Ascites of the Prkrti

I’m seeking advice. Maybe.

I’ve heard before that when lessons aren’t learned as they present, they’re due to repeat until they sink in. Given that I believe in the concepts of karma and reincarnation, I can only assume as much is true. And since what I’m about to write about is something that visits and revisits me, I’ll go ahead and assume there’s a lesson I’m not learning as I should. Dear reader, please advise.

So… Where to begin? Allow me to set the backdrop for what’s in my head.

A characteristic of life is change, right? It’s been said that, in life, change is the only constant. People, being part of the cycles of life, are naturally creatures who’re inseparable from this. Further, being as much a part of these cycles as anyone else, it’s reasonable to assume that change will also occur within my own existence, too. Fine. Additionally, I think it’s safe to assume that in my early days I was rather typical. Don’t get me wrong: I was atypical in most ways. But in plenty ways enough, I was like any other guy of my age group. The point I’d like to make is that who I might once have been isn’t who I am currently, and the same can be said of who I am currently in regard to who I will be.

Here’s the catch: Whether you understand this phenomenon or not, if you’ve known me for as long some people have (I’m talking like 15years and 8years), you should understand that who I might have been isn’t entirely who I am. Better yet, whether you knew who I was, or not, after 8-15 years you should definitely know who I am. Ideally, you should also be changing in your own way, as necessitated by your own karmas and life circumstances-the implication being that you also are developing along the way and learning lessons.

Pause.

With all of this stuff in mind, especially all the factors mentioned immediately above as “catches,” how is it possible that folks who have known me for 15 years and for 8 years can be so mistaken on their understanding of why I do one thing or another.

 A recent example of this has to do with a dear friend of mine planning a vacation which involved a multi-day visit to out of state friends and a round-trip ticket there and back. When this friend mentioned these plans to me, my initial response was to ask why and whether this is possible or even smart right now. Truthfully, my response was such because not two weeks prior, the same friend was having a real crisis in his living room, which centered around a number of things –most of which could be traced back to money problems.  Apparently, when my response was anything other than jumping up and down squealing in delight, he was disappointed and brought this disappointment to a mutual friend who advised him that I wasn’t enthusiastic because I had no control over any of it. Nice.

Later on, when the first friend mentioned this response to me, I tried reminding him of the reasoning which applied all along: In one breath I was told there’s not even money enough for daily living, and in the next breath I’m told of a round-trip flight to the shore. As a caretaker sort of personality (NOT the same as parental), and having been the one doing the consoling during the recent crisis, of course I’d question this. Further, it makes no sense to suspect me of desiring control over whether someone else’s vacation takes place or not because my life remains entirely unaffected either way. I neither lose nor gain anything, regardless.

And so you have it… One person who, next to my own family, should know me better than anyone else on this planet and another who’s not only a parent but also has had enough life experiences to be able to tell up from down. Still, neither of them seems to understand someone they’ve each known well for 15 years and 8 years, respectively.

Being misunderstood isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it’s been a minor theme in my life and it’s been partial impetus for why I enjoy writing and wordsmith-er-ing and studying languages, cultures, and religions. It’s all about communication and understanding and personal development.

While it isn’t the end of the world, it’s painful. But maybe that’s because I expect more from the ones I love? Is that the lesson I’ve repeatedly failed to learn? Maybe I’ll abandon any value found in challenging others to grow and develop. I’ve actually mentioned this notion before and the answer I met with was something to the effect of, “Don’t withdrawal! Some of us need you to do and say what you do!” I remain unconvinced of this, however, and the whole thing is proving quite painful for me. What lesson am I missing that calls for this repeat?

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Gita 4:24

I have a subscription to a magazine known as Yoga Journal. I’ve had a subscription since forever.

Used to, somwhere near the front they’d have an “Om” page on which they’d offer a mantra or prayer of one kind or another. This is one trait of the magazine that makes it rather Hindu, although the magazine isn’t technically such. Sadly, while there remains an “Om” page or two, mantras are no longer offered.

This month one of the Om pages holds a perspective article titled, “Living Blessing.” The author pretty much only talks about blessing his meals before he consumes thems. But he details every part of this process, and for no longer than the article is (it’s not long), he does well and going deep, but staying very easy to understand.

Near the end, he mentions that there are many ways to bless one’s food. He admits that the one he uses is a prayer from the Bhagavad Gita, known as the Brahmarpanam. I love it. See below for this prayer…

Brahmarpanam brahmahavir, Brahmagnau brahmanahutam,

Brahmaiva tena gantavyam, Brahmakarma samadhena.

(The act of offering is Brahman, The offering itself is Brahman, The one making the offering is Brahman- offering into the sacred fire which is Brahman. He alone attains Brahman. who, in all actions, is fully absorbed in Brahman.)

I mentioned that I love this shloka, and here’s why: It sums up the essence of my religion eloquently and simply.

Personally, I don’t subscribe to Dvaita philosophy/Dualism. I find truth to be more manifest in Advaita philosophy and I also find Advaita to make a stronger foundation for a more complete religious and spiritual expression, and to be more complimentary to the human experience.

Having said that, I’ve not yet reached an understanding of how any believer within any religion can believe (only) that G/god exists more in one locale than another. The awareness of that realization can be more evident in one person or thing than another, but that doesn’t in any way mean the Divine is more or less present there. So to believe that G/god is “somewhere out there” while downplaying or neglecting altogether the immanent presence of the Divine seems arrogant, ignorant, insulting and incomplete, nevermind illogical.

So, within the foundation of understanding the Highest One as simultaneously immanent and intimate, as well as impartial and impersonal, this prayer says it all.

Brahman, who is THE highest conception of the Divine ever, and the closest humanity is likely ever to come to describing The Incomparable All, is the only real Truth that exists and is the center of this prayer (as well as everything else, literally). Through this prayer we learn that The One is Who offers. The One is That which is being offered, AKA: the offering. The One is the actual action of making the offering. The One is the means through which the offering is offered. And The One is the recipient of that offering. There simply isn’t an aspect of existence or nonexistence which isn’t permeated by Brahman, The One.

Amazing.

Chapter 4 of the Gita is the chapter on the yoga of action and renunciation, and this chapter actually kicks ass. Allow me to detail why.

  1. Shlokas/Verses 5-9: Foundational to Hinduism, Krishna explains that humanity is never without The One. A promise that every age sees The One arrive and that those who recognize suchness are able to step off of the wheel of death and rebirth.
  2. Shloka/Verse: 11: Also foundational to Hinduism and a support for why Hinduism is so inherently tolerant and peace-loving. Here The One states, “My path is the path all follow, in different ways.” I don’t need to force or pressure you to convert to my religion becuase my religion already encompasses yours and finds inherent value in it.
  3. Shlokas/Verses 18-30: Pretty much a definition of Karma Yoga and Renunciation. For me this amazes, because of the emphasis on intimately knowing and, perhaps even more importantly controlling, one’s internal landscape. These verses explain the essence and outlook of the person succeeding in renunciation (vairagya) and also in controlling his karmas. Notice how many of these traits involve what would, by today’s standards, be called absolute controll over one’s emotions. These verse indicate that that person’s actions are purified through knowledge (a hint at Jnana Yoga), and in verses 22 & 23 we learn that in abstaining from emotional reactions one’s karma disappears. I suspect this is because far too often a lack of control over one’s emotions leads to a roller coaster of reactions, which perpetuates the cycles of samsara/samskara. Verse 25-30, of course following the Brahmarpanam, detail how fully The One pervades every aspect of life.
  4. Shloka/Verse 35: “Knowledge will remove your bewilderment.” Throughout the Gita Arjuna is a wreck and Krishna makes many attempts to console him. I interpret the knowledge mentioned here to be knowledge of the Truth, AKA Jnana Yoga. I love that He tells Arjuna that this knowledge will enable him to “…see all creation in yourself and in me.” Jnana leads one not only to mastery over his own karmas, but also to peace, and even further to Self-Realization. This is supported in the following verses. In verse 36 Krishna says that knowledge takes even the worst folks to safety. In verse 37, He states that “knowledge consumes karma” in the same way a log is charred to ashes by fire. Verse 38 has Krishna saying, “There is no purifier like knowledge in this world; time makes man see the truth of this,” and in 39 we’re advised that “the commander of his senses gains knowledge; and with this knowledge he finds final peace.”

I’m aware that there’s more to the Gita than Jnana, and entire sects have been founded on those bits and pieces. Still, in Chapter 4 I find a huge chunk of my religion -and this chunk pretty much applies across the board. The wisdom found in this chapter, like Brahman/The One, without a doubt pervades and permeates all that there is.

Om Shanti

It’s possible, I’m a Right-Wing Conservative Republican, or How I Bossed Someone Around

There’s a patient who drives to the clinic I work at multiple times each week from Fort Wayne for chemotherapy treatments. She’s someone who’s never really done anything wrong aside from trying to be particular about her arrival times, yet still manages to get under my skin just by being in the building. She actually rarely sees me on her way out, apparently preferring a coworker of my equivalence to do the bulk of her scheduling. That’s more than fine with me.

Well, today my cohort wasn’t here when this woman was leaving. My luck. As she settles at my desk she notices a potato bug, one of those rollie-polie ones, you know? It was TINY. Super tiny, even. A baby, really. I’ve seen them coming out of my jade plant ever since I brought it back in to the clinic after spending all summer stationed at my home’s front. The first thing she did, without even thinking, was to snatch up a tissue and attempt squish-grabbing the infantile insect while slowly saying, “The only good bug is a dead bug!”

Remaining entirely composed, I looked up at her. Feeling my own face redden, I very plainly, calmly, but authoritatively said to her, “No. Do not do that at my desk ever again.” My forwardness caused her to nearly crap her pants.

Her response to me, while smiling, was, “Oh you’re one of those people, aren’t you?” I answered in the affirmative. She then apologized for doing what she did and said she felt badly. She also told me that back in Fort Wayne where she works, there’s a young man named Isaac who says the similar things to her often, and that he picks up the bugs/insects and carries them outside. I admitted to as much. I told her it wasn’t the end of the world and that she needn’t feel awful, but she kept insisting that she did.

I don’t very often actually force my views onto someone else’s behavior, but I have to admit that this felt good. Bugs shouldn’t die just because they’re bugs, right? I’ve actually felt a push lately, in my individual life, to give more effort than usual to avoiding the unnecessary killing of anything that might be aware of its own existence. And so you have it: I pushed my view of what’s right onto another. Even more, I did suchness in a way that affected her thoughts, words, and possibly her future deeds. The only other people I know who are ridiculous enough to hope to make others live as they want them to are right-wing conservatives. Having even this much in common with them, is nearly enough to make me gag.

Om Shanti

One minute, envy-inducing, birthday victory

I’m a member of SGI(Soka Gakkai International), which is the international lay organization of a branch of japanese Buddhism, known as Nichiren Buddhism. I have been for more than two years now, and should admit that I follow that path very loosely. Anyone who’s looking into studying Buddhism or changing religions to Buddhism, should absolutely check this out. It’s an amazing pool of positive humanism. It has an interesting history, practical and rational doctrinal structure, and a vivid practice, which essentially centers around what Hindus know as jaapa. I’m glad to have found this group because of the dear friendships I’ve made as a result. I’m also pleased to note that the members of its ranks really and truly do come from all walks of life and all nationalities and ethnic backgrounds.

There are gatherings held a few times each week, as well as monthly district meetings.

There are many sides of this religion, but I’ve noticed that enormous emphasis is placed on chanting for things, and getting them because of the chanting’s efficacy. This kind of experience, apparently, leads to enlightenment or the revealing of one’s essential and innate Buddhahood. I could go off into a number of side stories here, but for the sake of this post’s cohesion I’ll try to focus on the chanting and regular meetings.

So… There’s a mantra shared by all members. This mantra is chanted for many and numerous reasons. When one of these reasons comes to fruition or to be realized in the chanter’s life, this is considered a victory and is generally celebrated. At virtually every gathering, people share stories of the victories and many times there’s time set aside specifically for this purpose. For the sake of good time management, this is theoretically limited to around one minute, and so this designated time period is known for sharing one minute victories. It’s very tough to comprehend, I know. 🙂

I never share in the victory telling. Ever, except perhaps in very private settings. I thought of this recently as my birthday celebrations came to a close.

There’s a gal I work with, and she’s about as sweet as they come. For odd and not yet fully understood reasons, this year when her birthday came few people around the clinic did anything. In fact, the one lady who always makes a cake for the birthday of every soul under the clinic’s roof, didn’t even make a cake for this gal this year. Inconsistencies like that lead to hurt feelings.

Something else that leads to hurt or bruised feelings? How about you and I are praying or chanting or working toward the same goal and I get what I want but you don’t.

And so, when it comes time for one minute victories or boasting about birthdays, I’m almost always silent. I know there are, and I am friends with, people who are aiming for the same things in life as I do, yet I prosper and they continue to struggle. In my personal worldview, I attribute this to one multi-part factor: Karma. There’s nothing inherently biased about karma: you get only that which you have already given -whether you realize you gave it, or not. Within my own life, the concept of karma has been a source of comfort, arrogance, and remains one of the very very very few areas lefts wherein I still manage to feel what most would label to be guilt.

In my religion, the proof is never anywhere but in the pudding. My religion is founded on experiential revelation. You don’t believe something because you “know” it to be true. You believe something because you experience it (or not) to be true (or not). Consequently, it would seem to reason that notions like “leading by example” are particularly useful here: One’s life is kick-ass and continues suchly, precisely because his or her thoughts, words, and deeds are also at least minimally kick-ass. This doesn’t just happen -it takes real and continued effort on the part of the kick-ass person.

I think this says more generally, and says more about Truth, than any one minute victory every could. In this case, some people might still wonder, “Why the good things happen to her and not me?” but at least they can see the example of that person’s life and, if they so choose, can begin to model their own life after one they can see with their own eyes is achievable (a form of experience, no?). Sitting in a circle talking about all the boons your chanting has brought you can lead to encouragement for others, but at least as easily leads to envy or jealousy.

And so, I’ll refrain from blabbering on about the details of how normal and fabulous my 32nd birthday was. I’m older. I think (hope!!!) I’m wiser. And anyone who wants the details of this, or wants the same for their own current existence, is welcome to study living examples and make their own necessary efforts. Someone else’s bragging simply won’t get you there.

Om Shanti

Book Review #708

A short time ago I began reading a book, the “Dharma Manifesto,” and promised a review. This post is meant to take care of that.

The book, I bought online for something really cheap like $16-$17. The book itself is written in very easy to understand language. For no more pages than the book has (264 pages), it’s actually a very fast read. The chapters are hardly noticeable since the entire book is pretty much flows from one subchapter to another, which makes it compatible with stop-and-go reading schedules.

Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya is certainly very intelligent and knowledgeable in many important areas of modern life and culture. I believe he holds a Ph.D. and has actually held a number of very unique and history-making positions in his life thus far. His writing, in this book, is concise and very clear. As would be expected with any kind of “manifesto,” the ideas he puts forth in this book are meant to be revolutionary, which he defines as, “…proactive and constructive in nature, rather than merely utopian or reactionary.” Many folks might be turned off by that approach to change, but in this work the manner of presenting his views is actually quite balanced and intense, but neither idealistic nor emotional.

Throughout the book, Acharya-ji touches on a huge variety of topics, some of which I mentioned in my earlier post. On a number of things, I agree with him to one extent or another. My own views can tend to be somewhat strong, and in this way I found interest in Achrya-ji’s words. For example, I at least somewhat agree with him in relation to…

  1. The U.S.’s International Policy must change.
  2. The history and employment of Abrahamic Faiths. (Although, I disagree with his view on the nature of the Truth inherent in each.)
  3. What should be sought in, and expected from, any political leader.
  4. The political and cultural history of India.

Beyond these topics and possibly a few others, I should note that as the page numbers increased I found my alignment with Acharya-ji’s views to decrease. There were a number of areas, which I don’t care to list or go into here, where I disagree with him on.

One thing he wrote on, about which I’m still somewhat unsure how I feel, is the topic of gays. On one hand, his approach seemed level-headed: no persecution. If I recall correctly, and I may not, I think he says that gays are a natural part of the human spectrum. He never actually said there is anything inherently evil in gays. However, he was clear that, while people identifying as homosexual would be left unbothered to live their personal dharmas, in a Dharma Nation there would be no such thing as equality as is known (attempted?) today. There would be no pride events. No marriage afforded to gays. All gays would be expected to live “in the closet.” Acharya is very clear that marriage is an integral part of the structure of societies, without which society would fall. He’s also very clear that marriage is strictly defined as male-female.

Actually, I started the last paragraph saying I’m still unsure how I feel about this. I lied. I’m quite sure. I disagree about as much as a person can in this regard. I do appreciate his level-headed, mostly non-violent approach to gays, but beyond that his view on this goes against my better reasoning.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya religious leaning, I’ll let you know that he’s a strict Vaishnava leader. This isn’t for me, but it’s just fine. In fact, for a brief time, I considered converting to Vaishnavism, with Acharya-ji as my guru. The mantra of his lineage doesn’t mean much to me. Vaishnavism isn’t entirely appealing to me(this is not to imply there’s anything at all wrong with it!), but I was hopeful that this American, non-Indian guru could be the center of my religious home.

I plan to purchase and read one other of Acharya’s books, and will likely write my own review of it as well, but through the Dharma Manifesto I’ve learned much, and a few things have become clear to me.

  1. It’s very likely that Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya will never truly be a leader I look to for guidance.
  2. It’s very likely that I’ll never be a Vaishnav. (Again, this isn’t to knock Vaishnavism in any way. This is just to say that through the example set by this particular Vaishnav leader, as well as the general example set by most of ISKCON-which I think Acharya-ji has ties to anyway, Vaishnavism isn’t home for me. My sincerest kudos to those who are able to find peace by taking refuge within the many folds of Vaishnavism.)
  3. Although I was really excited to have found a politico-Hindu book (it’s still the only book of its kind that I’m aware of or possess), and greatly looked forward to finally having my own political compass, I can safely say that I will likely never call myself a Dharma Nationalist.

Om Shanti!

positivity, with a little P

Being a positive influence in someone’s life doesn’t always mean making them happy.

Most people think that having a positive influence on someone is to make them happy. I suggest that this, as an automatic assumption, is a mistake and can create as much problem as it can create potential benefit. To illustrate this, I’ll detail examples found in the concepts of the guru and of the bodhisattva.

The most obvious example, of these two concepts, is that of the guru. The definition of guru varies from source to source, but usually always comes back to something along the lines of a balancing, guiding, wisdom –a teacher of the highest regard. Truly, the highest and most trustworthy of gurus is that Guru which resides within every conscious organism, but of which the organism is almost never aware. I’ll denote this form with a capital letter. This form of Guru is cosmic and universal and pervades everything, with a “higher concentration” in beings possessing consciousness. Ultimately, the voice of this Guru would be heard loud and clear if the conscious being was less ensnared in Maya and better able to separate awareness from consciousness. However, because this is virtually never the case, a more obvious and mundane manifestation of the Guru is required. This, too, can take a million forms, but for humans specifically, often comes in the form of another human. This form of the Guru has a little “g” and can seem like a mixed bag.

On one hand, the human guru is able to relate knowledge of the Infinite to others in ways that are easily digested by the under-developed mind. On the off-chance that the mind is unable to comprehend, this form of the Guru might sometimes need to resort to more direct and even physical means of conveying the lesson to its recipient. In things I’ve read, this can take many forms including strong words or even a whack on the side of one’s head.

Another instance of someone/thing affecting a positive influence on someone’s life is the instance of the bodhisattva. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, and to keep this short and sweet, a very basic definition of the bodhisattva includes a fully aware (aka karmically/egoically liberated), yet still individualized portion of the Infinite which has vowed to forego eternal bliss in mahasamadhi in the Infinite to instead manifest, life cycle after life cycle, in the physical worlds for the sake of helping others also find liberation.

This sounds very hunky-dory, but truly is an assumption. The truth is, some must learn the hard way and many times there seems to be no choice except to pull the karmic band-aid, hair-by-hair, from the arm it’s stuck to. In this way, a bodhisattva can be like the guru whopping someone on the side of his head, and indeed, many gurus are bodhisattvas.

I’d like to also point out that, whether someone is a guru or bodhisattva or neither, it’s possible to help lead others and have a positive influence. Further, just as with bodhisattvas and gurus, it’s possible that this can be done without necessarily inducing a smile on that person’s face. I feel many times people have the assumption that to be a positive force, you must necessarily be making people smile or love you or at least want to say good things about you. Not true. Those things depend on two factors.

The first is those being helped must be not only aware of that help, but appreciative. This can seem remarkably rare. The second hinges on their level of ego (ahankara). In my opinion, this factor is the most crucial. Someone possessing  a smidge too much ego may well be aware of the benefit being afforded them by the other person, but won’t value it as much on account of their ego having a stronger say than the opportunity they’ve been given.  In this case, the reaction of the one being helped is likely to be one of aggression. They’ll often lash out, use harsh words, and attempt to reject the help-often succeeding for the moment.

I think in these situations, it would be incredibly trying for the guru/bodhisattva. I say this, knowing what I know and having tried helping those I’ve tried to help… and being met with responses like, “You can’t see two feet in front of you!” Um… no, I actually can. I’m no guru and nor am I a bodhisattva, but even what little help/perspective I’m able to offer others often feels like throwing pearls to swine (a concept I don’t even believe in, really). I can only imagine how frustrating it would be for someone who can offer so much more for another’s benefit, only to be scorned or rejected, completely unappreciated.

It continually amazes me that the ignorant are ignorant of their ignorance. I suppose this is par for the course in Kali Yuga. This applies to me as well… I look back on some of my actions or words, and literally cringe at my own behavior from when I was younger. Some people, though, who are decades older than myself exhibit traits and behaviors that are worse than I ever did in my most juvenile stages. I mean, I know we all are learning as we go. I’m not talking about that. But whatever.

I think before I begin rambling more than I already have, I’ll close.

Om Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah
Sarve Shantu Nir-Aamayaah |
Sarve Bhadraanni Pashyantu
Maa Kashcid-Duhkha-Bhaag-Bhavet |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||

Om, May All become Happy,
May All become free from Illness.
May All see what is Auspicious,
Let no one Suffer.
Om Peace, Peace, Peace.

Opinionated, instigating post #2: Vasudevam kutumbhakum?

Private Gun Ownership/Death Penalty

“The notion that anyone could think murdering fellow citizens reflects American values, and tells us a lot about the ways we have failed as a nation to ensure that all people understand, at its core, what it means to uphold those values.” –Sam Chaltain

I find there often to be a pretty glaring difference between a group’s values and how those values manifest. Many of the values that are important to Americans today were just as important to Americans early in our history. Yet, if we look back we find that American history is filled with errors and ridiculousness instead of proper and true expression of our supposed values.  The quote above pertains (if I remember correctly) to the idea of the death penalty, but one area I think this is particularly applicable is the arena of private gun ownership.

In my opinion, there’s really no valid reason any modern, private citizen should own firearms. I’m generally against virtually everything most militaries on our planet do, although I do value the protection they offer the citizens of their respective countries. Beyond military use, however, no one should need to own/carry guns.

Coming from a part of the USA where more people are for private gun ownership than are not, I’m familiar with the reasons folks think they need or want a gun. A very small percentage of that population mentions recreational use, like target shooting. I don’t really have any issue with that, unless it’s sport hunting, which I think is wrong. The vast majority of pro-gunners will cite their “need” or “right” to be able to protect their selves. I think this is pretty much the dumbest thing I’ve heard, and I also think folks don’t realize how telling this is in regard to who they think they are and how they see the world.

Fear-based mentality is the strongest mental shape that would allow a person to think they need a gun for self-defense. This same me-versus-them thinking is the root of the illogical, emotional insecurity and paranoia that cause someone to flip out. In the simplest terms, everyone having the opportunity to own a weapon actually increases the likelihood of people hurting other people with those weapons; AKA life is generally more unsafe than it was prior to everyone having weapons. Add to that mix the fact that some people out there are truly crazy and your cherished and so-called right to bear arms actually makes things much more dangerous, because that crazy person has the same right, but probably less self-control. This creates a horrible cycle where people are killing people because people are killing people and in the process no one actually feels safer. This very similarly applies to the death penalty; when a person is killed by others, but nothing is actually improved as a result, and no one actually feels better afterward. A recent conversation I was having with coworkers highlights the lunacy I’m talking about…

We’d been talking about all this gun stuff and two of them admitted that their brothers carry a concealed gun to church. Now first, what does it say about one’s faith and trust in their chosen deity if they have to bring firearms to worship services to feel safe. Secondly, I think the conversation we were having highlights the fact that folks gain a false sense of security by keeping firearms on them in daily life.

I’ll wrap this post up by quoting my beloved once again, as I’ve done in the past on account of his ability to say things in fewer words –something I admire in anyone who’s capable of suchery.

   “Every gun nut uses that defense to justify that they should be able to have 15 guns on them at any time.  It makes no sense.  “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”…..with guns!  If NO ONE has guns, a lost LESS people would die!  I can understand having one for hunting or if you are a collector, or just even to have one in your house to feel safe.  But, it’s ridiculous to say that you NEED to carry one everywhere.  That’s just paranoia, and it means you believe everyone is out to get you.  It drives me crazy.  These are the same people who say that “Obama is taking away our guns” when gun laws have only gotten more lax since he’s been President (unfortunately).  There are ALWAYS going to be nuts out there who are going to do stuff like shoot up people in a movie theater.  Everyone having a gun is not going to prevent that.  Usually the person who does things like that is at the point where he/she doesn’t care about living anymore, so why would threatening him with a gun make any difference?  They are usually suicide missions they are on anyway.  And if everyone has a gun, then NO ONE is going to accidentally hurt someone because they have a trigger finger?  The whole issue just gets me worked up because their justification is so flawed!”

Om shanti

Opinionated, instigating post #1: (Ekam)Sat Nam

Apparently, the world needs to know my thoughts on a few things, including the theater shooting in Denver, the shooting at a Sikh temple, and gun ownership. I have many thoughts on these matters and I’ll do my best to keep them organized and well-written, in effort to make your reading as painless as possible. Here we go…

Firstly, it goes without saying that the two incidents mentioned above are heinous. I’ll refrain from going too much into how tragic I feel these events are. My heart goes out to those who caused and were affected by these events.

The Denver Theater Shooting:  

This seems to be getting much less television air time lately, which surprises me. James Holmes seems to be a pretty messed up individual, but likely not more so than anyone else. All verifiable mental illness aside, I think each of us acts based on how we perceive, process, and manage stimuli. Actually, I think our sciences prove this. The worst to deal with is that which seems to come from within. In fact, that which comes from within is the toughest because it automatically is perceived to be reality, when it often is not. Haven’t you ever just known that your spouse was doing something specifically to spite you, and when you dug deeper it turned out they weren’t even aware they were doing it, let alone that it was something that bothered you?

Emotions are invariably tough to control, but it’s possible with even a little effort. The mind on the other hand is immensely difficult to subdue, and unlike emotions, for most people will require perpetual guarding to maintain any control that is gained. So, if someone doesn’t have control over their own emotions (and most do not), they are also very unlikely to be in control of their mind (also to be said of most folks, and is applicable in reverse since a controlled mind is used to lasso emotions), and this has proven to produce a reactive individual (which most people are).

Because of this, our prayers and thoughts are well spent on the lives and states of people today; people like Mr. Holmes. Yes, fine, pray for the victims. It won’t do as much good as you think. What’s done is done and through this horrible event they’ve been released from their most recent opportunity to exhaust various karmas. They’re on their way to their next cycle of physical existence (or maybe not), as dictated by their karmas and samskaras and will proceed in the best way they are able.

A better use for the prayers offered as a result of something like this is for an improved and education and poised mental state of humanity in general during our time. We’re ignorant in every aspect of our operating existence and we’re reactive – often making choices based on anything but reality. And so in our delusion we end up likening ourselves to Batman’s Joker character and shooting at crowds in a theater.     

The Sikh Gurdwara Shooting:

I should firstly admit that, while I know little about the theater shooting, I know even less about the gurdwara shooting. However, I think this event is less complicated. A fool mistook one group of people for another and started killing. This actually should set a very poignant example for everyone. This idiot was so ignorant in the middle of his hate, and blinded because of it, that he didn’t even kill the ones he meant to kill. Looping this back to the lesson of Maya from the Denver shooting, we find another great example of how very stupid our entrapment within the physical confines of existence can make us. I mean, if you’re going to be stupid enough to plan to kill, at least make sure you have the right target, no? Fools.

Sahaj Marg, a la Dhrishti

After meeting with a local Preceptor, I decided to have the three initiatory sittings. To do this; I was invited to the Preceptor’s home. After entering we chatted just briefly about general things and then briefly about the practice and what to do and how the sitting might go.

We then faced each other (heart-to-heart, remember?) and the sitting began. It lasted less than an hour, around thirty minutes I think. Afterwards, we discussed a little about my experience during the sitting. This happened for the following two days, as these three are best meant to be consecutive. The experience, internally, is something I’m not willing to share with everyone. Please trust, though, that the sitting consisted of more than simply facing each other with our eyes closed. Experiences like these are the stuff of abhyasi journals within the Sahaj Marg. In the last post I mentioned that some of the online searching I’d done turned up records of incidents where journals were read by someone other than the writer. I actually find this hard to believe. In my experience, detailed sharing of things experienced during sittings or meditations is discouraged. The reason is that we’re all entering the practice from different karmic places. As such, each of us start at different places along “the way,” and will have different experiences during our journey. My progress or someone else’s, or anyone’s lack thereof, is no one’s business because it could create negative feelings through egoic comparisons made either by myself or by someone else.

For the first three sittings, I think what I experienced was a kind of samskaric scrubbing. It’s my understanding that these initial sittings are meant for precisely that, the idea being that once a number of impressions have been removed, meditation becomes easier and more productive for the abhyasi to do on his own. Out of respect for Sahaj Marg and because the experience I had is my very own, I’ll refrain from sharing the exact details of these sittings. They are, of course, in my abhyasi journal.

Beyond these three sittings, the vast majority of an abhyasi’s walk on the Sahaj Marg is solitary. Locally speaking, satsanghs are held every Sunday morning at 7:30am and every Wednesday evening 7:00pm. The attendance at these varies, with the morning satsangh usually the better attended. Occasionally we’d have an extended satsangh, which would start with meditation, followed by study, and concluded with more meditation.

In my own experience, something I really struggled to accept was the efficacy of the cleaning practice. I feel like this comes kind of out of nowhere and seems rather concocted. So much of the rest of Sahaj Marg has roots going back to Patanjali or Raja Yoga. As far as I’m aware there’s nothing from earlier Vedic culture or religion indicating one can simply pretend to release or be rid of samskaras and actually have them vaporize. If the day’s samskaras, which are what’s affected the most by the cleaning effort and are the reason this is prescribed to be done when the day’s work is done, can “evaporate” simply by thinking about it, then how in the world re they supposedly so “sticky” anyway?

Something else that I found odd is that abhyasis are discouraged from meditating longer than one hour at a time. You, apparently, can stop for five or ten minutes and then get right back to it, but more than sixty minutes in one meditation setting is discouraged. I imagine this is to help make sure meditation is actually productive as opposed to possibly wasting time if it’s just not working, but still.

It’s recommended that a new initiate dedicate at least six months to the practice before making any actual decision as to whether this path is for them or not. I faithfully dedicated a very full five months to this effort, doing everything nearly exactly as prescribed. Around the end of the five months I went on my anniversary vacation. Between that and school, I missed about a month of satsanghs and two sittings with a Preceptor. What happened as a result is, to me, testament that this is no cult.

You see, nothing happened, at all. Cults (insecurely) care about people “dropping off” from their membership. They practically hunt folks down who try to leave. But no one reached out to me. No calls or emails saying I’d been missed. In fact, I’d emailed my Preceptors a number of times and still haven’t heard anything. I suspect that I could still arrive at a satsangh and would be welcome just the same, but I don’t think I will return.

I enjoy the literature of Sahaj Marg and its Masters. Virtually every word of it makes perfect sense and, although the practice is founded in Raja Yoga, for a “jnani” like me, it’s a very comfy fit. Excluding the whole practice of cleaning, I find the Sahaj Marg to be filled with reason and much guidance on how to live a good life, eliminate karmas, and progress spiritually. Most of the people I met at the different satsanghs were friendly and pleasant and sincere. At times, my Preceptors were people I felt very connected to and very fortunate to know. Beyond these things though, I don’t feel there was any real connection or commitment. I don’t need to be needed, per se, but I kind of want to be needed-at least a little. A number of things I’ve read lately by others have centered on joining a parampara or guru-lineage. In my estimation, the only real benefit of this is the sense of community and of belonging that one gains in that context. That benefit alone, though, can really help carry someone.

So… I suppose I can say I had a good experience with the Sahaj Marg, but there remains nothing to tie me to it, which is what I think I really sought. For the last decade my spiritual walk has been mostly solitary. I don’t need something else added to the menu to progress. If anything, I need others reading from the same menu.

Om Shanti

Sahaj Marg, The Breakdown

Sometime late last year, December-ish, I found myself in a psychology class.

Before continuing, I’d like to assert that only “psychos” go into psychology. I know this is likely an unfair statement, and certainly an over-generalization. I should also admit that there are moments, sometimes daily, when I think my own sanity must be mere minutes from leaving me for good. Many very educated people I know claim that virtually every psych professional they’ve know is in some way or another… off. The suspicion is that people with psych problems tend to enter that industry as part of some deep-rooted desire to figure their own selves (problems) out, and of course, help others in the process. Projection, which is illegal, happens all too often.

Back to the psychology class. The faculty teaching this class is an incredible person. She has life experience I’m glad I don’t have. The result is that her perspective is… interesting. She clearly adores psychology and all it entails. She certainly enjoyed teaching the class. I could truly write a book about her, but that’s not the point of this post. She is, however, relevant to this post because she’s the reason I encountered the Natural Path-formally and officially known as Sahaj Marg. We were actually doing a few ice breakers at the start of the class, one of which was to discuss one of the meditative techniques we had researched and tried prior to the class’s start. To be level with us, she shared similarly about herself. The meditative practice she mentioned was Sahaj Marg. I went home that night and looked into it. After only a day or two of poking around online and taking notes on everything I read, I made an online request to be contacted by a local representative.

When someone shows interest, the contact to them is initiated by someone called a Preceptor.

The preceptor who contacted me was an intelligent and charming woman named Jan. However, Jan was then about to head out of town and so she put me in touch with her husband, a tall and handsome man, and also a Preceptor. He and I met at a Starbucks shortly thereafter. During that chat we discussed the Sahaj Marg in general, and also he did well answering most of my questions at that point. Below is the digest version of what I learned during my preliminary study and in meeting with that Preceptor.

  1. Practitioners of Sahaj Marg are known as Abhyasis. Abhyas means concentration, and is actually an applicable title for followers of this path.
  2. The practice itself is a branch of Raja Yoga and essentially encompasses/simplifies Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and the goals of the Yamas and Niyamas through a specialized and summarized meditation practice which is centered in the area of the heart chakra.
  3. In addition to the practice of abhyas/meditation, the path employs the unique practice of “cleaning.” This is essentially a visualization practice during which the abhyasi perceives the day’s impression (samskaras) as leaving the body through the upper back/shoulder area in the form of smoke or vapor.
  4. Each person interested in becoming an abhyasi must undergo a minimum of three consecutive initiatory “sittings” with a Preceptor, during which the Cleaning Process is initiated as well as the beginning of Pranahuti, also known as Transmission, in which a bond with the current Master is established. Pranahuti is kind of like shaktipat, but entirely more subtle.

All of this sounded interesting enough, and while I’m not racist in the least, I should admit that it was kind of nice to be introduced to something like this by a non-Indian. In all my other spiritual pursuits, like 96% of all of them, I’m the only non-Indian. It truly doesn’t bother me, but it does perpetually feel rather lonely. At the end of the Starbucks meeting, I told this Preceptor that I’d be in touch about scheduling my initiatory sittings. I did just that.

As it turns out, this husband-wife Preceptor pair hosts much of the group’s local activities in their home, which isn’t new, but is nice. Their main living area actually makes for a very nice “sanctuary” with its enormous windowed space and near-panoramic view of their backyard.

After the initiatory sittings, there’s a prescribed manner of practice each abhyasi is encouraged to maintain including morning meditation, “cleaning” when the day’s work is done, and evening prayer. Additionally, there are a number of writings by the Marg’s lineage of Masters available for the abhyasi to study. Probably the most known of these are the Ten Maxims…which are not like the Ten Commandments.

Once their foot is in the door, so to speak, abhyasis are encouraged to do sittings with a Preceptor something like twice monthly. This is in addition to the individual cleaning one should be doing on his own. The benefit of this is that, if the abhyasi is diligent with his own cleaning it makes for increased progress in cleaning when he sits for such with his Preceptor.

The heart-based meditation is actually quite sweet, although it can be challenging to get a good hold on. It’s like picturing something without actually picturing it. The verbiage I feel is often used in this context is supposition. One “supposes” the existence of this Light, without actually picturing it. Apparently, picturing it too concretely will lead to kind of idolizing an image of this Light and this will, in its own way, deter the potential progress of the abhyasi. It’s for this reason that, although this practice comes from a Hindu background, no murtis are employed or encouraged.

Another aspect of Sahaj Marg is their use of journaling. All abhyasis are encouraged to do some post-meditative journaling as a means of logging their meditation experiences or realizations.

So far, in its relatively short lifespan, the Sahaj Marg has experienced three Masters (known respectively as Lalaji, Babuji, and Chariji), and the fourth was recently designated. I feel like a Google search has turned up some interesting tidbits about the Sahaj Marg, including that it’s a cult, that Preceptors at times force abhyasis to share their journals, a sex scandal or two, and disagreements in regard to the succession of some of the past Masters, among others. I’ll speak more about these things in my next post, when I detail my actual experience with the path.

My apologies for this post being so long. I intended to lay out a foundational understanding of as much of Sahaj Marg practice as possible, so that in my next post I can speak as much as possible about my specific experience with the path and not have as much explaining to so.

Om Shanti