Genie in a Bottle

Saint Joseph of Nazareth

Saint Joseph of Nazareth



So… As I’ve grown and changed over the duration of my life so far I’ve found myself less and less inclined toward being attached to ritual of any kind. My life still entertains a number of rituals, some mystical and some mundane but the over all less and less. Generally speaking, the increase of freedom I know in my life is directly proportionate to the decrease of ritual therein.

I have, however, in the past had a tendency to implementing ritual the most when it’s needed the most. And is that not what it’s for, after all? Ritual could be described or defined as an algorithm. It’s a set of steps in a set order that solves a problem. There are lots of different kinds of problems, so naturally there are many different ways to tackle these and solve them. To be clear, when I use the word “problem,” I don’t mean it strictly in its typical negative usage. I think there are lots of so-called “problems” that are good to have. Good problems.

I think, too, that it makes me rather typical that I care most about ritual when I perceive a greater need. I don’t feel bad about it, though. Using ritual just when you need to solve a problem or accomplish something isn’t any better or any worse that using a hammer when you need to drive nails or a screwdriver when screws need tightened. Ritual serves a purpose and nothing can be better than knowing and honoring that purpose.

Two years and one day ago I employed ritual like nobody’s business and achieved a goal I’m still unsure I’d have succeeded at otherwise – or at least, I perhaps wouldn’t have succeeded so terrifically. And I’m right back at it – and crossing religious lines to do it!


We’re selling our townhome and I’m told that the Catholic Saint Joseph is the man to make it happen. The maternal side of my gene pool is very Catholic so some of these things I’m a bit familiar with. Still, St. Joseph isn’t super familiar to me. In fact, it wasn’t until I decided to do some homework that I even realized that this Joseph was the step-dad of Christ Almighty. A dear Lutheran friend of mine insisted that I give Joseph a shot. Willingness wasn’t much of a stretch for me. Here’s what I understand about the ritual surrounding using St. Joseph helping to sell one’s home.


1) St. Joseph was THE family man and a prime example of what fatherhood should be.

2) St. Joseph is the saint of departing / departed souls, selling houses, and maybe a few other things.

3)  If you have a back yard, you bury him upside down, facing the property and exactly 3 feet from the structure.

4) If you have only a front yard (as with my property) then you bury him right side up, facing away from the property, exactly twelve inches into the ground.

5) If you have zero yard, then you can simply place him on a shelf or some other prominent place in the home.

6) The image of St. Joseph is supposed to be owned as a gift from a friend and not bought by the person selling their home.

7) There can be found a prayer or two that a person is supposed to say to invoke the blessings and intercession of the saint.

8) Once the sale is a success, it’s said that St. Joseph is due lots of glory and credit and so forth. Some literature on the matter even indicate that Joseph is supposed to be exhumed and brought with to the new home location.


I don’t know Joseph well at all. It took me a bit of reading before I even realized that THIS guy is the same as the one who was an adoptive parent to Jesus. I’m not planning to “be” Catholic or anything, although that would thrill my grandmother. I just want my house to sell, and sell quickly, and Saint Joseph is apparently just the hammer needed to drive that nail.


Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha

Aum Shanti


After You’re Gone


Some time ago, I ranted on Facebook about how offensive I found the Mormon practice of “baptizing the dead.” I feel very strongly that this practice violates some kind of cosmic rule of live and let live. When I ranted, a number of my own family members who became Mormon after my grandfather’s passing, spoke up and said that I was wrong about that ritual and that I shouldn’t speak out about things like this because it makes me some kind of hypocrite. To be clear, it’s my understanding that this kind of baptism merely presents the dearly departed with a chance to accept the Mormon belief structure and gain the Mormon afterlife. Also, the hypocrisy referenced by my disgruntled relatives is apparently in regard to my critical attitude about someone else’s views or practice which my family members – knowing next to nothing about Hinduism – think goes against Hinduism. In this case, they would perhaps not be wrong within certain contexts, but in this context specifically they are still not necessarily right, either.

This weekend I’m spending more time at the computer than is usual because it’s my turn in my department’s on-call rotation. As I was logging on recently, I saw some kind of news headline mentioning that two popes were gaining sainthood “to bridge a divide” or something. It struck me… These two dudes were resting in peace, burning in hellflame, or maybe tossing crowns at Jesus’ feet or something (do only Protestant souls do this or Catholics, too?) and now their own afterlives are about to change entirely when they are sainted and begin interceding on behalf of Catholic believers who want something.

All this afterlife meddling. WTF?

Whatever happened to simply offering food and a little homage to our deceased relatives and letting past lives be past lives? I’ll admit, it’s a little tough for me to understand how devout people can be cool with trying to change the afterlives of their loved ones without their permission. But who am I?

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti


Taken from Google Image search

Taken from Google Image search

Some time ago… in fact just two weeks shy of 10 months ago I spoke with a friend and also with a client about superstition. To speak of, I’m not superstitious. But sometimes I do wonder if I’m not fibbing to myself. You see, I live almost entirely un-superstitiously for 99% of the time. But when I really want something, and even more so when I really need something, I pull out the ritual like a madman. And then, of course, regardless of what happens afterward, I wonder for some time as to whether my ritual had anything at all to do with what did/didn’t happen. (Of course, ritual is simply planned action, and all of everything experienced is the result of SOME kind of prior action. Whether or not we can discern the connection is a different story.) When I consulted a client about this, her opinion was that it wouldn’t matter if it was actually effective or merely superstition, because it provided a structure for your faith, hopefully for your betterment as a person. I’ll tell you a story to help illustrate this.

A year or so ago, I briefly stepped away from most social engagements and distractions and immersed myself in sadhana in a way like I’m not sure I had ever before. Propitiation with a big “P” is an understatement. It was intense. Pujas. Long long jaapa sessions, fasting, dhyan… I may or may not have ejaculated into a fire while intoning 4,500 year old Babylonian chants, it’s hard to say. But I really pulled out all stops. And it worked. The desired result was achieved AND it turned out to be even better than I thought it would be or hoped for. It’s gotta be the Babylonian spells.

At any rate, I did this again a few weeks ago. An opportunity presented. A shift on various levels. Shiva’s Tandava that I REALLY wanted for my life, and indirectly for the life of my best.

My beloved and I work for almost the same company, but really the same company. My company (before I came to it) bought his a while back. He recently moved into a different position, which is something he’d very much hoped for. In the position he’s leaving he was making a very nice income, plus decent bonus, and among other “perks” could work from home (this is a mixed blessing because on one hand you can work nekkid, but on the other hand there’s no such thing as a snow day, which the company is generally fond of). When he applied for and was given the position he’s about to move into, I applied for his current position. Of course, getting his position would mean an increase in pay for me, as well as an increase in my current bonus percentage.

But almost immediately after applying for the transfer, things seemed absolutely stacked against me. They didn’t seem very inclined toward an internal candidate. They wanted someone with far more technical experience than I bring – in fact, they were actually looking for an over-qualified candidate. And about 90,000 people seemed to be interviewing. These and other factors made the whole thing feel rather insurmountable. More than once I would lament to my beloved via the office IM about how hopeless I felt.

Naturally, as mentioned before, I buckled down and did my pujas, my japaa, my dhyan, and my sex spells (just kidding). This time, I even employed the Christian prayers of one dear friend and requested a Hindu on wheels to keep his eyes religiously crossed for me for no less than two weeks.

And once again, the obstacles were obliterated – and then some! I not only beat out all the other internal candidates, but also all external candidates except one (only because they were technically hiring two people). My first interview was dry, to say the least, but the second interview – which was where I would have been skewered – was a blast. As if simply getting the offer wouldn’t be enough to make me smile, the raise I received was far more than anticipated and even more than my beloved got when he was awarded this position and his new position.

As an interesting aside, a number of months ago I applied for a somewhat similar position elsewhere in the company, and the interview was about as close to an actual train wreck as I’ve ever known. For the purpose of this post, I should mention that I refused all “extra” ritual in the weeks leading up to that interview.

Also a number of months ago, my best confessed to me, “you have better karma than most people I know.” Knowing that karma is action, and that ritual is also action, and taking into consideration that nothing “just happens” and that everything is the result of some prior action (as per modern physics), does that mean superstition doesn’t actually exist? Or does our ascribing results to certain, possibly-unrelated actions, constitute superstition simply because we can’t technically trace the cause of something? Is it ok to marvel at stuff like this and possibly risk being sucked into a mental construct of what we must or mustn’t do to get or avoid certain life events? (Not unlike avoiding certain gods because we’re fearful of what Their presence in our life might mean) Or should we take a more atheistic view and only assign effects to discernible causes, negating most – if not all – wonder? I think I know the answers for myself. What are the answers for yourself?

If this is basically all just superstition, I should admit that by this point I’m increasingly inclined toward so-called superstition, at least the one(s) I’ve chosen. If the proof is in the pudding, I’m almost convinced I’m surrounded by bowls of it. And who in my shoes wouldn’t be? If Babylonian chants and fiery sex magic do the trick, then trick the damned thing out! No?

Om Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti

Out with the new, In with what never left


A little over four years ago, I was entering school for medical assisting. Truthfully, of all my educational investing this venture was the most questionable. That talk is for another post. But in preparation for class, I needed to find certain uniform attire and found myself in a uniform shop for healthcare professionals… the kind of place that sells scrubs and stethoscopes and all that goodness. The employee who helped me was a tiny Asian woman who was about as pleasant as someone could be. Her name is Cynthia and at the time she noticed that I had a little green prayering Buddha on my keychain. Her face lit up and she asked if I am a Buddhist. I view that to be a trick question.

If you blur your vision enough, asking a Hindu if he’s a Buddhist is a little like asking a Catholic if he’s a Christian. The answer given may likely be no, and that’s valid. But so would be an answer of yes. Very simply put, Catholics are Christians + much pomp & circumstance. (The use of the word Christian here is meant to be its widely understood meaning of Protestant, although you can surely see overlapping, as Protestants and Catholics are both Christians, thus the multi-layered answer to the original question.)

That same broadened vision would yield the same results when that question is posed in a Hindu/Buddhist context. I’m technically not a Buddhist, but as with Catholics/Protestants, much of the foundation is the same – it’s just a matter of how showy or not the externals are. It probably doesn’t do either religion full justice, but it might be said that Buddhism (Protestantism) is like Hinduism (Catholicism) without all the rules and ritual and stuff. Of course, over time, Buddhism developed more and more into a religion of man and also developed many of the very same externals that caused it to branch out from it’s parent religion to begin with. The same has happened with Protestantism. Some legs of the Buddhist family might as well be another sect of Hinduism and some Protestant denominations could just as well be another leg of Catholicism – and in fact, I’ve literally heard of denominations like the Episcopals and Lutherans referred to as “Catholic Lite.”

Let’s get back to my original thought.

The sweet, tiny woman from the Philipines asked me if I am Buddhist – and I answered in the negative, clarifying that I am indeed Hindu. Knowing a little about Hinduism and it’s birthing of Buddhism, she smiled widely and then proselytized. Actually, maybe evangelized is a better word. Either way, she shared with me her Faith, which is Nichiren Buddhism, a branch of Japanese Buddhism, in hopes that I’d join the ranks. The act of doing this is known within Nichiren Buddhism as “shakabuku” or “shakubuku.” And so, I was shakubuku’d. She helped find what I came to her store for and later that evening I went to a district meeting and met other Nichiren Buddhists.

Now might be a good time to detail a little about the Nichiren Buddhist sect. Here goes: Some hundreds of years ago, after Buddhism had left India, it went into China and then the Koreas (back then only one existed I do believe), and then into Japan. Along the way, like the Hinduism that spawned it, it became more legalitarian and too “organized.” Consequently, it also became a bit distorted. Enter the Daishonen, who I’ll refer to as Sri Nichiren. Sri Nichiren was a Buddhist monk who sought to whittle out all the add-ons Buddhism had acquired over the years and ascertain THE truth of the original Buddha. At the finish of his various travels and studies, Sri Nichiren discerned that the essence and culmination of all the original Buddha’s teachings were to be found in the Lotus Sutra and no where else. Further, he “discovered” that one could attain/realize one’s own innate Buddhahood by chanting “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo,” which is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese characters that spell out the original title of the Lotus Sutra. He then began to spread what he had learned and he also began to be persecuted. He was exiled and eventually died (or was killed), but not before he’d authored a body of work which is now known as The Gosho and exists as the scriptural body of the Nichiren Buddhists. He also came up with what any Hindu would identify as that religions central “murti,” which is called the Gohonzon. It’s basically a scroll of very nice rice paper with “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” written down the center and various other inscriptions surrounding it – many of which are actually names of Hindu gods. Time passes and like virtually all man-made religions Nichiren Buddhism becomes just as muddled as all the others, and like Catholicism the priests were among the greatest offenders. This eventually led to the greatest excommunication in world history. MILLIONS were excommunicated from official Nichiren Buddhism, which spawned the creation of one of the largest humanist lay organizations on the globe – SGI, or Sokka Gakkai International. To this day, SGI and the Nichiren Sho/Shoshu are not pals, although the SGI has busied itself with humanist and humanitarian efforts and seems to be doing very well. The SGI’s “guru” is a man referred to as Sensei, his name is Daisaku Ikeda, and I think he’s the third in the succession of SGI so far, after Nichiren and after the mass excommunication. The SGI is a religion, or isn’t, depending on who you ask (typical Buddhist answer, as Buddhism is also known as the religion of non-religion), and while their path has many elements, it mostly revolves around reading either the Gosho or the Sensei’s writings and chanting of some sort (they have two forms of chanting, “gongyo,” which is recitation of parts of the Lotus Sutra and should be done 2-3 times daily, and “daimoku,” which is simple and fervent chanting of the organization’s mantra, which should be done just about any old time.)

So, I started going to local SGI district meetings and learning more about this faith. Truth be told, there isn’t much to it. Chant and be happy. They truly are focused on “overcoming” just about everything. I can very much appreciate their emphasis on owning one’s karmas and transmuting the misery of life into joy. These people are where I got the notion of “turning poison into medicine” that I wrote about some posts ago. They are very gay friendly, very pro-women – truly the happiest and most humanitarian and humanist group I’ve ever known. Literally.

I went to meetings regularly all through the fall and winter that year. Cynthia and her husband, George, became my “mata cha pita.” (Sanskrit for momma and papa, although the grammar is jacked – it should be “mata pita cha”) In late spring of the following year I “received” the Gohonzon and so did my best friend, who’d started going too. I also purchased what amounts to an expensive cabinet for the Gohonzon, which is called a butsudan, as well as a very nice ritual bowl and mallet for ringing at appointed times during gongyo and daimoku. I bought very nice editions of The Gosho and subscribed to the group’s various publications.

But I think I might have been pre-tainted when I joined SGI. They never technically ask or insist that you leave your existing religious affiliation when you join. But I think you kind of have to, or you can’t really say you’re drinking their Kool-Aid fully. Truth be told, I never actually left Hinduism – after all, they said I didn’t have to. But I did rather put it on a back burner and really delved into the SGI. What hooked me was their claim that the practice of Nichiren Buddhism would help cultivate, uncover, and bring out one’s innate Buddhahood, which they rightly say we all possess. “Just chant,” they insisted. Sure, follow the other tenets of this practice, but mostly just chant, believe, and watch goodness and Buddhahood open in your life like a lotus.

Their district meetings contain a predictable element known as One-Minute Victories. During this time, anyone who wants can share something that the magic of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo brought them. Sometimes it’s something pretty fantastical, but mostly it’s along the lines of someone got a flat tire, they started chanting and five seconds later someone else stopped to help them. Fine. Dandy, even.

Please understand that in the 1,410 (or so) words leading up till now, I don’t take any real exceptions to the practice of Nichiren Buddhism. They truly accomplish amazing things. But the old saying that the proof is in the pudding kept bugging me the whole time. I saw pudding everywhere I looked, but very few buddhas indeed. It made me sad. All of the things people were chanting for were “stuff.” A new house. A new car. A new job. One woman even admitted to chanting with the intent that a certain plane would crash over the middle east because some harsh dictator was going to be on that plane and she knew that even if others die in the process, the world would be better with him gone. None of the One-Minute Victories I ever heard of was of anything not mundane. Most of these people never seemed to actually chant for Buddhahood or enlightenment, let alone exhibit It. They wanted cars, houses, easier lives, but not fundamentally “better” lives or selves. None seemed to be seeking transcendence.

These wonderful souls were full of devotion to The Mystic Law, as they referred to It, but very few of them possessed anything deeper than that zeal. Like I said, pudding everywhere but not much proof in it as far as I could tell. Or truer yet, none of the proof I sought. In their defense, it’s entirely likely that I entered that fold with different expectations than the other believers. I hoped that I had found an organization that not only managed to literally treat everyone equally, but also would progressively reveal the Self at my core. For me that never happened, not even a little. I did have some interesting experiences, but nothing to write about. There were many who seemed to be getting what they wanted from the practice, which obviously fueled further zeal on their part, but there were many others still who always seemed to be asking, “Why am I not getting what I chant for while others are?” And so, by and by, finding few Buddhas and few experiential realizations, I drifted away from SGI. Via Facebook I still stay in touch, but that’s truly almost the extent of it.

This past weekend, I began making preparations for some planned changes to my temple room. In the process, a stand that my butsudan had been sitting on was moved to the temple room’s closet. The butsudan, the bell-bowl, the Gohonzon… all will be re-packaged, nice and secure, and relocated to my attic.

Later today I’ll be getting out the ladder and making that transition final. This is a sweet good-bye, though. The closing of the SGI chapter of my life (at least for now) is indicative. As much as people might read into my words in this post, there’s nothing the matter with SGI or Nichiren Buddhism. For literally millions of people today this form of Buddhism is a valid and integral part of their current existence. It is absolutely a positive force on our planet. I can recognize the origin of many of its principles and practices and that makes me love them. As with any other critique one might find here on Sthapati, the true meaning of the critique is simply a detailing of why one shoe or another doesn’t fit me – and with that, as I say good-bye to Nichiren Buddhism I offer an honest and sincere Namaste and “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” to my Nichiren Buddhist pals. Certainly, all the grace that is mine to give I gladly forward on to your good selves.

Om Shanti

Little Boy Blue, Come Blow Your Horn…

…The sheep are in the meadow! The cows are in the corn! Where’s the little boy who looks after the sheep? Under the haystack, fast asleep!

Is there anywhere, any place at all, within the Catholic Church that isn’t touched or overshadowed by pedophilia or other sexual immorality? When this institution collapses (it’s already crumbling), the face of the earth will surely change.