Revert

Sometime during 2014 I came across an interesting person on Facebook. I don’t recall how I did – probably through a gay Hindu group I belong / belonged to. This individual was born into a male European Caucasian body, somewhere around Australia I believe, but through the course of that person’s life has transitioned into a non-Indian Hindu female. Specifically, this person is an aspiring bhakti yogini, the sect she belongs to is something I’ll let you find out on your own. Or maybe I’ll tell you. Who knows where this post will lead?

I friended this human for many reasons, and a month or so ago unfriended her for just one reason. She’d made a status update that showed me that she’s no one I care to keep as company. I’ll quote her immediately below.

“I heard somebody claim today that ‘Bhakti Yoga is for emotional, sentimental people and not for philosophical types’. I had to bite my tongue at the time but would love to introduce him to my Acharya or some of the Vaishnava Vidvans that I have encountered! I have concluded that Atheists and their Advaitin friends cannot understand the context and proper conclusions of the Vedas – in part or whole. This is particularly true of the Bhagavad-Gita which presents the highest truth…is in conjunction with the Theistic, Personalist presentation of Sri Krishna! Nothing in the Vedas can make sense within the complete context if one adheres to the speculation that Brahman, without attributes, is the Supreme source of everything. Nothing in this realm of samsara can be rationally explained by such people, nor can our condition here or beyond be explained or understood.”

There you have it. If you couldn’t tell, she’s a Hare Krishna. If I were Vaishnav I’d cringe every time a Hare Krishna opened their mouth for any purpose other than chanting. I’m not a Vaishnav Hindu, except in the most vague, high-level, big-picture contexts of what a Hindu could be defined as, and it still makes me cringe. How can bhakti become so horribly mangled? A path that is supposedly heart-centered shouldn’t result in things like that being said. If you’re aiming to see Krishna in the heart of all, how can you expect to achieve that evolution while looking down on those you think are incapable of understanding the wondrous truth you and your acharyas have found?

Hinduism is first and foremost an experiential religion. If you don’t put in the effort, you won’t get the results. This truth applies to every-single-thing. Ever. Also foundational to Hinduism is the understanding that your experience will almost certainly differ from mine. It’s understandable to trust and believe that which you have experienced and that into which you place your belief, but it’s unreasonable to insist that your experience is more valid than someone else’s – or, god forbid – that someone else’s is completely invalid. Our different experiences absolutely do lead each of us to the same Truth.

I’m at a place in my current life where I most value those who are not only “set in their ways,” but also still allow for others to be set in their own, possibly very different, ways. I found a video online that seemed to do a good, short job at expressing the immense diversity in my religion. In Hinduism, there are more than enough seats at the table and everyone is invited: Atheists, Advaitins, Jnanis, Bhaktas, …and Hare Krishnas.

 

 

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

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If You’re Only Just Beginning

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

There’s a swami I learned about online and have followed from a distance – although I’m not really sure why. I suppose I’m intrigued by some of the things I notice about him. Recently, he spoke about meat eating and yoga. Here’s what he said, “When a person starts a practice of yoga, a strict vegetarian diet is necessary. Without this, it is generally not possible for the kundalini to move. Later on, vegetarianism is not so important, because as a person eats meat they actually experience the suffering of the animal. They experience the fear and anger that the animal experienced at the time of slaughter and they actually feel the pains of death. By going deep into this experience, they ease the suffering of the animal and they liberate its soul. In this way, they sever their bonds to the karma of eating meat. When meat is eaten with this kind of awareness, it does not create karma. But when meat is eaten without consciousness, it binds us to our own animal nature and increases our suffering exponentially. When we are caught in the nature of the body and mind, eating the flesh of animals is a great obstacle to liberation.”

I’ve not reflected on this enough to be able to say whether I really agree or disagree but I thought it was interesting because so many people have so many thoughts on the matter and his words are something, at least in regard to the wording he used, that I’ve not heard someone say before.

I think I did once read in the Ashtavakra Gita or some other Hindu spiritual text that a true yogi / holy man “accepts whatever food is offered to him.” A billion other sources from the Yoga Sutras to the Bhagavad Gita, in their own ways, also advise us to be practical, realistic, unemotional, without disturbance of the mind or ego, etc… when contemplating Reality and in our pursuit thereof. I guess, in indirect ways, those texts and teachings support what the swami has said here.

We always read about the “ideal” we should be striving toward. Words like sattvic, vegetarian, and bhakti come to my mind. Regardless of one’s background much of the same seems to be repeated. “Be the best you can as you reach toward The Goal, and doing it in such-n-such way is the best and most effective way.”

The swami’s words relate no less, but surely differently. I agree with him insofar as highly advanced people being able to eat “bad” stuff without the usual negative baggage the rest of us are trying to avoid. I’ve preached in a few posts here that most of us can’t even eat the “good” stuff without lugging along the exact baggage we’re trying to avoid by not eating the “bad.” And I agree that a kind of detox at the beginning of one’s yogic journey surely helps to ignite the process.

But what’s this about the yogi being able to feel the dead animal’s anger, pain, and fear? Could it be related to some of the claims made about people “noticing a difference” when they abstain from flesh products? Most of the time I’ve only heard this mentioned in regard to the feeling of having a bowling ball in one’s gut or feeling generally heavy and sluggish after eating much meat. Ellen DeGeneres once talked on her show about how she thinks we’re ingesting and digesting the fear and sadness experienced by the animals, in the form of their hormones released into their flesh tissues while being butchered, whenever we eat meat.

But even if we construe what the swami said to what others like DeGeneres have said and neatly tie everything together under a pretty, dharmic, meat-free bow, at what point does the consumption of that beast become the vehicle for its liberation? The swami mentions going “deep into this experience” to effect that animal’s freedom but… how exactly? It sounds like something that tampers with the akashic record or something.

And also, if one can have a bite of a burger and “taste” the animal’s fear and pain and anger, then wouldn’t that be a deterrent for the potential meat eater? Most of us don’t seek ugliness, per se, but it would then seem that to make the choice to continue eating meat is necessarily a choice to experience anger, sadness, and pain. Isn’t it? Or – I suppose one possible flip side of that is that it would mean that the more advanced a yogi is the more he should want to eat meat – all boddhisattvas incarnating in human form and concerned with the uplifting and liberation of each soul should hit the meat buffets in an attempt to free all those life forms who ended up on a plate. I suppose revealing these questions simultaneously reveals the distance I have yet to travel before reaching that level of yogihood, but I’m still curious about the answers.

Maybe the answer came in the form of the resultant dialogue I read. Someone else had read the swami’s words and the response was, “So if u know its wrong to do it and feel the pain of the animal eating meat does not create karma? Sounds like a very crap idea to me. It should have more negative karma since u know that the animal suffers and u still choose to eat it.

The swami answered back, “If you do something you think is wrong, whatever that thing is, this will create karma. Right and wrong is a human concept. Try to think beyond right and wrong.” Perhaps this swami, like Patanjali and so many others who have taught such similar truths, has actually tasted objective and supreme Reality and has realized that the play of light and dark as experienced by the human brain, and mind, and emotions is ridiculously skewed and mostly unreal.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

From India

City_Dwellers

 

Some time ago I placed an order with the Shri Ram Chandra Mission online bookstore. Unlike the order prior to this one, my shipment was received in a very timely manner and – unlike any other time I’ve ordered in the past – a tracking number was provided! The only cause for frown this last time around was that about five of the items I ordered came as DVDs which was a big surprise to me because I only ever intend to order books.

Lately, though, the abhyasi community has been talking about and learning about the concept of “cheerful acceptance.” Obviously, this is something deeper than it sounds, but I can tell you – from a fairly superficial level – that getting DVDs when you almost never sit before the television and especially when you’re expecting books, definitely gives one a chance to practice cheerful acceptance.

Anyway, I’ve been making my way through these DVDs, watching them in order of the dates they were released. This morning I watched, “India in the West” (part one). The video, like many of the others, is of our late Master Pujya Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari telling the story of how the SRCM was introduced to the West. His own father was one of the first from the Mission to visit other countries for the sake of the Mission – and that story is a bit fantastical. Some years later the Master currently recognized as the second modern Master of our lineage (he’s not the actual second Master, of course) began traveling outside of India and the rest is history.

It’s amazing to read or hear of how small things start sometimes and then to recognize their wonderful growth. From this documentary alone, and really also from other books, I’ve learned that there was a time when an entire nation or another might have had just ONE practicing abhyasi. Just one – yet now there are centers and ashrams in many places with many abhyasis.

One thing said in the documentary that caught my attention will, here, be a quote of a quote. Chariji was quoting my now great-grandmaster Babuji during a moment when Babuji was speaking to European abhyasis. I didn’t jot down the exact wording, but Babuji said something to the effect of, “I am liberating you from India.”

Hey Bhagwan!

These words instantly brought to mind a conversation I had about a month ago with another abhyasi. He’s Indian, but looks Pakistani. He manages to maintain a “full” figure and yet remain diminutive (something I’ve noticed in many Indian men). Our conversation started out very basic and was prompted by my car’s license plate which is a specialized plate reading, “GANESHA.” He recalld driving behind me the first time and noticing the plate – and then being shocked when he pulled up next to me and saw “white” skin. He was very curious about my knowledge of Hinduism and, like so many other Indians I’ve had this same talk with, he remarked that it’s very likely I know more of our religion than even he does, having been born and raised in India and still being very traditional in many ways despite his life in America. I’m not bragging in the least about this – I’ve heard it more times than I care to recount and each time it makes me a little uncomfortable. We can maybe talk about that in another post.

So… as our conversation was nearing its end he asked me about my view of Ganesha, method of Ganesha puja, and puja timing and all that good stuff, and brought up that our masters have said a number times in a number of ways that we’re “not to worship images” … or something like that. I answered to him that I’m not a “slave” to the ritual of worshipping Ganesha, which is really what the masters’ warnings are about. I do take into consideration the “proper” methods and timing and all that good stuff, but that I can essentially “take it or leave it.” I’m not sure if it’s entirely honest to say one can “take it or leave it” regarding something for which a person has a pretty clear preference. But what I told him is close enough to the truth that my conscience rests easy. I also think this “take it or leave it” business is somewhat hinted at, in very different terminology of course, in the Bhagavad Gita.

I’m kind of getting sidetracked here, but what I’ve meant to get at is that this nice young man with whom I chatted was very clearly under the control of tradition. I mean, we even talked about it – he admitted that, like many Catholics, there’s a tendency with Indians to blindly follow whatever they’re told tradition says is right, without even knowing why it’s supposedly right. And so, there’s a certain freedom I have as a non-Indian Hindu that he will struggle to achieve because from the time he was an infant, every square inch of his life was dictated by Indian tradition. He may well struggle to have Indian spirituality without the Indian religion.

This can be good for people who seem to need a pre-established structure in order to feel comfortable in an identity. But it’s truly this same structure that limits things like understanding and experience. On a grosser level it’s very obvious for Christians and Muslims who insist that their Dharma is the only valid one. For Indians / Hindus, this manifests no less – just differently, and in a manner that usually allows for other Dharmas to also be valid. So with the Abrahamics we end up with, “My path and only my path, for everyone, regardless.” And the Dharmic version of this is considerably more tolerant but often doesn’t involve hardly any more understanding than that of the Abrahamics.

Although other sages from India had already left India’s borders to touch the West, at the time SRCM was reaching out of India much of Indian spirituality was limited to within the borders of that nation. I think it’s because of this that my Master’s master’s master, while speaking to Europeans, said what he did. “I am liberating you from India.”

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti