No Hope

Kanipakam-GanapathiToday, on our way back from a hospital we passed a church. It’s a church we’ve passed a hundred times. No biggie. And like many churches these days, the need a sign out front to broadcast religious phrases. Fine. Dandy.

Today, though, the message bothered me. I mean, more than it usually does. One side of the sign read, “Evolution: You’re an animal with no hope” and the other side of the sign read, “Bible: You’re the image of God, with Jesus as hope.” It’s amazing we didn’t run off the road with as much as we were rolling our eyes.

I don’t want this to come off as arrogant or anything, but I feel more than a little bad for folks who adhere to a way of life or thinking that seems to perpetually put them in conflict with the very existence they have.

I believe in God and in evolution. I think there are a billion ways to marry the two concepts and I’d reject anything that would try to make me doubt one or the other. Further, to claim that something like evolution means a human can have no hope is mean and ridiculous. The notion falls in line with the essential Church doctrine that humanity is inherent flawed and evil (at least since The Fall). Something I can’t stand.

As if that slap in the face didn’t do the job, the other cheek was more subtly slapped by the message on the other side of the sign. “Go to our holy book and learn just how evil you are and the place your only hope in an external source, as specified by us, because you’re not able to do anything else of worth.”

Then… god help me… an old friend of mine, who I pretty much only communicate with via Facebook and who is a Christian in the absolute loosest sense of the word decided that it would be an equality statement to post a verse from the biblical book of Hebrews. The verse seemed made up of two basic sentences. One implied that “the one who makes men holy” and “the ones who are holy” are of the same family. The other indicated that Jesus is not ashamed of the holy ones. Typical.

I pointed out that the verse he posted has two implications: That there are people who are unholy and that Jesus is ashamed of those people.

His response (at least, as of the last time I checked) was that I shouldn’t inject my personal views into the Bible. My only response was that I wasn’t projecting, just doing what he is doing which is to take the verse by itself and understand it as such. He insisted that the verse is pro-equality, which I don’t buy. I asked him if any of the surrounding verses actually support the idea of equality because the one he posted simply doesn’t.

As it stands, I think I’ll ignore any responses made to that post hence forth and instead spend the rest of tonight in sadhana and hitting the sack a little earlier than usual.

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Beginning’s Beginning

I think this first video details how many westerners feel. I’m annoyed that a grown man can’t stop from laughing when someone from across the globe has a name that sounds like something else.

LOVE the explanation of Shiva in this second video. And a wonderful aarti as a thanks-giving ceremony! Factoid: North India is apparently less orthodox than the south.

The first time I’ve seen a sadhu actually answer a cell phone. Ganesha is typically known as the personification of Om, and I love that the guide explains Om as The Beginning and The End.

Ganesh – Ganesh – Ganesh! Love the puja. The swami/teacher does well at explaining a fundamental difference between east & west spirituality, involving sex, even! I think this guy asks a great question of the swamini… pay attention! And listen to her answer. 🙂

At the beginning of this last video, he begins to verbalize jnana. They visit a unique Kali temple… by far this is the most graphic of the videos. I adore the end. Life = Dharma = Spirituality. Religious or not, we’re all the same, seeking The Same.

Tryambakam?

I daydream frequently. I’ve always been fairly imaginative. I like to tell stories when the mood hits and while I was in hair school, if we had spare time at the end of the day, grown people would literally gather around me while we looked through the haircut picture books… I’d point to some hair model and would tell their life story. Everyone loved it. One might expect that suchery would captivate children, but it was incredible to see half a room full of adults sitting, fully captivated while I blathered away about the people in the books.

When it comes to seeing what’s not there, or building a picture within my mind’s eye, I’m usually a pro. It’s usually something I’m capable of rather effortlessly. But when it comes to visualizing with intent, with a deeper meaning or purpose, my mind and imagination halt.

According to http://www.definitions.net, visualization is defined as “1) to recall or form mental images or pictures. 2) to form a mental image of. 3) to make perceptible to the mind or imagination. The WordNet website from Princeton defines visualization as “visual image: a mental image that is similar to a visual perception” ( wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn). And according to the almighty Wiki, one of the word’s meanings is “to form a mental picture of something that is invisible or abstract.”

This is fine. Dandy even… if you’re trying to simply imagine or be creative or something simply for the same of the visualization. But I immediately begin to struggle when it comes to employing visualization in spiritual practices.
A good ole friend of mine from way back in high school has taken a path in life that is far different from my own in nearly every way –but we’ve always agreed on the scientific basis of spirituality and of the mystic foundations of reality. For some time now, he’s been active in Chios. I’ll admit now, that I’m poorly versed in the ins & outs of the Chios system. I can say that it deals with different energies that make up reality, particularly in the context of humanity and the human experience. I’ve listened in on a number of their Google+ Hangouts and while they are indeed welcoming and interesting and informative, they seem rather… pretend. I don’t know. I can genuinely say that I have no judgements about anyone investing their time and effort in the Chios system. I sense truth there. But much of the system, and indeed much of the exercises done during the Hangouts, seems to hinge on creative visualization involving colors and shapes. Needless to say, I’m having difficulty buying into the idea that if I visualize myself being a green triune, that I’ll be able to manipulate someone else’s aura and help seal tears and leaks.

Recently, I finished a book, “Loving Ganesha,” which is published by the parampara/sampradaya I’m seriously considering becoming a member of. The lineage is pretty sweet, and I may post on it sometime in the future – it seems to be literally the only lineage I know of that maintains the degree of authenticity that it brought with it when it departed the motherland of Bharata, and is also very open to westerners and non-Indians. But this book, while seriously explaining much of anything to do with Shri Ganesha in minute detail, also indicated that Shri Ganesha is the One Hindu deity that is pleased so easily and is the most accessible to all devotees anywhere. I agree with that much. However, part of this easy access is that simply visualizing Ganesha in one’s mind’s eye brings Him near and immediately puts on into His presence – indeed, this practice of visualization is said to be very helpful when forging a relationship with Ganesha.

I hate to be a doubting Thomas, but I’m not sure I buy this either.

I do agree that, depending on the seeker and his baggage, forging a relationship with the Divine and drawing near to the Divine isn’t necessarily a complex feat. But I don’t know that simply picturing God in one’s mind is enough to immediately and powerfully bring one into practical darshan.

I’m clearly going to have to chew on this one for a bit – I don’t feel like letting part of my personal development and progression to be left up to intentional daydreaming, which is what visualization feels like to me. Maybe I just need to practice visualization a little more, and with more sincerity. Until then, I’ll likely trust in what I know works for sure for me: scientific, systematic, regular, and concrete puja/sadhana.

Om Shanti

Little Boy Blue, Come Blow Your Horn…

…The sheep are in the meadow! The cows are in the corn! Where’s the little boy who looks after the sheep? Under the haystack, fast asleep!

Is there anywhere, any place at all, within the Catholic Church that isn’t touched or overshadowed by pedophilia or other sexual immorality? When this institution collapses (it’s already crumbling), the face of the earth will surely change.

Viper’s Sting – Barbados Lime Is Just the Thing!

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There’s a dark and wond’rous mystery that lives in my temple room. It’s a little nerve-wracking, very encouraging and somewhat thrilling. I’ve been meaning to speak about it, but I hate jinxes. It’s so weird.

Dwaraka

Dwaraka_Matte_01My beloved loves television. Most evenings, from the time dinner preparation begins until after he falls asleep, the television is on. It’s to the point that if I’m gone and return home, where’s he’s been the whole time, and I don’t hear the television when I walk in, I nearly immediately hit panic mode. I literally shove off whatever I’m lugging in the door and immediately seek him out to ascertain that he is well and unharmed.

Tonight, as with most nights, the television played while we ate. We do our best to watch from the dining room – which isn’t difficult, especially for him. He almost directly faces the television from his place at the dinner table. This evening while we ate, H2 channel was showing another of their Ancient Astronauts shows.

Let me be clear. I believe there is intelligent, evolved, life “out there.” I do. I am, however, more convinced that God sometimes wears an elephant face or that God plays/played a flute and herded cattle than I am convinced that Earth is currently and occasionally visited by hyper-evolved aliens.

Tonight’s episode of Ancient Astronauts did well at blending both of those ideas, though.

The episode mentioned, at length, the Bay of Khombat off of northwest India, as well as the city of Dwaraka which lies beneath water even farther north and west. Apparently, both places do an almost incredible job at proving ancient Hindu texts as being accurate and true.

For the record, while Hinduism’s holy texts are often, umm… colorful and fancy, they’ve often been proven to be scientifically sound and surprisingly accurate. This aspect alone makes me love my chosen religion. Our scriptures have been preserved in an almost supernatural way, but entirely naturally, and they remain unedited – unlike the holy texts of various other world religions. Further, the more Hinduism becomes known and familiarized within the West, the more natural appeal it holds and the more legitimacy it gains. Hinduism has never fought or tried to stifle science and this is a source of immense pride for me.

Back to the show… apparently these underwater sites are quite fantastic finds. The Bay of Khombat is amazing on its own and the ancient city of Dwaraka holds connection to god Krishna and a huge ass war. Of course, the ancient astronaut theorists were all over the descriptions of this war, after which Krishna eventually departed His city and water overtook it. The details of the war definitely can be construed as having an alien element. Literally, lots of mention of crazy flying vessels with amazing navigation capabilities, shooting intense light beams (lasers) and all that other stuff E.T. enthusiasts live for.

Fine. Dandy. But I just don’t buy that Krishna was an alien or that aliens were involved in a terrestrial war there – or anywhere else on our planet. So much else from a vast array of Hindu texts has proven to be quite literally true, when at first thought to be mostly figurative. I can’t imagine after all that, that the final war at Dwaraka was actually an alien thing. It also doesn’t make much sense to me to hold the idea that intelligent life, more advanced than ours, undergoes inter-stellar travel just to ultimately perform experiments and play hide-n-seek with us. That, however, is for a different post.

Om Shanti

Cupid Schmupid

A few days ago, on Facebook, a best of mine posted a mostly bitter status update that sounded like a moody teenager. He ranted about Valentine’s Day. He’s single and while he does very well without a “better half,” he would much rather have it. His post, in his own words, amounted to the sum of a very whiney “It’s a stupid holiday.” One person commented with something like, “Agreed! It’s just a stupid commercial holiday anyway.”

Umm… ALL holiday’s are commercial. Literally. Unless there’s a holiday that doesn’t involve you going to any store for any reason, it’s commercial. So, since commercialism is the ruin of all holidays let’s throw them all out, yeah? No. Regardless of the origin of any given holiday, or the degree of commercialism involved, each and every holiday is what you make it – and it’s also what you don’t make it. I see a strange parallel here to karma.

If for you, Christmas is about the birth of your Satguru (Jesus), then that should be your focus during that celebratory time. If, for you, Christmas means shopping … so be it. Although both approaches hold different value, neither approach is less valid. The same can be said about any holiday, including Valentine’s Day. Lamenting the apparent commercialism of a holiday simply implies that you have lost your own sight or that you sense you’re left behind by the progression of the holiday through time and culture – in which case I might suggest you re-evaluate what you actually think the holiday means to you, because something like this likely indicates you’re actual conflict is with yourself. All holidays undergo evolution just like religions and people and life in general.

In the world of phenomena, where we live and operate, anything that hopes to remain must be able to change. Shiva, the god of destruction, doesn’t destroy life, He allows for and encourages its continuance! Anything that is preserved as it was is stagnate and in the process of decline and death, or never possessed life. Change is a primary symptom of life and often indicates growth. Paradoxically, while we often equate change with destruction, nothing can exist if it doesn’t change, and the destruction we perceive is usually that of the subtle attachments we held for something that was never meant to last, or at least wasn’t really ours to be attached to. That which ceases to change – or at least seems to maintain – might seem preserved, and possibly for a short time it is, but there’s no actual power in this, and ultimately it becomes outdated, ineffective, and petrified – much like some people’s views of holidays.

Sit – N – Spin

Sometimes, often even, I wonder about the direction my life actually has. I’m doing things, and I’m happy, but often enough I glimpse how very little control I actually have over anything. I think most people are on one side of me or the other: they either feel like they’re the one pulling all strings, or they feel entirely powerless.

I feel within myself the ability to grab all the strings I want, but then about the time I do, I decide not to yank as hard as I had previous thought I might. One way this manifests is in my book-buying habits.

I love buying books. A lot. And I do it as frequently as I am able. Even when I shouldn’t, or don’t actually have the money, I’ll still go book hunting. Recently, on Valentine’s Day, I decided that I needed more books. I’ve been working my way, with much focus, through a few others I’ve been meaning to finish and had been feeling a sense of accomplishment… so, naturally, I need to add to the pile again.

I bought a number of books – all of which I’m pleased to own now. One was a steal AND a gem. I mentioned it on Facebook. Another is titled, “Shuddha Bhakti” by Swami B.V. Tirtha Maharaja. The others include a study guide for Sanskrit ( my religion’s sacred language), a version of the Shri Ishopanishad by Swami Prabhupada that matches the other books by him that I already own (I’ve had other copies of Shri Ishopanishad, but I was particularly pleased to find a hard copy that is the same size, etc… of my other ISKCON books), and lastly I bought a large black tome titled, “Jesus Christ Message to All Nations.” It’s fabulous. It’s some kind of gospel written by Warren Jeffs and pretty much bitches out every nation currently on our globe. It’s apparently a message that Jeffs channeled for the Lord God, who seems really upset and angry. Threats abound in this book. Unfortunately complete sentences, proper punctuation, and coherent thoughts do not. Amused, I read some to my beloved where God is supposedly warning the USA about her relationship with China and the Koreas. Fabulous stuff, although he wasn’t nearly as amused. I only bought the book to place it on my bookcase next to the Book of Mormon I have – which itself is only even in my home because after my father’s sister-in-law passed more than a third of my family joined the Mormon church. I don’t think the Mormon Church is any more a cult that the rest of Christianity, but this Warren Jeffs stuff seems to be more along the cultish lines, and a find like this book was too precious to pass up.

These book purchases are indicative, though. Imagine being a grocery store cashier and someone comes through your checkout lane with whipped cream, dental floss, a package of ink pens, and four tealight candles. Truthfully, I think most cashiers don’t give customers’ purchases a second though. But if you were a cashier, and you DID pay attention to what people were buying, and those items were what a single customer bought… WTF? Such randomness, no? I mean what’re the chances someone’s going to consider a trip to the grocery, start a list of items needed, and think, “Let’s see… Just ran out of whipped cream. Better get more dental floss. I’m getting low on ink pens, oh, and yes, I need FOUR tealight candles.”? Totally random, and you can’t even argue it.

But that’s me at any book store.

And I think it’s why I often feel like I have the ability to pull a million strings and get somewhere and go someplace and do something, but it’s also why I sometimes feel like I’m not actually pulling any of those strings. For instance, if I bought ONLY books on Mormonism… by now I’d be a damned expert. And the same can be said about a number of things I choose to study. What usually results, though, is that I end up knowing “a whole lot” about many many things, but end up knowing everything about nothing.

As frustrating as this is sometimes, I often feel like I’m still a little ahead of the game – but never as ahead as I’d like. All of this, serves as a constant reminder to me of the potential my life (and anyone else’s) has. We all have a billion strings we could be pulling. And also a reminder of my laziness. The Gita says that no effort is ever wasted when one exerts it toward betterment and realization. But one has to actually make the effort.

Om Shanti

Valentino

Every year I’m reminded of the general population’s lack of direction and perspective. Every year this reminder comes on Valentine’s Day.

Whether you hold the holiday to apply mostly to couples or to love in general, there’s no reason to be bitter. And yet every year people whine. So much of our culture centers around definitions of what we have and what we think we need to have to attain happiness. God forbid I’m single and someone else isn’t – they MUST be happier than I, no? Love is what we already have and love is what we stand to gain. Ultimately, it’s got very little to do with whether you’re single or not.

For me, personally, the holiday applies to all. I feel loved and I love loving others. On the one day of the year dedicated to love’s expression, the last thing on my mind is the fact that I’m part of a “liebespaar,” a love-pair. In fact, aside from sneaking to work early enough to slip a holiday card under my beloved’s keyboard, today was much like any other: We worked, then he went to the gym and I went to two bookstores, we eventually both ended up at home where we shared a very simple meal and now he’s downstairs watching an all new episode of The Office while I’m upstairs in my temple room bloggering and about to conclude the night with puja. I could just as easily have had the same evening were I single.

The Bible says “God is love,” and Christians are commanded to love everyone as their guru loved them. Greeks and Romans understood many forms of love – some forms being more carnal than others, which were virtually too lofty for humans to attain. And within Hinduism love has as many expressions as the Divine does.

Human-sized bears, overpriced chocolate and heart-shaped chalk candy are of course the more commercial aspect of the holiday’s modern incarnation, but the real idea of the day is no less changed. And mark my words, plenty of people today were gifted amazing flowers, steak dinners and wine, chocolates, jewelry, and romantic nights in… and will go to sleep feeling just as empty as they did when they awoke this morning. Our celebrated day of love truly has little to do with whether you’re single or not.

This year Valentine’s Day and Vasant Panchami coincide. I find this to be very auspicious. My Facebook status early today was to wish all “the love of knowledge and the knowledge of love.” I think the combination of a Day of Love and a day spent worshipping Saraswati, the holy personification of Wisdom, is wonderful. Think about what it means to actually love knowledge, and also to have knowledge of love. It’s much more than just a clever switching of word order. Possessing the love of knowledge as well as the knowledge of love, I feel, has played a large role in shaping me into who I am – and as long as I retain that perspective, I think it’s likely that this will continue to shape my personal evolution. I sincerely hope the same for you.

Love. Learn to see it in its myriad forms, please.

Om shanti