Another Seat at the Table

Ganesh God, Hindu Religion

In the last post of this series 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 right then. 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 do not always agree – this isn’t to imply about conflict in the religion, rather to testify that Truth is far to big for one path to entirely, fully, hold the market on.

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 quite a 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




This post is to serve as a slight detour from the series I’m in the middle of. Sometimes a detour is needed.

A couple days ago, I was putting the finishing touches on a post – part of this “vegetarian” series that I’d been working on for way too long. (Working on posts way too long is typical of me.) I had started the post some time ago and had been working on it throughout the last week in my free time at work and meant to publish that post days ago.

I brought my work laptop home for the weekend to complete a few projects and, once home, jumped onto my home laptop to finish the aforementioned post. It was shortly thereafter that the damned thing vanished.


This is the second time since coming to WordPress that this has happened I suppose for as long as I’ve been at WordPress, it’s not a very oft-happening thing, however considering the time I usually spend writing and editing posts before publishing, even this rare thing is enough to make me pull my hair out.

I posted to the help forum here at WordPress and the advice I received was clear, but of mixed benefit. After a few back-and-forths I resigned to the idea that my work was lost. After that, I offered a half-hopeful puja to Ganesha simply asking for help – if not to recover my lost work, then to accept it with less frustration. I stepped away from that project to handle a few others, not related to WordPress and just now, as the weekend wraps up, I’ve returned to WordPress to pick up where I left off – as best I can.

Because I had a few things still to do for work before the weekend is up, I decided to sign into Sthapati from my work laptop. Once signed in, I hovered over the tab that WordPress was on and noticed it appeared I was still signed in. As soon as the tab was pulled up, a message flashed that my session had expired. I could see behind it, the saved draft that had vanished from view on my other computer. I signed back in and quickly clicked to open that draft – saving the contents to a Word document as soon as it opened. From that screen I simply clicked the link to return to Sthapati’s dashboard to check the most recent viewer statistics. When that screen loaded, sure enough, the same draft that had just showed was once again gone entirely.

At this point, I’m still baffled as to why this post vanished, came back (but not really), and then vanished again. Right now, I’m simply glad to have the material again and will be attempting to re-publish it soonly.

Jay Shri Ganesha!

Aum Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

A Seat At The Table

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

In the disclaimer I offered back on May 25th of this year (which can be read here), I mentioned that there are many kinds of Hindus, and thus many expressions of Hinduism. The kind of Hindu I want to write about is the carnivorous kind. I hope you brought your big mind to class today. I also hope you have your reading glasses and ample time to not only read what is likely to become a rather lengthy post, but ample time to mentally masticate the suchery about to be included. Aum Ganesha!

Before I dive deeply into what I’m planning here, please allow me to be clear: I’m not condoning carnivorous practices among humans. It’s my opinion that our current methodology for farming meat products is not only wasteful and inefficient, but also immensely cruel. I also believe there’s more than enough scientific evidence to support the theory that humans are anatomically and physiologically designed to consume primarily plant material for our nutrition needs. Lastly, I do think, for various reasons which I may end up not going into very much, that humans – as spiritual and intellectual organisms – function optimally when abstaining from eating meat. Beyond that, I’m not mad at folks who chomp beasts.

From where I’m sitting, this topic is a source of contention and too many misguided, skewed intentions. In the middle ages, Christians hunted other groups of people who they perceived to be a threat of some sort. Mind you, those Christians didn’t simply decided against a group and then plot its extermination. There was something about one group or another that was perceived to be a detractor to the process of “saving” the world, or was seen as a roadblock of sorts for those attempting to gain entrance into eternal heavenly paradise. Everyone wants paradise and some people want it for others, too. This was the goal of Christians then, but what ended up happening instead were things like the Crusades where folks were literally hunted and killed for not being Christian. Interestingly, during these times even Christian priests were tested – by vegetarianism. If they refused to eat meat, they were accused of having been influenced by the religion of Manacheanism and would be killed. Some could read this as indicative of the violence inherent in Christian doctrine. I’ll let you take those thoughts where you will.

I find that something along these lines, although not to the same extreme degree, happens in Hindu/Buddhist circles. There are many many scriptural texts in the Hindu religion. Many of those texts strongly advise that eating sentient beings isn’t too far removed from eating another human and at times those same texts precisely detail the karmic and spiritual repercussions – sometimes with an amount of detail that causes me to question the validity of that kind of precision. What’s often overlooked, though, are the parts of the Hindu family that either say nothing about abstaining from meat, encourage killing in some contexts (perhaps for sacrifice or beacuse of so-called duty), or advise that being too against meat eating is no different from actually consuming flesh yourself.

That last bit is important. I personally know a numerous number of vegetarians and vegans who believe that abstaining from fleshy chews will save their souls all the while completely ignoring the inner landscape they’ve cultivated around the subject and all the resultant karma they’re incurring because of it. All of our external actions have seeds which are subtle, many being as subtle as our own thoughts and emotions.

Please understand that aversion is ultimately, qualitatively, no different than desire – both are dangerous traps! This is affirmed/confirmed in the Gita by Shri Krishna, himself. Ultimately, perception of “goodness” is meant to be avoided as much as perception of “evil.” The only possible benefit of cultivating an abundance of “good” is pleasantry of experience. Be sure – the two are essentially the same. Hating or despising the consumption of meat will put you in the same samsaric/karmic boat as those who actually eat meat. Karma is karma, after all, and even the smallest amount of the most subtle karmic expression is still enough to imprison one on the wheel of death and rebirth – preventing moksha from being yours.

I want to show that, while there may be plenty of Hindu Scriptures or accepted concepts that strongly encourage a meat-free life, there are also scriptures that proclaim the more ultimate benefit of transcending such preferences. I’ll write more about that later. One should also note that there’s a key difference between encouraging someone in a behavior and simply not condemning them for it.

I also want to briefly visit what is probably the most common reason for abstaining from meat: Ahimsa. Most understand the term to simply and broadly mean nonviolence. This is true, but at best this definition only half covers abstention from meat. That’s because, at best, “nonviolence” only half defines ahimsa. Taking the definition of a word like ahimsa to be fully encompassed by something like “nonviolence” is like saying Brahman is as simple as “God.” It’s simply not (completely) true. This form of simplicity is at work in other forms of fundamentalism where something important is whittled down to chewable bites, and then those bits are said to contain every flavor of the original. As with any other Sanskrit word, there are numerous layers of meaning, and saying ahimsa means nonviolence is like saying you are your skin. It should also be pointed out that true nonviolence is not possible in ANY life. This is something else that is key to remember and is a prime example of how fundamentalism works, even within Hinduism. You end up throwing out practicality and reason. Other layers of ahimsa are possible in life, with effort, and when ahimsa is applied to a spiritual context those deeper layers are what’s being pointed to, not simply nonviolence. With that said, ahimsa alone makes a great case for better living, but not specifically a vegetarian diet.

Karma is another word that’s quite often tossed around when arguing whether meat eating is massively detrimental within the perennial context. Everyone seems to be under the assumption that all killing is “bad” and that all “bad” actions create undesirable results. If this were really the case, the warrior caste would be lower than the Shudras and would certainly be doomed to hellish places lifetime after lifetime, and Krishna wouldn’t have advised Arjuna that to kill humans (humans he loved!) is the dharmic thing to do. This is further support that the concept of non-violence isn’t meant to be so encompassing. Surely, with God represented equally in all sentient beings, if there are times when it’s literally righteous to kill other humans, there must also be times when it’s okay to kill “lesser” beings – although not necessarily for food. Still, I have a hard time believing that someone who enjoys a hamburger is automatically somehow karmically worse off than a soldier… at least here in the Kali Yuga.

Three Hindu scriptures do sufficiently well at illustrating all of this – not that consuming flesh is ok, but that it’s worse (or just as bad) to have an aversion to it. Due to the current length of this post, I’ll save the actual meat of what I’m getting at for another post, which is just as likely to be as broad as it is long. Stay tuned if you care.

Jai Shri Ganesha!

Aum Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

31 Days – You Thought You Knew Me

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

Today makes 31 days since my last birthday. Four weeks and three days. Something has been on my mind. I won’t say it’s been on my conscience because my conscience … is just different. But this “thing” has definitely been on my mind. Anyone who knows me, understands that transparency is important to me and that level-headed, reasonable communication/education is also. It’s been obvious to me, for more than a little while, that some people think things of me that simply aren’t true. I’m writing now, not to come clean (that would relate to my conscience, which is already guilt-free in this instance), but to come “clear.” If that makes sense, you’re ahead of the game and I’ll encourage you to continue reading.

I’m not a vegetarian.

That’s not true. I am. However, it’s actually a very – VERY – recent development, as of, umm, about 31 days. Only those who are absolutely the closest to me have known, although it’s nothing I’ve deliberately hidden form anyone. The only active role I’ve played in people thinking this (vegetarian) about me is that I’ve not stopped anyone to clarify. I suppose you could have called me a “closet omnivore.” I’ve never been much into meat-heavy meals, and as I’ve grown my consciousness through the years baby-stepping away from meat foods has been the gradual result. Anyone connected to me on Facebook can probably recall a number of posts/reposts I’ve made to promote abstaining from meat foods. Certainly, people will have taken those posts to mean that (at the time) I don’t eat flesh.

Ultimately, I am responsible for the words I say, not for how someone understands them, and to be honest I’ve never really said I eat only plants – but if any guilt is to be assigned to me, it could definitely be that I guessed people would be inclined to assume something about me and, until now, didn’t take action to remedy that misperception. That’s what this post is meant to do – as briefly as I feel able.

A number of posts following this one will go into much greater detail about my view of meat eating, Hinduism, vegetarianism, and a lot more – as well as how each of those things relates to the others. Although you’ll be hearing from me extensively in those posts, going into them I want to make some thing(s) clear.

As far as direct relation is concerned, I’m not a vegetarian because I want to clean up my karmas, although I believe that will happen. I’m not a vegetarian because I want to make any kind of statement. I will not be encouraging anyone else to adopt vegetarianism. I don’t, in any way whatsoever, feel vegetarians are necessarily higher or more evolved/progressed/developed/human than carnivorous or omnivorous humans – and in fact, many vegetarians I know do as much if not more harm in the world.

By far, my choice to adopt this into my life is based on the ethic of reciprocity, otherwise known as the Golden Rule or the Silver Rule (depending on how it’s phrased). For Hindus, that ethic is stated variously. One way can be found in the Anusasen Parva of the Mahabharat, “One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Other behaviour is due to selfish desires (Verse 8, Section CXIII).” Another form of this comes in another Hindu scripture, chapter 32 of the Tirukkural, “श्रूयतां धर्मसर्वस्वं श्रुत्वा चाप्यवधार्यताम्। आत्मनः प्रतिकूलानि परेषां न समाचरेत्।।” which is to say, “Why does man inflict upon other creatures those sufferings, which he has found by experience are sufferings to himself.” Elsewhere, it states, “Let not a man consent to do those things to another which, he knows, will cause sorrow.”

In addition to this, I don’t care for inconsistency. I’m unable to rationalize eating one animal (cow, pig, chicken, fish, etc…) but not eating another (dog, cat, gerbil, etc…). I can longer reconcile eating a cow, chicken, or pig, but not eating my dogs or cat. In fact, when any of those are faced with being on a dinner plate, all respond the same.

It simply doesn’t make very much sense to eat one but not all, especially when none wants to be eaten anyway. Simply put, I don’t want to consume meat because it didn’t want to be consumed. All else is secondary in this choice.

There you have it. Now you know me better than you did 750 words ago.

Aum Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

It Is Impossible

Taken from Google Image search

Taken from Google Image search

Not long ago, on Facebook, I posted that I was not only re-reading Tolle’s “A New Earth,” but also that I was coming to a point in the book (a sub-chapter) that he’s labeled “Incontrovertible Proof of Immortality.” Elsewhere in the book, he mentions a very low place in his current life where he was on the verge of suicide and thought to himself, “I can’t live with myself anymore” and quickly realized there were two parts to that notion – “I” and “myself.” He almost immediately wondered who is the “I” and who is the “myself” that it couldn’t live with.

The experience led him not only away from self-dying, but also into a level of increased awareness he’d not previously experienced. He realized that what is commonly referred to as “I” isn’t really who he is (or who I am, or who you are…) and that he (and everyone else!) is truly the unchanging field of consciousness silently witnessing from behind that “I.” This relates directly to Tolle’s incontrovertible proof.

A major function of the ego (Which, by the way, is what enables us to even have a human experience in this physical world – karma mandates the experience, but ego enables it.) is identification. Most of what it seeks is to identify is itself. I am a mother. I am a priest. I am a CEO. In fact, its survival depends on the successful execution of that identification function. In some cases it identifies according to what it is not. In this context, it somehow makes more sense to distinguish others – that is, to create the perception of separation. He is this. She is that. The loved knows (defines) itself according to perceived proximity to the lover. The relationship of separateness must be perpetuated for either to continue existing. It really doesn’t matter what side of the fence you’re standing on. So long as you’re deeply buried in identification, you will remain an active player in the delusion that is the “other.” How does this apply to Tolle’s supposedly incontrovertible proof of immortality? Precisely because the same delusion and the same liberating realization factor in.

According to Tolle, much of our delusion is hinted at in our language when we speak of life. Mind you, he’s speaking of the English language, specifically. Other languages may use a different structure when referencing life, which might mean this will be less or more applicable. It should be noted that language, as a human instrument, is one of the first expressions of the mind’s outreach. We think something and initially only thoughts that are relatively connected to the seed thought are affected. When enough “secondary” thoughts become affected, emotions begin to pool and shortly thereafter the beginning of a physiological response occurs. If this continues long enough, that physiological response grows and diversifies.

An example might be that we think we’re not doing well at work (seed thought). We begin thinking of the reasons why this is so (secondary, tertiary, etc… thoughts), and we soon feel nervous (emotions built on primary and secondary thoughts) that our employment might be in jeopardy (attachment to identification we’ve already convinced ourselves of: I am an employee. If I am fired and am not an employee, I will be “less.”). When those primary and secondary thoughts ricochet enough off of each other and the resultant emotions, that energy is recirculated in/through/around itself. As that momentum grows, and it doesn’t take much/long, we might eventually notice that our pulse has quickened and perhaps our palms are sweaty. All of this happens as a result of identification.

Tolle explains this well. According to him, the ego is the result of a split within us. The whole process is rather schizophrenic. You end up living with a conceptual image of yourself that you have a relationship with. When this happens, you end up speaking of “my life,” the result of which is that life becomes conceptualized and separated from who you are. As Tolle points out, “The moment you say or think “my life” and believe in what you are saying (rather than it just being a linguistic convention), you have entered the realm of delusion. If there is such a thing as “my life,” it follows that I and life are two separate things, and so I can also lose my life, my imaginary treasured possession.”

After that point, says Tolle, death becomes a perceived reality and threat. We continue using words and concepts to break life up into segments, which in turn continues and strengthens our delusion and misidentification – our ego.

Tolle contends that all implication that “I” and life are separate entities goes on to also imply that “I” am also separate from all things, all beings, and all people. This goes against some of Hinduism’s deepest and most shared structural beliefs. There can be no “I” apart from life. It is impossible. “So there is no such thing as “my life” and I don’t have a life. How can something be lost which wasn’t had in the first place?

I am life, and so are you. How can you lose something that you are?

Aum Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

I’d like to buy a vowel, please

Image taken from Google Image search

Image take from Google Image search

According to Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami in Loving Ganesha, “Lord Ganesha is invoked through the mantra Aum. The Mandukya Upanishad elucidates the inner meaning of Aum, which embodies the highest wisdom… A represents the waking state. U represents the dreaming state. M represents the state of deep sleep. Aum in its entirety, plus the moment of silence which follows it, represents the shanti, the peace beyond understanding (I think this is a biblical reference). Thus, Aum japa performed as an invocation to Lord Ganesha, the Lord of Wisdom and Knowledge – while love is welling up from your hearts and tears are for no reason flowing simultaneously – calls forth the knowledge of the entirety of our existence in these four categories of consciousness. These are realms that God Ganesha rules over as Lord of Categories, and this is the knowledge that He can grant devotees who perform Aum japa and meditation on the meaning of Aum.”

For the sake of brevity (yeah right!) and because I’m in the middle of a number of other writing projects, both for Sthapati and school, I’ll attempt to explain why I might be using AUM instead of OM from now on – all in this post. To be as transparent as possible, this change isn’t so much about practicality or technicality, or a change in understanding. None of that has changed. It’s entirely about expression and my relationship to my ishtadevata, Ganesha. Plain and simple.

As someone who enjoys studying languages and understands more than a little about the inner workings of a number of languages, I’ve always found value in simplicity and, within linguistic contexts, phonetic approaches often serve big but simple purposes. O-M is one phonetic rendering of the pronunciation of something all Hindus understand to be supreme enough that it transcends most of our scope of comprehension. The symbol of our faith is one representation of our Highest, Brahman. It’s a bit abstract, although entirely intentional and the symbol itself is made of a combination of three Devanagari “letters” which correspond to most Western alphabets as A, U, and M, respectively. Spelled variously as Om, Ohm, and Aum (and maybe a few other ways?), it truly is pointless to insist that one rendition is better than another – although, I’m willing to admit that one rendition is somewhat cleaner than the others.


When I first encountered an attempt at “spelling” that transcendent Thing, it was A-U-M. I later adopted the phonetic spelling of O-M, in large part because everyone I encountered seemed attached to the three-letter-spelling and overemphasized those three letters when vocalizing The Word. Yes, you’re supposed to make the sound of the A, and then the U-sound, and then the M-sound, followed by silence. Satguru Subramuniyaswami affirms this. However, it’s safe to say that you’re “doing it wrong” if any listener can clearly distinguish between the three “letters” as you make their sounds. The A is not meant to be wide open like the “o” in “got.” The U is usually not mispronounced, but it is often too clearly separated from the A and the M. And the M itself is not meant to be created by the usual “humming” that ends up happening when Westerners make the sound with their lips. Anyone with even basic understanding of the Devanagari script will look at the Aum symbol, see the “bowl with a dot in it” at the top, and know the difference between a labial M and a nasalized M. Westerners too often end up sounding like ET saying “ouch” in the decades-old film, only with an M on the end… AAAH-OOOOW-MMM. That’s at least as “wrong” as using OM instead of AUM. Surely, there’s meant to be some grace and proficiency when enunciating the Primal, Causal, Sound. All of existence is held within Om/Aum, we should take care not to butcher it when invoking. An additional support for what I’ve just said about pronunciation can be pulled from the Ganesha Saharanama. One of His names is indicative, not only of how Aum should be approached, but also of Ganesha’s relation to the Supreme. You see, among many other names He’s referenced as “Ekakshara.” The name means “One-Letter” and is meant to be a direct pointer to Him actually being and personifying Aum. To my knowledge he’s the only entity in the Hindu pantheon referenced in this precise way. We’re literally saying His name when we invoke The Ancient Tone, and that tone is meant to be “one letter” – something supported by the very shape of Aum. In the same way that the three letters have been made into, and can be found within the One, Aum encompasses all stages of existence and all realms.

Ganesha, being referenced in myriad Hindu scriptures as the personification of Om, Itself, is an expression of The One that I find myself most inclined toward. The Satguru referenced at the beginning of this post is not a Ganapatya; he was the head of a very traditional Shaivate sect. Still, in the paragraph at the top and in many other places throughout Loving Ganesha and the other great texts he authored, Ganesha is extolled as having particularly unique place among humanity’s conceptions of the Supreme Divine.

In past posts, my expression of bhakti was questioned and even appears to have been taken to be borderline offensive. While I still have some less-than-smiley feelings about that and what it implies, I should admit that I’m not really concerned with that. So much of what I read, from the Ganapatya texts and the texts of many many other sects, affirms and confirms my thoughts, my understanding, and my feelings. My sadhana and the karmic expression within my unique life are also great encouragement for the path I’m making. But… I digress. No path is alive if it doesn’t (or isn’t able to) evolve. This evolution sometimes means foundational shifts. More often, though, it represents a modified way of moving along that evolutionary path – with the foundation or essence of the beginning remaining intact. This is what’s happening with my usage of Om. Let’s get back to that Ancient Tone, though, and how it’s written.

There’s nothing in the world wrong with utilizing a phonetic spelling. I’ll never attempt to convince anyone that A-U-M is somehow better or purer or more accurate. I don’t believe it is, really. However, from within the context of my own bhakti experience, I’m increasingly of the mind that the try-akshar (three-letter) spelling of the cosmic Ekakshara (one-letter) is cleaner and more fully indicative of my understanding of, and relationship with, Ganesha.

Ganesha truly is called Ekakshara. He is Aum. For many reasons unrelated (or only indirectly related) to Aum, I already understand and love Ganesha as The Supreme. As my personal Supreme, and being the traditional face of Shabda Brahman (Brahman as The Ancient Tone, as the Original Sound) as documented throughout Hinduism’s sects’ various scriptures, I understand Ganesha to be the beginning, the middle, and the end of everything. He supports the devotee in the waking, dreaming, and deep states of consciousness. Because of everything Ganesha means in my life, because of his personifying the Ancient Tone, and certainly in part because of Satguru Subramuniyaswami’s influence, it feels increasingly natural to me that I would adjust how I spell Om/Aum. Because my sweet Ekakshara is so cosmic, so universal, so all-encompassing, I feel it’s a sweeter and more wholesome tribute from my bhakti to express this with the triune spelling instead of the phonetic.

And there you have it.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Tat Sat … ?

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

In case you, dear reader, weren’t already aware, I’m a fan of getting my hands into too many pots at once. For instance, I’m never reading just one book. I’m never studying just one subject. I’m never chasing just one lofty goal. That kind of business, you know? Honestly, I think this ends up biting me in the ass more than not and somewhat prevents me from achieving as much as I could, as quickly as I might otherwise be able.

My plans for Sthapati are no different. I’m currently in the middle of completing a series on Hindu carnivores (making it as short as I’m able!) and it’s now struck me that I should might write another series (again, as short as I’m able!) regarding Ganesha and Shabda Brahman. Hopefully this series of posts won’t be as cumbersome to compose and publish, as I plan to pull more than a little from a book I’ve mentioned before, “Loving Ganesha,” by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami.

I’ll admit to being a bit biased in this context, but really everyone should have this book. It’s a treasure of universal Hindu information and obviously carries more “sparkle” for devotees who are Shaivas, Smartas, or Ganapatyas.

Anyway, there is a chapter or two that details lots of juicy goodness regarding Ganesha and Shabda Brahman, respectively and as they relate to each other. I’ll be doing my best to make sure I give the author detailed credit when quoting. In advance of any missteps I might make, this will hopefully serve as an adequate disclaimer.

Although none of the information is brand new to me, I’m reconsidering it as it’s presented here and have really been reconsidering that I spell Om as O-M instead of A-U-M. I think, when attempting to express something as supreme as Shabda Brahman, phonetic attempts are as good as any, and anything else is likely splitting hairs. But I might be able to split hairs here and change my approach to how I attempt that expression. We’ll see.

Om Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti

Ugly Face

Taken from Google Image search

Taken from Google Image search

As a Jnani and aspiring Jnanayogi, a significant part of my work is to recognize my ego in all its subtle forms. There are days when I’m on top of my game and not a thing slips by. And, as could be expected, there are days when I fall flat on my face, stand up, and fall flat on my face again. As frustrating as that can be, and as damaging as that can be to one’s confidence in his sadhana, in times like those I remind myself of the Bhagavad Gita’s message that no effort is wasted and no worship unaccepted.
Recently (Monday night) I really struggled.

You see, my Beloved takes FOREVER to do his laundry. Always. Without exception. I scramble to get all my clothing, our bed clothes, and towels all washed and dried before he attempts to start on his own because I know that once he starts it’ll take him – no joke – the better part of three whole days to complete the task. This is in part due to the enormous wardrobe he maintains and in part due to his inclination to sit in front of the television and lose track of time. Knowing this, and respecting it, I requested that my current favorite hoodie be tossed into the dryer with some of his wet clothing to kind of refresh it until I’ll once again have access to our machines. He obliged. Here’s where the drama enters.

I wrongly assumed that, once that load was done in the dryer, he would kindly hand my hoodie for me. A while later, he was in our laundry room switching loads and was in the process of pulling that same load from the dryer when I entered to tell him something funny I’d just seen on television. It was then that I noticed that not only had he neglected to kindly hang my hoodie for me, but the garment was piled upon itself on top of the dryer in front of him and becoming increasingly crumpled by the folded shirts he was beginning to pile on top of it.

And now Josh’s feelings are hurt.

I made a comment that he should have hanged it. I hanged it. And then I threw a small tantrum as I cut my story off, hastily collected my things and went upstairs – making sure he was aware of my displeasure. This is where it all gets somewhat messy. I always treat his things with high respect and take care so as not to damage them or do anything with/to them that he wouldn’t do or wouldn’t want done. This is the Golden Rule, right? It’s also being a good Hindu. You see, in the same way that nature should be greatly respected because it belongs to The One and indirectly represents that One, the items my Beloved owns and cares about are similarly (somewhat) representations of him. It’s like taking care of books you own because you love goddess Saraswati – books bring you knowledge, and in that way bring you to Her (or bring Her to you). To deface books, is to slap Her in the face. And so, because I would never slap my Beloved in his face, I care for his things without being asked.

So why doesn’t he automatically show the same care for my things – especially when he knows I’ll bitch big time when he doesn’t? Earlier that same night I’d discovered that when he placed baskets of dirty clothes on top of the washer, he’s pushed by gym bag off to a hard-to-access place behind the machine and left it there. The bag is now damaged, actually.

Part of me is hurt that he doesn’t automatically show me the same care that I show him with these things. A part of me expects to receive the same considerate care that I afford him – not because I hope for it in return for what I’ve given (that would obviously be attachment to karmaphala), but because that care should (in theory) be coming from him to begin with – at the same time I’m giving to him. Does that make sense? Whether you think that’s still karmaphala or not, that expectation or hope, rather, is still not an expression of love. The cynical part of me wonders if he’s doing that on purpose because I’d done something else to piss him off – pay back, right? I doubt that because he’s not a malicious person, generally.

Whenever this situation arises (and it has more than once over the last 9+ years we’ve been together), I experience LOTS of thoughts and emotions that would generally be considered unpleasant. Mind you, I don’t care about the hoodie, or the gym bag. I care that he cares – or that he doesn’t. Interestingly, as the years have passed I’ve developed the ability to realize I’m aware enough to be able to recognize these thoughts and emotions as “not me,” but I still feel less in control of them than I should be. I mean to say that I’m aware that I’m aware. This happens when I sleep, too, but that’s a whole other ball of yarn. If I were as much in control as I think I should be, if I were as aware as I think I should be, I would be able to circumvent this drama altogether. Oh the tumultuous bliss of being human!

It’s a strange experience to recognize this internal cyclone as something not yourself. Strange, but good. It gives that whirling energy an identity of its own – which I suppose it already had. After all, that energetic identity being mistaken for my real identity is part of the illusion/delusion of Maya.

So, what does all this mean? I’m not sure I know exactly. I feel like it means that I’m progressing, despite my occasional tantrums. I think it also means that these tantrums bring additional opportunity to be the witness – I’m still unable to manage the energy that manifests the tantrum to begin with, but I’m increasingly able to “disconnect” from that energy instead of being caught up or lost in it, as many people are. Hopefully, this means that I’m progressing toward increased mastery of those emotions, even if only indirectly. I’ll focus on what I perceive to be the silver lining with this, which is that a person less influenced by his emotions than he once was, is that much less reactive and proportionately more on top of his karmas in that context.

It’s awfully deep for a fit thrown over a hoodie, I’ll admit. But it’s increased wisdom, no less, and I’ll take that where I can get it.

Om Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti

Dead Horse

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

Partially because of my own boredom and partially because kicking dead horses is just plain rude, this will likely be just about the last post I make for a while when it comes to sorting out religion from superstition… at least until the next time I employ fire magick and begin questioning things anew.

So… last night, as part of my intentional avoidance of all school responsibilities, I found myself driving around town with my best, visiting our favorite bookstore: Half Price Books. They’re currently having a store-wide 20% off sale, and while I have no business buying more books, I simply can’t resist. I might also note, if I can do so without sounding proud, that my relationship to my best is often in a “teacher” capacity. Of course, for all teachers, the ultimate goal is that the students should themselves become teachers and last night while driving around my best definitely was a teacher. It all began when I asked him to differentiate between religion and superstition. A few times we talked in circles. A few times no sense was to be made. But in the end, using the idea of a fire and the fuel going into it, we almost sufficiently (for me) sorted out the difference between the two.

