HTCI, or the best I have for now

For just about ever the Hindu Temple of Central Indiana has existed as a beige box with a long hanging banner stating, “Hindu Temple,” and most folks here don’t even know about it. When I first began attending, there didn’t exist an actual, identifiable Hindu temple in Indiana. At that time, there was only the India Community Center, which is smaller than most homes here. Some time ago, land was bought and a box-shaped building was built to be the temple. The goal has always been to build a “real” temple, and a little over a year ago the reality of this dream began to manifest. What’s happening, is that the beige box is turning into a stone temple…and as far as I’m able to tell, it’s looking remarkably like the Sri Ganesha Temple in Nashville, TN. For me, it’s still hard to tell how the exterior of the temple will end up, although there are already many big and obviously changes. But on the inside, things are turning out incredibly and I’m excited for its completion.

I was at our temple just yesterday with my husband to catch the very end of the annual Temple Fest, but mostly to have a hand in the Ganesha Visarjan, which concludes a ten-day holiday of Ganesha Chaturthi. While we were there, I snapped a few pics of the temple’s developing interior with my phone. I’ve decided to post them here to share. I’ll see if I can’t provide periodic updates whenever there’ve been big changes.

This is the beginning of the actual temple, prior to the congregation moving from the India Community Center. This is what would eventually become the beige box I’ve referred to. I think this construction began in 2005.

The two photos immediately above, are of the beige box after construction was completed. One floor, you walk in and store your footwear, and aside from an open-sided kitchen, gender-specific restrooms, and two small classrooms, the whole place is one open space.

The two photos above show, somewhat, the newest construction from the exterior. You can plainly see the beige box that existed before. On the ground level, the new construction houses the main worship hall. There are photos of that following. Along with this new construction, below the worship hall are subterranean classrooms and rooms for other purposes.

The above photo is take from the middle area of the worship hall, looking back through the entry that leads from the beige box into the hall. As you enter the worship call, as the father and his daughter are here, to your right is a sealed room where the havan/homa/yagna pujas will take place. The room is austere and has a huge ventilation system immediately over the havan-kund.

In the above photo, you see my husband, thrilled as ever to be dragged to these places by me. This photo is taken from about the same place within the worship hall as the last photo, with a 90-degree turn to my right. Here you can see most of four minor garbhas that will eventually house murtis, although I’m not yet sure which ones. You can also see the marble floor is interrupted by large areas of carpet. I can verify that this carpet is quite comfy!

The above photo is a partial view of the 5-part skylight that makes up the worship hall’s ceiling. Here you can see the center aisle, the immediate left aisle, and part of the far left aisle. There are two other aisles on the right side of the center.

Coming directly down from taking the picture of the skylight, 180-degrees from the direction the first photo of the new construction was taken, is the head of the worship hall and where the three main garbhas are located. You can see the pillars of the center garbh aren’t yet complete. You can also see here, more of the carpet seating on the floor and also mini-garbhas behind the main ones.

The last two photos here are of the planned appearance of the temple after construction is complete. The first photo is the side elevation and the bottom photo, the front elevation. To me, in both photos it’s easy enough to determine where things started with the beige box, which highlights how far things will have come when these phases are finished. The recent Temple Fest is the first time since the new construction began that so many people were able to see how things have progressed, and I’m hoping this will have a positive effect on devotee attendance going forward.

So there you have it! Hindu Temple of Central Indiana (HTCI) in the making!



What should the view of a person be, if he’s not particularly superstitious, and is in fact usually quite logical, but has a tendency for noticing “coincidences” in virtually all areas of life? Does this mean he’s actually superstitious, but in denial about having this primitive characteristic?

I know many religions and many cultures have traditions that amount to little more than superstition- most developing over centuries, as byproducts the cultures they grew from. For instance, I’ve read that during eclipses, expectant mothers in India avoid going outside at all and certain children are “buried” in sands. Truth be told, there’s no earthly reason for suchery. No scientific knowledge is even needed to discern this…simple common sense suffices. If burying folks in sand actually ever healed anyone, hospitals would be less crowded. No? I mean… I don’t know. Maybe I’m missing something here.

