Hidden Glory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Om Shanti



When I first came to Hinduism, like any other westerners, I found the crazy-long list of religious vocabulary to be daunting. However, I also found it increasingly necessary to know more about this long list of terms simply because, as awesome as the English language is (and I mean that!), no other language does a super terrific job at precisely matching word-for-word translation of Sanskrit terms. I’ll admit now that by the time I learned much of anything about the concept of bhakti, I already had a pretty extensive list of religious terminology under my belt.

Bhakti is one of the main paths an aspirant can take on his or her journey back to our collective Source. Superficially, bhakti translates as “devotion,” and often encompasses practices like devotional singing or devotional chanting, among many other expressions. This path is noticeably more … colorful… than some of the other approaches one might take in his/her journey. I dare say that bhakti is largely responsible for the massive amount of religious art found in the world today – regardless of the specific religious inspiration. I also would agree that bhakti does a great job at fostering the sense of community often wanted by seekers of all paths.

For all the goodness bhakti can bring to the table of religious/spiritual life, I remain unconvinced that it should ever constitute a full-fledged path on its own – at least not for the average modern human. Perhaps, and I this is a very big “if,” a person has developed sufficiently in other ways, bhakti could take more of a front seat. (And I think this is likely the case with many of the well-known poet sages throughout history.) But even then, as far as I’m concerned it’d amount to little more than the roof on a house – not as consequential as other structures like a foundation and walls, without which a roof is of little use.

My inclination has, by far, been the path of Jnana yoga. A secondary path for me might be that of Karma or Raja yogas. This wasn’t always necessarily the case, though. Having been born to non-religious parents, and having been tossed out by the Christian church for being gay, as I began to look for the next steps of my spiritual path, I settled on Hinduism quite naturally and began exploring all it had to offer – little by little. I learned about bhakti, but from the start of my knowledge of it there seemed to be far too many parallels with the more fundamentalist Abrahamic religions. Sure enough, that was bound to happen, right? All paths leading back to The Source must have something in common since they all spring from the same Well, no? I don’t take issue with commonality, but I do think (at least in this age) some similarities should be discouraged. Hinduism is an entirely independent Faith and there’s nothing the matter with it maintaining its own concrete identity. And, after all, a huge shaping factor in the Abrahamic faiths has been their specialization in bhakti – and we can all see where that too often leads in the minds and hearts of modern humans: the distortion and abuse of bhakti. Honestly speaking, that was the first red flag for me regarding bhakti. In so far as the vast majority of bhaktas ever take it, it’s too… flimsy. For a path that apparently leads to The Supreme, it’s so easy to manipulate. So easily toppled. This differs from the abuse or distortion Jnana/Raja/Karma yogas in very important ways.

If devotion is meant to carry anyone anywhere, it must have staying power and be far less prone to life’s ebb and flow than bhakti seems to be in most cases. If real spiritual progress is to be made in this life by me, by any common grihasta/householder, secure footing is needed – more secure than emotionally rapturous bliss that hardly lasts longer than satsangh and that can resist the distractions of daily living.

In defense of bhakti, I will say that few things can carry a gap or fill in spaces – few things can supplement the way bhakti is able. In fact, I’m fairly certain any other approach that might serve as a supplement to one’s main path will likely not do as well as bhakti. Faith and devotion are fluid and meant to be living. Only something fluid and alive can fill such gaps and holes and serve as the nurturing broth for the rest of one’s sadhana and path. In my own walk, bhakti is surely what carries me through so-called dry spells. In varying scopes, and at varying times, I find myself involved in raja yoga or karma yoga, or jnana yoga. Bhakti amounts to 15% or less of my entire spiritual walk, and yet there have been numerous times when without it I might have hanged my hat up all together. A dear friend of mine once told me he saw bhakti in my spirituality. Until he said that, I hadn’t much thought about it. The things he mentioned, that he recognized as bhakti in my own path, are definitely expressions of bhakti and those same things are what carry me at times. Those things, though, for me, could never constitute a full-fledged path. Maybe for someone else.

The intent of this post isn’t to disparage the Bhakti Marg. I sincerely do respect the validity of, and offer space for, someone reaching toward Home by this means. For me, it simply can never be more than supplemental to any of the other yogas I practice. The goal I have for the next post is to offer a somewhat detailed analysis of the “why” for this. I’m not sure how it’s going to go and that makes me nervous, truth be told.

Keep reading if you dare.

Om Shanti


A few weeks ago I posted on Facebook a quote from the Rig Veda. Most people haven’t ever heard of this text, although it’s one of the oldest existing pieces of human literature. For anyone unaware, the Rig Veda is one of four Vedas, the others being Yajur, Atharva, and Sama. Unlike virtually every other human religion, Hinduism has no single human founder, but the Vedas serve as the foundation. The Vedas existed in unwritten form for thousands of years, in spoken Sanskrit only, before they were finally put into readable script.

The very nature of the Sanskrit language, whether written or spoken, has served as an immense protection to our scriptures. Many other religions are built on scripture that has either been changed since its advent, or whose scripture has a spotty or otherwise uncertain foundation – the potholes of which have been left to be filled with speculation or the inclinations of those handling the scriptures. That would be fine, except humans living in a world that seems concrete tend to take things rather concretely. Thankfully, the Hindu religion and the nature of its sacred tongue have done well to preserve the wholeness found in Sanatana Dharma

So… back to my Rig Veda quote. The quote in its entirely was the command, “Give prominence to intellect over emotions.” A mere twenty minutes later a friend who is dear to me pointed out that the quote seems to advocate jnana over bhakti, but that bhakti doesn’t always have to be emotional. Since then, this has spawned much mental mastication as to what, exactly, bhakti means. I hope you’re ready to read. I also hope this post all subsequent posts pertaining to the topic of bhakti are not taken as any form of bhakti bashing. First and foremost, I view bhakti to be an integral and valid part of any swadharma, and very effective if the aspirant knows the proper place and purpose of something like bhakti. I also intend the words of this post and those that follow, as they pertain to bhakti, to merely indicate and affirm that, for me, bhakti isn’t “the way” so much as grease to help the machine of faith continue to run.

I’ll do my best to keep this journey into my understanding of bhakti short and sweet. For any readers already familiar with my writing style or prior posts, you’ll know that my posts are almost never just 2-3 paragraphs and my idea of short and sweet is still “tome” in proportion (more about my thoughts on that later!).

Thank you for your patience and God help you and your eyeballs.

Om Shanti



The mind is in itself the cause for one’s happiness and misery. That mind which is possessed of wisdom, manliness and cheer is a friend, while that which is otherwise is a foe.

The mind that is sullied by the passions of attachment and hatred gives rise to misery and several other painful experiences. Hence one should wash off these impurities of the mind with one’s own wisdom and manliness and make it crystal pure.

To get rid of human misery, it is the mind and not God that is to be pleased. Without purity of mind no salvation is possible.

Motionlessness of the mind is itself salvation, while its motion is worldly bondage. Get the mind absorbed in itself and it will then merge in ecstatic Bliss. That is indeed the cessation of all misery and the attainment of final beatitude.

Brahmananda Swami Sivayogi (1852-1929)
-As taken from Hindu Blog


I daydream frequently. I’ve always been fairly imaginative. I like to tell stories when the mood hits and while I was in hair school, if we had spare time at the end of the day, grown people would literally gather around me while we looked through the haircut picture books… I’d point to some hair model and would tell their life story. Everyone loved it. One might expect that suchery would captivate children, but it was incredible to see half a room full of adults sitting, fully captivated while I blathered away about the people in the books.

When it comes to seeing what’s not there, or building a picture within my mind’s eye, I’m usually a pro. It’s usually something I’m capable of rather effortlessly. But when it comes to visualizing with intent, with a deeper meaning or purpose, my mind and imagination halt.

According to http://www.definitions.net, visualization is defined as “1) to recall or form mental images or pictures. 2) to form a mental image of. 3) to make perceptible to the mind or imagination. The WordNet website from Princeton defines visualization as “visual image: a mental image that is similar to a visual perception” ( wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn). And according to the almighty Wiki, one of the word’s meanings is “to form a mental picture of something that is invisible or abstract.”

This is fine. Dandy even… if you’re trying to simply imagine or be creative or something simply for the same of the visualization. But I immediately begin to struggle when it comes to employing visualization in spiritual practices.
A good ole friend of mine from way back in high school has taken a path in life that is far different from my own in nearly every way –but we’ve always agreed on the scientific basis of spirituality and of the mystic foundations of reality. For some time now, he’s been active in Chios. I’ll admit now, that I’m poorly versed in the ins & outs of the Chios system. I can say that it deals with different energies that make up reality, particularly in the context of humanity and the human experience. I’ve listened in on a number of their Google+ Hangouts and while they are indeed welcoming and interesting and informative, they seem rather… pretend. I don’t know. I can genuinely say that I have no judgements about anyone investing their time and effort in the Chios system. I sense truth there. But much of the system, and indeed much of the exercises done during the Hangouts, seems to hinge on creative visualization involving colors and shapes. Needless to say, I’m having difficulty buying into the idea that if I visualize myself being a green triune, that I’ll be able to manipulate someone else’s aura and help seal tears and leaks.

Recently, I finished a book, “Loving Ganesha,” which is published by the parampara/sampradaya I’m seriously considering becoming a member of. The lineage is pretty sweet, and I may post on it sometime in the future – it seems to be literally the only lineage I know of that maintains the degree of authenticity that it brought with it when it departed the motherland of Bharata, and is also very open to westerners and non-Indians. But this book, while seriously explaining much of anything to do with Shri Ganesha in minute detail, also indicated that Shri Ganesha is the One Hindu deity that is pleased so easily and is the most accessible to all devotees anywhere. I agree with that much. However, part of this easy access is that simply visualizing Ganesha in one’s mind’s eye brings Him near and immediately puts on into His presence – indeed, this practice of visualization is said to be very helpful when forging a relationship with Ganesha.

I hate to be a doubting Thomas, but I’m not sure I buy this either.

I do agree that, depending on the seeker and his baggage, forging a relationship with the Divine and drawing near to the Divine isn’t necessarily a complex feat. But I don’t know that simply picturing God in one’s mind is enough to immediately and powerfully bring one into practical darshan.

I’m clearly going to have to chew on this one for a bit – I don’t feel like letting part of my personal development and progression to be left up to intentional daydreaming, which is what visualization feels like to me. Maybe I just need to practice visualization a little more, and with more sincerity. Until then, I’ll likely trust in what I know works for sure for me: scientific, systematic, regular, and concrete puja/sadhana.

Om Shanti

Viper’s Sting – Barbados Lime Is Just the Thing!


There’s a dark and wond’rous mystery that lives in my temple room. It’s a little nerve-wracking, very encouraging and somewhat thrilling. I’ve been meaning to speak about it, but I hate jinxes. It’s so weird.

Ganesham Bhajema

Although not everything about my religious/spiritual journey in this life has been pleasant, I’m immensely grateful for every step. After being forced to part ways with Christianity, and wandering for a brief year or two, I came to discover what might be modernly recognized as the principal deities of Hinduism, namely Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. It was in learning about the Trimurti that I learned about other manifestations of the divine such as Vayu, Indra, Surya, Agni, Lakshmi, Hanuman, Ganesha, Saraswati, and many others. Initially there seemed to be a profound yet finite hierarchy within this pantheon; some gods being the husbands/wives/fathers/mothers/sons/daughters of others. For a time, most of my learning centered around acquainting myself with these relationships and their histories.

As the depth of my knowledge increased, I gained the realization that these gods were variously known to be faces of the One Supreme Reality, as well as actually worshipped by their respective devotees as That One. I found this to be an interesting facet of Sanatana Dharma that is missing from religions of the West. I also found this to be one of the single most important things a dharmi could come to know. In fact, this is literally foundational to the faith: Ekam sat vipraha bahudh’ vadanti, Truth is one, though the wise recognize it variously. It’s because of this foundation of the Hindu belief system that I’ve always wondered why a Hindu is able to genuinely believe that any such “face” the One might happen to wear, is actually the “complete” manifestation of Brahman.

Having said that, I’ll say two other things.

  1. I feel that each of the Hindu gods (it’s been said that there are over 330 million) does absolutely represent Brahman, although incompletely -if that even makes any sense. Truly, only Brahman is That, and That is impossible to fully describe from the perspective of human language and conception – which might account for why there are a bajillion deities recognized within Hindu panentheism, and which is also a testament to the vastness of Hindu religion and the fruit of its ancient and on-going efforts to paint an ever clearer picture of what Reality is. In no other religion known to humans on Earth is the picture of God provided in such an encompassing way. No joke. But each god, while worshipable as a representation of The All, at best can only point to some of That All.
  2. I’ve spent more than one-third of my current life learning about and actively living Hindu Dharma. A lot of this time, and certainly especially in my earlier Hindu years, has been spent (as I already mentioned) continually educating myself. Some of this self education has been very basic: “This is such-and-such god, and this is what he/she governs/represents.” It didn’t take long before I noticed overlapping from one god to the next. A basic example is that of goddesses Kali and Durga. Both are distinct in their own ways, yet both are known as fierce, protecting Mothers and are understood to be magnificent but volatile faces for the Shakti that animates everything. I think it’s because of encountering this that I’m not likely to ever say that one god is actually supreme over the rest. Not in all cases, but in enough, an attribute of one god is equally as applicable to another. With that in mind, why would it be logical to say that Kali is supreme, when Durga has any number of things in common with Her? And what of the attributes typically ascribed to Durga that don’t apply to Mother Kali? Do those render Durga superior to Kali? This can be carried over and applied to a huge number of Hindu deities.

Sri Ganesh is (kind of) an exception. Or at least to my current personal sensibilities, He’s the closest thing to an exception that I’ve found. I say He’s kind of an exception, because I believe you are either an exception or you’re not, and technically speaking He’s not. Why then, even bring Him up? If for no other reason, because the greatest amount of the aforementioned deity-deity overlapping occurs with Him, AKA from my perspective it seems as though the greatest number of Brahman’s attributes apply to Ganesha. I don’t think this alone makes Him an exception, but it does make Him stand out to me.

Dear Reader, allow me to provide a slight disclaimer at this point: I’m not professing to be any sort of expert. I’m also not in any way intending to invalidate anyone else’s beliefs or ishtadevata or marg or …anything. What I’m saying in this post, and in the next few to come, applies strictly to my experience. If it happens to also apply to your own, by all means let me know, and we’ll relate our commonality. If your experience has been different, and seemingly conflicting to what I’ve posted here and am about to post, you are also welcome to let me know this, provided you respect our difference as it’s been expressed in my writing. I’ll ask just one favor of you before you express your differing viewpoint. Read at least the final paragraph of this.

Om Shanti