Wasted Money

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Do you ever buy something believing it to be of considerable lower quality than would appear? I apparently do.

Last night I added what is the 27th “Kraishnav” book to my home library. To be clear, while this 27th book is part of a finite collection, it’s not numbered “27” or anything – it’s just the 27th of my personal collection.

I’ll be adding the 28th tonight after mid-week meditation.

This line of books happens to be one of the many works attributed to Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is known as Swami Prabhupad or Shrila Prabhupad by his followers. He’s vaishnava swami who was popular a number of decades ago and is no longer in the human body we knew him as. I think a significant portion of “his” books are kinda crap. I mean that as sincerely as I am able to express and there have been times when I’ve thought to myself that a person might even be better off without religion or spirituality.

It’s got nothing to do with him being a vaishnav, although it has a little to do with him being a kraishnav. (Kraishnav = a Vaishnav who manages to see the avatar of a god as being actually “higher” in status than the god who existed before the avatar. In this case, we’re talking about Krishna being mightier than Vishnu.) I also think it’s nearly total crap some of his discussions on things like karma and ahimsa and vegetarian foods that are “offensive” to the Lord, and how a gay person is “even lower” than a dog. Yeah. Real nuggets of wisdom held in his brand of “bhakti.” Be sure of it.

Still, whenever I come across a book of his that isn’t in my collection – which I usually find at used book stores and rarely pay more than 5$ for – I gotta have it. I kind of just like the collecting aspect of adding to my collection. And more than a few people can vouch that the next time I come by someone who wants to learn about Prabhupad or is a devotee or something, but whose own personal library is “lacking,” I’ll be putting my own collection into the post to benefit that seeking soul.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

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Gayshnava

Taken from Google Image search, "Gay Hindu"

Taken from Google Image search, “Gay Hindu”

Friday was an interesting day for me. The week has pretty much flew by, although Friday not so much. Russia’s been on my nerves in the worst way. It’s not often I recommend obliterating nations, but Russia is pushing it. Even the Middle East with all its own joys doesn’t get under my skin the way Russia is currently. In the Middle East at least they have “good reasons” for their dumb ideaologies. By “good reasons,” I mean religion. Everyone is dictated by Islam in those regions and while it’s not right to be that way either, per se, it’s at least a foundational starting point that can evolve. It’s spiritually misguided logic – it theoretically started out wholesome, and wherever it sits currently, it could also theoretically get back to square one. Russia is different though. The stuff coming out of Russia these days is just mean. Russia’s not saying that Jesus wants them to hunt gays. It’s saying its population is dwindling and gays pose a threat to reproduction and therefore the survival of the nation. That view violates so much common sense and even basic facts that I find it far more offensive than a Muslim who’s ignorant wanting to hunt gays. It’s a fine line, but a distinct one in my mind.

Along these lines, a friend on Facebook reposted something from Vaishnav literature wherein Prabhupad Swami had some pretty harsh words regarding gays, including that we’re lower than even the animals, which are already far lower than humans already. He went on and on as the devotees probed him on this. You can read that blissful knowledge here.

The best part of it all for me was that no one said, “Those are not true Vaishnavs!” One commenter did come close (he’s what another friend would rightly call Kraishnav), but otherwise it didn’t even show up on th radar. This is heard muchly within Abrahamic religions. Whenever Christians hunt people or Muslims bomb them, the other adherents of those faiths are quick to abandon their brothers and very loudly make sure everyone else knows, “They aren’t real Christians!” I’ve even heard a Buddhist monk do this in reponse to some other monks standing up against Muslim oppressors. It seems terribly egoic to me when people turn on their own brothers/sisters like that. It was nice that no one did that – today anyway.

Someone else commented that Vaishnavism is essentially “curried Catholicism.” I’m not sure that’s an entirely fair or accurate assessment, but it’s one I can relate to as having an element of truth to it.

But it all got me thinking… What if one keeps his mouth shut entirely? I mean, the whole event Friday on Facebook was really quite interesting. Somebody said something, others encountered that said thing and said something else in reponse, and then more and more people ended up saying more and more in reponse (in reaction?).

So if I have shitty or hateful or whatever views does it really matter so long as I keep my pie hole shut? My karmas are mine alone (mostly) and if I don’t project them in any manner externally (which, I’ll admit would be nearly impossible to do) then why should anyone else care about it?

I see this happen in the spa I work part-time at. One professional will be having a conversation and since the area is rather open and fluid, conversationsa are often blended and melted into each other, or at least overlapping. This often creates a “mind your own business, nobody asked you” kinda of situation. Prior to those interactions, relative peace is experienced. But is that really peace, or just relative, individualized ignorance?

Here’s what I think the REAL root of it all is: Jnana. And I mean both sides of the Jnana “coin.”

Jnana, I’ve said before, is experiential realization of Truth. It requires work on your part and no one else’s. If I want your advice to check my own thoughts against, that’s one thing. But if I haven’t invested enough work in my own Self, I won’t even really be (experientially) aware of what’s already inside me. This is simultaneously the starting place and the finish line, no joke. But if this doesn’t happen, a person not only has no secure foundation (afterall what’s clearer than your own personal, experiential, realization of Truth?), but also almost certainly has no clear idea of the Goal – also because they’ve not invested the work needed for experiential realization. So if one neglects the work that needs done, and has no realization of the secure foundation (not the same as having no foundation at all), and has no resultant sight of the Goal which would also need to be certain, then he/she is likely to rely on others in ways that the hope-filled think will give direction to their journey – this laziness is grave and is pretty much the reason the self-help industry is booming. Nothing wrong with a book telling you how to reach your higher Self, but just reading won’t work. This almost invariably means that the kind of ineractions I mentioned earlier take place.

To keep moving… What’s all the fuss about gayness and Hinduism? Superficially, Hinduism is pretty much literally the most liberating religion ever. Many religions are quite “free,” but within the context of history and orthodoxy, the freedom found in Hinduism simply can’t be surpassed.

Interestingly, Hinduism has a rich, albeit somewhat obscure, history of gayness. The Faithology website has a page on homosexuality within Hinduism which can be accessed by clicking here – and it does a fair job at detailing exactly what I’m talking about.

The site mentions the “third sex,” which everyone should read about. More popularly, though, the site also offers a few nuggets most might not know about. For instance, the Harihara aspect of God, is a male-male union of Shiva and Vishnu. This can’t exactly be said to be gay, but it’s definitely homosexual (according to a strict definition of the word) and stands in sharp contract to the more obviously hetero blending of “God” in the form of Shiva and Shakti. Also, Krishna’s own son, Samba, actually engaged in homosexual acts (which isn’t the same as being gay, but whatever) and is a known cross-dresser/transvestite. There’s also a version of the Ramayana that details the creation of the god Bhagiratha from lesbian intercourse.

Another WordPress post, also inspired by some of Friday’s interactionsw, was composed by the Facebook friend mentioned earlier who had reposted Prabhupad’s interview transcription. This post can be read here, and takes a myth buster form. In all actuality, the posted I just linked you (as well as my post here) could just about as easily contribute to the strife I was getting at in the beginning of this post.

In theory, we should all be able to hold any view under the sun about any subject under the sun, and it shouldn’t matter. Should it? Why does it? Have I already provided the answer, or do I need you to help enlighten me? Are you sure?

Om Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti

Bad Breth(ren)?

Taken from Google Images

Taken from Google Images

Recently, someone came back into my life who had disappeared. This person is surely sweet and kind, and while I haven’t been able to spend much time with him, as another non-Indian Hindu I felt an almost-instant connection to him. We first met at my local temple. He’s a servant of Krishna through the ISKCON organization. Our time together was brief, to say the least. I’d no sooner learned a little about him, hoping to learn much more, when he disappeared. After he vanished, we reconnected on Facebook although soon enough he’d vanished from there too. Then he reappeared by means of a friend request. I naturally obliged, glad to see that he seemed happy and well. The last I knew he was somewhere in Appalachia, but he’s resurfaced in sunny Florida.

Just yesterday, only a week or so after reconnecting, he messaged me on Facebook. We’d had prior “comment discussions” wherein I’d persisted with the indication that I’m devoted to The Mother/Amma and Her Son, Ganesha. Our comments to each other felt a little awkward because he seemed convinced that I’d not given Krishna a chance, but generally these comments were innocent and superficial – then came the Facebook message.

“I wish you would study Srila Prabhupada. Pravin is such a bad influence. He is a very bad man.” Short & sweet.

The Gita tells us that one’s individual path (swadharma), even with all its potential flaws, is better than another’s. Krishna was telling Arjuna that he should always follow the advice of the Guru in his own heart. I’ve read through more than a few versions of the Gita more than a few times and I’ve yet to notice a single shloka, with purport or commentary (or nothing), that instructs a devotee to “share the good news of Krishna with everyone possessing two ears. Encourage all to follow Krishna.” (In fact, I’d point out that the opposite is the implication of Krishna’s words.) And yet, many times the case is one of proselytizing – which I find to be unHindu. In my response message I mentioned that this “typical” characteristic of the bhakti marg (bhakti is a part of all paths, but seems to prevail primarily among Vaishnavs) makes it something that’s not suited for me -although I do find both bhakti and Vaishnavism beautiful and worthy of my respect. I generally hate to generalize, but if a generalization happens to be generally true, from time to time I’ll generalize. I realize this means an unfair and sweeping application to some Vaishnav bhaktas, but for ease of communicating my thoughts – which are already tedious enough – I will sometimes generalize. I will also point out that no other sect of Hinduism has ever approached me or otherwise interacted with me in the manner specifically typical of vaishnav bhaktas. In all other experiences of mine – literally ALL other experiences – with various Hindu sects and denominations, I’ve never been badgered at all about my path like I have with vaishnav bhaktas. If you find this bothersome, do forgive me.

Superficially speaking, the message sent by my friend is innocent enough. It’s also a common occurance and typical. We all encourage others to go after what we see is the best – in any situation, right? Even better is when we KNOW something is “working” for us and we want others to experience the same. I think this is potentially noble and compassionate and is something virtually everyone does to some degree or another. However, herein lies an ugly trap. It’s one thing to broadcast one’s inclinations, in fact Hare Krishnas are pros at it. I do it frequently on my own Facebook page, and have even received remarks that for a Hindu I’m awfully evangelical. Still, I find distinction between broadcasting one’s inclinations and directly trying to persuade others to buy into them, too. If it’s not clear to you, this distinction I’m making, imagine the difference between having tattoos & choosing to wear clothing that shows them, and actively trying to convince others to get tattoos, too.

In subsequent messages, this friend has pointed out that “worship of all gods and demigods factually goes to Sri Krsna.” (There are other parts of this conversation that also bothered me, but I don’t feel they’d add much more to what I’m trying to communicate here, so I choose to leave them off.) As I’ve already pointed out, I’m familiar with the Gita and Krishna’s words. I know exactly what’s being referenced, and while I’m recognizing where this friend is coming from and the influences he’s under that are causing him to point this out, I’m struggling to not be offended – partially because I think his interpretation of this passage is skewed and partially because even before now I’ve made clear that I plan to stick to my own swadharma and not someone else’s.

Ultimately, this is inconsequential. I know where I stand and I’ve invested huge efforts into knowing exactly why I stand where I do – which is more than most people can say about their own journey. If that ever changes it’ll be because of my own personal growth, not because someone quotes the scripture of another sect to me. I understand wanting to share with others what you perceive to be valuable and beneficial knowledge, but I feel like a Muslim who’s listening to a Christian thump him with Bible verses. For one, it’s not pleasant. For another, Muslims have their own scripture, and even if a Muslim affords respect to the Christian Bible, it’s still not authoritative to that Muslim’s swadharma, even if it’s applicable. Like telling an Atheist they’re going to Hell – it’s pointless because “Hell” has virtually zero value to the Athiest.

So where to go from here? The part of my genetic makeup coming from my mother’s side (German, Native American, Catholic, Alcoholic) provides ample impulse to tell this “bhai” to go get fucked and how to do it. Some, however, would see that as mean. The rest of me, and thankfully the larger portion of my current self, is more inclined toward patience and a progressive insistence – simple reiteration – that I’m neither Vaishnav or bhakta. My patience, like my father’s, is typically miles long – but I’m not into repeating myself like this. Am I wrong in perceiving this pal’s messages the way I have? Is this just a matter of the best intentions gone awray? And if we say that, aren’t we just making excuses?

Dear reader, advise if you feel so inclined.

Om Shanti

Hidden Glory

Last night I bought a book that, so far, has been a very mixed blessing. The book is “The Hidden Glory of India,” written by Steven J. Rosen and published by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. Recognizing the Book Trust’s background as from the Hare Krishna sect, I didn’t plan to place too much of my attention on the book, however, while it’s caused me to roll my eyes more than once, it’s simultaneously been an interesting read.

A pal of mine recently asked me about the source of my saying that I have Buddhist leanings. If you’re unfamiliar, you’ll have to invest the twelve years it’ll take you to read my last post. After that post, I’d debated removing the part of my bio that mentions having Buddhist leanings. However, after giving a few more minutes of my life to this Vaishnav book by the Hare Krishnas, I’ve come across something that I think is interesting, endearing, and that makes it fine for me to leave that part of my bio intact.

The Hidden Glory of India begins with some claims that I find to be a bit obnoxious, although not unexpected. Some Vaishnav sects (not all) place Krishna above Vishnu and then consider him essentially the same, or higher than, Brahman. For lots of different reasons I find this questionable, especially in the context of the bigger Hindu picture. But I can respect it, nonetheless. The Hare Krishnas are large proponents of that belief and I suppose with that in mind, I shouldn’t have been surprised to crack this book open and read that Vaishanvism is solely responsible for not only the preservation of Sanatana Dharma, but also its very creation.

Until I’m sufficiently educated in such a way as to conclusively prove that Vaishnavism is THE founder/foundation of Sanatana Dharma, I’m mostly likely to just giggle at the claim. However, as the “preservation” marg in Hinduism that principally worships the Preserver god, Vishnu, half of the claim does compute – at least in theory.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna explains that He appears whenever Dharma wanes and Adharma begins to flourish. Depending on who you speak to, there have been at least ten officially-recognized avatars of Vishnu on our planet. One of these, again depending on who you ask, was The Buddha.

I’d mentioned briefly in the last post about Buddhism that after its birth, Buddhism eventually fell prey to the usual cycle of religion with man. Of course, what spawned Buddhism’s birth in the first place was the same drama occurring within Hinduism. This apparently, according to the Hare Krishnas, is why the Buddha came.

As The Hidden Glory of India states, “…The majority of India strictly followed the Vedic tradition until the time of the Buddha. By that time, there was rampant misinterpretation of Vedic texts. This resulted in the performance of outdated sacrifices (meant for previous ages)…To remedy the situation, the Buddha found he had to repudiate the Vedas in toto.” I’m not sure the Vedas needed repudiated “in toto,” but certainly the Buddha made his mark. The book continues, “In the 8th century C.E., however, Shankara, an incarnation of Lord Shiva, appeared. He reestablished the Vedic scripturs, albeit in a slightly altered form. Shankara taught that the Vedas were divinely inspired but were to be interpreted in a metaphorical and, ultimately, impersonalistic way. In other words, for Shankara, God was primarily an abstract force, and any personal reference to God in the scriptures was to be taken either in a symbolic sense or as a statement of God’s lesser nature. This appealed to Shankara’s predominantly Buddhist audience, who were trained to think in terms of abstract philosophy and psychology, and not in terms of recognizing a Supreme Being. In summary, Buddha’s appearance in this world served the function of distracting people from the Vedic texts because people were misinterpreting those texts, and Shankara served the purpose of reestablishing the Vedas in a way that Buddhists could appreciate. According to Vaishnavas, this was part of a divine plan to reinstate Vedic culture.”

This information comes thirty-six pages into the book, and is one of the very few things so far that doesn’t strike me as pompous. Beyond that, credit should be given where credit is due. I’ve read the Buddha’s story a number of times in my studies, but this slant is the first of its kind for me, and I love it. After all, it makes sense.

As an aside, in this context it might also be noted that the The Preserver coming in the avatar of Buddha could very nearly have destroyed what we now know as Hinduism. That’s probably pretty indicative of the condition Hinduism was in at the time. The involvement of Shiva in the form of Shankara is a nice lesson in balance that I’m also pulling from this chapter in The Hidden Glory of India.

Om Shanti

Bhaktam-idam Aham

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In the last two posts I began hinting at my understanding of the nature of bhakti as a path to the divine and some of why it’ll likely never be my main source of connection. The goal of this post is to further detail why, for me, bhakti can never be more than supplemental in its nature. As with the two posts in this series, please allow me to re-iterate that my attempt is neither to bash any one method of aspiring toward the Divine nor anyone using the method of bhakti. Beyond that, I’ll try to stay as focused as possible and make quick work of this.

A few weeks ago, shortly after posting the Rig Veda quote on Facebook (which I mentioned in prior posts and will revisit below), I began polling people of different backgrounds on their definition of the word devotion (bhakti). Without exception, even if round-about-ly, all indicated that devotion is commitment, plus emotion or intensity. Usually, in my questioning, the deeper I prodded the more similar the various answers became. All, independently, agreed that devotion is more than mere commitment. I found this encouraging, actually, as it made my research easier and simpler to sort. In my poll, I asked white Hindus, ethnic Hindus, Athiests, Agnostics and Christians.

Below are some points that, for me, indicate that devotion can’t be my main path back to Godhead/Source/Brahman.

1) The Rig Veda states, “Give prominence to intellect over emotion.” I feel like this is pretty cut and dry. We inherit the Vedas, eternal Truth on The Eternal Reality, from the rishis. Those guys knew more than a little about the nature of the Supreme Reality. They also understood the human existence and all that comes with it. Humans are emotional creatures. Animals possess mostly instinct, with varying degrees of emotional capacity. Humans go one better: our instincts have atrophied some in favor of greater emotional capacity and an intellectual capacity that is greater still than that of our emotions. Emotions are not meant to be neglected, but they are meant to be controlled. It’s precisely when a person acts based on emotion that additional karma is generated. Only through well-reasoned (and thereby balanced) action can a human hope to progressively develop vairagya (detachment, renunciation) and hold hope of attaining moksha when, at last, all karmas are exhausted.

2) “In most cases the disciple becomes too attached to the Guru’s external form and forgets the Guru’s all-pervasive nature. Attachment to the Guru’s form with a firm awareness of his omniscience and all-pervasive nature is the perfect attitude. If there is attachment without proper awareness of the Guru’s infinite nature, the disciple can fall an easy victim to all kinds of negative tendencies. Devotion to the Guru backed with the understanding of his higher nature is real devotion.” This is a quote from one of the objects of my own devotion, Mata Amritanandamayi Ma. I understand this to mean that bhakti isn’t meant to be self-standing. She details, briefly, an instance of bhakti gone awry and some of the potential results. She concludes that bhakti is only real when upheld by a strongly developed jnana (proper awareness and understanding of the higher nature).

3) Although the Bhagavad Gita is often cited as a scripture that promotes bhakti as a supreme means for reaching God, I find throughout the work that jnana is invaluable to the aspirant regardless of bhakti. After all, in the overall dialogue of the text the context is that Arjuna is mentally and emotionally shaken – to the point of utter despondency. Krishna never once said, “Let’s chant the Hare Krishna Mahamantra and dance ecstatically. Then you’ll see and experience Truth. That’s how we’ll fix your insecurity and impart Self-Realization.” He did, however, consistently refer to jnanic means of realization and living life. Even when speaking of devotion and its different aspects, God often speaks in terms of that devotion being governed by qualities of jnana.

4) In the book, “Shuddha Bhakti,” by Swami B.V. Tirtha Maharaja, one finds an admission that is not only typical and true of organized bhakti, but that I find very discouraging. Swami states that bhakti is entirely about relationship. And by definition, it truly is. In his own words, Swami goes on to explain that bhakti is about the worshipful relationship between the effect and its Cause and concludes (literally) that an effect and its Cause can never be the same, implying that duality is inherent in bhakti. My abstract understanding of this (trying not to take his words too literally) is that true moksha isn’t possible through bhakti alone. Bhakti can enable someone along their way in karma yoga, raja yoga, jnana yoga – or any other yoga. However, by definition of the word itself, you can’t express or experience bhakti and union together. The closest approximation to that would be Self-Realization, at which point bhakti would become mute. Bhakti can be a wonderful and efficient means of expressing one’s experience of union, but it would seem that so long as bhakti is the focus of one’s path to the divine, unless bhakti is transcended by Self-Realization, it will essentially remain self-defeating – like continuously reaching for salvation while maintaining that you and God are distinctly separate. As long as little old me keeps adoring magnificent God “in Heaven,” we’ll remain separate precisely because of the nature of my focus (bhakti).

5) Following #4, two quotes from the revered sage Swami Vivekananda seem very instructive. The first quote is, “Everyone is but a manifestation of the Impersonal, the basis of all being, and misery consists in thinking of ourselves as different from this Infinite Impersonal Being; and liberation consists in knowing our unity with this wonderful Impersonality.” (My personal interpretation of his words after the last semi colon is the real definition of Jnana Yoga: not simply the knowing OF our unity, but knowing that unity in an experiential way. Self-Realization is the culmination of Jnana Yoga) The second quote is, “What is the object of Jnana Yoga? Freedom. Freedom from what? Freedom from our imperfections, freedom from the suffering of life. Why are we unhappy? We are unhappy because we are enslaved. And what are we enslaved by? The enslavement of nature. Who enslaves us? We do, ourselves.” As harsh as it might sound, if bhakti is dependent upon a relationship of duality (worshipper/Worshipped), I find it to be terribly enslaving, not unlike the doctrines of the Abrahamic Faiths. In my own, admittedly limited, understanding of bhakti, I couldn’t in good conscience allow that to become my own whole path. I don’t want to celebrate (through worship) my (falsely-identified) separation from Source, thereby perpetuating that very separation.

I feel like I could probably go on and on about the different reasons why bhakti isn’t a fit for me, but I’m not sure that would be productive. For one, in the instance of continuing, I’d probably want to dedicate a fourth or fifth post to the topic, and I’m not sure my own attention span could suffer that, let alone that of you dear readers. Further, if I haven’t already pissed some people off or offended, surely to continue would result in suchery – something I have no desire for.

My single hope intended for this post and the two before it is two-fold. First I hope that you understand me a little better. I won’t hope for more than that, but a little would be something. Secondly, I hope you understand yourself much more than a little better. What matters is not why Dhrishti does or doesn’t follow one path or another. What matters is that you not only follow your path fully, but that you know exactly why your path is yours – indeed, following one’s swadharma without such knowledge is entirely impossible.

Om Shanti

Post Script: It’s possible that in the near(ish) future I might have interest in showing you the other side of the Dhrishti coin. Often it’s easier to say what you’re not than what you are, but I think I’d like to try and I hope you’ll still be reading by then.

Sit – N – Spin

Sometimes, often even, I wonder about the direction my life actually has. I’m doing things, and I’m happy, but often enough I glimpse how very little control I actually have over anything. I think most people are on one side of me or the other: they either feel like they’re the one pulling all strings, or they feel entirely powerless.

I feel within myself the ability to grab all the strings I want, but then about the time I do, I decide not to yank as hard as I had previous thought I might. One way this manifests is in my book-buying habits.

I love buying books. A lot. And I do it as frequently as I am able. Even when I shouldn’t, or don’t actually have the money, I’ll still go book hunting. Recently, on Valentine’s Day, I decided that I needed more books. I’ve been working my way, with much focus, through a few others I’ve been meaning to finish and had been feeling a sense of accomplishment… so, naturally, I need to add to the pile again.

I bought a number of books – all of which I’m pleased to own now. One was a steal AND a gem. I mentioned it on Facebook. Another is titled, “Shuddha Bhakti” by Swami B.V. Tirtha Maharaja. The others include a study guide for Sanskrit ( my religion’s sacred language), a version of the Shri Ishopanishad by Swami Prabhupada that matches the other books by him that I already own (I’ve had other copies of Shri Ishopanishad, but I was particularly pleased to find a hard copy that is the same size, etc… of my other ISKCON books), and lastly I bought a large black tome titled, “Jesus Christ Message to All Nations.” It’s fabulous. It’s some kind of gospel written by Warren Jeffs and pretty much bitches out every nation currently on our globe. It’s apparently a message that Jeffs channeled for the Lord God, who seems really upset and angry. Threats abound in this book. Unfortunately complete sentences, proper punctuation, and coherent thoughts do not. Amused, I read some to my beloved where God is supposedly warning the USA about her relationship with China and the Koreas. Fabulous stuff, although he wasn’t nearly as amused. I only bought the book to place it on my bookcase next to the Book of Mormon I have – which itself is only even in my home because after my father’s sister-in-law passed more than a third of my family joined the Mormon church. I don’t think the Mormon Church is any more a cult that the rest of Christianity, but this Warren Jeffs stuff seems to be more along the cultish lines, and a find like this book was too precious to pass up.

These book purchases are indicative, though. Imagine being a grocery store cashier and someone comes through your checkout lane with whipped cream, dental floss, a package of ink pens, and four tealight candles. Truthfully, I think most cashiers don’t give customers’ purchases a second though. But if you were a cashier, and you DID pay attention to what people were buying, and those items were what a single customer bought… WTF? Such randomness, no? I mean what’re the chances someone’s going to consider a trip to the grocery, start a list of items needed, and think, “Let’s see… Just ran out of whipped cream. Better get more dental floss. I’m getting low on ink pens, oh, and yes, I need FOUR tealight candles.”? Totally random, and you can’t even argue it.

But that’s me at any book store.

And I think it’s why I often feel like I have the ability to pull a million strings and get somewhere and go someplace and do something, but it’s also why I sometimes feel like I’m not actually pulling any of those strings. For instance, if I bought ONLY books on Mormonism… by now I’d be a damned expert. And the same can be said about a number of things I choose to study. What usually results, though, is that I end up knowing “a whole lot” about many many things, but end up knowing everything about nothing.

As frustrating as this is sometimes, I often feel like I’m still a little ahead of the game – but never as ahead as I’d like. All of this, serves as a constant reminder to me of the potential my life (and anyone else’s) has. We all have a billion strings we could be pulling. And also a reminder of my laziness. The Gita says that no effort is ever wasted when one exerts it toward betterment and realization. But one has to actually make the effort.

Om Shanti

When 30-something men are akin to teen girls

Since last Wednesday I haven’t felt 100% well. Thank gods, no stomach or real GI issues, but a head cold for sure. I think the most frustrating thing about it for me is that I’m not sick enough to simply stay home and rest, yet the entire time I’m downing decongestants and going about business as usually as possible, I’m feeling run down and sleepy, and wondering if my continued activity will lead to a further decline of my health. <Sigh>

At any rate, I made it through the rest of last week, including one night of class and a day at my part-time job cutting hairs. Typical for nearly every Saturday, my best friend wanted to come over for our oft-held game night. I consented, although I didn’t feel like it. What happened instead of game night, though, was something that made us giggle. We ordered Chili’s take out online, picked it up, and headed home for a relatively quiet night in… making doll clothes.

Earlier that evening, right after leaving the spa, we went to a Dollar Store-like place in search of cheap artificial flowers to make garlands, and to JoAnn Fabrics’ for some, well, fabrics. And after securing our dinners, we huddled around my dining room table surrounding my home mandir’s mahamurti. Scissors, needle and thread, measuring tape, and newly purchased fabric in hand, we set about the task of creating garments for Ganesha.

Any time I think of adornments for a murti, the Hare Krishnas come to mind. Most vaishnav murti adornment is elaborate, ornate, and interesting- true works of devotion. And why not? Seems easy, considering humans are used to dressing a human form and, excluding the earliest avatars, most modern vaishnav conceptions of the divine take a decidedly human form (Krishna, Radha, Ram, Venkateshwar, Chaitanya…). So it reasons that Vaishnavs would be well-practiced at making human doll clothes fitted for human-shaped gods.

On the other hand, however, Ganesha transcends human form. His head alone makes fitting a murti for garments challenging, nevermind that His form doesn’t usually stop with only two arms. When was the last time you fitted a shirt for Someone with four or six arms? In contrast to the typical dress code for vaishnav murtis, at least half of all Ganesha murtis I’ve ever even seen dressed are usually wearing a dhoti at best, or otherwise some kind of devised wrap. I wanted more than this for the murti presiding over my personal home mandir.

So we found ourselves creating precisely-measured paper patterns, cutting fabrics, sewing, dressing the murti and assessing the necessary adjustments only to start the process again, hoping for better results. The whole bit required a lot of attention and concentration, and patience as it was pretty much trial and error. We went through a number of prototypes before finally calling it quits. I can honestly say that garland making is a walk in the park compared to this.

The difficulty and complexity involved in this task, though, is was made it a true endeavor of bhakti. Only just tonight, alone in my dining room with the aforementioned supplies, did an actual working garment come to be realized. I’m pleased as punch, and warmed in my heart chakra, to see the mahamurti back in its seat -only this time fully dressed.

Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha

Om Shanti