मेरे काम से काम रखो

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For a while I wrote a lot (quoted a lot) of a book, “Love and Death” written by my current guru. I’m finished with that now and have moved on to the next book in my pile, “Call of Spirituality, Vol. I & II.” This post will be the first of probably many times I’ll reference this new book, although you may be relieved to know that I’m already nearly 1/5th through the book, so it’s possible you wont have to suffer much before I finish it.

I’m going to share with you bits from the second chapter, which I think are timely for me. In my last post I critiqued a couple practices belonging to other paths. And distantly related to this thread is a Facebook status of mine which brought about interesting wisdom from a good friend regarding how one is perceived and how other’s egos factor into that and often try to flavor reality. (In fact, egos will invariably try to flavor reality. Believe it.) As a person with strong yet evolving opinions and sometimes goofy bravery (it’s from my mother’s side), I’m known for being honest and direct about how I feel and what I know to be true. Lots of people adore me for this and I find others building their own self-esteem and courage from the example I’m able to set, but it’s also landed me in the frying pan a time or two (which is natural and nothing to be terribly worried about) and has also highlighted some otherwise obscured distance between myself and others. To go back to my Facebook post, I think it’s important to successfully distinguish between someone who thinks he is right all the time and someone who merely sees through perhaps more egoic bullcrap than your average bear.

If you take the spirit of my Facebook status, place it within the context of the example critiques I reference in my last post, and then remember that everyone is growing and evolving, you might understand why the following bits from chapter two of “Call of Spirituality…” feel timely and resonate with me.

“People talk of brotherhood. Do they treat at least their own brothers as brothers? Brotherhood should start with one’s own family. How many amongst us treat our brothers as brothers? They consider him as a person who has a share in the property. Jealousy starts now onwards. What will he ask tomorrow? Did father write a will? Is my share correct in that? Will we get the property we desire? Or has he written the property in his name?

“We start this even at the age of fifteen. When there is no brotherhood in the family itself, how will it come from outside? So you see, all of us in Sahaj Marg have a great responsibility. Our words, our behavior, the way we see, the way we listen; everything will be judged. In all this, we will get a bad name, but the Master’s name can be spoiled. They will ask, ‘What sir, is this your Sahaj Marg? Is this the work your Master does? Is this the way he shapes you? I don’t want your Master.’

“They will not reject you; they will only reject the Master. Each time we act wrongly, behave without respect, be greedy, act with uncontrollable desire, what we do becomes a betrayal of the Master. Somehow because of his compassion, he does not punish us. But we certainly deserve to get punished.

“I have heard some speakers speaking ill of other systems and gurus. It is to be completely avoid in Sahaj Marg. There are two reasons for this. We do not know about all the systems and all the gurus. How can we criticize something that we do not know? I have the right to speak of the greatness of my Master. I have been living with my Master for fourteen years. I feel about him and hence I speak. I have a right to praise my wife as Lakshmi or Saraswati because I am living with her for the past twenty-five years. What right do I have to talk about the lady next door? Similarly, I have absolutely no right to talk about other Masters. We should not speak anything based on the books of other systems and what the Masters of other systems say. Just as we cannot use these to criticize, we cannot use these to praise, too.

“We have two legs and we will rely on them and make use of them. This is Sahaj Marg. I don’t have to go to any other system to talk about this. I do not need any other evidence. We have no necessity to criticize any other system…Since I am strong and capable, I do not need to criticize others.”

Obviously, it’s necessary to understand the difference between calling a spade a spade and using that title against the spade itself. Not everyone who is critical is being critical for the sake of tearing another down, and not everyone tears down for the sake of their own self glory. This is clearly a vast and complex matter and one I’ll be chewing on for a little while yet.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

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After You’re Gone

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Some time ago, I ranted on Facebook about how offensive I found the Mormon practice of “baptizing the dead.” I feel very strongly that this practice violates some kind of cosmic rule of live and let live. When I ranted, a number of my own family members who became Mormon after my grandfather’s passing, spoke up and said that I was wrong about that ritual and that I shouldn’t speak out about things like this because it makes me some kind of hypocrite. To be clear, it’s my understanding that this kind of baptism merely presents the dearly departed with a chance to accept the Mormon belief structure and gain the Mormon afterlife. Also, the hypocrisy referenced by my disgruntled relatives is apparently in regard to my critical attitude about someone else’s views or practice which my family members – knowing next to nothing about Hinduism – think goes against Hinduism. In this case, they would perhaps not be wrong within certain contexts, but in this context specifically they are still not necessarily right, either.

This weekend I’m spending more time at the computer than is usual because it’s my turn in my department’s on-call rotation. As I was logging on recently, I saw some kind of news headline mentioning that two popes were gaining sainthood “to bridge a divide” or something. It struck me… These two dudes were resting in peace, burning in hellflame, or maybe tossing crowns at Jesus’ feet or something (do only Protestant souls do this or Catholics, too?) and now their own afterlives are about to change entirely when they are sainted and begin interceding on behalf of Catholic believers who want something.

All this afterlife meddling. WTF?

Whatever happened to simply offering food and a little homage to our deceased relatives and letting past lives be past lives? I’ll admit, it’s a little tough for me to understand how devout people can be cool with trying to change the afterlives of their loved ones without their permission. But who am I?

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Energetic Pukery

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

Do you ever do something and then IMMEDIATELY afterwards you’re like, “Get me away from this, kind of right now”? With the exception of a few rambunctious years in my early 20s, I’ve always been pretty self-aware, however, more recently I’m noticing this energetic “thing” that occurs within myself – and I don’t know what to make of it. Allow me to paint you a picture.

So… I’m sitting in my living room doing a whole lot of nothing (usually reading) when I’m rather suddenly struck with this longing – intense desire and craving – for something. Could be anything. It might be Cadbury Eggs. It might be Doritos. It might be water. I usually sit with that craving for a minute or two. During this time a number of things could happen: I assess the effort needed to satisfy that desire, I assess whether that effort is something I care to put forth, I assess where that desire is coming from, etc… And then, often but not always, I take care of that longing. I go and get my fill of Easter Candy. I go eat many Dorito chips. I drink a bottle of water. Fine. Dandy, even.

But then something else happens, almost invariably, and regardless of the degree to which I engage in the aforementioned want. The closest mental-emotional label I think I can assign to what happens after would probably be aversion – but I’ll tell you right now that’s not the best fit. I long for the taste of Cadbury Eggs, so I eat one (or ten, the amount truly is irrelevant) and the desire is fulfilled and then right after that I feel very strongly that I want nothing to do with Cadbury Eggs. I don’t regret having eaten the one (or ten), and I’ll (probably) absolutely do it again if/when that feeling next arises, but no matter how many times it happens this is the pattern – predictable as the seasons. This applies to many things whether we’re talking work, food, sex, books, gardening, … you can just about name it. There are naturally a few exceptions, but all of those aside this is 100% applicable to any desire or want that hits me in this way. I want, perhaps very strongly, and then I do not want – at all. It’s quite like some kind of switch is flipped. Very clearly on, and then very clearly off.

I don’t really know what to make of it.

I don’t fight the craving or the want. I never really feel any form of regret or guilt because of it. I think what might be happening is that I am increasingly able to fully let go of the want that “attacked” me. I think this process is one where I’ve recognized when it arrives, I have a brief look at it, and then after (usually) engaging it I let it leave fully and cleanly.

It reminds me of what we’re advised in meditation which is not to fight thoughts that arise, just observe them and subsequently release them, or rather allow them to keep moving. My hopeful side says that this advice translates into this scenario regarding wants – I’m seeing it arise, I observe, I engage (which is an exception to the meditation advice), and then I release (I think this translates as realization that the usefulness has passed). Of course the release part is what’s trippy. And if I can continue to speculate, I’ll say that it’s not true aversion, but rather my conscious mind making something out of nothing – literally nothing, meaning the absence of the usual attachment to our wants and desires, and then trying to give that nothing a label.

But let’s suppose that I’m giving myself too much credit. Then what? I mean that question pretty much literally – if not the above, then what’s going on here? Why am I experiencing wants, sometimes quite intensely, and then upon satisfying them feeling no connection thereto? Maybe this is a silly thing to question.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Hearted

Sufism, Taken from Google Image search

Sufism, Taken from Google Image search

I’m sure by now readers have started assuming that this will be a blog focusing on Sahaj Marg and it’s writings. While I can certainly see why some would begin to think that, it’s not entirely true. In all fairness, I’m taking so very much away from the Sahaj Marg that it makes sense for me to kind of document it and this is where I would do that naturally. I hope you don’t mind, but in all fairness I don’t really care whether you do. 🙂

So, this book I’ve been digging through recently called “Love and Death” has proven to be a gem to me. Obviously, I’ve quoted it extensively here. Today I was working through a few more pages in it during my lunch and came across something else I thought to share.

Chariji is speaking and mentions how we reference people according to what’s in their heart. We say one person is kind-hearted. Another might be cold-hearted. Someone else could be described as hard-hearted, warm-hearted, or soft-hearted. The list could probably go on and on of the various “hearts” people might be found to have.

Naturally, this isn’t in reference to the physical heart inside the rib cage of every human, but rather the heart / soul of the person. And in so many people, this real Heart is severely obscured by garbage. Some of this garbage might be considered natural and may well be mandatory for those experiencing a physical existence. However, by far, most of it is unnecessary and even worse is unnecessarily perpetuated. Chariji likened this kind of “dirtiness” to a house the windows of which have been closed tightly for a very long time. The air within that house is stale. It begins to stink. The same happens within our souls. We start to die slowly – friendless, loveless, and godless. In fact, Chariji has said, “First we lose our friends, we lose our lovers, and God will not stay in a place which stinks.” To be clear, I don’t feel that his words are meant to be taken too literally here – God doesn’t leave a person because their heart has become stale.

As a prescription to prevent this, Chariji advises that we have to understand and know our Self. (A very familiar concept in Hinduism.) To get that understanding we’re to examine our heart. We do that by sitting in meditation. And what do we do in meditation? We focus our attention on the heart and then “see for yourself the enormously beautiful, wonderful mysteries that are there.”

Once we start to realize those mysteries, the world essentially become meaningless – but not in some dismal kind of way, rather in the way of the “karmaphala vairagya” detailed by Krishna in the Gita. As we become familiar with the contents of the human heart (the Self), we continue to live because we have to live, “like a tree lives.” Trees don’t find any charm in their existence – they simply exist because they are there and that’s reason enough. When we begin to live in that way we soon realize that we don’t exist for ourselves. Chariji says, “I exist like a tree which gives fruit to others, like a flower which scents its surroundings.” This is integral for anyone who claims to be a master and for spirituality in general – selfless, unattached, available for all to taste.

In the Sahaj Marg, the Master is like a tree offering its fruit to anyone who cares to pick it. This fruit comes from the Source, through the Master’s heart and has a supremely profound effect on the hearts of any who care to pick that fruit. Chariji says, “This is the call of spirituality, especially this brand which we are practicing called Sahaj Marg, the Natural Path. It is there. Please follow it, accept it, practice is, and see for yourself what it can do.”

Regardless of one’s path this is the call of all spirituality (not all religion, per se) – to get to the heart, one’s real Self and to know It.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

By Jove

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My Master’s most important teaching to me was his first teaching: Where religion ends, spirituality begins. His second most important teaching was: Religions have served to divide humanity and human beings into different cults, different sects, different religions, warring with each other, hating each other, suspicious of each other. Spirituality unites, because here (in Sahaj Marg) we worship not a god with a name, we don’t subscribe to any principles such as are embodied in a particular text, but we stand by morality, by ethical life, and by the need to love everyone as ourselves, by the need to love, meaning therefore to sacrifice.

So spirituality, as my Master said, unites people. There is no more the bigotry of religions. There is no more separatism of worship. There is no more the problem of which is the true religion, which is the true god, as if there can be a true god and an untrue god. Can there ever be an untrue god? There is one God, everyone knows. Then how can your god, my god be different? Should we not immediately shake hands and reconcile and say, “Yes, by jove, we have been stupid for three, three and a hand centuries, five centuries, ten centuries, we have been saying the truth without putting it into practice – your god and my god are the same, your religion and my religion are the same, your principles and my principles are the same, except that you as a European, eat with a fork and knife, I eat with my fingers. The food we eat is the same.

So spirituality seeks to bring people together in an enormous, transcendental synthesis of oneness of humanity, where human values have to be crystallized by practice of meditation on the heart…So the proof of the pudding is very much in the eating.

I have experienced the truths, the very fundamental life-shaking, emotion-shaking experiences of all these great faiths in my personal experience, meditating without any religion, without any named god, without any systematic worship, because here the worship is to the ultimate Divine principle within. All religions have produced mystics. They are called mystics precisely because instead of seeking God outside, they sought God within themselves, in their heart. The mystics know no religion. They were born Christians, but became mystics. They were born Muslims, but they became mystics called Sufis. They were born Hindus, but became mystics called Rishis and they attained what they attained finally, as mystics.

This is the important, shall I say, message of spirituality, that God is one!

– Taken from “Love and Death” by Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari

Frozen Secrets

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

A number of things have contributed to the inspiration behind this post: A few statuses on Facebook, a conversation with the best, my life experience.

A few weeks ago the Best, the Beloved, and I watched the super popular movie Frozen. With all the hype surrounding it, I assumed I’d be bored with it but that wasn’t the case. We watched it one evening at home and I really liked it.

Sometime after that, and completely unrelated to it, the Best and I were in my car going somewhere and were chatting about female clients in his chair when he remarked at how easy it is for him to evoke comments from those clients like, “You really understand me!” We agreed that it’s probably a far greater occurrence with the females of our species than with the males.

So…. then I thought to myself how I’ve never ever in 100 years thought of actually saying to someone something like, “You really understand me!” For one, it’s usually me who is doing the understanding. For another, I’m a male and in Indiana we don’t usually admit as much to each other (although I’ve probably at least implied as much during a conversation or two). But most, because I don’t think I’ve ever really truly and actually felt very understood. This is surely in large part because of being born as I was where I was. I’m not sorry for it, by any means. And I’m sure it’s been a big (albeit subconscious) contributing factor to my love of language and communication and culture and religion and a million other things that I’ve been drawn to because when I give them conscious analytical attention it’s clear that many of those things play massive roles in who people are and how they are understood by those around them.

So where does that movie fit into all this? The older sister, Elsa, is where. She’s entirely misunderstood. Sure, she’s different and all that. But I think most people don’t understand that that isn’t really where the difficulty is. As a gay male growing up and living my entire life in Indiana I know first-hand what Elsa felt. She took measures to conceal who she is. She took measures to stifle big parts of who she is – hiding away for years and then when in front of others she wore garments to further conceal her truth. She wished more than anything that she could change who she is into someone else. Why? It’s not because she really thought there is something wrong with herself. After all, until the minor mishap early in the movie she actually enjoyed the thing that made her different. The source of anguish was really that no one would understand. And even that isn’t the worst of it.

I can absolutely say the worst part about being misunderstood is people acting and reacting based on a lack of understanding – which of course, they don’t realize is lacking because we all tend to think that what’s in our heads and hearts is the truth. They say a person can only take so much… of anything. After so much, I can tell you, one is left with no choice but to move forward.

Nature makes one either weaker as a result of these experiences or Nature makes one stronger through them. The difference is left up to the individual and ultimately makes no difference to the bigger picture. This sense of being misunderstood, or not understood at all, ends up being fuel for the individual. Of course, to what end that fuel is burned is entirely up to the individual. Many use that fuel to travel a path that essentially destroys who they are while others use it to launch who they are into new and deeper experiences. The movie Frozen shows the potential of both.

Whether you’re gay or whether you’re an ice queen in the making, it’s all the same. The struggle is the same for each of us. It’s important to never forget the feeling of not being understood (as it’s different from being misunderstood). This truth applies to each of us regardless of what uniquely makes us who we are.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

The Differently Same Reality

So … by request, the plan for this post is meant to kind of illustrate the parallels between being Hindu and being Sufi. I’ve not really done this before, and going into it I feel a bit intimidated because, unlike Hinduism, I haven’t spent the last 10+ years studying and living Sufism.

In a recent post I brought the idea that I’ve usually thought of Sufism as a type of Islamic Hinduism. Chewing on that a bit more since that post, I think I’ve changed my perspective on that. I believe Sikhism to be a better fit for the idea of Islamic Hinduism. There are other religions, too, like the Baha’i faith that could also perhaps fall into a broader category of “Islamic Hinduism” – with each path, of course, having it’s own so-called specialty.

However, as I’ve been looking around online trying to learn more about these parallels I’m finding that Sufism is indeed much like Hinduism – but it’s really only like the parts of Hinduism that are truly beyond the mundane. Like those in Hinduism who reach the upper elevations of transcendence, Sufis – despite their own “rituals” – don’t really hold much place for the things that tend to preoccupy the bulk of humanity’s religious concentration. In mainstream Islam and definitely what could be called the bulk of Hinduism ritual prevails, but from what I’ve gathered Sufis seem entirely aware that their unique practices are definitely meant to be transcended as soon as one’s development permits.

From the Hindu side of this we’re familiar with having murtis, bathing them, dressing them, feeding them, waking them in the morning and putting them to bed at night. We perform japa ritually. We begin or don’t begin certain endeavors based on the movement of the heavens. And the more orthodox parts of Hinduism even dictate on things like clothing, food, profession, and marriage. Still, for all of this there are the rare exceptions within Hinduism wherein the believer isn’t held to these things and the emphasis is often on a more direct and experiential connection to the Source, one’s true Self.

This is where the parallels between “Hinduism” and Sufism begin to show. To narrow things down a bit here, the roots of Sahaj Marg that can be traced back to Sufism indicate a Naqshabandi Sufi lineage – which is actually unique among the Sufi paths as it is the only denomination that goes back to the Prophet of Islam through the first caliph instead of the prophet’s cousin, as all the others do (I think). Additionally, depending on which source you choose to reference, there are possible Shaivite Hindu roots (well, influence) to Sufism. I don’t know much about these and can’t really attest to the verity of those claims, but it definitely seems to fit on a few levels.

In the case of Sahaj Marg practices we see a definite blending of the two that highlights the parallels. The Master or guru is important. There is the heart-to-heart transmission, or pranahuti. As with Sufism, the Sahaj Marg tends to avoid murti worship, prefering instead to worship the Divine on a more subtle level. As with some sects of Hinduism, the Yamas and Niyamas are taken to be guidelines of exemplary living that develops spirituality and improves the earth life. Mind you, the Sahaj Marg also has what are called the Ten Maxims which are totally separate.

Certainly, Sufism has it’s own set of unique practices, which could be as limiting as the bulk of Hinduism’s rituals. But once you drop all the baggage of man-made religious expression what you’re left with is where these two paths collide – indeed, I think every path combines at that level. On that note, I’m finding that it’s actually more efficient to detail the differences between these two paths than it is to highlight the parallels – a task I really have no interest in going into very deeply. I can say, though, that you can’t compare Hinduism to Sufism because Sufism is pretty much entirely mystical while Hinduism isn’t necessarily. You can compare Hinduism to Islam, but to make a fair comparison between Hinduism and Sufism you would need to isolate some path of Hinduism that is, life Sufism, pretty much entirely mystical.

I’ve attached a video I found online that might offer better insight than I am able to, although it’s quite lengthy.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti