Movies

Sometime around the 27th of December, I came across this piece online about “How Movies Embraced Hinduism: Without You Even Noticing.”

I read it, and recall being a little disappointed in the actual content – I think, based on the headline / title, I expected there might be a little more substance to it, but whatever. In my opinion, pieces like this are good for getting people interested in Hinduism, or – for those already interested but perhaps not sure where to start – for giving a snipit of some of Hinduism’s foundational and shared beliefs. I recall first learning about Hinduism and almost immediately finding parallels between learning about Hinduism and how I learned the German language.

You see, I studied German formally for a number of years, and quite soon tested out every level offered by my school. After demonstrating my proficiency and speaking to the board, I even taught it for a little over two years – allowing me to watch my peers catch up.

I started by taking the “first year” German class. It wasn’t terribly challenging, but I think most year one classes aren’t meant to be. Then, that following summer between school years, I spent the whole school break out by my family’s pool soaking in the sun’s rays and reading a German-English dictionary. Yes, I read the dictionary. It had been a gift to me from a woman who worked for my mother at the time. She’d married a soldier (now deceased) she met while he was stationed in Germany decades earlier, and the dictionary she gave me was a “German” German-English dictionary – this meant that even the English side of the dictionary was in German. That’s fine and dandy until you find yourself looking up 17 words in order to learn the one you originally set out to learn.

But it was actually real fun for me, as I’ve always loved language. I drank up everything that Woerterbuch could offer as quickly as I soaked up the many goldening rays of the sun. That much explains why I returned to school knowing vocabulary that was light years ahead of myclassmates, but something I’m still unable to explain is the grammar. I started second year also knowing, almost fully, German grammar. It must have been something I picked up unknowingly while making a deliberate effort to add words to my vocab list. Half way through that year I tested out of everything, as I have mentioned and the rest is history.

But that story parallels my own process and experience of learning about Hinduism. I often set out to learn one thing or another and in the process of fully learning about and understanding that one thing, I almost HAVE to learn about the 500 things that are in some way related to it. It can make learning a bit slower, but the thoroughness and depth cannot be matched.

And so, despite being somewhat disappointed in the article from The Guardian that I linked to earlier in this post, I also find value in it. It doesn’t actually explain much, in my opinion. But it explains much more than the vast majority of movie watchers would otherwise ever be aware of and might somehow spark an interest they didn’t know they even had.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha – Aum Shanti

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Good Bye

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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.

It can’t repeat itself.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha

Aum Shanti

The Important One

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A Sahaj Marg book I finished a while ago, like many other of the Marg’s books, has me really pondering some things. I’ve been planning to write a post about the unity of Truth and how it is indivisible and had kept putting it off. Based on reading of late, I kinda feel like this might be that post but I’m still yet unsure.

Let’s see where this goes.

So, within the Sahaj Marg the focus is absolutely on spirituality and not religion. In fact, religion has been referred to as a form of kindergarten which is eventually (when the individual is ready) surpassed, transcended, and left behind. Naturally, abhyasis are encouraged to transcend that component of human existence as soon as he or she is able. It’s because of this that Sahaj Marg doesn’t endorse any particular form of God or murti or mantras, yantras or tantras, etc… Depending on who you speak to within the Sahaj Marg there is assigned more or less value on these things, but the Goal is understood to be far beyond and infinitely more subtle than any component of religion can actually offer.

I think one critique Chariji offers of the Hindu religion (which, btw, he is clear about thinking is the most sublime of humanity’s many paths.) is its depiction of Truth, or rather its multitudinous depictions. Our Vedas are clear in the popular mahavakyam, “Ekam sat – vipraha bahudha vadanti,” but I think in the hands of humans this often becomes a trap of sorts. Instead of focusing on the “Ekam” we focus on the “vipraha bahudha vadanti.” Yeah, sure – we use this to validate the assertion that all paths are valid and contain the same Truth. But even then, the emphasis placed on the One Truth is weak and we still find ourselves having to make a strong effort to see past external differences to find that One. The attention is always given to the “various ways” in which Truth is experienced and expressed. This can be understood to be the foundation of religion, and if not, then certainly the skin it develops.

Deepak Chopra has said that all religion really is, is the attempt at replicating one person’s experience of That. I experience Yoga, I tell you the path I took and possibly even recommend it, and then you attempt to recreate that experience yourself. Voila: The Religion (of Yoga).

Speaking of religion, Yoga was likely never intended to be a religion. Well, at least not a religion that belonged to more than the soul practicing it. Yoga was around long before religion was and that’s a very powerful and indicative piece of knowledge. Truth is one – yoga is one. And those who experience it, experience and name it variously. Ekam Sat, vipraha bahudha vadanti. No where in that mahavakyam do we read, “Truth is one and groups of people experience it collectively.” The minute you have groups experiencing collectively, or trying to, you have religion. You have separation.

If one group says, “We experience Truth like this” and another says, “We experience Truth like that” you can assume they’re speaking of the same Truth – after all if Truth is one, then those experiencing it must be experiencing the Same. But you can also know that something not quite true is being said. A more accurate thing for them to say would be, “We try to experience Truth together in this way.” But even then they’re missing the mark: They are seeking the same Truth, perhaps in the same way, but so long as the individuals within that group have unique karmas and samskaras, etc… you can be sure the experiences will be equally unique – not the same.

Just some food for thought on your Thursday. I’ll close with a quite from the well-known Dr. Vamadeva David Frawley, “The Hindu mind does not seek to impose itself upon people from the outside through force or persuasion. It is not interested in a mere change of names, labels, titles or beliefs. It looks to restoring our linkage with the higher consciousness behind the world, whatever name or form we might want to approach it through. The Hindu mind’s wish is that we reconnect with our true Self and Being that transcends all outer appearances and religious divisions and that we honor all the various expressions that Self takes, which can never be reduced to one religion, philosophy, language or culture.”

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

The Heart of Man

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

I’ve been writing a lot more lately about things to do with Sahaj Marg and my experiences therein. This post will be no different.

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how “heart-centered” this marg is and what a balanced role bhakti plays within this marg’s practice / sadhana. A big part of our meditative practice focuses on region of the heart chakra, also known as the Anahata Chakra. This is interesting because the Sahaj Marg springs from the Raja Yoga / Patanjali way of spirituality and brings with it an emphasis on the mind, its workings, and control over it. For the Sahaj Marg, however, the heart is where all the action happens. We work on knowing our Self, controlling the waves within the mind, living simple lives, etc… but progress really happens in the human heart.

I have a day book of sorts – not exactly a calendar but each page of the book corresponds to a day in the calendar year. It reminds me of Christian devotionals that I used to read through during the course of a year, only mine now is Hindu. I had gotten behind sometime around the middle of January and as I was catching up last night I came to an entry that touched me in light of everything this year has brought as well as from the context of my walk with the Sahaj Marg.

The wisdom of one of the days in January is a quote from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and is as follows,”What is the soul? The soul is consciousness. It shines as the light within the heart.”

Adhering to a practice that sees God and our Self as the most subtle light within the heart – so subtle in fact that we don’t picture this Light so much as “suppose” it – this short quote obviously speaks to me. Indeed, it makes me smile.

Whatever your path, I hope it helps you to develop sufficiently so as to experience the inner Light which so subtle it can’t be seen, but only known.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Anahata Chakra, from Google Image search

Anahata Chakra, from Google Image search