Life is about learning. No? From the lowest level of conscious life on this planet, learning is a must – and it’s a blessing. In life forms that are “below” the human level, consciousness of differing degrees is found. And, in many cases in direct proportion to the degree of consciousness, there are degrees of learning capability.

In virtually every sub-human existence, pain in some form is an absolutely necessary part of the learning process. 12-stepping addicts everywhere would agree that this is true in every instance, never mind sub-humans. Most of the animal kingdom operates on a majority instinct level, and learning happens as a matter of survival for the most part -either to avoid pain altogether, or to lessen current pain. When learning for survival provides an organism (or a population of organisms) enough of an “edge” in its existence, sometimes consciousness begins to expand. I have a feeling that this is a foundational element of nature’s evolution, and is also a huge part of why evolution is, typically and literally, painfully slow. In “A New Earth,” by Eckhart Tolle (a book everyone should read, at least once) this “blossoming” of consciousness was first evident in flowers. His words on this, which I think I recall coming early in the book, are very eloquent and powerful, and enlightening. (Through his own dedicated effort, Tolle is certainly a modern living Jnana Yogi. Believe it.) There are many sub-human forms of life on Earth that don’t learn ONLY in this way. Many mammals and some bird species (among an entire host of other life forms) are known to have “deeper” components to their lives. These components point to a level of consciousness much closer to that of humans, although these beings are still primarily governed by instictiveness.

Human life, on the other hand, has allowed its animalistic components to atrophy a bit in favor of a more developed consciousness. An unfortunate aspect of this trade is a simultaneous increase in ego, but that’s for another post. One of the biggest benefits of this swap, however, is the developed capacity for humans to learn without the aforementioned pain so often necessary for other animals. In truth, there are a number of animal species who have been discovered to have this capacity, too, but only in humans is this particular evolution of consciousness so well-developed and potentially (depending on the human individual) so finely tuned. Here, precisely, is where human consciousness has one of the greatest gifts. We can learn by the usual and common method of pain, but that mustn’t be the only way we learn. Indeed, we’re one of the only animals on the planet who are able to learn solely by observation, and we’re certainly the only organism on the planet to be able to learn so thoroughly in this way.

At this point, I’m recalling a common saying among my Nichiren Buddhist friends. I think it comes from the Daishonen’s sayings somewhere, but the idea is that through chanting we’re able to tap into “Myoho,”  and transmute our karmas into something more, thus elevating our life state. I’ve known these great and optimistic humanists to be fond of speaking about “turning poison into medicine.” To me, this points at even deeper component to the human existence. We’re not only in control of our learning, but we’re responsible for it.

As we find ourselves in the middle of the yearly holiday season, many of us would do well to take a look at our “poisons” and search how we might turn them into medicines for our betterment. A poison might be defined, superficially, as anything that seems to rob us of happiness. Anyone who’s followed my writing at all, might be aware of how deeply I adore my parents. For me personally, few things in my current existence are likely to be as painful (…potentially poisonous…) as the eventual death of either of my parents. Certainly, I anticipate very few things with as much dread and immense pre-emptive sorrow as either of these two events.

With this in mind, my heart and thoughts go out to anyone who’s lost a parent, and faced such (potential) poison. Sadly, I’m able to list a number of acquaintances who fall into this group, from this year alone. For this post, and for sake of a wonderful example, I’d like to mention someone who is perhaps surprisingly, and definitely increasingly dear to me. And that’s my mom’s brother’s wife, Wendy. What I know about Wendy tells me that she’s a truly great human. Without spilling everything about her, I can surely say that she loves her family and friends and is loyal to them. She works hard in her career, like so many others. She does her best to enjoy life. And she fights her battles as best she’s able and keeps moving, knowing she has to be strong for the next. One of these battles, recently, was the loss of her own mother.



Three days from now will be Wendy’s first Christmas holiday without her mother. Without a doubt this season will be a trying time for her. Certainly, Wendy has experienced ups and downs in her time managing her grief. You can find her story about the poison she faced here.

One thing I’ve noticed is that she’s consistently able to “turn poison into medicine.” She could easily be paralyzed by her loss. I know I would be. She didn’t have much time at all to prepare for the poison she was about to face. Instead, she continues moving forward. She still works. She still loves her family and friends. And she’s investing more of her time in pruning her internal landscape in very practical and hopefully effective ways, which will be the surest sign that the poison she’s experienced has been transmuted into very powerful medicine.

As humans, we don’t need pain to learn. Ideally, we’d be gifted with both the foresight and the time to prepare and learn on our own so that the Universe and our karmas don’t have to facilitate this learning for us. For those of us, like Wendy, who aren’t allotted ample time for preparing for what we don’t want to come, it’s my hope that we can at least enter into such unfortunate experiences with a fully human awareness and, like Wendy, with the capacity to take that experience and turn its poison into our medicine.

As this year and holiday season comes to a close, my prayer is that your awareness and mine will expand and cause our hearts to swell. Realize what an incredible boon you have, being born a human. What an immense opportunity has been awarded to you to assume the responsibility for your own growth. Face the poison in your life, and let the divine with you change it into medicine for your betterment and healing.

In the coming year, all the grace that is mine to give I gladly forward on to you.



God on a treadmill

There are, rather sporadically, these odd experiences I have. While it’s a horrible disservice to describe it in this way, to keep it short and sweet : The back of my head opens wide, my sense of self/being expands like you wouldn’t believe, and I literally see stars (aka outer space) and I “feel” what I perceive to be everywhere and everything. There are two places this has happened: in my car and on the treadmill at the gym. Unfortunately, this creates a situation that is ridiculously “pro” my injury or death. Fortunately, I retain much awareness of the Dhrishti/Yeshua/Joshua that you all know – at least enough of that awareness to have been able to pull my car over or stop running on the treadmill.

This experience has almost happened twice in the last three days -both times on the treadmill. Both times I felt it coming on, which isn’t usual. Both times, I had been paying attention to one of the wall-mounted flat screens showing news/developments of the recent elementary school tragedy. (For the record, I’m sure many of you are about to diagnose me as epileptic or something. Please understand that what I’ve described above is NOT that.)

Anyone who knows me really well, would likely know how almost desperate I am for fatherhood. Truth be told, it’s increasingly unlikely to ever happen, and this is proving to be one pretty large pill to swallow. But whatever. Here’s the really psycho thing: I already have children. One or two I think, I’m not sure. I don’t know exactly how old they are, but I know they’re past infancy, but still pretty young. I think of them often enough, but in a fairly controlled manner because I’m easily overcome by the immense parental affection I feel. Oh yeah… They reside in my heart. I swear I could almost name them. They feel THAT intense within me. When I feel particularly loony and perhaps a touch nostalgic, I’ll consider these “children” and also my own parents and how I would do everything for my children that my parents did for my brothers and me.

And you know what? Maybe I don’t have kids in my heart. Maybe this immensely powerful “thing” within me is affection I have for my parents and my desire to be as kick-ass as they are. I’m aware that I have received, and continue to receive, so much more than I deserve through the force in my life that my parents have been … perhaps this is simply a natural ebb and flow… I’m feeling a desire to give back that which has made my life everything it is: my experience with parenthood.

Oh gods, I’m a basket case.

Anyroad (as my bhai, Forrest, is fond of saying), all of that was meant to lead into other nonsense, which I’ll try to get to right now.

So I’m running my legs off, the news shows the faces of the very young lives that were ended, and suddenly God shows up on the treadmill with me. <sigh> Even remembering this brings a too-big lump into my throat. I really don’t have words for how I feel about this particular shooting. What I do have words for is the stupid American idea that gun ownership is the only way to be safe and because it’s a Right, must be exercised in all possible ways.

Allow me to just say: It might be your right to have 27 children, and no one can tell you you’re not allowed to. But that doesn’t mean it’s smart of reasonable to do so. People, it’s the same with guns. A Facebook friend of mine, recently posted a pretty lengthy status update, which I thought to share with you dear readers. I’ll admit that what I’m sharing here is a direct quote, but with parts omitted. I promise I havent sewn any sentence fragments together to support my ideas, but some of what she said hollers back to our own days as children, and I found some of that to be less applicable. (I’ve taken a personal vow that, for as long as I continue to age, I’ll never refer back to my youth as anything golden or sublime or “the way things ought to be,” and instead will do my best to accept and understand each successive generation for its own inherent value and capability to grow into the times.)

So, without further delay, read the following quotations. Read them with your eyes.

“When I was in school, all we feared, were tornadoes.  And, we were prepared, we practiced crouching in hallways, closets, and bathrooms with our biggest textbooks over our brainstem.  We were prepared. Never, ever, ever did the thought of a human wielding a gun barging into our school and hunting us down, never did that thought cross our minds.

“Something has changed, something in our society, that is turning us against each other.

“Gun Laws, yes they need changed.  But not because of Newtown, Connecticut, but also because of Columbine, because of Virginia Tech, because of the mall in Portland, Oregon, because of Aurora, Colorado.  Because of all of the mass shootings that are unfortunately defining this century.

“I don’t deny any human the right to own a firearm, but let’s look at regulation.  Why should a citizen be able to own higher powered weapons than the average police officer carries with them?  What is an officer responding to an emergency call able to do when they are face to face with semi automatic weapons and huge caches of ammunition?  The laws need to restrict one is able to own.  These weapons that discharge so quickly don’t give an armed officer a chance to help the victims.

“Also, the process for firearm ownership needs to change.  In order to adopt a child, or a pet, there are forms, documents, and even home visits.  Background checks and a waiting period.  These steps need to occur, plus multiple communications between the buyer and the seller, and possibly even psychological exams.  Lets make firearms accessible only with a file of information compiled to help understand the person whom is shopping.  Also, I think there needs to be ways to ensure firearm buyers have locked cabinets, to cut down on the stealing of weapons.  We need to hold the same responsibility for having a weapon, it may not be a human or animal, but it has the capability to take the life of a living being, and needs to be regulated.

“How to regulate, is the hardest question.  But, it is also the most obvious answer.  How do we stop these many mass killings?  KNOW the people whom are buying guns, large amounts of ammo, and other weaponry.

“In addition, health care NEEDS to be accessible for all.  We need mental health care to be as important as a yearly check up with your physician.  If every person had a yearly or twice yearly appointment for a mental health evaluation, along with their other annual appointments, possibly some of the issues that hide beneath the surface could be found sooner, and helped before they become the hot boiling lava that spills out into the world as anger, pain, and hurting others.  If we all were evaluated once or twice a year the stigma would be removed from mental health care, we would all seek the help we need once and again, and all live healthier lives.

“This event isn’t the ONLY reason to look at firearm regulation, mental health care accessibility, and societal norms… but let’s make it the LAST reason. Let’s find ways to help those whom hurt inside, those who hide anger and fear, those who pose danger to themselves or others.  Let’s find a way to help the individuals, and prevent the loss of another innocent life.”

To be clear, I’m about as against guns as a person could be. I realize that my way isn’t the only valid way, but we’re no longer ruled in the same way that the Wild West was and guns, like some heavier drugs, give people lots of notions and confidence that aren’t natural or realistic. I have my own hesitations in life, but I refuse to fill my own heart with fear-based nonsense and then create for myself a false sense of some kind of safety net.

What’re your thoughts on this? Do tell.

Unboddhisattva, or So Far Still to Go

Truth be told, I’m often flattered. Many have communicated to me their admiration, to one degree or another, at the person I was as well as the one I’ve grown into, and am becoming. Please know that when I say “flattered,” I mean humbled.

As I work to compose other posts, about other people, I’m overcome by a swell of emotion, and sometimes tears, and I am nearly paralyzed. During these times, I’m grateful for my sadhanas and the ability they’ve afforded me regarding being able to “step away.”

These experiences, sometimes predictable and sometimes spontaneous, are proving to be potent learning examples, and create within me an ever-increasing appreciation for the path of Jnana Yoga and its balancing effect on the Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga in my life.

Really, Joshua/Y’eshua/Drishti is no one. And many mundane humans are so very much more than he’s likely to ever be in this life.

Om Tat Sat

Om Shanti

The Lady at the Temple

A friend of mine told me recently that not long ago, while at temple, he’d engaged in a lengthy discussion with a woman. This discussion, as far as I can tell, centered around the question of whether one should actively help to instruct others or simply lead by example. His take on the question is that leading by example is, often enough, insufficient, while her’s was that we should never do anything aside from leading by example. You know I have an opinion…and you should know you’re about to get it. (Which in and of itself is telling, in regard to where I probably stand on this!)

I think the go-to argument for those who say leading by example is prime is something often related to tough love or learning lessons “the hard way,” and how for some people that’s the only or best way to learn. “You do best to show by your actions, following is their choice, and they may have to learn on their own.” In no way am I fighting that rationale, although it doesn’t precisely fit into this discussion. Truly, I think in any situation requiring a tie breaker, lessons learned through experience will beat out anything say by another’s mouth. In this context, one can be sure the lesson will sink in because it will likely come in the form of some kind of pain, and the typical human requires pain sufficient to warrant change – or so say the 12-steppers. But in the context of the example setter teaching through demonstration, there’s an assumption -and you know what happens when one assumes. The assumption is that one’s example is being noticed. One can lead by the best example possible, but in a room full of blind people, the example will almost certainly go unnoticed.

Humans are, however, a unique creation in the natural world (on Earth, anyway). You see, all over this planet other life forms teach primarily by example. Many lifeforms have their own “language,” and they do communicate through this, but this is essentially setting an example; the real way they learn and teach is through example, through experience. Guaranteed, a mother bird never had a chat with her chicks wherein she explained that she’s about to shove them from the nest and that they should flap their wings to avoid injury or death. Instead, what happens is that the chicks observe the parent birds coming and going by flight and anything not learned through that observation (also an experience), or not already programmed in the chick itself, is definitely learned through the experience of plummeting toward the earth.

Humans, though, have a unique ability. We not only can learn through another’s example, but also we can learn through being instructed. So what, right? Umm, no. It’s because of this, and a few other factors, that humans are at the top of the evolutionary ladder right now. Instead of each new generation learning that some snakes are poisonous by stepping on them, and many of our progeny perishing in the process, we advise them of the risk and instruct them on how to avoid it. We pass a huge, ever-increasing library on to successive generations precisely by not relying on their ability to learn by following suit (aka repeat painful experiences proven in the past). Even the most animal-istic people have higher consciousness than animals, and they also have the ability to learn through instruction. In fact, this is the basis for virtually all human learning:

  • guru/shishya, priest/parishioner
  • teacher/student
  • workplace trainer/trainee
  • parent/child, et cetera…

And it’s because of this that our evolution has progressed suchly.

My view is that to ignore this component of being human, or even to downplay it, is a disservice and a disgrace. We can learn much through watching another’s example, but relying on that is truly selling yourself short of the full human experience. Having the ability to learn a lesson fully and without the pain that is almost always inherent in learning experiences “the hard way” is an incredible boon. Similarly with those in a position to advise/instruct: through the medium of instruction we simultaneously further our own knowledge and dual-y impart that knowledge to the learner while sparing them the folly of experiencing pain.

One of Patanjali’s sutras states, “Heyam dukham anagatam.” Future pain is to be avoided. I realize I’m taking this slightly out of context, but the principle remains unaltered. I think one should live as though he’s followed by an audience of astute observers, but I also find it foolish and even careless to gamble that anyone at all is not only observing you in the first place, but also doing so mindfully. It seems a more efficient and sure way of helping to lead others on their path would be directly advising, as our gurus do.

Woe is me, but not really

A week ago today was the toughest day I’ve had in a minute. Please, allow me to bore you with the details.

I awoke with the beginning of a head cold. I arrived at the clinic and promptly arranged for my heavily sugared and heavily creamed coffee. This part is good…it’s real good…and addictively delicious. A little later that morning I found myself training a new hire. This is also something I enjoy, although a bit less so with a fledgling head cold. The whole process of training someone means everything goes half the normal pace and requires twice the energy and focus. At the end of the day, I found myself not only entirely spent, but also doing what I usually do at the end of a Thursday (the busiest, most hellish day at the clinic), which is to wrap things up as fast as possible and change into more comfortable clothes to wear to class. I make my way out to my car where I discovered the battery was dead…something the shop warned me of two weeks ago while I was in for an oil change, but otherwise would have been a total surprise. This is truly enough to send me into orbit. You see, anything car-related is a mystery to me. When I sit down into my car, and insert the key, the damned thing needs to move or I’m in fits. Additionally, as I’ve already admitted in prior posts, all things number-related are also practically mind-boggling for me, which makes perfect attendance in class more than mandatory for me. And guess what –when your car won’t start it’s REALLY tough to get to class. More stress.

So, I call my male spousal equivalent and instruct him to bypass his usual stop at the gym as he’s leaving work and come instead, immediately, to pick me up because he’s now my ride to and from school. Even though anything on his schedule that night was neither mandatory or nor something anyone else depended on him for, it was very clear by his demeanor that he was far from thrilled to be called to aid someone like myself. Truth be told, this actually hurt my feelings more than a little. I pride myself on rarely asking for anything from anyone, and growing up it was taught to my brothers and I that you should always be more than willing to help someone else, and never guilt them for it. In defense of my beloved, he didn’t actively guilt me and he didn’t argue with anything I said I needed, but my ego was still bruised, I suppose, because my perception was that he was pissed because he had to give up an evening of doing nothing in favor of an evening of helping me. But whatever, it’s entirely unimportant and inconsequential, but at the time stung pretty badly when I already wasn’t at my best.

So he gets me to school. While I’m in class he’s kind enough to run around and buy a new battery, although it wasn’t able to be installed. He did also manage to get my car to start on the old “dead” battery. So class ends, he picks me up to take me to my car to that we can figure something out… and it starts raining.

That was just about icing on the cake.    

At the beginning of this post, I requested you, dear reader, to allow me to bore you with the details of my miserable day. I used the verb “to bore” intentionally. By virtually every comparative standard, my life is a walk in the park. I find myself, as I age, increasingly self-guilted at thoughts and complaints that arise during my moments of struggle. Days like this one, while painful and frustrating at the time, unfailingly remind me of concepts like Maya, gratitude, and perspective. I’ve said before that even the poor in American are richer than the poor in India. Conversely, even a really crummy day in Josh’s World is still better than a normal day in a lot of folks’ lives. I really shouldn’t complain.

But the reality here is that suffering is universal and applies to all –even a soul as advanced as a Rshi. In the same way that concepts like karma and Brahman are universal, impartial, and impersonal, so is suffering. Everyone suffers, and that fact is what sets such an easy stage for compassion toward those who’re suffering (in their own way).

While suffering shares some pretty big similarities with the likes of karma and Brahman, unlike them it isn’t ultimate. (There’s actually a quasi-loophole that technically makes karma not ultimate either, but it’s a very small loophole indeed!) The biggest aspect of suffering that keeps it from ever being ultimate is that, while few very people indeed have a choice in the suffering that may already be on its way to them, each of us has a ton of control in regard to controlling that suffering once it arrives. What I mean is that no matter what circumstances you find yourself in, you will always, always, always have a choice in how you decide to react to that pain.

Patanjali wrote extensively on this. In Sanskrit, the word for suffering is dukham. According to Patanjali, none in the phenomenal world is exempt from experiencing dukham. None. Many people ask, “Why me?” Patanjali answers, “Why not you?” There simply is no hierarchy in suffering. Suffering is suffering is suffering… and every living thing will know it. He explains that not only is dukham inescapable, but also that its existence cannot be denied, and neither can it be denied that it causes pain. The good news, according to this sage, is that anyone and everyone can change their reaction or response to dukham and a great way to start this process is to avoid responses like blame, guilt, or regret. In the Yoga Sutras, 2.15 & 16 teach a valuable lesson applicable here. In 2.16, Patanjali wrote, “Heyam dukham anagatam,” which translates in some cases as “Pain that has not yet come is avoidable.” This should serve as a tremendous source of hope for those on the path of Dharma. We know that pain is often a part of existing. We know that the cyclical nature of karma means it’s likely we’re due at some point or another for pain. But we are in control over whether we perpetuate suffering in our own lives, and we also have the ability to control how miserable our experience of pain might be.  

In retrospect, for me the hidden benefit found in my miserable Thursday a week ago is that I don’t need to regret that I waited too long to get my battery changed. Nor should I feel guilt for asking someone to help me. And I shouldn’t blame my spouse for reacting as he did. After all, whatever was on his schedule or not, in his own way he suffered that day too and I shouldn’t place my own suffering above another’s.

Just sayin’.

Om shanti

Ascites of the Prkrti

I’m seeking advice. Maybe.

I’ve heard before that when lessons aren’t learned as they present, they’re due to repeat until they sink in. Given that I believe in the concepts of karma and reincarnation, I can only assume as much is true. And since what I’m about to write about is something that visits and revisits me, I’ll go ahead and assume there’s a lesson I’m not learning as I should. Dear reader, please advise.

So… Where to begin? Allow me to set the backdrop for what’s in my head.

A characteristic of life is change, right? It’s been said that, in life, change is the only constant. People, being part of the cycles of life, are naturally creatures who’re inseparable from this. Further, being as much a part of these cycles as anyone else, it’s reasonable to assume that change will also occur within my own existence, too. Fine. Additionally, I think it’s safe to assume that in my early days I was rather typical. Don’t get me wrong: I was atypical in most ways. But in plenty ways enough, I was like any other guy of my age group. The point I’d like to make is that who I might once have been isn’t who I am currently, and the same can be said of who I am currently in regard to who I will be.

Here’s the catch: Whether you understand this phenomenon or not, if you’ve known me for as long some people have (I’m talking like 15years and 8years), you should understand that who I might have been isn’t entirely who I am. Better yet, whether you knew who I was, or not, after 8-15 years you should definitely know who I am. Ideally, you should also be changing in your own way, as necessitated by your own karmas and life circumstances-the implication being that you also are developing along the way and learning lessons.


With all of this stuff in mind, especially all the factors mentioned immediately above as “catches,” how is it possible that folks who have known me for 15 years and for 8 years can be so mistaken on their understanding of why I do one thing or another.

 A recent example of this has to do with a dear friend of mine planning a vacation which involved a multi-day visit to out of state friends and a round-trip ticket there and back. When this friend mentioned these plans to me, my initial response was to ask why and whether this is possible or even smart right now. Truthfully, my response was such because not two weeks prior, the same friend was having a real crisis in his living room, which centered around a number of things –most of which could be traced back to money problems.  Apparently, when my response was anything other than jumping up and down squealing in delight, he was disappointed and brought this disappointment to a mutual friend who advised him that I wasn’t enthusiastic because I had no control over any of it. Nice.

Later on, when the first friend mentioned this response to me, I tried reminding him of the reasoning which applied all along: In one breath I was told there’s not even money enough for daily living, and in the next breath I’m told of a round-trip flight to the shore. As a caretaker sort of personality (NOT the same as parental), and having been the one doing the consoling during the recent crisis, of course I’d question this. Further, it makes no sense to suspect me of desiring control over whether someone else’s vacation takes place or not because my life remains entirely unaffected either way. I neither lose nor gain anything, regardless.

And so you have it… One person who, next to my own family, should know me better than anyone else on this planet and another who’s not only a parent but also has had enough life experiences to be able to tell up from down. Still, neither of them seems to understand someone they’ve each known well for 15 years and 8 years, respectively.

Being misunderstood isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it’s been a minor theme in my life and it’s been partial impetus for why I enjoy writing and wordsmith-er-ing and studying languages, cultures, and religions. It’s all about communication and understanding and personal development.

While it isn’t the end of the world, it’s painful. But maybe that’s because I expect more from the ones I love? Is that the lesson I’ve repeatedly failed to learn? Maybe I’ll abandon any value found in challenging others to grow and develop. I’ve actually mentioned this notion before and the answer I met with was something to the effect of, “Don’t withdrawal! Some of us need you to do and say what you do!” I remain unconvinced of this, however, and the whole thing is proving quite painful for me. What lesson am I missing that calls for this repeat?