A Christian kind of Hindu

The other day a friend posted to Facebook a quote by Jiddu Krishnamurti. The focus of the quote was nonviolence, often translated as ahimsa. According to Krishnamurti, just about any identification meant trying to separate ourselves from others, which he perceives to be a form of violence. And so, to say you’re a Hindu or a Christian is a violent act because it creates a split between you and those not identifying as Christian or Hindu- or, more generally, between the identity you assign yourself and any different identity someone else might happen to be inclined toward in their own way. I suppose on a super subtle level, I agree. The Jnana involved here is something I align with, and I also think this mostly clicks with Raja Yoga as well. I think, though, that this over-simplification verges on theoretical negation of other paths like Bhakti and possibly Karma. With that in mind, and within the context of living in the three-dimensional realm, from where I’m composing this right now, I mostly disagree. I’ll try to explain. Wish me luck.


1) I think violence, in the strictest definition of the term, is generally inescapable (and is inescapable only in the context of this very strict definition) – after all, the necessary act of breathing kills! Having said that, I don’t think violence (again, in the strictest sense of the word) is inherent in life or in creation. It’s often unavoidable, but not necessarily automatic. That might sound contradictory, but to me it isn’t. Life is neither coming nor going; it simply is. As such it isn’t phenomenal. Because it isn’t essentially phenomenal, but does manifest phenomenally, violence is able to be both inescapable and not inherent. Truly, it’s Sat-Chit-Anand. Brahman. It’s these kinds of seeming contradictions that make Hinduism so inherently balanced. In many (most?) other paths, things are black OR white, which lends itself to lop-sidedness and possibly extremism. But within my faith things are often black AND white, thus a more reasonable, balanced, and accepting/tolerant approach.

Back to the quote and a few of my earlier assertions… If violence were inherent in phenomenal life, Gandhi’s mission would have been an entire waste. Additionally, violence (strictly defined, or not) is usually associated with some form of destruction. And unless we’re discussing material existence, which would mean our topic should be attachment (not unity), not only does science teach that energy/life is never actually created or destroyed, but also it doesn’t reason well that life would be well-sustained within material existence if destruction/violence were inherent to its essence.

If this were the case (if violence/destruction were inherent), Vishnu wouldn’t have been named The Preserver. In fact, with the realization that literally everything we do likely causes some form of harm or destruction, Vishnu COULDN’T have been named The Preserver or The Sustainer, because in that context preserving/sustaining would be impossible. However, our immediate physical universe seems to be holding together pretty reasonably, and we believe the same about our spiritual skies, so I’m inclined to reason that Sri Vishnu is doing just fine and that violence isn’t as inherent as it might seem at first glance. This is the first exception I take with Krishnamurti’s quote. It’s too much of a generalization and round-aboutly negates the function of Sri Vishnu. I ain’t havin’ it.

2) Another thing I think Krishnamurti doesn’t consider in this case is that ahimsa doesn’t simply mean violence. It also means aggression. And because of this additional layer of meaning, typical of Sanskrit words, a number of other variables in existence open up to us. Contrary to Krishnamurti-ji’s claim, it’s quite possible to assert that I’m a Hindu without the assertion being an act of violence, so much as an act of Bhakti. Bhakti doesn’t work well at all without identification, which is what Krishnamurti’s words in this case hinge on. At a bare minimum, the positions of the adorer and the Adored must be established, or a relationship of devotion is nearly impossible to forge. And even if my own Self is the object of my devotion, saying “Namastu te” still involves identification. At face value, there’s nothing inherently violent in this process/act, and the process of walking the path of bhakti can’t really begin until one identifies both roles.

I will allow, that more often than not, when Christians and Muslims make a definitive assertion regarding their faith, it is something that indeed could be viewed as an act of violence. Christians proudly proclaim that their guru/avatar Jesus, is THE Way. Likewise, the Islamic equivalent of the Christian Sinner’s Prayer, “Laa ilaha il-Allah, wa Mahammad ur-Rasool Allah,” boldly states not only that The God is the only god (which is actually pretty much just common sense), but also that Muhammad (the Muslim guru, but not avatar) is God’s final messenger to humanity. When we consider these authentically exclusive religions, I can definitely agree that identifying one’s self as an adherent is veritably an act of violence. In my opinion, these religions actually prove Krishnamurti right because it’s very difficult indeed to join those religions, specifically, and not subscribe to the Us-versus-Them identification Krishnamurti is hinting at. The incredible amount of exclusivity alone-just in joining!- seems to constitute violence.

As with many things, I consulted my beloved to get his take on exactly what behaviors define violence. His answer was that (most) actions alone aren’t enough designate violence, but that intention plays a significant role as well. He did, also, carry the opinion that speech alone isn’t usually enough to “be” violent. So, from where he stands, actions are violent depending on their intent- something that occurs easily enough. Violence in speech, though, is a tougher matter.

For me, all things are connected and evolve together. Thoughts often become speech. And the two often heavily influence our actions. Asserting something isn’t automatically violent, but rather depends on the thought patterns which were foundational to that speech.

And there you have it.

Om Shanti



Last night was my annual Autumn Fest/Pumpkin Carvering Party. It’s only the third one my beloved and I have held, and it’s something that’s turning out to be a really great tradition.

We never invite a ton of people, just those we really want present, as we’d rather everyone be able to engage in conversation as well as actually hear that conversation -plus we’d like to be able to actually hang out with everyone present. We always provide the foods/beverages, and make sure we have at least one extra pumpkin in case someone forgets to bring one. This year the menu included BBQ turkey links (the only actual meat item present), home-made salsa, home-made zucchini bread, pumpkin spice bars, jalapeno popper dip, two types of humus, a veggie tray, a variety of chips, home-made and store-bought soda, and a variety of adult beverage options. Finger foods, to say the least, but it didn’t seem like folks had a problem stuffing their bellies. After the meal, we enjoyed individual Keurig K-cup coffees.

I invited a total of around 25 folks, including 2 out-of-towners, and up until the last minute around 15 were promised(or mostly promised) to come. The size of the group and the size of my home actually made for a nice setting for everyone with lots of laughing and mingling.

As folks arrived the pumpkins they brought were lined up outside along my home’s front walk, welcoming each subsequent arriver, and were allowed to sit outside in the brisk evening air under the (nearly?) full moon. When the time seemed right, we began bringing them in and gradually those present settled in their chosen places to work on their masterpieces. Newsprint covered everywhere anyone was working, with heavy-duty spoons and sharp knives in abundance.

A few people did stencils, but most free-handed. We had one message, “BOO,” one buddha face that morphed into something along the lines of an infamous bomber who’d made the news in past years, and everyone else produced some kind of ghastly, ghoulish, or benign visage. Each of us awed and joyed at how each creation, in some way-to some degree, reflected its creator. I’ve included my own creation below, followed by a photo of the whole bunch.


Gatherings like this are my favorite kind. I think, in different ways, they’re a good indicator of my dharmic compass And they allow me to connect with folks in a way that my normal work/work/school/temple schedule wont allow for, and I have the change to read their dharmic compasses then, too.

I often read a lot into things, often more than most people think I should. The full moon, the age-old practice of carving pumpkins, and the company of my own parents and other bests all felt very auspicious to me and further cements this young tradition in my heart and mind. I look forward to another gathering a year from now.

Om Shanti


Two posts ago, I began this three-part episode. In the last post, I discussed as best I’m able how my experience with bhakti cemented my relationship with Ganesha and I mentioned, just briefly, how that bhakti has led me to progressively higher experience within jnana yoga. In this final post my goal is to explain some knowledge about Ganesha (some very superficial jnana, at best) and perhaps to step a little deeper if the post leads me there.

Although Ganesha’s form, having a human-like body and an elephant head, is mismatched, His immense form comes loaded full of an immensity of symbolism and wisdom pointing to higher Truth. In fact, the most notable trait He possesses, His head/body combo, point to an undeniable truth. The human body is attached to a non-human head. One meaning behind this is to show us that, while a body will not remain alive without the brain within the head telling all parts what to do, Divinity is an automatic and necessary part of human existence.

From there, you can just about pick something -anything- about Ganesha’s form and He will use it to enlighten you. In some images He has more than one face or head. His large ears are said to not only serve as sifters, helping to sort Truth from untruth (Asato ma sat gamaya…), but also are efficient and even necessary to hear the multitude of prayers sent to Him -a natural observation considering He’s only deity within Hinduism worshipped/approached by (literally) all before any task or any other form of worship. Ganesha’s broken tusk has meaning. The varied directions and curvatures of His trunk also possesses esoteric knowledge. The position of his legs, whether seated or standing or dancing, is also meant to be a sign to us. One obvious place where knowledge has been encoded: His hands/arms. Their number, position, mudra, and what they may hold are all indicative. His color is meant to teach us. Whether he has a consort on His lap, or two, or none, is meant to point to Truth, too. His vahana is highly symbolic. The size of his belly also tells us something. Everything about everything about everything, pertaining to all forms of Ganesha (Vedic wisdom supplies us with 32, officially), points to higher Truth. As such, the progression toward Truth (Brahman) is quite literally inescapable while contemplating, meditating on, or worshipping Ganesha.

Oddly enough, even in unorthodox representations of Ganesha, very nearly the full Truth can be found. To be clear, as mentioned above, there are 32 officially recognized forms of Ganesha. However, one other form that I’ll mention now is known as Sri Shubh Dhrishti Ganapati. There are a number of stories accounting for how this form came to be, but the most accepted or known is that He appeared in this form to a man who then made that form known to us all. Some say that this form of Ganesha is just a money-making scheme, and I suppose that’s quite possible, but I also think that’s irrelevent because any form of any god could be used for the same, and is, without automatically negating that form’s inherent value or purpose. He apparently manifested to the aforementioned man in a dream as a way of coming into our present Kali Yuga, and is meant to be an all-encompassing representation of The All, and as such is also known as Sarva Mahashakti. This form of Ganesha, like all other forms of Ganesha, is known as the physical form of the pranava (Om, Aum,…), and encompasses/combines all other major deities. One can easily see, with even a glance at the form: Shiva’s trident, Vishnu’s conch, and Durga’s lion -among a number of other notable attributes, signifying the culmination of all attributes. Worshipping and meditating on any of Ganesha’s holy forms will lead to liberation because the worshipper or meditator is, among other things, simultaneously worshipping or meditating on all other gods within the pantheon, which themselves point to The Absolute, as well as the Primordial Sound, which is itself the Foundation of all phenomenal existence (as our modern physics is proving). In this way, both Saguna Brahman and Nirguna Brahman are sought and experienced, and the wheel of samsara transcended.

Sri Shubh Dhrishti Ganapati

In my beginning with Ganesha, in part because of His fantastic form, I found devotion to Him to come quite easily. The entire last post somewhat detailed my journey with bhakti, which was then the primary and elementary form of my religion. Bhakti, being my starting place, is what led me to familiarity with karma yoga and then to an ever-deepening experience of jnana yoga. For me, this progressed naturally: Developing bhakti enables the potential for me to see That (Brahman, Atman, Ganesha, Krishna, Vishnu, God, myself…whatever label I attach to that which I’m devoted) in each conscious entity I encounter. Also, the realization and experience of It’s omnipresence leads naturally to modified, corrected, and elevated behavior, which includes behaviors of the mind/intelligence (read: practicing karma yoga). No joke: Try seriously believing that everything you encounter is pervaded by that One to which you’re devoted and still behave as you did before that realization. I’ll be bold and say that if you’re able to behave as you always have, you’re not only not really seeing that to which you’re devoted in others, but also you’ve yet to even taste bhakti -even if the taste is otherwise only fleeting.

With “Step 1” and “Step 2” partially under my belt (at least theoretically), the stage is set for “Step 3” : Jnana Yoga. When you take the fire provided by yoga of devotion (bhakti) and add to it the wood of karma yoga, you find yourself surrounded by the other-worldly glow of Jnana. Many people stop understanding what jnana is after scratching its surface. This is why some are fine believing that jnana (“knowledge” with a miniscule k) leads to bhakti/karma. That’s an incomplete understanding of what jnana is, and in that light it’s easy to conclude that “learning what’s right” (jnana) allows one to better perceive The One, and then enables true and full devotion, resulting in liberation at the feet of the Lord.

Jnana is more than mere “knowing.” It’s knowing with a magiscule K. When one’s devotion (bhakti yoga) and devotional actions (karma yoga) are effectively used to still more and more samskaras, the wisdom inherent in one’s atman appears increasingly clear to the mind. With this settling of samskaras the mind is able to perfectly reflect back to the atman the Image of Itself. This is an experience of jnana -Truth(one’s soul) knowing/seeing Truth(that soul’s Source) clearly. The experience is of a ridiculously indescribable, transcendent, and blissful Consciousness which is the truest essential nature of the atman/paramatman/Brahman. This is Sat-Chid-Anand and this is Brahman.

Om shanti


In the last post I scratched the surface on a three-part series I’m planning to write about my understanding of the nature of the Hindu conception of God, and also where I personally have encountered the highest concentration of This in my own life. Before continuing in this post, you’ll want to have read the one before this. Inform yourself here. As mentioned in the post before this, Ganesha deva holds a particular place in my swadharma. In this post I’d like to attempt to explain how trying my hand at devotion (Ganesha = my ishtadevata) brought me to a higher knowledge regarding Truth. Right now, I’m not terribly confident that my thought processes or use of words will serve as I hope, but if you care to continue reading, you’ll have my best effort.

Bhakti, or devotion, was the first component at play in my being transfixed on the Ideal that is Ganesha. I came to know of Him almost the very instant I came to know anything at all about Hinduism. Perhaps love/devotion at first sight? LOL No, but really -probably the first two things I knew regarding Ganesha is that He’s the Remover of Obstacles, and that He’s the son of Shiva, the God of Destruction (among other things and whose name is synonymous with auspiciousness and consciousness. I’ve been meaning to make a post just about Shiva.). With attributes like that instantly my heart was hooked.

As I mentioned in the last post, I find the highest quantity and concentration of divine attributes to be applicable to Ganesha. If Brahman is essentially attributeless, and It is (Neti, Neti, remember?), then it reasons that devotion to anything with attributes best serves as a launch pad for experiencing/merging with something virtually impossible to conceptualize. You have to essentially master the phenomenal world before transcending it and realizing the Foundation of all that is phenomenal. Otherwise you’re trying to go from zero to sixty without really even knowing how to operate the vehicle. Some vehicles come with power windows, but no power seats. Some don’t have power windows, but have power seats, and so on. I want a vehicle with as many bells and whistles as I can find so that operating my vehicle happens as optimally as possible, making that zero-to-sixty acceleration not only more likely, but smoother in the process. And so, as it happens, I found Ganesha.

In my opinion, of all the prominent gods within the Hindu pantheon, Ganesha is the most striking. For me personally, gods like Brahma, Vishnu, Kartikeya/Murugan, Shiva, and just about all forms of Shakti/The Mother are too anthropomorphic. I don’t think this lessens their value in any way, but it makes them less appealing to me. Even one such as Hanuman, who has a human-like form of a monkey, is too human-like to represent something as indescribable as Brahman in my experience. In contrast, Ganesha refuses to fit most moulds. Possessing the head of an elephant, a typically obese thorax and abdomen, and rarely seen with fewer than four arms … the whole mess of which is perched upon a miniscule maushika (mouse) vahana. His form, while full of meaning that I’ll pick apart later, doesn’t fit in. Maybe this pulls more at my own heart strings because of growing up as I did: short, scrawny, unathletic, non-farmer gay kid in the middle of Indiana’s corn fields. Like Ganesha’s misfit head and whacked beginning, I didn’t fit many moulds hoped for me either. On some level, I feel affinity for His image and all it’s various traits may represent.

I think, too, much of what Ganesha is said to symbolize/represent/govern are things I hold dear. This list is actually super big, and I’ll get to that in the next post. I suppose it’s selfish, but finding not only what I hold dear, but much else otherwise kind of makes Ganesha the ultimate in one-stop spiritual shopping for me.

Shortly after learning of Ganesha I purchased my very first murti. At that time, I was already more inclined toward the Shiva side of things, but a murti of Ganesha is what I encountered first and it was almost like I was imprinted instantly. I’ve included a photo of it above. My first “mandir” was nothing other than the top of a cheap dresser and consisted of hardly more than a cloth covering the dresser’s top, a candle, and the Ganesha above. I’m tempted to say that it was during this time that my bhakti was newest and strongest. I certainly didn’t yet possess much spiritual knowledge, but I knew I loved God and I knew that for me, Ganesha was my preferred image of God. At this time, too, I was familiarizing myself with Yogananda and his autobiography, and with the Bhagavad Gita. Because of the lack of knowledge, including knowledge of the concept of Karma Yoga, bhakti was literally my entire religion. I had known devotion before with earlier religious experiences, but during this time in my life it was quite literally just myself and what I understood to be my god -the connection was palpable and real and it’s from this time of my life that I retain spiritual memories that not only are kept tucked away for my remembrance only, but sealed my relationship with Brahman as Ganesha.

Since those days, I’m become more familiar with the other faces of Brahman. I don’t suppose I could ever fully exclude any one of Hinduism’s god. However, I’ve also become increasingly close to the Ideal of Ganesha and have learned so much about Him -and have learned and experienced so much as a result of learning about Him. This brings me to the next post which I intend to deal with the meaning encapsulated in Ganesha’s form as well as jnana yoga. For now, let it be clear that Ganesha is the source of my devotion and its object, and this has brought me to new landscapes of internal wisdom.

Om Shanti

Ganesham Bhajema

Although not everything about my religious/spiritual journey in this life has been pleasant, I’m immensely grateful for every step. After being forced to part ways with Christianity, and wandering for a brief year or two, I came to discover what might be modernly recognized as the principal deities of Hinduism, namely Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. It was in learning about the Trimurti that I learned about other manifestations of the divine such as Vayu, Indra, Surya, Agni, Lakshmi, Hanuman, Ganesha, Saraswati, and many others. Initially there seemed to be a profound yet finite hierarchy within this pantheon; some gods being the husbands/wives/fathers/mothers/sons/daughters of others. For a time, most of my learning centered around acquainting myself with these relationships and their histories.

As the depth of my knowledge increased, I gained the realization that these gods were variously known to be faces of the One Supreme Reality, as well as actually worshipped by their respective devotees as That One. I found this to be an interesting facet of Sanatana Dharma that is missing from religions of the West. I also found this to be one of the single most important things a dharmi could come to know. In fact, this is literally foundational to the faith: Ekam sat vipraha bahudh’ vadanti, Truth is one, though the wise recognize it variously. It’s because of this foundation of the Hindu belief system that I’ve always wondered why a Hindu is able to genuinely believe that any such “face” the One might happen to wear, is actually the “complete” manifestation of Brahman.

Having said that, I’ll say two other things.

  1. I feel that each of the Hindu gods (it’s been said that there are over 330 million) does absolutely represent Brahman, although incompletely -if that even makes any sense. Truly, only Brahman is That, and That is impossible to fully describe from the perspective of human language and conception – which might account for why there are a bajillion deities recognized within Hindu panentheism, and which is also a testament to the vastness of Hindu religion and the fruit of its ancient and on-going efforts to paint an ever clearer picture of what Reality is. In no other religion known to humans on Earth is the picture of God provided in such an encompassing way. No joke. But each god, while worshipable as a representation of The All, at best can only point to some of That All.
  2. I’ve spent more than one-third of my current life learning about and actively living Hindu Dharma. A lot of this time, and certainly especially in my earlier Hindu years, has been spent (as I already mentioned) continually educating myself. Some of this self education has been very basic: “This is such-and-such god, and this is what he/she governs/represents.” It didn’t take long before I noticed overlapping from one god to the next. A basic example is that of goddesses Kali and Durga. Both are distinct in their own ways, yet both are known as fierce, protecting Mothers and are understood to be magnificent but volatile faces for the Shakti that animates everything. I think it’s because of encountering this that I’m not likely to ever say that one god is actually supreme over the rest. Not in all cases, but in enough, an attribute of one god is equally as applicable to another. With that in mind, why would it be logical to say that Kali is supreme, when Durga has any number of things in common with Her? And what of the attributes typically ascribed to Durga that don’t apply to Mother Kali? Do those render Durga superior to Kali? This can be carried over and applied to a huge number of Hindu deities.

Sri Ganesh is (kind of) an exception. Or at least to my current personal sensibilities, He’s the closest thing to an exception that I’ve found. I say He’s kind of an exception, because I believe you are either an exception or you’re not, and technically speaking He’s not. Why then, even bring Him up? If for no other reason, because the greatest amount of the aforementioned deity-deity overlapping occurs with Him, AKA from my perspective it seems as though the greatest number of Brahman’s attributes apply to Ganesha. I don’t think this alone makes Him an exception, but it does make Him stand out to me.

Dear Reader, allow me to provide a slight disclaimer at this point: I’m not professing to be any sort of expert. I’m also not in any way intending to invalidate anyone else’s beliefs or ishtadevata or marg or …anything. What I’m saying in this post, and in the next few to come, applies strictly to my experience. If it happens to also apply to your own, by all means let me know, and we’ll relate our commonality. If your experience has been different, and seemingly conflicting to what I’ve posted here and am about to post, you are also welcome to let me know this, provided you respect our difference as it’s been expressed in my writing. I’ll ask just one favor of you before you express your differing viewpoint. Read at least the final paragraph of this.

Om Shanti

The Night I Bit Clear Through My Tongue, or Pot/Kettle/Black

In class recently I had the wonderful experience of dropping eaves on a nearby conversation taking place between some of my classmates.

Those chatting were three in number.

  • One mid-late thirties white (mostly) heterosexual male who is nearly as broad as he is tall, although rather firm, and also mostly unintelligent. (For the record, I’m totally making an assumption about his intelligence, I can explain as much, if requested, although it’s neither here nor there.)
  • One middle-aged white heterosexual female/wife/mother of numerous small humans. A happily self-proclaimed “army brat,” who married another such individual, and with whom she raised even more army brats. She’s rather chatty in her own way, and seems inclined toward needing to impress others.
  • One middle-aged black heterosexual male, far taller than he is wide. Aside from his shared military history with the others, I’m not very familiar with stories of his own background. I think he’s married, or rather was, and now has a chip on his shoulder regarding this.

At the beginning of class, as happens often enough, the faculty insisted on an ice breaker. However, instead of being creative with this ice breaker, the faculty simply pulled out Microsoft Excel and, working some columns and rows with one or another formula, shuffled us into three lists and instructed us to mingle and chat, before being shuffled again and repeating the whole thing. Sadly, it didn’t take long for me to realize that i had very little in common, indeed, with any of these three. Though, I will admit the black fellow seemed most appealing to me. You see, of the three of them, he was the only one capable of carrying a conversation with others without turning it, sooner or later, to centering around army/military talk.

Fine. Dandy.

Since then, the three have been veritable peas in a pod. I believe they may actually be on a learning team together, or something, which would account for some of his cohesion to a degree. I’ll allow that, at least. I’ll also allow that, by and large, most of their prattling hardly amounts to much more than mere annoyance. I find myself wanted desperately to interrupt and emphatically request that they talk about something else -anything else. But, alas, I give them their space and attempt directing my attention elsewhere. Tonight was a challenge, though.

The conversation started with the woman, who I’d just as soon leave roadside somewhere, although that wouldn’t be very nice of me. She had her laptop out and was boasting about her husband’s miliary retirement ceremony (the photos of which she was sharing from her computer), which apparently took place in Utah. After talking about Utah as though it’s some kind of heaven compared to Indiana, she started in on those evil Mormons. <sigh>

She, and the black guy, and the somewhat-flabby-somewhat-meathead went on and on about how cultish the Mormon religion is, mentioning that it’s not Christianity, and they all agreed more than once that they (Mormons) don’t like you much if you’re not one of them, and will try hard to make you one of them. They also chatted briefly about the history Mormons have regarding blacks. Virtually everything they said about the Mormon religion is true. Not everything, but much.

The woman in the conversation finally admitted that she was denied a job while in Utah because when asked what ward or stakehouse she belonged to, she gave the wrong answers. (By her account, she answered with some military number that applied to her husband for her answer to the ward question, and said something like Outback Steakhouse for the other answer) Ultimately, when her interviewer clarified, she answered that she isn’t Mormon, rather she is a Southern Baptist.

And stop. Please, for God’s sake, allow me to explain a few things.

  1. Mormons ARE Christians. To deny this is ignorant and mean, and frankly petty. I’ve seen this a lot within Christianity. An example would be when I’ve told someone about how I was tossed out of the Church as a teen for being gay. Often the response I get is something like, “How horrible! Those people weren’t real Christians! Real Christians show Christ’s love to everyone!” Ummm… bullshit. The people who hated me for being gay are equally as much Christians as any others, and saying they aren’t just because they make the Faith look as mean as it is, doesn’t make them bad guys. It really pisses me off when Christians turn on each other like this -another very telling indicator of that religion. Truth be told, the Mormon branch of Christianity is one of the highest educated and most productive. Look it up. You’ll see.
  2. Mormons ARE cultish, but virtually no other branch or denomination of Christianity has any room to talk at all, so stuff it. In fact, what 99.99999% of most Christians either fail to realize or choose to ignore is that their own religion literally began as a middle eastern cult that had a knack for either convincing folks to join their ranks or, eventually, killing them for refusing to. Christianity’s very violent and bloody history is full of “Us versus Them” moments, which continue into today. At its dawn, Christianity was an exclusionary minority group, following their own exalted leader, and shunning many of the practices of the culture it sprang from. Mormonism may well be a (ridiculously large) cult, but Christianity -in word and deed- is the very same.
  3. It’s particularly and absolutely hypocritical that a Southern Baptist gal had the nerve to say those things, in a derogatory manner, about Mormons. I was once a Baptist, and I could have easily told you why every other religious/spiritual path was doomed for damnation. In fact, I feel comfortable saying that that’s one of the things Baptists specialize in. The last I knew, Baptists were the largest denomination in the Protestant Christian world, and if there’s any one denomination in the Christian religion that’s cultish, exclusionary, and inclined toward hating others, it’s the Baptists. No joke.

Suffice it to say, in an effort to “bite” my tongue for the sake of keeping silent, I nearly bit clear through it. It’s a good thing this class is half over -I’m running out of tongue to bite!

Om Shanti

Was C. S. Lewis right about Hinduism?

I recently read something by another blogger and found it very well-written, contemplative, and explanatory. The entry asked, “Was C. S. Lewis right about Hinduism?

In it he details a number of ideas faced when comparing/contrasting Christianity and Hinduism. I thought, with my background in Christianity and (most of my adult life in) Hinduism, that I’d done a pretty thorough analysis of the two -at least for my own purposes. However, my knowledge was increased and my perspective broadened by reading this -and all in confirmation of the views I already held.

I certainly recommend this to people who are:

  • familiar with both Christianity and Hinduism
  • familiar with either/or, but perhaps not both
  • familiar with neither Christianity nor Hinduism

Om Shanti

Nigh upon 1997

Today is National Coming Out Day, and I think it’s auspicious tha the date is a clean 10/11/12. I think it’s fitting to tell my coming out story. Ready?

I was born.

No joke. That seems a bit ridiculous but that’s about where the whole thing begins. Of course, from day one my family knew how spectacular I was/would become. My birth mother says that she always knew I am gay. Always. I think my dad has always, too. I know, through the years, a number of other family members from both my paternal and maternal sides have told me that they knew (or could have guessed) from the time I was a very young age. I think if there was any doubt while I was still young, my infamous My Little Pony birthday party would have cleared things up, as well as my exhaustive My Little Pony collection (which included Seaponies, Flutterponies, etc…) some of which I still retain. I’d liked to have been able to post a photo with this entry that proves the party was a success, but alas, that evidence is filed away (with thousands of other photos taken through the years) in the family’s many-multi-tome Family Photo Album collection.

Truth be told, after the point of my birth, my coming out is fully a three-part experience. Keep reading.

At one point, not super long after diving into Christianity head first, and after getting my driver’s license, I found myself at the family computer with my father suddenly sitting next to me. He asked me a few lead-in questions like if something is wrong or …I forget what else he asked. He used my behavior at a recent family birthday get-together as an example. You see, it was my habit to disappear. I’d always bring a book or cassette/CD player, and then wander off into another part of the house, preferring seclusion.

I attempted to answer as vaguely as my young mind knew how. I recall saying something like, “Well, maybe there’s a lot going on in my mind right now and I can’t talk about it.” The truth here is that there was a lot going on in my mind. I’d already figured out that I’d never marry a woman, and was beginning to tackle how I’d approach my newest love, the Baptist Church, regarding who I am. I’d also just read a number of alarming stats on youth homelessness, and learned that an overwhelming majority of homeless youth are homeless because their parents kick them out for being gay. It was after I gave that first response, my father replied with the question, “Well, are you gay?” Suddenly feeling my heart in my throat, I looked down and didn’t answer immediately. Since I had stalled, my father stepped back into the conversation and said, “‘Cause if you are, get over it. Sex is great, but it’s not something that should rule your life.” I later answered him in the affirmative, still not realizing how sagely his advice was, but was very glad he hadn’t threatened to un-home me.

That’s part one -the most important part in my story. There’s never been a moment in my father’s life where he didn’t put his children above his own self. From the time I and my brother, Justin, were born -all through a marriage that was crazy and doomed and into a second marriage and ceaselessly for the last thirty years – he’s never shown anything except love to my siblings and me. The very same is to be said of his second wife, my real mom, Connie.

Part two, naturally, comes after part one. Feeling somewhat more stable knowing I wasn’t verging on homelessness, the next person I needed to know was my then-best friend, Sara-with-an-H Kidd. I recall writing here this LOOOOONG letter and asking her to meet me at the church we both attended. She did. We found our way up to the balcony in the sanctuary, and suddenly terrified, I gave her the letter to read right in front of me. Umm… but then because I feared she’d read a different tone than the one I’d written in, I took the letter back, and insisted that I read it to her, instead. I recall her being a little perplexed (after all, why not just tell her my words instead of reading them to her?), but she obliged. And so I read. And she listened. And when I was done reading/coming out to her, and asking her not to tell anyone yet, she said, “Oh Joshua, I love you and your secret is safe with me,” while opening her arms and squeezing them around me. Thus concludes scene two.

I had no idea when I came out to my best friend in the church balcony that the next big thing I’d do would be to come out to my church. I think to a lot of people, the weight of this is lost. I grew up in a very small town. At the turn of the last century, it still hadn’t reached even 20,000 inhabitants. In that town, two groups of people were just about the most influential: the farmers and the churches. Obviously a lot of overlap between the groups exists. In my hometown there were three main bodies of believers. There were Catholics. And then there were two quasi-mega churches, which were kind of really the same congregation that had split over an argument about money. These were the Baptists. There was Calvary Baptist Church and Baptist Temple. I always liked the name “Baptist Temple” better than the other, but the other is where I attended due to some band camp karma my freshman year of high school.

After I knew it wasn’t likely I’d be homeless, and after my best friend hadn’t (yet) shunned me, I decided tackle the church. The long-and-short of this is that rumors began to spread -not that I was gay, but that I was spreading “false doctrine.” This false doctrine was, of course, that I not only don’t feel the Bible condemns gays, but also that there’s proof of the contrary within it. Before I knew it, I’d been called to the home of my youth pastor, Dudley. He’d just built a really great home for his family and everyone loved being there. I don’t recall whether I knew why I was being called there or not, but I remember having a McDonald’s vanilla milkshake with me (the only thing I could keep down at the time, because of being upset due to a recent break up). After I arrived, we went into his library. I sat on the couch and he sat at his desk chair. He started right off with the accusation of spreading false doctrine. I explained that I thought it was neither doctrine, nor false. He disagreed and for only a few minutes we back-and-forth’ed on it all. Finally, he stopped us and asked me, “Do you consider yourself a homosexual?” I confirmed this. His response was, and I am quoting, “Well, there’s no place in the youth group, or anywhere else in the church, for someone like you.” As with my father, I looked down, only this time I wept. Honestly, I don’t recall what he might have said after that. In my memory, I can still see my feet and the McDonald’s cup that was beside them as I looked down crying as quietly as I could. At some point I just nodded that I understood, arose, and left.

I remember driving away that day with this dual feeling of immense pain and simultaneous relief. I had no idea what ordeals the following year would bring, both with the church and just about everywhere else. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say it was a time of “therapy,” loss and loneliness, and of strengthening.

Were it not for this window of time in my life, I certainly wouldn’t be who I am today. I think I’ve always been a bit independent and came here with a pretty finely tuned compass, but experiences like this offer a great opportunity to learn and grow. Indeed, that is the intent of all forms of pain. And not to sound arrogant or conceited, but each day reminds me that I’m about as awesome as I’ve ever been, and helps me look forward to the new awesomeness I’ll reach someday soon.

My heart sings a little when I think of how things were and what I went through, and how things are now and where they’re going. I’m so happy at what the youth of today are able to do and how they’re more able to truly and honestly live. They’re benefitting from the brave people of our past, and generations yet to come will benefit from the brave people of our today. Regardless of what our battles might be, bravery and honesty can’t be cheapened or downplayed. We owe it first to our own survival to be brave and honest, and also to the survival of those walking here after us.

Om Shanti!

Possibly back from the dead, or how a guru dudn’t really die.

Some time ago, nearing two full months actually, a guru I’d been learning about died. Or so thought myself.

The guru in question, known as Sri Nayaka or Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya, shares the same birthday as myself. You may recall me writing about him a number of times in the past, particularly in regard to a book he’d written titled “The Dharma Manifesto.”

Well, around the time of our birthday, I ‘d finished the book and wanted to ask him more directly about the what his manifesto said about gays. (Recall, this was one area where he really lost me.) Prior to this, the two of us had communicated a number of times. He was never anything but kind and patient and instructive. However, after reading the manifesto and having questions, I wrote him (all of this, mind you, has occurred on Facebook). I wasn’t expecting an immediate response… surely guru-ing is demanding on one’s time. After very nearly a month, if not longer, of hearing nothing back, I began poking around a page or two of his that I had access to. Much to my surprise, I saw a post by who I assumed was a moderator of one of his Facebook pages, stating that shortly after our birthday (8/26), he was expected to enter samadhi.

Now Hindu culture/religion isn’t what I grew up in, but I’m a fast learner, and usually very thorough. To my recollection, the ONLY time I’ve ever seen the word samadhi used is regarding the physical death of someone. I take that back, actually. I think I’ve also encounter it to be somewhat synonymous with words like moksha and liberation. So, by that reasoning, one would think that this guru would have long since then been declared an RHC (medical speak, literally R-espirations H-ave C-eased).

Funny thing is, I just discovered that he began a multi-day class as recent as 10/7. After seeing that online, I poked around a number of his Facebook pages (where I saw the RHC/samadhi notice, and where I’ve had the most interaction with him historically) only to realize that I no longer have access to most of them.

I suppose this would account, even further, for why I’ve yet to receive a response from him. Otherwise, please imagine me sitting here scratching my head -because that’s pretty much what I’m doing.

Om Shanti

There I went

My last post was about start of the last three days with my current employer, before a mini-vacation and finally beginning with my next employer. I was a tad nervous to start today’s shift because of two scheduled exit interviews. The day seemed to drag on, but it was also quite revealing. Listen up…

The first exit interview came a bit earlier than expected and lasted quite a bit longer than expected. I had somewhat rehearsed how I hoped the conversation would go, and my rehearsal proved to be good practice because that’s exactly how things went.

To keep things as simple and controllable as possible I used the idea of percentages pertaining to reasons for my resignation: 40% being the nice arrangement I’m walking into with my next employer, and 60% relating to my direct report, Pam.

In both interviews, it was expressed plentifully how missed I’ll apparently be, and how a number of upper-level management members had hoped I’d be with the company longer and move up as well. Both interviewers were very curious about the perks I’ll be receiving in my new work. And of course both were very serious about the part of our discussion centering around that so-called 60%.

In the first interview, however, I was told that she’d gone to our HR at the request of those higher than herself, to ask for more to offer me as enticement to stay. She explained that she couldn’t in any way touch what I’m offered at the other. During my second interview, with the first’s boss, a number of handsome scenarios were placed on the table to both entice my staying, as to gain perspective on how serious the bothersome 60% is. It truly surprised me, and flattered me, the amount of resources available to keep an employee when that employee is in high demand and comes with high recommendations.

I, as graciously as I could muster, declined each wonderful counter-offer. I explained that my goal was not to barter sides against each other for my greatest gain, but that changed should be made for the sake of a great company retaining the other great employees it currently has. My second interviewer said he understood and was sorry, and that if things don’t work out well where I’m going, I can always return. I was grateful.

It’s my hope that the next two days fly by. I’m really done. It’s also my hope, for those I’m leaving behind, that a very serious issue is taken very seriously and remedied soon.

Om shanti