I’ve been kind of questining things lately. I mean… this is the usual mode of operation for me, to be honest, but I feel like I’m questioning different things these days. Going deeper in some ways, and testing the surface level in other ways.
Some time ago, I asked around about the necessity and importance of Hinduism’s deep foundational orthodoxy. My specific inquiry at the time centered on the dark-n-wondrous knowledge that was revealed and codified in the images worshipped in Hinduism, as well as the intonations and sigils employed in the Sanatana Dharma. The idea is that there are very very specific formulations in place, which are meant to be employed very intentionally and specifically, for very intentional and specific reasons. And so then, what if we “misuse” those formulations. What happens in alchemy when one follows the precise steps to turn lead into gold, but the whole time just wants to turn lead into aluminum? Or what if the formulation is for turning lead into gold but you start off with aluminum and not lead? Do you still end up with gold? Or would you get a form of gold that’s fucked up? That’s what this post is about….still.
Recently, as a treat to myself I made a purchase from the Himalayan Academy. To be clear, I LOVE the Himalayan Academy and the associated Saivite sect, known in the West as Saiva Siddhanta Church. There’s an incredible lineage behind this sect and if I were to formally join, I could do so with almost no hesitation. (More on that in another post.) I’ve ordered from the good monks a number of times and have only once been disappointed – something not worth mentioning further. Their literature can change your life; time and time again it marries modern science with truly ancient spirituality that literally predates what is now known as Sanatana Dharma.
As part of this recent purchase, I managed to get my hands on no less than five rudrakshas. And the questioning begins. You can see three of the rudrakshas below. For the record, while they FEEL like they’re made of a kind of resin, although they certainly smell as one might expect and the box they came in was marked with oil spots – I’m certain they are legit.
But what if they aren’t legit? What if they’re just decent imposters?
When I asked my other question about letting much of the “realness” of Hinduism slide, and what that might mean, a number of responses indicated that Bhakti would essentially gloss over any glitches and the rest might just be in my head anyway. Would that apply here? Does it matter at all if these are imposters, so long as I BELIEVE they are real and am devoted the the essence of real ones? Surely, whether these are real or not, if I hold them in my hand and close my eyes and do my jaapa/sadhana with love in my heart they can be as plastic as Barbie and I’ll benefit all the same, no? Will I really? Does Bhakti cover all?
I know the Gita indicates that God will accept virtually any offering made with devotion and sincerity. I actually take refuge in that consolation and also that the Gita explains that there is literally no wasted effort in one’s journey toward our Source. You do what you can, with what you can, and keep moving. Baby steps are still steps, yes? To me, this is the power of Bhaktiyoga.
But is this all that’s needed and if so, why not just go to the craft store and grab any old bead and then call it a rudraksha? I think Bhakti is a tremendous path, but I still have this nagging suspicion in the back of my heart. Many would say, and in fact have said, that in the Kali Yuga Bhatki beats all. But surely, if you’re trying to turn lead into gold you really truly must be starting with lead, or you are quite likely not to end up with gold.
What are your thoughts on this?
Om Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Good analogies employed here regarding alchemy, but I have a couple of thoughts on this:
1. I employ japa yoga in my (almost) daily spiritual endeavors, and my 108 beads are made of wood. They happen to be very inexpensive wooden beads from “any old craft store” as you mentioned, constructed and gifted by a friend who is a Buddhist. Yet I invoke Ganesha and Vishnu on them repeatedly. I see no reason why this should thwart my purposes for employing the mala. Do you?
Your (I’m just going to say it!) bhakti is not directed toward the items by which you undertake it. It is directed toward Ganesha, or maybe Shiva. I don’t know why rudrakshas should be any more effective than anything else if your intention is pure and focused.
Its kind of like that discussion you and I took part in regarding coming into the temple for Krishna Janmashtami smelling of garlic. What if I came in smelling of sweat? Would that negate anything?
2. Recall that in the Mahabharata there is a scene wherein Krishna sits down in the meditative pose most characteristic of Shiva so that a devotee of Shiva is able to carry out his nightly sadhana.
Prabhu ki jaya!
1) I see absolutely no reason why simple wooden beads strung together by a Buddist monk would thwart any sadhanic endeavor – regardless of who you invoke while using that mala. But I’m not sure how applicable that is to the question at hand – although it could very well be if you wanted to focus on the kind of wood those beads were made of because I’m aware that certain woods, not unlike rudrakshas, are known to carry certain properties. So a new question would be: did your monk use sandalwood, rose wood, pine, or some other wooden beads? And what, if any, if any effect would this have on your subtle body and all the (immensely) subtle aspects of your sadhana?
2) Please tell me more of the deep meaning behind your mention of the scene in Mahabharata. I’m very curious to see if you see what I see there.