That Which Comes After Sweetest

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I said in an earlier post that knowing the what or even the how doesn’t suffice for me. For myself, knowledge must be thorough and as all-encompassing as is possble. This is probably because Jnana Yoga is my path, and probably is the very reason Jnana Yoga is my path.

Here’s what I think I’ve shared with you so far…

So very much of our functioning in life centers around egoic identification. Some of this is practical, like using words such as “I” as a simple reference point. Most of this, however, surpasses practicality and is really where we get into trouble. Instead of using personal possessive pronouns as reference points in life, we become forgetful and convince ourselves that our beloved reference points are actual extentions of ourselves and when those reference points are “relocated” or our relationship to them is otherwise adjusted we experience misery – much as when a relationship ends and we crash and burn. Because of this usual occurence, people do more often than not serve as the tentacles of our ego.

Ego is about as close to being any devil as there ever was, and while “people” as they are, are not necessarily ego, our identification with them – something that’s literally impossible to avoid because of how we’re created and raised – is securely based in ego (in the I-thought, and consequently associated with me, my, and mine).

But this isn’t all bad. Obviously, this outlet for our ego is likewise an effective medium for us to experience profound connection and love, and I do believe that others in our lives are very often Love’s manifestion, and on that note it becomes apparent (and rather full-circle) that the Source of love in our life is likewise linked to the pain experienced. That connection, of course, is that the pain experienced is technically an act of sweet grace from the all-pervasive Love. We’re afforded (sometimes) wonderful people in our lives (sometimes not-so-wonderful) to serve as extensions of our ego – to cause ego flares.

Little by little, it’s only through these ego flares that sweet grace-bestowing Shivashakti works on and with us so that little by little we suddenly arrive at a place within that literally transcends ego/anava mala, and we find ourselves in the unfoldment of consciousness, otherwise known as Self-Realization. People are an extension of our egos, as a grace-filled act of God, precisely to facilitate the maturation and intensification of our anava mala/ego – without which liberation for us is at least 1/3 impossible.

So there you have it. Ego in a nutshell of around 3200 words. I’m sorry to have made you read through all of it, but I hope you see what I’m trying to communicate to you, my dear reader. As a thank-you for reading this far, I’d like to share a video below of a song that struck me once while at the gym. The song repeats “I love you” about a billion times. That phrase, as well as the beautiful souls interacting sweetly in the video suits everything I intended to convey in this series: Others are a sweet, sweet, part of our egos.

Om Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti

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Bhaktam-idam Aham

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In the last two posts I began hinting at my understanding of the nature of bhakti as a path to the divine and some of why it’ll likely never be my main source of connection. The goal of this post is to further detail why, for me, bhakti can never be more than supplemental in its nature. As with the two posts in this series, please allow me to re-iterate that my attempt is neither to bash any one method of aspiring toward the Divine nor anyone using the method of bhakti. Beyond that, I’ll try to stay as focused as possible and make quick work of this.

A few weeks ago, shortly after posting the Rig Veda quote on Facebook (which I mentioned in prior posts and will revisit below), I began polling people of different backgrounds on their definition of the word devotion (bhakti). Without exception, even if round-about-ly, all indicated that devotion is commitment, plus emotion or intensity. Usually, in my questioning, the deeper I prodded the more similar the various answers became. All, independently, agreed that devotion is more than mere commitment. I found this encouraging, actually, as it made my research easier and simpler to sort. In my poll, I asked white Hindus, ethnic Hindus, Athiests, Agnostics and Christians.

Below are some points that, for me, indicate that devotion can’t be my main path back to Godhead/Source/Brahman.

1) The Rig Veda states, “Give prominence to intellect over emotion.” I feel like this is pretty cut and dry. We inherit the Vedas, eternal Truth on The Eternal Reality, from the rishis. Those guys knew more than a little about the nature of the Supreme Reality. They also understood the human existence and all that comes with it. Humans are emotional creatures. Animals possess mostly instinct, with varying degrees of emotional capacity. Humans go one better: our instincts have atrophied some in favor of greater emotional capacity and an intellectual capacity that is greater still than that of our emotions. Emotions are not meant to be neglected, but they are meant to be controlled. It’s precisely when a person acts based on emotion that additional karma is generated. Only through well-reasoned (and thereby balanced) action can a human hope to progressively develop vairagya (detachment, renunciation) and hold hope of attaining moksha when, at last, all karmas are exhausted.

2) “In most cases the disciple becomes too attached to the Guru’s external form and forgets the Guru’s all-pervasive nature. Attachment to the Guru’s form with a firm awareness of his omniscience and all-pervasive nature is the perfect attitude. If there is attachment without proper awareness of the Guru’s infinite nature, the disciple can fall an easy victim to all kinds of negative tendencies. Devotion to the Guru backed with the understanding of his higher nature is real devotion.” This is a quote from one of the objects of my own devotion, Mata Amritanandamayi Ma. I understand this to mean that bhakti isn’t meant to be self-standing. She details, briefly, an instance of bhakti gone awry and some of the potential results. She concludes that bhakti is only real when upheld by a strongly developed jnana (proper awareness and understanding of the higher nature).

3) Although the Bhagavad Gita is often cited as a scripture that promotes bhakti as a supreme means for reaching God, I find throughout the work that jnana is invaluable to the aspirant regardless of bhakti. After all, in the overall dialogue of the text the context is that Arjuna is mentally and emotionally shaken – to the point of utter despondency. Krishna never once said, “Let’s chant the Hare Krishna Mahamantra and dance ecstatically. Then you’ll see and experience Truth. That’s how we’ll fix your insecurity and impart Self-Realization.” He did, however, consistently refer to jnanic means of realization and living life. Even when speaking of devotion and its different aspects, God often speaks in terms of that devotion being governed by qualities of jnana.

4) In the book, “Shuddha Bhakti,” by Swami B.V. Tirtha Maharaja, one finds an admission that is not only typical and true of organized bhakti, but that I find very discouraging. Swami states that bhakti is entirely about relationship. And by definition, it truly is. In his own words, Swami goes on to explain that bhakti is about the worshipful relationship between the effect and its Cause and concludes (literally) that an effect and its Cause can never be the same, implying that duality is inherent in bhakti. My abstract understanding of this (trying not to take his words too literally) is that true moksha isn’t possible through bhakti alone. Bhakti can enable someone along their way in karma yoga, raja yoga, jnana yoga – or any other yoga. However, by definition of the word itself, you can’t express or experience bhakti and union together. The closest approximation to that would be Self-Realization, at which point bhakti would become mute. Bhakti can be a wonderful and efficient means of expressing one’s experience of union, but it would seem that so long as bhakti is the focus of one’s path to the divine, unless bhakti is transcended by Self-Realization, it will essentially remain self-defeating – like continuously reaching for salvation while maintaining that you and God are distinctly separate. As long as little old me keeps adoring magnificent God “in Heaven,” we’ll remain separate precisely because of the nature of my focus (bhakti).

5) Following #4, two quotes from the revered sage Swami Vivekananda seem very instructive. The first quote is, “Everyone is but a manifestation of the Impersonal, the basis of all being, and misery consists in thinking of ourselves as different from this Infinite Impersonal Being; and liberation consists in knowing our unity with this wonderful Impersonality.” (My personal interpretation of his words after the last semi colon is the real definition of Jnana Yoga: not simply the knowing OF our unity, but knowing that unity in an experiential way. Self-Realization is the culmination of Jnana Yoga) The second quote is, “What is the object of Jnana Yoga? Freedom. Freedom from what? Freedom from our imperfections, freedom from the suffering of life. Why are we unhappy? We are unhappy because we are enslaved. And what are we enslaved by? The enslavement of nature. Who enslaves us? We do, ourselves.” As harsh as it might sound, if bhakti is dependent upon a relationship of duality (worshipper/Worshipped), I find it to be terribly enslaving, not unlike the doctrines of the Abrahamic Faiths. In my own, admittedly limited, understanding of bhakti, I couldn’t in good conscience allow that to become my own whole path. I don’t want to celebrate (through worship) my (falsely-identified) separation from Source, thereby perpetuating that very separation.

I feel like I could probably go on and on about the different reasons why bhakti isn’t a fit for me, but I’m not sure that would be productive. For one, in the instance of continuing, I’d probably want to dedicate a fourth or fifth post to the topic, and I’m not sure my own attention span could suffer that, let alone that of you dear readers. Further, if I haven’t already pissed some people off or offended, surely to continue would result in suchery – something I have no desire for.

My single hope intended for this post and the two before it is two-fold. First I hope that you understand me a little better. I won’t hope for more than that, but a little would be something. Secondly, I hope you understand yourself much more than a little better. What matters is not why Dhrishti does or doesn’t follow one path or another. What matters is that you not only follow your path fully, but that you know exactly why your path is yours – indeed, following one’s swadharma without such knowledge is entirely impossible.

Om Shanti

Post Script: It’s possible that in the near(ish) future I might have interest in showing you the other side of the Dhrishti coin. Often it’s easier to say what you’re not than what you are, but I think I’d like to try and I hope you’ll still be reading by then.

Sit – N – Spin

Sometimes, often even, I wonder about the direction my life actually has. I’m doing things, and I’m happy, but often enough I glimpse how very little control I actually have over anything. I think most people are on one side of me or the other: they either feel like they’re the one pulling all strings, or they feel entirely powerless.

I feel within myself the ability to grab all the strings I want, but then about the time I do, I decide not to yank as hard as I had previous thought I might. One way this manifests is in my book-buying habits.

I love buying books. A lot. And I do it as frequently as I am able. Even when I shouldn’t, or don’t actually have the money, I’ll still go book hunting. Recently, on Valentine’s Day, I decided that I needed more books. I’ve been working my way, with much focus, through a few others I’ve been meaning to finish and had been feeling a sense of accomplishment… so, naturally, I need to add to the pile again.

I bought a number of books – all of which I’m pleased to own now. One was a steal AND a gem. I mentioned it on Facebook. Another is titled, “Shuddha Bhakti” by Swami B.V. Tirtha Maharaja. The others include a study guide for Sanskrit ( my religion’s sacred language), a version of the Shri Ishopanishad by Swami Prabhupada that matches the other books by him that I already own (I’ve had other copies of Shri Ishopanishad, but I was particularly pleased to find a hard copy that is the same size, etc… of my other ISKCON books), and lastly I bought a large black tome titled, “Jesus Christ Message to All Nations.” It’s fabulous. It’s some kind of gospel written by Warren Jeffs and pretty much bitches out every nation currently on our globe. It’s apparently a message that Jeffs channeled for the Lord God, who seems really upset and angry. Threats abound in this book. Unfortunately complete sentences, proper punctuation, and coherent thoughts do not. Amused, I read some to my beloved where God is supposedly warning the USA about her relationship with China and the Koreas. Fabulous stuff, although he wasn’t nearly as amused. I only bought the book to place it on my bookcase next to the Book of Mormon I have – which itself is only even in my home because after my father’s sister-in-law passed more than a third of my family joined the Mormon church. I don’t think the Mormon Church is any more a cult that the rest of Christianity, but this Warren Jeffs stuff seems to be more along the cultish lines, and a find like this book was too precious to pass up.

These book purchases are indicative, though. Imagine being a grocery store cashier and someone comes through your checkout lane with whipped cream, dental floss, a package of ink pens, and four tealight candles. Truthfully, I think most cashiers don’t give customers’ purchases a second though. But if you were a cashier, and you DID pay attention to what people were buying, and those items were what a single customer bought… WTF? Such randomness, no? I mean what’re the chances someone’s going to consider a trip to the grocery, start a list of items needed, and think, “Let’s see… Just ran out of whipped cream. Better get more dental floss. I’m getting low on ink pens, oh, and yes, I need FOUR tealight candles.”? Totally random, and you can’t even argue it.

But that’s me at any book store.

And I think it’s why I often feel like I have the ability to pull a million strings and get somewhere and go someplace and do something, but it’s also why I sometimes feel like I’m not actually pulling any of those strings. For instance, if I bought ONLY books on Mormonism… by now I’d be a damned expert. And the same can be said about a number of things I choose to study. What usually results, though, is that I end up knowing “a whole lot” about many many things, but end up knowing everything about nothing.

As frustrating as this is sometimes, I often feel like I’m still a little ahead of the game – but never as ahead as I’d like. All of this, serves as a constant reminder to me of the potential my life (and anyone else’s) has. We all have a billion strings we could be pulling. And also a reminder of my laziness. The Gita says that no effort is ever wasted when one exerts it toward betterment and realization. But one has to actually make the effort.

Om Shanti

Samskaram, schmamskaram…but not really.

(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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Om shanti