Better Karma For All?

I love social media. It can actually border on some kind of meditative experience because it can sometimes have the effect of getting a person away from his own thoughts – but IF that happens (a very big if) then it usually is incredibly short-lived because within minutes of viewing social media a person has reconnected with his thoughts – in reaction to content viewed – and sometimes even more disturbed than before. I imagine prior to the advent of such prevalent and easily-accessed social media people were alone with their own thoughts more than they are now.

I was scrolling through Facebook recently and came upon a comment back-n-forth between one of my friended folks and one of his own friends. It was spawned by my friend having updated some photo of his to be one of him working out – a side view of himself to show off some bicep / tricep action. One of the first comments was about him eating beef… Which is almost ironic because people assume anyone with any sort of noticeable musculature MUST consume loads of animal flesh, yet there are vegan body builders with “swole” muscles all over their body. I’d think, if no one else, someone who is anti-meat would know that muscle building doesn’t automatically equate a carnivorous diet. But the guy doing the accusing below makes exactly that assumption. Lucky for him, this time he’s correct. I’ll attach screen shots of the conversation between them. Scroll beyond the images to continue reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So here you can see a dialogue that started in an inflammatory way and then continued with the one accusing the other not just of consuming meat, but meat from the flesh of Hinduism’s iconic “gau-maata” and therefore of practical blasphemy – all because of the one guy’s bicep. I’ve written before that I find it incredibly risky to one’s overall karma to feel so strongly about avoiding meat. I don’t argue that a meat-free diet is better – for billions of people alive today it factually is. But for billions of others, meat in some form or other is factually necessary to their physical health. Our methods of farming produce, regardless of whether we’re talking fruits or vegetables, still contribute to the deaths of millions of animals annually. Vegetarians and vegans alike roll their eyes when it’s said, but animals die for every salad put in a bowl and for every ounce of hummus spread over pita.

So it seems to be a pretty obvious thing that, from the most superficial examination, while a meat-free diet is better than a meat-based one, it isn’t actually as better as non-veg folk usually think. And then there’s the mental-emotional-spiritual component to wrestle with – which is really what stands out to me. With even a basic understanding of concepts like karma and samskara one can discern that getting your panties twisted – on any level – about sentient beings being consumed by other sentient beings is potentially about as detrimental as choosing a burger from the menu.

But lets try to put all that aside for a second. Lets suppose that EVERYONE on the planet gave up eating meat. In fact, this is a probable eventuality. We know for a fact that current livestock farming practices are wholly unsustainable. We know for a fact that the oceans are increasingly fucked and that the things we eat from there are being over-fished and we’re seeing entire populations depleted. The current most obvious round of extinction is happening land-side but next great wave of extinction WILL come from under the waves. Soon enough we’ll have no choice but to find other ways of getting nutrients.

If the degree of ignorance currently so prevalent across humanity continues, it’s foreseeable that there will come a time when the planet is inhabited almost solely by an overpopulation of humans – there’d still be some plants (probably only ones we can still farm at that point), microorganisms (which we current cannot feed from), and some types of insects (many of which will also have gone extinct along with the land and water life forms). I don’t usually hear vegetarians or vegans lamenting the plight of night crawlers, ants, or crickets – and yet they (or similar creatures) are already a prominent part of human diet in some parts of the world. I find that odd, but I assume the reasoning is that an earth worm or grasshopper is significantly less sentient than a cow (never mind that scriptures tell us that God resides equally within all beings). Threaten to kill a cow and it will run from that threat. Threaten to smash a cricket and it will, for the exact same reason, try to escape. Why no outcry for the grasshoppers that end up on kebabs?

Really going down a rabbit hole….

For the sake of argument, let’s say that there IS less paap (sin) associated with eating “lesser” beings – which would include plants since they have their own base level of awareness and responses to threat, not unlike some insects. Let’s say the entire world is fed from veggies and maybe supplemented with fried crickets (or not – stick with plants only, if you want). Wouldn’t the entire world, under such conditions that no one was eating beings of higher sentience, then enjoy universally improved karma? Or maybe not, since sentient beings die for every salad produced?

How do we know the difference of karmic influence for a person eating one cow versus that same person eating 50 crickets? I don’t know how many fried crickets a person would typically eat in a year’s time, but even the most basic math says that eventually that person would consume however many crickets is the equivalent of having eaten a cow. The same math would on some level apply to accidental deaths of sentient beings that happen during farming. So then would the world’s karma be fucked again? Or maybe crickets, like plants, are so worthless that this would never be an issue? Maybe the amsha (spark) of God that lives in the lettuce and the cricket means less, is less divine? And what about the karma attached to a salad for which one thousand animals were accidentally killed during lettuce or carrot harvesting? If I want my salad and animals die for that, how is that terribly different from me wanting a cheeseburger and an animal dying for that? Vegans and vegetarians, do roll your eyes – but also answer these questions, if you please. If you think you can.

In Sahaj Marg / Heartfulness we give study to the idea of impressions (Hindu lingo = samsara). Meat-free eating is absolutely encouraged but not demanded by our hierarchy. It’s understood that, just as bad as biting into a lamb, is a traumatic reaction to biting into a lamb. Aversion is understood to be equally detrimental as attraction in the same degree. This might be weird to read but this is kind of where Heartfulness is a confluence of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sufism. All of this is trapping and all of it should be moved beyond.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

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The Real Thing

 

Babuji has masterfully done it all.

“If you read Babuji Maharaj’s diary entries dated 25 December 1947, first Lalaji Maharaj communicates about brahmarandra or bhanwar gupha, and on the same day Swami Vivekananda communicates about the seven rings of splendor in the Central Region. Now when you ask, ‘Where is bhanwar gupha?’ people say it is at the back of the head. They also say that the Central Region is at the back. There is nothing wrong with saying that, as it is also correct. But all these things are the reflection of the Real Thing which is in the heart. Actual bhanwar gupha is in the heart between points A and B. That hint is there in the text. And the seven rings are there in the heart, reflecting seven rings of splendor echoing at the back of the head. Echoing means that it is not the real thing; the real sound is in the heart. So, you see the feeling is felt somewhere but actually comes from another place.”

Daaji then commented on the masterful discovery of points A and B by Babuji Maharaj, and how the whole Hierarchy was so pleased about this discovery. “The research of Babuji Maharaj on point A and point B is really great. When he was going to Lakhimpur-Kheri by bus, he stumbled upon this discovery that if a person can meditate on point A and clean point B, all the passionate tendencies can be removed. So, they were dancing with joy in the Brighter World, you see. What a discovery! Then Lalaji ordered, ‘Ailan kiya jaye or jo jo log Shahjahanpur ke bahar hain unko khat likha jai ki har shaksh ko point A per dhayn karna padega, uspe murakba kiya jae aur jo shaksh nahi karega unki jimmedari sae ham alhada ho jayenge,’ meaning, ‘May this be announced, and all those who are outside Shahjahanpur be informed by letter, that every person should meditate on point A. For those who do not practise this, we will detach ourselves from their responsibility.’ He clearly said that we will not assume the responsibility for individuals who do not do these practices on these two points, A and B.”

 

(From Google Image search)

 

Daaji then went on to explain the true significance and extent of action of points A and B. “The extent to which points A and B can expand is limitless. It is not just about passion; it is all about superconsciousness. To remove passion is a very limited view. This is a fact. Once you remove passion, then points A and B expand limitlessly. How can there be the possibility of superconsciousness while entertaining passionate thoughts? To what extent can it expand and what depth does it have? To give you a small example, imagine when a boat is shattered to such an extent in the ocean that you cannot find even one plank of timber of it; so much of annihilation is possible. But because of desires, passion, which are concentrated at A and B, they work like a black hole, with tremendous vacuum power, holding our consciousness. Once you release those desires and passion, absolute expansion ‘happens’ as a natural consequence. That is why we do cleaning of point B and meditation at point A. It is not because of passion. The main thing is superconsciousness.”

Aum Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Discriminative Ability

While talking to a group of abhyasis at his apartment, the discussion veered towards the large number of electronic gadgets we use and our continuous attachment to them. Daaji explained the following point: “How can we expect people to exhibit discrimination when the mind is never free for vital aspects of life, to contemplate, to reflect? What do we do when we are free? We have options like television, video games, telephone chats, movies, etc. When we are occupied all the time with these options, we do not even capture a thought, what to say of reflection and contemplation. Conclusions need to be based on observations, but nowadays conclusions are based on impulse. Any form of addiction is a problem for us. These electronic gadgets are an addiction. Anything which takes us outward is an addiction. How can there be pratyahara when the mind is always outward bound?”

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

No God, Mmmmkay?

 

A lot of people assume. And a lot of assuming people assume a lot. It’s really quite a mess and easily escalates itself into ever-bigger scenarios. This happens all through society (all societies) in many ways, not even just when dealing with assumptions. I think one area where this happens a lot is spirituality. People make so many assumptions. Some assumptions might be that spirituality is froo-frooey or only for those with their heads in the clouds. but that’s not necessarily the case. Some forms of spirituality are actually quite mundane and even scientific in their approach. Some spirituality is perfectly suited to those who don’t believe in magic at all.

 

Q: In everyday life, I meet people who do not accept that there is a soul. They don’t feel they have a soul. What can I tell them?

Daaji: It’s okay. You don’t have to convince them, and there is no need to get into an argument. Rather you can say, “Let us not call this entity a soul, or a causal body. Let us instead call it something that gives support to the whole system or life.” It is something that manifests at the moment of birth, and if at that moment the baby does not cry, the doctor taps the baby on the back to stimulate the breathing. If the baby still does not start crying it means that the life force has not come along. So that life force is still along with us now, until one day, in its wisdom, it decides to kick the bucket and say, ‘Okay, I am going now.’

The soul won’t realise that it has gone. It won’t find any difference at all, nor will it be shocked. The soul will see that everything is in order. It is only the people left behind here who are shocked: “Oh, what happened to her?” So you can call it the life force, or you can give any name to it. Something is there which keeps us going until we take the last breath. What is it? Put a question to them? Sometimes I joke when people say, “Why should I meditate on Divine Light, if I don’t believe in God?” So I tell them, “The idea is to keep your thought on something, so you might as well put it on the Godly presence in your heart.”

“But I don’t believe in God.”

So I tell them, “All right, then meditate on no God in your heart.” The main thing is not to fight with them. You can say, “I agree with you, but still let’s meditate.”

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Alison

 

Tonight my husband and I went to Ikea to do some light shopping (he wants some new furniture for his He-Man room) and while there we decided to get dinner. This visit to the store was probably the fifth time I’ve been since it opened in late 2017 and was the first time I didn’t have to park a football field away or sift through crowds to get through the place or wait in long lines at the cafeteria or checkout.

While eating, a certain song started playing over the Ikea store’s sound system. It was a Wild Cherry song called, “Play That Funky Music White Boy.” It’s a song I hardly ever hear and which actually predates me by four years. At the risk of sounding like a old man, it reminds me of a time when pop stars had to possess far more quality than they seem to need now. Back then, artists didn’t really have anything in the way of voice scrubbing or synthesizers to “fake” music. But that’s neither here nor there.

At first when the music came on and my mind picked up on it I boogied a little in my seat while biting into my meal. I imagined how I might dance to the song, were I to stand from the dinner table. While seeing myself dance around before my mind’s eye, I was soon joined by an unexpected guest. Her name was Alison. It’s not Alison anymore because she’s dead. Her name is either Nothing or else perhaps she’s transmigrated, taken a new human body, and been born again as someone else with a new name. Before Alison died last time, she worked where I do. I never really interacted with her. In fact, I’m not really sure what she did for the company aside from thinking I remember hearing that she was in our legal department. I think she was a smoker and I think that’s what killed her, but I’m not sure. What I am sure of, though, and it’s the reason Alison joined me for a dinnertime dance tonight, is that she LOVED to dance. She’d dance with anybody or she’d dance by herself. I know this only because the one real memory I have of Alison is from one company holiday party. The Wild Cherry song came on and for a few minutes Alison was the only person on the dance floor, utterly unaffected by that fact. She had shoulder-length, fine, bleach blonde hair and when she danced she would do a certain movement with her head and neck so as to cause her hair to fly a bit. Alison wasn’t a tiny gal by any means and I think that limited her range of possible dance moves. Her generation, the one before mine, also seemed to be fonder of more generalized ways of dancing. You just got out there and moved. You might do a certain, specific dance move sometimes but a lot of what I’ve seen is just good ole rug cutting. Just get out there and jam! Alison would get out there and shuffle her butt all over the place!

(Back at Ikea) While the song was playing still, and when I found a quick second to stop dancing with Alison, I returned to the dinner table and mentioned her to my husband. He worked there even before me and he was well aware of Alison and her “prowess” on the dance floor. His face lit up a little when I mentioned the song playing and my clear memory of Alison gettin’ out there and doin’ her stuff. (FACT: My husband’s face should ALWAYS light up. His smile is darling. His blue eyes are amazing. And the smile lines at the outside corners of those blue eyes not only make me melt but also fill me with all the gratitude – so lucky am I to be with him. It’s the handsomest vision of God I’ve known.) I was glad that my husband was seeing in his mind what I saw in mine.

As the song finished and my dinner dance with Alison from the legal department ended, I found myself unexpectedly overcome. Literally. I had to put my head down and in a very real way fight back tears and I almost openly wept there in the Ikea cafeteria. Trust me – my husband would confirm that my version of openly weeping is NOT gorgeous. But I was so overcome, and even now recounting it causes me to cry some. You see, the SOLE memory I have of this human is that of her dancing. If I were to bump into her family and reminisce at all, the ONLY thing I would be able to say is, “Boy – she LOVED to dance!”

I’m not fooled into thinking that lonesome dancing is all there was to Alison. Like every other human, she entered this life with baggage. She carried that baggage throughout her life’s duration, and when she departed this life (…if cause and effect mean anything in this universe…) she probably took some of it with her. But it – my memory of her – strikes me as wholly precious. She could have stayed on the sidelines like I was at the company party – talking with people about how the President is terrible or how the parking garage badly needs repaired. But she danced. What kinda world might we inhabit if we lived our lives in such a way that the only memories anyone had of us – the only memories we gave to others – were sweet and simple and the kind that make handsome husbands broadly smile?

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Look Another Way

 

Just about every day on my way to the office I take the same route. And just about every day on my way from the office I take the same, but different than the first, route. My second route involves the interstate for about 3 miles. Between my on-ramp and the next exit over there’s always a burp of road during which my radio signal goes out. I don’t know if this happens for people listening to “normal” radio in their cars, but for me listening to satellite radio in my own car, there’s a brief bit of silence experienced whenever I hit that patch of road. If I’m going somewhere between 55 and 65 MPH, then I’d say the silence has a duration of about 4 seconds. Not long, but noticeable.

Another exit over(now two exits from my on-ramp) is where I get off if I’m going yarn shopping – which I do, far more than my budget says is healthy. That off-ramp curves a lot to the left and especially so as it connects to the major road right there. Because of that curve, it’s nearly impossible to take that exit and not see a massive and massively tall telecommunications tower. Or…. some such kind of tower, anyway. When stopped there and waiting on a green light, my satellite radio signal is interrupted just as when I’m going over the one patch of interstate. At this exit it is very clear that the tower is the reason my radio goes out right there.

Because of knowing that the tower at the second exit causes my radio to go out, for the last six hundred years of my life whenever I’m on that interstate and about go to over that “dry patch,” I look to my right (south) and try to spot the tower which must be there causing the signal’s interruption. And for the last six hundred years of my life I’ve failed to see it.

One day about two weeks ago – seriously, only two weeks ago – a thought crossed my mind that I ought to look north right there. I did and I feel almost embarrassed to admit that I was surprised to see the tower I previously would have sworn ought to be on the south side of the interstate! As soon as the surprise of that awareness wore off I was left with the realization that not only had I been looking the wrong direction the whole time but also that whole time I was practically obstinate about my thoughts and how they guided me.

For really no good reason, aside from failing to assess what was in my own head, I missed out on a perfect answer to what I questioned. In hindsight, I can now recognize that the south side of the interstate – in the area I was looking – has no place for such a tower. There are houses and businesses and schools and churches and parks. None of that mattered enough to me to ever cross my mind because I was so busy thinking what I already thought without ever really looking at what it was I was thinking or why. In that same area, but on the north side of the interstate, far more open space was available and no real proximity to homes, etc… got in the way of making that space the better option for that tower. That fuller realization – seeing the bigger picture – seems so obvious in retrospect.

I almost titled this post, “Look the Other Way,” but that didn’t communicate what I wanted. I’d already been looking the other way. We all do it, and usually too often. Looking the “other way” can take a variety of forms. Sometimes it’s done because we’re uncomfortable with what we’d see or have to face if we look another direction. Sometimes we look the other way because we’re lazy. I think sometimes, too, we look the other way because we feel we’ve worked hard to get to the view we currently have and looking another way instead of the other way would mean more work or somehow suggest outgrowing where we’ve gotten ourselves – that can be daunting and often brings feelings of wasted effort. It’s important to recognize, too, that looking the other way is always willful. We do make LOTS of choices and seemingly without even realizing we are but looking the other way, even when we don’t realize it, is always a choice being made somewhere inside you. The choice being made says, “I refuse to see…”

I encourage all (myself, included!) to look another way. Maybe the direction you’re already looking is just fine – but you can’t possibly be sure of that unless you look another way. You have to see what else is there.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

The Prana of Dirt

Hands Holding a Seedling and Soil ca. 2000

I love gardening. It’s something I think I get from my mother’s side of the gene pool. She liked having houseplants (though not to the degree or quantity I and her mother do) and my mother’s mother is a pro when it comes to African violets – at this moment I bet she has over a dozen in just one window. As often as I can, I try to have plants inside and outside my home and I’m often intentionally selective with their placement. Some plants will on their own try to dictate conditions under which they’ll grow – and they’re mostly right. A cactus, generally, will NOT grow in a swamp. However, I take such as “suggestion” and like I mentioned in my post about the Deading Dance, in my home things are often done … differently. Plus, I think there’s also a good bit of … umm … magic that goes into gardening. It should always be encouraged that sage or lavender or both be planted near entries and exits: doors, driveways, gates, etc… But none of that matter for this post really.

You can’t garden without dirt. And while dirt can sometimes stain and can almost always get under fingernails, it is precious. You wouldn’t be here without it. Literally. I have always enjoyed the smells dirt can have. After a rain, during a rain, when it’s super duper dry. Nobody wants a dirty house, but I’d be totally happy if my clean house smelled like dirt. It’s great stuff. I think the Buddha knew that, too.

I recently picked up a book called An Offering of Leaves by a Jewish-ish gal called Ruth Lauer-Manenti. I found her book at a second-hand book store I really ought to own stock in for as much money as I spend there and I was able to bring her work home for probably something like $6. I knew even before making the purchase that this book would end up living in the “General Hinduism” section (if that’s a thing) of my library. And I liked that each chapter seemed to start with some kind of Sanskrit stanza (this appeals to me because I take a lot of tattoo inspiration from these bits!) Beyond that I wasn’t sure I’d much enjoy the book, but could tell it would be good for stop-n-go reading, so … why not?

I had the book for at least a few days before deciding to dig into it and that really just means that it sat on my nightstand for a further few days before I actually opened it to read. The last part of the first chapter hit me hard, but in the sweetest way. I’ll share it now…(I’m going to add brackets to make it clearer who is speaking)

“There was a student, and every time he went to learn teachings from the Buddha he brought gold as an offering. He had so much wealth that he could bring a lot of gold. Then, many years passed, and this man spent all his wealth. He no longer had any gold. There was one special teaching coming up that he wanted to go to. He thought, ‘Well, I have nothing to offer. How can I approach the Buddha empty-handed?’ So he decided to go to the Buddha and ask. ‘Dear Buddha,’ he said, ‘I want so much to go to the teachings, but alas I’ve spent all my wealth. I have nothing to bring you. What should I do? I don’t want to come empty-handed.’ The Buddha said, ‘Oh, your wealth is gone?’ The man said, ‘Yes.’ [the Buddha said…] ‘Oh! Gold is no longer there? You have no more gold?’ ‘This is correct,’ the man replied. ‘I have no more gold.’ [the Buddha said…] ‘OOohhh! Your wealth is finished?’ ‘Yes, it is finished dear Buddha. I have finished with my wealth.’ ‘Oh!’ the Buddha added. ‘Well, you have one garden. Don’t you?’ ‘Yes,’ the man responded. ‘I have one garden.’ [the Buddha said…] ‘You grow beautiful things out of that garden, don’t you? So many beautiful things grown in your garden?’ ‘Yes,’ said the man. ‘Beautiful, nice things grow in my garden.’ [the Buddha said…] ‘Your dirt is very fertile. So it’s a beautiful thing to grow out of that dirt.’ [the man said…] ‘Yes. The dirt is full of nutrients.’ [the Buddha said…] ‘Ah! It’s good dirt, is it not?’ ‘Yes, it’s good dirt,” said the man. [the Buddha said…] ‘Bring me some of that dirt. You have so much of it. Beautiful things grow out of it…. bring me some of that dirt.”

When I read this I made a short post to Facebook about being moved to tears because of dirt. Honestly, I was moved by a number of things: To a degree, I can relate to the student who became a wealthy adult. I have far, far more than I need and like the wealthy man I’m happy to give and I feel bad if I find myself in a situation where I can’t. I can relate to the Buddha, too. Whether they realize it or not, I’m generally very aware of the perception others have of me and as baffling as it is to me, there are those in my life who feel like they need to bring something to me to sit at the same table. Like some kind of payment is part of the picture.  Like the Buddha, gold is the last thing I expect anyone to have or to bring. And like the Buddha, I can see value in things others might overlook or otherwise undervalue. A simple, cheap bouquet of flowers, of all things, means more to me than about any other present I might ever receive. So if I were the Buddha, it’d absolutely be something I’d tell someone to do: Bring me something from your garden.

But dirt is where the Buddha blows me outta the water. I love dirt. And I love the things that grow from it (both flora and fauna). But you’ll notice from the story that the Buddha had to tell the guy TWICE of the beauty growing out of the dirt. When I say beauty growing out of the dirt, I don’t mean flowers – and neither did the Buddha. Had he meant that, then he would have told the man to bring one of the beautiful things growing from his fertile dirty.

Beauty is itself growing out of the dirt. There is also beauty of growing out of the dirt. Latent, potential beauty of the dirt. All these aspects and fifty more.

I have had a close relationship with dirt for AGES. It’s practically a generational thing (again, from my mother’s side) and I still don’t think it has ever – even once – crossed my brain space that when my hands are caked in mud, I’m holding the potential … of everything. Of every thing. That superficial realization startled me. It almost made me sick, to think of it more deeply and as I did I just found myself crying a little. It was a peaceful little cry, but one that came from deeper within than I expected. It might sound silly to say, but I think I went to bed that night a different person.

The Buddha understood the prana of dirt. Now, thanks to a Jewish yogini’s book from a second-hand store, I’m beginning to also.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti