hoodie

In other posts, in bits and pieces, I’ve mentioned how structured my life is. It’s remarkably drama-free, and also predictable. Every morning I awake briefly at 0530 when my beloved climbs out of bed to do his morning puja: a 60+ minute P90X dvd workout. I then spread myself throughout the newly-released additional space in the bed and enjoy the residual warmth of the one I love. Approximately sixty minutes later, I awake fully and exit the bed myself. Get ready for work. Go to work. Work. Leave work. Go to the gym. Go home. Unpack from the day. Eat dinner with my beloved. Part ways with him, going upstairs to my temple room where I do my own things until bed time where we meet again and slumber.

My life could easily be compared to the directions on a shampoo bottle: Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

As we leave the gym, we often listen to Sirius radio together, namely the OutQ channel. I find myself ebb-and-flowing between annoyance and interest as I listen along. Usually the radio personalities are over-the-top and extra dramatic, veritable caricatures of what gay people are. Occasionally though, a topic of interest and intelligent callers will manage to hold my attention without me rolling my eyes. Tonight was one such night. The discussion? Circumcision.

Somebody mentioned that Taylor Swift had dumped the guy she was dating (from One Direction?) because he refused to get circumcised. There was talk about how around 117 infant boys in the USA die each year from circumcision infections. Apparently, only around 43% of all circumcisions are performed with anesthesia. All this was fabulous information sent into the airwaves for listeners’ betterment. I have no idea what sources they were using, because none were mentioned. Of course, it didn’t take long to bring up the difference in sexual sensation experienced by guys who are “uncut” in contrast to their “cut” brothers. This is when I really felt like calling in.

Cite all the stats you want: it’s brutal, it’s painful, it deadens/desensitizes nerves in that area, it’s unnecessary… a billion other reasons not to circumcise. I’m not arguing any of those.

Since it takes about four seconds before any discussion on circumcision turns to sex, I’ll go there: Men get off too easily. Typically, we’re mostly very sense-oriented. As such, and in conjunction with our actual anatomy and physiology, it doesn’t usually take much for us to “finish.” I can vouch for this actually. Some of the partners I’ve had in the past have been uncircumcised and, all “fanciness” aside, it was disappointing. In every single one of my experiences, the number of which I don’t dare reveal, my uncut partner was quite too sensitive and actually required a more delicate response from me… AND climaxed far sooner than expected. Which only creates a situation where they’re hardly getting their heart rate up before they’re huffin-n-puffin… and apologizing. Yes there are exceptions, and those aren’t part of this discussion.

In that context, I seriously don’t know why the fuss over circumcision. It might be construed as cruel and imposing and mutilation and all that, and those things are probably true. But it’s also a potentially good thing for about as many reasons. Cancer risks go down. It literally makes personal hygiene simpler, thereby also potentially preventing other health complications. And in the bedroom, everyone benefits because coitus has a chance to last 7 minutes instead of 4.

Om Shanti

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Guru nahin

Two days ago, among the bajillion emails sent to my phone during each day’s course, I received an email from Madhudvisa Dasa. This happens from time to time… krishnite email from the servant of Vishnu/Krishna. Usually they’re the spammy kind of mass emails that no one gives a second look before deleting. In fact, I only even receive these emails for two reasons: I looked into Krishna culture and religion early into my Hindu path while trying to find my landing spot and managed to sign myself up for these “newsletters,” and the second reason is that I’m too lazy to look into unsubscribing. Deleting, usually without opening, is truly easier. But this email’s subject line caught my attention. It read, “Joshua on Guru: Everyone is lying to you.”

Oh good. Everyone is lying to me. More fuel for the fire pushing me toward pratyahara, samadhi, and moksha, no?

The email continued on, detailing how divisive the Vishnu/Krishna-centric community is within its own sphere, and in relation to other spheres. Among the other “offenses” someone aspiring toward Godhead needs to watch out for, it’s now also imperative to not believe what others say because everyone is lying… especially when it comes to what designates or constitutes a bona fide guru. The email also mentioned by name a number of vaishnava maths (pronounced mutt) that are apparently especially good at deceiving devotees, one of which I recall learning about in a distant discussion with an Indian who informed me that the math was more liberal and gay-friendly than some of the others. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given vaishnavism a shot – how often I’ve WANTED to be a vaishnav.

I’ll admit, the whole bit was more than amusing. Interesting. Although I’ve long since realized that, while noble and valid in its own ways, vaishnavism isn’t mine, I also became intrigued to learn about the names and maths mentioned in the email and see what I could unearth to better round out my continuing Hindu education.

I would feel like this post lacked if I didn’t also point out that Christianity, historically, has behaved very similarly. Indeed, it’s one of the most fractured and splintered religions on the planet and each additional split that lead to yet another denomination mostly happened because of an “I know more than you, and what I know is righter” viewpoint. Even when I ask my most liberal Christian friends why they are Lutheran or Methodist or stick with the Church of the Brethren, they almost uniformly give me the same answer: the other denominations are valid and still lead to Jesus/God/Heaven, but my denomination has a purer path.

This leads me to deep conviction that while Bhakti gets the Shakti moving quite readily, it’s still the starting place that leads to the other yogas. And sadly, every time I see yet another instance of this untethered-emotion-based religious behavior, I gag. I look and look and look, and virtually every time I encounter a lively bhakti-centric path I also encounter emotion and ego, among other things. (Please note: I’m not anti-Bhakti. But, for me, connecting with God involves more than reaching a particular mood when I sing or chant. I’m over-simplifying here, forgive me. And I realize, fully, that ego and emotion are found outside of Bhakti and vaishnavism.)

All of this has re-inforced a minor conclusion I’d come to already, but have questioned multiple times. The necessity of a formal, human guru. My jury is definitely not out when it comes to this: I’m fine without one currently. I see my growth and sense when it slows. I’m often pushing myself into new spaces and increased awareness. I have no problem studying devotional texts and implementing them as they apply to my personal dharma. Seva isn’t foreign to me and isn’t something I have to be told to do. I do loosely follow a few human beacons within humanity’s waves, but even those particular mahatmas tend to stress the importance of connecting with the real Guru within as opposed to depending on the grace of another, albeit advanced, human to carry you to the far shores of existence.

Om Tat Sat Om

I had a dream

DALLAS, TEXAS - MARCH 31: Yoga Poses. (Jensen Walker)My time spent asleep is … different. I’m not really sure how to describe it as it is most of the time. Typically, I “go to sleep” but I’m still, by far, mostly aware that my body is resting. Oddly enough, I’ve even – midsleep – found myself to be aware that my mind is resting, too. Dreams are not a common occurrence for me, unless you mean day dreaming. However, I do occasionally dream while I’m actually asleep. When this happens, I awake knowing the my mind dreamed, but almost always forget the details of that dream within hours of waking. Recently, though, this was not the case. The details follow.

I was at the gym… the usual happening Monday through Friday between around 5:30pm and 7:30pm. I was in a side area often used for stretching or doing body-based exercise, an area I’m never found in usually. I completed some random, nondescript stretches and then decided to strike a pose. A yoga pose, of course. A tree pose, to be specific. It was a modified tree pose that included a couple of additional mudras. Not long after assuming this pose, my hands found anjalimudra and things got weird.

Still in Vrikshasana, newly formed anjalimudra, I began to exhale. And exhale. And exhale. I exhaled for a REALLY long time. After this went on for some time, my face started becoming all veiny… but like vampire veiny where the veins are not only bulging but are like …black. Very dark. During this super exhale, I intoned a very subtle Aum, but solid enough that it felt almost concrete.

Shortly after noticing this (in my dream), everything began to quiver. I mean my body. I remained composed – eyes closed, even. But it was like this one monster I saw in the True Blood series that would get her mojo going to conjure up some evil and in the process would vibrate. I’m not sure how to describe this odd vibrating/shaking that my body did. It was throughout my entire body and if you were to see it, your vision of me would have been affected, like I became blurry or something. It was very intense, although I never fell out of pose or opened my eyes or anything.

And then it stopped. Just like that. Well, it retracted actually… into some place within me. Complete stillness pervaded everything. And further, in that complete stillness, it was like all the sound and air had suddenly been sucked out of the gym. Think of that weird super silence that happens during an electrical outage, only add to it a strange atmospheric pressure that makes you feel like something is about to transpire – because something was about to. It’s that pregnant silence that makes you hold your own breath for what might be about to surprise you.

After moving into the pose, and the subsequent vibratory “expansion,” which was followed by a vacuum sealed “implosion,” everything came apart. Everything except my body. If you’ve ever seen the X-Men movies from years ago, the best way I can describe the dissolution in my dream is to refer to the movie with the Jean Grey character who eventually becomes the Phoenix. At the end of that movie, she’s very pissed or hurt or something and so she sees fit to dissolve all of existence down to its molecular level. It happened in that movie… and in my gym, although I was neither hurt nor pissed.

By the end of my dream, I was all that remained – not just of the gym, but anywhere. And as I became enveloped by an expansive black void, surrounded by swirling “stuff dust,” I opened my eyes and grinned almost imperceptibly. The whole time my entire being was content. Quiet and still. An aura was just visible right around my head, and it was golden and purple and a little green right very close to my skin.

And then I awoke.

Arjuna’s Imbalance

ArjunaLast Sunday, the nuclear physicist who gave the discourse at my temple spoke on the topic of darshan. He mentioned what the actual definition of it is, as well as how loosely the term is tossed around these days. In his discourse, he mentioned that in the middle of the Bhagavad Gita, which is pulled from the middle of the Mahabharata, Arjuna received Vishwaroopa-darshan by means of Sri Krishna. He also noted that darshan typically doesn’t (or shouldn’t in its original meaning) apply to being in the presence of holy people. No matter how revered your guru might be, that individual is still a human person and as such is no more a part of God than you or I. I suspect that this knowledge plays a big part in why Hinduism is the only major world religion which doesn’t point back to one human founder. In reality, when we do things like guru-pada-puja we’re not technically worshipping the guru or his/her paduka/sandals. As with all other Hindu worship, what is actually worshipped is what the image represents, the Presence it holds during the puja. But all of that is truly neither here nor there.

Not long ago, I was reading a newly-bought version of the Bhagavad Gita with verse-by-verse commentary provided by Swami Chinmayananda. Chinmayananda is a really great teacher, I think. I’ve seen videos of his live speeches and read some of his works, and his approach to Self-Realization seems to be really balanced. On that note, I really enjoy the format/layout of this particular Gita, although I’m typically not fond of Gitas like this one or the purport-full one so popular with ISKCON because I find them to be more than a little slanted. The interpretations offered in these purports reminds me of the bias found in differing versions of the Christian Bible. With that in mind, I’ve usually resorted to collecting various translations of the Gita as well as Sanskrit dictionaries and when I do a study of a shloka, it usually involves pulling numerous books from my shelves and cross-referencing like you wouldn’t believe. The result, which I’ve grown to trust increasingly over time, is that the Guru usually guides me instead of relying on a guru. But that also is just about neither here nor there.

Right now I have literally twenty different Gitas from twenty different backgrounds/sources.

While reading the Swami Chinmayananda translation with commentary, I discovered an idea that I’d missed until now. Arjuna was a really messed up individual. In many circles, whenever he’s mentioned, it’s usually in reverence. Usually Arjuna is presented in a bhava of compassion. He’s so bothered by the sight of seeing family and friends on the opposing side of the war that he literally crumbles before it all.

I don’t buy it. I mean, yes, he crumbles, but Arjuna is emotional and out of control with those emotions. That’s it in a nutshell. Chinmayananda suggested that Arjuna is delusional and filled with immense levels of attachment. According to the swami, Arjuna physically exhibits symptoms of psychological imbalance and unrest -as much is mentioned by Arjuna himself in the Bhagavad Gita. Although it escapes me, modern psychology actual has a word/diagnosis for Arjuna’s psyche/body exhibition. The man was not well.

Arjuna may well have been a fabulous Kshatriya, but aside from being a skilled and respected killer of humans, he was a veritable mess. The scientist giving the discourse I mentioned earlier is far more knowledgeable than I am on the Gita and the Mahabharata, and he was of the mind that Arjuna had good reason to know that Krishna was more than “special.” And yet he was pretty much blind to this. He received counsel from Sri Krishna and repeatedly argued with it. Then, after explaining so much to him, Sri Krishna gives Arjuna “second sight” and revealed His universal Form, Vishwarupa. I’m pretty sure Arjuna requested this, and when he received what he said he needed to supposedly dispel his doubt for good, what happened? He begged the Lord to “put it away.”

I think after all this nonsense and back-and-forth with him, I’d be like, “Arjuna, you clearly aren’t ready for all this. I think you need to spend the next 4,000 years as an insect” and be done with it. A person with his depth of delusion and attachment needs major help. And major help he received!

Claiming that Arjuna was crippled by compassion bothers me. Compassion never cripples. To assign something as noble and beneficial as compassion or kindness to Arjuna is simply making excuses. Krishna continues to work with Arjuna through the rest of the Gita. He offers His student even more wisdom and comfort… and after all this, clear into the very last chapter of the Gita, Krishna says that Arjuna is still filled with pride and is foolish. But at least he’s no longer scared, right?

I mentioned earlier that I have 20 different versions of the Gita. These different Gitas are “by” the likes of Hindu leaders such as Swami Rama, Swami Swarupananda, Swami Chinmayananda, Winthrop Sargeant, P. Lal, Sri Krishna Prem, Edgerton, George Thompson, Prashant Gupta, Kim and Chris Murray, P. S. Mehra, Acharya Vishnu K Divecha, Paramahansa Yogananda, Swami Satchidananda, and Srila Prabhupad. Some come with commentary and some don’t. And while I do think the commentary is naturally slanted, I’m thankful for the different perspectives they present for looking at this scripture. They definitely give the inner Guru something to chew on.

Om Shanti!

Mucho Mela

Every twelve years, in India, a Kumbha Mela is held. There are smaller melas held in between, but the one every twelve years is the maha kumbha mela. I’ve never been and plan never to go, but still this event pulls at me. It’s the only gathering of humans, for a religious purpose or otherwise, of its magnitude: around 80 million people. Each time the event is held it breaks its own attendance record, and obviously blows all other attendance records out of the water. Nasa photos have shown that in the areas this has been held, the Indian subcontinent actually is darkened on account of the congregants.

I think it’s the only pilgrimage common throughout Hinduism that all Hindus typically aspire to make, although it’s not without its own sectarian issues. Sometime after the commencement of the event, all are guided to bathe ceremoniously in sacred river water for the washing away of karmas and purification. Different sects, with their own leaders and sadhus and nagas have been scheduled in the past to go at different times to prevent clashes. I’ve included some videos below from YouTube to help illustrate the magnitude of this event as well as the diversity represented by my Faith.

Om Shanti

Aadi Pujya

big511052As I left Christianity, one thing I was glad to leave behind was the belief of a literal Heaven. Streets of gold, pearly gates, the whole bit. I recall in Revelation, the last book of the Bible as we know it currently, there are actual 3-Dimensional measurements of New Jerusalem as it sinks from Heaven down onto Earth to establish the new order of God on Earth. Nothing like the idea of repenting for every mis-step your entire conscious life to go and spend forever in a cube. Mystical or not, no way THAT sounds like jail. (note: sarcasm)

In that light, one of the appeals Hinduism held for me when I first encountered it a decade or so ago is that the destination of us all is the same place we started – an infinitely infinite Infinity that literally transcends any description our brawniest brains might conceive. To me, THAT notion/definition of God/Heaven seems to not only be the most satisfying and least human, but also the most logical and most likely. But it seems I’ve been wrong.

As I deepened my journey into Hinduism, I learned of MANY different so-called heavens. It’s been said that there are more religions within Hinduism than outside of it and that there are 330 million gods in Hinduism. I suppose each has His/Her own “loka” or Heaven where His/Her devotees potentially land after the finish of this life. The first of these lokas that I learned about, some time ago actually, was Vaikuntha. This, apparently, is the hopeful resting place of all the Krishna-centric worshippers in the world. In my unfair ignorance, and before learning much about the other lokas, I thought to myself, “Just figures. Typical!” Within the main branches of Hinduism (Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, & Smartism), it has always seemed to me that Vaishnavism has the highest number of parallels with the Abrahamic Faiths, namely Christianity. (Please note: that while that is still (mostly) my view, I’m also able to recognize immense differences between Vaishnavism and Christianity that I find very comforting.) Kailasha is the heaven dedicated to Shiva and even that seemed more reasonable to me. Afterall, we’re made of consciousness – which Shiva represents -and surely consciousness is where we’re destined to return to, so… But whatever, that kind of thinking could be classified as sectarian hair-splitting and ultimately is unproductive. Suffice to say, every god has a loka and we’re all best served to understand these lokas as something like, “literal, independent-but-nondifferent, … and certainly with a grain of salt.”

Having said all that, while catching up on posts from a secret Facebook group I belong to I came across some loka-vidya for the “heaven” where Ganesha and His devotees supposedly reside in the hereafter.

Ganesha’s lokah is known as either Swanandalokah or Nijalokah. This loka is located above Swarga lokah and is placed in the middle of an ocean of sugar cane juice (ikshu sagara). So above Swargalokah, in the middle of Ikshu Sagara, in the middle of a white lotus (swetha kamala), and on top of that on a silk sheet (ratna gambali) can be found Bala Ganapati being attended to by the Ashta Siddhis. Nearby is Samaveda Purusha reciting the Sama Veda.

And there you have it. The “heaven” I can look forward to.

Om Shanti

You Do The Math

Hungry_Mouth_by_design_fantasySometimes, on a Monday, you have to eat an entire box of Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls. In literally less than five minutes.

And sometimes, on a Wednesday, you have to do the exact same thing…again.

And at other times, when on a Thursday, you need virtually an entire package of Oreos. When that happens you slow your roll and make sure the process has a duration of at least ten minutes.

Fret not, though. It ain’t no sin. Sin is a myth, you see.

(Diabetes is NOT a myth, however, and neither is an expanding waist line, which is why this travesty cannot and should not be attempted neither with any regularity, nor by amatuers.)

Om shanti