Sweet Dreams Are Made of These

hindu-man_1709177i

A bit over a week ago, at work, we somehow found ourselves in the middle of a debate about dreams. I’ll mention now that I’m actually quite good at interpreting dreams. To save my life, I still don’t know how we came to be talking about this, but we did and it left me with some uncomfortable feelings. That much, I’m still sorting out – at least until I decide I plain just don’t care. Details of parts of the conversation, though, I’d like to share – as well as my thoughts on suchery.

At some point in the chat, a coworker had mentioned that he read that most people dream in the third person. I’d say this is definitely true of my own experience with dreams. Mine have almost always been vivid, and almost invariably where the real me is more of an observer than anything – often watching myself play some role in the dream itself.

At another point, I mentioned that I almost never dream. Right away, people were quick to point out how wrong I am, since studies have shown that absolutely EVERYONE dreams EVERY night. When citing these studies, which these people actually knew almost nothing about, it was agreed upon by just about everyone – who had suddenly become sleep specialists – that I couldn’t possibly not dream. I tried explaining that I’m not saying I never dream. I tried explaining that my sleep is “different” and actually quite aware. I even went into some details about that, knowing already that my audience wouldn’t understand.

Here’s what’s bothersome about all of this: People don’t seem open to the idea that someone else’s experience might differ significantly from the bulk of everyone else’s.

At no time did I ever refute what “studies have shown.” (Well, maybe a little.) At no time did I ever say anyone was wrong. I did, however, indicate that I wasn’t a test subject with any of those studies (and so the results as they would apply to me might well vary) and that I’m fairly conscious while “asleep” and that this puts me in a different position from which I am (was) speaking. Responses I got literally ignored what I was saying. I received questions like, “Maybe you just don’t know that you’re dreaming” which I admitted could be the case except for the mostly-alert awareness I experience while I sleep.

It was actually quite frustrating – these people couldn’t see past what they had already digested in their minds. They really couldn’t. It’s like they were saying, “Apples, Apples, Apples” and I said, “What about Oranges?” and was met with, “No. Apples.” Although it wasn’t mentioned specifically, this factored, a bit, into a recent post wherein I self-jinxed. Things like this are making a change within me.

I can tell it.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namah
Aum Shanti

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The Mandala of Mandela

Taken from Google Image search

Taken from Google Image search

Every once in a while someone comes along and, whether in a subtle way or blatantly, things change. And then they leave.

I’m not one who’s very in touch with world events – at least, not usually until things are done and over. But I am often familiar with the feel of people, even if I’ve never met them. Sometimes, in life’s hustle and bustle, souls pass each other and seem to hardly connect and other times you hardly have to look at someone and you can connect with them, or “feel” them and in that way you can know them.

It’s a bit weird and more than a bit difficult to explain, I guess. But Nelson Mandela is one such person – soul – for me. Before his recent passing I knew not much about him. The basics only, really. But whenever he was in the news or if I came across photos of him, my spirit always smiled. Something about him, without actually knowing much of anything about him, “felt” good to me. I’ve read a few quotes attributed to him. I know in his lifespan he endured harshness and pain and challenge after challenge. But the goodness I know of him actually came from looking at him.

Goodness shapes you. Quite literally! Yes, it shapes your heart and your soul and your mind. And when it’s presence within you is nurtured and cultivated it shows not only in your actions, but in your physical self – your body. It’s like looking at someone’s face and noticing so-called smile lines. Of course, those lines are named thusly because the name references how and where they form. Still, they’re indicative on some superficial level, right? They indicate that the person bearing them smiles – likely a lot. Smiling often is also, in its own way, indicative.

When seeing Mandela, I also was often able to perceive some of the finer aspects of his personal mandala. So many traditions teach that one’s body is their temple. Health nuts use this reference frequently. Certainly, in the Hindu tradition as well as others, the temples we worship in are literally shaped in certain, precise, ways – the very architecture of which is meant to teach us and in its own way be highly indicative.

I can only hope that as my life is spent, people watching and those who look back on my own small life will be able to “feel” me when they see my unique mandala or photos of it and know some level of goodness. And it’s my hope, dear reader, as your life is spent that your own mandala shines as brightly as Mandela’s.

Aum Tryambakam Yajamahe – Sugandhim Pushti Vardhanam – Urvarukamiva Bandhanam – Mrtyor Mokshiyam Amrtat
Aum Shanti – Shanti – Shantihi!

Image take from Google Image search

Image take from Google Image search

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti – Shanti – Shantihi

Dankbar Fest

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

This year’s was certainly an interesting Thanksgiving. As the beloved put it, “The Jordan family never disappoints.” It’s true, I should admit.

There are lots of things I could be (and am!) thankful for. I have a “special someone” who apparently loves me. This is a treasure coveted by many people. I have a home that’s not only far from poverty level, but is even better than the homes of many I associate with. I have good health. I have a job that pays really well – which allows me to do for others just about as much as my heart wants me to do. I have adopted a religion that wholly suits me and continues to challenge me in ways I often am surprised by. I have so many memories and premonitions / precognitions that make me smile sweetly, for reasons I’ll never be able to explain. So very many things in my life are exactly as I would hope… I’m able to live a wonderful grhasta dharma that is interestingly … swami-ish. And of course, I have a family that is at times both bizarre and amazing.

Of all the things I could be (and am!) thankful for, and one thing I haven’t quite mentioned, I think I am almost surely the most thankful for my teachers and guides in this life. For these first thirty-three years of my current life, The Guru has taken a number of forms: my parents, my siblings, my extended family, my closest friends and many not-so-close friends, work associates, books, music, a few animals, most flowers, and some of my sadhanas.

All along, these many “inputs” have helped me develop into who I am today, but not in the way most people think. For most people, a statement like that means that “who I am today” is a reaction, or maybe a response. But when I use that phrase I intend something kind of different. My karmas seem to be so, that I came to this life with a relatively “even” demeanor. My parents would likely confirm as much and I swear there’s a newborn photo of me hanging on my grandmother’s wall that shows me making jnanamudra when I was only days old. I might be up one minute and down the next, as most humans are, but despite external appearances sometimes displayed I never really stray too far from center. It’s true. And so the aforementioned inputs have provided me with opportunity after opportunity to see my self and gauge what it experiences – and subsequently move from there.

It’s meant being industrious when I need to be – and when I don’t. It means learning how wrong I’ve been about some things in my past, and developing a thirst for “right knowledge” as I enter the present moment (and learn to reside there!). It’s meant knowing when I’m the student and when I need to teach. It’s meant knowing when I’m acting for myself and knowing when I act from the Eternal within me. All those things and so very much more.

I’m convinced that this has made all the difference in my current life – whether in comparison / contrast to the lives of others or as a standalone – and it’s a source immense gratitude for me.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Head-y Heart Games

Taken from Google Image search

Taken from Google Image search

A friend recently accused me of employing hindu head games. He didn’t mean the accusation literally and the context in which the accusation came is too removed from here to really go into. What he was getting at – from a superficial level – is that I push people into areas of thought they may not go on their own and that person’s unfamiliar territory often causes them to rethink a few things. Little by little, this gets the ball rolling in other directions and if the effort is maintained and followed through, it can bring wonderful changes and growth. However, this is something I think runs far deeper than even he realizes and I want to discuss, as briefly as I am able, what I think might be the very best of Hindu head games.

In many branches of Hinduism, we’re taught that our (little) self isn’t much to speak of although usually very problematic and that our (big) Self is our truest essence and is a sliver of God and is essentially the same from one person to the next. This bit of belief is actually of supreme importance.

There’s a story (which I’m certainly about to butcher) of a robber running into a monk on the roadside one day. The robber either attempts to rob the monk or asks the monk for a boon or something along those lines. By the end of their discussion the monk has convinced the robber that he can give him a mantra that will bring the robber more riches than the monk could ever hope to possess, let alone be robbed of. The mantra was, “Mara.” I now forget what the exact translation of that is supposed to be, but I think it was along the lines of “bitter” or “Devil” – certainly not anything positive, which apparently appealed to the robber’s sensibilities. And so off goes the robber, repeating his mantra, “Mara” hoping that he’ll gain riches from it. The monk, though, has tricked him. The thief starts off, “Mara, Mara, Mara, Mara…” and, as would happen naturally with speech the ending of one repetition is sewn into the beginning of the next and so the thief gradually and almost seamlessly goes from, “Mara, Mara, Mara…” to “Maramaramaramaramaramaramara…” which little by little is the same as “Rama, Rama, Rama, Rama…” And so, the thief has been subtly “tricked” by the monk into chanting one of God’s names and is thereby changed into a good person. End of story.

If there are Hindu head games, this story surely illustrates one – and one that is paralleled in the concept of self / Self.

Most people live and behave very selfishly – centered around the (little) self. This is the only identity some people ever realize in life. I need this. I need that. I am this. I am that. This feels good to me. That does not. However, most teachers (although not all) within the Hindu belief system encourage their students to go deeper and deeper into things like meditation, prayer, and jaapa. Sometimes these practices appeal to people who are seeking peace or happiness. “Look within” says the Hindu guru. And so, in an effort to serve what they perceive to be their self, people might start this – their motives at this point are almost invariably selfish (little). They’re entering these efforts perhaps to escape thoughts and energy that habitually cycle and recycle around and around within their minds. Like seeking the most comfy spot on the couch to chill out, these people enter sadhanas for the results the think they will get. And they may get them.

But there’s something else they’ll get, too. (Big) Self-realization. A major difference between this and the thief / monk story is that the monk pretty much tricked the thief. In other settings, his kind of guile isn’t needed or employed. Still, if we were to take a clear look at why many enter sadhanas of various sorts, we’d find a great many reasons that are (little) self-centered. And yet they enter, and with any luck they gain depth of experience here. And so then what happens?

They go deeper and deeper into their practice. And as they do, they gain an increasingly clearer picture of the (big) Self. As more time is spent gaining familiarity and transparent access to the (big) Self, the very definition of that Self is experienced and the seeker will eventually learn that This is common to all sentient things. As that new experience becomes increasingly familiar, a weird thing happens. You enter through the door of you, but as you learn of the Self and experience it, when you come back out you are using the door of that same Self – but in others. That is, you realize and experience That which is you to be identically true and paralleled in every living thing. This is the essence of a teaching of Jesus I referred to a couple posts ago where we’re told to love our neighbor as our self. It’s like diving into the swimming pool in your own back yard, but surfacing in the pool in your neighbor’s yard.

Some pools are above-ground and some are in-ground. Some are heated and others not. Some are circular, some are rectangles, and others are amorphously-shaped. Yet the water in your own pool (in each pool) is not different than the water in their pool (or any other).

Our neighbor, truly, IS our Self and I think this is the best Hindu mind game.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Guilty Programming

Art by Sanjay Patel

Art by Sanjay Patel

Through The Wormhole with Morgan Freeman often is on my television often eveningly. Most of the time I don’t get to enjoy any of what’s on my television, let alone something as useful as this show – I’m (almost) eternally buried in school work. However, in an effort to spend more time near my beloved, I’ve been spending less time in my temple room and instead have been doing assignments on the first floor, in the dining room which connects to the family room where the only TV we own is situation centrally.

I’ve found, far more often than not, that Through The Wormhole is essentially Hindu in nature. In many episodes, no joke, the same laws of physics or… well, anything, the things that are discussed are eerily similar to the notions and concepts put forth by Sanatana Dharma. A recent episode was no exception. Icing on the cake however, was that a segment of the episode reminded me closely of a conversation I had with someone some time ago.

During our talk, he mentioned something about impure thoughts and working through them. Now, I’ll leave you to whatever conclusion you’re most inclined to regarding the definition of what an impure thought might be. Our talk included whether impure thinkery would affect one’s karmas.

I do think our thoughts ultimately affect our karmas. However, my take from the beginning was that impure thoughts don’t really exist. Lemme share…

1) Thoughts are just thoughts. Like literally anything else, the perceived goodness or evilness of a thought or anything else depends entirely on the one doing the perceiving. This is supported by quantam physics believe it or not. A recent article I came across on Facebook can be accessed here, and in plain English details that even “solid” matter only behaves they way it does when it’s being observed. To be sure, your table is only a table so long as consciousness is “watching” it be a table. Otherwise it not only becomes part of “everything everywhere,” but also literally flickers in and out of existence.

Thoughts are no different. Their flavor and indeed their very existence depends on them being observed. And when a human mind is being used as the tool to do that observing, you end up with “good” and “bad” because the human mind is a programmable thing that comes with all kinds of preconceptions.

This is why so many people ruin their own meditations. They struggle to sit back and watch the inside of their mind. For one, they think they are the mind. This is the first and biggest problem. If original sin exists, and is truly passed from parent to child going back to Adam and Eve, THIS is it. For another, they instantly become frustrated when a thought arises, because the preconceived notion of what meditation is starts a fire that every following thought ends up fueling. This is what happens when someone tries to make meditation happen. Interestingly, those thoughts are neither natural fuel for that fire, nor automatic. We label them as “bad” instead of letting them arise and fall away, and in doing so add them to the fire. Thoughts are just thoughts. None are inherently good or bad, and even after you label them thusly, they still aren’t truly either. Jnana Yoga is this realization in one’s life – it opens the way for a foundation to be set, it allows for progression from that starting point to occur, and Jnana is verily the culmination of full realization.

2) When we misidentify, we add those thoughts to the fire by labeling them good or bad… or impure. Whenever we do this, THAT’S the first chance they have to manifest within our karmas. Prior to that there’s no impression of those thoughts upon us. These impressions are known as Samsaras. Samsaras are like groves on the wheel of death and rebirth. Truly, regardless of how minimal or severe those groves are, a grove is a grove and it still needs buffed out. These groves are the karmas we experience. Being able to identify those groves specific of your karmas/karmic wheel is a part of Jnana yoga. Part of Jnana yoga means looking upon them with Truth as your light and as your sight, and this results in no longer making a mountain out of a molehill … or no longer calling impure something that has no actuality. When you manage to stop this you are resolving your karmas and may finally exit the wheel of death and rebirth.

This is actually something I could go on and on about. The Jnana texts are full of this kind of wisdom, shedding light on the nature of Reality. It’s never wrong to call a spade a spade, but deciding whether a spade is malevolent or beneficent… or impure – that’s where we often get ourselves into trouble.

ॐ असतो मा सद्गमय ।
तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय ।
मृत्योर्मा अमृतं गमय ।
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

My sincerest hope is that we can all learn to be free from the baggage we’ve inherited and so far have mostly either refused to question or been to lazy to question.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Deer Cam

Image taken from Google Image search

Image take from Google Image search

I’m still fairly new at my current position in the company I work for – next Monday, actually, will complete my first month here. In the last four weeks, along with lots of technical knowledge pertaining explicitly to my new work responsibilities, I’ve been getting to know the other newbies hired around the same time. One, a younger Caucasian male from my city’s south side (aka Redneck Central) has been very clear from the beginning, through various random conversations we’ve had, that he consumed deer meat more than any other flesh – by far. He’s also mentioned that he and his family is quite the hunting clan and that they hunt/kill almost all the deer meat they consume. He’s also mentioned that he maintains a webcam from his deer stand and likes to spend time watching recorded footage of the wildlife that passes through where the stand is.

(As an aside, allow me to add that this young man is an interesting mix for a person. He’s country. Loves Wal-Mart. Refers to the Affordable Care Act as Obamacare and just this morning was going on about how bad it’ll be. Yet, the first day on the job while we were out to lunch together he asked if I’m married and I answered, “Not until it’s allowed in the state of Indiana.” He quickly nodded, implying that he understood what I meant, and the first thing out of his mouth was, “It’s so stupid they won’t allow it here.” He’s an interesting bird, indeed. I mostly like him.)

So back to the topic… He mentioned first thing yesterday morning that his brother had “bagged one” recently and had recorded the whole thing on video on his phone which was somehow cleverly mounted to his cross-bow. I didn’t think much about because the conversation is par for the course with this gentleman. However, I gave it much thought later that afternoon when, on his work computer, he displayed and played the video sent to him from his brother’s phone. For being recorded on a mobile phone, the video was surprisingly long. Almost the entire video was of two deer, about 10 yards away, foraging at the edge of the woods. One was much smaller than the other and neither had horns. The video ended in the expected way, although I did not watch.
Sport hunting is something I’ve always been against. Lots of people will cite overpopulation and a number of other “good” reasons for hunting. I just don’t care and the reasons tie into what I mentioned a number of posts ago for why I’m choosing to abstain from meatery.

Nature is perfect in that She always takes care of her children and takes care of business when it needs taken care of. Naturally speaking, things are never out of balance (for long) in nature. Humans are experts at creating imbalance and preserving it. Populations naturally swell and dwindle – no help is needed on the part of humans. Add to that the obvious advantage humans have over creatures like deer and the fact that we no longer need to hunt for our sustenance, and … well, it makes me REALLY frowny. Sad, in fact.

Many consider hunting a sport. I don’t. Sports are played for leisure or income and all parties involved understand their roles. This isn’t so with sport hunting. It’s mostly unnecessary and it’s pretty mean.

The larger deer in the video has since been forced to leave the body it had. I couldn’t begin to speculate what the next step of its journey might be. What I do understand is that the compassion I feel in this case is something that needs checked. That might sound a little strange, but it’s true. Ideally, I would simply accept that hunting isn’t for me, allow my coworker to live and do as he wants according to his own swadharma, and keep moving. I’ll obviously allow him to continue on his path in the way he knows best, but in the mean time I’ll be assessing why this aspect of who I think I am thinks/feels this way – and try to be less frowny in the process.

Aum Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

33rd Appearance Day

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

In the past, on my birthday, I’ve written about how birthdays are one’s personal new year and how I use the day to establish resolutions (which I don’t ever really do) and assess things in life, set a few new goals perhaps. It really is like a January 1st for me. This year is different, though. I have no interest in setting goals or personal resolutions on my body’s very own new year.

In recent weeks, however, I’ve been assessing a few things. A few things that are actually really very and truly important to me as an aspiring/developing Jnanayogi. In an earlier post, I mentioned the value is perpetual assessment and questioning. To be clear, I don’t mean to doubt. I mean to explore and to experience and to know.

Occassionally, I find nuggets that really hit home and help me do that assessing and either show me that I need to adjust or confirm that the direction I’m pointed in is correct for me. Recently I visited a blog that is one such nugget. I’ll encourage everyone to visit and follow that blog, which can be found here. Below, I’ve copied/pasted a lengthy post from there titled “Spirituality of the Intellect.” For me, this title is fairly synonymous with Jnana Yoga. If you read the post, and if it makes even a little sense to you, and if you implement some of this wisdom in your existence, you can be sure that so much else will fall into place. There are, of course, many other valuable and enjoyable posts on the blog which I also encourage you to read.

Om Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti
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Spirituality of the Intellect.

One of the oft repeated assertions in spiritual circles is that the mind and intellect is a hindrance to true spirituality. This is only a partial truth, an oversimplification of the diverse possibilities of a misunderstood and ill-defined (in normal parlance) part of the human organism.

The mind is but a lose term for a collection of psychological processes-drivers of a human being. It can be broadly classified into 3 parts. First the sensory mind, also called manas, which controls and reacts to influences that reach the mind through the sense-organs. This part of the mind is driven by instinct and compulsive reactions. Then the chittah, repository of all impressions and influences, also called samskaras. Everything that a normal human being ever does, howsoever insignificant, plants an impression in the chittah. At odd times, in otherwise uncalled for situations, the chittah can throw up random, arbitrary images from an semi-forgotten past. The third part of the mind is a mental ahamkara. A very subtle I-sense whose job it is to endlessly and mindlessly oppose, sometimes in a secret and subliminal manner, any part of the human being that is asked to transform itself in the process of sadhana. The ahamkara will do just about anything to hang on to the old personality including all its various likes/dislikes/automatic-movements/passions/desires/comfort-zones ETC, for only by the survival of the older flawed frontal-personality can the ahamkara’s own existence be justified. Often people wrongly translate the word ahamkara to mean pride. Pride is just one manifestation of it, equally expressions of humility or pity or even friendship (or any human relation) can also be a work of the ahamkara. Any refusals to change the flawed habits of the surface personality is a work of the ahamkara fighting for self-preservation.

From this chittah, is thrown out another aspect of the mind – the part which in the realm of pure-thoughts. This is buddhi. In most people the buddhi part of the mind is inseparably tied to the manas and the chittah and the ahamkara. Therefore the thought process is driven in a very subjective manner by the randomness of the conditioning present in the chittah or the compulsive, reactive nature of the manas, or is taken for a royal ride by the ahamkara churning out comfortable but insincere logic to justify the preservation of the flawed, frontal personality. The Buddhi thus becomes severely distorted and defeats the very purpose of its own existence. Such a mind is terrible master.

On the other hand, if the Buddhi is taught to function without being influenced by the sensory mind or the repository of random impressions and conditioned thinking, or be at the service of the ahamkara, then it can work in an objective and non-distorted fashion, searching for the truth as it is, and a trying to find the route to that truth. Such an intellect, unsoiled and pure, is never outraged by anything for agitation is foreign to its nature, can look at all possibilities however obnoxious or repugnant in complete calmness, and weigh them on well defined parameters of judgement. To do this the intellect has to slay the demons of the sensory mind and chittah and ahamkara, at least temporarily if not permanently, which is the higher aim. The Rig Vedic Rishis named this pure intellect as Indra, one who has won the battle against indriyas (sensory mind, manas), the mighty slayer of the demon vritra (meaning envelop), and hence named vritahan.

Once this pure intellect is developed and instilled and one learns to operate from that platform of pure-reason, one must ideally head for the next stage of pushing the frontiers of the mind and intellect into a higher region of functioning, where by default the intellect can integrate apparently contradictory lines of thought in a harmonious manner. Even higher than this stage is an intellect with a natural illumination and unfailing intuition, which can known things by dint of a process that seems to bypass normal logical constructs. Beyond this intuitive mind, lies a vast Cosmic Mind, the mind of the Great Gods where like a Universal game of chess one see innumerable possibilities on every side, gigantic divergences, near-infinite karmic-chains and their exact repercussions right down to the minutest details. It functions not from the premise of piecemeal analogical building blocks of reason, for such a lower method simply cannot handle a universal complexity of unspeakable proportions, but from a perspective of spontaneous knowledge that does not need to strive. And then there is a mind beyond this too, the mind where direct knowledge of Truth comes by the inalienable oneness of subject and object, of viewer and the viewed, or the experiencing-agent and the experienced-subject, where everything is simultaneously and equally divided yet undivided. There is no point thinking of it from our normal mind. Whatever one may think, whatever one can think, will be inevitably flawed for sure, because this is as far beyond the ranges of the average human mind as a normal man is to a cockroach.

The one singular disadvantage of the intellect, though, is its habit of moving in endless circles when it hits a logical road-block. If one falls into that trap, the intellect hinders the seekers progress. However if one is well aware of limits of pure intellect, one can very well use it as a stepping stone into a higher range of the mind and beyond. But to imbibe the essence of these higher platforms of the intellect, one must first develop the pure intellect – uncluttered by manas, chittah and aham, which is the beginning of the spiritual planes. And therein lies the problem for 90% of people, as the mind in most has not learned to offload the retarding, retrogressive weights and soar high above on its own wings. Therefore the spirituality of the intellect is off-limits to most, and consequently the intellect gets unduly demonized.