Devotion Emotion in Spoken Form


While in Chicago recently I picked up a few books on Ganesha specifically. I’ve already made my way through the smallest, which is essentially a booklet. The title is something like Shree Maha Ganesha Siddhi Vrat.

For anyone unfamiliar, “vrat” is the source of the word vow and typically translates as “fast,” meaning to abstain from food for a period of time as a means of purification. The word “siddhi” has many translations and often refers to some beneficent result of having performed some manner of penance. So, loosely, you complete a vrat and achieve some kind of siddhi. My general understanding of siddhis is that they shouldn’t be sought, and can end up being misused or a distraction – but that they can also be quite beneficial, especially when used for others’ good, and can also serve as “milestones” in personal/spiritual progress.

So this booklet details what it indicates is the fool-proof-est way of obtaining a Ganesha siddhi through a very specific vrat. I’m cool with this, aside from the info in the booklet being mostly uninteresting. But something about the booklet kept jabbing me.

Throughout the booklet, instead of telling the reader the right time to intone a mantra, it would instruct the reader and person attempting the vrat to “say the spell.” My first thought is that this is a translation error. My second thought is one of indignation – afterall, mantras aren’t SPELLS, right?

But wait… for a brief period, after Christianity and before Hinduism (and in fact the reason I even encountered Hinduism) I studied paganism and witchcraft. Spellwork was a huge part of this. Anybody will tell you that a spell is something you say to make something happen. On the mundane level, the very foundation of all language is spellwork. More magically, however, we’re talking about something higher than the mundane that we’re still trying to make happen via words. Are mantras any different than spells?

When you break everything down, yes. They are different. But beyond that, from actual formulation clear up through practical application, mantras are as much like spells as they are different. It’s odd. And while we’re at it, “prayer” in other religions is no different. We’re speaking what we want in hopes that something higher or bigger than us will get things moving. I think in my estimation, the biggest difference is that Hinduism cites more than a little science behind the formulation of it’s myraid mantras – something definitely different than the spell an English speaking witch would cast, which more than anything is devotion emotion in spoken form.

How beneficial is it to split spiritual hairs? I’m assuming it’s only as beneficial as knowing whether there’s power behind your actions and words, or whether you’re kind of just making it up.

Om Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti



A concept that has been a part of my life since before I knew what it meant, or even what it’s called, is that of the boddhisattva.

A boddhisattva is an entity who has vowed to stay on the wheel of samsara from the beginning of their moksha/liberation until the end of all yugas/time cycles and through the Mahapralaya, or Great Dissolution at the end of all material existence. This sounds all lofty and esoteric and, fine, it is. But it’s also very basic: Love and compassion for those hurting drives the rare soul into Guardian Mode and they embark on a nearly-eternal journey to help others raise their own life state and find their way back to the Source we’re all from.

I’d never go around telling people that I’m a boddhisattva, indeed I’m almost certainly not. But there are times when I wonder how close I might be to taking the vows of the Boddhisattva and embarking on my own journey of selflessness. I mean, moksha is just about all that’s on my mind for great stretches of time, my favorite thing in the world is to seek after things of a “higher” nature and then to share whatever I might discover. Friends and strangers alike all respond to me similarly, strangely enough. And at times, people have come to me for solace or security for reasons as varied as offering strength after experiencing personal loss or angst over HIV testing. And certainly one of the greatest sources of pain that I fall victim to is seeing others suffer -even when I’ve lost a loved one, my only real concern was for my relatives who were also hurting at the time.

But whatever…blah, blah, blah. Right? I mean, how much can one talk about his self, in any context, before readers begin to think he’s just tooting his own horn? Ridiculous. I suppose I might say now that anyone who actually knows me, can vouche that horn-tootery isn’t what this is about and that I’m simply calling a spade a spade, and I could (and do) speak similarly of a number  of others in my life.

Something also known about me by those in my life is that I’m married to Alanis Morisette – have been for years. We’ll never be divorced and I’m thrilled that her music has taken the turn that it has during the last ten to fifteen years. One of her more recent productions, a song titled “Guardian” really resonates with me. I think the lyrics do well at expressing the theme of my life and certainly they do well at expressing how I feel about my “kith and kin.” I’ve posted the video below (with any luck) and hope you find it encouraging. Find the Guardian within yourself, and help It work in your world.

As always, all the grace that is mine to give I gladly give to you!

New Year Jnanam



One of my Facebook friends, a few days ago, posted something asking that others comment on it. She basically asked for people to share what their most potent lesson of 2012 had been. You’d laugh to know how many times I started to type something and stopped myself. I struggled for a few minutes to discern what THE lesson of 2012 could have been for me. Even now, I’m not sure what I think the most valuable lesson might have been.

I could say that I’ve learned that prayer/meditation/spiritual efforts do, absolutely, produce results. I could say that one should always approach a person/place/thing with the intention of leaving that person/place/thing better than when he found it. I could say that one should always strive to help, no matter what, regardless of the payoff – or lack thereof. I can’t say that these are all things I learned this year. In truth, thanks to my upbringing and making my own path in life, I knew them long before 2012 surfaced. Although I was aware of and practicing these lessons before this year came around, I should at least give them credit for helping to drive home a kind of realization that definitely was most valuable for me this year.

This is likely the first year that I’ve been able to taste Jnana Yoga as fully as I did. Beyond that statement, it’s tough to describe the form that realization took. Coming to mind is Arjuna’s experience in the Bhagavad Gita when the Vishwarupa was shown to him. A bit overwhelmed, a bit wiser, but very humbled and grateful for the (difficult) experience of seeing more of the picture of who I am -which is the same picture each of us sees when we glance deeper and deeper into our core. This same picture that we all see is the divine within each of us, God. That’s definitely been the most valuable experience for me in 2012.

On that note, and in connection with Jnana Yoga, I want to share a couple of posts from The Hindu Blog. I frequent this blog because it’s been a huge source of information for me and a couple very recent posts to it speak of Jnana Yoga and the role it plays in one’s growth, enlightenment, and moksha.

Spirituality Is Simply the Process of Not Identifying with What We Are Not -Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev -founder of the Isha Foundation

First we need to know that the basis of our misery is that we have established ourselves in untruth. We are deeply identified with that which we are not. Somewhere along the way we have gotten identified with things around us. We have got identified with our body and mind. That is the source of suffering. The whole experience of transcending your limitations must happen within you. If you want to transcend, only if you are truly willing, it can happen. Otherwise no power on earth or in heaven can move you. Spirituality is simply the process of not identifying with what we are not, to shed the layers of conditioning so that we know what we are NOT. When that is completed, we arrive at something that cannot be discounted. This discovery will be the recognition of divinity, and we will see that there is no reason for misery in the world.

Under Whatever Form One Worships That Which Has No Form, It Is Only A Means of Perceiving It -Ramana Maharishi

Surrender to Him and abide by His will whether He appears or disappears; await His pleasure. If you ask Him to do as you please, it is not surrender, but command. You cannot have Him obey you and yet think you have surrendered. He knows what is best, when and how. Leave everything entirely to Him. The burden is His. You no longer have any cares. All your cares are His. That is surrender. That is Devotion. Under whatever name and form one worships that which has no name and no form, it is only a means of perceiving It. To know the truth of one’s Self as the True reality, and merge and become One with It is the only true Perception/Realization/Liberation. Understand this! He whose pure mind turns inward and searches whence does this ‘I’ arise, knows the Self and merges in You, the Lord, As a river into the sea.

Happy New Year to you all. It’s my hope that 2012 brought you the same great things it brought me, and that 2013 brings us all increased realization.

Om Shanti



Hanuman Bahuk

Hanuman Bhauk is an important prayer dedicated to Hanuman and was written by Goswami Tulsidas. It is believed that Tulsidasji wrote to prayer to cure  his shoulder pain. Once, Tulsidas had an excruciating pain in one of his shoulders. He then composed a poem extolling the glory and greatness of Hanuman. He also asked Hanumanji to cure his body ailments. Miraculously Tulsidas had relief from the pain.

It is believed that chanting Hanuman Bahuk helps in curing various body pains, diseases, psychological problems, fear of ghosts etc. It is also chanted by those people who believe that their enemies are doing black magic against them. A person can chant Hanuman Bahuk daily as part of his normal prayers. Another method of chanting Hanuman Bahuk is by doing certain austerities for 40 days. On all forty days, Hanuman Bahuk is chanted in the morning. The person only eats vegetarian food. No smoking and drinking during the period. No gossips and no unnecessary talks. Chanting the Stotra is also believed to help in wish fulfillment.

(This was taken directly from Hindu Blog.)

Gita 4:24

I have a subscription to a magazine known as Yoga Journal. I’ve had a subscription since forever.

Used to, somwhere near the front they’d have an “Om” page on which they’d offer a mantra or prayer of one kind or another. This is one trait of the magazine that makes it rather Hindu, although the magazine isn’t technically such. Sadly, while there remains an “Om” page or two, mantras are no longer offered.

This month one of the Om pages holds a perspective article titled, “Living Blessing.” The author pretty much only talks about blessing his meals before he consumes thems. But he details every part of this process, and for no longer than the article is (it’s not long), he does well and going deep, but staying very easy to understand.

Near the end, he mentions that there are many ways to bless one’s food. He admits that the one he uses is a prayer from the Bhagavad Gita, known as the Brahmarpanam. I love it. See below for this prayer…

Brahmarpanam brahmahavir, Brahmagnau brahmanahutam,

Brahmaiva tena gantavyam, Brahmakarma samadhena.

(The act of offering is Brahman, The offering itself is Brahman, The one making the offering is Brahman- offering into the sacred fire which is Brahman. He alone attains Brahman. who, in all actions, is fully absorbed in Brahman.)

I mentioned that I love this shloka, and here’s why: It sums up the essence of my religion eloquently and simply.

Personally, I don’t subscribe to Dvaita philosophy/Dualism. I find truth to be more manifest in Advaita philosophy and I also find Advaita to make a stronger foundation for a more complete religious and spiritual expression, and to be more complimentary to the human experience.

Having said that, I’ve not yet reached an understanding of how any believer within any religion can believe (only) that G/god exists more in one locale than another. The awareness of that realization can be more evident in one person or thing than another, but that doesn’t in any way mean the Divine is more or less present there. So to believe that G/god is “somewhere out there” while downplaying or neglecting altogether the immanent presence of the Divine seems arrogant, ignorant, insulting and incomplete, nevermind illogical.

So, within the foundation of understanding the Highest One as simultaneously immanent and intimate, as well as impartial and impersonal, this prayer says it all.

Brahman, who is THE highest conception of the Divine ever, and the closest humanity is likely ever to come to describing The Incomparable All, is the only real Truth that exists and is the center of this prayer (as well as everything else, literally). Through this prayer we learn that The One is Who offers. The One is That which is being offered, AKA: the offering. The One is the actual action of making the offering. The One is the means through which the offering is offered. And The One is the recipient of that offering. There simply isn’t an aspect of existence or nonexistence which isn’t permeated by Brahman, The One.


Chapter 4 of the Gita is the chapter on the yoga of action and renunciation, and this chapter actually kicks ass. Allow me to detail why.

  1. Shlokas/Verses 5-9: Foundational to Hinduism, Krishna explains that humanity is never without The One. A promise that every age sees The One arrive and that those who recognize suchness are able to step off of the wheel of death and rebirth.
  2. Shloka/Verse: 11: Also foundational to Hinduism and a support for why Hinduism is so inherently tolerant and peace-loving. Here The One states, “My path is the path all follow, in different ways.” I don’t need to force or pressure you to convert to my religion becuase my religion already encompasses yours and finds inherent value in it.
  3. Shlokas/Verses 18-30: Pretty much a definition of Karma Yoga and Renunciation. For me this amazes, because of the emphasis on intimately knowing and, perhaps even more importantly controlling, one’s internal landscape. These verses explain the essence and outlook of the person succeeding in renunciation (vairagya) and also in controlling his karmas. Notice how many of these traits involve what would, by today’s standards, be called absolute controll over one’s emotions. These verse indicate that that person’s actions are purified through knowledge (a hint at Jnana Yoga), and in verses 22 & 23 we learn that in abstaining from emotional reactions one’s karma disappears. I suspect this is because far too often a lack of control over one’s emotions leads to a roller coaster of reactions, which perpetuates the cycles of samsara/samskara. Verse 25-30, of course following the Brahmarpanam, detail how fully The One pervades every aspect of life.
  4. Shloka/Verse 35: “Knowledge will remove your bewilderment.” Throughout the Gita Arjuna is a wreck and Krishna makes many attempts to console him. I interpret the knowledge mentioned here to be knowledge of the Truth, AKA Jnana Yoga. I love that He tells Arjuna that this knowledge will enable him to “…see all creation in yourself and in me.” Jnana leads one not only to mastery over his own karmas, but also to peace, and even further to Self-Realization. This is supported in the following verses. In verse 36 Krishna says that knowledge takes even the worst folks to safety. In verse 37, He states that “knowledge consumes karma” in the same way a log is charred to ashes by fire. Verse 38 has Krishna saying, “There is no purifier like knowledge in this world; time makes man see the truth of this,” and in 39 we’re advised that “the commander of his senses gains knowledge; and with this knowledge he finds final peace.”

I’m aware that there’s more to the Gita than Jnana, and entire sects have been founded on those bits and pieces. Still, in Chapter 4 I find a huge chunk of my religion -and this chunk pretty much applies across the board. The wisdom found in this chapter, like Brahman/The One, without a doubt pervades and permeates all that there is.

Om Shanti