Interestingly, a big part of the fire equation hinged on hope, devotion, or bhakti. We determined that bhakti would act as the wood, the fuel. It’s essentially the foundation – without hope or devotion behind any action, that action is ultimately a dead thing. The animating force, the starting place, is hope or devotion. Without SOMETHING to ignite, there can be no fire. In that context, I find it interesting that many of the devotional poets from many different cultures have written about their devotion burning, or burning up. Fuel indeed! The fire itself, then, would be the ritual, religion, or superstition – respectively. This means the action itself. “The fire that kindles,” as my best put it. I find this in itself to be poetic. If you sit around a fire, everyone knows something is being burned to make that fire, but the fire itself is where the attention is ultimately afforded. It’s the big, showy exterior of the chemical change happening right then and there. Religion is definitely the fire. The big showy exterior that results when we set fire (action) to our hope.

Ultimately there’s a very very fine line between religion and superstition where ritual is concerned, and through chatting with another dear pal it was kind of determined that religion is superstition + validity. To go back to my best and his wisdom from last night, a big part of the validity is cultural influence, although let me be quick to say that cultural influence isn’t automatically where this so-called validity begins or ends – but it is definitely a significant factor.

So, we go back into human history. In the case of Hinduism, we can easily go back into prehistory – in fact, some of our scriptures mention a time when it was almost too cold for humanity to survive on our planet, aka the last ice age. But I digress. If you go back far enough you will no doubt encounter “religion” which today would amount to little more than superstition. People responsible for these kinds of studies will confirm as much. Our ancestors noticed that when they danced in a circle under very specific stellar arrangements, the rains necessary for good crops invariably came, which in turn ensured the survival of the community. Suddenly, puja and jyotish are born! Add about 7,000 years to that, and add humanity’s increased development in the areas of language and science, and you end up with “official” Sanatana Dharma. Through the eons, throughout the planet we inhabit, as we gained increasing dominance over nature we sought the rhyme and reason behind that dominance. As we gained that knowledge we codified and systemized it, and rightly marveled thereupon.

Why marvel? Because it’s marvelous. Duh. We’re talking about dark-n-wondrous, truly ancient stuff. This same stuff has made all the difference to us as a species. It’s THE evidence that proves our humanity – humanity being an interesting mix of the physical and nonphysical, mostly differentiated from other similar mixes according to our consciousness and awareness. We are the proof that’s in the pudding I mentioned in the last post, and our religions and superstitions are how we document our proof-ness.

Add another 4,000 years, a laptop, and a gay white Hindu in Indianapolis, and you find yourself with the current picture of yours truly and I’m telling you, finally, that it doesn’t really matter. Not really. I mean, if you want effectiveness and about all the pudding you can handle in your life (as I feel I’ve been blessed with), then you surely want to look into human knowledge that has a strong foundation. A system of thought and belief that touches the clouds, but doesn’t have its head there. Look for so-called superstition that has well-documented science behind it. There’s nothing wrong with carrying around a horse shoe, if your intention is pure and focused – indeed, if your intention is pure and focused and carrying a horse shoe seems to bring about the desired effect, then trust that your “fuel and fire” may well constitute real religion.

I’ll close by once again referencing my recent post about superstition and religion. Religiosity is a small part of my life really. Too often people see religion as the end AND the means to that end. That’s a trap. Another trap is to be found in thinking that your religion is inherently better than someone’s superstition, as both involve the same fires and woods. There might be evidence of it, but I’m not sure you’re allowed to actually think yours is better. Not really. Some would find supplication to an elephant-faced stone statue to be ridiculously superstitious. I don’t. Every single time, without fail – and I mean that as literally as I am able – that I have petitioned my conception of God for what I need, and often what I want, it has been given. From where I stand, my personal superstitions are effective in every regard. And this is where they factually transcend being mere superstitions. I’m speaking about the wood and the fire that lead me to, and provide me with, Light that enables me to see and Warmth that enables me to experience – this is Jnana. They equate my religious experience and facilitate my spirituality.

– Jay Shri Ganesha! –

Om Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti