So… my life feels incredibly random at times. I could share a number of ways to illustrate this, but most of those will have to wait for another time. I will, right now, share one with you.
Last weekend I spent as much time relaxing before one of my televisions as possible. This is very much unlike me. I’m far more likely to grab a book or two, or study Sahaj Marg literature, or piddle with my violin…. almost never anything that involves being mindless before a television. Almost never. But there I found myself – in my home’s loft, watching the entire string of Harry Potter movies on DVD / BlueRay. It took me the entire weekend.
This weekend, I’ve decided that watching all of the X-Men movies is in ordnung. So far, so good, right? Everything connecting? Well, how about a disconnect for you?
I was mostly through the first X-Men movie when I was struck by a thought, or a few, about Johnny Depp. Mhmm. Lusty thoughts, too. SORDID.
I have no idea why these thoughts came or really why they were in my head. I wasn’t watching anything that Depp was starring in. And I’d like to make a few things clear: Depp is a fantastic actor. Of the highest grade, to be sure. Everything he touches in Hollywood is bound to turn to gold. In his interviews he’s always been very down to earth and level-headed. I think I’ve read once or twice that he’s an excellent father by most standards.
Beyond those qualities though, he’s not really my “type” (not that I have a type, but you know what I mean). For one, he’s a smoker. Where that’s concerned, I can get past the health risks, the visible and tell-tale damage the addiction does to the smoker’s body, the ridiculous rationalization smokers engage in when continuing to allow for so much of their income to be sucked away by the habit. But the perpetual smoker’s breath would be an absolute deal breaker. I’ve dated and kissed smokers before, even very considerate ones who are never more than a few feet from breath mints or mouth wash – those things don’t actually help. I mean, it might help their spit not taste as much like an ashtray when you’re kissing or something, but as long as they are exhaling from the same lungs they smoke with, the problem persists.
So there’s that. There’s also his fashion sense. It’s just weird. I don’t even find it to be that unique. Just weird and often not very flattering. His facial hair is like mine – best kept shaven. It’s like his best effort still produces only the sparsest of whiskers.
I mean, I could probably go on for another five minutes solid about why my rational mind doesn’t find him a likely target for my lust – but, quite randomly, that’s exactly what he was. And boy was he ever – while watching an X-Men movie, no less.
I could probably make this into some lesson about stepping back far enough from what you perceive to be yourself to recognize that you are not your thoughts. But perhaps instead, when people you’re technically not attracted to start popping up in sultry daydreams – which themselves randomly occur during a movie marathon – it’s really just your sign that you now have even less reason to sit before the ole boob tube.
I’m generally a realistic optimist, but I’m going to just say it: 2014 was the worst year of my current physical manifestation.
For me, 2014 started in early December of 2013 when my department lost a few people and I was swept into a new role. I don’t regret that move, technically, but it set the stage for a lot of other things that haven’t been super pleasant. So I took the new position at work in early December 2013. Then, my lead at work was a woman named Tracey. She had a few admirable qualities but was mostly grade A bitch material. She reminded me far too much of my birth mother. So work got REAL crazy. Very stressful. Tracey was fired in May of 2014. (7 years later than she should have been fired!)
It was in early 2014 that I began suffering symptoms of anxiety and depression. And by only February I began to really struggle with these issues.
It was around Mother’s Day that my mother came into the picture. She’s always been “hands off” in her approach to mothering except when it came to slapping us around our touching me she wasn’t married to. She and my father divorced when I was a toddler and while I saw her off and on while I grew up, at one time a full 50% of my current life was spent with no contact from her (from just before I got my driver’s license until I was nearly 30 years old – not a word from her). Then this year she throws herself on the radar with a number of grave health concerns. I did my best to fill the role of doting first-born son, but mostly in service to the rest of my mother’s family and to my siblings who aren’t local. I also wanted to support my sister – she lives locally and was quite close to our mother. I felt simultaneously humbled and honored that so many members of my family turned to me in trust to understand everything said by the specialists and then to regurgitate it in a manner others can understand as I reported back. But it was stressful and something, quite frankly, I didn’t care to even do. My mother’s health problems would turn out to be something that would suck up more than the fair share of PTO and be something that would add to my general misery.
As the spring came to a close and summer progressed I found myself spread too thin between work, school, and family stuff. Around the end of summer, my Beloved came to take issue with one of our neighbors (we inhabited a towne home at the time and one of our neighbors – a very ghetto young man who fancied himself a composer – had become a noise nuisance) and so we decided to begin the home shopping process. When it comes to things like this, my Beloved and I are definitely “all or nothing” kind of guys. We don’t hang around deliberating on our decisions. We approach our goals with everything well-defined and thought out, and then when the approach is complete – we act. And it’s done.
Our home shopping process was no different. We put our home on the market briefly before coming to an arrangement with one of my friends where we would unlist the property and instead make it into an investment property and he would rent from us with the goal of eventual purchase. While all of this was being ironed out, we not only found but purchased a home more than twice the size of the towne home. Of course, while we weren’t in a rush, we wasted no time relocating our lives to the new address.
This actually brings us to November. In the weeks that passed during the home buying process, more nonsense with my mother and school and work all seemed to compound and the load became nearly unbearable for me. I’ve known many dark and wondrous things and moments in my life, but this period was dark only.
The Saturday before Thanksgiving this year (11/22/2014) my mother passed away. She was unmarried but living with a man. In Indiana, the oldest child is the nextest of kin for someone like my mother. Lucky me. Of course, all my siblings are technically “equal” to me when it comes to everything like this, but ultimately it all rests on my shoulders. Of course, my mother’s own siblings and her mother (her only surviving parent) seem to be under the impression that their sentiments and ideas are what should be supreme. So far, nothing has gotten particularly ugly but there have been times when I’ve needed to exert some authority. There have also been times when assistance from my siblings was necessary. At this point, we’ve only to decide what’s done with her ashes and go through a storage unit that is holding almost all of her possessions. The bulk of opportunities for familiar strife have passed, but we’re not out of the so-called woods yet. Hopefully, by the beginning of 2015 we’ll only have her ashes to deal with. I’ve some other posts planned for Sthapati dealing specifically with the wonder that is / was my birth mother.
Most recently, my own spiritual guide left his body. I’ve written about that already so I’ll not do it again here. Just what I needed, though.
The year hasn’t been a total blow, though. Earlier in the year I was able to spent a lovely long weekend in a part of the USA I’d never been to with my Beloved as we visited a friend I knew only from Facebook but who has been an incredible addition to my life. There was a week or so where I thought he’d left the planet and it distressed me immensely – but, however close a call it might have been, it was ultimately a false alarm. This year also brought not only my 10 year anniversary with my Beloved, but the legal recognition of our relationship by our state, Indiana. We were among the first couples in our county to marry after it was legalized. And while it was something carried on my shoulders during an already terribly stressful time of my life, my new home is a wonderful blessing. There were, of course, other highlights and good things that happened throughout the year – but these few things are only some that stand out to me.
All in all, this year needs to finish itself – and 2015 needs to more than make up for it. I don’t typically set resolutions that start in January (I usually use, instead, my birthday which is truly my body’s calendar start date), but I’m mulling over a few – a preemptive and hopefully proactive attempt at having a deliberately active hand in guiding the direction of my life in the coming year. I’m not likely to write about them here, but they’ll serve as pinpoints of focus that I can redirect my compass to as needed so that 2014 doesn’t repeat itself.
The late Chariji, and our brother Kamlesh (his successor)
It’s official – Brother Kamlesh has assumed the position of the president and leader of our spiritual organization. Yesterday (or earlier today?) a whisper was received from Babuji assuring us that he and Chariji were together again and that Chariji is shining brilliantly in his new state. And more recently another Sahaj Sandesh has been received to let abhyasis all around know – this is something that was made known long(-ish) ago, and which has now been made official.
A quick Google search will easily bring up online videos of the “ceremony” once held whereat master Chariji made it very clear that his life here was beginning to wane and that, for the protection of the Sahaj Marg, he was naming his successor. His designated successor would be brother Kamlesh Patel. Having dealt with death already this year I cannot say what a benefit it can be for those you leave behind to make sure all affairs are in place and squared away BEFORE you leave. In every aspect, this is a wonderful act of compassion to people who will already be struggling with grief.
I don’t know much about Kamlesh-ji, but I trust my guru’s decision and I trust that it’s for the best of the Marg moving forward. My understanding is that Kamlesh-ji has lived in the USA and India (and possibly other places in the West). He’s well-educated, a successful professional and someone who has lived the “householder dharma,” and has been dedicated to the Sahaj Marg for quite some time already.
I’ve watched the videos online of the event where Kamlesh-ji is named as the next in line and it was very clearly emotional for many present – including Kamlesh bhai. I can only imagine the things that naturally would race through the mind of a human taking on so much. Leadership is an incredible, awesome responsibility.
I’m looking forward to the bright evolution the Marg is headed toward and the guidance Kamlesh-ji will bring as he anchors himself as our new guide.
(This post was created on 20141220 – but I am only just now getting the chance to publish it.)
Today has meant an unexpected flurry of emails and communication among the Sahaj Marg community – our beloved and revered master has left his body. My math is probably a little off, but the passing happened around 11:15 this morning (local time).
For anyone who’s been around long enough, our guru-ji’s health struggles were no secret. He was up in his years and his health had been somewhat of a roller coaster – periods of illness and infection followed by good health and recovery. This is natural for all humans as they age and it seems to me that the biggest threat to an old human’s physical existence can be the smallest and most mundane occurrence that most of us who are younger take for granted.
My own grandfather was weakened by very concerning health issues, but what had at once threatened his life in a very real way was something that I could easily catch and overcome in a week or less and hardly miss a beat. My guru, Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari (Chariji Maharaj) was very much in line with Nature’s way where this was concerned – and very fitting, too, because one of our Maxims calls us to be in harmony with Nature and to be simple as Nature is simple. I think (and perhaps I’m mistaken) that it had been some years since his health was enough of a threat that we thought he might leave.
This year, however, was very clearly a time of battle for his health. For any abhyasis who subscribe to the Sahaj Sandesh e-newsletter, we were updated as often as was necessary to keep us informed and in a prayerful / meditative condition regarding our master. Just yesterday, a Sandesh was released with a statement from Dr. Sharma indicating that our guru had been very ill for the last two weeks – first with respiratory infection and then / also a urinary infection. His condition was called “worrying and similar to what it was in 2012.”
The hint that things were actually quite serious, and that master may not survive, came in statements from the same Sandesh telling us that the doctors are doing everything possible to help him through it physically, but that there is a spiritual aspect that cannot be treated with medications.
Fortunately, preparations for this day were started long ago and Chariji’s successor has already been appointed. As I understand it, Brother Kamlesh Patel will be the new master of Sahaj Marg. Hopefully, this will alleviate, if not eliminate, any discord our guru’s passing may stir among abhyasis – as happened when the last master left his body.
While I have at times felt particularly drawn to Sahaj Marg’s earlier masters, Chariji is the only one I’ve ever known. In regard to the Marg’s literature, Chariji is, by far, the most prolific author of all the masters and as a result he is the one I’ve learned the most from and in the most direct way.
I’m including a video of Chariji here, which I’ve posted here to Sthapati before. The video is of him talking about our practice of spiritual transmission (which in some ways links our practice to Sufism). For those of us who are more familiar with master, so much more is evident even in this video than just the words that are being said.
I suspect that we’ll hear from Chariji from the Brighter World. Soon enough, his whispers may be coming to us to offer continued guidance in addition to the leadership brought by Kamlesh-ji.
Tonight, and everywhere across the globe, abhyasis and prefects are holding a sitting. Our ashrams everywhere are opening for this purpose and those who are not near an ashram or are not able to go to one are encouraged to sit from their homes or wherever they are.
I’ll share a quote here from my grand-master, Babuji Maharaj in a book titled “Spiritual Training.” I feel, when things like this happen, it’s important to keep one’s compass pointed in the right direction. This quote was emailed out right before Chariji’s passing. I find it encouraging and speaks a bit on the essence of the Sahaj Marg practice. — “God is simple and can be achieved by equally simple means. The hard and fast rules of life and tiring practices prescribed by teachers for realisation have really made matters so complicated that people are led to believe it to be beyond their power and capacity. I may assure you very sincerely that realisation is not at all a difficult thing, only if you earnestly divert your attention to it. Iron will to achieve the goal, together with proper means and guidance, is the only thing required for the complete success.”
On a quite personal note this is a very challenging time for me. The 2014 year has been just about the worst year in memory (although it’s also held some of the very best moments!) and with everything else on my plate, including the recent loss of my birth mother, I really could have done without the passing of Chariji. To say he will be missed is such an understatement it’s practically inappropriate.
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Additional notes to be added since the above was written:
Last night I found myself able to attend the global satsangh that was held shortly after master’s passing. Local abhyasis gathered at our prefects’ home and a sitting was given. The crowd was smallish but the sitting was incredible, no less. At least three distinct times I felt waves of master’s divine transmission wash over me. The first two nearly knocked me out of my asana. When the sitting was over, we were allowed a few moments to bask in the transmission and I unexpectedly found myself smiling. Unknowingly, I had secured a seat about 10 feet diagonally across a nice framed photo of my recently deceased master, himself in his meditation asana. On a table behind where this photo had been placed, was another table with framed photos on it and on that table was a photo of master that I think I’d purchased online and framed and donated to whomever would want it. The photo looked a little familiar, but the frame itself was very familiar. As my prefects’ home serves as the closest ashram to me, it warmed my heart to see something (I think) I had contributed to the local community. After the sitting was over, the prefect who had given the sitting read from a book called “Devotion” a number of snip-its. As someone who had been in master’s presence many times in the past decades, it was clear to see how his death had affected her. I did my best to hug her with my heart from where I sat. This year, as well as many of the recent years, has left me quite familiar with death and what it means. Strangely, I am nearly completely comfortable with it, but one thing that stings me each time I have a brush with death is the pain I see on the faces of others – that pain is the sad part of death for me and it was very clear that my prefect’s heart was hurting a bit as she read to us and then shared a story about the last time she was in master’s presence.
An extended satsangh was held this morning but I didn’t attend. I wanted to because I knew there would be discussed things that might answer some of the questions I have now, and it was mentioned that a few videos would be shared – which I really wanted to view. But I couldn’t bring myself. Instead, and this has been mostly true since learning of master’s passing, I sat alone in meditation. The heart knows what it wants, and that’s what my heart has sought increasingly as this year winds down to a close.
An email was issued this morning saying that Chariji would be cremated tomorrow in the morning.
Lastly, I mentioned in the main portion of this post that I imagined Chariji would be speaking to us from the Brighter World – and he has spared no time! This morning a message was received. I’m not sure it would be appropriate to share the whisper here, but I can say that it was a welcome greeting this morning!
While on my lunch break today at work I scrolled through my Facebook feed and came across a post that struck me as really interesting.
I’ve written before about language and how valuable and fun I think it is. I think each being using language carries an automatic responsibility to, to his or her best ability, communicate precisely. Wordiness and saying more than you should, or kicking a dead horse are things I struggle with, but are definitely things to be avoided. I think related to all of this is the responsibility of the communicator to know EXACTLY what is being said. This, dear reader, I hope should make sense to you.
The aforementioned post on Facebook was of an instance wherein Pat Robertson was responding to someone who’d written in to his show (or called, or something…). She apparently goes to a (Christian) church where dating isn’t allowed. I find this to be very strange, being familiar with much of Christianity and its variances. I’ve never known of a church that forbids dating. Surely, there’s more to it than the lady is letting us know. Regardless, Pat Robertson in his infinite god-inspired wisdom is apparently in just the position to advise the woman. You can click here to go to the post that was on Facebook and watch the video of Robertson offering his expert advice.
So let me get to why I’m kinda loving this. The very first thing he goes to is gay people. Superficially, (and directly) he says that this anti-dating church is doomed to die out because, as with homosexuals, if there are no heterosexual pair bonds being formed then no reproduction is taking place and – obviously – that church’s population is fated to dwindle into extinction.
In the past, folks like Robertson have been very vocal about the “homosexual lifestyle,” saying that gay people are gay because they choose to be so. But this is where there’s a huge hole is Robertson’s advice to this woman.
So…. if being gay is a lifestyle choice, then there’s room to entertain the ideas that only hetero people come hetero people but some of those subsequent heteros are choosing to live gay lives. Fine. In that scenario, everyone – every single person alive – is technically straight and the issue is that some are choosing to live in “sin.” That’s one way to approach this subject – and is the way most commonly puked up by Pat Robertson and those like him.
But he’s specifically speaking about the idea of homosexual reproduction. Right? He says my own tribe is doomed to die out because gay sex does not result in reproduction. It seems like the old man has his basic anatomy correct. But here’s where he’s being irresponsible with his own speech and apparently doesn’t even realize he’s shooting himself in his own foot.
You see, his words necessarily imply that if gays could physically reproduce, then we’d be creating more gays. That is, after all, the reason (lack of reproductive ability) he states for why we’re doomed for extinction. He’s not placing the blame for the creation of additional gays on heteros who are influencing heteros to be gay. That wouldn’t even make sense. He’s placing the creation of additional gays on the shoulders of the notion of gay reproduction (gays having sex and creating new human life as a result).
So…. it’s NOT because of choice, then, right? It’s because of reproduction. If everything about being a human (including the so-called “Sin of Adam”) is passed on genetically (aka: through reproduction) from generation to generation, and not by choice as in matters of lifestyle, then what he’s really saying is that being gay is not actually a choice at all, but rather is able to be passed on genetically.
I was chatting with a friend this afternoon. We’d both agreed that our entire respective workdays had been utter wastes and that we’d mostly spent the day doing anything but labor. Truly, I find this to be an excellent sign of fortune. It’s also a sign of laziness, but certainly good fortune that my bhai and myself are in work environments that, on occasion, permit such leisure.
Anyway, in the course of our conversation he mentioned going to another state to view a temple which he assured me was breathtaking. He also mentioned that the most recent issue of my favorite magazine was in his possession (I’m STILL waiting for my own copy to arrive!!!!) and that he would not tell me too much about it because he didn’t want my mind to be pre-blown. He followed this with a remark that is pretty typical, stating that if going to a gorgeous temple isn’t enough of a mind-blow temptation, that it must take a lot to blow my mind.
In my typical fashion, I had responded with a question meant to provoke deeper thought, “If your mind stays blown, then what appeal do such things hold?” I asked this of him for a number of reasons, including but not limited to, hoping he would turn it into an opportunity for self-reflection on what it takes for HIS mind to be blown, what it means for a mind to be blown, and I was just being a jerk.
He responded with an admonishment that I stop asking questions the answers to which are self-evident. When he says things like that, I’m not always certain he caught was I was throwing. My response to that, though, was, “Lord – Why do you hate mirrors, bhai?”
His answer? One that I would give. “Most of them… have terrible lighting.” Classic. He went on to mention that he wasn’t aware that he didn’t like mirrors and that he would try to be more open to when they are presented to him. Maybe he caught what I was throwing, after all.
Either way, his remark about terrible lighting is nearly great. And often true. What’s the use of trying to benefit from the use of a mirror if the lighting is terrible? Does that then present the opportunity (responsibility?) to correct that terrible lighting? And for that matter, all lighting deficiencies aside, what if the mirror before you is dusty or otherwise has a film on it?
I have an opportunity to contribute to the content of a book being written by Sahaj Marg. Abhyasis have been requested to send in our stories regarding the circumstances, karma, life details, etc… of our coming to Sahaj Marg.
This chance makes me smile – something that happens a bit less these days.
As I sit and begin to remember life leading up to my encounter with “The Marg” and stepping onto it as my spiritual path, I can think of lots I could tell – but none of it seems sufficient or appropriate.
As someone who enjoys language in just about every level, it’s rare to find me in a position wherein I’m at a loss for words. Yet, that’s exactly how I feel.
It’s not unlike trying to describe the feelings experienced when I think about having memories that predate the very existence of some of the people who are now ultra dear to my heart – the mystery that age and aging is. It’s similar to the “caught” feeling I experience when even thinking about how much of my heartspace is occupied by my first gurus – my parents. It’s almost like some things become cheapened when brought to the level of language, and I’m afraid words will also fail while I attempt to “tell my story” of coming to Sahaj Marg.
But stories are meant to be told, no? Surely each aspirant’s tale is as valid as the next, regardless of the chosen wording.
I genuinely don’t know why I bother trying to plan anything. These days, life’s current seems to be showing me – again and again – that I am not in control (at least, not entirely). Or perhaps this is a challenge Life is presenting me – an opportunity to “step up to the plate” and be the controller. Who knows?
Between demands with school, a death in the family (a post on this is in the works), ridiculously demanding and taxing situations at work, and buying a new house … I’ve gone nearly mad. Not quite, but nearly. I’ve been spread just about as thin as I think I can be spread.
Of course, I’m speaking of the little me – Joshua / Dhristhi. Periodically, during meditation or puja (and sometimes during the mundane parts of my life) I’m able to consciously tap into the big me and gain some perspective. When I think there’s nothing more of me, I’m able to see that I’ve not really even been touched. Additionally, the little me would be lost without my husband. He’s not as sensitive or aware as often as I’d like, but he’s there for me when I need. A few weeks ago, when stress was causing me to sporadically puke, he was very patient and nurturing to me. In fact, only one other time was he so nurturing and it was earlier this year when I was in the middle of another season of immense pressure / stress.
On the note of making plans and not keeping them, two or three days ago I mentioned on Facebook that I thought the next day might be a good day for a handstand. I genuinely meant to perform the feat the next day. However, that next day came and went and a handstand simply wasn’t on the docket. It hasn’t happened yet so far today, and it’s nearing bed time for me already.
I did, however, get my temple room pretty well fully unpacked and even mostly put back together. It’s nice to have a sanctuary in my home again – the first time in just about exactly a year. I’ve missed it! I recently bought a five bedroom home and I feel so fortunate to have done so. Believe it or not, I had other people in mind when making the purchase. Sure, there were certain things we HAD to have in the home, but one big thing on the radar was the ability to comfortably (or at least mostly comfortably) host friends from out of town. It’s finally safe to say that’s true and I’m very pleased.
So, sorry for the ramble…….lately life has been really something else. Learning to go with the flow… That’s not half as fun, stressful, challenging, maddening, or rewarding as learning to identify the flow. If you wanna put your sadhana to the test, try that.
"Ismailism pioneered the most daring metaphysical thought in Islam. Its voice, at once original and traditional, should be heard again today -- a task of which it seems that the young Ismā‘īlīs are aware." (Henry Corbin)