Come Correct

I pull inspiration from many sources. These various sources are a big part of how I became who I am and also who I am becoming. On Guru Purnima each year, I make an attempt to celebrate and honor all the teachers I’ve benefited from – the list usually includes my parents, traditional gurus (some with bajillions of followers), and even drag queens (drag nuns, to be precise). Beyond the main or big teachers in my life, there are those certainly are teachers but perhaps on a lesser scale. This group also includes drag nuns, as well as family and friends, etc… Someone who falls in this second category is a blogger who is known as Maria Wirth.

She’s a German woman living in India and she’s about the only other blogger I know and read who writes posts as long as some of mine are. This is a good thing, and a bad thing. When you’re as long-winded as we are you can be sure that the only people actually reading what you publish are those who value your words and really want to read them. It seems like everyone else just gives up and stays away. I have found Maria to be very balanced and experienced and patient in life. Her perspective and mine often mirror each other (at least insofar as what she has written) and I can relate to many of her opinions.

Something she wrote about not long ago was political correctness in speech. The post, which I encourage you to read for yourself, can be accessed by clicking here. It starts with her recounting a conversation she was a part of in which she said something that kind of made others raise their eyebrows. (Mind you, she knows what she’s talking about in the post – I can verify that.) Shortly after her words, a friend, someone else who was also in the conversation, told Maria that she agreed with Maria’s words but was too scared to say them. Why was she scared? Because it was politically incorrect to say what Maria did. (Side Note: There are many bigoted people around who spout their nonsense and then when they catch hell for it claim that they are victims of nothing more than saying something unpopular. That’s not the case here – although it is something Maria addresses, which is why you should spend the time reading the post I linked you to!)

I related instantly. In my own life, it’s usually only I who says the things I say – and certainly only I who says them in the way I do. I think my life’s equivalent of the what the friend said to Maria is that people here say I can get away with what I say and how I say it because I’m me…. like there’s something fancy about my Joshua-ness. I’ll be among the first to admit that my Joshua-ness is unique. It should be, in the same way that your you-ness should be unique. Plus, I’ve worked really REALLY hard in my life thus far not just to evolve into who I am but to continue that evolution as necessary and even more importantly to be comfortable and secure in that process as well as the results.

But so what? Me being me doesn’t afford me any additional sparkle over anyone else in regard to speaking honest and sometimes blunt truth. The same goes for Maria and, like Maria, I’d not say something for the sake of expressing judgement. Most of the time calling a spade a spade carries no inherent judgement. We’re so used to assuming there’s something about being a spade that is bad that when a spade is called a spade we interpret that – quite wrongly! – as judgement or to be offensive. This is ridiculous because it only highlights the judgement in our own heart – and then we ignorantly mistake it to be judgement coming in the words of the person calling the spade a spade. So ridiculous. We really are sometimes asleep behind the wheel.

It’s worth looking inward to discover and assess why we open our mouths in the ways we do – and more importantly, why we don’t.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti


From India



Some time ago I placed an order with the Shri Ram Chandra Mission online bookstore. Unlike the order prior to this one, my shipment was received in a very timely manner and – unlike any other time I’ve ordered in the past – a tracking number was provided! The only cause for frown this last time around was that about five of the items I ordered came as DVDs which was a big surprise to me because I only ever intend to order books.

Lately, though, the abhyasi community has been talking about and learning about the concept of “cheerful acceptance.” Obviously, this is something deeper than it sounds, but I can tell you – from a fairly superficial level – that getting DVDs when you almost never sit before the television and especially when you’re expecting books, definitely gives one a chance to practice cheerful acceptance.

Anyway, I’ve been making my way through these DVDs, watching them in order of the dates they were released. This morning I watched, “India in the West” (part one). The video, like many of the others, is of our late Master Pujya Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari telling the story of how the SRCM was introduced to the West. His own father was one of the first from the Mission to visit other countries for the sake of the Mission – and that story is a bit fantastical. Some years later the Master currently recognized as the second modern Master of our lineage (he’s not the actual second Master, of course) began traveling outside of India and the rest is history.

It’s amazing to read or hear of how small things start sometimes and then to recognize their wonderful growth. From this documentary alone, and really also from other books, I’ve learned that there was a time when an entire nation or another might have had just ONE practicing abhyasi. Just one – yet now there are centers and ashrams in many places with many abhyasis.

One thing said in the documentary that caught my attention will, here, be a quote of a quote. Chariji was quoting my now great-grandmaster Babuji during a moment when Babuji was speaking to European abhyasis. I didn’t jot down the exact wording, but Babuji said something to the effect of, “I am liberating you from India.”

Hey Bhagwan!

These words instantly brought to mind a conversation I had about a month ago with another abhyasi. He’s Indian, but looks Pakistani. He manages to maintain a “full” figure and yet remain diminutive (something I’ve noticed in many Indian men). Our conversation started out very basic and was prompted by my car’s license plate which is a specialized plate reading, “GANESHA.” He recalld driving behind me the first time and noticing the plate – and then being shocked when he pulled up next to me and saw “white” skin. He was very curious about my knowledge of Hinduism and, like so many other Indians I’ve had this same talk with, he remarked that it’s very likely I know more of our religion than even he does, having been born and raised in India and still being very traditional in many ways despite his life in America. I’m not bragging in the least about this – I’ve heard it more times than I care to recount and each time it makes me a little uncomfortable. We can maybe talk about that in another post.

So… as our conversation was nearing its end he asked me about my view of Ganesha, method of Ganesha puja, and puja timing and all that good stuff, and brought up that our masters have said a number times in a number of ways that we’re “not to worship images” … or something like that. I answered to him that I’m not a “slave” to the ritual of worshipping Ganesha, which is really what the masters’ warnings are about. I do take into consideration the “proper” methods and timing and all that good stuff, but that I can essentially “take it or leave it.” I’m not sure if it’s entirely honest to say one can “take it or leave it” regarding something for which a person has a pretty clear preference. But what I told him is close enough to the truth that my conscience rests easy. I also think this “take it or leave it” business is somewhat hinted at, in very different terminology of course, in the Bhagavad Gita.

I’m kind of getting sidetracked here, but what I’ve meant to get at is that this nice young man with whom I chatted was very clearly under the control of tradition. I mean, we even talked about it – he admitted that, like many Catholics, there’s a tendency with Indians to blindly follow whatever they’re told tradition says is right, without even knowing why it’s supposedly right. And so, there’s a certain freedom I have as a non-Indian Hindu that he will struggle to achieve because from the time he was an infant, every square inch of his life was dictated by Indian tradition. He may well struggle to have Indian spirituality without the Indian religion.

This can be good for people who seem to need a pre-established structure in order to feel comfortable in an identity. But it’s truly this same structure that limits things like understanding and experience. On a grosser level it’s very obvious for Christians and Muslims who insist that their Dharma is the only valid one. For Indians / Hindus, this manifests no less – just differently, and in a manner that usually allows for other Dharmas to also be valid. So with the Abrahamics we end up with, “My path and only my path, for everyone, regardless.” And the Dharmic version of this is considerably more tolerant but often doesn’t involve hardly any more understanding than that of the Abrahamics.

Although other sages from India had already left India’s borders to touch the West, at the time SRCM was reaching out of India much of Indian spirituality was limited to within the borders of that nation. I think it’s because of this that my Master’s master’s master, while speaking to Europeans, said what he did. “I am liberating you from India.”

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

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


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

The Mandir and the Murti


Every month has a full moon. Rare ones have two. Four days after every full moon I do the same thing: vrat & abhishekam.

Vrat means fast – Not the “speedy” kind of fast, the abstaining from food kind. On the fourth day after Purnima (the full moon) a fast is held all day, as one’s circumstances allow. Sometimes I’ll fudge things a little, depending on what I have planned, and will have fluids like juice or something. Otherwise the vrat is meant to last the duration of the day – until the moon is first sighted that evening. Then puja (church for Hindus, technically a ritual) is performed and the fast is broken with dinner.

For me, that evening’s puja usually involves abhishekam or snan for the mahamurti in my home mandir. Abhishekam and snan are virtually the same thing, but for me they hold slightly different implications. In my brain, abhishekam is deeper and prolonged and more complex. It happens regularly but doesn’t happen as often. In my understanding, abhishekam translates as “ritual bathing,” including the panchamrit (“five nectars”) and snan feels more like a simple “bath” and while it also happens regularly, it happens more frequently as a part of puja and is generally simpler.

For the biggest chunk of four weeks’ time, every morning and evening when I’m at home in my temple room doing puja I can feel a sort of “building” or compilation. There feels like an increased energy every additional time I’m before the mandir and the murti. (A similar phenomenon occurs during other sadhanas like japa. That’s for another post.) Then the full moon arrives (purnima, remember?) and it feels like a crescendo of sorts. For the three days immediately following purnima, pujas are still held as well as regular sadhanas, but the “vibe” of those three days is noticeably… softer. Then comes Sankashti.

The fourth day after every full moon/purnima is called Ganesha Sankashti Chaturthi. A simple internet search on those words will inform you plenty. You can get some information here or there. Everyone can benefit from fasting on the fourth day after a full moon. Depending on the source you’re maybe reading, the benefits might vary some. At any rate, those benefits are likely to be something anyone’d enjoy.

Depending on which day Sankashti Chaturthi falls on, it might have more or less significance. I understand it to be particularly auspicious for this day to land on a Tuesday. During the current four-week period, Sankashti happens to land on Easter Sunday.

I’m obviously not Christian. And I have particular feelings about the “theft” that was involved, historically speaking, in the “Christian” holiday of Easter. However, within the context of Easter/Ostara, I find additional value to this Sankashti. Christian or not, Ostara/Easter is about renewal (not the same as rebirth, which is as much a curse as a blessing). The middle of last week brought the Hindu holiday of Holi which has parallel meanings. We’ve survived the darkest time of the year. Daylight each day is visibly growing and we can feel our own energies growing with it. All of that, added to the energetic context mentioned earlier about the monthly cycle experienced in the daily pujas conducted, and this Sakashti is loaded with goodness.

Whether you see tomorrow as a celebration of your guru’s victory over the death-tool that is the cross, or if you decorate eggs and worship fertility as found in rabbits, or if you’re a devotee of Ganapati wrapping up another four week cycle … in fact whether you’re all or none of these …enjoy the day for what it means to you, allow yourself to do some cleansing – of your home or your soul – and set yourself up to look forward to the next immediate cycle in your life.

Jai Ganapati!

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


Dwaraka_Matte_01My beloved loves television. Most evenings, from the time dinner preparation begins until after he falls asleep, the television is on. It’s to the point that if I’m gone and return home, where’s he’s been the whole time, and I don’t hear the television when I walk in, I nearly immediately hit panic mode. I literally shove off whatever I’m lugging in the door and immediately seek him out to ascertain that he is well and unharmed.

Tonight, as with most nights, the television played while we ate. We do our best to watch from the dining room – which isn’t difficult, especially for him. He almost directly faces the television from his place at the dinner table. This evening while we ate, H2 channel was showing another of their Ancient Astronauts shows.

Let me be clear. I believe there is intelligent, evolved, life “out there.” I do. I am, however, more convinced that God sometimes wears an elephant face or that God plays/played a flute and herded cattle than I am convinced that Earth is currently and occasionally visited by hyper-evolved aliens.

Tonight’s episode of Ancient Astronauts did well at blending both of those ideas, though.

The episode mentioned, at length, the Bay of Khombat off of northwest India, as well as the city of Dwaraka which lies beneath water even farther north and west. Apparently, both places do an almost incredible job at proving ancient Hindu texts as being accurate and true.

For the record, while Hinduism’s holy texts are often, umm… colorful and fancy, they’ve often been proven to be scientifically sound and surprisingly accurate. This aspect alone makes me love my chosen religion. Our scriptures have been preserved in an almost supernatural way, but entirely naturally, and they remain unedited – unlike the holy texts of various other world religions. Further, the more Hinduism becomes known and familiarized within the West, the more natural appeal it holds and the more legitimacy it gains. Hinduism has never fought or tried to stifle science and this is a source of immense pride for me.

Back to the show… apparently these underwater sites are quite fantastic finds. The Bay of Khombat is amazing on its own and the ancient city of Dwaraka holds connection to god Krishna and a huge ass war. Of course, the ancient astronaut theorists were all over the descriptions of this war, after which Krishna eventually departed His city and water overtook it. The details of the war definitely can be construed as having an alien element. Literally, lots of mention of crazy flying vessels with amazing navigation capabilities, shooting intense light beams (lasers) and all that other stuff E.T. enthusiasts live for.

Fine. Dandy. But I just don’t buy that Krishna was an alien or that aliens were involved in a terrestrial war there – or anywhere else on our planet. So much else from a vast array of Hindu texts has proven to be quite literally true, when at first thought to be mostly figurative. I can’t imagine after all that, that the final war at Dwaraka was actually an alien thing. It also doesn’t make much sense to me to hold the idea that intelligent life, more advanced than ours, undergoes inter-stellar travel just to ultimately perform experiments and play hide-n-seek with us. That, however, is for a different post.

Om Shanti

Mucho Mela

Every twelve years, in India, a Kumbha Mela is held. There are smaller melas held in between, but the one every twelve years is the maha kumbha mela. I’ve never been and plan never to go, but still this event pulls at me. It’s the only gathering of humans, for a religious purpose or otherwise, of its magnitude: around 80 million people. Each time the event is held it breaks its own attendance record, and obviously blows all other attendance records out of the water. Nasa photos have shown that in the areas this has been held, the Indian subcontinent actually is darkened on account of the congregants.

I think it’s the only pilgrimage common throughout Hinduism that all Hindus typically aspire to make, although it’s not without its own sectarian issues. Sometime after the commencement of the event, all are guided to bathe ceremoniously in sacred river water for the washing away of karmas and purification. Different sects, with their own leaders and sadhus and nagas have been scheduled in the past to go at different times to prevent clashes. I’ve included some videos below from YouTube to help illustrate the magnitude of this event as well as the diversity represented by my Faith.

Om Shanti

Shivohum and Same to You, too.

namaste-sanskirtOne of my favorite publications is a Shaivite magazine, “Hinduism Today.” I’ve had a subscription for years and have purchased a few subscriptions for others as well. Whether one happens to be a vaishnav, shaivite, shakta, or smarta, this magazine is invaluable. It’s been instrumental in my own growth, for sure. One thing I repeatedly adore about it is that, although it is technically sectarian, it differs from most other sects in its openness and inclusiveness. As such, while it’s definitely a Shiva-oriented source, it does great work in covering the broader picture of Hinduism and the Hindu diaspora.

The most recent issue has a focus on Swami Vivekananda, which has been really great for me. His lineage appears to be from the Shakta denomination of Sanatana Dharma, his own guru being a priest for Kali at one of Her temples … in Dakshineshwar, I think. Along with this focus on Vivekananda and all he did for our faith, there are various other articles. One of these deals with the Namaste greeting, and is what this post’s primary focus is meant to be.


The article begins in pointing out the differences and immensely varied implications to be found in the Western handshake and the Anjali Mudra (Namaste greeting). For the sake of brevity and keeping focus, from here out I’ll use bullet points to list what I think are the main talking points of the article.

  • The handshake originates in medieval Europe. Weaponry on the person used to be a more common sight, and so was fear. The resultant “accidentally retributive” attacks were sometimes thwarted by showing the other guy your open hand (“I’m unarmed, don’t stab me!!!”). Later, with a little cultural evolution, the open hands were joined upon meeting or passing, and we now have the handshake.
  • The anjali mudra is highly symbolic: “Anj” means to adore, celebrate, honor; the pressing of the hands together symbolizes the bringing together of spirit and matter; the hands coming together symbolizes the self meeting the Self.
  • Three main forms of the Namaste greeting exist: 1) Simple meeting of the hands, vertically at the solar plexus; 2) Same as before, plus the addition of raising the hands until the upper fingertips touch one’s third eye; 3) Same as before, plus the addition of taking the joined hands to a position above the head at the aperture in the crown chakra known as brahma-randhra. These three variations are progressively formal.
  •  The handshake is an outwardly conquering gesture. It hints at Western man’s desire for conquering and acquiring. An overly strong handshake can be meant for purposes of intimidation, and a too-weak handshake is also very telling.
  • Western culture is summed up in the handshake: reaching out horizontally to greet another; we reveal our humanity; we convey how strong we are, how nervous, how aggressive or how passive. Namaste reaches in vertically to acknowledge that, in truth, there is no “other.”
  • It’s more civilized to Namaste instead of shaking hands. Popes never shake hands. Kings never shake hands. Even mothers don’t shake hands with their own children. Namaste is cosmically different: Kings do namaste, Satgurus namaste, mothers namaste their own families, we all namaste before God, a holy man, or a holy place. The namaste gesture indicates our inner valuing of the sacredness of all. Namaste is also more practical: A politician or performer can greet fifty-thousand people with one Namaste and the honor can be returned.
  • The gesture has a subtle effect on the aura and nerve system. The nerve currents of the body converge in the feet, the solar plexus and the hands. To balance this energy, and prevent its loss from the body, yogis and meditators sit cross-legged and bring their hands together. The anjali mudra is a simple yogic asana.
  • An increasing number of celebrities and others around crowds are adopting the Namaste greeting as a polite means of avoiding the transmission of contact diseases. The Namaste greeting has become a veritable icon of Indianness, although an ever-increasing number of non-Indians are also using the greeting.

I’m not sure that all of these points do justice to the practicality, intuition, and value that the Namaste greeting holds versus the handshake. Hopefully these points, as highlighted from the article, hint at some of this.

Om Shanti

Mother Theresa, much?

The Seventh, and final Star of Hinduism as assigned by Thatte is that of Karma Yoga.

Thatte’s simplest description of this comes in the form of just two words: Detached Action. Thatte also points out that karma yoga induces control of one’s ego, of humility. Agreed. Vocabulary of interest found in this star’s chapter: Nishkam Karma, working without expectation of personal reward; Dheya, goal; Phala Asha, personal reward(literally: fruit hope (interpret as hope for the fruits of one’s actions)).

Early in this chapter Thatte rightly points out that Karma Yoga should not be confused with the Law of Karma. In the context of Karma Yoga, karma means work.

“We are all engaged in daily work. We all have some type of profession. A personal reward is called Phala. And expectation of a personal reward is called Asha. If you work professionally, honestly, and without keeping the personal reward in mind, then you are following the path of Karma Yoga. There is a distinct difference between being rewarded justly for your honest work and working solely for a reward … Thus doing your work without an eye on recognition is Karma Yoga. If you receive recognition or wealth as a result of performing your duty sincerely, there is nothing wrong in enjoying the fruits of your honest labor.” -Thatte

While I view the path of Bhakti to be the most potentially trapping, I view Karma Yoga to be the most challenging.

In Bhakti Yoga, one must work at being swept away in devotion while also remaining emotionally responsible in all areas. Challenging enough in day-to-day life, without encouraging extra emotional currents, no? I feel like everyone needs to cultivate bhakti. It has immense value. But, to me, it seems this path is mostly suited to those who “require” religion-at least religion as most modern people know it.

In Karma Yoga, emotions may ebb and flow, and should be of little consequence. And superficially, it sounds quite easy to jump into one’s karma yoga practice… just do something. Anything. But that’s really only half of it, isn’t it? You must act, yes. But you must act without the aforementioned Phala Asha. A very dear and sometimes wise friend of mine once said something that’s stuck with me. She said, “There’s no such thing as a selfless action.” On the surface her words seem entirely true. In fact, they aren’t 100% true but they are 99.9999% true. Surely, karma yogis exist. And not to brag, but I feel there have been times when even I have acted selflessly- and I nowhere near sainthood yet. So, you see, my friend isn’t all-the-way correct, but she’s correct enough to bank on it.

Nearly all people find difficulty in doing anything without attachment to the results. And I suppose that reasonable, no? Most of the time the entire reason anyone anywhere does anything is because of what happens when they do that thing ( read: the results/fruit of their action ). Aside from involuntary stuff like breathing, from the time we awake until we rest again in sleep virtually everything we do is because we seek the result of having done it. We want that reward, whether it’s a bigger pay check or a cleaner house, or just maintaining the spotless reputation we have with our neighbors.

We want the fruit of our actions and we’re programmed to act.

2 + 2 = 4 in normal human life and Karma Yoga seeks to help someone make 2 +2 = 5, 6, 7, or something more. This is where its efficacy is to be found and this is how Karma Yoga ultimately leads to moksha.

If a person can truly release attachment to their actions, a transformation will take place without a doubt. At first, and on the surface, other will simply notice a change in the person and it will be increasingly said of the person that they are “a good person.” However, beneath the surface much more is taking place. The effort required of one to let go of the results of his or her actions will utterly transform their inner landscape. Little by little the inside gets polished and reconfigured, the final result being something closer to what happens when one walks the path of Jnana Yoga or Raja Yoga.

So how’s a guy to know which path might be best for him? The conclusion of Thatte’s booklet, and of this blog post series, titles “Which Path to Take,” hopefully will shed some light.

Om Tat Sat Om