billion films like this waiting to be made." --Jerry Katz
       

       
       
      from InnerBeing list
       
      Tantra and the Teachings of Kashmir's Abhinavagupta
       
      By Linda Johnsen Courtesy & Copyright Yoga International
      www.yimag.org
       
       
      Over the past decade I've talked with many yoga students across the
      United States, from New York to San Francisco, and I've found that
      many of us have similar issues our spiritual practice. Here are the
      kinds of things I hear over and over:
       
       
      "I have a really hard time motivating myself to go to work in the
      morning. My job nothing to do with spiritual life, it feels empty to
      me."
       
       
      "My boyfriend has been practicing yoga for six years and doesn't want
      to get married. He says yoga teaches it's important not to get
      attached."
       
       
      "I used to be interested in politics and what was going on in the
      world. These days I'm much less involved because I know now the world
      is nothing but an illusion."
       
       
      "I've been meditating since I was twenty but I'm still tormented by
      desire. I keep thinking of things I want: more sex, more success,
      more money Then I feel guilty!"
       
       
      'I'm not sure if the form of yoga I've been practicing is right for
      me. My friend goes to another yoga center and says the techniques
      they teach there are much better."
       
       
      "My meditation teacher keeps talking about self-realization. But I
      strongly believe in God. Where does God fit in with meditation?"
       
       
      These are not new problems-yoga practitioners have been dealing with
      these issues for centuries. A thousand years ago one of the greatest
      and most influential yogis of all time produced a great body of
      literature that addressed these problems in a practical way. His name
      was Abhinavagupta. He was the consummate master in a field of
      spirituality much discussed but little understood here in the West:
      Tantra Yoga.
       
       
      Abhinavagupta was born in Kashmir to an illustrious family of
      scholars around 950 C.E. He was brilliant, and so passionate about
      learning that he sought out the best teachers of his time. Latter he
      would advise yoga students, "Be like the bee that gathers pollen from
      many flowers and then makes its own honey. Learn from the greatest
      masters you can find, then practice and assimilate what you've
      learned."
       
       
      Today we think of Kashmir as a battlefield, but a thousand years ago
      it was a haven of religious tolerance where Buddhist, Jain, and
      numerous different Hindu schools flourished together in an atmosphere
      of mutual respect. Abhinava steeped himself in the wisdom of these
      traditions, but he finally joined the lineage that resonated most
      deeply with his intelligent and passionate nature: the tantric
      tradition of Kashmir Shaivism.
       
       
      Around 800 C.E. the Siva Sutra, a set of aphorisms explaining the
      essential nature of consciousness and how you can experience it for
      yourself, was revealed to a North Indian sage named Vasugupta.
      Expanding on the Shiva Sutra, Vasugupta composed the Spanda Karika,
      which describes the limitless power of awareness and what happens
      when you master it. These two classics deal respectively with Shiva,
      the "male" or passive element of reality, and Shakti, the female" or
      active component of the universe. To understand these teachings you
      need to keep in mind that while Western religions tend to picture the
      Supreme Being exclusively as male, in India it is seen as both male
      and female. Eternal pure awareness is called God in this system,
      while the ability of consciousness to know itself and to manifest the
      cosmos out of itself is described as the Goddess.
       
       
      Vasugupta had an ambitious agenda. He taught his disciple how to
      achieve two important goals: to become fully divine and to become
      fully human. To him these were not mutually exclusive. In fact, to
      become a truly successful and fulfilled human being meant to connect
      at the deepest level possible with the full range of power innate in
      consciousness itself, unfolding the divine potential hidden in every
      human soul. However, like the Yoga Sutra, Vasugupta's aphorisms were
      succinct, compact, and difficult to decipher. Abhinavagupta's
      contribution was to explain and illustrate these principles in his
      numerous books, among them The Trident of Wisdom, The Ocean of
      Tantra, and the encyclopedic The Light of Tantra (Tantraloka)-one of
      the great classics on yoga. To appreciate Abhinavagupta's perspective
      on spiritual practice, we need to understand how he views
      consciousness and its special powers.
       
       
      Consciousness and Creative Power
       
       
      The goal of Kashmir Shaivism is to become divine. But what would it
      be like to be God? Some yoga students, especially those who've
      studied Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, or Vedanta philosophy as taught by
      Shankaracharya, may imagine the Supreme Being as pure consciousness
      without an object, undisturbed awareness that rests eternally in its
      own perfect nature. But there's one glaring problem with this
      picture, Abhinavagupta points out. If reality is nothing but pure
      awareness, it's hard to explain how the universe came into existence
      Somehow we've got to account for the fact that we're not experiencing
      just the rapture of consciousness itself; we're also experiencing all
      the things that clutter it, like noisy neighbors and computer crashes
      and lousy weather.
       
       
      It is our innermost nature to be creative and active, to will and to
      desire, to know and to enjoy.
       
       
      Patanjali would respond that the cosmos we experience around us
      exists entirely outside our consciousness. It's just external
      matter/energy that our higher self observes, but never actually
      interacts with. Liberation means turning our awareness away from the
      external world, including our own body (which after all is also made
      of matter/energy) and remaining totally focused on pure, passive
      awareness alone.
       
       
      Abhinavagupta rejects this view. He does not believe two separate
      absolutes-consciousness (purusha) and matter/energy (prakriti)-exist
      apart from each other. He says there is only one supreme reality, and
      it includes our bodies and our world. There is a fundamental unity
      connecting everything, he tells us, that is both the source and final
      end of everything in the cosmos. Consciousness and matter/energy are
      not separate, but two ends of one undivided spectrum, like two poles
      of a single magnet.
       
       
      Abhinavagupta points out that in our actual experience awareness is
      much more than the simple, passive inner witness mentioned in the
      Yoga Sutra. Every meditator knows that no matter how still your
      consciousness becomes, at some point images, thoughts, and desires
      spontaneously well up in the field of your awareness. This, says
      Abhinavagupta, is because consciousness is inherently creative; it
      basks in its own radiance, constantly filling itself with every kind
      of content and taking genuine delight in its own endless productions.
       
       
      According to Abhinavagupta, if we want to understand the nature of
      the Supreme Being we need only to look into our own nature. Jiva, the
      individual soul, is a smaller version of Shiva, the Supreme Soul,
      because we, like our maker, are conscious, creative beings. And just
      as it is our innermost nature to be creative and active, to will and
      to desire, to know and to enjoy, so it is the nature of Divine Being
      to freely and consciously manifest the universe through an act of
      supreme will.
       
       
      "And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light," says the
      Bible. Abhinavagupta's form of Tantra Yoga agrees that through its
      limitless creative power and will, Shiva, the Supreme Being, can
      effortlessly project a universe into existence just as we can make a
      fantasy lover or an imaginary tropical beach instantly appear in our
      mind's eye. But while the Bible seems to suggest the universe exists
      outside of God, Abhinavagupta explains the universe doesn't exist
      apart from Shiva anymore than the images in our dreams exist outside
      ourselves.
       
       
      Think about it. When you're dreaming you may experience yourself as
      an Antarctic explorer lost in a blizzard. Suddenly your mother
      appears with a thermos of steaming French Roast coffee and you find
      yourself in a comfortable chalet. You experience yourself as an
      individual in that dream, yet the coffee, your mother, even the
      entire continent of Antarctica were nothing but projections of your
      own power of awareness.
       
       
      "In just this way the entire universe composed of limitless objects
      appears all together in the Supreme Consciousness," Abhinavagupta
      wrote. The Supreme Being, though it is intrinsically unitary, is able
      to split itself into subject, object, and the process of the subject
      knowing the object just as we do when we dream. And it does this from
      outside of time and space and without ever ceasing to be omniscient,
      omnipotent, and omnipresent.
       
       
      Why does Shiva do this? The Supreme Being brims with rapture,
      Abhinavagupta explains, spilling out of itself with joy. Shiva is
      consciousness (chit) which doesn't merely take things in passively
      but has the ability to reflect back on itself, to know itself
      (vimarsha). This self-knowledge is the source of infinite delight
      (ananda). This bliss in turn is the source of creative activity
      (kriya). When Shiva's limitless awareness expands out across itself
      the universe come into existence and we, as figments of Shiva's
      imagination, experience ourselves as individual entities moving
      through a world that Shiva's will holds in place. When Shiva
      withdraws its awareness back into its silent depths the universe
      subsides into perfect tranquility, as the images in our minds do when
      we fall into a deep state of sleep.
       
       
      What evidence is there that all this talk of Shiva's experience is
      anything more than words? Abhinavagupta cites the experience of
      cosmic consciousness reported by mystics in many different spiritual
      traditions and tells us that in vastly expanded states of awareness
      the greatest saints and yogis actually experience themselves as
      Shiva. They feel their consciousness widening until it embraces the
      cosmos, which they feel vibrating with bliss and self-awareness. The
      distinction between their own I-consciousness and Shiva's melts away
      and they merge into infinity.
       
       
      Five Veils of Consciousness
       
       
      Needless to say, most of us are not presently experiencing ourselves
      as Shiva. Why not? When Shiva wills to create, Abhinavagupta
      explains, it wraps a portion of itself in five kanchukas (cloaks or
      veils). The first is vidya, or knowledge. From Shiva's perspective,
      however, knowledge is limiting. Shiva contains everything within
      itself all at once. But in order to know anything in particular
      consciousness needs to look at each item one by one. So it wraps
      itself in vidya, which is the ability of the infinite to know the
      finite. Now the immeasurable reality can be measured by one-limited
      minds. Instead of knowing everything, however, we perceive reality in
      tiny fragments fed to us by our senses.
       
       
      The second veil is kala (pronounced ka-lah), the ability to
      deliberately perform specific actions. Shiva's activity is always
      joyful, spontaneous, perfect, and purely good. Each of us retains a
      sense that we should be able to just wish things into existences;
      that if we willed it hard enough, we'd have whatever we wanted. This
      deep sense that our will has the power to instantly create new
      realities is a vestige of the Shiva consciousness still within us.
      But in our personalities Shiva's immense power is obstructed by kala,
      which forces us to do one thing at a time instead of everything all
      at once.
       
       
      Next comes raga, attachment to or desire for something. Shiva doesn't
      want anything because it already contains everything. But when we
      forget that deep inside we're all Shiva, then we begin to imagine
      there are things outside ourselves we want or need (just as when we
      dream we think it is something other than the projection of our own
      consciousness). Raga can lead to endless grief. For example, many of
      us long for the perfect lover, but there's only one of those-and its
      name is Shiva. We continually search for the perfection that exists
      only on a higher plane of consciousness here in the physical world,
      which is only a flickering reflection of the true reality. It's as if
      we're trying to have a fulfilling relationship with a handsome
      lover's images in a mirror rather than turning around and seeing the
      true lover himself.
       
       
      The fourth covering is niyati, the laws of cause and effect that
      operate within the confiners of space. Unlike Shiva, whose actions
      are completely natural and spontaneous, we ordinary folk consciously
      choose to act, usually with specific goals in mind. But our voluntary
      and often selfish actions leave us subject to the laws of karma.
      Actions we deliberately undertake, as self-conscious beings, shape
      our destiny, which further limits our vast potential.
       
       
      "Be like the bee that gathers pollen from many flowers and then makes
      its own honey. Learn from the greatest masters you can find, then
      practice and assimilate what you've learned."
       
       
      The fifth limiting condition-kala-is spelled the same in simplified
      transliteration as the second veil, but it is pronounced differently
      (kah-la), and refers to time, rather than to the ability to perform
      actions. We however experience ourselves in one particular time and
      place. For us the past comes before the future. Great yogis who
      alight themselves with Shiva consciousness can perceive events of the
      distant past or even the distant future as if they're happening in
      this very moment because, for Shiva, they are.
       
       
      Four Stages of Spiritual Practice
       
       
      According to Abhinavagupta, if we could shake off these five veils of
      consciousness we would experience ourselves as all knowing, all
      pervading all powerful, purely good, and ever present. This sounds
      like a tall order, but for students sincerely interested in exploring
      higher states of consciousness this is not as impossible as you might
      think. Abhinavagupta outlined four stages of spiritual practice that
      can help us remove the five cloaking principles and actually
      experience Shiva's unlimited state for ourselves.
       
       
      The vast majority of yoga students are already working with at least
      some of the practices of the first stage. This level is called kriya
      upaya, which means "physical techniques." These include hatha yoga
      postures, breathing exercises, selfless service, ritual worship,
      pilgrimage, fasting, and other techniques involving our body and
      physical actions. These outer actions lay the groundwork for more
      advanced inner practices by strengthening and purifying our nervous
      system so that our physical brain becomes capable of hosting higher
      states of awareness. These practices also gradually burn away karmic
      blocks that obstruct the flow of spiritual illumination. And they
      help generate new, healthier attitudes toward life, enthusiasm for
      spirituality, as well as the intense inner focus necessary to succeed
      in our inner work.
       
       
      The second stage is called shakta upaya, or "techniques involving
      mental energy." These include study, contemplation, visualization,
      meditation, and working with mantras mentally. They sharpen
      concentration and clean out the mental debris that clutters our
      thought life so that we can focus on our Shiva nature without so many
      inner distractions. Shakta upayas are the homing beacons that help us
      zero in on the reality that lies concealed beneath the five veils.
       
       
      The third stage is shambhava upaya, or "techniques involving the use
      of will." The last stage helped us identify the center of
      consciousness within ourselves. Now, through a concerted effort of
      will, we remain balanced at that center. This doesn't involve doing
      anything or even thinking anything. Instead we continually monitor
      our awareness, noting whenever out attention shifts away from our
      center and gently nudging it back. We go beyond the stages of waking,
      dreaming, and sleeping into turiya, the fourth state of consciousness
      so highly praised by yogis. Once turiya is mastered we live life
      consciously, dream lucidly, and even remain alert during the state of
      deep sleep.
       
       
      The final state is anupaya, which means "the non-technique." At this
      point there's no effort at all. We simply relax into our inner being
      continually, resting in our true nature. At this level we enter a
      superhuman state of consciousness called turiyatita, which
      means "even beyond turiya." Abhinavagupta's descriptions of what this
      is like sound like science fiction and yet the reality of this
      condition has been attested to by many advanced yogis. At this level
      the distinction between us and Shiva dissolves. We feel ourselves
      pervading all of space; the universe itself becomes our body. We can
      sense anything that's happening anywhere. If we sense that anyone is
      in distress, through the merest flicker of our will we can send
      comfort and aid. Abhinavagupta says that masters of this caliber can
      create their own universes if they want to. And indeed the yoga
      tradition is full of actions of Buddhas and other great siddhas who
      actually manifest new heaven worlds which other souls can visit.
       
       
      Active Spiritual Life
       
       
      According to Abhinavagupta, cosmic consciousness is the birthright of
      every human being. We have only to uncover the Shiva in ourselves.
      But while we're in the process of doing this we can also be
      fulfilling the second goal of Tantra Yoga: to be fully human.
      Abhinavagupta encourages us not to run away from life but to embrace
      it. Material life is not an illusion, he tells us, nor is it
      spiritually polluting. The densest rock is as much an expression of
      Shiva as the holiest saint even though the goddess of self-awareness
      displays herself much more openly in the saint than in the stone.
       
       
      Nature and indeed all natural processes including our desires are
      sacred and deserve our respect. Our bodies and minds are the tools
      Shiva uses to explore itself in infinite detail. Our desires are
      natural expressions of Shiva's own life force. When we fully respect
      the Shiva nature in ourselves and in everyone else, too, we will
      automatically express our desires in a healthy, humane, and ethical
      manner. To do anything that harms or selfishly uses others would deny
      their Shivahood. Therefore you find that saints, those people most
      closely attuned with the divine in themselves, treat everyone around
      them with the utmost respect. They actually experience their
      innermost self as Shiva, the Self of all beings.
       
       
      I first studied Abhinavagupta's teachings with the late Kamalakar
      Mishra, Professor at Banaras Hindu University. Dr. Mishra emphasized
      how practical this expanded state of awareness really is. "It's not
      an otherworldly value," he taught, "but the ground of overall success
      in life. All talent and all power to work efficiently and gracefully
      in every walk of life comes from Shiva, the Self, just as all the
      electric power that moves fans and lights light bulbs comes from the
      powerhouse. All creativity, artistic or otherwise, springs forth from
      the Self. Therefore, the more a person is in line with the Self, the
      more the power flows. Thus a person of Self-realization will be a
      better teacher, a better philosopher, a better scientist, a better
      leader, a better businessperson, a better manager."
       
