The Elephant in the Room


20131107 was a Thursday. I don’t write about these things very often, but I had an experience during that evening’s puja and when I shared tidbits about it with a friend, I received encouragement that this end up bloggered. So here you have it… To be clear, my daily pujas are REALLY simple. Short and sweet. I think the most the whole ordeal only ever really takes is something around 15-20 minutes. On particularly “holy” days, I do a bit more in terms of worship.

Last night was only different from any normal week night puja in that my home mandir has been newly decorated with some white Xmas lights. I’ve done this before and really enjoy the warm, glowing effect it has on the entire temple room. But that’s not entirely true about last night’s puja only being different because of Xmas lights. Last night was also different because “something” happened. When I mentioned this to my friend, I think I put it in terms of a “visitation” but the closer reality is likely that it was more of a “clarification.”

My home mandir currently

My home mandir currently

I’m sitting before the mandir like always, doing the ritual like always. I recall a certain point in the process when I almost suddenly felt like I wasn’t alone. My immediate perception was that Shri Ganesh-ji had “arrived” and was in the room with me. Mind you, the beginning of every puja involves an invocation, so technically He’s always present during puja. I call to Him. He arrives. And I worship. This time however, the air in the room felt like it was more occupied than usual.

Toward the end of the puja I spend time in contemplation, dhyana, japa. It was at this time that I felt particularly aware of the room and everything happening in it. The glow from the mandir was pleasant. The asana I had wrapped myself in was hugging. The incense, a recent Diwali gift from my bahin in Atlanta, smelled great. For a very short time I seemed to feel the vibrations from the shlokas and other things intoned during the puja – as if they were reverberating throughout the room still. Then suddenly, and very sweetly, I realized that I wasn’t alone in the room. My first thought was something like, “Whoa-shit! Ganesha’s here big time!” The only form of Ganesha that I actually saw was the Vira-Ganesh murti in my mandir, but I really felt another, far-fuller, Presence.

Some readers are likely entertaining thoughts like, “This kind of stuff is all in his head.” And, I believe, that is the truth. Now, before anyone gets all huffy and puffy on me, let me say that I’m not implying that Ganesh is imaginary. What I intend to say instead is that Ganesh and I are essentially non-different and what I really, truly, and actually felt then was my Self.

I recall Shri Eckhart Tolle telling of a time when he was at his lowest and had grown suicidal. One of the last thoughts he recalls from the moments before he planned to go through with the act was “I cannot live with myself.” Strangely, right then, it dawned on him that there were two entities in that thought. There was first the “myself” that couldn’t be lived with and then there was also the “I” that seemed to be speaking and could no longer tolerate an existence with the “myself.” He questioned right then who was the “I” that couldn’t live with his “myself.” It was then that he realized that there is a component of who he is that isn’t touched by the misery of the “myself” and had grown weary of experiencing that misery.

Some would maybe say that this sounds a little like a schizophrenic break, but the reality is: We are not our mind.

The mind is an immensely powerful thing. And the ego, necessary for functioning in this life, maintains an incredibly close relationship with the mind. One of the results of this relationship is that we begin identifying with our thoughts and consequently believe that we are our mind – or that our thoughts reflect our truest selves. It’s not true.

There’s a saying, which this post is titled after, that mentions “the elephant in the room” and references something not spoken about, but potentially quite obvious. The elephant felt to be in the room with me during the final moments of last night’s puja is That. This elephant could well be called Ganesha. It would just as well be called my Self – the timeless spark of God that lives in each of us. The “I” that lives with “myself.” It’s very much like “the elephant in the room” because it’s not spoken of hardly ever, yet it’s all that there really is. I suppose within the Advaita Hindu view of things, this elephant is in the room and pervades the room, and IS the room. I often am able to separate my mind/ego from who I am – even to the point that I can watch the mind/ego function, and as Tolle says, it’s madness. But it was a blessing and true surprise last night when my Self became the Ganesha my worship was directed at – and that the connection was so complete that “I” filled the room and even surprised my own mind.

The friend who encouraged me to publish a post about the experience, when I initially refused, encouraged me to write – not so much to say, “Look how awesome this was” as to say, “Look what’s out there.” Reader, please know You are what’s out there. You are what’s worshipable. And You are far more awesome than even yourself realizes.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti


Good Company

Naga Sadhu

Naga Sadhu

I recently went to my favorite book store, Half Price Books. I have made a promise to myself that I’d frequent the place less because I need clothes currently more than I need books and since I’m not as likely to shop for clothes, this will hopefully help balance me a little as well as eliminate some bills I have, which will in turn contribute to another goal. None of that is actually very relevant right now, though. I went and bought a book ( more than just one actually ) and I wanted to share a bit from it with you.

The title is “In the Company of a Siddha,” and pretty much the whole thing is a series of documented interviews with Swami Muktananda. This lineage, I believe, comes from Kashmir Shaivism and his sect focuses a bit more on the practice of devotees receiving shaktipat from the lineage leaders – gurus who are qualified to bestow that kind of thing. There’s part of an interview between Muktananda and several interviewers from a German (Munich) newspaper called Esslinger Zeitung that I found interesting. I’ll have to double check the book, which isn’t in front of me currently, but I think the interview I’m pointing to took place not much prior to the Baba’s mahasamadhi. Knowing this, I get goose bumps – most people simply never know when someone else’s last moments as they currently are might arrive.

This dance in life is quite literally unstoppable. It is what allows for physical existence. It’s the very process of maturation. And it also serves as the means to transcend our material bonds, allowing for escape from the wheel of death and rebirth. It is supreme and all will have to bow to it at some time or another.

The impermanence of the human lifespan isn’t what I intend to focus on for this post, though. Rather, I want to discuss a little about the impermanence of religion. I think Baba Muktananda’s words in the interview I’ve mentioned do well at expressing what I believe in my heart of hearts. The words are shared immediately below.

EZ: You know the condition of people here in the West. What do you think are the reasons for it? Is religion wrong? Is the church wrong? Is society wrong? What is the cause of it?

BABA: It is hard to say where the fault lies. You cannot say that the fault lies in religion because if it is a true religion it cannot be wrong. If a religion is founded by a great being, it cannot be false. Maybe the followers are at fault. Westerners take a lot of interest in outer pleasures and think there is truth in them. They take very little interest in the inner Self. That is why misery has increased.

EZ: People here who begin to take interest in the inner Self, don’t go back to their old religions. They take interest in the religion and philosophy of the East. What is the reason for this?

BABA: After people take interest in the inner Self, for them orthodox religion is dry. You should understand what religion is. In Sanskrit the word for religion is adhva, which means “a path.” One who has become absorbed in the bliss of the Self no longer takes interest in the path.

EZ: A path is just a means to reach the goal.

BABA: Yes. When you are thirsty, you look for water. After you quench your thirst, you no longer need it. A saint once said, “When my mind has become soaked in the holy river of the heart, why should I take a dip in the Ganges?” In the same way, one who has become immersed in God’s love takes no interest in formal religion.”

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

The dance of life, Shiva’s Tandava Nrtya, that’s mentioned above applies to everything everywhere – including humans and how they rely on religion. From the human perspective this dance is a fine one, indeed! On one hand, humans are encouraged to find within religion and spiritual practices the structure necessary for growth. That growth though, is meant to enable the transcendance of religion, which was itself only ever meant to be a tool. When a tool has served its purpose, it should be placed aside. I think many humans find problems – indeed create additional problems – by remaining ignorant of a tool they possess, possessing improper understanding of that tool’s usage to begin with, and inadequately understanding when to set that tool aside – although the last issue is less of a burden because for some this happens somewhat naturally, depending on what path their maturation has taken.

It’s important for someone to do the homework necessary to remove this kind of ignorance. Hinduism, being an experiential religion, mandates that you can’t simply know or feel. You can’t just read about Truth. Singing and dancing ecstatically will only get you so far. You must make yourself transcend. You must make your path. You can get far on knowing and feeling, but without experience you’ll be missing a big part of the picture.

I would encourage you, dear reader, to exercise your “knowing” and your “feeling” and use that experience to realize Shiva-ji’s Nrtya, His Tandava. Without fear, actively dance in this life. Dance through it. And then, when maturation and karmas coincide, dance beyond it.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti


I daydream frequently. I’ve always been fairly imaginative. I like to tell stories when the mood hits and while I was in hair school, if we had spare time at the end of the day, grown people would literally gather around me while we looked through the haircut picture books… I’d point to some hair model and would tell their life story. Everyone loved it. One might expect that suchery would captivate children, but it was incredible to see half a room full of adults sitting, fully captivated while I blathered away about the people in the books.

When it comes to seeing what’s not there, or building a picture within my mind’s eye, I’m usually a pro. It’s usually something I’m capable of rather effortlessly. But when it comes to visualizing with intent, with a deeper meaning or purpose, my mind and imagination halt.

According to, visualization is defined as “1) to recall or form mental images or pictures. 2) to form a mental image of. 3) to make perceptible to the mind or imagination. The WordNet website from Princeton defines visualization as “visual image: a mental image that is similar to a visual perception” ( And according to the almighty Wiki, one of the word’s meanings is “to form a mental picture of something that is invisible or abstract.”

This is fine. Dandy even… if you’re trying to simply imagine or be creative or something simply for the same of the visualization. But I immediately begin to struggle when it comes to employing visualization in spiritual practices.
A good ole friend of mine from way back in high school has taken a path in life that is far different from my own in nearly every way –but we’ve always agreed on the scientific basis of spirituality and of the mystic foundations of reality. For some time now, he’s been active in Chios. I’ll admit now, that I’m poorly versed in the ins & outs of the Chios system. I can say that it deals with different energies that make up reality, particularly in the context of humanity and the human experience. I’ve listened in on a number of their Google+ Hangouts and while they are indeed welcoming and interesting and informative, they seem rather… pretend. I don’t know. I can genuinely say that I have no judgements about anyone investing their time and effort in the Chios system. I sense truth there. But much of the system, and indeed much of the exercises done during the Hangouts, seems to hinge on creative visualization involving colors and shapes. Needless to say, I’m having difficulty buying into the idea that if I visualize myself being a green triune, that I’ll be able to manipulate someone else’s aura and help seal tears and leaks.

Recently, I finished a book, “Loving Ganesha,” which is published by the parampara/sampradaya I’m seriously considering becoming a member of. The lineage is pretty sweet, and I may post on it sometime in the future – it seems to be literally the only lineage I know of that maintains the degree of authenticity that it brought with it when it departed the motherland of Bharata, and is also very open to westerners and non-Indians. But this book, while seriously explaining much of anything to do with Shri Ganesha in minute detail, also indicated that Shri Ganesha is the One Hindu deity that is pleased so easily and is the most accessible to all devotees anywhere. I agree with that much. However, part of this easy access is that simply visualizing Ganesha in one’s mind’s eye brings Him near and immediately puts on into His presence – indeed, this practice of visualization is said to be very helpful when forging a relationship with Ganesha.

I hate to be a doubting Thomas, but I’m not sure I buy this either.

I do agree that, depending on the seeker and his baggage, forging a relationship with the Divine and drawing near to the Divine isn’t necessarily a complex feat. But I don’t know that simply picturing God in one’s mind is enough to immediately and powerfully bring one into practical darshan.

I’m clearly going to have to chew on this one for a bit – I don’t feel like letting part of my personal development and progression to be left up to intentional daydreaming, which is what visualization feels like to me. Maybe I just need to practice visualization a little more, and with more sincerity. Until then, I’ll likely trust in what I know works for sure for me: scientific, systematic, regular, and concrete puja/sadhana.

Om Shanti