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Some time back, I posted some photos to my Facebook account. They were from another text sacred to Hindus, the Paramarthasara, which is sacred to non-dual Shaivites. I purchased a copy of this from my favorite bookery. Even if one only glances at some of the content of Avinavagupta’s Paramarthasara it becomes clear quickly the treasure within it. For anyone unfamiliar, and according to the preface of my copy of the Paramarthasara, Avinavagupta lived between 950 and 1000 A.D. and produced the Paramarthasara as a build-on to an already-existing Vaishnav text. Avinavagupta increased the verse count from 85 to over 100 and converted the text into a Shaivite scripture.

Twists like this, insofar as scriptural evolution is concerned, are a bit more common than realized. Another example is the Vaishnav incorporation of Ganesha into some of their stories and myths. It really goes both ways, and in Hinduism it goes more than both ways– it goes all ways! From where I sit, I’m unsure which verses were added by Avinavagupta, which were simply modified, and which verses he deemed to already parallel Shaivite theology close enough to keep as-is. At any rate, there are many that stand out to me and could be applicable to this series on Hindu vegetarianism – and I’d like to share one with you, dear reader. You can see a picture of it posted here below. You’ll notice the devanagari, the transliteration, and the translation, all followed by Yogaraja’s commentary, which isn’t entirely viewable but which I’ll be sharing a bit of below the picture.

Verse 69, Paramarthasara of Abhinavagupta

Verse 69, Paramarthasara of Abhinavagupta

“He eats not according to dietary rule, but whatever may come, without considering whether that food is pure or impure, unpleasant or sweet in taste. In other words, free from any consideration of what is advantageous or disadvantageous for him, the spiritual adept lives on the food which appears before him…It may be asked: How is this possible? The reply given by the author is that the spiritual adept remains still, unruffled, above the feelings of pleasure and pain…”

Here we can see deep truth spelled out well for us. Shaivite truth, Vaishnav truth… doesn’t matter. The question asked, “How is it possible?” Is a good one, that many staunch vegetarians ask even today. How can you get to heaven if you eat meat? The answer is given in the shloka above and it’s mirrored in the Gita: One cannot achieve moksha without this form of Self control. The rules are – at best – meant as a guide; they are not the destination. Indeed, this form of Self control is the key to governing one’s karmas and doing away with them – Karma Yoga.

This is actually indicative of deep realization of the Truth and high spiritual development. Whenever a devotee or aspirant invests enough effort travelling the path back to our Source, little by little, Truth opens to that person and while they still may live according to certain specific principles they are no longer bound by those principles. It’s from this supreme outlook/wisdom that Krishna advises Arjuna that it’s detrimental to be so greatly affected by life’s happenings – even when violence is involved, like killing your kin. This is a point where Jnana balances everything, always bringing one to (or closer to) equipoise.

Dont-Believe1

Enter: Karma Yogis.

As with any action we make, our dietary choices are directly related to one’s practice (or absence of practice) of Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga affords special emphasis to one’s behaviors, and usually the context those actions are placed into is that of being beneficial to others. Karma Yoga is often then accidentally understood to be largely synonymous with seva (service to others), which is really only a small part of practicing Karma Yoga, in the same way that non-violence is often taken to be the “everything” behind ahimsa. It can be argued that, by far, most people neglect to take Karma Yoga deeper than that. They manage to convince themselves that if they do good works and don’t expect anything in return (which they mistake to be synonymous with karmaphala vairagya, renunciation of their actions’ fruits), liberation will come to them. What a horrible disservice to one’s spiritual progression!

Karma Yoga is about the renunciation of the effects of one’s deeds on all levels not the just outward and obvious levels. Doing something for the simple and pure sake of doing it is something so very few people can even mentally grasp, let alone outwardly exhibit in daily life. And even when it seems like someone might truly be doing something purely for others, that inner landscape I’ve mentioned before still pollutes the whole thing. There often remains a glaring disconnect between the outer where everything is seen and the inner where everything originates. It’s in this context that so many humble “servants of the servants of the Lord” are actually fools simply engaged in mechanistic acts – which they incorrectly think equate Karma Yoga.

Another book I’ve been reading is The Yoga of Nutrition – in the book itself, this form of yoga is called Hrani Yoga. Much of the book so far has been boring and dealt a lot with mindfulness during eating and offering some instructions on how to view our food and habits involved when we’re eating. One thing said, though, I kind of like. The author, clearly Hindu, references a biblical passage where Jesus advises folks that it’s not what goes into the body, but what comes out from it that determines a man’s spiritual expression and development. Mind you, I think there’s ample support in the Bible to indicate that people aren’t meant to eat animals, but that’s for another day and another post. Certainly Jesus knew what he was talking about and I think, in this case, the Hrani Yoga author does too. He mentions, “Jesus certainly never advised his disciples to eat anything and everything: it would be unthinkable for an Initiate to give such advice, for it is only when one has done great spiritual work capable of changing impurity into light that one is free to eat whatever one likes. And the reverse is true too: unless you have made your mind up to work at your spiritual development, even the best food will not have the power to transform you. What counts is the strength of your inner life, of your thoughts and feelings.”

Aum Mahaganeshya Namaha
Aum Shanti

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Another Seat at the Table

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

In the last post I struggled a bit, I feel. This topic of the human diet and what is supreme in regard to it is actually a big thing to consider and try to explain. Before continuing, allow me to offer apologies here for any confusion I might cause or miscommunition that might be my responsibility. I wrote about many things inherent to the diversity of Hinduism, and maybe a few other things. It was a lot and I feel like I mostly only touched on each of those things, which leads me to think it might be inappropriate to continue without going deeper into those topics.

I mentioned that, like so many other aspects of our religion, for every yes there is a no and every up corresponds to at least one down. Most people, especially Westerners, are not terribly aware of how truly immense and diverse Hinduism is. As Westerners not born into the religion or culture, our beginning stages often amount to somewhat of a scramble to understand as much as possible as quickly a possible, the result of which usually is that our minds only grasp part of the whole and then clings to that part because that’s all we feel we can understand. In Hinduism, literally everyone has a seat at the table. None are excluded on the path to liberation – that’s important to remember regardless of your sect. Hindus adhere to many different scriptural authorities. It’s important to remember that these authorities dont always agree.

One possible authority is probably the most-read of all Hindu scriptures – The Bhagavad Gita. In the last post, I mentioned that violence isn’t inherently bad and is even natural in life – and that the Gita supports this. A key factor pertaining to that concept, is equipoise. Krishna explains to Arjuna that the yogi (one who achieves union, aka moksha) is one who remains ultimately unaffected by life’s roller coaster-like happenings. This is the Yoga of Equanimity and is a key to vairagya and renouncing karmaphala. Do you see how it’s all connected?

Some might incorrectly interpret this to imply indifference or apathy. I don’t agree with that. It requires much work to govern both personal inclinations and aversions – a work that actually implies anything but indifference or apathy. It is a quite passionate endeavor indeed to consistenly remain equipoised. On a superficial level, what we eat doesn’t affect our soul, which remains untouched by anything happening within Maya. Multiple world religions affirm this.

Another text belonging to Advaita Vedanta, and which many Hindus revere whole-heartedly is The Yogavasishta, which states, “It is the actions of the mind that are truly termed Karmas…True liberation results from the disenthralment of the mind…Those who have freed themselves from the fluctuation of their mind come into possession of the supreme Nishta…Should the mind be purged of all its impurities, then it will become as still as the milky ocean undisturbed by the churning of Mandara hills; and all our samsaric delusion attendant with its birth and deaths will be destroyed…Those who without longing for objects avoid them can be termed as subjugators of their mind.” This may not say much about avoiding meat as food, but it does add additional support to my point that whether one eats meat or not shouldn’t be too key. Our mind’s actions are the bijas of all external karmas. Certainly, “outside” stuff can have an influence on the mind’s actions, but ultimately all possible outcomes related to that “outside” stuff are dependent upon what’s in the mind to begin with. This can also relate back to the Gita where we’re encouraged to follow our own dharma over someone else’s. For some, in this current life, the menu will only include plant material.

For others it’s simply not so – and I must insist, for the sake of your own karmas, that that’s alright.

Don’t worry – there’s more.

Aum Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

The Mother of the Universe is a Male Cat

For virtually every day of the week, excluding a period of just over 24hrs each weekend, I do puja a minimum of twice a day – at dawn and dusk. My lunch hour is also very often filled with sadhana-ish events like memorizing scripture or mantras. Much of this, all spirituality aside, is rather mundane. As predictable as the seasons, pretty much.

Since my beloved and I travel together to work, I usually bathe in the morning before he does, and then when it’s his turn in the shower I sneak off into my temple room and do the day’s first ganeshapuja. Each afternoon when we get out of work we go to the gym for around 2hrs. Then we come home and take care of a few miscellaneous tasks, including dinner. Invariably, after dinner he heads to the couch to catch up on the evening’s shows as well as stuff he’s DVR’d, while I go to my temple room to hang out with God. Then as I mentioned, sometime around dusk I begin the day’s final puja (to Ganesha, as in the morning).

My cat, Darel, loves evening puja. Literally.

I sit before my mandir, light a wick in ghee or a tea light candle, and begin with an invocation to my ishtadevata. At this early point in the puja, even before incense is lit, if my cat isn’t in the room he’s meowing like a madman to be let in. Throughout the entire puja -including the bhuns/bhajans at the end – he’s purring so loudly. He’s also rubbing up against me in typical, affectionate, cat fashion. Interestingly, he’s a fan of doing this roll/dive/butt-flop maneuver he seems to have mastered. It’s a kind of somersault really, only while simultaneously pressed against my seated form, that results in his rear end flopping to the ground with a thud – usually somewhere very close to the burning incense or the flame used in aarti.

As much as he loves this, this annoys me.

But not for long.

Every ever-lovin’ time, whether I like it or not, I’m reminded of a story I read once about Ganesha, His Mother, and a cat. The digest version is that Balaganesha was outside playing one day when a cat came near. As any typical little boy might, Ganesha began rough housing with His new-found playmate, getting too rough in the process and causing bruises and scratches on the cat. Soon enough, the cat ran off and didn’t return. Eventually, Ganesha returned home and after entering, He noticed His Mother in the kitchen with some minor scrapes and bruises. Very concerned, He ran to Her inquiring what had happened to cause this. She gently explained to Him that She is in all living things and when He was too rough with the cat, He was actually hurting Her. The story ends, I think, with Ganesha vowing to never hurt another thing ever.

So here I sit in padmasana, getting my puja on, and Darel is testing my patience. I’m not thrilled that he flops so close to something that could burn him or the carpet. When he thumps against me, because of his size it audibly disrupts my vocalization of the chants. So many facets of this scene bug me… but only briefly. Soon, very soon, I remember that my own Mother resides not only within the murtis into which I’ve temporarily invoked Her Shakti, but also within Darel.

With his next thump into my torso and the resultant shake in my voice, I can only smile and thank Mother for loving me and allowing me to receive Her affection in so many ways. Om Shri Ganeshaya Namaha

Om Shanti

Elephant Bhakti

I’m not typically a fan of rap music or beatbox-y stuff… Truthfully, I have no idea if what I’m about to reference is even either of those things, but for some reason those are terms that came to mind. At any rate, what’s cited below are the lyrics to a song by MC Yogi, featuring Jai Uttal. The song title is “Ganesh Is Fresh” – wording that already makes me feel anciently. I’m sharing these lyrics because, 1) this is a song I maintain on my iPod’s “GANAPATI” playlist and serves as a nice warm up song, 2) is accurate and revealing in regards to some basic knowledge pertaining to Shri Ganesha as well as His nature.

I hope you’ll read each line of the song deliberately and thoroughly, and learn.

1st Verse

Ganesh is so fresh chillin on his throne /
Surrounded by incense fruit and gold
With a heap of sweets piled in his bowl /
He guards the gate and protects the threshold
When your blessed by Ganesh then you can travel /
On a sacred journey to an inner temple
He paves the path that leads to the soul /
& he’s known for removing all obstacles
Now some may think it’s illogical /
A myth or it’s just philosophical
But Ganesh makes everything possible /
Because elephant power’s unstoppable

Chorus
Jaya Ganesha, Jaya Ganesha, Jaya Ganesha Om

2nd Verse

To the god of all wisdom loved by all children /
Known for blessing homes that we live in
To the lord of all creatures with divine features /
Inspiring the minds of all truth seekers
To the son of Shiva and Parvati /
With an elephants head and a fat belly
With a snake for a belt to hold up his pants /
He rides on a mouse and he loves to dance
With a lotus unfolding inside one of his of his hands /
& an axe to attack all ignorance
A broom to remove all hindrance /
And a noose to reduce all selfishness
He writes the pages that the sages chant /
Droppin ancient vedic science so we cancomprehend /
All the many ways that we can transcend
Singin Jai to Ganesh he’s a yogi’s best friend

Chorus
Jaya Ganesha, Jaya Ganesha, Jaya Ganesha Om

3rd Verse

I pray to Ganesh to take away the stress /
And pave the way into a place that’s blessed
Centered in the chest where the breath is felt /
When your blessed by Ganesh than the stress can melt /
He destroys the knots that confine your thoughts /
He dissolves the walls & he breaks the blocks /
He unlocks the door to the sacred core /
& he guards the gate at the pelvic floor /
The benevolent elephant who’s super intelligent /
At the base of the spine he’s the earth element /
He’s the ruler of the muladhara chakra /
His brother rides a peacock and his names is Skanda /
To the son of Uma and Mahadeva we offer this puja to Shri Ganesha /
To the son of Parvati and Mahesh dedicated to Ganesh cuz he’s so fresh

Chorus
Jaya Ganesha Jaya Ganesha Jaya Ganesha Om

Your Business

Lately, I’m gaining experience in getting used to stinging response from others, so I’ll say it now: I don’t really care. Really. At times I post things for shock value or to evoke a response from others – invariably as a means of encouraging them to challenge themselves on where they think they stand. Some of these things I myself disagree with, but I’ll still post them because your growth means enough to me to do so. Unless you know me quite well, it’ll likely be hard for you to know when I’m doing any one or combination of these things. Sorry ’bout your luck.

My path in life seems to be the one fewer people tread. Pick anything and you’ll see it’s true. Often, superficially, I don’t appreciate this. However, my path and my journey are about me, as I am right now. No one else. And I refuse to walk another’s path simply because it’s what everyone else seems to be doing – even if it’s what the saints are doing.

This is one of the few arenas in my life where I cling to Krishna’s words in the Hindu bible, the Bhagavad Gita. He advises his cousin and disciple, Arjuna, regarding Dharma. In regard to one’s individual path, called swadharma, Krishna says it’s always always always better to follow your own path than to attempt someone else’s – even if you follow your own path poorly!

I’m planning an up-coming post that is likely going to cause a few brows to raise. Likewise, I wouldn’t be surprised if the post comes across to some as offensive or just plain old wrong. It will employ Jnana Yoga that is a bit deeper than most experience – especially considering that most people don’t even touch Jnana Yoga most of the time. This alone is enough to make backlash predictable. Most people are so certain in what they think they know or experience – which, often at best, only points to what they actually don’t know or experience – that they end up reacting instead of realizing. It’s painful and is also more than a little annoying, but whatever. Part of the process, no?

For me, one of the supreme facets of Hinduism is the freedom its structure offers. That might sound contradictory on the surface – structure (religiously speaking, orthodoxy) implies a certain level of rigidity, and freedom seems to be the opposite. Hinduism is essentially a conglomerate of religious practices, approaches, and philosophies. It’s been said that there are more religions within Hinduism than outside it. With that in mind, I’ll remind you, my dear reader, that there are MANY kinds of Hindus. Certainly, being human, you’re under the impression – even if you recognize the diversity of our Faith – that your way is somehow purer or better right now than the others. This is natural, and honestly, it’s also probably based in ego (although not necessarily or automatically so). Do be careful. Please trust that chances are just as likely that there are more than a few who’d disagree with where you stand, according to their own swadharma.

With any luck I’ll get the aforementioned post composed and posted sometime before I turn seventy and before you forget that I gave this disclaimer.

Om Sri Ganeshaya Namaha

Om Shanti

Tomorrow’s Gone Again

Many of the ancient cultures of the world view everything in terms of cycles. For Hindus specifically, there are cycles inside of cycles, yugas inside of yugas – of course, there are only four main yugas spoken of commonly, but deeper study with confirm many others. This kind of talk is familiar within religious or spiritual groups.

Another place I’m seeing this is in the shows on the History channel dealing with so-called “Ancient Astronauts.” I’m not ruling anything out, per se, but I find that these alien experts seem to be reaching for proof. They refer to all these really ancient texts or carvings or pottery that seem to indicate that our world’s most ancient cultures were actually quite advanced – in many cases more so than we are even today. Most Hindus wouldn’t disagree with this, and it’s not just a matter of pride. Some of our more obscure religious texts, and even ones that are quite common like the Mahabharata, mention activities that, in different terminology, point to things like test-tube fertilization, atomic gadgetry, and flight mechanics.

Ancient Astronaut experts, though, similarly mention the upcoming curls of the cycles of time as more advanced than we are currently. This puzzles me a little. Why is it that yesterday and tomorrow were and will be so great, but now sucks so much? Interestingly, even “back then,” in the time periods so long ago as referenced by scholars and whacks alike, the view was that the time before was better. So…. long ago was better than now, and the “long ago” before that was better than that, too? In the Hindu context, going backwards and depending on dates, that could potentially take us into the Satya Yuga. But that’s some serious speculation and still doesn’t really explain how going forward is somehow better. (Unless you stick within the context of Hinduism, and even then jump hundreds of thousands of years into the future from now to the end of Kali Yuga.)

I feel like what I’m seeing here is a self-esteem problem and glass-half-empty syndrome. No matter “when” we are we’re not happen and seem to be either looking back at how good things were and seeing how much we’ve messed things up, or looking forward – possibly in hope – but still wallowing in current dread.

There are many funny holes in the theories pertaining to ancient astronauts that are no less ridiculous than those of some religious theories. I think this is partly due to our perennial tendency to misinterpret so much of what we see and learn. When will we realize that Truth is immune to time and accessible throughout all time? The past and the future will, at least theoretically, remain better than our “now” until each of us realizes this in our current life.

True Devotion

I was catching up on posts on The Hindu Blog and came across something I thought to share. If you have thoughts on this, regarding a deeper interpretation, I’d love to know them. I think this points to how real bhakti is far more than mridangas, kartals, and ecstatic chant-dancing – and, as with Jnana Yoga, it aids as a support for Karma Yoga.

Swami Vivekananda talks about true devotion through the story of two gardeners:

A rich man had a garden and two gardeners. One of these gardeners was very lazy and did not work; but when the owner came to the garden, the lazy man would get up and fold his arms and say, ‘How beautiful is the face of my master’, and dance before him.

The other gardener would not talk much, but would work hard, and produce all sorts of fruits and vegetables which he would carry on his head to his master who lived a long way off. Of these two gardeners, which would be the more beloved of his master?

Shiva is that master, and this world is His garden, and there are two sorts of gardeners here; the one who is lazy, hypocritical, and does nothing, only talking about Shiva’s beautiful eyes and nose and other features; and the other, who is taking care of Shiva’s children, all those that are poor and weak, all animals, and all His creation. Which of these would be the more beloved of Shiva? Certainly he that serves His children.

Source – Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol. 3, p. 142