Bhakti Shmakti

The last time I was at temple it was for the largest, monthly, gathering of devotees and is called Gita Mandal. Every month a different speaker delivers the discourse, which may or may not have anything to do with the portion of the Bhagavad Gita specific to that month’s satsangh.

For July, we were in Chapter 9, and recited/studied verse 1, 8, 11, 14, 15, 22, and 26. I’ll let you check those out on your own and, if you feel so inclined, share your thoughts.

The pandit who spoke to us is from Pennsylvania. He spoke largely on the concept of Bhakti, and its status of being the “highest form of yoga.” This is something, I should admit, I struggle with. (Note: I’m fully willing to change my stance on something, and even then confess I may have been wrong. However, I think because I’m as guarded as I am with these things, the process is usually slower than with other folks, and I tend to make very sure of each step along the way before taking the next.) I’ll now attempt to quasi parrott some of what the pandit shared that Sunday.

He started with something I found interesting. Forgive me for misplacing the Sanksrit…Apparently, in the Gita, Sri Krsna advises that one must “become” a sadhu for Him to appear in that person’s life. The understanding here is non-literal. It has more to do with non-attachment, and possessing other sadhu-like traits. The pandit illustrated this with a short story.

One day a washerman and a sadhu were both on the side of a river. The sadhu was absorbed in his sadhana, engaged in dhyan. The washerman, however, was making quite a noise while doing his labor. The sadhu warned him, “You have to stay quiet! I’m a sadhu!” The washerman apologized, but continued his work. The noise continued and infuriated the sadhu who came to the washerman and began beatinig him. For the first few blows, the washerman did nothing except receive the hits. However, when the beating persisted he began defending by hitting the sadhu back. It was at this point that Krsna came to the ghat and asked what was going on. One of the men, recognizing the Lord, shouted, “Lord! Please help! I’m being attacked!” Krsna, in response, remained unmoved, stating he wasn’t sure which was the real sadhu.

As an aside, pandit offered some trivia: In the Gita Arjun asks Sri Krsna a total of 22 questions, and receives from Krsna a total of 28 answers.

Pandit further explained that the Gita’s first two chapters deal with Jnana Yoga, chapters 3-7 explain Karma Yoga, and during chapters 8-11 Vishwarupa is revealed. According to pandit, everything after chapter 12 could just as easily be omitted because chapter 12, shloka 12 specifically, is essentially the apex of the entire Gita. He claims chapters 13-18 are basically “icing on the cake.”

Shloka 12 of Chapter 12 goes something like,

sreyo hi jnanam abhyasaj
jnanad dhyanam visisyate
dhyanat karma-phala-tyagas
tyagac chantir anantaram

“If you cannot take to this practice, then engage yourself in the cultivation of knowledge. Better than knowledge, however, is meditation, and better than meditation is renunciation of the fruits of action, for by such renunciation one can attain peace of mind.”

Pandit further explained that the force of Bhakti is feminine in nature, which, he claims, is partly responsible for why women are the way they are and for why men are different in this way. He says there are two types of Bhakti

  1. Saguna Bhakti = murti worshippers
  2. Nirguna Bhakti = Brahman without murti, this include Raja and Jnana Yogas

Apparently, regardless of whether your approach is Sagun/Nirgun, if one lacks abhyas, one is wasting his effort. (Speaking of the concept of abhyas, remind me to tell you of my experience with the sect known as Sahaj Marg.) Pandit finished by explaining, only a bit, some of the traits of someone who aspires to be a true Bhakta. They are below.

  1. Karuna = Compassion. The Dalai Lama is perhaps the greatest living example of this.
  2. Nirhankari = egoless, ahankar(ego), however is a part of existence. Thus, the state of true nirhankar would ultimately lead to merging with Brahman, and thereby extinguish the need for physical existence.
  3. Santoshta = a true Bhakta must be content. This includes not only not agitating others, but not being agitated by others.
  4. Anapeksha = unexpectant; apeksha = resistence
  5. Aniket = homless, the idea here is of non-attachment.
  6. Sadhuta = state of being like a sadhu

Here’s to hoping we each realize the meaning and manifestation of truth bhakti in our lives.

Om shanti

Off with their heads!

So… the Denver shooting tragedy is all over the news and will be for some time, I suspect. In the clinic I work at, people have been very vocal regarding their opinions on what should be done with the Joker. I think partially because of the time we live in and partially because of the area of the USA I live in, many many folks have expressed their view that killing the man who killed others is the only way to make anything right. This is very “Old Testament,” very eye-for-an-eye, and I suppose it’s very human.

I need to say something about this, but without using my words. I’ll be using someone else’s. What’s shared below is the response I received from my beloved, who’s non-religious in every sense, when I asked him, “What do you think of the death penalty?” (This question was asked specifically in the context of the Denver shooting.)

I’m against the death penalty, for a variety of reasons.

Mostly because we are supposed to be a humane society.  Regardless of what someone does, it does not justify killing that person.  How are we any better than the criminal if we treat him in a similarly cruel way?  The death penalty is abused, used too often, and way too celebrated.  It’s the modern-day version of having all the people in a town chase someone with torches and pitchforks and lynching him.

Second, in a way, it allows the criminal off easy.  Rather than having to spend the rest of his days in confinement in an undesirable living situation, he gets to just have it ended.  It seems that a lot more satisfaction should be gotten out of knowing that a person who did a heinous crime has to spend the rest of his life in a prison, not allowed to enjoy the freedom the rest of us have.

Third, if we are supposed to be a “Christian country,” then everyone should hate the idea of the death penalty and it should be outlawed.  It goes against all of the ideas that Jesus taught, and how can someone claim to be a good Christian and still be completely FOR the death penalty.  Somehow it’s possible, because Christians seem to be the largest group who just love the death penalty. 

Lastly, I just think it’s morally wrong.  If we are supposed to have compassion, then how can we be happy to know that we kill anyone, regardless of what they have done?  I can completely understand how someone who has had someone taken from them can feel like they want the person who killed them to be killed as well.  That’s why we have laws and a justice system, so that we don’t take the law into our own hands and let emotions drive our decisions.  Any time I hear of a person/family who chooses to NOT seek the death penalty for someone, I have great respect for them, because they are able to overcome their own grief and do the right thing, and be better than the killer by showing them compassion.

What he’s saying above isn’t rocket science. It’s common sense, which actually leads to a very elevated and compassionate state of mind and action.

Christians(Abrahamists) aren’t the only ones who stumble here. I’ve been reading a book by an American guru. By virtually every account he’s incredible. He’s very well-educated both in western sciences as well as in so many things Vedic. He wrote a book, a manifesto which I’ll be bloggering about soon enough, in which he pretty much lays out what he sees as the revolutionary foundations for a new global and dharmic society. In this manifesto, he says so many things I couldn’t agree more with. Among other things, something he says that I fully disagree with is that the death penalty is dharmic.

I’m no guru, but I’m confident that even if you toss out the concept of ahimsa there’s plenty within our Dharma that counters something like the death penalty.

On that note, I’ll close by re-iterating what my beloved said and encourage you, reader, to give up the idea of killing another as any form of vengeance or retribution. It simply doesn’t work the way you think, and also brings you to the same level as the original transgressor. Be reasonable. Be compassionate. Be humane.

Be truly better than those you so despise.

Om shanti

Neti, Neti(Neti)

It’s pretty much been a month since I last wrote here. No good reason exists for this, really, aside from sometimes I feel like I’m about to pop and need to step back from a number of things. As much as I enjoy having a presence here, and as much as I enjoy hearing from you all on here, bloggering is currently an easy thing to step back from. So, with that said, please excuse my distance and my silence, and thanks for continuing to read my words.

The saying, “Neti, Neti” means essentially, “Not this, not that” and is employed be jnanis, among others, in the process of discerning Brahman’s nature and attributes. Because of the absoluteness of Brahman, a truer and truthfully more accurate way of knowing Truth is often found in knowing what Truth is not, thus, Neti-Neti. I sometimes use this when asked where I want to eat for dinner. I might not know what I’m in the mood for, but I can usually tell you what I’m not in the mood for, and so the process of refinement begins as to where dinner will be served.

