Kolob

I know of a lot of people who think Mormons aren’t “real” Christians. I always thought that was an interesting and hypocritical view because so many of the Christian denominations spun off because of a similar view of another denomination. To my knowledge, Mormonism is the only one that stood away on its own because of an additional revelation and not just a new understanding of the same scriptures used by everyone else. (Although, to a smaller degree this did happen when Protestantism became a thing and so there’s a difference between the Catholic and Non-Catholic bibles.)

I recall one gal I am fond of, and who is a very devout young lady, telling me that Mormonism is a cult. To that I simply reminded her that in its own formative years, original Christianity (which of course wasn’t called that then) was THE picture definition of a cult: Smallish group of people who saw a human as a man-god and made a new religion from it. (AND a Middle Eastern cult, no less, which really made her cringe)

For a lot of reasons I won’t go into here, I explore Mormonism when I have the time. It’s low on my priority list because I’m not at all looking to change paths, but I do like to understand the world as much as possible and I’m somewhat curious by nature. I’ll tell you now that I’m usually more intrigued by what I read than I am put off. If you remove Mormonism from arenas like politics where it’s too easy to force views onto other people, and just start digging to see how deep you can go just to see the religion as religion, then you may be surprised. As a gay person, I can say that there is certainly a hard line that prevents Mormonism from ever being anything I could seriously consider – too much on their various sites confirms a general consensus that I am, at best, second class and in need of fixing. Been there, done that (with the Baptists) and I have no interest in a repeat. But all that aside, which is really putting aside A LOT,  there are many things about the Mormon path that I find to be encouraging and helpful.

In some of my studies, I sometimes find things that most who are simply curious would maybe not come across. I’m usually looking for things that set it apart from being just one more bland denomination of Christianity. One of those is “Kolob” and I wanted to write just a little about it because the hymn has very much impressed me.

Below you’ll see a short, modern music video of a hymn that is uniquely Mormon and to say I love it would be a great understatement. It’s called “If You Could Hie to Kolob” and I love it because it seems to parallel some deep teachings of Hinduism in some unexpected ways… At least, that’s the case from where I sit, and I love seeing where religions overlap. Before you read more and start to feel the need to correct me on anything let me be clear about something: I’m viewing this through Hindu lenses. My understanding or interpretation may or may not fall in line with what Mormonism teaches, but that’s not at all my concern. Anyway, there are a number of YouTube videos showing different renditions of this hymn and I encourage you to search them. You can click here for a display of the lyrics offered by the Latter Day Saints, although below I’ll share more about the lyrics.

 

 

 

 

From various LDS sources (misc. websites and blogs, etc…which I’m not going to cite here) I’ve learned much. I’ve learned that Kolob is a planet-star that is physically the nearest to the actual physical location of Heaven or God. My understanding of the Mormon layout of the universe has Kolob as among the very first of all creations in the physical universe, thus the physical proximity to God, Itself. Creation expanded out from God which is the Source and Center of all and everything and there also seems to be a natural hierarchy and status of everything which correlates directly to a thing’s proximity to God in the physical universe. So the farther you are from God the “lower” you are… kinda. Get the idea?

With that understanding, Kolob is extra special, extra exalted, and extra symbolic. From a physical standpoint, Kolob is the nearest to God and so presides over what is less near. Additionally, Kolob symbolically represents Jesus who is the Christ of the Christians. Jesus is the first “creation” and sits nearest the Father and has dominion over that life which is less near to the Father. And this extra layer of meaning, regardless of the mistakes I might have just made in explanation, is one way the hymn really impresses me.

The first verse of the hymn (284) goes like this…

“If you could hie to Kolob in the twinkling of an eye, And then continue onward with that same speed to fly, Do you think that you could ever through all eternity, Find out the generation where gods began to be?”

Speakers of modern English don’t know the word “hie.” It’s basically synonymous with the verb to hasten. “If you could hie to Kolob” is kind of explained by the second line which uses “twinkling of an eye”… AKA If you could get to Kolob REAL fast. But stopping at the closest place to our Source isn’t enough – we need to actually get there if we can (“… and then continue onward…”). The end of this first verse ties it directly into the second one.

If you could speed your way toward God, toward the Source, then you could pass the generation in which the first gods arose, the grand beginning where space came to be, and (in my interpretation, at least) into even the last cycle of the universe when gods and matter ceased. The last three lines of the second verse really speak to something Heartfulness and Sahaj Marg and Hinduism consider among the most supreme ideas: The idea of pure space where nothing has a place is the Zero, the Central Region. Most religious people, regardless of how they define words like “God” or “Gods,” won’t entertain idea of what might have been “before,” but here it seems to be a direct consideration.

Moving on to verse two….

“Or see the grand beginning where space did not extend? Or view the last creation where gods and matter end? Methinks the Spirit whispers, ‘No man has found pure space, nor seen the outside curtain where nothing has a place.'”

The rest of the hymn is descriptive and continues to add to the layers of meaning and insight – a very Hindu trait.

“The works of God continue and worlds and lives abound. Improvement and progression have one eternal round. There is no end to matter; there is no end to space. There is no end to spirit; there is no end to race. There is no end to virtue; there is no end to might. There is no end to wisdom; there is no end to light. There is no end to union; there is no end to youth. There is no end to priesthood; there is no end to truth.”

That’s most of the rest of the hymn and chunks stand out like shining stars to me…. Worlds and lives abounding, improvement and progression having an eternal round, no end to matter or space, no end to wisdom, no end to light, no end to truth. I’m sure I’m seeing these is some ways very different than the meaning meant in the Mormon context, but I don’t think that matters. I’m sure my view and theirs are more alike than not and even if that’s not the case I’m still very much enjoying to find such possible depth in a place so surprising to me.

I’ll close by spelling out a last verse of the song, which shares two very significant lines from the hymn – there is no end to love and there is no end to being.

“There is no end to glory; there is no end to love. There is no end to being; there is no death above.”

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Daaji Jayanti

Daaji

Daaji

 

In keeping with his preference to celebrate such occasions in silence and interiorisation of the Divine presence, we invite you all to sit in meditation wherever you may be, at the following local times:

6 p.m. on Tuesday, 27th September 2016.
6:30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., Wednesday, 28th September 2016.
6:30 a.m., Thursday, 29th September 2016.

May we all express our love and gratitude to beloved Daaji by participating wholeheartedly on this occasion filled with Grace.

While centres at local level may have a gathering planned during these days, it is not necessary of a special travel to an Ashram to celebrate Daaji’s birthday.

Affectionately,
U S Bajpai
Secretary
Shri Ram Chandra Mission

Chrysanthemum Lore

For the last month or so, I’ve been spending so much time (and money!!!) on something that I decided on rather sporadically and which has resulted in something mostly new to me. Color tattoo! Until now, I’ve had five tattoo, but none in color really (the closest I’ve come to that was some Persian poetry inked between my shoulder blades at the base of my neck which was done in a VERY faint henna-like color and which is now so faint some have asked if I had it lasered off, as though they were looking at the remnants).

Years ago, at the place all my other ink was done, “Old Man Jay” consulted with me about an abstract swirly design idea I wanted. We weren’t very specific but he basically understood what I asked for. But only VERY basically. And then, unlike any other tattoo I’ve gotten, Old Man Jay took a Bic brand ball point pen and started free-handing a design on my left bicep and upper shoulder area. When he had finished, I looked in the mirror at his handy work. It wasn’t what I pictured, but to be fair I hadn’t pictured anything really, thus the concept of an “abstract” swirling design. I knew that I didn’t want anything that looked “tribal” or gaudy or like what I’d seen on so many other people. That’s actually a little funny now because what you’ll see below is something MANY people have had done. At any rate, when he was finished, it was good enough at the moment to give the green light… And so he began scraping the design into my skin. When he was finished, I was pleased enough and so I paid and left and the rest (for that tattoo) is history. It was never something I loved, but also never something I actually regretted or felt I didn’t want others to see. Sometime later, I learned from others at that tattoo shop that Old Man Jay was sick with testicular cancer and not expected to survive. (I more recently found that not to be the case at all because he’s upright and doing business at that old shop! Cancer survivor or big fat liar?)

Fast forward a few years and I found myself in a different tattoo shop (one suggested by a friend) to make a purchase unrelated to tattoos and decided to consult with an artist about doing some “cover up” work.

There were only two tattoo artists employed there at the time, one of which being the owner of the establishment. But both were out. So instead, I consulted briefly with the piercer who said he was apprenticing under the owner. He gave me a general idea and said I should come back the following Monday to talk with the man. So I did. The owner’s name happens also to be Jay. Something about the name Jay and tattoos! The consultation with Jay went well and we scheduled and appointment for a week or two later for me to come in and get started.

That appointment was a Thursday and all my appointments since then have been on Thursdays. The first session lasted 3.5 hours and cost me more (I paid per-hour) than probably all my other tattoos, combined. That evening, before leaving, I made an appointment for two weeks later, for color. I came in a week after the first appointment to brag to Jay about the compliments I’d gotten on his line work, to discuss color ideas, and to confirm my appointment the following week – which was last week.

And so last Thursday I arrived, I went to the shop and pulled my shirts off (I’m almost always wearing two t-shirts) and he began etching hues into my skin. Fact: When basic lines are being tattooed into one’s skin, a single needle is used. Another fact: When shading and color are being done, multiple needles are used at the same time and my guy had NINE needles in the gun he was using on me that day. I spent four hours there and all but about the first 30 minutes was excruciating. Seriously – I’ve had things pulled from inside my body, out through my penis, and later a 3-feet section of tubing removed the same way (the tubing was removed while I was awake and sitting upright) and those experiences were nothing compared to this pain. Soon in, the pain had me sweating so much that it was running down my back and dripping off my elbows and soaking his chair. Half of my body trembled due to the pain. Once, I even jerked my arm away from him – almost involuntarily. That usually gets you kicked out of the establishment right then. I lucked out because right as I was jerking my arm from him he was letting go to refill the ink. It was pure misery and a real test to my pain threshold.

The design settled on was one of waves (at the bottom and throughout), clouds (at the top, only), and chrysanthemums, or as we call them here locally, “mums.” If you click here you’ll be taken to a site that details some lore about different flowers and I found it really fitting and an encouragement for choosing as I did. Among the great things you’ll read by following that linkout, below are meanings and symbolism that resonated a lot with me and I wanted to share here.

The Chrysanthemum means… lasting friendship and non-romantic affection, support of family and friends, rest and recovery after trials or challenges, cheerfulness, positivity,  & life and rebirth. This flower is associated with the month of November – the month in which my birth mother died. And it’s also associated with All Souls Day (Usually considered a Catholic or Eastern Orthodox holiday but is connected to what we now call Halloween, and in this context links to honoring the dead, which means much to me). Added personal meaning from my side is that there’s a flower for loved ones I’ve lost: My paternal grandfather, my aunt (dad’s side, in-law), my maternal grandfather, and my birth mother. It’s possible that in the future, I’ll add a flower for my dear friend Leah as well as eventual other losses.

In closing, I’ll share below a series of pics taken while work was being done on me and during breaks. In the first pic showing my skin, you’ll faintly see the original work by Old Man Jay which was being covered in this effort. The final pic is of me after I finally came home that night, showered off, and was totally spent by the long day and terrible physical pain it held.

 

The owner's workspace

The owner’s workspace

 

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Colors!

 

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A colorful mess

 

Basic shadowing completed

Basic shadowing completed

 

First color outside of the color used for lines

First color outside of the color used for lines

 

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Finally, a very VERY tired me

Finally, a very VERY tired me

 

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Path-ery

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I took this picture a week or so ago. I had just plopped down onto my bed and was looking toward the bedroom windows when my cat, Darel, walked into the room. Sometimes, when sunlight streams into the room through these windows, he and I will cuddle on the floor in the warmth of the light. He greeted me as he came into the room and then walked right past me to take a seat near the window where he could see outside. And then I snapped this pic.

After clicking the pic on my phone, I went to the gallery to view the pic. It appeared to me right then that so much about the pic communicates many of the things that I hold dear, and I thought to share those with you.

In the picture you’ll see a plant. This plant is known as a Christmas Cactus. It isn’t blooming right now, but when it does it produces rich red flowers that feel kind of waxy to me. It was grown from a pruning off of a friend and coworker’s own plant which she had in the office. I value all expressions of life and I love that this cactus is an heirloom of sorts. Life being passed on and grown fresh from that sharing.

Speaking of valuing life, Darel is a fantastic example of life I value. His version of consciousness brings joy and comfort to my home. Further, we have him because *I* wanted him and since the moment I picked him out from his litter he bonded to me as his human. He seeks me out wherever I am in my home and he talks my ear off frequently. I love that he’s in this pic because he’s sitting near my pujasthana, on a small chest, and looking out the window and the world outside. He’s always near me when I do puja and meditation and stops short of insisting I let him participate. And him looking outside makes me smile because he’s curious and in his own way is probably trying to understand so much beyond what he is able.

The pujasthana / mandir you can see is one I’ve had for a few years. In it are housed a maha-murti of a version of Viraganapati as well as smaller murtis of Shiva, Lakshmi, Hanuman, Buddha, other murtis as well as some rudrakshas, a ganesha yantra, and a framed photo of my lineage’s four most recent gurus, Lalaji, Babuji, Chariji, and Daaji – which was a gift to me from friends in Heartfulness. This mandir is a physical manifestation and representation of what religious expression my life has. Obviously, things in this context are a bit bigger than the simple pujasthana can depict, but it suffices to bring so much to my mind.

The small chest Darel is sitting on is something I’ve had for a while and inside it I stash a wide range of things – most of which have to do with extra puja items and other religious or spiritual paraphernalia. I hardly look in here unless I absolutely need to. This chest is bittersweet to me. The good side of this item is that because of the chest being there, I have access to things I might not otherwise be able to hang onto or have handy. The flip side of that is that the chest represents baggage. Essentially, crap I feel like I can’t let go of or go long without. I have more evolving to do.

On top of the chest, and next to Darel, you’ll see a book. It’s maybe tough to discern but that book is packed full and totally stretching beyond what it should. This is my version of a witch’s Book of Shadows. Witches keep a Book of Shadows as a dedicated place to compile their religious and spiritual knowledge – and that’s exactly what this book does for me. In addition to being a wisdom holder, this book hold photos of some of my loved ones, pressed flowers from funeral and other events, drawings I’ve made, etc… The book is of a good size and build but very quickly I knew it would run out of space so I started gluing in inserts that fold out or pop up so that each page with this feature can actually serve as many pages. The book, with all of this, now has a belt looped around it to keep it tied closed – or as closed as I can make it.

I’m sure you’re looking at the pic and reading these things here and thinking to yourself, “Big deal.” That’s okay. There’s more to this pic than the things I’ve mentioned and even if I only took the pic because of Darel it would hold no less value or meaning to me. Is there anything in your life that you look at at think to yourself, “This sums up SO much”?

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Reality is Enough

“Life is not a bed of roses.” That’s what Babuji said in a Whisper from the Brighter World on April 19th of this year, which I’ve attached to the bottom of this post. He went on to talk about how life’s challenges are essential to the process of evolution and it all ties back into so much that I’ve read throughout the Sahaj literature – It’s because life is not a bed of roses that we’re not impressed by the idea of a life of sannyas or retreating to the Himalayas permanently to seek enlightenment. From the very beginning of life – period – the only evolution that’s ever happened has occurred because of a challenge or stimulus faced. “Trials are necessary and formative; without them there would be nothing to drive things forward,” he says. I have always said that, as human beings, we’re endowed with a unique and highly-evolved ability to learn without the need for misery. But that doesn’t in any way conflict with the idea that life would come inherent with trials. Trials are necessary. Misery? Pain? Suffering? Those are fully optional.

The month of June, for me, was kinda full where trials are concerned. Most of May, for that matter, too. I was approached by a zonal coordinator wondering if I’d ever considered serving as a preceptor and I was thrilled at the idea. For anyone unfamiliar, this role comes with no glory. As I understand, it’s mostly an opportunity to plug in deeper and serve on a greater, more thankless scale than other abhyasis. Still, that’s exactly what sounded good to me. I’m always happy to assist my local Heartfulness community – be it financially, with my time, with my meditations, or with any skills I possess which will help further our cause. And to be clear – I do or have done all of those things and there’s never been time when I’ve been told “no” to serving because I’m not a prefect. But still, the idea of serving as a prefect made me happy and so I agreed to become a candidate.

I’m a little sad to report, however, (and I do mean only a little) that my candidacy was not successful. After doing what most people would considering jumping through hoops as part of an embarrassingly, insanely disorganized process, and receiving what many would interpret to be positive signs along the way, it was ultimately decided that I would not be chosen. My region / zone did have others who were put forth as candidates and some have been successful. And it’s not uncommon at all for a candidate to be refused on the first try, or the second try, or the third, etc… I know of abhyasis who were so taken with the idea of being a prefect / preceptor that they would approach the current Master in tears because of it and be refused multiple times. The only part of my unsuccessful candidacy that truly ever bothered me (and this is less the case than when things were fresh) is that there was very little in the way of productive feedback given. We all had to study like CRAZY. We had to have read many of the Sahaj Marg works. We had to pass a test which took me, personally, something like six full hours to complete. We had to do a number of other things just to be considered – and that’s truly just fine. Most of those ridiculous hoops jumped through were, at a minimum, for the sake of showing who we were, exhibiting our commitment, and demonstrating that we’d invested in our own understanding of the Marg. These are all good hoops to make people jump through.

But then the answer came and was hardly more than a “No.” (To be clear, it WAS more than a flat ‘No,’ but hardly.) I can say with all honesty and no bitterness that this was the toughest part to accept. Nothing was communicated in regard to whether I passed the written test or whether I hadn’t had enough sittings or really in regard to any of the other hoops which were jumped through just to be considered. All of this process wrapped up just before I made the trip to New Jersey to see Daaji – except I never saw him. I mean, I did see him – once a day or so, from about 30 feet away. Common sense, and some private conversations, told me that there were others in Newark that weekend which were also rejected in this way. To my knowledge there was never a concern for helping these failed aspirants understand the nature of our rejection or how to reapply more effectively. No compass was given so that I could better myself as a candidate – which, obviously, is all for the sake of serving Heartfulness on a deeper level.

That’s something I still think about from time to time, but anyone who knows me at all also knows my life is anything but stagnate. It was around this same time that I was very afraid of leaving Indiana, even for a weekend, because a dear friend of mine was expected to pass away at any time. She didn’t pass until a few weeks after the New Jersey weekend but when she left, I think she took something with me. I’m still trying to sort that out fully, and with any luck I’ll write about it here – but don’t bank on that. The weekend after the failed prefector candidacy was finalized, I had to hop right back into grhasta life and keep moving. Always moving. Always.

Sometimes reality is challenging. But it is what it is.  Being turned away as a prefect, everything leading up to that, and then Leah’s death which followed after was enough for a significant shift in my perspective. Fires of change felt SO hot during that period and I’m certain some dross I’d been carrying was burnt away. I do recognize a difference – a very clear before and after, although tough to put words to it. The whisper shared here was something shared with me by a local prefect – the one who’d put me up as a candidate. I was actually reading it from having received it on my own when she sent it to me along with the words, “Reality is enough, and as such, all is well.” Babuji was our guide, two guides ago. At different times in my Sahaj journey I’ve felt my connection to him more strongly than at other times, usually feeling more attuned to Lalaji, but I can tell you Babuji hit the nail on the head in the whisper given.

“Reality is enough, and as such, all is well.”

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

 

Whisper

Spadery

I’m often the “bad guy.” In my family people know that if something needs to be said, regardless of whether it’s comfortable or not, it’s likely to come from my mouth. I’m also known for not sugar-coating very much at all when I speak. In a recent yearly review with my manager, it was mentioned more than once by her that my communication is very direct and clear and that people always know what I think, whether good or bad. (For the record, this was cited as a strength which I bring to the company and one for which my manager is glad to have me on her team.) I’ve also been asked to review a few tools at work and the Indian gal (whose first language is not English) who asked me said like, “We want your bad feedback.” Of course, she meant that she wanted me to offer what she knew I’d bring to the table anyway: Very open, honest, and direct discussion, even if critical.

This kind of trait in someone is often valued, but not appreciated – if that makes sense. Everyone values the idea of having someone they can super trust, but most people end up just getting pissed because of the honesty that comes with that trust. And often, a big part of that is the frequency of spades being called spades. People are so used to judging spades for being spades that they might gloss over an instance of spadery being called such, but without that usual judgement. They just assume judgement is happening. This is something that is part of the exhausting work placed on the shoulders of someone like me: Seeing spades without judgement and always having to explain the lack of judgement to others – which also means explaining that they too can call a spade a spade without judging. I’m repeatedly baffled that people struggle so much with this. People are terribly judgmental – so much so, in fact, that it becomes automatic too much of the time.

Maria Wirth, as I’ve written here before, is an inspiration. Back in May of this year she published a post to her WordPress blog which talks about this to a degree and goes into the importance of it. Of course, a bit of her point DOES hinge on making the call to label something as good or bad, which is usually a form of judgement. But she makes her point in a very civilized way and I encourage you to click here to have a look for yourself as she’s far more eloquent than I am.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Awareness to One and All

Please click here for a message from September 6th issued from Staten Island by Daaji regarding bringing awareness to one and all.

Thank you

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti