A Seat At The Table

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

In the disclaimer I offered back on May 25th of this year (which can be read here), I mentioned that there are many kinds of Hindus, and thus many expressions of Hinduism. The kind of Hindu I want to write about is the carnivorous kind. I hope you brought your big mind to class today. I also hope you have your reading glasses and ample time to not only read what is likely to become a rather lengthy post, but ample time to mentally masticate the suchery about to be included. Aum Ganesha!

Before I dive deeply into what I’m planning here, please allow me to be clear: I’m not condoning carnivorous practices among humans. It’s my opinion that our current methodology for farming meat products is not only wasteful and inefficient, but also immensely cruel. I also believe there’s more than enough scientific evidence to support the theory that humans are anatomically and physiologically designed to consume primarily plant material for our nutrition needs. Lastly, I do think, for various reasons which I may end up not going into very much, that humans – as spiritual and intellectual organisms – function optimally when abstaining from eating meat. Beyond that, I’m not mad at folks who chomp beasts.

From where I’m sitting, this topic is a source of contention and too many misguided, skewed intentions. In the middle ages, Christians hunted other groups of people who they perceived to be a threat of some sort. Mind you, those Christians didn’t simply decided against a group and then plot its extermination. There was something about one group or another that was perceived to be a detractor to the process of “saving” the world, or was seen as a roadblock of sorts for those attempting to gain entrance into eternal heavenly paradise. Everyone wants paradise and some people want it for others, too. This was the goal of Christians then, but what ended up happening instead were things like the Crusades where folks were literally hunted and killed for not being Christian. Interestingly, during these times even Christian priests were tested – by vegetarianism. If they refused to eat meat, they were accused of having been influenced by the religion of Manacheanism and would be killed. Some could read this as indicative of the violence inherent in Christian doctrine. I’ll let you take those thoughts where you will.

I find that something along these lines, although not to the same extreme degree, happens in Hindu/Buddhist circles. There are many many scriptural texts in the Hindu religion. Many of those texts strongly advise that eating sentient beings isn’t too far removed from eating another human and at times those same texts precisely detail the karmic and spiritual repercussions – sometimes with an amount of detail that causes me to question the validity of that kind of precision. What’s often overlooked, though, are the parts of the Hindu family that either say nothing about abstaining from meat, encourage killing in some contexts (perhaps for sacrifice or beacuse of so-called duty), or advise that being too against meat eating is no different from actually consuming flesh yourself.

That last bit is important. I personally know a numerous number of vegetarians and vegans who believe that abstaining from fleshy chews will save their souls all the while completely ignoring the inner landscape they’ve cultivated around the subject and all the resultant karma they’re incurring because of it. All of our external actions have seeds which are subtle, many being as subtle as our own thoughts and emotions.

Please understand that aversion is ultimately, qualitatively, no different than desire – both are dangerous traps! This is affirmed/confirmed in the Gita by Shri Krishna, himself. Ultimately, perception of “goodness” is meant to be avoided as much as perception of “evil.” The only possible benefit of cultivating an abundance of “good” is pleasantry of experience. Be sure – the two are essentially the same. Hating or despising the consumption of meat will put you in the same samsaric/karmic boat as those who actually eat meat. Karma is karma, after all, and even the smallest amount of the most subtle karmic expression is still enough to imprison one on the wheel of death and rebirth – preventing moksha from being yours.

I want to show that, while there may be plenty of Hindu Scriptures or accepted concepts that strongly encourage a meat-free life, there are also scriptures that proclaim the more ultimate benefit of transcending such preferences. I’ll write more about that later. One should also note that there’s a key difference between encouraging someone in a behavior and simply not condemning them for it.

I also want to briefly visit what is probably the most common reason for abstaining from meat: Ahimsa. Most understand the term to simply and broadly mean nonviolence. This is true, but at best this definition only half covers abstention from meat. That’s because, at best, “nonviolence” only half defines ahimsa. Taking the definition of a word like ahimsa to be fully encompassed by something like “nonviolence” is like saying Brahman is as simple as “God.” It’s simply not (completely) true. This form of simplicity is at work in other forms of fundamentalism where something important is whittled down to chewable bites, and then those bits are said to contain every flavor of the original. As with any other Sanskrit word, there are numerous layers of meaning, and saying ahimsa means nonviolence is like saying you are your skin. It should also be pointed out that true nonviolence is not possible in ANY life. This is something else that is key to remember and is a prime example of how fundamentalism works, even within Hinduism. You end up throwing out practicality and reason. Other layers of ahimsa are possible in life, with effort, and when ahimsa is applied to a spiritual context those deeper layers are what’s being pointed to, not simply nonviolence. With that said, ahimsa alone makes a great case for better living, but not specifically a vegetarian diet.

Karma is another word that’s quite often tossed around when arguing whether meat eating is massively detrimental within the perennial context. Everyone seems to be under the assumption that all killing is “bad” and that all “bad” actions create undesirable results. If this were really the case, the warrior caste would be lower than the Shudras and would certainly be doomed to hellish places lifetime after lifetime, and Krishna wouldn’t have advised Arjuna that to kill humans (humans he loved!) is the dharmic thing to do. This is further support that the concept of non-violence isn’t meant to be so encompassing. Surely, with God represented equally in all sentient beings, if there are times when it’s literally righteous to kill other humans, there must also be times when it’s okay to kill “lesser” beings – although not necessarily for food. Still, I have a hard time believing that someone who enjoys a hamburger is automatically somehow karmically worse off than a soldier… at least here in the Kali Yuga.

Three Hindu scriptures do sufficiently well at illustrating all of this – not that consuming flesh is ok, but that it’s worse (or just as bad) to have an aversion to it. Due to the current length of this post, I’ll save the actual meat of what I’m getting at for another post, which is just as likely to be as broad as it is long. Stay tuned if you care.

Jai Shri Ganesha!

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



One of the books I bought while in Chicago recently is, “The Book of Ganesha” by Royina Grewal. I’ve only read the introduction and part of the first chapter, but it’s already been really interesting. Some of what I’ve read I’m not sure how I feel about – stuff like the Aryan Invasion Theory, which this book seems to support. But generally, most all of what I’ve read would be classified as myths surrounding Ganesha’s origin. I love this stuff.

After reading through a number of origin stories I came to one I was less familiar with. Actually, I was familiar with it superficially, but hadn’t looked into it much. As it turns out, the following story is one created by Vaishnavs for, what I perceive, are very obvious purposes.

“Such was the popularity of the elephant-headed deity that the Vaishnavas also wished to claim Him as their own and developed myths to establish the connection of Ganesha with Vishnu. One presents Ganesha as an incarnation of Krishna, with Shani instead of Shiva as the agent of beheading. And it is Vishnu who revives Ganesha and grants him his special status.

(And the story goes…)

Shiva advised Parvati, who wanted to have a son, to propitiate Vishnu and observe vratas (fasts and rituals) in his honor for a year. “Then,” he said, “The lord of gopikas, Krishna himself, will be born as your son.” Parvati observed the vrata, and to her immense joy, Krishna was born to her as an infant of unparalleled beauty.

All the gods came to pay homage to Parvati’s new son. The great ascetic Shani, son of Surya, was among them but he kept his eyes cast down and would not look at the child. When Parvati asked him the reason for this, he explained that once he had been so absorbed in the contemplation of lord Vishnu that he had not noticed his wife’s attempts to gain his attention. Furious that her fertile time would pass unfulfilled, she had cursed him, saying that anything his eyes rested upon would be destroyed. It was because of this that he would not look at the child.

Parvati and her attendants mocked Shani, and she demanded that he admire her son. And so with great fear, and only out of the corner of his eye, Shani looked at Parvati’s infant and his glance instantly severed the child’s head. Vishnu, moved by the mother’s grief, flew off on Garuda towards the north. He brought back the head of a young elephant which he joined to the headless body of Parvati’s son, reviving him. Vishnu blessed “Krishna-Ganesha” thus: May your puja be performed before that of any other god. May you be situated in all venerable beings and may you be the best among yogis. This is my boon to you.

Thus ends the Vaishnav origin of my ishtadevata. Does anyone else find it “typical” that Vishnu is in the spotlight so much in this rendition?

1) Parvati had to appease Vishnu to win His favor, which took a year.
2) After winning favor, Parvati is the lucky gal who gets to birth the all-star, Krishna (Vishnu).
3) All the gods paid homage to Her son, who is Krishna/Vishnu
4) An ascetic devotee of none other than Vishnu had the curse (power?) which severed the head of the infant Krishna (an interesting paradox, indeed).
5) Vishnu, who came to adore His own infant form, was also the one who saved the day by getting a new head for the baby AND being responsible for reviving him.
6) A wond’rous boon was afforded the babe, who is Krishna, by Sri Vishnu – just because?

So Vishnu gave the blessing, which was conveniently His own appearance. Then somebody who loved Vishnu “too much” was responsible for the child’s death, which allowed Vishnu – who had arrived solely to adore His own infant self – to become the hero and fix a mess that, at best, He’d only indirectly caused. And as icing on the cake, he gave a boon to His infant self.

Say what?

A better-known version of Ganesha’s origin seems more balanced, impartial, and frankly more reasonable: Shiva (traditionally known as the master of all yogis) had been away for a while meditating (as the master of all yogis would be inclined to do) when Parvati decided to create a child/guardian of Her own body. Shiva comes back and ignorantly makes a mess of the situation because He isn’t aware that the child is essentially His. When Parvati sees the mess, She threatens to annihilate all of existence in Her grief. To prevent this, Shiva ends up with an elephant head, which he installs on the child’s body and restores to life. Then because He’s the one who made the mess to begin with, He not only makes everything right again, but adds icing on top with a boon that requires “sacrifice” on His own part – which is to give Ganesha dominion over His (Shiva’s) gunas, among other aspects of the boon.

I personally find this version to be far less lop-sided than the Vaishnava version. From the beginning it follows basic foundational concepts of Hinduism: Parvati, the Mother, is where everything comes from and it’s from Her body that Ganesha is formed – like everything else in existence. Her very upset threatens the entirety of existence, which makes sense because “everything” is energy, aka Shakti, aka The Mother – which further supports that Ganesha should have come from Her to begin with. Then Shiva, the one who jacked everything up because of His own yogic imbalance, is the rightly one who made everything good again through His own effort and sacrifice – aka the Law of Karma.

And finally what you’re left with is Ganesha: The universal symbol of Hinduism regardless of sect, second only to Om itself – which He’s also uniquely recognized as the embodiment of. His strange form transcends reason and conceptual limitation, just as with Brahman Itself. His form is also a poetic combination of natural and supernatural, magic and mundane, creator and creation – signifying not only the indefinable nature of our Source, but also that He’s the harmony found perfectly situated at the center of every paradox. He rules all karmas, as no substantial action should be started without Him, and no barrier can be erected or removed without Him. He’s known to be the ruler of the Muladhara Chakra and is known to be “centered in the chest where the breath is felt” which tells us that He’s the closest to us, the most easily accessed, the true Starting Point, and intimately connected to our very existence. No other conception of God is worshipped successfully without first worshipping Him.

I could probably go on and on, but I bet you’re about to hurl. Fair enough. Every once in a while I just gotta make a post like this and get it out of my system. Thanks for tolerating.

Om Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti

WICKED Li’l Old Me

Taken from Google Images

Taken from Google Images

Everyone seems to have the understanding that holy people, or spiritually advanced people are only humble. After all, the meek shall inherit the Earth, no? (Bible, Matthew 5:5)

However, I’d like to convince you that humility can be a problem in a way identical to that of arrogance or pride. Some posts ago I mentioned that I believe many carnivorous humans are better off from a karmic standpoint, and spiritually, simply because of the ignorant, emotional, and often irrational aversion so many vegetarians have regarding the subject. The post seemed to go virtually unnoticed, which doesn’t bother me in the least, but based on my understanding of how thoughts, emotions, actions, and karma in general work, I really do feel that many who are vegetarian are at times hurting their own progress more than those who bite sentient beings for sustenance – not because of the vegetarianism, but because of the samsaras they build up around the choice. All of that hinges on something good and virtuous (non-violence, non-aggression, vegetarianism) being taken to an extreme.

Religions and spiritual traditions throughout time and around the globe are guilty of this in one context or another, to one degree or another. Of course, some religions are inherently more inclined toward the live-and-let-live model and so there are those who are perhaps “less” guilty of this imbalance. Still, guilty is guilty and people who live in glass houses ought not to throw rocks.

To a lesser degree I think this same principle is sometimes also at work when it comes to humility. Too many people are timid when it comes to displaying a warrior spirit in their own lives. A hymn from the Vedas, in part, says, “Ati Vinayam Dhoortha Lakshanam…” which translates as, “Too much of humbleness is an attribute of a wicked person.”

But how can this be? How can a virtue like humility lead one to wickedness?

Umm… how about by being emphasized or implemented in such a way or to such a degree that it becomes detrimental. Initially, the detriment would be applicable only to the immediate life state of the one exhibiting this imbalance. That person would end up essentially being walked on or abused throughout his or her existence, and while that saddens my heart, I can see, that on that level, it’s still only a localized misery – again pertaining to individualized samsara. If allowed to go further, however, the localization ceases and others begin to suffer, too – others who might need a so-called warrior, Vira, to help maintain or restore balance. The absence of this assertive warrior spirit is adharma, and this is why the Vedas tell us that “too much of humbleness” makes someone wicked. Too much humbleness is an imbalance and is adharmic. So much of the Hindu dharma points to the at-least-occasional need for exhibiting warrior-ness: everything from yogasanas to the Bhagavad Gita hint at this.

If someone tells you you’re going to hell for eating cows, tell them to mind their own damned business and worry about themselves not going to hell. If someone tells you your friend or guru is corrupt or fraudulent, hold them accountable for those accusations – if they refuse, they need to fuck off and you need to make them aware of as much, and if they can offer proof your life has been made better. If someone repeatedly and directly badgers you about your own ishtadevata or chosen scriptures, I do hope you have spine enough (and bhakti enough) to adhere to your spiritual home AND tell them to do the same.

So many people think that if one is humble they’re “good” and if they’re not, they’re not. But the truth is, humility is much like aggression in that it possesses degrees of expression. Ideally, humility is best expressed through patience, understanding and compassion – not necessarily meekness. If one keenly develops these traits, humility will manifest without compromising other areas and without leading to adharma/wickedness.

In posts like this, I eventually begin wondering if my point is lost. Like the vegetarian samsara post, it’s such a broad and deep subject that can be taken in so many directions. It’s actually a challenge to write about effectively without composing an entire book on the subject. If nothing else I’d like to leave you with just two recommendations:

1) Cultivate a keen inner awareness. Progress without this is infinitely more difficult.

2) Follow Krishna’s advice to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. Sometimes we’re called to be warriors. Sometimes dharma, whether localized or general, depends on us being loud, assertive and even bossy. History has shown as much.

Om Jai Shri Ganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti

Another Seat at the Table

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

In the last post I struggled a bit, I feel. This topic of the human diet and what is supreme in regard to it is actually a big thing to consider and try to explain. Before continuing, allow me to offer apologies here for any confusion I might cause or miscommunition that might be my responsibility. I wrote about many things inherent to the diversity of Hinduism, and maybe a few other things. It was a lot and I feel like I mostly only touched on each of those things, which leads me to think it might be inappropriate to continue without going deeper into those topics.

I mentioned that, like so many other aspects of our religion, for every yes there is a no and every up corresponds to at least one down. Most people, especially Westerners, are not terribly aware of how truly immense and diverse Hinduism is. As Westerners not born into the religion or culture, our beginning stages often amount to somewhat of a scramble to understand as much as possible as quickly a possible, the result of which usually is that our minds only grasp part of the whole and then clings to that part because that’s all we feel we can understand. In Hinduism, literally everyone has a seat at the table. None are excluded on the path to liberation – that’s important to remember regardless of your sect. Hindus adhere to many different scriptural authorities. It’s important to remember that these authorities dont always agree.

One possible authority is probably the most-read of all Hindu scriptures – The Bhagavad Gita. In the last post, I mentioned that violence isn’t inherently bad and is even natural in life – and that the Gita supports this. A key factor pertaining to that concept, is equipoise. Krishna explains to Arjuna that the yogi (one who achieves union, aka moksha) is one who remains ultimately unaffected by life’s roller coaster-like happenings. This is the Yoga of Equanimity and is a key to vairagya and renouncing karmaphala. Do you see how it’s all connected?

Some might incorrectly interpret this to imply indifference or apathy. I don’t agree with that. It requires much work to govern both personal inclinations and aversions – a work that actually implies anything but indifference or apathy. It is a quite passionate endeavor indeed to consistenly remain equipoised. On a superficial level, what we eat doesn’t affect our soul, which remains untouched by anything happening within Maya. Multiple world religions affirm this.

Another text belonging to Advaita Vedanta, and which many Hindus revere whole-heartedly is The Yogavasishta, which states, “It is the actions of the mind that are truly termed Karmas…True liberation results from the disenthralment of the mind…Those who have freed themselves from the fluctuation of their mind come into possession of the supreme Nishta…Should the mind be purged of all its impurities, then it will become as still as the milky ocean undisturbed by the churning of Mandara hills; and all our samsaric delusion attendant with its birth and deaths will be destroyed…Those who without longing for objects avoid them can be termed as subjugators of their mind.” This may not say much about avoiding meat as food, but it does add additional support to my point that whether one eats meat or not shouldn’t be too key. Our mind’s actions are the bijas of all external karmas. Certainly, “outside” stuff can have an influence on the mind’s actions, but ultimately all possible outcomes related to that “outside” stuff are dependent upon what’s in the mind to begin with. This can also relate back to the Gita where we’re encouraged to follow our own dharma over someone else’s. For some, in this current life, the menu will only include plant material.

For others it’s simply not so – and I must insist, for the sake of your own karmas, that that’s alright.

Don’t worry – there’s more.

Aum Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Your Business

Lately, I’m gaining experience in getting used to stinging response from others, so I’ll say it now: I don’t really care. Really. At times I post things for shock value or to evoke a response from others – invariably as a means of encouraging them to challenge themselves on where they think they stand. Some of these things I myself disagree with, but I’ll still post them because your growth means enough to me to do so. Unless you know me quite well, it’ll likely be hard for you to know when I’m doing any one or combination of these things. Sorry ’bout your luck.

My path in life seems to be the one fewer people tread. Pick anything and you’ll see it’s true. Often, superficially, I don’t appreciate this. However, my path and my journey are about me, as I am right now. No one else. And I refuse to walk another’s path simply because it’s what everyone else seems to be doing – even if it’s what the saints are doing.

This is one of the few arenas in my life where I cling to Krishna’s words in the Hindu bible, the Bhagavad Gita. He advises his cousin and disciple, Arjuna, regarding Dharma. In regard to one’s individual path, called swadharma, Krishna says it’s always always always better to follow your own path than to attempt someone else’s – even if you follow your own path poorly!

I’m planning an up-coming post that is likely going to cause a few brows to raise. Likewise, I wouldn’t be surprised if the post comes across to some as offensive or just plain old wrong. It will employ Jnana Yoga that is a bit deeper than most experience – especially considering that most people don’t even touch Jnana Yoga most of the time. This alone is enough to make backlash predictable. Most people are so certain in what they think they know or experience – which, often at best, only points to what they actually don’t know or experience – that they end up reacting instead of realizing. It’s painful and is also more than a little annoying, but whatever. Part of the process, no?

For me, one of the supreme facets of Hinduism is the freedom its structure offers. That might sound contradictory on the surface – structure (religiously speaking, orthodoxy) implies a certain level of rigidity, and freedom seems to be the opposite. Hinduism is essentially a conglomerate of religious practices, approaches, and philosophies. It’s been said that there are more religions within Hinduism than outside it. With that in mind, I’ll remind you, my dear reader, that there are MANY kinds of Hindus. Certainly, being human, you’re under the impression – even if you recognize the diversity of our Faith – that your way is somehow purer or better right now than the others. This is natural, and honestly, it’s also probably based in ego (although not necessarily or automatically so). Do be careful. Please trust that chances are just as likely that there are more than a few who’d disagree with where you stand, according to their own swadharma.

With any luck I’ll get the aforementioned post composed and posted sometime before I turn seventy and before you forget that I gave this disclaimer.

Om Sri Ganeshaya 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

Top 40

Around the clock, like clockwork, my phone flashes this tiny green light – any time someone does something in a group I belong to, or at one of my employers, anything, I get a notification. I check my phone sufficiently that the light stops flashing and return to my activities. Many of these notices come during the middle of the night, so I literally check just sufficiently to get the light to stop and then later, after waking, do a more thorough check of what arrived overnight.

Last night I noticed a post from a blogger who is actually one of the first Hindu blogs I ever encountered. While he does write about actual topics, and usually writes well, I feel like most of his posts are simply to let others know about other Hindu blogs. He’s mentioned me there before – while I was in the middle of a series of posts on a certain topic – and took those posts to be largely indicative of me as a Hindu, never mind the fact that my blog (like so many others) has an “About” page, titled Samyag Akhyate, which spells out a little more clearly who I am as a Hindu. Since that time, while I’ll happily tell anyone he’s a good writer and does good work, I’ll also usually add in that his work is often enough incomplete. I imagine if he’s going to skim over a few of my posts and give a general (and incomplete) shout out, that other writers he showcases are receiving similar treatment. Or… maybe it’s me. Many blogs are actually quite narrow in their focus, only ever really writing about one topic or perhaps writing about various topics as they apply to one specific context. That’s not how I roll. I write about a billion things in a billion different contexts. The only thing I can tell is a constant is that the posts often are meant to detail my experience of Truth.

At any rate, and speaking of rolling, the aforementioned blogger posted overnight about how his blog was featured on some random website’s Top 40 Best Hindu Blogs. I think his was fourth on the list. Naturally, I read through the rest of the list and was pleased to see Rolling With Vishnu there, too! To be clear: I’m neither a Vaishnav, a Bhakta, a Karmi, nor do I move about in a wheelchair – all things the writer of Rolling With Vishnu either is, does, or is aspiring toward – but I’ve really enjoyed this blog no less, and have grown into a valued friendship with its author.

I suppose this list might not mean much to most. After all, it’s relatively tucked away on the side blog of a Buddhist/Hindu statue website. Admittedly, the audience will be limited. BUT… something like this is no less great or noteworthy, definitely doesn’t hurt visibility, and is something I’m particularly proud of for my pal. Everyone should go check out Rolling With Vishnu, as well as this list and visit the other blogs cited there (many of which, I also read).

Om Shanti


Anyone who’s ventured into more than one religion – at once or separately – can attest to the comfort, joy, and simple benefit of knowing where your “home” is. Having been born into a non-religious family, I suppose I was blessed with the option of choosing my own path and making my own home.

As a teen I found myself enjoying the school band, and eventually found myself in the high school marching band. (As an aside, my hometown had the USA’s first high school marching band.) Every year we’d go away for week or so to a remote location, entirely inescapable, and have band camp. Anyone who’s watched the America Pie movies snickers when someone supposedly has a band camp story. Please let me verify, band camp IS like that.

My band camp story is one of religion, though, instead of teen sex-capades. We held band camp at a theological seminary and for a week we literally lived as monks. (I was in heaven, no joke, and have hinted at this in past posts.) Somewhere amidst all the torture and antics, a guy invited me to church. THAT is my band camp story.

Shortly after returning from band camp, I went to church – Jesus stuck to me and the rest is virtually history. For a few years following, I was a veritable monster for The Christ.

It was horrible. And it came to a very lonely and painful end when they learned that not only did I have no plans to marry someone of the opposite sex, but also that I was happy as such. I thought I had found my spiritual home. I was wrong. A few years later, after a brief journey with paganism, I managed to find Hinduism and have been home since.

I read another blogger’s post recently that reminded me of my journey – although hers is her own and is currently still pagan. I’m reminded of a huge lesson taken from the Gita of the importance and immense benefit of knowing one’s own dharma and following it – this applies to one’s religion or spiritual choices as well as the general life path one takes.

In closing, I’ll share a video of a song that has been with me since my pagan days. I sing it regularly, although the significance for me has changed slightly. I hope you enjoy it, I hope you learn to sing it too, and above all I hope you are able to hear The Voice and known your path as fully as possible. Home is where we started, after all, and is where we’re returning.

Om Shanti




Chandogya Upanishad

Now, Once upon a time….

Tongue, Eye, Ear, Mind and Breath were arguing about who was the best among them. They appealed to their father, Prajapati, Force-of-Creation, for his opinion. “Sir,” they cried, “who is the best of us?” The wise Prajapati suggested a simple way to settle the dispute: “He by whose departure the body seems worse than worse, he is the best of you.”

First, Tongue left for a year, and when he came back he asked, “How have you been able to live without me?” And the others replied, “Like mute people, not speaking,” yet they were able to see, hear, think and breathe just fine. So the Tongue was not the best.

Next, Eye left for a year, and when he came back he asked, “How have you been able to live without me?” And the others replied, “Like blind people, not seeing,” yet they were able to talk, hear, think, and breathe just fine. So Eye was not the best.

Then Ear left for a year, and when he came back he asked, “How have you been able to live without me?” And the others replied, “Like deaf people, not hearing,” yet they were able to talk, see, think, and breathe just fine. So Ear was not the best.

Off went Mind for a year, and when he came back he asked, “How have you been able to live without me?” And the others replied, “Like children whose mind is not yet formed,” yet they were able to talk, see, hear, and breathe just fine. So Mind was not the best.

Finally, as Breath got ready to go, she ripped at the other breaths, “as a horse, going to start, might tear up the pegs to which he is tethered.” The others realized immediately that they couldn’t live without Breath. “Madam,” they cried, “thou art the best among us. Do not depart from us!”

And so the parable concludes, people don’t call these five the Vital Tongues, the Vital Eyes, the Vital Ears, or the Vital Minds, but the Vital Breaths(prana), “for the vital breath is all these.”

Om Shanti
P.S. In the context of pranayama and the profound effects of its proper usage, I’ve always wondered about the spirituality of people who smoke.