I feel this concept applies to each of us as we’re on our journey toward Self-Realization, toward our real Nature which is Brahman. Obviously, because of our egos and individual experiences and individual karmas, the most base application of Neti-Neti is as it pertains to our minute, personal, human experience.

In that context, as far as my personal experience of Brahman in my life, I tend to view the episodes in my life as part of this process of elimination/refinement. I have an experience. Does it point to Truth or doesn’t it? Hinting at Truth is something everything everywhere does, so that doesn’t count. But does an experience, or a person, or dogma, or anything…does it definitively point to Truth? If not, learn from it and move on. Such is the case, in my life, for Christianity.

A co-worker, as part of our discussion today, stated that Mormonism is an un-Christian cult. I suppose if I looked more into it I might could agree with this, but that would be irrelevant. For the sake of balance, I responded that in it’s beginning what we now call Christianity was viewed as no different by folks who weren’t Christians. They were indeed, a small dissenting group of people who wandered around claiming their leader is God. Mormons were never fed to lions by the Romans for entertainment, but otherwise there are actually quite a number of parallels between the Mormons and the rest of Christianity. My co-worker didn’t care for these remarks and the conversation ended quickly. Apparently what’s good for the goose isn’t good for the… goose.

I’m currently taking a humanities class in which, as part of a recent assignment, I’m basically being asked to pretend I’m either Christian or Jewish. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say I’m not happy. The concept is just fuzzy enough that the school can get away with it, but the work is still clear. I think part of what’s so vile about this assignment, beyond pretending to be something I’m not, is that I have to pretend to promote and condone what I don’t agree with. Sugar on top? One of my co-students and team mate on this project is a middle-aged woman who is unapologetically Christian and when we were hashing out responsibilities for this project she was quick to point out that not only is Christianity the only religion on the planet that encompasses all others, but that the cross is the only religious symbol which is found in all other religions.

Jesus-Fucking-Christ… this is what I’m dealing with. Before this class is over, there may well be a scene because after allowing my toes to be stepped on a few times by the school’s curriculum and classmates’ remarks, I’m actually quite liable to tell a bitch to go to hell and slide her some hand-written directions.

So, the convsersation today… class work from last week… Now let’s back up quite a bit. Let’s revisit my teen years briefly.

For a short time, during my teens, I was the only Christian in my family. To say I was a monster for Jesus would probably be something of an understatement. My intentions were as noble as they come, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t also vile at their source. I’ll spare most of the details, because they amount to this: I was about as typical as it could get for being a zealous Christian teen. The only way it would have been worse is if my parents were Christian, too.

This business lasted a few years until I was around 17 or close to 18. It was just before 18 that I began makng it known to my church youth group that I found a lot of evidence that the Bible/Jesus/God didn’t condemn gays. I was doing this rather gently and secretly because I intended to work my way into a position to come out to them. However, the youth pastor decided to nip the whole thing in the bud(butt?) and called me to his home one evening.

Sitting in his library, he said it’d been brought to his attention that I was spreading “false doctrine.” I explained, as best I could for being neither an adult nor a Bible scholar, that I didn’t believe Christianity condemned gays. His next move was to asked, “Do you consider yourself a homosexual?” I answered in the affirmative. Upon receiving that answer, he assured me, “There’s no place in the youth group, or anywhere else in the church, for someone like you.”

Sitting on his couch alone, and virtually defenseless, I could do nothing by look toward my feet and begin to sob. In the years leading up to this moment, I had actually done more than plenty to distance myself from my family-for the sake of Jesus. And here, an actual man of god was dismissing me entirely. The following months brought the best that church could offer in “therapy,” which amount to nothing. I had already cried myself to sleep numerous nights because I didn’t understand why I am gay. I sought out hetero porn, thinking it might “stick” and change my inclinations. I had girlfriends. I prayed at home, hidden in my bedroom’s closet (irony, no!?!?), the most private place I knew… and I’d prayed down front at my church’s altar. Nothing-which I’m so very thankful for.

I know many good people. Very very dear people to me, who happen to be Christians. Many of these folks would claim people like those others “aren’t real Christians.” That’s simply not true, though. These Christians who are dear to me, I think exhibit the purest Christianity, but chances are great that the vast majority of all the other fellow Christians on this planet still say my old church is correct. In fact I know this to be true, even in my life today. It wasn’t enough that I was literally kicked out as a teen (I had to sign some paper, too, after being asked “one last time”), but now as an adult Christians are the leading reason for why I’m unable to marry the man I’ve dedicated the biggest chunk of my adult life to.

