Karuna, et al

A week or so ago, while at work, an older female patient came to my desk for something. While we were doing business she started chatting about how excited she was for her grand-daughter’s high school graduation. After the tasks at hand were completed, she stuck around momentarily and relayed more to me about how proud and excited she was and how thrilled the family was for the young girl to reach this milestone. This reminded me something about compassion and how distant my own grasp of buddhi is at times.

My family isn’t filled with Einsteins. Typically, we work hard and with our hands. Most of us are blue-collar, with a few here and there who are white-collar. Virtually across the board, with the exception of a few nurses, high school is the highest level of education most of us achieve. Having said that, we’re not bottom-of-the-barrell kind folk either. Lots of common sense. A fair amount of street smarts. And often enough, a good grasp on “book stuff,” too. I might point out that among those in my immediate family, I’m the only one who’s taken education as far as I have. Beyond high school I’ve gone to two technical schools (one for cosmetology and one for medical assisting) and I’m now pursuing a “real” degree at an actual college.

So when I see a grown woman glowing because of a high school graduation-something I regard as a given in life-my first (internal) response is something not far from, “Aww… pathetic. What an impressive specimen this grand-daughter must be! (sarcastically)”

Then there’s a split second when I’m aware of my ignorance. In a millisecond of realization, I’m reminded of how far my development still has to go! As soon as this super brief moment passes, I’m flooded with what I perceive to be a compassionate feeling for this human.

So much in life is relative… ummm, a whole lot, actually. We say that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, but it’s not always so. Swami Vivekananda said, and I’m not quoting exactly, that what’s right for you may not be right for me and vice versa. I think this principle applies nearly everywhere to nearly everyone. (Perhaps certain exceptions would include groups of people, where the goal is the same, then maybe everyone should abide by the same rules of operation so that the same goal is reached together.) And I think in another context, like the one involving the woman, this would translate as something like, “what’s fantastic to one is mundane to another.”

So back to the lady… Here she was elated on account of a high school graduation. And there I was, listening and giving her the space to thrill, but for a super quick second I caught a touch of arrogance. Thankfully, virtually as soon as I noticed the arrogance it evaporated and in its place expanded a feeling of compassion. Karuna.

I’m fond of calling a spade a spade, and I don’t think that automatically includes any form of judgement. It’s very clear to me that the woman and I are horses of two very different colors. Depending on her karmic load, and mine, it may be more than another lifetime or two before she’s the kind of person I am, or before I learn the things she knows. Of course, it might only be another year or less-all of that depends entirely on our respective karmas and individual efforts. But for this moment, I’m where I am and she is where I was. Simple as that.

I think what I felt must somehow be similar to what a parent feels when a child is exited about learning how to jump rope. The parent knows this is something they’ve been able to do for years and that this activity is super normal. But they also are filled with a kind of joy and love because of the development and advancement they see in the small human before them.

The whole experience was very humbling to me. A little embarassing, because part of that experience was arrogance/ignorance. But also warming because I have a better idea of where my development has taken me, and where I might be headed.

Sri gurubhyo namaha!


Stumbling Toward Bliss

A few weeks ago I downloaded a much belated software update for my iPod Touch, and in the process lost half my music and all of my playlists. Since then, I’ve been hopping on here and there to work my way back to an iPod that feels like mine. Tonight, while working on this, I came across a title that struck me. I forget who the artist is, and I also forget whether this was an album title or the title of a song, but it went something like, “Stumbling Toward Bliss.”

This is incredible. It’s exactly what most of us do, supposing any of us are even working toward bliss.

I think for most people “bliss” isn’t easily defined. I think this is because most people think one thing or another will make them happy, only to realize they were mistaken. It’s precisely because of this phenomenon that it might be said many are stumbling toward bliss. Many others are simply stumbling.

Many genuine, devout, and fervent seekers are also stumbling. In these cases it’s possible that the seekers aren’t confused about what bliss is, they already know it’s truly inexpressible and aren’t confused into thinking “things” will deliver it, but still the most direct path to it seems to escape their reach. They may switch religions. They may stay with their religion, but switch denominations or sects or sampradayas. They may switch sadhanas/austerities/vrats. Indeed, G/god says that no effort is wasted, and that any sincere form of worship is wholly accepted. Still, we’re impatient, we’re forceful, and so we stumble.

But all are slowly figuring it out-maybe this lifetime, maybe the next. Maybe the one after that. Usually not without much misery along the way. The fortunate ones are those who are able to recognize a genuine guide when one such entity presents itself, and more-to follow that guide as long as it’s practical to their self-realization. I think eventually fewer guides are required and the responsibility of growth, which has always been that of the individual’s and not necessarily of the guides’, matures to the degree that it’s willing to assume that responsibility for itself and continue accordingly.

Understanding that all growth is created equal and as such is equally valid, I suspect that at the point where one realizes the true guide/guru is within and always has been, the progress from then on becomes not only sweeter, but proportionately more…blissful.

I’ll share some of my favorite, and most regularly recited scripture for you benefit-as my prayer to and for you.

oṃ śaṃ no mitraḥ śaṃ varuṇaḥ | śaṃ no bhavatvaryamā | śaṃ na indro brihaspatiḥ | śaṃ no viṣṇururukramaḥ | namo brahmaṇe | namaste vāyo | tvameva pratyakṣaṃ bhrahmāsi | tvāmeva pratyakṣam brahma vadiṣyāmi | ṝtaṃ vadiṣyāmi | satyaṃ vadiṣyāmi | tanmāmavatu | tadvaktāramavatu | avatu mām | avatu vaktāram | oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ ||

Om May Mitra be blissful to us. May Varuna be blissful to us. May Aryaman be blissful to us. May Indra and Brihaspati be blissful to us. May Vishnu, of long strides, be blissful to us. Salutation to Brahman. Salutation to you, O Vayu. You, indeed, are the immediate Brahman. You alone I shall call the direct Brahman. I shall call you righteousness. I shall call you truth. May He protect me. May He protect the teacher. May He protect me. May He protect the teacher. Om, peace, peace, peace !

om saha nāvavatu/ saha nau bhunaktu/ saha vīryaṃ karavāvahai/ tejasvināvadhītamastu mā vidviṣāvahai/ oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ

Om ! May He protect us both together; may He nourish us both together; May we work conjointly with great energy, May our study be vigorous and effective; May we not mutually dispute (or may we not hate any). Om ! Let there be Peace in me !


Om asato mā sadgamaya/Tamaso mā jyotir gamaya/ Mṛtyormā’mṛtaṁ gamaya/ Om śāntiḥ, śāntiḥ, śāntiḥ

Lead us from the unreal to the real; Lead us from darkness to light; Lead us from death to immortality; Om peace, peace, peace!

Grrrr :/

I’m pretty sure I spent more than a little time a few days ago pouring into a post titled, “So Damn Unpretty.” Then, when I go to publish it, NOTHING. I have no idea why the title is all that published nor do I know where the content went. Pissed.

Gretchen ain’t goin’ nowhere

For the record, I currently work at an outpatient cancer treatment center. We treat cancer patients with chemo and radiation. As well, we’re a hematology clinic so we also see folks who have clotting disorders, HIV, etc… We employ two receptionists. One of these gals has been with us since the ancient days. Her name is Gretchen. Everyone knows her, and as the result of some uncanny gift she possesses, she knows everyone. Literally. Something very annoying happens often and I suspect it’s in part because of Gretch’s talent.

As any employ is likely to do, at times throughout the workday Gretchen will excuse herself from her post and make a visit to the employee restroom. The duration of her absence varies according to Nature’s call, however suffice it to say that within a maximum of fifteen minutes she’s returned.

Invariably, while she’s away someone will walk in and upon noticing her absence will ask about her. This is fine. It’s even dandy. Something else it is? Annoying and, according to more than one opinion around the office, it’s inappropriately forward. Why? Because the questions that come in relation to her lack of visibility are along the lines of, “Does Gretchen still work here?” There’s never a thought in their mind that maybe Gretchen needed to run a message to someone or that she took a single day off or, god forbid, that she needed to use the restroom.

It’s rude enough that folks are nosey in this way (Gretch deserves time away from her desk without the consent of 90 people!), but what bothers me the most is where their minds seem to automatically go. I find this to be indicative of humans, generally speaking. We see only one of two things: What we want to see, or that which we fear seeing. Both “sights” are selfish and irrational and highly indicative of a person’s interior landscape.

Because of one or both of these “sights” we actually end up missing the larger picture.

When a person refuses to see anything except that which he very much wants to see, he develops ridiculous attachment to his desire-which is already based in attachment ( moha ). It’s because of this mode of mental inclination that a number of unfortunate things happen: someone enters a very unhealthy relationship just for being in a relationship, people or groups are willing to sell their souls just to get one little thing that’s within their focus, people contract disease because they have no power over their own physical cravings.

When  a person is unable to see anything except that he fears, he develops ridiculous aversion to what he perceives as a threat of some kind. This, in a round-about way, leads to attachment of another kind: to that which is the opposite of what he fears. At this end of the spectrum basically the same idiocy occurs, just sometimes inverted.

There’s a saying, “Six of one, half-dozen of another,” and this is true here. When patients walk in and don’t see Gretchen where they had come to expect her their fear of her no longer working at the clinic or their attachment to her being where they often see her, one or the other, kicks in. Reason doesn’t seem to play a role in these individuals’ thought processes: Maybe she stepped away for two seconds. Whether your ignorance is founded in fear or fueled by desire it’s still ignorance.

I’d be arrogant if I didn’t admit to my own degree of this behavior. I hope the fact that I’m able to recognize and dissect this to some measure is an indication that I’m at least a little ahead of the game. Compared to so many in my immediate life, my behavior is influenced relatively little by my personal fears or attachments. I will say that I’ve taken deliberate action and made strong, concentrated, and continued effort to progress through this part of my base nature. My prayer is that fewer and fewer people will limit their vision according to their wishes or their fears.

Om Nama Shivaya

Om Tat Sat Om