Automatic Heaven


I came across an article posted to Facebook this early afternoon that made me gag. The article, which can be found here, details briefly an incident where a snipit of conversation between two cricket players was caught.

In the conversation one player, who is a Muslim, is telling the other player, who is a Buddhist, that anyone who converts to Islam automatically is allowed into Heaven. Automatically. This kind of pisses me off.

For starters, I’m pretty sure that’s not what the Koran actually teaches. I might be wrong, but I think that’s oversimplifying the doctrines of that religion and I feel like more credit should be given to the path itself. Some years ago Islam was the only religion I studied (this lasted for over a year) and during that time I learned many dark-n-wondrous things about Islam that many others might not know. It’s been a while, but I don’t recall anything so flat or sweeping.

The second thing that struck me is that it appears to somehow be okay for this Muslim man that someone would join his religion JUST for the prize in the box. How cheap is that? And I’m wondering what kind of person he thinks he’s attracting by discounting his own dharma in that way? I would assume an offer as simple and cheap as the one he’s making to this Buddhist would only really be attractive to someone so lazy in their own religious / spiritual life that avoiding Hell is their only real concern. There was no mention of “Islam will make you a better human” or anything like that. Just “join the club, and get the prize.” Pathetic, and frankly dangerous. I think it follows that if someone is lazy enough in their own effort or their own understanding and joins because it means “automatic heaven,” then my guess is that this same person is probably going to make a fool of himself at some point – inviting this kind of fool into one’s “religious club” seems to put the club at risk of looking stupid when this new (selfish and lazy) person inevitably shows his arse. Why would anyone care to risk that – especially when considering a religion like Islam, which is unfortunately already suspect in so many regards?

Thirdly, the offer as it was made implies that the Muslim not only understands very little about his own dharma but also the dharmas of non-Abrahamic believers. If you come from an understanding that Heaven isn’t the final stopping place, then what value is automatic admission through the pearly gates going to hold? Probably, temporary value at best. So to offer heaven to someone who sees it as a pit stop more than anything else seems about the same as making a bid deal out of offering a rented video to someone. They understand that they cannot keep the video, so what exactly is the favor being done here?

The last thing that bugged me about this is what was said to the Buddhist when he apparently refused the heavenly offer. He was met with a response like, “Be prepared for fire, then.” (The actual response may have been differently worded, but that’s pretty much what was said to him. I don’t have the article opened right now.) If one’s offer in conversion was truly as sincere as I’m sure this Muslim man would have everyone believe, then why was the reaction to the answer he received from the Buddhist, “Fine then, but you’re gonna be fucked after you die”? If that response is any indication of the personal development Islam is capable of, I’d say the Buddhist is better off staying with his current dharma. Sadly, I know similar behavior to be true of Christians, also. I know this because once upon a time I was guilty of nearly identical behavior.

The biggest question of all that this brought to my mind is: Where are the Hindus that do this? Where are the Buddhist attempting compulsory conversion of non-Buddhists to Buddhism?

Can anyone point me to resources that illustrate this behavior among Hindus and Buddhists?

Aum Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti



A concept that has been a part of my life since before I knew what it meant, or even what it’s called, is that of the boddhisattva.

A boddhisattva is an entity who has vowed to stay on the wheel of samsara from the beginning of their moksha/liberation until the end of all yugas/time cycles and through the Mahapralaya, or Great Dissolution at the end of all material existence. This sounds all lofty and esoteric and, fine, it is. But it’s also very basic: Love and compassion for those hurting drives the rare soul into Guardian Mode and they embark on a nearly-eternal journey to help others raise their own life state and find their way back to the Source we’re all from.

I’d never go around telling people that I’m a boddhisattva, indeed I’m almost certainly not. But there are times when I wonder how close I might be to taking the vows of the Boddhisattva and embarking on my own journey of selflessness. I mean, moksha is just about all that’s on my mind for great stretches of time, my favorite thing in the world is to seek after things of a “higher” nature and then to share whatever I might discover. Friends and strangers alike all respond to me similarly, strangely enough. And at times, people have come to me for solace or security for reasons as varied as offering strength after experiencing personal loss or angst over HIV testing. And certainly one of the greatest sources of pain that I fall victim to is seeing others suffer -even when I’ve lost a loved one, my only real concern was for my relatives who were also hurting at the time.

But whatever…blah, blah, blah. Right? I mean, how much can one talk about his self, in any context, before readers begin to think he’s just tooting his own horn? Ridiculous. I suppose I might say now that anyone who actually knows me, can vouche that horn-tootery isn’t what this is about and that I’m simply calling a spade a spade, and I could (and do) speak similarly of a number  of others in my life.

Something also known about me by those in my life is that I’m married to Alanis Morisette – have been for years. We’ll never be divorced and I’m thrilled that her music has taken the turn that it has during the last ten to fifteen years. One of her more recent productions, a song titled “Guardian” really resonates with me. I think the lyrics do well at expressing the theme of my life and certainly they do well at expressing how I feel about my “kith and kin.” I’ve posted the video below (with any luck) and hope you find it encouraging. Find the Guardian within yourself, and help It work in your world.

As always, all the grace that is mine to give I gladly give to you!

Mata pita cha

Is it odd that I’m proud of my parents when someone compliments me?

Lest y’all think I’m overly vain or arrogant, I’ll spare you details, but suffice it to say that often enough -for one random thing or another – I’m complimented. I should admit that I have a fairly confident outlook and a really developed sense of who I am, which makes being true to myself easy -even when myself is constantly dissolving and evolving.

Oddly enough, whenever someone compliments me I immediately think of my parents. I’ve been clear enough in past posts regarding what amazing humans I perceive my parents to be. They’re surely incomplete without their own, very human, flaws, but beyond this I adore them. And no matter what someone says about me, my mind recognizes the compliment and immediately attributes it to one of four components: My father, my step-mother (my mom, before now often referred to as my mother), my birth mother, or any combination of these.

Someone says something nice to/about me and BAM – I get that from my mom. Someone else is impressed with something else and my mind immediately identifies that I inherited that trait from my father. Occasionally, I’ll encounter a mixture. For instance, some friends call on me to “win” debates they find themselves in on Facebook. For the record, when arguing or debating anything you can be sure two things will happen: I’ll not hesitate to jump in (stupid? brave?) and try to shred my “opponent,” (my unfortunate birth mother’s influence) and I’ll win (my mom should have been a lawyer and taught me well!).


These mixtures have helped form a number of “rules and observances,” my own personal yamas and niyamas, that now govern my life. One is never to ask anything of anyone that you yourself aren’t already giving, or aren’t willing to give. Another is to leave every person, place, or thing you encounter better than before you interacted with it. (I actually LOVE that personal observance because it can manifest in literally every move you make; every breath you take. Ask me and I’ll share more about this.)

Recognizing the sources of the patches in my life’s quilt is super humbling to me and makes me incredibly grateful nearly every time I turn around. This perpetual “attitude of gratitude” keeps me going some days. I know not everyone comes from a background they can be as proud of as I am mine. Still, no effect is without a cause -whether we label that cause pleasant or unpleasant is irrelevant. Be grateful for the causes that contributed to the effect that you call yourself at this moment.

Om Shanti

Manu Smrti, Bhagavad Gita, & How I Learned to Love Mayo

A couple posts ago I was lamenting how I often feel misunderstood by those I assume should understand me the best. I kind of want to dive a little deeper into this.

I do think that those who have known you the longest or the most intimately should understand you the best. And I stand by my thoughts that deviance from this may well, but not always, indicate a lack of personal development on the part of those who should understand more/better than they do. However, in the scheme of things, and especially in the context of my own life, none of this is truly relevant.

I recently had a sunday brunch with a dear Buddhist friend of mine who helped me gain further perspective on things like this. This pal, also a member of SGI although far more active than I, is definitely someone who might qualify as a local Buddha. I’m immensely grateful for his saintly association, his friendship, and his insight. He said many “dark and wond’rous” things to me while advising, and one of them stands out. His kind of Buddhism has many aspects, and one of them is creating “good causes” and otherwise planting karmic seeds.

Some of the other advice I received, also from a good pal, was to “let it go.” I’m certain he didn’t mean this as a nonchalant dismissal of anything, rather a kind of peaceful release in knowing that I’ve perhaps done what I could to help as much as I could and anything else is essentially out of my hands and not worth the worry. I find that this can tie directly into what my Buddhist saint said about sowing karmic seeds: You make a good effort, one that’s as selfless as you’re able to make, and then move on while you wait for the seeds to blossom karmically sometime in the future, maybe during this life or maybe not. I think all of this can be connected directly to what Sri Krsna advises Arjuna. The lesson applies to the process of perfecting karma yoga as well as vairagya and requires a certain level of jnana also.

You are meant to work. The way your personal work (swadharma) manifests can almost be viewed as irrelevant, so long as you recognize it and fulfill it to the best of your ability. Attachment to the fruits of your personal labors (karma phala) is where things get messy, and in my case frustrating. I hope to see that my good advice has a good effect. This is selfish, actually, and quite ego-filled. I’m guessing that’s why it’s advised against in the Gita. Instead, I should simply want to make sure that I walk my talk, and that the proof of my swadharma is in my life’s pudding for others to taste. What happens often enough, is that the proof is, indeed, in my life’s pudding, but I also try giving them a verbal taste test. Not necessary.

This brings me to something from the Manu Smrti that I carry with me most places, but forget far too often. An excerpt from the Manu Smrti goes something like,

“Unless one be asked, one must not explain anything to anybody, nor must one answer a person who asks improperly; let a wise man, though he knows the answer, behave among men like an idiot.”

I struggled with this briefly when I first encountered it, because on the surface a superficial interpretation can totally apply. Let’s look at the bigger picture though, and try breaking this thing into chewable bits.

“Unless one be asked, one must not explain anything to anybody…” My understanding of this is not a “spoke only when spoken to” kind of deal. I see this as meaning that unless folks come to you wanting answers, you don’t owe them to anyone. You may have the answers, and it may be fine enough to offer the answer unsolicited, but it’s not expected. It’s always best to share knowledge whenever another may benefit from it, but you don’t have to.

“…nor must one answer a person who asks improperly; …” I remain unconvinced that there’s a specifically right or wrong way to ask for help, and I think something else is meant here. To acquire my advice, you need not approach me, touch my feet, offering a pranam/namaste before asking what you seek. Those are all cultural fancies, and mostly useless. They have their place, sure, but what’s more important is that the seeker possesses humility and sincerity. If someone doesn’t ask for help while displaying those two qualities, perhaps help is not their’s to receive. Afterall, the Law of Karma mandates that we receive in direct proportion to what we give -not the other way around.

“…let a wise man, though he knows the answer, behave among men like an idiot.” I think this is my favorite part of the excerpt. Of all the parts this has been broken into for analysis, this is the meatiest. On the surface, it rather paints a picture of some snide sage sitting back watching in amusement while those still learning run, perhaps repeatedly, head-first into the wall. But this isn’t what’s happening here. Without getting too deep into it, and while still pretty superficial, when you allow others to think you don’t know the answer, when you really do, you create the potential to offer space for experiential revelation. They can, and hopefully do, find the space to work out the answer on their own. In the Hindu context, this has immense and incredible value. Simultaneously, the one behaving “among men like an idiot” experiences a greater feeling of liberation in that moment. That person with the answer, rests in knowing that he doesn’t need to say a word for things to happen as they will; as they should. This person has the opportunity to step out of the karmic cycles of the other person and let everything fulfill itself. This differs from a notion I’ve entertained more than once, which is to withdrawal: to stop tossing pearls to swine, to let the punks fight over their trinkets and make them solve it all through the ridiculously long process of experiencing pain and adjusting when that pain becomes too much.

It’s been said it takes a village to raise a child. I’m pretty much about as raised as my parents can hope for, but I’m still working on things. And between Manu Smrti, Bhagavad Gita, a dear local Buddhist, and another wise pal I’ve never even met in person, I’d say it’s close enough to a village to call it even.

By the way, loving mayo has nothing to do with anything.

Om Shanti