As disappointing as this is going to sound, and forgive me for sounding jaded/hurt/judgemental, I’m convinced that nearly everything Abrahamic is violent and destructive. Throughout world history, into today, and in many places in my own life this has been the truth of experience. When I consciously and conscientiously seek Brahman, and encounter most things Abrahamic, the “still small voice” within invariably chants, “Neti, Neti.”

Om Shanti

Swiss Cake Rolls for Ganesha

Two days ago was Guru Purnima. As part of the day’s “festivities” I began ceremoniously “uninhabiting” my home’s mandir. I’ll do this from time to time to keep it tidy and clean. Usually my entire temple room gets a good scrubbing along with the mandir itself. I’ll include a pic of the mandir below. I bought it for a decent price from Patel Brothers here in Indy (they have locations nationally). The last thing to be cleaned are the murtis. I’ll clean them physically, and then perform abhishek, and then redress them all before re-installing them in their newly cleaned garbh. The process takes a while and can be exhausting, but I love it.

 

 

Continuing with the guru/teacher theme (loosely), I’ve been thinking about all that I’ve learned from studying the devas/devis, specifically my ishtadevata, Ganesha. To try to say that my life hasn’t changed as a result would be a lie. It has changed, in many ways, all of which are likely permanent. One such example of permanence? My tattoos.

I recently found myself getting another tattoo. The newest addition is number 5. I wear sufi poetry, written in Persian, between my shoulder blades. I have an abstract design, which was literally free-handed, covering my left shoulder/bicep/tricep. A “Ved’shlok,” as my renunciate friend Pravin would say, wraps around my left forearm. A small circular Ganesha image adorns my right forearm. And the newest addition, to my right calf, another, much bigger and more ornate image of Ganesha.

In light of suchness, I thought now might be as good a time as any to start a mini series here about my various ink(s)… Why I chose them, what they mean to me, etc… I tie them into this whole Guru Purnima business because of the lessons each of them represent to me, as taught by The Guru. I hope you enjoy.

Om Shanti

Also you may find it important (or not) to know that I plan to eat an entire box of Little Debbie Swiss Rolls. Right now. As long as there’s milk in my glass, I shall find the strength to consume.

Dharma Nationalist?

Some time ago, in a manner which I now forget, I came to know of a guru/acharya from Nebraska. He’s known as Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya. As far as the Hindu Dharma is concerned, he’s unique and is really a record setter. Among other accomplishments, he was the first like his self to hold the positions he’s held and he’s certainly the first (since ancient times) to convey brahmana thread to a female. The reactions he’s received as the result of his actions have been enough to prove that he’s not afraid to make waves for humanity’s betterment. I can also vouche, based on personal communication with him, that he’s attentive, super intelligent, and possesses a kind of “shanti” you almost wouldn’t expect. I can’t say he’s a personal guru of mine, but I can say, at least at this point, he seems very worthy of the devotion. He wrote a book, among others, called The Dharma Manifesto. He is the founder of the Dharma Nation Movement, which is meant for “Instantiating Natural Law in Modern Government,” and which seems very interesting to me.

Truth be told, I’m about as familiar with any form of politics as I am with variations of the Chinese language. That is to say, not very. I ordered a copy of The Dharma Manifesto for two main reasons: I enjoy having unique books in my personal library, especially ones pertaining to my own Dharma (this book is currently the first and only “hindu” book I own on politics), and I’m hoping this book will serve as a nice inexpensive investment in my political education. It’s ordered/shipped by Lulu and I was glad to see it arrive actually quite soon after ordering. The Manifesto seems pretty comprehensive, with chapters/subchapters like,

  • Dharma Nationalism and Electoral Politics
  • Usury
  • Flat Tax
  • Ownership Society
  • Class Cooperation… not Class War
  • Neither Capitalism, Nor Socialism
  • Economics
  • Sanskrit: The Universal Language
  • United Nations
  • Russia Policy/E.U. Policy/Isreal Policy/India Policy/Pakistan Policy/China Policy
  • Population Planning and Balance
  • Same Sex Marriage/LGBT Issues
  • Environmental Sustainability and Protection
  • Immigration
  • Strong National Defense
  • Energy Policy/Health Policy
  • Abortion
  • Judiaism/Pauline Christianity/Islam
  • Marxism/Atheism/Satanism

Those listed above are actually mostly subchapters, but should still offer a taste of what the Manifesto will cover.

According to the Dharma Nation website, “Our goal is to establish a government in which the eternal principles of Natural Law are institutionally instantiated, and to create a world of peace, justice, spirituality, reason, and joy.”

I feel like pointing out that Acharya-ji is a sure Vaishnav- which is not a bad thing in the least. The book’s dedications go to two people, one of which is the founder of the Hare Krishna Movement.

I’ve read most of the introduction so far, and have decided to start over, highlighter in hand. (Note: Highlighting in books is typically not my preference, but since I’m generally so clueless about anything political, I’m making an exception on the basis of “quick reference”) If anyone reading this has this book, or is planning to have it, and has any interest in doing an informal kind of book club or otherwise discuss anything they’re read in it, I’d be thrilled.

Om Shanti

Gurupada Puja

Today is the full moon for July, and marks Gurupurnima. This holiday is a “limbo of great importance” to me. The source of importance is obvious to anyone familiar with the day. Purnima correlates to the full moon. In Hinduism, many holidays fall either on the full moon, or within a certain number of days before or after it. The “limbo” part of this, for me, is due to not having a dedicated guru -something else of high importance within the Dharma. With that in mind, in this post I’ll try to detail a few of the most influential gurus in my life.

The first guru worshipped in Hinduism is Sage Vyas. It’s said that Hinduism is the only major world religion without an actual founder. Sage Vyas, however, comes close. He’s known to have lived in ancient times and according to his personal sadhana, had attained a number of siddhis. Aside from being a masterful rishi, he is most noted for compiling/editing the Vedas, which are the foundational body of scripture for Sanatana Dharma. I think he’s also known to have composed a number of other Scriptures holy to Hindus. I adore Sage Vyas for obvious reasons and some reasons which are less obvious. His influence, the karma-phala of his efforts, reaches from modern Hindu religion so far back into history few can conceive. Additionally, a well-known story about the recording of scripture involves Sage Vyas dictating to my very own ishtadevata, Ganesha. Sri gurubhyo namaha!

The stage being set by Vyas thousands of years ago, my parents were 900% my first living guru. Truth be told, my birth mother hasn’t proven herself to be worth the flawed genetic material she managed to pass on, let alone anything of greater value. My father, on the other hand has truly beautiful karma. Part of that karma was that he’d eventually meet and marry my step-mother. The two, together, make an amazing, albeit typical pair and without their guidance my life wouldn’t have amounted to half of what it has. And while I’m still able to discern parts within my own makeup that are surely inherited from my birth mother, I’m honored to report that by far I’m the sum of the two that actually cared enough to raise me. I have the level head and generosity of my father, and like my step-mom, eternally insist on perfection in all the right areas of life, have some pretty decent reasoning skills, and also would likely have made a fair living as a lawyer (AKA I can argue just about anything, always have the higher good as my goal, and no matter what you say, you can be sure I’ll find a flaw in your logic and will end up winning the debate.) If gurus come into our lives (or vice versa in this case!) to help guide and shape us for our betterment, my parents could sit on their rumps for their next ten lifetimes and still succeed in this regard. Because of this, when I’m at temple and we sing the shloka, “Twameva mata cha pita twameva…“, which translates as “You (God) are mother and father…“, I’m filled with adoration and love for these two primary human figures in my life. Below is a picture of my parents and a younger brother (at his wedding, we’re not actually Christians for the most part).

