Vagus

The oldest dog in my menagerie will be ten in September. For many years already, she’s been prone to seizures (sp?). We’re still not sure what brings them on for the handful of times a year they occur. Our veterinarian hasn’t really offered much in the way of an explanation aside from many small breeds are prone to them and that we should avoid allowing her to have onions, because those can specifically cause them.

When they happen, Bodhi’s little body tenses up entirely – her little paws either curl up tightly or kind of reach out into space stiffly. She slobbers a little and passively, slowly, and subtly licks her lips. Her pupils dilate hugely and her eyes become “scared.” Sometimes she’ll grunt or make a very very soft whine, as if she’s hurting.

The whole ordeal lasts only a few minutes and upsets myself and my beloved. While it’s happening we usually just hold her close and softly repeat her name to bring her back to us.
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My beloved has a “compromised” lower back. He virtually always has. In his teens, I’m told, he underwent physical therapy for it. Off and on throughout his adult life it’s been an issue. It’s usually something that only flares up when he’s been careless during one of our moves or during fitness activities or something. It flared up recently because of a combination of factors to do with fitness and grouting my inlaws’ spare bedroom floor. For most of this week he’s been in some sort of pain from it.

This morning the pain became too much. Sitting or standing was very uncomfortable. Being on the couch or bed, flat on his back, was about the only thing that brought even a little comfort. By the time I’d showered and was preparing for work, he decided that he wouldn’t be going to the office. We briefly discussed that he should likely seek medical attention in the form of a MedCheck of Emergency Room (He’s currently in between PCPs). I told him that I’d take him, and so we went to a nearby, new, ER.

Getting there and admitted was easy. They asked him questions about every aspect of his health, and the ER physician indicated that the plan would be to give my beloved three injections (Morphine, Valium, & Ibuprofen) and then send him home with a few prescriptions.

The first injection was Morphine and was administered to his left thigh. A few seconds passed and he seemed fine. As the RN was prepping his right arm for the second injection, I noticed him looking toward the ceiling.

I moved toward him and noticed his pupils were enormous. Soon thereafter his eyes were rolling backward, and his head was tipping even more backward. I moved closer still, began saying his name and touching him – and suddenly his body went rigid. His hands and fingers contorted into the familiar shape people use when making fun of “retarded” people, and at one point his right arm flew upward.

By now another nurse or two had arrived. I’m still calling my beloved’s name trying to coax him back to me. Suddenly, although remaining rigid, his body became still. His entire body then flushed very red and his breathing stopped. There was a kind of straining happening with his body, pressure that felt like it was leading to some sort of burst. This, of course, sent me into orbit.

Only a week ago we’d been watching the show, Downton Abbey, and a character, shortly after birthing, had died following an event that looked JUST like this. The episode made me cry, for many reasons – one of which was that this woman’s husband was by her side desperately pleading for her to return from her seizure. She didn’t. They were unable to make her breathe again and she left while her spouse held her hand. All newborns aside, my emergency room experience this morning mirrored that of the Downton Abbey scene far too closely.

Within a few minutes, as with my Bodhi, my beloved came back. By this point he had oxygen strapped to his face and more wires hooked to him than I knew to count. Aside from weeping like nobody’s business (a point which I’m nearing now simply recounting this ordeal, and which I’ve neared many times since the event because of images that keep flashing through my mind’s eye), the only thing I could do was kiss and hug and hold him in any way allowable and, of course, constantly inspect him for new or additional signs of more terror. I didn’t even care what the staff thought about my display – thankfully none attempted to stop me or remove me, or it’s a sure bet the ER would have had a few more patients right then.

The final verdict from the attending physician is that he experienced a vagal episode, more technically called a vasovagal response/reaction. Simply put: he passed out.

I disagree that he simply “passed out,” but vasovagal reactions are possible in response to opioid exposure, so whatever. He’s never getting Morphine again. This experience has taught me a few things, noted thusly:

1) Don’t ever let me fool you into thinking I’m succeeding at nonattachment within the context of Maya. It is a spiritual and personal goal of mine, but I’m failing horribly, and will likely continue to so long as my beloved is my beloved.

2) I will probably always be simultaneously trusting of medical staff and questioning. Honestly, as annoying as this may become to some, I’m not sorry. If we were to trust doctors simply because they are doctors, medical malpractice insurance wouldn’t exist.

3) I will never adhere to thoughts or beliefs that perpetuate any semblance of distance between myself and my Source. The distance experienced between myself and my beloved today during our stay at the ER is enough to have scarred me for some time and as with medical staff, I’ll continue to question and discern and I will surely drop any belief that matches this – there can be no Truth there, in my estimation, and if there is, it is a Truth that causes only longing and pain. I experienced misery today when my beloved was pulled from me only a little ways. It isn’t good. I will not have it.

That’s virtually all I know right now. I’m not sure it amounts to much of anything, but there you have it.

Jai Shri Ganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti

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Tree Sons

(Image from Kaui Hindu Monastery)

(Image from Kaui Hindu Monastery)

Many people roll their eyes at the thought of somebody being a “tree hugger.” The implications and mental images that usually accompany that title are potentially of a sloppy person, a bit whimsical and carefree (careless?), perhaps anti-establishment. It’s a label that’s been around for decades and, as with everything else through the decades, the definition of what a tree hugger today is has probably changed from the original meaning. I suppose in a lot of ways, I could be called a tree hugger. Don’t get me wrong – in so very many ways I’m not even close to what “tree hugger” probably originally meant. Still in many other ways I’m very much a tree hugger, and a number of people in my life may well be able to vouche that I’ve literally hugged a tree once or twice. From a young age, others will also be able to confirm, I’ve enjoyed being in “the woods” and going rivering and traipsing through creeks and just being completely enveloped by Mother in nature. I think it’s something most people never experience, but I can attest that trees give great hugs if you allow.

I’m not a hippie. I’m just a Hindu.

Tree hugger (hugged?) or not, one thing I am is a tree worshipper. For thousands of years Hindus have recognized the immense value of trees and have also recognized how very truly trees imitate the Supreme One – far beyond the superficial “roots in heaven” symbolism. As Hindus, we’re free to see God wherever we might be inclined to, and a number of scriptural references encourage us to see God in trees. This is something I do, and have always done, with much ease.

** An important thing for any non-Hindu readers to understand is that Hindus don’t really worship trees (or any of our other religious images). At the foundation of our religion is the Ground of All Being – the essence that supports all that is and is common to virtually everything. This is what advanced modern sciences are catching up to and proving accurate at an increasing rate. And it’s this recognition, of that Ground of All Being, that allows for the immense diversity, and consequently the expansive freedom afforded to Hindus. **

Something else I easily could manage but have yet to accomplish (at all, let alone with much ease) is parenthood. I’ve posted a few times here how important my parents are to me and what an invaluable treasure they’ve been to me and many others in this life. Anyone who knows me outside of all things cyber can attest to my strong desire to be a dad, and how envious (in a good way!) I often am of parents.

Luckily for me, there seems to be scriptural support for the fusion of these two, seemingly unrelated aspects of my life. A year or two ago, a friend on Facebook posted a quote, something from one of the myriad Hindu scriptures, that included the Sanskrit translation, and I found it striking. It truly struck a chord with me because it linked the huge benefit and value of family and parenthood to that of ecology, and quite specifically trees. Those scriptural references are cited below.

“A pond is equal to ten wells; ten ponds are equal to one lake; ten lakes are equal to one son; and ten sons are equal to one tree.” (“dashakupa-sama vaapi dashavaapi samo hrdaha dashahrda samaha putro dashaputro samo drumaha”) -Vrkshayurveda 6

“Those who plant trees, for them they are like sons. There is no doubt that because of those trees, man attains heaven after his death.” -Mahabharata, Anu parva 58/27

The photo at the end of this post is primarily of a treeling I’m nurturing in the middle of my front yardage. When we purchased the property about four summers ago, an actual tree stood where this baby one does now, although it was mostly dead. After a year or so, we came home one day to see that the HOA and landscapers had chopped the half-dead tree. A year or so later, you can imagine my thrill when, while piddling around my yard, I notice a resurrection of sorts occurring. I nursed the little bitties and helped them grow – offering not only regular watering, but also regular pujas. However, one day much to my dismay, I came home from work to see another chop job had taken place. I’ll admit: I cried. And not only that, I spent the rest of the evening melancholy and pouting indoors.

For me, things like this ARE kind of like my children and I miss the life I interacted with when something like that fails or ceases. I suppose that proves the scriptures true, no? At any rate, my treeling is growing back! I noticed it very early this spring season and I’ve been tending to it since before our final frost. To date, it’s survived and prospered even more than it did last year!

As with so much else within the Scriptures, I’m not sure I really buy that a tree is equal to ten human sons. This isn’t the first time I’ve doubted the scriptures… in fact, I do that often enough. At any rate, I do enjoy the sentiment and every day when I go outside for vrksha-puja and I notice that this treeling has split into “two” very close to the ground I smile at the thought of my twenty twin sons, and my heart enjoys the moment as a temporary expression of the love I have for the human child who is likely never to arrive in my life.

Om Shri Ganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti

IMG_20130618_200452_737

WICKED Li’l Old Me

Taken from Google Images

Taken from Google Images

Everyone seems to have the understanding that holy people, or spiritually advanced people are only humble. After all, the meek shall inherit the Earth, no? (Bible, Matthew 5:5)

However, I’d like to convince you that humility can be a problem in a way identical to that of arrogance or pride. Some posts ago I mentioned that I believe many carnivorous humans are better off from a karmic standpoint, and spiritually, simply because of the ignorant, emotional, and often irrational aversion so many vegetarians have regarding the subject. The post seemed to go virtually unnoticed, which doesn’t bother me in the least, but based on my understanding of how thoughts, emotions, actions, and karma in general work, I really do feel that many who are vegetarian are at times hurting their own progress more than those who bite sentient beings for sustenance – not because of the vegetarianism, but because of the samsaras they build up around the choice. All of that hinges on something good and virtuous (non-violence, non-aggression, vegetarianism) being taken to an extreme.

Religions and spiritual traditions throughout time and around the globe are guilty of this in one context or another, to one degree or another. Of course, some religions are inherently more inclined toward the live-and-let-live model and so there are those who are perhaps “less” guilty of this imbalance. Still, guilty is guilty and people who live in glass houses ought not to throw rocks.

To a lesser degree I think this same principle is sometimes also at work when it comes to humility. Too many people are timid when it comes to displaying a warrior spirit in their own lives. A hymn from the Vedas, in part, says, “Ati Vinayam Dhoortha Lakshanam…” which translates as, “Too much of humbleness is an attribute of a wicked person.”

But how can this be? How can a virtue like humility lead one to wickedness?

Umm… how about by being emphasized or implemented in such a way or to such a degree that it becomes detrimental. Initially, the detriment would be applicable only to the immediate life state of the one exhibiting this imbalance. That person would end up essentially being walked on or abused throughout his or her existence, and while that saddens my heart, I can see, that on that level, it’s still only a localized misery – again pertaining to individualized samsara. If allowed to go further, however, the localization ceases and others begin to suffer, too – others who might need a so-called warrior, Vira, to help maintain or restore balance. The absence of this assertive warrior spirit is adharma, and this is why the Vedas tell us that “too much of humbleness” makes someone wicked. Too much humbleness is an imbalance and is adharmic. So much of the Hindu dharma points to the at-least-occasional need for exhibiting warrior-ness: everything from yogasanas to the Bhagavad Gita hint at this.

If someone tells you you’re going to hell for eating cows, tell them to mind their own damned business and worry about themselves not going to hell. If someone tells you your friend or guru is corrupt or fraudulent, hold them accountable for those accusations – if they refuse, they need to fuck off and you need to make them aware of as much, and if they can offer proof your life has been made better. If someone repeatedly and directly badgers you about your own ishtadevata or chosen scriptures, I do hope you have spine enough (and bhakti enough) to adhere to your spiritual home AND tell them to do the same.

So many people think that if one is humble they’re “good” and if they’re not, they’re not. But the truth is, humility is much like aggression in that it possesses degrees of expression. Ideally, humility is best expressed through patience, understanding and compassion – not necessarily meekness. If one keenly develops these traits, humility will manifest without compromising other areas and without leading to adharma/wickedness.

In posts like this, I eventually begin wondering if my point is lost. Like the vegetarian samsara post, it’s such a broad and deep subject that can be taken in so many directions. It’s actually a challenge to write about effectively without composing an entire book on the subject. If nothing else I’d like to leave you with just two recommendations:

1) Cultivate a keen inner awareness. Progress without this is infinitely more difficult.

2) Follow Krishna’s advice to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. Sometimes we’re called to be warriors. Sometimes dharma, whether localized or general, depends on us being loud, assertive and even bossy. History has shown as much.

Om Jai Shri Ganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti

Brahmanaspati

4.2.7

I recently reposted a video on my Facebook account wherein Satguru Bodhinath Veylanswami differentiates between the Hindu conception of God (as a god of love) and some other conceptions of God (as a god of fear). He briefly mentions that even within Hinduism there are superstitious branches of the faith that are afraid to not propitiate God for fear that a missed puja or something might bring God’s wrath.

God simply doesn’t work that way, obviously.

In my typical fashion, along with the repost I demanded my friends to watch it. At least one did. Another reposted it from my account. The one who watched it messaged me a question about a point the video brought up and how it connected to something else I had told him.

I’ll spare you the full-length details, but suffice to say the video names Ganesha as important because He’s the closest face of God to the material plane and is thereby the most easily accessed and the most able to assist and guide us in our life in material existence. The input I’d given my friend before the video – and unrelated to it – is that Ganesha is Om incarnate, and therefore quite cosmic and also super-natural (as in above nature). And so His question was along the lines of asking how the two meshed.

My response, sensing what his reaction might be to it, was intentionally too short. My hope was that it would lead him to spell it out – and he did, quite well.

Beyond confirming that my pal really not only does have The All within him, but also that he taps into It, this back-and-forth made me smile. For starters, I smiled because I love to see that kind of stuff come from within people. I know it’s there within each person. I can see it very much most of the time. And a big chunk of the things I say to folks is meant to expose some of That which is already within them to themselves.

Another reason it made me smile is that, in my own estimation, the carefully grown and guarded bhakti I cultivate – and mostly keep to myself – was validated. It didn’t need validated, per se, but whatever.

Scriptures pertaining specifically to the Ganapatya Marg, and many that belong to numerous other sects within Hinduism proudly and straightforward-ly (and rightly) cite Ganesha as non-different from Om. So very many places within Hindu scripture tell us that His very form is Om. In my studies of Ganesha, I find a number of His traits sometimes share common ground – even if indirectly – with some of the other Hindu Faces of God. But the one attribute I’ve yet to definitively and consistently encounter as also attributed to another deity is His literally being Om. (On that note, I can easily admit that I’ve not gone super deep into other sects’ scriptures. I have encountered plenty of references to other gods as being “supreme” and the like, but none that are flat-out called Om in the same way Ganesha is referred to as Om. The only other even remotely closest comparison would maybe be Krishna’s description of Vishwarup in the Bhagavad Gita. But that’s not really the same. If someone can correct me, I’m happy to stand corrected, although I’ll likely retain my bias. That’s fair enough, right?) To continue, in my own understanding, Om is the most universal, cosmic, and scientific aspect or manifestation of God – and the one that is verily the absolute closest to the truly inconceivable Nirguna Brahman/Formless Absolute.

Surely by now you’re able to do some simple math and see where I’m going with this. Ganesha’s intense connection/likeness to/proximity to Om, and Om practically being just “one step” away from The Formless Absolute, it would seem that Ganeshabhakti and Ganeshapuja necessarily and efficiently cut out any “middle men” on the journey back to Source. Devotion to Ganesha is devotion to Om, which is essentially (and I mean that in the literal sense of the word) worshipping Brahman as best as a human may be able.

And so when my friend spelled it all out, he affirmed the too-short answer I initially gave him, which was, “It’s true.” And now we’ve gone full-circle. For me, from where I am right now, there can be no cleaner and clearer path Home than is offered by Ganesha. This is my bhakti and it fuels my path of Jnana Yoga, which itself is furthered and repeatedly confirmed by my personal experiences. I don’t expect or even hope that others would agree with me, but I do hope that all others would realize their own truth in this way.

Om Shanti

Proud

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Today was the Gay Pride Parade and Festival in Indianapolis. I’ll say now that it’s been most of a decade since I last attended any kind of Pride event. There are various reasons for this, mostly pertaining to past work schedules. However, this year the stars aligned (I mean that literally, as today happens to also be Shani Jayanti) and I was able to attend. Things have changed!

For starters, the sheer volume of people attending the Indy festivities is exponentially bigger than it was when I last attended. SO many people were there. Also the number of vendors has grown quite a lot. Late in the day, I heard a dag queen proclaim from the main performance stage that Indy Pride is now TENTH in the list of “best” Pride festivals in the WORLD. I’m not sure how this is true, or that I even believe it, but I can say it kicks ass in its own way. When it was first held in 1988, there was only a single float in the parade and the parade took a mere 15 minutes. And I can remember from events in the recent past (within the last decade) that large parts of the massive downtown park were vacant. Definitely not the case today – thankfully!

As with any other life experience, I found today’s adventure to be one of learning. Please allow me to share.

1) There are many kinds of people in the world. This is how it’s always been. It’s how it’ll always be. This is because suchness is a goodness.

2) There will be those who disagree with #1. And when force-fields are erected in effort to silence or mute those who disagree with #1, they will pay good money to buy their way to a spot inside that protected area. I saw this first-hand today.

3.1) Many people wear things they oughtn’t to wear.

3.2) All – and I do mean all – of the people I saw walking around in only undergarments today were nearly the exact opposite of the physical appearance you’d ever want to see wearing only underwear in public. This was first noted today by my beloved. A great many people SHOULD be discouraged from some of the wardrobe choices they make. This isn’t being mean. This is encouraging responsibility.

4) On occasion, when exposed to sun and upon neglecting application of sunscreen, it becomes quite apparent that a significant part of my genetic makeup comes directly from that of lobsters. This is currently VERY evident right now and will likely remain quite visible for the next few days.

5) I find that as much as rainbow bracelets and excessive body glitter annoy me, I recognize that at these gatherings it’s important for my people to express exactly what they feel how they feel it. I noticed a number of people who seemed to be dabbling with gender bending solely for the sake of shock value or outrageousness. They looked ridiculous or gross – I’m not talking about transgendered people or intersex. But that’s perfectly okay because that’s only my limited perception from within my own, very hard-earned, secure identity. There are many whose personal shape isn’t as clearly defined as I experience mine to be. I think this is partially because many refuse to continuously invest the effort required to know one’s self, and partially because for many people the lines simply are more blurred than my own. As I walked the festival a number of times today, noticing new people with each step, I began having a kind of “dual” experience. On one hand, noticing a number of people and scenes that were just about embarrassing, I found myself thoroughly entertained by Maya’s spectrum. On the other hand, in the face of such immense diversity, I began also to see The One that connects us all and found myself soaked in the Universe’s amazing and sometimes bizarre beauty.

And now, on the verge of tomorrow, I’m quite tired, quite sunburned, quite fulfilled, and quite ready to be at temple bright and early tomorrow offering my sincerest and most humble gratitude to Ganesha for all that life is.

Om Shanti

Ein Frisches Fleisch Fressen

slaughter

Someone I’ve known for years, but now only see on Facebook, has gone off the deep end. Truly, he’s been off the deep end and has resided thusly for quite some time already. He’s an activist at heart and I suppose understanding his perpetual inclination toward diving head first off the deep end helps me to tolerate him. Recently, he ranted about his veganism. Mind you, he’s very out-spoken about veganism, the conditions on slaughter houses, environmental impact of meat farming, etc… VERY OUT-SPOKEN. In a recent status post, he vaguely mentioned that he detests being questioned about his dietary preference when he goes places and is surrounded by omnivorous human animals. He went on and on, vehemently, about how unfairly the scales are tipped and how he loathed it all.

I advised, as simply as I could, that these questions he’s getting are truly an educational opportunity and that he shouldn’t forget that one always catches more flies with honey than with vinegar. But he made me realize… From a karmic standpoint, vegetarians are all too often no different than meat eaters.

Surely eating meat can have an effect on one’s karmic balance. Surely abstaining from meat eating can also affect that balance. A number of religious sects have spoken on this quite extensively in regard to the karmic effects of consuming sentient beings for nutrition. Some of them have spoken so precisely on this matter, which I consider quite vast and in many cases quite unknowable, that I begin to doubt the claims they’re making. For instance, I don’t think karma works like, “an eye for an eye.” If that were the actual case, as Gandhi apparently said, the whole world would be plunged into blindness! I think it’s more likely that karma works like, “(the value of) an eye for (the value of) an eye.” I don’t think that those who kill in this lifetime are automatically doomed to be killed in a following life. Karma works precisely and evenly, but not usually in a manner that’s that cut and dry.

Also, and this is my main point, our actual actions are – at best – a very small part of karma. That might sound odd considering karma is often translated simply as “action.” But what’s key here is that every thing comes from something before it – a seed, if you will. Everything results from the seed of its own kind. An acorn, while it will produce a tree, will never produce a palm tree. Understand? Likewise, all of our outwardly-expressed actions come from subtle, internal seeds – our thoughts and emotions. Our thoughts and emotions have seeds of their own, which come from even deeper within our being – none of that I plan to discuss right now. I’m saying that we don’t “do” things (karma, action) because we “did” things (karma, action), rather we “do” things (karma, action) because we “think and feel” things (the seeds of our karma, action).

Unpleasant, unbalanced, unwholesome thoughts perhaps make it acceptable within someone’s mind for him to chomp creatures for food. Those thoughts and feeling may have roots in prior life cycles, but they result in outward actions in the here and now – and so we have not only the desire for flesh on our plate, but the need for slaughterhouses to make that a reality. Similarly, when someone avoids meat and has such an immense aversion to the practice, it will quite often follow that this person will somehow express that aversion, which is itself the result of unpleasant/unbalanced/unwholesome thoughts. No matter how you slice it, bad seeds make for bad deeds.

And so, you see, either way, one’s karma is negatively affected. I’m not saying it’s pointless whether one cares about eating meat or not. My own inclination is quite the contrary, and I believe this deserves the careful consideration of all. My point is only that being “pro” something bad (like eating meat?) is likely no worse (or any better) than being “pro” its opposite (like vegetarianism), or vice versa. My point is supported by Krishna in the Gita, as well as other important yogic works like the Yoga Vasishta and Paramarthasara. (I’m happy to supply references, and have even created drafts for future posts citing these, but the drafts are already quite lengthy!)

A true yogi (probably) abstains from meat – yes. Fair enough. But that same yogi neither loves the plant chewer nor detests the meat eater. If you think you’re ahead of the game because of your culinary choices, you’re certainly deluding yourself. The Bible says, “Pride cometh just before the fall,” and I can tell you that to view those damned dirty meat eaters as lesser or lower – or even meaner – than yourself is a grave mistake if you ever plan to exit the wheel of death and rebirth.

Jai Shri Ganesha

Om Shanti