Winterizing

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

This time of year I mostly want just to hibernate. Waking up is only slightly more challenging, but everything after that seems to take more effort and sleeping always sounds like a good idea. This is usual for me as winter nears. Winter, with the exceptions of a few holidays, is a time of the year when things are drawn back – drawn in. Minimized. I’m feeling like doing the same.

I’ve been going through emails – catching up but also sorting out and getting rid of ones that either serve no real purpose or that I should just let go to the trash box. I have done the same with text conversations. My phone will hold something like 200 unique conversations, each containing a maximum of 200 messages. Similar cleaning is being done as I pull out some of my cold-weather garments (I don’t hold on to many). It was also happening as my beloved an dI prepared our home for welcoming guests to our annual pumpkin carving party. It feels good to downsize.

For me, this “winter feeling” brings to mind Hinduism’s concept of pratyahara. Withdrawal from the senses. I think when this happens, it might – from the outside – look a bit like winter. The yogi who has mastered pratyahara is able to clearly distinguish between his Self and his self, the latter of which is strongly attached to the senses that perceive the external world. I don’t think it’s entirely accurate, but I know that the more in touch with my Self I am, the less I “need” the external world and I’ll admit that I picture the outward appearance of pratyahara on an individual to look like something drastic – severe, and not unlike the harshness of winter (at least winter as it sometimes is here in Indiana). That’s how I picture it – like someone who’s about have his arm burned off and not miss it. Someone who no longer feels hunger or thirst. Think of the sadhus who “kill” part of their body as a function of their sadhana… like holding an arm upward, stiffly, for 20 years. It’s a severe practice and and the arm eventually looks more like a dried tree branch than an arm.

As we head into colder weather, I’ll be focusing more on my own Me. I’ll be building on my asana practice, performing more japa, and reading reading reading. With warm-weather distractions like rivering and tree climbing with the best in local parks, among others, out of the way, I’ll enjoy devoting more of my precious and relatively rare free time to working on myself and developing sight of the inner Sun that will foster warmth in the coming winter.

Hibernating feels like the thing to do. But now isn’t the time to be lazy. Now is not the time to sleep.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

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परशब्द

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

The Christian Bible (New Testament) states that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God.(John 1:1)” Many Christians I grew up with cited this verse as indication that the Bible has always been around – literally. This is based on their strict definition of what “the word of God” means, and not only contradicts the actual history of the Bible, but also basic Christian theology. Alternately, I have also heard that “The Word” is the English translation of “Logos,” which apparently is Jesus in his pre-human, pre-creation, form. So, The Word manifested as The Son. It’s a verse and a concept that now makes me smile, and is actually quite “Hindu” and our own scriptures, which predate all Abrahamic scriptures by millennia, also assert that The Word existed before the physical world.

Hindu spirituality informs that the Supreme exists and only exists. From this unfathomable “Is-Ness” issues forth everything else. The first discernible emanation from this “is-ness-only” Brahman is an expansion in the form of sound and light. It’s because of this that our universe is built the way it is and that everything in the physical realm is actually hardly physical, but is instead varying combinations of light and sound. I find this to be yet another area where Hinduism is ahead of science, and even the mystical parts of Hinduism are supported by this kind of parallel between science and the faith – some Hindu theology indicates that God is, and pervades, everything. If the known universe is essentially light and sound in varying resonance frequencies, and the primary active manifestation of God is as Light/Sound, there’s no conflict.

My own ishtadevata, Ganesha, happens to be the arguably most common face in the Hindu pantheon attributed to that first Sound – reaching back into our foundational scriptures, the Vedas. The Word that was in the beginning, was with God, and was/is God. To Hindus across the broad Hindu spectrum, the Primal, Primeval, and Causal Sound is Aum. Aside from the notion of Brahman (which isn’t a god, per se), the only god in the entire Hindu pantheon that is endeared pretty much across that spectrum, although to varying degrees, is Ganesha. His cosmic and religion-wide (indeed trans-cultural) universality is a direct side effect of Him being the embodiment of the concept recognized by every Hindu: Aum.

An aside that I find interesting, Christianity claims that the Son was actually in “Logos” form before there was a corrupted earth on which to incarnate. At the right time, he manifested and was then known as The Son. Ganesha, with some very obvious differences, has some parallels. “In the beginning” there was Aum and later on down the road, that Word took shape as Ganesha, the Son of Shiva, also known as Mahesh (Great Lord) or Mahadev (Great God), who is The Father.

In the past, I’ve detailed my perception of Ganesha being simultaneously the closest to the material plane AND the closest to Brahman. That seemed to have mixed reception – reasons about which I sometimes still speculate. At any rate, my intention isn’t to express Ganesha’s supremacy so much as share thoughts based on material I’ve been reading lately in regard to him being The All-Sound, Shabda Brahman.

In a post a while back, I detailed (among other things) why I decided to change how I spell the symbol of the Hindu faith. I had been using the phonetic rendering, and have since adopted the try-akshar version, which I find to be cleaner and also indicative of my understanding of Ganesha as the beginning-middle-end of all that is.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Guilty Programming

Art by Sanjay Patel

Art by Sanjay Patel

Through The Wormhole with Morgan Freeman often is on my television often eveningly. Most of the time I don’t get to enjoy any of what’s on my television, let alone something as useful as this show – I’m (almost) eternally buried in school work. However, in an effort to spend more time near my beloved, I’ve been spending less time in my temple room and instead have been doing assignments on the first floor, in the dining room which connects to the family room where the only TV we own is situation centrally.

I’ve found, far more often than not, that Through The Wormhole is essentially Hindu in nature. In many episodes, no joke, the same laws of physics or… well, anything, the things that are discussed are eerily similar to the notions and concepts put forth by Sanatana Dharma. A recent episode was no exception. Icing on the cake however, was that a segment of the episode reminded me closely of a conversation I had with someone some time ago.

During our talk, he mentioned something about impure thoughts and working through them. Now, I’ll leave you to whatever conclusion you’re most inclined to regarding the definition of what an impure thought might be. Our talk included whether impure thinkery would affect one’s karmas.

I do think our thoughts ultimately affect our karmas. However, my take from the beginning was that impure thoughts don’t really exist. Lemme share…

1) Thoughts are just thoughts. Like literally anything else, the perceived goodness or evilness of a thought or anything else depends entirely on the one doing the perceiving. This is supported by quantam physics believe it or not. A recent article I came across on Facebook can be accessed here, and in plain English details that even “solid” matter only behaves they way it does when it’s being observed. To be sure, your table is only a table so long as consciousness is “watching” it be a table. Otherwise it not only becomes part of “everything everywhere,” but also literally flickers in and out of existence.

Thoughts are no different. Their flavor and indeed their very existence depends on them being observed. And when a human mind is being used as the tool to do that observing, you end up with “good” and “bad” because the human mind is a programmable thing that comes with all kinds of preconceptions.

This is why so many people ruin their own meditations. They struggle to sit back and watch the inside of their mind. For one, they think they are the mind. This is the first and biggest problem. If original sin exists, and is truly passed from parent to child going back to Adam and Eve, THIS is it. For another, they instantly become frustrated when a thought arises, because the preconceived notion of what meditation is starts a fire that every following thought ends up fueling. This is what happens when someone tries to make meditation happen. Interestingly, those thoughts are neither natural fuel for that fire, nor automatic. We label them as “bad” instead of letting them arise and fall away, and in doing so add them to the fire. Thoughts are just thoughts. None are inherently good or bad, and even after you label them thusly, they still aren’t truly either. Jnana Yoga is this realization in one’s life – it opens the way for a foundation to be set, it allows for progression from that starting point to occur, and Jnana is verily the culmination of full realization.

2) When we misidentify, we add those thoughts to the fire by labeling them good or bad… or impure. Whenever we do this, THAT’S the first chance they have to manifest within our karmas. Prior to that there’s no impression of those thoughts upon us. These impressions are known as Samsaras. Samsaras are like groves on the wheel of death and rebirth. Truly, regardless of how minimal or severe those groves are, a grove is a grove and it still needs buffed out. These groves are the karmas we experience. Being able to identify those groves specific of your karmas/karmic wheel is a part of Jnana yoga. Part of Jnana yoga means looking upon them with Truth as your light and as your sight, and this results in no longer making a mountain out of a molehill … or no longer calling impure something that has no actuality. When you manage to stop this you are resolving your karmas and may finally exit the wheel of death and rebirth.

This is actually something I could go on and on about. The Jnana texts are full of this kind of wisdom, shedding light on the nature of Reality. It’s never wrong to call a spade a spade, but deciding whether a spade is malevolent or beneficent… or impure – that’s where we often get ourselves into trouble.

ॐ असतो मा सद्गमय ।
तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय ।
मृत्योर्मा अमृतं गमय ।
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

My sincerest hope is that we can all learn to be free from the baggage we’ve inherited and so far have mostly either refused to question or been to lazy to question.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

God Plays the Damaru

ganesha-v1-sippapas-thienmee

My last post detailed why I mostly think it’s foolish and emotional to imply or claim that anyone is an instrument of God. Whether you agree with me or not, is mostly inconsequential – although, as my bio page indicates, if you genuinely feel you seriously have something that will challenge my own mental box, I welcome your feedback. In fact, I welcome it anyway, but whatever. This post is meant to add some gray area to what I said in my last post. To be clear, I absolutely feel, in virtually all instances, humans are not actually instruments of God. And I think, even if we allow that God might use humans as instruments, it’s far more likely than not that humans aren’t usually equipped with the high-view knowledge that would likely be required to truly know when that’s happening.

But I don’t want to focus on that for this post. My goal, as briefly as possible, is to point out the “closest second” I can think of within the context of God using humans as instruments.

I’ll start with connecting back to the last post where I mentioned a Facebook friend who admitted he was simply glad to have been an instrument of the Lord. My friend quoted a doctor on his page as having said about God, “He has no schedule. He has no to-do list.” This was mostly said in the context of God’s accessibility, meaning that there’s never a time when we’re unable to reach out to God. Still, if God has no to-do list, then It has no to-do list. God as most people define It, isn’t trying to do anything here – except in one instance: Restoring dharma.

Occasionally, when “good” on our planet seems to have waned beyond what is healthy, Hindus believe, God will reappear in special concentration and set Dharma on yet another upward trend. In this regard, the unique avatars of God could absolutely be called instruments of God – in much the same way that my own hand could be considered my own instrument. My hand is part of me – is “of” me – and does what I need it to do for purposes far more evolved that the awareness of my hand’s cells will ever realize. I think God’s unique avatars could easily and accurately be called God’s hands, and therefore instruments of God – but mostly because they are “of” God, because they are God.

A number of verses throughout the Bhagavad Gita detail Krishna explaining to Arjuna that people are ignorant, who think they’re actually doing anything. God explains, “I am the Doer.” Well then, if God is the Doer, how could God not have a to-do list as previously mentioned and how could God not be using people as instruments?

For me, a holistic answer comes from the guru of my guru’s guru. His name was Satguru Siva Yogaswami and he was a Sri Lankan mystic who lived on our planet from 1872 – 1964. He states simply, “You are God. God sees through your eyes, hears through your ears, speaks through your mouth.”

Aum Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Make Me An Instrument

Image take from Google Image search

Image take from Google Image search

Someone I know, who I prefer to remain nameless in this place, not too long ago said something all humble-like regarding something he’d done. After everything was finished, and lots of praise was being offered, this individual admitted that he was, “…just glad to be an instrument of God.” Cringe, as a descriptive word, might be a little strong for describing my actual response to the post, but the sentiment is close enough.

I think in nearly every instance, this concept of being an instrument of God is a misleading one, and quite frankly is often a little dangerous. In the wrong context it’s essentially a (not the only) driving force behind so very many horrible things ever done in the name of religion. When you think you’re an instrument of God, you’re automatically right. Unquestionably. After all, if you were a tool of the divine and yet you’re not right, then the necessary implication is that the Divine would have been mistaken, if nothing else, in the usage (or “service”) It intended you for. But the implications go deeper than that – if you’re not absolutely right as an instrument of God, then God is not only mistaken is how It used you for whatever purpose you served, but also the “god-thoughts” that led to It using you as an instrument for Its purposes. Not many people will try to say that God was wrong about something. And so when Christians have witch hunts or Muslims use airplanes as living bombs they’re so completely certain that their mission is God’s work, which means we’re necessarily faced with the fact that either they’re mistaken or God is (or, if God isn’t wrong, we’re forced to admit that God – in allowing tragedies like witch hunts and 9/11 – is unjust, cruel, vicious, and temperamental). We can probably accurately speculate which case might be the reality.

How about instances of beauty, though? If someone does something wonderful – especially if it “blesses” others – surely it’s the Lord working through that person, right? Don’t hate me, but I’m not convinced. Why can’t something like that just be good example of karma at work?

Image take from Google Image search

Image take from Google Image search

As I’ve been considering this, a Catholic Christian prayer comes to mind – one that I’ve absolutely been touched by since I encountered it years ago. Many are familiar with what’s erroneously known as The Prayer of Saint Francis (of Assisi). I’ve included it here…

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

This prayer, regardless of its actual origin, carries much meaning and is something I’ve used before to help regain perspective and direction. But, you must be thinking, surely this prayer points out that God DOES use others as instruments – after all, the very first line has the speaker asking for just that. What about 10 of the other 14 lines? The author isn’t asking that God sow love where there is hatred. “Let me sow love,” the prayer goes. The prayer doesn’t actually even request God to do those things through the one praying. This is a prayer of karma (although not necessarily Karma Yoga). I really think one needs to be careful with deciding what God’s used as an instrument.

In Hinduism, we’re often taught that we’re not the Doer. In that light, specifically, it could be construed that God uses us as instruments, and my next post is planned to touch on that a bit, so keep your pants on. But Hinduism also teaches that we cannot refrain from acting. So then we do do something, right? Surely. In all the advice Krishna offers Arjuna, he never once says, “You have to do what you have to do because I’m doing great things through you.” He gives a million other tidbits to Arjuna regarding the nature of action and how we’re to view action and how we should approach it, etc… but it’s never said that this is how God uses people as instruments in this world to accomplish anything. In a related vein, I’d wager that God accomplishes very little in the world insofar as people usually understand words like “accomplish” and concepts like being used as divine instruments.

Being a so-called instrument of God doesn’t mean God did or does do anything through you. But it might mean that through you, others are able to glimpse God. This isn’t splitting hairs, but even if you want to think that it is splitting hairs, it’s all the same. Just be careful what you think God is trying to do, as this has historically been quite a risky gamble.

Aum Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

You Shut Your Mouth

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When I was growing up there were words we weren’t really allowed to say. In some cases we were strongly discouraged, in other cases veritably forbidden. You weren’t supposed to say fart; you’re supposed to say “toot.” Freak /freakin’ is about as close to “fuck” as you can get (This was literally said to me once). And you never tell someone to shut up; you instead say, “be quiet please.” Many things instilled into me by my parents stick with me to this day. When I notice them in my behavior I smile and I’m proud of who my parents are. As an adult, though, I recognize that there are often times when it’s necessary to toss those rules right out the window.

One’s journey as a Hindu should be guided by his swadharma – however that might be defined. That alone can be tricky because most people spend their entire lifespan thinking they’re doing exactly what they should be doing, only to jump from one thing to the next to the thing after that – never quite realizing what their life was meant to be about. By far, most of the human population guesses at what their swadharma is, and most of the time they guess poorly. Especially when faced with situations they’re unsure about or uncomfortable with or can’t see through clearly, people seem prone to making interesting choices that later seem to add to their inner conflict. The trick here is that very few people are in any position to tell someone else what their swadharma is. After all, if we hardly know our own truest path in life, and even repeatedly confuse ourselves, who are we to advise others?

One thing I feel sure of, however, is that you can’t know unless you do – something. Krishna counseled Arjuna samely in the Gita – you must do! It really doesn’t matter if one is a priest, or a warrior, or a merchant, or someone like myself who works in a call center. You will be faced with life and your life will require you to act, whether you like it or not. The way you act will certainly be tailored according to your swadharma, be sure of it but here’s the clencher: You aren’t allowed to not act. Look back to Arjuna’s example, it’s clear enough.

I can tell you, there are times when you should say, “shut up” and there are times when only, “be quiet, please” is needed. The principle at work is the same, though.

Aum Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

All We Carpenters

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

I’ve almost always been a people watcher. I like people about as much as I don’t like them and anyone who’s near me on a daily basis will attest to the fact that I’m generally pretty great at sizing someone up and discerning bullshit from non-bullshit. As I age I’ve gotten better and better at discerning the parts that go into the makeup of an individual. Through the years this has added to my people watching experience. Truly, the human façade we wear in this life is a quilt composed of our experiences, thoughts, and emotions.

For a long time, when I was a little younger, I watched folks and mostly wondered what it was that made me different. I’d notice one thing or multiple things and would then kind of compare whatever I noticed to whatever was recognizable within myself as the closest corresponding factor – the closest parallel. To a small degree, this still happens but the context has shifted a bit. I still notice the differences but it’s very rare that I make the comparison or contrast.

As I continue aging and maturing (mentally, spiritually, etc…) this continues to be something I often do. I’m more able than ever to discern someone’s ego, their mind, and at times I feel like I can even see a little behind all that crap and nearly glimpse the part inside of them that is The Same within myself. At times this has bitten me in the butt because I find myself, at times, less willing to dance with the egos I encounter – something pretty much necessary within our three-dimensional universe. Of course, the way around that is to reach through those egos to some place deeper within people and interact with that instead. This is the place gurus often operate from and this route usually takes more patience to achieve progress, but the relationships that often result, or that change as a result, make that scenic route worth it.

Sometimes, being aware of these components of other people allows you to see yourself more clearly. We’re all (essentially) the same after all, no? Sometimes, for me, seeing something in someone else helps me recognize the same within myself. I’ve heard often that when we encounter someone we don’t like, or who has qualities we don’t care for, that which we feel repulsed by is actually something from within ourselves reflecting back to us. In many instances, I agree with this. In other instances, I think this isn’t true. Either way, whether you’re seeing in someone else that which is in you or whether you’re witnessing something in them that doesn’t apply to you, after a certain point you’re able to take a snapshot of what you see in another and use it as a gauge for your own self. This can be a very humbling experience and one that produces surprising growth.

They say you should pull the plank from your own eye before attempting to find the splinter in someone else’s, but I tell you lumber is the same regardless of the magnitude.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti