(This was written nearly three days ago, and I’m only just now getting around to posting. Ah, life.)
This morning, despite a nagging tiredness and overwhelming urge to sleep in for once, I found myself at temple bright and early. I’m glad for it, as usual. Everyone was typically composed, but the mood was pleasant and festive as we enter our Diwali celebrations. Another blogger mentioned that she often finds it tough to stick to Hindu holidays because there exists a myriad calendars. Depending on where you’re from and what the immediate culture might be like, the same holiday might start on widely differing schedules. She’s right and I’ve often felt frustrated or unsure because of this. However, in my experience dedication and patience has led to confidence and besides, as she points out in her recent post, there’s a ton of freedom within Hinduism to generally celebrate when/how you feel fit. Locally, we’re celebrating Diwali on Tuesday evening and Anakut on Wednesday.
This morning, all holiday aside, was typical for any session of the Gita Mandal. We invoked, we worshipped, we became musical and then a discourse was delivered just prior to aarti. Today’s discourse was delivered by a local devotee and he spoke on the meaning and benefit of Hindu Samskaras.
Truth be told, there are MANY samskaras observed by Hindus, and many of them hinge on a whole host of factors that determine whether you will observe this samskara or that one. I’ll admit now that I used to be focused on this, fearing I’d be missing out since I’m not an ethnic Hindu. I’m far less concerned these days, and while I recognize the religious origin of samskaras, it might be argued that they’re at least as much a cultural thing as anything else.
There were a number of guests today, also. Many of them were faculty from a college or two. Some were local activists. One or two were local political leaders. Each of these guests, it would later be revealed, were in some way colleagues of the speaker and it was also pretty evident that his discourse was meant directly for them, although everyone else benefitted too.
The speaker’s topic of Hindu Samskaras was actually quite fitting. The guests who came just for him are those who care deeply about finding a solution for groups of people who seem down-trodden and often unable to help themselves, namely blacks and Latinos. Information presented in the discourse was interesting and often mentioned that the character/quality of person we eventually become is largely affected by influences even before we’re technically people. Special attention was given to expecting mothers and the care they should receive. The speaker seemed of the mind that improvement could happen, mostly, by dual means.
- Expecting mothers must be treated quite delicately and must receive the absolute best care. Many studies suggest (prove?) that the experiences of the embryo/fetus while in the womb directly affect its development not only physically but mentally, spiritually, and psychologically. Think prenatal vitamins and pointing a speaker playing Mozart at momma’s belly.
- Patience. With enough care and dedication toward intentionally creating successive generations of more wholesome human organisms, we could eventually manifest a more wholesome world/culture. The speaker indicated this would take a minimum of a few generations.
There was one from among the guests who said many people try to be encouraging and advise folks to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps!” but what to do when one has not even bootstraps?!?! This led the discussion in a slightly different direction.
Another, from the general audience, spoke up rather passionately. She was slightly past middle age, and like so many others present, she was highly educated. She acknowledged that everything that had been said was fine and true, but she added that there’s no need to wait for generations to pass before effecting or noticing the changes necessary for our time. She asserted that change can happen right here, right now, if only the individual makes the effort. In her estimation, everything already said during our discourse essentially promoted a “victim of circumstance” to “victim of environment” mentality. I couldn’t agree more. I know an adorable young man, who happens to no longer live in my state. In addition to being young, he was often ridiculous with making choices. While speaking about him to a mutual friend, she said, “we’ll you can’t fault him for how he is. Look at how his parents are!” I didn’t buy it then, and I don’t buy it now. I know first hand what it’s like to grow up in a divorced home, to see many things a child shouldn’t, and to have a worthless parent. I’ll allow that, up to a certain age, these factors can be applied as reasons for behavior. But after a certain age, you’re just making excuses. After a certain point, you are exposed to more than the example set by your family. And once you begin having things to compare, there’s no reason for the “lesser path” to any longer be acceptable. Change is up to you. And so, with very few exceptions indeed, the possibility of accelerated or immediate change isn’t unreasonable. Attempting change from a generational scope isn’t practical. It must be brought individually.
This reminded me of another blogger friend who recently wrote a short but interesting post asking, among other things, if chickens will always produce the same kind of eggs. He also asks the same question, in an adjusted context: Love/Hate. My friend mentioned Gandhi and Jesus who apparently want us to respond to hate with love. The question here was, “But how can you love yourself if you see yourself returning hate from others with hate?” My friend was mostly asking this rhetorically, really, but my answer to this is an exercise in Jnana. Learn the nature of your Self -experience it -and you’ll see that responding to any thing with any response that isn’t love, is likely a reactional product of the ego. Bhakti alone can get a person there, too, but I’m less comfortable with that process. Applying bhakti leads to seeing the One in all that you encounter, which will lead to a change in response, from returning hate with hate to returning hate with love, but what’s happening then is essentially Jnana anyway because the result is Self realization and the knowledge-experience that neither your personality nor the personality yours is interacting with as real or permanent as it seems.
Whether the approach taken is Bhakti or Jnana is irrelevant. The point that was encouraged by the woman in the audience today, and a point which I support, is that change can happen now and it’s the responsibility of the individual. An example of how this is possible can be found on yet another blog that I just came across. This writer’s “About” page paints a pretty clear picture of what the modern human experiences, and provides an easy-to-read example of the actions that particular human took to remedy his condition and create the change he needed.
The idea behind the generational progression to humans of finer quality is better than nothing, but it’s impractical. Generations are, after all, made of individuals- which is where the real change happens anyway.
Every year the Diwali season reminds us of the triumph of Light over Darkness. I’m grateful that this victory doesn’t require the span of generations to see its realization. Sri Ganapati bless you, dear reader, now and in the year to come. And may The Lord of Wisdom and Remover of Obstacles guide you toward your own ever-blissful victory over the Dark that would surround you.