The Elephant in the Room


20131107 was a Thursday. I don’t write about these things very often, but I had an experience during that evening’s puja and when I shared tidbits about it with a friend, I received encouragement that this end up bloggered. So here you have it… To be clear, my daily pujas are REALLY simple. Short and sweet. I think the most the whole ordeal only ever really takes is something around 15-20 minutes. On particularly “holy” days, I do a bit more in terms of worship.

Last night was only different from any normal week night puja in that my home mandir has been newly decorated with some white Xmas lights. I’ve done this before and really enjoy the warm, glowing effect it has on the entire temple room. But that’s not entirely true about last night’s puja only being different because of Xmas lights. Last night was also different because “something” happened. When I mentioned this to my friend, I think I put it in terms of a “visitation” but the closer reality is likely that it was more of a “clarification.”

My home mandir currently

My home mandir currently

I’m sitting before the mandir like always, doing the ritual like always. I recall a certain point in the process when I almost suddenly felt like I wasn’t alone. My immediate perception was that Shri Ganesh-ji had “arrived” and was in the room with me. Mind you, the beginning of every puja involves an invocation, so technically He’s always present during puja. I call to Him. He arrives. And I worship. This time however, the air in the room felt like it was more occupied than usual.

Toward the end of the puja I spend time in contemplation, dhyana, japa. It was at this time that I felt particularly aware of the room and everything happening in it. The glow from the mandir was pleasant. The asana I had wrapped myself in was hugging. The incense, a recent Diwali gift from my bahin in Atlanta, smelled great. For a very short time I seemed to feel the vibrations from the shlokas and other things intoned during the puja – as if they were reverberating throughout the room still. Then suddenly, and very sweetly, I realized that I wasn’t alone in the room. My first thought was something like, “Whoa-shit! Ganesha’s here big time!” The only form of Ganesha that I actually saw was the Vira-Ganesh murti in my mandir, but I really felt another, far-fuller, Presence.

Some readers are likely entertaining thoughts like, “This kind of stuff is all in his head.” And, I believe, that is the truth. Now, before anyone gets all huffy and puffy on me, let me say that I’m not implying that Ganesh is imaginary. What I intend to say instead is that Ganesh and I are essentially non-different and what I really, truly, and actually felt then was my Self.

I recall Shri Eckhart Tolle telling of a time when he was at his lowest and had grown suicidal. One of the last thoughts he recalls from the moments before he planned to go through with the act was “I cannot live with myself.” Strangely, right then, it dawned on him that there were two entities in that thought. There was first the “myself” that couldn’t be lived with and then there was also the “I” that seemed to be speaking and could no longer tolerate an existence with the “myself.” He questioned right then who was the “I” that couldn’t live with his “myself.” It was then that he realized that there is a component of who he is that isn’t touched by the misery of the “myself” and had grown weary of experiencing that misery.

Some would maybe say that this sounds a little like a schizophrenic break, but the reality is: We are not our mind.

The mind is an immensely powerful thing. And the ego, necessary for functioning in this life, maintains an incredibly close relationship with the mind. One of the results of this relationship is that we begin identifying with our thoughts and consequently believe that we are our mind – or that our thoughts reflect our truest selves. It’s not true.

There’s a saying, which this post is titled after, that mentions “the elephant in the room” and references something not spoken about, but potentially quite obvious. The elephant felt to be in the room with me during the final moments of last night’s puja is That. This elephant could well be called Ganesha. It would just as well be called my Self – the timeless spark of God that lives in each of us. The “I” that lives with “myself.” It’s very much like “the elephant in the room” because it’s not spoken of hardly ever, yet it’s all that there really is. I suppose within the Advaita Hindu view of things, this elephant is in the room and pervades the room, and IS the room. I often am able to separate my mind/ego from who I am – even to the point that I can watch the mind/ego function, and as Tolle says, it’s madness. But it was a blessing and true surprise last night when my Self became the Ganesha my worship was directed at – and that the connection was so complete that “I” filled the room and even surprised my own mind.

The friend who encouraged me to publish a post about the experience, when I initially refused, encouraged me to write – not so much to say, “Look how awesome this was” as to say, “Look what’s out there.” Reader, please know You are what’s out there. You are what’s worshipable. And You are far more awesome than even yourself realizes.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti


Aadi Pujya

big511052As I left Christianity, one thing I was glad to leave behind was the belief of a literal Heaven. Streets of gold, pearly gates, the whole bit. I recall in Revelation, the last book of the Bible as we know it currently, there are actual 3-Dimensional measurements of New Jerusalem as it sinks from Heaven down onto Earth to establish the new order of God on Earth. Nothing like the idea of repenting for every mis-step your entire conscious life to go and spend forever in a cube. Mystical or not, no way THAT sounds like jail. (note: sarcasm)

In that light, one of the appeals Hinduism held for me when I first encountered it a decade or so ago is that the destination of us all is the same place we started – an infinitely infinite Infinity that literally transcends any description our brawniest brains might conceive. To me, THAT notion/definition of God/Heaven seems to not only be the most satisfying and least human, but also the most logical and most likely. But it seems I’ve been wrong.

As I deepened my journey into Hinduism, I learned of MANY different so-called heavens. It’s been said that there are more religions within Hinduism than outside of it and that there are 330 million gods in Hinduism. I suppose each has His/Her own “loka” or Heaven where His/Her devotees potentially land after the finish of this life. The first of these lokas that I learned about, some time ago actually, was Vaikuntha. This, apparently, is the hopeful resting place of all the Krishna-centric worshippers in the world. In my unfair ignorance, and before learning much about the other lokas, I thought to myself, “Just figures. Typical!” Within the main branches of Hinduism (Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, & Smartism), it has always seemed to me that Vaishnavism has the highest number of parallels with the Abrahamic Faiths, namely Christianity. (Please note: that while that is still (mostly) my view, I’m also able to recognize immense differences between Vaishnavism and Christianity that I find very comforting.) Kailasha is the heaven dedicated to Shiva and even that seemed more reasonable to me. Afterall, we’re made of consciousness – which Shiva represents -and surely consciousness is where we’re destined to return to, so… But whatever, that kind of thinking could be classified as sectarian hair-splitting and ultimately is unproductive. Suffice to say, every god has a loka and we’re all best served to understand these lokas as something like, “literal, independent-but-nondifferent, … and certainly with a grain of salt.”

Having said all that, while catching up on posts from a secret Facebook group I belong to I came across some loka-vidya for the “heaven” where Ganesha and His devotees supposedly reside in the hereafter.

Ganesha’s lokah is known as either Swanandalokah or Nijalokah. This loka is located above Swarga lokah and is placed in the middle of an ocean of sugar cane juice (ikshu sagara). So above Swargalokah, in the middle of Ikshu Sagara, in the middle of a white lotus (swetha kamala), and on top of that on a silk sheet (ratna gambali) can be found Bala Ganapati being attended to by the Ashta Siddhis. Nearby is Samaveda Purusha reciting the Sama Veda.

And there you have it. The “heaven” I can look forward to.

Om Shanti