       
      If Abhinavagupta were here today I believe that, based on his tantric
      perspective, he'd have some sensible advice for the yoga students
      I've spoken with:
       
       
      For the yogi who practices in this tradition it wouldn't make sense
      to say that while she's sitting in meditation she's living
      spiritually but when she goes to work her spiritual life shrivels. It
      could be true that she needs to find a job that's more fulfilling,
      but it's not true that there's any ethical line of work that's less
      than spiritual. The employees we work with and the customers we serve
      are aspects of Shiva who deserve our attention and respect. Every
      situation we find ourselves in becomes a practicum for cultivating
      Shiva consciousness.
       
       
      Yoga students don't need to turn their backs on relationship to be
      spiritual and shouldn't say they need to cultivate "non-attachment"
      in order to avoid commitment or responsibility. Shiva is not just
      consciousness, it's also bliss, and that bliss finds expression in
      loving, supportive human relations.
       
       
      Nor is the world a bitter illusion we ought to shun. Our world is the
      play of Shiva and within that play each of us has been assigned a
      role. Active engagement with the world, helping make it a better
      place, is a worthy and important practice for yoga students.
       
       
      There's no need to beat yourself over the head because you experience
      desire. Accept them as healthy expressions of the life energy of the
      universe itself. But direct them carefully and respectfully and
      without unrealistic expectations.
       
       
      "All talent and all power to work efficiently and gracefully in every
      walk of life comes from Shiva, the Self, just as all the electric
      power that moves fans and lights lightbulbs comes from the
      powerhouse."
       
       
      For the student who worries her spiritual practices might not be as
      effective as someone else's Abhinavagupta would advise her that there
      are different levels of yoga practice. Each is specifically designed
      for the particular stage of development a student has reached so far.
      He'd probably suggest that she honesty identify whether her primary
      focus is physical, mental, or spiritual, and begin working with the
      practices that are right for her. Abhinavagupta also strongly
      believed in the ability of qualified teachers to help us along the
      spiritual path. He would encourage her to search for a Self-realized
      guru from an authentic lineage. Once she'd made a commitment to that
      particular path, she should stick with it, he'd say. Responding to
      the student who wonders what part God has to play in yoga,
      Abhinavagupta would no doubt point out that in the West "God" is a
      divisive word. Religions here insist their god is the true one, and
      everyone else's is false. Therefore teachers from India often avoid
      that word. But yoga teaches there really is only one Divine Being;
      whatever name you call it, and that by cultivating. Self-realization
      each of us grows closer and closer to that Supreme Being.
       
       
      Twenty-five years ago I was involved in intensive study of the Yoga
      Sutra with my meditation teacher, Swami Rama of the Himalayas. The
      states of consciousness it described seemed so advanced that I was
      shocked when one day Swamiji referred to this classic texts as "just
      a primer. The real yogis," he said "work on much higher levels." He
      was a practitioner of Sri Vidya, a yogic tradition that honors the
      Great Goddess, or power of consciousness, and is closely allied with
      Abhinavagupta's tradition. It was startling to learn that while the
      Yoga Sutra leads us to the stage of Self-realization, many yogis
      proceed from there to the still higher level of God-realization.
      Classical Yoga leads to the experience of your innermost being. The
      Tantra Yoga of Abhinavagupta leads to the experience of the innermost
      being of the entire universe.
       
       
      Abhinavagupta was more than an accomplished scholar; he was a
      mahasiddha-a yogi of the first magnitude. At the close of his life he
      disappeared into a cave near Srinagar to perform intense yogic
      disciplines. According to legend, twelve hundred of his students
      entered the cave with him to devote the rest of their lives to
      uninterrupted meditation in the presence of this great master. The
      clarity of his vision and his remarkable willingness and ability to
      explain the highest states of consciousness and how to actually
      attain them distinguish Abhinavagupta as one of the most brilliant
      and generous spiritual teachers in the history of yoga.
       
       
       
       
      Linda Johnsen, M.S., is the author of Meditation is Boring? Putting
      Life in Your Spiritual Practice; The Complete Idiot's Guide to
      Hinduism; Alpha Teach Yourself Yoga; and A Thousand Suns, a book on
      ancient Indian astrology. Her web address is www.ThousandSuns.org.
       
       
      This article appeared in the January 2004 issue of Yoga
      International. The magazine has super articles in a very simple, easy
      to understand language. If you like to subscribe within India write
      to Payal Sehgal: payal@... or if in the U.S. go to
      www.yimag.org


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