Another guru influence in my life is that of Paramahansa Yogananda. If Vyas-ji was technically a first among gurus, and my parents were the second, then Yogananda-ji was certainly the third. I came to know of him actually in the most unexpected of ways, which I’m hesitant to share. But here goes:

In my early twenties a relationship I had been in came to an end. It had lasted about seven years and when it dissolved, you can imagine, I was still very inexperienced at life. On my own for the first time ever, I was mostly doing just fine. During this time, though, I had been approached by a man from my city’s south side who was seeking models. You see, he sold clothing items online… he ran some kind of website that was fetish-gear-oriented. I’ll spare you the details of exactly what garments I modeled, but the idea is that he was no longer young or lean or unwrinkled and needed a tighter, younger body to show off these things, which folks would then buy from him. Before anyone takes this info and runs with it, believe me when I tell you that the shadiest part of all this was that all photography was shot in his home, as opposed to an actual studio. But none of that is important except to lead me to tell you that this man happens to be a devotee of Yogananda. I had an Om or something on my necklace which caught his attention and started our conversation on all things Hindu. Both of us being caucasian, we commiserated at being the only non-indian Hindus we knew of in the entire state. From then on the modelling was entirely secondary (indeed stopped) and our dealings were mostly in the context of spirituality. He took me to the temple for the first time and gave me my first copy of Yogananda’s autobiography, which as so many others will verify, is life-changing. He also gave me my first copy of the Bhagavad Gita, a translation by P.Lal. Of all the different Gitas available, this simple version remains my favorite.

Since learning of Yogananda, I’ve been drawn to his teachings and have a large number of his books, as well as a book or two written by Yogananda’s own guru, Sri Yukteshwar. I love that Yogananda was so connected with western Christianity. He does well at showing dharma in the Bible. I’ve fallen just shy of joining his “sampradaya,” The Self Realization Fellowship for a couple of reasons, namely that it’s suffered a great bit of internal conflict which has veritably split the group, and it seems to be in decline. All that aside, this is to say nothing about Yogananda or his teachings which are truly liberating. And for that, he’ll always remain a dear teacher to me. Kriya Yoga might not be my best fit, but I’m not nearly done with him, and it’s my hope he isn’t nearly done with me.

Next of gurus influential in my life is Mata Amrtanandamayi Ma. She’s an avatar of Sri Durga. Known around our planet as “The Hugging Saint, and to myself and fellow devotees as Amma (Mother). Her life has been incredible and it’s apparent that She is mahashakti personified. Born into a working class family and pretty much forced into familial slavery, Her upbringing was rough to say the least. Virtually from Her birth she was a kind of lunatic for the Lord, constantly seeking union with Sri Krsna, and even today demonstrates what is known as devibhava for the benefit of others. Today She’s the founder of humanitarian organizations and Her own sampradaya which is truly unique, as well as Amrita Yoga. She’s written many great books and She’s also the creator of the Brahmasthanam. She spends hours and hours (easily 12-16hrs in a single day) seated and receiving Her “children” as She hugs them. The Mother never tires of this. She never stops for breaks for sustenance and offers Her love, freely, until all present have received. These hugs are known to be transformational. She also offers diksha/initiation as well as a unique meditative practice. She’s helping to clean up the current state of bhakti yoga, which She says should instead be called kamya yoga, because too often what we think is bhakti is actually desire-fuel devotion. As often as I’m able, I attend local satsangs and worship Amma for multiple hours on end. I also have a very personal story about a healing I received from Amma soon after coming to find Her. Amme Sharanam!

Someone else, who is also a modern-day guide, deserves recognition. I’m not sure this soul is someone many consider a guru of the level of Amma or Yogananda, but she is no less a spark of Brahman than they, and like them does her best -every chance she has- to uplift and educated and help. She can be found on Facebook and on Youtube. She and I belong to the same (gay) community and our hearts are more similar than not, although I’m no nun. It’s actually because of this siddha-yoga jiva that I own my first copy of the Guru Gita. Her name is Sister Unity Divine, and I find in her inspiration, strength, wisdom, and encouragement. My heart is truly glad to know of her and also to be benefitting from her life’s expression.

As I’m nearing the end of this (very, very, very  long) post I want to lastly give consideration to the inner Guru within each of us. It’s this Guru that all the others are merely an outward, seemingly separate expression of. You, at your deepest, most inner level, are non-different than the Source all other gurus lead you to. Any soul you may choose to follow, who indicates anything diffrently is… False. Believe it. Your truest Self is all that has ever been, all that will ever be, and all you’ll ever need. All else is only meant to help you experientially realize this.

Om Shanti!

That Church

 

I recently finished a very basic composition class. The focus has required writing research papers, which, formally speaking, I mostly loathe. I enjoy sounding academic. I enjoy citing sources of my knowledge. I like challenging myself -especially at things I do often, like writing, and am likely to slack on.

I do not like research papers.

My topic was vegertarianism, which you may recall me mentioning a few posts ago. In a class prior to this one, I’d written briefly about exercise and diet, that was also a research paper, and for this class I was concerned that choosing vegetarianism would be too much of the same. Gladly, I took this paper in a different direction. I decided to speak a little (and only a little) about the cultural, environmental, and religious implications of vegetarianism. The limit on word count really hampered how much I was able to touch on anything.

You may also recall mention of the very Christian (a minister) member of my university’s faculty who was/is teaching this class. Truly, this man mostly awed me. I love everything that has anything to do with languages. In fact, one of my favorite websites is for omniglots. I go there often to study con-scripts and study foreign alphabets as well as hear pronunciation examples. Any time I encounter someone who can pick apart a language, I love them. I think I can’t help it. Truly, a person’s language and religious background influence the course of their life and shape how they see the world more than anything else. You can imagine the bliss I’ve experienced throughout the duration of this class and the last-both of which were taught by this same person. It might be noted that I was about the only student who grew goosebumps and  swooned when, as an aside, sentence diagramming was demonstrated on the dry erase board. <dreamy sigh> That stuff is art, for me.

So… I struggled with this paper, simple as it was. Between word limit and references being limited and kind of wanting to slant my writing in a way that would appeal the most to my Christian teacher (yes, I’m manipulative), I was almost stuck. With a paper I’d written before now, he confided to me in his feedback that he’d been so impressed with the paper’s content and structure that it not only kept him awake at midnight while he graded it, but that he later shared it with his family at the dinner table. I’m thinking this paper didn’t sit the same with him. Here’s why.

Although I tried, somewhat, to appeal to his Christian senses, I’m thinking this may well have backfired on me.

My paper’s introduction actually wasn’t too bad, and I feel it pulled at some Christian strings in the ways I had hoped, while remaining professional/academic. The rest of the body of the paper I pretty much just stayed on topic and got through it, with the exception of when I spoke on the religious/moral aspects of vegetarianism. I only mentioned Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity-focusing almost entirely on Hindu and Christian views. I cited the Qur’an, a youtube video by Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya and quoted a few Christian sources, including the King James Version of the Bible. To say the least, as with the rest of my points of discussion, I was unable to dive as deeply as I wanted. My conclusion was rather weak, but did the job I think.

The problem? I should have known better. With the exception of some Jews, most of those adhering to the Abrahamic Faiths think they are experts at their own dharmas. Either not realizing, or choosing to ignore, the convoluted histories of these paths, they ascribe a number of fancies to their religions … which basically amounts to serious cases of denial.

What kills me, is that this highlights a terrible tendency among Christians (in particular). Picking and choosing, in addition to selective interpreting when it comes to their own holy writings. If you realize and accept the notion of deeper, perhaps more abstract truths, then even if your starting place is in taking the words literally you still recognize there’s more than the black and white of the page. If you limit your own religion, however, you end up relying on the black and white of the page, only, and through the ages spend more time arguing over where periods and commas go than what the Truth conveyed might be.

Through the ages, virtually since their Scriptures were first written and then compiled, Christians have engaged in selective interpretation in order to achieve their personal wills, at the expense not only of the divine Will, but many many human lives. Depending on who they’re trying to conquer or convert, certain Scriptures hold more or less weight than others. Whether it’s burning “witches,” keeping blacks as slaves, women as property, or gays from marrying, Christians are notorious for manipulating their own Scriptures according to what they want to accomplish or prevent.

The same actually applies to vegetarianism. 1500 years ago Christian kings would put their clergy to “taste tests” that involved eating meats. The fear was that Manacheaenism had infiltrate the clergy and corrupted them. Any Christian priest or minister who refused or was even reluctant to eat meat was severly punished. Hatred for vegetarianism was a major player in beginning the Inquisition as well.

The funny thing? Of all the things that are “literally” spelled out in the Bible, few things are clearer than the mandate for human vegetarianism. There are lots of instances mentioned in the Bible about animal sacrifice or meals that were had, unclean versus clean and all that jazz. The New Testament tells us that what we put into our bodies doesn’t corrupt our soul (Gospel of Mark). However, if we’re to take the Bible as literally as Christians have historically insisted, Genesis should be no different. (I realize that, increasingly, some Christian denominations are recognizing a more broad was of viewing Scripture, but historically and even today this is not the norm. The same is to be said of Islam.) I understand that a reason often cited for why certain portions of the Old Testament are ignored, is that Jesus came to put an end to the Law. And that’s fine, but for two loopholes: Vegetarianism was mandated before The Law applied and is the way things ought to be- it was spoken directly by G/god to humans instead of to humans through another human, and vegetarianism isn’t a part of The Law at all.   

According to some, there are two creation accounts in Genesis. The first, is the one most are familiar with and this is the one I’ll be referring to the most. In this account of the beginning of life, God apparently tells the first humans, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat” (verse 29). A verse or so later, the very same is said about what animals are to eat.

(As an interesting aside, two chapters later documents the apparent fall of mankind. This represents the beginning of the flawed world as we know it. The Devil assumed the form of a snake. The snake tricked the first woman and the first woman got the first man to disobey along with her. God finds out, and punishes all of creation. During this episode, while the Almighty is flexing his moody muscles, he tells the snake, the woman, and the man exactly what their respective punishments are to be. It’s because of this part of the story that I’m inclined to go out on a limb and say that even arguing that vegetarianism no longer applies because we live in a fallen world is a weak arguement. It’s in chapter 3 that Adam’s punishment is made clear to him, and that punishment affirms the continuation of vegetarian sustenance. Gensis 3: 17-19, “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” One can see here that nowhere does God punish Adam by saying, “You’ve messed up and now you have to kill animals and eat them.” I think the text suggests that He still meant for humans to be sustained on plants, and this is clear not only by G/god cursing the ground and telling Adam that he’ll eat from it in sorrow, but also by the introduction of thorns and repetition (from earlier Genesis) that herbs are to be eaten. What the heck kind of punishment would the introduction of thorns and cursing of the ground be, if we’re not concerned with plants?)

I’m not a Bible scholar in any way. Admitted. I’ll never claim to be, and truthfully, at this point in my life I’m thankful that I’ll never be. Never mind that, though, because that’s not the point. The point is that if the Christian Word of God is supposed to be taken literally, then let’s take all of it literally. Agreed? In that context, nearly all Christians are disobeying their own God, and for those Christians who are familiar with their own scriptures, they should be afraid because not much deeper into their holy writings it is made abundantly clear that their God is a jealous God and is also vindictive and fond of severe punishments, often exceeding what is warranted by any specific offense.

Beyond this, there are only two alternatives: Don’t take the Word of God literally, or, as happens mostly, conveniently pick and choose what you want to literally apply and what you don’t. If we’re not to take the Word literally then slavery should never have happened, nor half the wars ever fought between humans, and gays would already be afford the same rights as heteros. If we’re to opt for the pick-n-choose-as-is-convenient method, we soon find ourselves in the predicament we know today. Regardless of which route we choose, it’s obvious that things have only worsened along the way – but that’s a whole other post altogether.

Backing up eight crazy paragraphs, we return to the topic of my paper and how my approach to it may end up biting me in the butt. Precisely because of the convoluted and twisted nature of Christianity, today and through out most of it’s very young lifespan, I suspect that my minister-professor will likely be unimpressed or feel somehow challenged, if not outright offended, and that it may show in my grade. Truly, I’ll be very surprised if the oppossite occurs. As I’ve composed this post, it’s come to my mind that (knowing the exact content of my paper) my paper wasn’t written as slanted as I had originally hoped. In fact, it couldn’t have been because I didn’t have the space to go deep enough to slant much at all, let alone in a manner that would appeal to my target. <sigh> Who knows? My grade still isn’t posted and I’m sure by the time it is, I won’t have the time or energy or care to argue it.

Om Shanti.