Happy Birthday, Son of Mahadev!

When you adhere to a religion that recognizes the Divine in virtually every conceivable form, you’re bound to have a calendar filled to the hilt with holidays celebrating all manner of holiness. Welcome to Hinduism! So far, the most unfortunate aspect of this is that most of these holidays – even all of them – go pretty much officially unobserved in the United States. Sure, some actually be named on printed calendars and we’ll see media coverage of the holiday’s celebration at the White House, but none are “business closed” holidays. It makes me a little sad, particularly when Ganesha Chathurthi rolls around – it’s unquestionably my favorite holiday next to Diwali – which itself is only in first place for me personally on account of its broader application as a holiday that very Hindu would celebrate, without sectarian concern.

However, if any one god in the Hindu pantheon could be considered “unifying,” then it’s Ganesha. My knowledge is limited and imperfect, but He’s the only god I know of who is worshipped, as He is, by all Hindus. Every god has its own collection of stories and many overlap in ways that could be offensive to some. For example, in some circles Hanuman is understood to be Shiva in disguise and is Vishnu’s biggest fan. I’m not sure I’ve heard stories paralleling this kind of thing that apply to Ganesha. He’s always who He is, and everyone loves and respects Him – to greater or lesser degrees.

Most years, Ganesha Chathurthi falls very near to my own birthday. Although this year it feels like it’s happening later in the year than it has in the recent past (I could be wrong – I haven’t checked on this to be sure) and next year I think it doesn’t occur until very near to the end of September. This year the holiday started on 20140829 and culminates on 20140908 with Ganesha Visarjan.

This link to a page from the Huffington Post does a decent job at explaining the holiday and includes photos for your viewing pleasure. Wikipedia also has an info page on it, of course. That can be viewed here. This Huffington Post Religion page displays a number of photos. On this page, one can find a basic explanation of how the holiday is celebrated. And lastly, here’s a site apparently dedicate solely to the holiday that offers info on how to “do” the holiday.

Below I’ve included a couple videos for your enjoyment and education and below the videos, also for your enjoyment, is a random selection of Ganesha photos – some pertaining to the holiday, some not. These have been pulled from a range of sources including friends’ pictures, Facebook posts, online image searches, and YouTube.

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi!
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

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Martyrdom Maybe

As a gay human in the United States Midwest, I’m too familiar with religious bigots and their attitude toward gayness. I know all about “Adam & Eve, Not Adam & Steve” and “Leviticus 18:22” and lots of other conveniently selected piles of bullshit that “prove” gay people choose to be who they are and love who they do. Earlier this week a Facebook friend’s contribution to my feed included his reposting a video of a gay young man (from GA, I think) coming out to his father, grandmother, and step-mother. It doesn’t go well. At all.

I’m including the video in this post as well as other links here and here that tell the story – although watching the video will make the story crystal clear. I’m not sure how long ago this fiasco actually took place, but I came across the repost on Thursday evening, and by Friday’s drive home from work I was hearing about it on the Michelangelo Signorile show on SiriusXM satellite radio (the Progress channel). It had, indeed, already gone viral. You can see the video just below.

There are a few things I found interesting about this whole unfortunate scene.

1) I found it interesting that the woman speaking in the beginning of the video starts the process of kicking him to the curb by assuring him she loves him and that she’s known he is gay since he was a little boy – and then almost immediately after accuses him of making the “choice” to be gay, which is followed later in the video by the adults in the video pummeling him for disagreeing with them. Literally nonsensical hypocrisy at its finest: “I know you were gay since before you even knew what sex is, but you’re definitely making a choice in who you have sexual attraction to.”

2) It was typical and revolting and just plain ignorant when she said she stands by the word of God, meaning the Bible. Newsflash: Jesus cured the young male sex servant of a grown man who approached Jesus asking for a miracle. Jesus fully knew and understood the nature of their relationship, and while even commended the man on his faith. There’s that and a number of other nuggets in that book that would indicate the Bible says very little against homosexuals. Clearly Daniel’s “Christian” family are neither true Christians nor true family.

3) After watching the video on Facebook, I almost immediately went to Daniel’s Facebook page to check out whatever might be happening there. This is where things look odd to me. Without looking at older posts, I can see the video was posted there on Tuesday the 26th and for some reason again on the 27th. Also on the 27th, Daniel posted a status update starting with, “What a day….” wherein he admitted he thought being late to work would be his biggest struggle of the day. He also thanked some people for their support and indicated he enjoyed seeing some other people. And then on the 28th, which is when I first came across the ordeal for the first time (late evening / early night) I found a status post where he said he’d be deactivating his page but that we all should look for a fan page soon. In his video an agreement was reached indicating that he’d be out by midnight on the 28th… supposedly only hours after I first saw the video. If I had to guess, I’d say he probably got out before then – I can’t imagine anyone with enough spine to stand up to their own family and be disowned would likely stick around a few more days until the deadline. I imagine the 26th, 27th, and 28th were very busy, miserable, and exhausting days for Daniel. What keeps standing out in my mind, though, is that he was planning a fan page before he technically was homeless. I understand now that he’s gotten a lawyer and will possibly be prosecuting those family members who assaulted and battered him – which I think he should do. But how actually horrible was this for him if, before he even had to be on the streets, he is planning on fame?

I remember being very scared of telling my parents and even fearing that what happened to Daniel would happen to me. And I recall immense gratitude that my parents didn’t react in that way. I was actually younger, with less life experience than Daniel has already, and I stood to lose more than he apparently does. And when considering my option should I end up homeless, it never once crossed my mind that I would, or even could, get “fans” out of it all. I just find it a bit strange that fame would ever enter the picture when survival would seem the top priority so close to the tragic event.

But what do I know? Not nearly enough, I can tell you that.

It’s my sincerest hope that Daniel’s support (boyfriend, friends, the YouTube community, etc…) keep him safe and that his “ignernt kin” are able to become the good people they think they already are.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

WWYD

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The other day, on Facebook, I posted a snipit from a quote of one of the Sahaj Marg’s masters. By far, the responses I received were disappointingly typical. I was discussing this, just a little, with a friend who commented and whose comment was about the only one that could be taken in the way I feared people would respond as well as the way I’d hoped some might.

His comment was to the effect of, “This goes against what many gurus say.” One implication of something like that being said (and in fact, probably the most common implication) is that if the majority of other gurus disagree, then the teaching in question must probably be incorrect on one or many levels. As if to going with the crowd is invariably a good thing. We seem to be okay with having our own teachers – so long as they’re saying pretty much the same thing.

Frankly, it makes me more than a little sad. People are so…. typical. Like, Kali Yuga typical. And I think even if a person becomes aware of this within himself, and can say to himself that he’s just being egoic and shouldn’t think in a certain way that is obviously flavored by that ego, then there’s a great chance he’ll still act or behave or believe in a manner than is still far too flavored by the ego. We seem to carry certain …. expectations, or something…. and if those aren’t met then it’s no good. It’s like learning something about someone and seeing them differently as a result. Same person before as after, and yet you don’t see them the same. How accepting were you before?

I think more recently this unfortunate truth has been apparent when it comes to gurus. I mean, it’s been true for a long time but has stood out to me a bit more lately.

Certainly there are traits and whatnot that any “true” or “real” guru will possess. And regardless of one’s chosen path in spirituality, one can find valued texts that will spell out as clearly as possible what that devotee should look for when accepting a teacher.

But what if a teacher possess all of the things one seeks in a teacher, and a few things one wouldn’t expect? My guess is that the potential devotee would be far too busy judging the teacher and would be more than willing, on a subconscious level if nothing else, to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. Because that’s what makes people comfortable.

Let me ask you: Say you were examining a guru and you were impressed enough to keep examining. The teachings seemed in line with what you value. All the things you’d expect in a guru were found in this guru. And then he or she lit a cigarette.

Seriously. What if Mata Amrtanandamayi Ma (The Hugging Saint) took a break from hugging devotees to grab a quick smoke? What if Paramahansa Yogananda taught Kriya Yoga and also enjoyed vodka from time to time? What if Swami Prabhupad’s “Hare Krishnas” held their so-called Love Feasts and served fried chicken with the palak paneer?

Game over? What would you do?

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Petty Tribulation

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On the 10th of July, 2014, I placed an order with the SRCM online bookstore. I’ve done this many times and I know when placing the order that the shipment will not arrive nearly fast enough. Part of that is my own lack of patience when it comes to wanting to do something I set my mind to. (In this case, reading the books I just bought.) Part of it is that the Mission apparently sends orders using Media Mail, and hasn’t made that clear to the general public, or at least to it’s shoppers who are otherwise expecting a much faster delivery.

Through a series of only-slightly unfortunate and more-than-slightly frustrating events it took from July 10th until the 25th of August to receive my shipment. At one point, long after an order at any other organization could have already been received twice over (not exaggerating), I was contacted to let me know one of the books I ordered wasn’t in stock. At another point weeks later, I was in touch with leadership to get some help and clarity on what was happening with my purchase of over $200. Apologies were given I was advised that my order would be sent via Priority Mail… 8 days later my order arrived, as I said, via Media Mail. Not via Priority as I’d been promised and certainly after Priority would have had the shipment at my front door.

To be clear: I’m not trying to be overly negative about this bookstore. It’s operated entirely by volunteers and, all things considered, they do well.

All of that said, and luckily all of that in the past, this has taught me something about myself. Each day we’re presented with opportunity after opportunity to either become better or stay put where we are. Chariji has mentioned this time and again in the Sahaj writings. Our karmas are directly affected by the choices we make in relation to these opportunities. As are the resultant samskaras we carry. Of course, many other components of human life – both mundane and metaphysical – are entwined herein.

Throughout this experience I was within my rights to throw a fit and demand that my order be sent immediately and even to request an explanation (which I never received). I did none of that, but I did see the opportunity to once again observe this strange energetic movement within myself and to act based on that perception.

It wasn’t anger, I’m clear on that much. Beyond knowing it wasn’t anger, the closest thing I could describe it as is ego. It was like some other personality inside. Totally part of me, but only a part of me. It wasn’t encompassing, but it felt dense. It felt like it had its own gravity. It felt old. I was glad for the opportunity to see this thing as separate from Myself and for the capacity to act independently of it. God knows these moments can feel rare!

I’m hoping the next time this kind of “split” is noticed, that I can focus not on that energetic “movement” but instead on the Me that is separate from it.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

The Egg

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I came across something on another blog recently that was essentially quoting Andy Weir’s “The Egg.” I’d never read this before, and if there is more to The Egg, then I remain unfamiliar with it. However, what I read on the other blog is something I really wanted to share here. And so, I am.

You were on your way home when you died.

It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.

And that’s when you met me.

“What….what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”

“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.

“There was a … a truck and it was skidding…”

“Yup,” I said.

“I…I died?”

“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.

You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”

“More or less,” I said.

“Are you god?” You asked.

“Yup,” I replied. “I’m God.”

“My kids… my wife,” you said.

“What about them?”

“Will they be all right?”

“That’s what I like to see,” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there.”

You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty. “Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”

“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”

“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.

“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right.”

“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.” You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”

“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.” “So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”

“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don’t remember them right now.”

I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. “Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had.

“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”

“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”

“Oh lots. Lots and lots. And in lot of different lives.” I said. “This time around, you’ll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”

“Wait what?” you stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”

“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.”

“Where you come from?” You said.

“Oh sure,” I explained. “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly you wouldn’t understand.”

“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point.”

“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan you don’t even know it’s happening.”

“So what’s the point of it all?”

“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?”

“Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.

I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”

“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”

“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.” “Just me? What about everyone else?”

“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”

You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”

“All you. Different incarnations of you.”

“Wait. I’m everyone!?”

“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back. “I’m every human being who ever lived?”

“Or who will ever live, yes.”

“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”

“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too” I added.

“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.

“And you’re the millions he killed.”

“I’m Jesus?”

“And you’re everyone who followed him.”

You fell silent.

“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”

You thought for a long time.

“Why?” you asked me. “Why do all this?”

“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one of my kind. You’re my child.”

“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”

“No. Not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”

“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”

“An egg.” I answered. “Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”

And I sent you on your way.

Wasted Money

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Do you ever buy something believing it to be of considerable lower quality than would appear? I apparently do.

Last night I added what is the 27th “Kraishnav” book to my home library. To be clear, while this 27th book is part of a finite collection, it’s not numbered “27” or anything – it’s just the 27th of my personal collection.

I’ll be adding the 28th tonight after mid-week meditation.

This line of books happens to be one of the many works attributed to Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is known as Swami Prabhupad or Shrila Prabhupad by his followers. He’s vaishnava swami who was popular a number of decades ago and is no longer in the human body we knew him as. I think a significant portion of “his” books are kinda crap. I mean that as sincerely as I am able to express and there have been times when I’ve thought to myself that a person might even be better off without religion or spirituality.

It’s got nothing to do with him being a vaishnav, although it has a little to do with him being a kraishnav. (Kraishnav = a Vaishnav who manages to see the avatar of a god as being actually “higher” in status than the god who existed before the avatar. In this case, we’re talking about Krishna being mightier than Vishnu.) I also think it’s nearly total crap some of his discussions on things like karma and ahimsa and vegetarian foods that are “offensive” to the Lord, and how a gay person is “even lower” than a dog. Yeah. Real nuggets of wisdom held in his brand of “bhakti.” Be sure of it.

Still, whenever I come across a book of his that isn’t in my collection – which I usually find at used book stores and rarely pay more than 5$ for – I gotta have it. I kind of just like the collecting aspect of adding to my collection. And more than a few people can vouch that the next time I come by someone who wants to learn about Prabhupad or is a devotee or something, but whose own personal library is “lacking,” I’ll be putting my own collection into the post to benefit that seeking soul.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Action

Image Taken from Google Image Search

Image Taken from Google Image Search

One of the earliest memories I have pertaining to the concept of karma is a Kraishnav painting showing a male human body with and ox head about to decapitate a creature with the body of an ox and head of a human. The message seemed clear: Not only do things that go from you return to you (aka what goes around comes around), but also if you kill you will be killed. Many times, this process is specified to the point of saying that if you kill something, then in your next life you must be killed by that something. To illustrate that precisely I’ve included below the aforementioned image.

Hare Krishna "summary" of Karma.

Hare Krishna “summary” of Karma.

Fitting into this more recently is a blog post I read from a Buddhist in Europe on the subject of vegetarianism, which mentioned karma as so many other discussions of vegetarianism do. Many adopt vegetarianism as a means of cleaning up and safe-guarding their karmas. After all, it’s apparently bad enough to have “bad” karma from being the source of something’s death but to trade places with it in the next life is just…. baaaaad. It’s also bullshit.

I mean, I’m truly in no place to say it’s bullshit because I don’t technically know the 100% truth behind karma’s infinitely cosmic workings. But that’s my point, too: We don’t know. But I think even if we can’t know the full truth, a small amount of logic can get us a good deal closer than we might think.

Some enlightened soul is credited for having said, “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” Surely, it’s true. Now tell me, if an eye-for-an-eye is how karma works (as so many believe) then how could liberation for anyone who takes even one physical birth be possible? I really can’t emphasize enough how arrogant it is to think we could ever understand karma fully enough to be able to accurately say or think that if I kill in this life, then in my next life I will be killed – and by that which I had previously killed, no less! But allow me to humor myself and follow that belief to what I think is a natural but often over-looked conclusion (which is really the opposite of conclusion insofar as “conclusion” might be synonymous with moksha or Samadhi.) To make my point I’ll use the karma picture from above…

1) I, as a human, kill a cow.

2) In my next life, and the cow’s next life which is now apparently fused with my own through direct contact of our respective karmas with each other, we’ve essentially switched places. I have to be reborn, as does the cow – and karma supposedly mandates that we have to trade places. So I as the new cow am killed by the cow which is then the new human. Simple enough?

3) The karma I dug myself into as the murderous “pre-cow” human was satiated in the subsequent life when I atoned for those actions by assuming the life of a “post-human” cow and myself dying at the hands of the entity that was a cow but has taken birth as a human for the purpose (among others, I’m sure) of balancing that karma.

—————————— This is where most of us stop. But keep reading. ————————————–

4) In the same way I sucked the “pre-human” cow into MY additional karma by killing it and creating the “need” to later be killed by it, the “post-human” cow has now likewise sucked me into its own similar, additional, and unfortunate karma.

And so this cycle of karmic madness would essentially perpetuate itself throughout time forever. It kind of brings to mind the symbol of the yin-yang: black eternally chasing the white and white eternally chasing the black (which I know isn’t the symbolism meant with the yin-yang, but whatever.)

None could hope for liberation, which I currently and certainly do. We’d each be hopelessly buried in in our own karmas and would helplessly be adding to our individual karmic pile simply by being a part of others’ karmas, too – whether we wanted to or not, really. It seems to me that this either cannot truly be how karma works or otherwise doing things like adopting vegetarianism would be futile in the bigger karmic picture. It’s simply not that cut-n-dry, and anyone who understands karma in this light would likely do well to challenge what they think they already know or understand regarding concepts like karma, vairagya, samsara, samskara, and ahimsa.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti