Frozen Secrets

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

A number of things have contributed to the inspiration behind this post: A few statuses on Facebook, a conversation with the best, my life experience.

A few weeks ago the Best, the Beloved, and I watched the super popular movie Frozen. With all the hype surrounding it, I assumed I’d be bored with it but that wasn’t the case. We watched it one evening at home and I really liked it.

Sometime after that, and completely unrelated to it, the Best and I were in my car going somewhere and were chatting about female clients in his chair when he remarked at how easy it is for him to evoke comments from those clients like, “You really understand me!” We agreed that it’s probably a far greater occurrence with the females of our species than with the males.

So…. then I thought to myself how I’ve never ever in 100 years thought of actually saying to someone something like, “You really understand me!” For one, it’s usually me who is doing the understanding. For another, I’m a male and in Indiana we don’t usually admit as much to each other (although I’ve probably at least implied as much during a conversation or two). But most, because I don’t think I’ve ever really truly and actually felt very understood. This is surely in large part because of being born as I was where I was. I’m not sorry for it, by any means. And I’m sure it’s been a big (albeit subconscious) contributing factor to my love of language and communication and culture and religion and a million other things that I’ve been drawn to because when I give them conscious analytical attention it’s clear that many of those things play massive roles in who people are and how they are understood by those around them.

So where does that movie fit into all this? The older sister, Elsa, is where. She’s entirely misunderstood. Sure, she’s different and all that. But I think most people don’t understand that that isn’t really where the difficulty is. As a gay male growing up and living my entire life in Indiana I know first-hand what Elsa felt. She took measures to conceal who she is. She took measures to stifle big parts of who she is – hiding away for years and then when in front of others she wore garments to further conceal her truth. She wished more than anything that she could change who she is into someone else. Why? It’s not because she really thought there is something wrong with herself. After all, until the minor mishap early in the movie she actually enjoyed the thing that made her different. The source of anguish was really that no one would understand. And even that isn’t the worst of it.

I can absolutely say the worst part about being misunderstood is people acting and reacting based on a lack of understanding – which of course, they don’t realize is lacking because we all tend to think that what’s in our heads and hearts is the truth. They say a person can only take so much… of anything. After so much, I can tell you, one is left with no choice but to move forward.

Nature makes one either weaker as a result of these experiences or Nature makes one stronger through them. The difference is left up to the individual and ultimately makes no difference to the bigger picture. This sense of being misunderstood, or not understood at all, ends up being fuel for the individual. Of course, to what end that fuel is burned is entirely up to the individual. Many use that fuel to travel a path that essentially destroys who they are while others use it to launch who they are into new and deeper experiences. The movie Frozen shows the potential of both.

Whether you’re gay or whether you’re an ice queen in the making, it’s all the same. The struggle is the same for each of us. It’s important to never forget the feeling of not being understood (as it’s different from being misunderstood). This truth applies to each of us regardless of what uniquely makes us who we are.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

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Ugly Face

Taken from Google Image search

Taken from Google Image search

As a Jnani and aspiring Jnanayogi, a significant part of my work is to recognize my ego in all its subtle forms. There are days when I’m on top of my game and not a thing slips by. And, as could be expected, there are days when I fall flat on my face, stand up, and fall flat on my face again. As frustrating as that can be, and as damaging as that can be to one’s confidence in his sadhana, in times like those I remind myself of the Bhagavad Gita’s message that no effort is wasted and no worship unaccepted.
Recently (Monday night) I really struggled.

You see, my Beloved takes FOREVER to do his laundry. Always. Without exception. I scramble to get all my clothing, our bed clothes, and towels all washed and dried before he attempts to start on his own because I know that once he starts it’ll take him – no joke – the better part of three whole days to complete the task. This is in part due to the enormous wardrobe he maintains and in part due to his inclination to sit in front of the television and lose track of time. Knowing this, and respecting it, I requested that my current favorite hoodie be tossed into the dryer with some of his wet clothing to kind of refresh it until I’ll once again have access to our machines. He obliged. Here’s where the drama enters.

I wrongly assumed that, once that load was done in the dryer, he would kindly hand my hoodie for me. A while later, he was in our laundry room switching loads and was in the process of pulling that same load from the dryer when I entered to tell him something funny I’d just seen on television. It was then that I noticed that not only had he neglected to kindly hang my hoodie for me, but the garment was piled upon itself on top of the dryer in front of him and becoming increasingly crumpled by the folded shirts he was beginning to pile on top of it.

And now Josh’s feelings are hurt.

I made a comment that he should have hanged it. I hanged it. And then I threw a small tantrum as I cut my story off, hastily collected my things and went upstairs – making sure he was aware of my displeasure. This is where it all gets somewhat messy. I always treat his things with high respect and take care so as not to damage them or do anything with/to them that he wouldn’t do or wouldn’t want done. This is the Golden Rule, right? It’s also being a good Hindu. You see, in the same way that nature should be greatly respected because it belongs to The One and indirectly represents that One, the items my Beloved owns and cares about are similarly (somewhat) representations of him. It’s like taking care of books you own because you love goddess Saraswati – books bring you knowledge, and in that way bring you to Her (or bring Her to you). To deface books, is to slap Her in the face. And so, because I would never slap my Beloved in his face, I care for his things without being asked.

So why doesn’t he automatically show the same care for my things – especially when he knows I’ll bitch big time when he doesn’t? Earlier that same night I’d discovered that when he placed baskets of dirty clothes on top of the washer, he’s pushed by gym bag off to a hard-to-access place behind the machine and left it there. The bag is now damaged, actually.

Part of me is hurt that he doesn’t automatically show me the same care that I show him with these things. A part of me expects to receive the same considerate care that I afford him – not because I hope for it in return for what I’ve given (that would obviously be attachment to karmaphala), but because that care should (in theory) be coming from him to begin with – at the same time I’m giving to him. Does that make sense? Whether you think that’s still karmaphala or not, that expectation or hope, rather, is still not an expression of love. The cynical part of me wonders if he’s doing that on purpose because I’d done something else to piss him off – pay back, right? I doubt that because he’s not a malicious person, generally.

Whenever this situation arises (and it has more than once over the last 9+ years we’ve been together), I experience LOTS of thoughts and emotions that would generally be considered unpleasant. Mind you, I don’t care about the hoodie, or the gym bag. I care that he cares – or that he doesn’t. Interestingly, as the years have passed I’ve developed the ability to realize I’m aware enough to be able to recognize these thoughts and emotions as “not me,” but I still feel less in control of them than I should be. I mean to say that I’m aware that I’m aware. This happens when I sleep, too, but that’s a whole other ball of yarn. If I were as much in control as I think I should be, if I were as aware as I think I should be, I would be able to circumvent this drama altogether. Oh the tumultuous bliss of being human!

It’s a strange experience to recognize this internal cyclone as something not yourself. Strange, but good. It gives that whirling energy an identity of its own – which I suppose it already had. After all, that energetic identity being mistaken for my real identity is part of the illusion/delusion of Maya.

So, what does all this mean? I’m not sure I know exactly. I feel like it means that I’m progressing, despite my occasional tantrums. I think it also means that these tantrums bring additional opportunity to be the witness – I’m still unable to manage the energy that manifests the tantrum to begin with, but I’m increasingly able to “disconnect” from that energy instead of being caught up or lost in it, as many people are. Hopefully, this means that I’m progressing toward increased mastery of those emotions, even if only indirectly. I’ll focus on what I perceive to be the silver lining with this, which is that a person less influenced by his emotions than he once was, is that much less reactive and proportionately more on top of his karmas in that context.

It’s awfully deep for a fit thrown over a hoodie, I’ll admit. But it’s increased wisdom, no less, and I’ll take that where I can get it.

Om Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti

द्वेष

ignorance

I love playing the Devil’s Advocate. When you google the definition of that term, here’s what you get: 1- A person who expresses a contentious opinion in order to provoke debate or test the strength of the opposing arguments. 2- The popular title of the person appointed by the Roman Catholic Church to challenge a proposed beatification or canonization…

I could easily be either of those things, but usually just #1 applies to me. The intent of this post isn’t necessarily for the purpose of advocating devilishly, so much as just making my own point about something.

Not long ago I received an email that a blog I subscribe to had been updated. Naturally, when I had free time I went there to read the new news. What I read was manifold-ly bothersome. This blog is maintained by someone I know little about, but respect in a way that kind of surprises my own self. Tandava-ji is well-enough read, writes well, and almost always seems balanced in his approach to whatever is appearing on his blog. He does a great job at showcasing other Hindu bloggery and as such has proven to be a great resource for someone like myself. However, a recent post on his blog (click here to see it) has me scratching my noodle.

The post is about an abrasive young smartass who maintains her own blog and apparently is “wrong in so many ways.”

The drama concerning this smartass goes back a ways… to her own blog, actually, and a “shitstorm” (her own words) that she started there. If you visit the link to her place that I provided above you’ll see a little of what I’m talking about. Here’s a basic timeline for your own understanding: Karol posts something inflammatory on her own blog, she later comments on Tandava’s blog (generally in support of what he’s written, I might point out), and then Tandava takes her comment and her blog and makes an additional post to his own blog detailing how “in so many ways” she’s terribly wrong.

And now I’m pissed and sorely disappointed. Although, in all fairness I’m pissed at and disappointed with just about everyone, regarding this. What follows is my meager attempt at detailing how I feel about said suchery.

1) Karol is a grown human and should have known to take a better approach. I understand precisely where she’s coming from because some of my own experience as a non-ethnic Hindu seems to mirror her own. Still, that doesn’t warrant free license to offend as one wants. She should already recognize, as a white Hindu, that eyes are on her from both sides of the fence: ethnic Hindus will be skeptical (thus her frustration) and non-ethnic Hindus will think her every misstep reflects on them directly, or on the blessed Faith of their choosing. Otherwise, she’s simply misguided. The frustrations she’s expressing are unique to no one. As such, no one has any room to hate on her for them, and in fact it would be far more productive and beneficial to all, literally to ALL, if those who are a bit farther on the journey would guide her instead of judge her.

2) The online Hindu community would be better served if Tandava-ji would ignore the things he finds to be so immensely offensive and stick with posting what he appreciates. (I do realize that, in the context of the last sentence, the very nature of this post makes me a hypocrite. I’m okay with that.) For one, that’s why his blog is what it is. I go there because I know I’ll find useful material for my own betterment. And now that’s not as true. His first point seemed two-fold: we should be sympathetic to those who feel their religion/culture is being appropriated and be careful so as not to offend them. Umm… Anyone who feels something has been stolen from them is likely to feel insulted no matter the subsequent usage of what might have been stolen. For one, I don’t think we need to offer sympathy for ethnic Hindus who feel their religion/culture is being appropriated. That’s essentially apologizing for loving what they’ve brought to the table. I’ve never apologized for asking someone for the recipe to a dish after openly adoring his cooking. Sympathy to someone who is offended when outsiders adopt his/her way of life? That’s bullshit.

I agree with Tandava that we shouldn’t necessarily use someone else’s symbols and then insult them. But I don’t think Karol is insulting anyone but herself. She’s showing her ass, for sure, and if she wants to get in someone’s face I’d say she’s succeeded. Otherwise, all her words amount to, regardless of how crass they are, is that she’s a western Hindu and anyone who doesn’t believe her can go to hell. She’s abrasive, and she’s sloppy, but she’s not wrong.

Tandava’s next point dealt with ethnic Hindus who don’t agree that outsides can also become Hindu and how we shouldn’t insult them. Again, I agree that insults are unnecessary and wrong, but again I don’t see Karol’s words as an attack on anything except the ego of those who, for no good or valid reason, refuse to welcome her. It can’t be stated enough that she should have used a different and more responsible approach, but beyond that I’m with her. Maybe it’s because I’m a gay non-ethnic Hindu in religiously-barren old Indiana that I can relate to the effort required by one having to “prove” one’s own validity. I don’t know. Sometimes people say things and use the wrong words. Karol has certainly used the wrong words. I suspect, though, that all she’s saying is, “I don’t care what you think, I am one of you.”

Tandava’s last point really gets me. He first correctly distinguishes that a Hindu can be either cultural or spiritual and that, when it comes to ethnic Hindus, if one doesn’t act very spiritual then they’re assumed to be merely cultural. I don’t know why this can’t apply to everyone. I’ve known a number of ghetto thug idiots who go around representing what many consider the worst of my society, yet they may well be wearing a gold cross around their neck. Are they Christian, or just in a Christian culture? It could be either or both – it doesn’t matter. If culture and religion can be adopted by anyone, and truly they can, then it also doesn’t matter if Karol is a cultural Hindu or a spiritual one. She’s not ethnic, but she’s still Hindu either way. Asking why a westerner would wear Hindu symbols without strong faith is assumptive and stupid. Many people, in many cultures, in many religions – everywhere- do this very thing. The reasons vary widely and include every excuse from shallow fashion preference to sweet, sublime devotion. The only reason I care about, in this context, is why do I wear what I wear and do what I do. I would encourage the same for everyone.

3) Ethnic Hindus and non-ethnic Hindus alike need to step back and take a look at what Hinduism means. Aside from a sad little handful of basic tenets held in common by almost all Hindus, Sanatana Dharma is too big for anyone ever to say, “You gotta be like this or you’re a bad Hindu.” And, in fact, that aspect of the Faith is part of what makes it supreme among man’s religions. Modern Christianity is undergoing an immense struggle currently. It’s flailing as it tries to maintain what it thinks its image is, while grappling with modern issues – a struggle that, according to Depak Chopra, could push it into extinction. A result of the internal conflict within Christianity that I’ve experienced is that whenever one Christian group misbehaves, many of the others are quick to distance themselves saying, “Those people aren’t true Christians.” This is horrible and disgusting. A family that turns on itself will not survive. The sentiment expressed in Tandava’s post and in the comments that followed are dangerously Christian and it almost makes me sick.

This might sound mean and shallow, but something about her physical appearance tells me that, in person, I’d likely be annoyed by her. Although, in all honesty, if we get past the fact that she has boobs and no penis, she and I are likely far more alike than we’re not. She seems to like challenging where people think they stand. I couldn’t begin to speculate her reasons for this, but I know I do the very same for my own reasons. Let me be clear: the path she and I walk, however differently we walk that path, is not easy. Throughout most of humanity, throughout most of human history, people have loved the very chains that bind them. Anyone committed to using their own brief human existence for the cause of shaking folks out of their ignorant slumber should be commended, not ridiculed by others who not only have no room to ridicule, but also have more in common than not.

Ekam sat…, right? Truth is One. It seems like we’re all good with that part. The other half is “vipraha bahudha vadanti” The wise call It variously. Like no other religion in the world, Hinduism alone offers the richest pool of methods, margs, icons and ishtadevatas for the aspirant to draw from. In a faith where it’s acceptable to live a worldly life, to retreat to a mountain cave and let everything fall away, or to wander around nude and covered in ash foregoing all of society’s norms, I promise you -like it or not – one of God’s names is Karol.

Om Shanti

P.S. My apologies for the lengthiness of this post. In all honesty, everything that contributed to it gave me quite a bag of mixed feelings. I did my best to convey those feelings and thoughts in as orderly a manner as I could, while under the influence of cold medicines. My intention wasn’t to attack any one person, but to attack the principles I perceived to be in action and which I perceive to be mostly adharmic in nature. Please, spare us all, and before commenting read the last bit of this for the rule I have about comments.

Opinionated, instigating post #1: (Ekam)Sat Nam

Apparently, the world needs to know my thoughts on a few things, including the theater shooting in Denver, the shooting at a Sikh temple, and gun ownership. I have many thoughts on these matters and I’ll do my best to keep them organized and well-written, in effort to make your reading as painless as possible. Here we go…

Firstly, it goes without saying that the two incidents mentioned above are heinous. I’ll refrain from going too much into how tragic I feel these events are. My heart goes out to those who caused and were affected by these events.

The Denver Theater Shooting:  

This seems to be getting much less television air time lately, which surprises me. James Holmes seems to be a pretty messed up individual, but likely not more so than anyone else. All verifiable mental illness aside, I think each of us acts based on how we perceive, process, and manage stimuli. Actually, I think our sciences prove this. The worst to deal with is that which seems to come from within. In fact, that which comes from within is the toughest because it automatically is perceived to be reality, when it often is not. Haven’t you ever just known that your spouse was doing something specifically to spite you, and when you dug deeper it turned out they weren’t even aware they were doing it, let alone that it was something that bothered you?

Emotions are invariably tough to control, but it’s possible with even a little effort. The mind on the other hand is immensely difficult to subdue, and unlike emotions, for most people will require perpetual guarding to maintain any control that is gained. So, if someone doesn’t have control over their own emotions (and most do not), they are also very unlikely to be in control of their mind (also to be said of most folks, and is applicable in reverse since a controlled mind is used to lasso emotions), and this has proven to produce a reactive individual (which most people are).

Because of this, our prayers and thoughts are well spent on the lives and states of people today; people like Mr. Holmes. Yes, fine, pray for the victims. It won’t do as much good as you think. What’s done is done and through this horrible event they’ve been released from their most recent opportunity to exhaust various karmas. They’re on their way to their next cycle of physical existence (or maybe not), as dictated by their karmas and samskaras and will proceed in the best way they are able.

A better use for the prayers offered as a result of something like this is for an improved and education and poised mental state of humanity in general during our time. We’re ignorant in every aspect of our operating existence and we’re reactive – often making choices based on anything but reality. And so in our delusion we end up likening ourselves to Batman’s Joker character and shooting at crowds in a theater.     

The Sikh Gurdwara Shooting:

I should firstly admit that, while I know little about the theater shooting, I know even less about the gurdwara shooting. However, I think this event is less complicated. A fool mistook one group of people for another and started killing. This actually should set a very poignant example for everyone. This idiot was so ignorant in the middle of his hate, and blinded because of it, that he didn’t even kill the ones he meant to kill. Looping this back to the lesson of Maya from the Denver shooting, we find another great example of how very stupid our entrapment within the physical confines of existence can make us. I mean, if you’re going to be stupid enough to plan to kill, at least make sure you have the right target, no? Fools.

Atmahatya

I went recently to the wake of a young patient I knew from work, whose life ended on the 18th. Working in oncology, I see death more than many might. It’s not super pleasant, but the more familiar it becomes, the more you realize how personal death isn’t…. at least not inherently. Being born is like stepping into line at the BMV: at the start you grab a number, and in a completely logical and predictable and impersonal manner, when you’re number is reached, it’s your turn. I mean, it’s not any more personal than your fingernails growing.

Ummm….but sometimes it is. I’ll try explaining.

The first big reason death is impersonal is that it happens naturally to everything that is born. The crazy cycle here is that we all already know this, but because it’s such a part of life, we’ve become desensitized to it in a bizarre and perverted, forgetful kind of way. Because of this forgetfulness, we’re perpetually shocked by it. And so, we’re entirely unfamiliar with something that has been with us since we were born.

Secondly, almost all people die of some kind of “natural” thing. Think cancer, heart attack, stroke, old age. There’s nothing personal, in any way, about these. I can vouch that this is true, at least from a purely clinical standpoint. When cancer shows up in someone, it’s not a personal attack. I promise. The real problem here is that folks attach their sense of self to their body. Which is why people sometimes ask, “Why me?” Ummm….not you, dummy. Your body. Two different things. When you think you are your body, then you’re bound(as in “caught in the trap of…”) to take whatever happens to your body as a personal attack. Lame.

Thirdly, many folks take death to be so very personal because they view it to be an “end.” Life, though, is not the opposite of death. Birth is. This is why everything that’s born must die. Life can have no more an opposite, than can energy ever actually be created or destroyed. Simply not possible. It should also perhaps be noted that many many times, dead things are born. And so, congruently, birth also does not equate life.

Those are just three reasons I find suitable for a discussion as to why death shouldn’t be taken personally. There are lots more that could be gone into. I know many will disagree with me and I’m not disturbed by that.

However, there is an instance in which I think death is quite a bit more personal than it normally is.  Care to guess?

Suicide.

This is how the young patient mentioned earlier died. He’d had cancer a number of times, beating it each time. He was healthy. Although he maybe didn’t stay cured for long, he was a survivor by most definitions. After the last “win,” it was determined that a stem cell transplant would benefit him, so he did it. He underwent the procedure, recovered, and then sometime after he seemed fully recovered and doing well he had a “nervous episode.” He was placed into psych care, I think, and was never the same thereafter. Eventually he was back into the normal swing of things, and functioned well-enough, but just… different. Same old kid, minus the sparkle he once had. We found out not long ago that he’d taken his own life, and tonight I went to his wake to say good-bye to his body.

For Hindus this word, suicide, is atmahatya. Culturally, atmahatya is frowned on. It’s viewed to be a violation of ahimsa(nonviolence or noninjury or non-aggression). It’s equal to murdering another. And according to lore, it leaves one to become a wandering ghost in the next life, punished in some kind of severe hell until the karma created by the act is spent-at which time the atma is reborn. The form taken is said to be either the form of an animal which is a level or two below humans, or a human life once again where certain karmas that weren’t fulfilled in the prematurely-extinguished life are given another try.

Umm… with all due respect to my chosen dharma, I think this is (mostly) bullshit.

I know for a fact that my religion, in certain cases, allows for suicide. The word we use for it is prayopavesha. Technically speaking, it’s a sanctioned form of starvation with all kinds of rules attached to it in regard to how and when and why it’s permitted. According to multiple sources, it’s meant as a controlled means of leaving this life for someone who has no ambition, no desires, and/or no responsibilities. It’s strictly regulated. But it’s still killing yourself, and herein lies the distinction. If suicide leads the jiva to wander as a ghost in hellish states of existence, then even the sadhu/monk/holy man who consciously ends his life is cursed in this way. Nonsense.

Stay with me.

If I take a gun and choose someone, and then shoot them. It’s murder. If someone comes at me and attempts to harm me, the very same action is labeled self-defense. The difference? The state and condition of my mind, as obviously influenced by my surroundings, when my finger pulls the trigger. Many would argue that the difference has more to do with the circumstance that caused the shooting. I’m certain it doesn’t. In this case and in all other cases, shooting a gun is simply shooting a gun. Doesn’t matter whether you’re in sun or snow, standing or sitting, murdering or defending. The action is literally the same. The only possible difference, as far as a person’s karmic patterns are effected, pertains to the internal landscape of the person when the shooting takes place. (This, among 800 million other reasons, is why emotions should never be any sort of governing force in a person’s life, and why bhakti is something to be chased slowly and in a very regulated manner instead of dove(dived?) into. If my emotions run everything, I’m incredibly more likely to react instead of act.)

My point is that the action itself isn’t what matters. It’s simply an impersonal aspect of that individual’s karma-phala. What does matter is the level and quality of awareness behind that action.

So, in the same way that death is simply death-nothing more, nothing less, I think so is “suicide.” The wisest way to approach this when someone encounters an instance of self-killing, is from a place of atmajnana/atmavidya. You have to know that the body and the person aren’t synonymous. You have to realize that the person and their mind and their emotions are also different entities.

Although there have been exceptions throughout history, most cases of atmahatya don’t occur before an audience. And truly, whether they do or don’t, it’s virtually impossible for anyone other than maybe the most advanced sages to know what’s going on inside that person. As such, it shouldn’t be assumed that the automatic result of suicide is a hellish, tormented, ghostly wandering of the underworlds until punishment has been exacted.

The young male patient, whose body I visited, has moved on- his future dictated by his karmas and self-realization. Aside from whatever karmas were already due to him, I don’t foresee that he’ll be punished for this act automatically. For reasons I’ll never know, and don’t need to know, the components of his past existence as a young man, a cancer patient, a son, brother, and boyfriend… his mind and emotions and physical body… they were done. Just done. The very same thing, literally, will happen to you and me in our own time, although perhaps not by our own hand. He’s quite literally non-different from you and me and shouldn’t be judged by us any more than we’re willing to judge ourselves. At any rate, given that we’re in Kali Yug, I’d wager that most of us hardly know ourselves as well as we should, let alone a young male cancer patient.

I suspect the only (real) tragedy here is that which my mind and emotions and attachments assign to it, which ultimately has little to do with Ultimate Reality.

Om Shanti, shanti, shantihi