And what of the discernible, and truly incredible numerical/mathematical sequences found everywhere in the natural world? Many see these things as naturally occurring, and something necessary and ironed out through a bajillion years of evolution, while others see these things as “proofs” that there exists a Higher Intelligence. A show I watched recently highlighted numerous incredible patterns within the natural world, some so striking it’s tough to think of them as unintentional. Still, the show insisted that chaos is at least as prevalent as order.

Someone told me today that so-called superstitious activities have immense value, regardless of their efficacy- or lack thereof -if they lead to deeper resolve. And because of that, it doesn’t matter if your actions are truly efficacious or mere superstition. She’s a devout, yet worldly Catholic. (Aren’t they all? I kid!) She tells me people who use religion as a crutch are essentially superstitionists, flavored by their immediate faith. According to this woman, real faith involves a letting go. She determined that it doesn’t matter if what you are doing is superstition, so long as it deepens your faith. Religions have practices that might well be labeled as superstitious, but the difference is that religions (mostly) aren’t abandoned when goals aren’t realized, and apparently superstitions are. She cited her own husband, who once wore the same yellow t-shirt to each Pacers game. At the time they were on a winning streak and he knew it would break were he to wear another shirt. The minute they lost, despite his best fashion attempt, he abandoned his ritual.

To kind of tie back to the show I mentioned earlier, since as far back as I’m able to remember I’ve been interested in nature and in studying any natural/living science. When I was very young, I would spend hours and hours outside climbing trees or running in fields or playing in creeks and rivers. I never ever tired of being in those places where there was literally nowhere I could turn and not find something moving or squirming, flowing or growing. And, from the start, I have always been inclined to see that there is Something behind the scenes. One of my earliest memories of god is a memory of a snowfall. I was in my parents’ home, looking out a window at snow falling on our expansive front yard. I noticed the flakes, some large and some small. I noticed the direction of their fall would shift at times. I noticed the invisible wind causing the flakes to swirl and fly. I saw these flakes accumulate on our driveway and drift from one place to another before gaining enough volume to stick somewhere and accumulate further. And I could feel, as I lingered near that window, the cold outside temperature penetrating through the glass and touching my face like some kind of fingerless ghost hand. And I recall, as I took in that winter experience, that I was knowing god. The snowflakes weren’t god. Neither was the wind. But somehow the whole sh’bang was. I actually talked to It right then. I was addressing the flakes, or the wind, or the drifts, or the grass slowly becoming buried… I addressed All of It.

Is that the same as, or bordering on, being superstitious? I know I wasn’t doing something odd for the benefit of its hope-for effects, like wearing the same shirt to ball games, but certainly some would say I reading more into the weather than is reasonable. I saw a natural process, identified with it in some way, thereby personifying it, and suddenly I knew god. Or not?

Allow me to toss out just one more instance for your consideration.

In the last couple weeks, I interviewed for, and was offered, new employment. In the weeks prior to my interview, and certainly between the interview and receiving the offer, I stepped up my sadhana like you wouldn’t believe. I basically followed a schedule based on the sandhyas. At each sandhya I performed one type of sadhana or another, with the most extensive being at the close of each day. (I’m happy to share the formula of this sadhana with anyone interested) (I don’t have a ton of time in the mornings, and lunches at the job I’m leaving are only 31 minutes long, so, while I performed my sadhana at each sandhya as best as I was able, necessity mandated that the final sandhya allowed for the longest-sustained effort.) Finally, after the longest 9 days of my life, I received the call and accepted the offer I had so badly hoped for.

Naturally, this has led me to questioning all of this. I left the interview knowing it had gone well, and wouldn’t have gotten the interview in the first place had my résumé not been well-constructed. Lots of folks would stop there and say that those things are all that came into play here. There are also lots of others who would insist that even a lame resume and poor interview can result in employment offer, if one has faith. I should admit that I’m a bit less in this crowd. But since sadhana was a part of this process (or at least I believe so, or I wouldn’t have dived into it as I did), how am I to know to what extent I benefitted from those efforts?

My religion is one founded in experience. This experience, superficially, would seem to support my shraddha/dharma. Fine. Dandy, even… Except that I can’t currently quantify/qualify what’s happened here in terms of my faith. Can I?

Before Sunrise, Pascal’s Triangle, and other such newness

I’m working on a few posts that are a bit more focused than this one will be, but I thought I’d post for the sake of posting.

So, the biggest news of late in my own life is that yesterday I submitted resignation to my position at work. For a little over two years I’ve served as a scheduler for an outpatient cancer treatment clinic. It’s not at all how I thought I’d enter the medical industry (which was phlebotomy), but I was glad when the offer was originally made. Geez, what a journey it’s been! The entire path has been one of relative and fluctuating chaos and stress. Lots of great new relationships built and I’ve counted a little over 160 RHCs(respirations have ceased, aka death) since I started. However, at the beginning of August I applied for a position with another company (I’m purposely omitting details at this time), and not terribly long ago received a call for an interview, which led to a job offer. I’m basically going from mandated uniform/bottom-of-market-range pay rate/31 minute lunch/passive aggressive uber-Christian supervisor who’s not able to do her own job, let alone watch over my own/moody doctors/sick, moody patients taking their frustration regarding their own failing health out on me/et cetera… to, business-casual-or-jeans-if-I-want-to dress code/just under 10k-a-year pay increase/hour lunch/reasonable management/no arrogant doctors with unrealistic expectations because they don’t actually know which end is up/no one hatin’ on ME because they’re mad that THEIR choice to smoke brought something they now regret/yearly bonus/a parking garage/…and more. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sucked into some pseudo-euphoria. I realize much of the same “crap” will be found from one work environment to the next, but I really am optimistic that this will be a great next step for me. The pay increase alone just about makes the jump worth any associated gamble. Enough.

Beyond that, with the exception of tonight (because of composing this post and getting home late from school) and one other night in the last 3 weeks, I’ve been ridiculously diligent with my sadhana. In the past, I’ve been just as committed, but not as hell-bent on it. I’m loving the results this has wrought on my internal landscape, and if there’s any correlation, I’m very pleased with the same as it pertains to my external landscape also. (This is kind of a lead-in for an up-coming post wherein I’ll tackle the topic of superstition.)

A few posts ago, I had mentioned realizing my dharma in something my current professor had said during math class. I had asked his permission to cite him, and he granted it, asking for a link to this blog or that post. I provided him with this/these, but I’ve never received any feedback from him. I’m still unsure if anything I said in that post was in any way offensive to him, but at this point I don’t much care on account of reasoning that if I did say anything bothersome to him, assuming it were bothersome enough, he’d had gotten back with me about it prior to now- which he hasn’t. If one assumption can lead to another, I’ll go ahead and assume we’re good. On that note, I’ll say that he really impressed me again this evening. He truly is very personable guy. Very down-to-earth. Tonight, during our breaks, he said a number of things that actually could indicate that he’s a pretty deep thinker, a trait I love in anyone. He said a few things about being complacent in life, and about appreciating “the dark” because without it we wouldn’t be able to realize the true value of “light.” This may well cause me to produce a post centered around that kind of perspective.

In other worldly news, a jagadguru known as Amma celebrated the close of another year of Her existence on Earth. She’s 59 now, I believe. Jai Ma! Om Amrteshwarye namah.

I’m officially spent as far as this day’s concerned. I’m about to swallow a couple of pills in hope they ease my day-long headache and then an abbreviated sadhana/puja before crawling into my bed. Early day tomorrow…and likely a long day tomorrow, too.

Om Shanti

Woe is me, but not really

A week ago today was the toughest day I’ve had in a minute. Please, allow me to bore you with the details.

I awoke with the beginning of a head cold. I arrived at the clinic and promptly arranged for my heavily sugared and heavily creamed coffee. This part is good…it’s real good…and addictively delicious. A little later that morning I found myself training a new hire. This is also something I enjoy, although a bit less so with a fledgling head cold. The whole process of training someone means everything goes half the normal pace and requires twice the energy and focus. At the end of the day, I found myself not only entirely spent, but also doing what I usually do at the end of a Thursday (the busiest, most hellish day at the clinic), which is to wrap things up as fast as possible and change into more comfortable clothes to wear to class. I make my way out to my car where I discovered the battery was dead…something the shop warned me of two weeks ago while I was in for an oil change, but otherwise would have been a total surprise. This is truly enough to send me into orbit. You see, anything car-related is a mystery to me. When I sit down into my car, and insert the key, the damned thing needs to move or I’m in fits. Additionally, as I’ve already admitted in prior posts, all things number-related are also practically mind-boggling for me, which makes perfect attendance in class more than mandatory for me. And guess what –when your car won’t start it’s REALLY tough to get to class. More stress.

So, I call my male spousal equivalent and instruct him to bypass his usual stop at the gym as he’s leaving work and come instead, immediately, to pick me up because he’s now my ride to and from school. Even though anything on his schedule that night was neither mandatory or nor something anyone else depended on him for, it was very clear by his demeanor that he was far from thrilled to be called to aid someone like myself. Truth be told, this actually hurt my feelings more than a little. I pride myself on rarely asking for anything from anyone, and growing up it was taught to my brothers and I that you should always be more than willing to help someone else, and never guilt them for it. In defense of my beloved, he didn’t actively guilt me and he didn’t argue with anything I said I needed, but my ego was still bruised, I suppose, because my perception was that he was pissed because he had to give up an evening of doing nothing in favor of an evening of helping me. But whatever, it’s entirely unimportant and inconsequential, but at the time stung pretty badly when I already wasn’t at my best.

So he gets me to school. While I’m in class he’s kind enough to run around and buy a new battery, although it wasn’t able to be installed. He did also manage to get my car to start on the old “dead” battery. So class ends, he picks me up to take me to my car to that we can figure something out… and it starts raining.

That was just about icing on the cake.    

At the beginning of this post, I requested you, dear reader, to allow me to bore you with the details of my miserable day. I used the verb “to bore” intentionally. By virtually every comparative standard, my life is a walk in the park. I find myself, as I age, increasingly self-guilted at thoughts and complaints that arise during my moments of struggle. Days like this one, while painful and frustrating at the time, unfailingly remind me of concepts like Maya, gratitude, and perspective. I’ve said before that even the poor in American are richer than the poor in India. Conversely, even a really crummy day in Josh’s World is still better than a normal day in a lot of folks’ lives. I really shouldn’t complain.

But the reality here is that suffering is universal and applies to all –even a soul as advanced as a Rshi. In the same way that concepts like karma and Brahman are universal, impartial, and impersonal, so is suffering. Everyone suffers, and that fact is what sets such an easy stage for compassion toward those who’re suffering (in their own way).

While suffering shares some pretty big similarities with the likes of karma and Brahman, unlike them it isn’t ultimate. (There’s actually a quasi-loophole that technically makes karma not ultimate either, but it’s a very small loophole indeed!) The biggest aspect of suffering that keeps it from ever being ultimate is that, while few very people indeed have a choice in the suffering that may already be on its way to them, each of us has a ton of control in regard to controlling that suffering once it arrives. What I mean is that no matter what circumstances you find yourself in, you will always, always, always have a choice in how you decide to react to that pain.

Patanjali wrote extensively on this. In Sanskrit, the word for suffering is dukham. According to Patanjali, none in the phenomenal world is exempt from experiencing dukham. None. Many people ask, “Why me?” Patanjali answers, “Why not you?” There simply is no hierarchy in suffering. Suffering is suffering is suffering… and every living thing will know it. He explains that not only is dukham inescapable, but also that its existence cannot be denied, and neither can it be denied that it causes pain. The good news, according to this sage, is that anyone and everyone can change their reaction or response to dukham and a great way to start this process is to avoid responses like blame, guilt, or regret. In the Yoga Sutras, 2.15 & 16 teach a valuable lesson applicable here. In 2.16, Patanjali wrote, “Heyam dukham anagatam,” which translates in some cases as “Pain that has not yet come is avoidable.” This should serve as a tremendous source of hope for those on the path of Dharma. We know that pain is often a part of existing. We know that the cyclical nature of karma means it’s likely we’re due at some point or another for pain. But we are in control over whether we perpetuate suffering in our own lives, and we also have the ability to control how miserable our experience of pain might be.  

In retrospect, for me the hidden benefit found in my miserable Thursday a week ago is that I don’t need to regret that I waited too long to get my battery changed. Nor should I feel guilt for asking someone to help me. And I shouldn’t blame my spouse for reacting as he did. After all, whatever was on his schedule or not, in his own way he suffered that day too and I shouldn’t place my own suffering above another’s.

Just sayin’.

Om shanti

Fight or Flight, or Faith

I recently overheard a conversation which made me ask a few question within mine own head.

Here’s the deal: A few coworkers were, for whatever reason, discussing flying to places as opposed to road travel. One admitted that she was in her 40s when she flew for the first time. She reminisced with a smile on her face of how her aunt, who has since passed, once was in from out of town and as she was headed back wanted my coworker to come stay for a bit, so she bought her the plane ticket and the rest is history. My coworker said she was so thrilled to be flying that she was glued to her window the entire flight.

The other, I’m not sure has ever flown and was very clear that she prefers to travel by car/bus/train… anything except air. I don’t recall her citing any kind of tragic or unpleasant experience. Just some disdain… and much fear. Interestingly, she did go a little into how she felt powerless while flying, or whenever she considered flying. I remember her saying something like, “When you’re in that air plane you can plummet from the sky, crash, and die. There’s nothing below you. You’re in The Hands and that’s all you got.” While saying this she cupped her hands before her solar plexus.

Of course, by “The Hands” she meant the hands of her god, which happens to be the certainly crucified and possibly risen Jesus of Nazareth. And for the record, both this woman and the one she was speaking with are both Christians. What struck me the most isn’t that one Christian had no fear and the other was full of it, but that the one with fear pretty much out rightly proclaimed that resting in her own god’s hands wasn’t safe enough for her. She trusts her own flawed driving skills more than she trusts the one who’s “driving skills” are the source and direction of everything.

I’m not as versed in Christianity as I once was, but I know a huge part of walking that path pertains to faith and believing. I know faith has numerous definitions, but a generalized definition I think applies often enough is something along the lines of, “I hope/have confidence that this/that will happen, although I have no concrete reason to logically know it will.” After all, by faith you’re saved through Jesus Christ (biblical Book of Ephesians), who apparently paid not only for your transgressions, but also everyone else’s. After accepting Jesus into one’s heart, faith is what makes a person a “new creature.” (biblical book of 2nd Corinthians) Faith is what saved the three in the fiery furnace. (biblical Book of Hebrews, and Book of Daniel) Jesus was so impressed by the centurion’s faith that he healed his young gay lover, without even going to him. (from the Gospel of Matthew)

But apparently faith isn’t enough to comfort someone as they fasten their airplane seatbelt.

I guess I’m trying to decide whether I think she’s a “good” Christian or a wishy-washy one. As if my opinion actually matters! Maybe that’s not even a fair question. And by “good” Christian, I don’t mean a Christian who is a good person. I think most Christians are perfectly good people. What I mean is a Christian who adheres to their religion strongly. Since its advent, and in most cultures where Christianity has been present, good Christians have taken solace in what they consider faith during times when reason seems to have left them. Example: Just about any time science has made a new discovery or advancement. Galileo’s life was made quite miserable by the Christians of his day.

I’ve sat through sermons in many churches where the understanding of faith is different from this. In Christian theory (theology?), faith (and the corresponding salvation/relationship with Christ) is not unlike the concept of faith in dharmic religions. In a practical context, though, a difference definitely appears.

In Hinduism, the word for faith is SHRADDH(A). In the context of shraddha, one’s faith must be evident in his actions, or it can’t truly be said that he even has “faith” (shraddh). He may have belief, but not faith. The idea here is that if what you believe isn’t reflected in your actions, then necessarily, it can’t be said that you believe what you think you believe, or at least what you tell others you believe. You can’t call a spade a spade, if it has no characteristics of a spade. No?

However, within Christendom, it’s completely accepted and common practice to say or preach one thing, but do another. I know that might sound judgmental and harsh, but it’s the historical reality. The Church, as it exists as a collective body of believers, has not been very diligent about focusing on the actual teachings of its guru, Christ. (This could easily lead me to a post on the value of practical hypocrisy, but now’s not the time.) This brings me back to the coworker gal in my office who says she believes she’s in “The Hands” while flying, but refuses to fly. Surely to have faith that your version of God is in control is the same as acknowledging “The Hands” everything rests in. How is it even logical to walk around glorifying your Lord up one side and down the other, at every turn (and trust me she does all day long), but then not have faith in that Lord to care for you? Am I missing something here?

But whatever.

I’ll close with a quote by someone I respect immensely for his work and its clarity. He’s a celebrity, but no less authentic in regard to the teachings he passes on to us. Deepak Chopra once said,

“Faith can be the cover for a mind that stubbornly holds onto God or stubbornly refuses to accept the possibility of God. All faiths were founded on direct experience of God and their intention was to pass that experience on. Faith is a form of hope and hope is unfulfilled unless real experience arrives. Turn inward to find the root that faith springs from. When you find it, faith will no longer be a crutch, an excuse, or a desperate hope.”

Om shanti

Manu Smrti, Bhagavad Gita, & How I Learned to Love Mayo

A couple posts ago I was lamenting how I often feel misunderstood by those I assume should understand me the best. I kind of want to dive a little deeper into this.

I do think that those who have known you the longest or the most intimately should understand you the best. And I stand by my thoughts that deviance from this may well, but not always, indicate a lack of personal development on the part of those who should understand more/better than they do. However, in the scheme of things, and especially in the context of my own life, none of this is truly relevant.

I recently had a sunday brunch with a dear Buddhist friend of mine who helped me gain further perspective on things like this. This pal, also a member of SGI although far more active than I, is definitely someone who might qualify as a local Buddha. I’m immensely grateful for his saintly association, his friendship, and his insight. He said many “dark and wond’rous” things to me while advising, and one of them stands out. His kind of Buddhism has many aspects, and one of them is creating “good causes” and otherwise planting karmic seeds.

Some of the other advice I received, also from a good pal, was to “let it go.” I’m certain he didn’t mean this as a nonchalant dismissal of anything, rather a kind of peaceful release in knowing that I’ve perhaps done what I could to help as much as I could and anything else is essentially out of my hands and not worth the worry. I find that this can tie directly into what my Buddhist saint said about sowing karmic seeds: You make a good effort, one that’s as selfless as you’re able to make, and then move on while you wait for the seeds to blossom karmically sometime in the future, maybe during this life or maybe not. I think all of this can be connected directly to what Sri Krsna advises Arjuna. The lesson applies to the process of perfecting karma yoga as well as vairagya and requires a certain level of jnana also.

You are meant to work. The way your personal work (swadharma) manifests can almost be viewed as irrelevant, so long as you recognize it and fulfill it to the best of your ability. Attachment to the fruits of your personal labors (karma phala) is where things get messy, and in my case frustrating. I hope to see that my good advice has a good effect. This is selfish, actually, and quite ego-filled. I’m guessing that’s why it’s advised against in the Gita. Instead, I should simply want to make sure that I walk my talk, and that the proof of my swadharma is in my life’s pudding for others to taste. What happens often enough, is that the proof is, indeed, in my life’s pudding, but I also try giving them a verbal taste test. Not necessary.

This brings me to something from the Manu Smrti that I carry with me most places, but forget far too often. An excerpt from the Manu Smrti goes something like,

“Unless one be asked, one must not explain anything to anybody, nor must one answer a person who asks improperly; let a wise man, though he knows the answer, behave among men like an idiot.”

I struggled with this briefly when I first encountered it, because on the surface a superficial interpretation can totally apply. Let’s look at the bigger picture though, and try breaking this thing into chewable bits.

“Unless one be asked, one must not explain anything to anybody…” My understanding of this is not a “spoke only when spoken to” kind of deal. I see this as meaning that unless folks come to you wanting answers, you don’t owe them to anyone. You may have the answers, and it may be fine enough to offer the answer unsolicited, but it’s not expected. It’s always best to share knowledge whenever another may benefit from it, but you don’t have to.

“…nor must one answer a person who asks improperly; …” I remain unconvinced that there’s a specifically right or wrong way to ask for help, and I think something else is meant here. To acquire my advice, you need not approach me, touch my feet, offering a pranam/namaste before asking what you seek. Those are all cultural fancies, and mostly useless. They have their place, sure, but what’s more important is that the seeker possesses humility and sincerity. If someone doesn’t ask for help while displaying those two qualities, perhaps help is not their’s to receive. Afterall, the Law of Karma mandates that we receive in direct proportion to what we give -not the other way around.

“…let a wise man, though he knows the answer, behave among men like an idiot.” I think this is my favorite part of the excerpt. Of all the parts this has been broken into for analysis, this is the meatiest. On the surface, it rather paints a picture of some snide sage sitting back watching in amusement while those still learning run, perhaps repeatedly, head-first into the wall. But this isn’t what’s happening here. Without getting too deep into it, and while still pretty superficial, when you allow others to think you don’t know the answer, when you really do, you create the potential to offer space for experiential revelation. They can, and hopefully do, find the space to work out the answer on their own. In the Hindu context, this has immense and incredible value. Simultaneously, the one behaving “among men like an idiot” experiences a greater feeling of liberation in that moment. That person with the answer, rests in knowing that he doesn’t need to say a word for things to happen as they will; as they should. This person has the opportunity to step out of the karmic cycles of the other person and let everything fulfill itself. This differs from a notion I’ve entertained more than once, which is to withdrawal: to stop tossing pearls to swine, to let the punks fight over their trinkets and make them solve it all through the ridiculously long process of experiencing pain and adjusting when that pain becomes too much.

It’s been said it takes a village to raise a child. I’m pretty much about as raised as my parents can hope for, but I’m still working on things. And between Manu Smrti, Bhagavad Gita, a dear local Buddhist, and another wise pal I’ve never even met in person, I’d say it’s close enough to a village to call it even.

By the way, loving mayo has nothing to do with anything.

Om Shanti

Soboleski-ji, or How Algebra Might Point to the Infinite

Recently in a college algebra class I’m in, the (handsome) faculty said something… well, quite handsome.

“Algebra is the art of manipulation without change,” he said entirely poetically.

Truth be told, I’m not sure if he was quoting someone else or if his words here are original. And, more truth be told, I suspect algebra to be more of a science than an art. Mostly, neither of those matter. What matters a little more to me is that in the middle of a class that normally would cause me break out in hives I had a vaguely religious experience, reminding me that The One truly is to be found and experienced in all places and areas of life…even the maths.

Regardless of where within Hinduism one sits, none debates that the highest concept of anything and everything is That known as Brahman. For those outside of Hinduism, Brahman is otherly known as The Dao (Daoism), The Father (Christianity), Allah (Islam), The Great Spirit (Native American spirituality), and The Force (Star Wars), to name only a few. Some Hindu sects refer to their own ishtadevata as the Highest, but really what’s happening there is that they’re projecting what they know and adore onto something that is nearly impossible to know through the human senses, and as impossible to adore. I’m guilty of this, myself, although I’m fully aware that I’m doing it when I do. But that’s neither here nor there.

So in (very, very basic) algebra, you’re essentially shifting the same from here to there and back again until you reach the goal. This doesn’t even begin to come close to what algebra fully is, but this is Sanatana Dharma, Hinduism.

Forgive my incredibly limited understanding of all things number-related. While I enjoy numbers, words are usually more my thing… In algebra, you’re basically starting with an expression/equation and, as my teacher from the North pointed out, it’s merely a matter of manipulating your way to the end result. Nothing actually changes during this process, it’s just that along the way things become clearer and clearer until the goal is reached. When all the work that can be done is finished, your answer is “simplified,” and a clarity is achieved, which is free from all the phases and steps that are sometimes confusing along the way. Can you see where I’m going with this?

In the same way that an algebraic expression/equation essentially starts with what it needs to reach its conclusion, all things come from the Source and, suchly, are complete from their beginning. And in the same way that the art of algebra expresses itself in the various steps required to reach its answer, shaping through “manipulation without change,” and finishing no more or less complete than when it started, just clearer; the same can be said about the individual working throughout their lifetime (after lifetime, after lifetime), never any more or less complete than ever, but hopefully with things becoming clearer than they were. The clarity being, of course, the realization that we were whole/complete all along.

Now before anyone thinks they’re clever, allow me to clarify that in the context of personal evolution, the idea of “manipulation without change” is applied in a strictly algebraic sense. Algebraically speaking, manipulation means simple shuffling of terms and values, in a systematic and symmetrical manner, ensuring a balanced progression until finally reaching the end. This, clearly, is different from the manipulation most folks are more familiar with which often involves exploitation to some degree or another until a desire is attained.

It’s because of this that I found myself sitting in college algebra, slightly hopped up on Starbucks, with a new respect for fanciness like:

I think most people don’t recognize their dharma in a class they might not even take were it not required of them-which in itself  is pretty dharmically algebraic. Or would that be algebraically dharmic? Maybe I’m reading too much into things. That’s happened before. Either way, for now, in a really remote sort of way going to class isn’t entirely different from going to temple. Should make the next eight weeks a little less painful.

Om Shanti