Dead Horse

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

Partially because of my own boredom and partially because kicking dead horses is just plain rude, this will likely be just about the last post I make for a while when it comes to sorting out religion from superstition… at least until the next time I employ fire magick and begin questioning things anew.

So… last night, as part of my intentional avoidance of all school responsibilities, I found myself driving around town with my best, visiting our favorite bookstore: Half Price Books. They’re currently having a store-wide 20% off sale, and while I have no business buying more books, I simply can’t resist. I might also note, if I can do so without sounding proud, that my relationship to my best is often in a “teacher” capacity. Of course, for all teachers, the ultimate goal is that the students should themselves become teachers and last night while driving around my best definitely was a teacher. It all began when I asked him to differentiate between religion and superstition. A few times we talked in circles. A few times no sense was to be made. But in the end, using the idea of a fire and the fuel going into it, we almost sufficiently (for me) sorted out the difference between the two.

Interestingly, a big part of the fire equation hinged on hope, devotion, or bhakti. We determined that bhakti would act as the wood, the fuel. It’s essentially the foundation – without hope or devotion behind any action, that action is ultimately a dead thing. The animating force, the starting place, is hope or devotion. Without SOMETHING to ignite, there can be no fire. In that context, I find it interesting that many of the devotional poets from many different cultures have written about their devotion burning, or burning up. Fuel indeed! The fire itself, then, would be the ritual, religion, or superstition – respectively. This means the action itself. “The fire that kindles,” as my best put it. I find this in itself to be poetic. If you sit around a fire, everyone knows something is being burned to make that fire, but the fire itself is where the attention is ultimately afforded. It’s the big, showy exterior of the chemical change happening right then and there. Religion is definitely the fire. The big showy exterior that results when we set fire (action) to our hope.

Ultimately there’s a very very fine line between religion and superstition where ritual is concerned, and through chatting with another dear pal it was kind of determined that religion is superstition + validity. To go back to my best and his wisdom from last night, a big part of the validity is cultural influence, although let me be quick to say that cultural influence isn’t automatically where this so-called validity begins or ends – but it is definitely a significant factor.

So, we go back into human history. In the case of Hinduism, we can easily go back into prehistory – in fact, some of our scriptures mention a time when it was almost too cold for humanity to survive on our planet, aka the last ice age. But I digress. If you go back far enough you will no doubt encounter “religion” which today would amount to little more than superstition. People responsible for these kinds of studies will confirm as much. Our ancestors noticed that when they danced in a circle under very specific stellar arrangements, the rains necessary for good crops invariably came, which in turn ensured the survival of the community. Suddenly, puja and jyotish are born! Add about 7,000 years to that, and add humanity’s increased development in the areas of language and science, and you end up with “official” Sanatana Dharma. Through the eons, throughout the planet we inhabit, as we gained increasing dominance over nature we sought the rhyme and reason behind that dominance. As we gained that knowledge we codified and systemized it, and rightly marveled thereupon.

Why marvel? Because it’s marvelous. Duh. We’re talking about dark-n-wondrous, truly ancient stuff. This same stuff has made all the difference to us as a species. It’s THE evidence that proves our humanity – humanity being an interesting mix of the physical and nonphysical, mostly differentiated from other similar mixes according to our consciousness and awareness. We are the proof that’s in the pudding I mentioned in the last post, and our religions and superstitions are how we document our proof-ness.

Add another 4,000 years, a laptop, and a gay white Hindu in Indianapolis, and you find yourself with the current picture of yours truly and I’m telling you, finally, that it doesn’t really matter. Not really. I mean, if you want effectiveness and about all the pudding you can handle in your life (as I feel I’ve been blessed with), then you surely want to look into human knowledge that has a strong foundation. A system of thought and belief that touches the clouds, but doesn’t have its head there. Look for so-called superstition that has well-documented science behind it. There’s nothing wrong with carrying around a horse shoe, if your intention is pure and focused – indeed, if your intention is pure and focused and carrying a horse shoe seems to bring about the desired effect, then trust that your “fuel and fire” may well constitute real religion.

I’ll close by once again referencing my recent post about superstition and religion. Religiosity is a small part of my life really. Too often people see religion as the end AND the means to that end. That’s a trap. Another trap is to be found in thinking that your religion is inherently better than someone’s superstition, as both involve the same fires and woods. There might be evidence of it, but I’m not sure you’re allowed to actually think yours is better. Not really. Some would find supplication to an elephant-faced stone statue to be ridiculously superstitious. I don’t. Every single time, without fail – and I mean that as literally as I am able – that I have petitioned my conception of God for what I need, and often what I want, it has been given. From where I stand, my personal superstitions are effective in every regard. And this is where they factually transcend being mere superstitions. I’m speaking about the wood and the fire that lead me to, and provide me with, Light that enables me to see and Warmth that enables me to experience – this is Jnana. They equate my religious experience and facilitate my spirituality.

– Jay Shri Ganesha! –

Om Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti

Advertisement

ShubhRakhi : 2-in-1

578325_10151522641170235_174551958_n

When I was very young, I almost invariably played by the rules in every instance. As a first born and closeted young person, my way in the world was found in being a good boy. To this day, the thought of disappointing my parents in any way causes me to cringe and break out in a sweat.

However, in my teen years some of that changed. This shift occurred primarily when I was forced to part with the first religious community I formally knew. It was a time of immense pain for me. From then since, it’s been of high value to me to always engage in the effort needed to know my heart, and then to follow it.

One way this manifests, yearly in fact, is a Hindu holiday known as Raksha Bandhan. I don’t know if, like many other Hindu things, there are multiple versions of this holiday’s origin, but the one I’m most familiar with involves Krishna (I think?) protecting his sister, which she then returns with a gesture of devotion by tearing part of her sari and making it into a bracelet around his wrist. Since the time of this supposed event, every year Hindu brothers and sisters celebrate their affection and devotion to each other. Brothers bring their sisters gifts and sweets and promise to always support and protect them. In turn, sisters tie a bracelet of sorts around their brother’s wrist, offer him treats as well, and likewise promise to support and be devoted to that sibling relationship. But that’s not exactly how I roll.

There are a number of people in my life, of no blood relation per se, who I value truly very much-ly actually quite-ly and immensely. Every year, for Raksha Bandhan (and in fact for months ahead of time) I purchase gifts to the best of my ability and bestow them upon my loved ones. If I can be honest, it’s the second most expensive time of the year for me, after the American Christmas holiday. Gift bags are assembled and packages are placed into the post… and when it’s all said and done, my wallet is usually, literally, more than empty. But my heart is so full. This holiday, celebrated almost entirely backward by yours truly, is my personal mahabhakti celebration.

More along the traditional lines of the holiday, though, is my relationship with my only blood sister. We’re about six years apart in physical age, and if ever a big brother had a baby sister… oh boy! Of the children brought here by my birth mother, my sweet sister and I are the only siblings remaining in the state. You can look at us and tell we’re related (because of a fine mix of Native American and European, we both have almond-shaped eyes and high cheek bones). I’ve included a photo of her in this post. Another likeness we share is our birth mother’s sheisty, feisty attitude. I think my sister’s absolutely beautiful, and I’m certain she hasn’t yet realized her tremendous worth to the world. I’m committed to helping her see this value and using it for her betterment and for the benefit of those others in her life. We talk/text regularly, and I love that we talk about boys. 🙂 If ever a sister expressed her devotion and support to a brother, it’s when my sister speaks to me. And if ever a brother was committed to protecting his little sister, it would surely be the brother who threatens to break the legs of any guy who causes her heart pain. Probably half of the communication between us is simple exchanges of “I Love you, bubby” and “I love you, too!”

523313_4257025716314_1921242178_n

More than anything in this life, people need to know how much they mean. The value found in the simple fact that they are breathing is something lost on most. Generally, I’m good about telling others how I feel about them – for good or bad! But this is the one day of the year when I really mean it when I say I’m glad you didn’t die when you fell down the stairs, or that I’m glad you are who you are and that you are amazingly beautiful whether you’re closeted or not, or how truly important our times in the rivers means to me, or that you are my sweet sweet little sister and I will always be here for you.

228124_10152183482450235_1205413773_n

When it comes down to it, I really have no words. Not any that are adequate, anyway. Every morning and every night when I sit in my temple room before my mandir, my heart becomes obese – absolutely obese – as it sings the song within it. My sincerest hope, my brothers and sisters in this life, is that you know you are the very song of my own heart.

Jai Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti

Ganesha-Lila, Do

Here’s another myth about Ganesha that I find humorous and interesting. I’ve encouraged others before to be bold and even bossy toward God. This story could have come from my own heart, except for it’s a story of bhakti. All the same, it’s wonderful.
—————————————————————————————————————————————-

Once there was a fair honouring Ganesha near a temple outside a village. A little girl pestered her mother to let her join her friends who had all gone to participate in the festivities. Eventually her mother agreed and gave her daughter two churma laddoos, ‘Feed one to Ganesha,’ she told her daughter, ‘and then eat the other yourself.’

The little girl went straight to the Ganesha temple, offered a laddoo to the deity, and settled down in front of the image waiting for him to eat the offering. Hours passed and dusk approached. The little girl refused to leave until Ganesha ate her laddoo. She waited and waited. Eventually Ganesha, moved by her devotion, manifested Himself before her and she fed him the laddoo.

Then she grabbed one of His hands and refused to release her hold. Ganesha said that he would grant her whatever she wished if she would let him go. The little girl remembered the old saying: when offered a boon, ask for benefits that will extend over three generations. So she said, ‘I want to see my grandson eating from a gold katori in a palatial haveli where I am surrounded by seven sons and seven daughters-in-law. My husband is with me and together we watch our grandchildren playing.’

And so, indeed, it was.

Ganesha-Lila, Ek

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

I found a story about Ganesha in a book I’m working through currently. The chapter I just finished is about myths surrounding Ganesha – of which there are many. I may share other stories, but this one struck me. The author, before detailing the myth, points out that Ganesha is easily pleased, but only if there is sincerity in the devotion – which invariably results in rewards for the humble and retribution for the arrogant. The author points out, too, that this story illustrates his compassion for all. I can think of many other things this story tells us about the nature of Ganesha. Can you?
—————————————————————————————————————————————

One day Ganesha was seized with a longing to eat kheer. He disguised Himself and set off, armed with a pinch of rice and sugar, and a teaspoon of milk. He presented these to everyone he met and asked them to make him some kheer. Only an old lady took pity on the lad. She brought out a small katori and prepared to put the ingredients in it to cook the sweet-dish. Ganesha asked her to put them in a large pot. She tried to explain that it was unnecessary but to please him she did as he asked. And of course, as the kheer cooked, it filled the pot.

While the rice and milk cooked, Ganesha went for a walk. But the kheer was ready long before he returned. The smell was mouth-watering and the old lady couldn’t resist tasting the kheer. But before she did so, she invoked Ganesha in her mind, inviting him to partake of the kheer. One spoonful led to another, till she had eaten almost half the pot.

Ganesha returned.

The old lady invited him to eat, but Ganesha replied, “I have already eaten the kheer.” Then he appeared before her in all his celestial glory and showered her with gifts

Agni Lost / ज्ञानयुक्त भक्ती, Jnanayukta Bhakti (devotion guided by knowledge)

I’ve mentioned in other posts about how influenced I am by Shri Eckhart Tolle. If I can be honest, I’m hoping to be further influence by him. It does a person good, and I’ve been clear on my recommendation that each person should read his work, A New Earth, which is pretty much timeless.

In some of the earlier chapters of A New Earth, he details SO many things that are tough to chew for the every day human. However, things change a bit after about a third of the book, and assuming you’ve invested in the foundation information in those early pages, the rest becomes a matter of application.

This application was tested recently. I have a good pal, who I think sometimes cringes when I quote him here or post to Sthapati inspired by him or our conversations. This will (almost?) be one of those times.

Recently, he advised me that I sometimes “forget that even though Ganesha is Aum ITself, and therefore a stone’s throw away from BRAHMANity, that doesn’t stop other Ishtadevatas from being the absolute best possible path for someone else.” I know precisely where this originates, although it came to me quite unexpectedly. And if I may be honest, it stopped me in my tracks.

Although I’ve already composed a great many words on this, I’m not sure they’re all to be shared. I can share, however, why this gave me pause.

My first reaction – and that’s all it was, a reaction – is that this is inaccurate of me. However, a result of Jnanayoga is that reactivity rules one less and less and I refused to react initially. Immediately, I set out to discern the Truth about this statement.

Is this a case of misunderstanding on my friend’s part? Perhaps he’s misperceiving my words and sentiments? Would this be his ego getting in the way of messages I mean to actually convey or have I used the wrong words when I write? Or, just as bad if not worse, is MY ego the culprit here? Perhaps, as much as I keep my ego in check, I slipped and some of my words were flavored in this way? I suppose this is likely as long as I retain human form. Maybe all the above? Maybe none of the above? Is it possible my bhakti rubs (or rubbed) his own in the wrong way? I’ve seen this happen a bajillion times, since much bhakti in many bhaktas (and people in general) still rests on the more superficial levels of our humanhood.

All these potentials as well as so many more which I care not to list here could be on the table. It’s because of all these and the many others that I’m not likely to post the numerous other words I’ve written about all this.

Ultimately, none of them matters because of one fancy word: Responsibility. My responsibility is to my own development. And until others seek me in such a way, my responsibility is to none other. There’s a quote I read once, “I’m responsible for the words I say, not for how you understand them.”

There’s HUGE immense truth to that, although I don’t really fully agree with it. However, it’s precisely because of this that I’m given pause. I also find it to be my responsibility to communicate well and effectively. On that note I can admit to also taking on the (pretend) responsibility of guiding the understanding of others. It’s because of these factors that my posts are invariably never quick reads. At any rate, it seems clear that I’ve failed…somewhere.

As silly as it’s going to sound, a character from the Lord of the Rings comes to mind. She some kind of great elf witch or something. Her name is Galadriel. She seems to come from good stock, and she’s virtuous enough. But she’s not without deficit still. When Frodo and his band arrive in her woods, she welcomes them and sees into each so that she can know. She’s also presented with an opportunity – she’s definitely powerful enough to take the ring they carry and make herself even more powerful. But in Tolle’s terms this is ego, and luckily she recognizes that this opportunity is also a test. Like anything else in existence, it can be directed variously. She realizes this and also recognizes that as long as she has to make a choice, she’s not “there yet.” The way she puts it is that this opportunity, or test, would potentially make her “great and terrible.” (Terrible having a different meaning than is mostly used or understood today) She recognizes that being great, terrible, or any combination of the two is of no benefit – both must be transcended.

galadriel-profile-small

When my friend shared his perception with me, I was faced with an opportunity – a test of my own karmas, both current and future. Should I have attempted to clarify with my friend? Would that have been an honest attempt or just my ego self-preserving? Would it matter either way, and is it even my responsibility? Tolle would ask me if I’m “less” because of anyone’s (mis)perception or because of my own ego. The answer is no. The answer also parallels that of Galadriel’s when she’s able to see the ring for what it means – she indicates that she’s passed the test, but also that she will consequently withdrawal to the West. (I think?)

C_Gal_04

For a few days now I’ve also done a bit of a pull-back. As the days have passed recently clarity has come, but not entirely. Although I can’t retreat to the West as Galadriel did, I can and will remain in puja and sadhana. This is required to minimize the chances of future failure, and also to enter future failures with more clarity than I did this one.

Whoa.

Om Shri Mahaganeshaya namaha
Om Shanti

Ganesha Loka

Game_Scene_Paradise_Island_by_firebolide-940x500

Many things have been on my mind lately. Many quite heavy things. If you ask anyone who knows me well or is in my daily life, they’ll probably tell you that this is the norm for me, and they often express a mix of worry and annoyance when I take a “break” from those heavy things to study other things like religion or linguistics … which they also consider “heavy.”

This post, is meant to be such a break. I thought to share a bit from a recently-bought book that I brought home from Chicago and have been working my way through in my free time. It’s all about Ganesh and is rightly called, “The Ganesha Book,” by Royina Grewal. I’ve (recently) been accused of being a little extra biased when it comes to Ganesha (this is indeed part of the heaviness of what’s been rolling through my noggin of late), and this is likely to fall thereunder. It’s a description of Ganesha’s Loka (kingdom, realm, heaven, dimension, …whatever). Although other Ganapatyas might disagree with me, I’m not of the opinion that this is the heavenly destination of all Ganesha worshippers. The value I find in this Ganesha-loka description, though, is the same as I find in Ganesha Himself – a sweetly poetic, deep and deeper-pointing, sublime accounting of the Destination Ganesha not only points to but brings us to.

According to the book, his celestial kingdom is called Swaanda Dhama, the abode of bliss. His palace is seated on a “wish jewel” island, which itself is surround by a forest of wish-fulfilling trees, which is in turn surrounded by an ocean of sugar can juice. Ganesha sits on a lotus made of the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, indicating His supremacy over wisdom and learning. This lotus is positioned on the back of His lion throne – borrowed by His Mother.

His kingdom has four gates, each guarded by two of His eight special attendants, Paarshadaas, who are probably adaptations of the eight Dikpalas – the guardians of the directions within the Hindu tradition. Like Ganesha, they are all short and four-armed and the tip of their thumbs and index fingers touch, a mudra which signifyies their unity with god.

Also in residence within this kingdom is His mouse, given to him at birth as a gift from the Earth, according to one story. According to another, this mouse is Agni, the god of fire. (That story indicates that there was once a feud among the gods during which Agni assumed the form of a mouse and disappeared into the earth. The conflict was eventually resolved, and the gods gave the mouse to Shiva to energize him for the production of His son, Kartikeya. With that task complete, Shiva passed the mouse onto His oldest son, Ganesha, who had been without a mount for a long time.)

Sadly, the descriptive story of Ganesha’s kingdom stops pretty abruptly right there. And so, this post will also.

Om Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti

Ganesha Puja

I’m always seeking varying ways of worship. These days, my focus is either The Mother or Ganesha. Worship, within the context of Maa and Ganesha, is particularly interesting to me. Their worship runs the entire gamut from piling up some rice and saying a simple prayer to hours-long pujas and homams. Ganesha is known for being the most approachable of all Hindu conceptions of the divine and also the most easily “appeased.” As such, I’ve never understood why Ganesha isn’t the go-to god of bhaktas.

Included below is a video of a mid-grade Ganesha puja. All basics aside, the only other thing someone would benefit from before attempting this exact puja is a little familiarity with Sanskrit religious words. For ease, everything spoken during this puja is put into text on the screen.

Interestingly, about forty seconds into the video a handful or two of vaishnav epithets are employed, followed by a number of more encompassing prayers and mantras – further proof of Ganesha’s status as THE unifying God of the Hindus. He’s also the only god consistently referred to as a manifestation of Om/Aum, which itself is non-different from Shabda Brahman (the most subtle expression of Brahman possessing any form at all, only one step away from Nirguna Brahman.)

At any rate, I’m sharing this for your education and mine and because of the puja’s simplicty. Watch the video, and enjoy it.

Om Shanti