द्वेष

ignorance

I love playing the Devil’s Advocate. When you google the definition of that term, here’s what you get: 1- A person who expresses a contentious opinion in order to provoke debate or test the strength of the opposing arguments. 2- The popular title of the person appointed by the Roman Catholic Church to challenge a proposed beatification or canonization…

I could easily be either of those things, but usually just #1 applies to me. The intent of this post isn’t necessarily for the purpose of advocating devilishly, so much as just making my own point about something.

Not long ago I received an email that a blog I subscribe to had been updated. Naturally, when I had free time I went there to read the new news. What I read was manifold-ly bothersome. This blog is maintained by someone I know little about, but respect in a way that kind of surprises my own self. Tandava-ji is well-enough read, writes well, and almost always seems balanced in his approach to whatever is appearing on his blog. He does a great job at showcasing other Hindu bloggery and as such has proven to be a great resource for someone like myself. However, a recent post on his blog (click here to see it) has me scratching my noodle.

The post is about an abrasive young smartass who maintains her own blog and apparently is “wrong in so many ways.”

The drama concerning this smartass goes back a ways… to her own blog, actually, and a “shitstorm” (her own words) that she started there. If you visit the link to her place that I provided above you’ll see a little of what I’m talking about. Here’s a basic timeline for your own understanding: Karol posts something inflammatory on her own blog, she later comments on Tandava’s blog (generally in support of what he’s written, I might point out), and then Tandava takes her comment and her blog and makes an additional post to his own blog detailing how “in so many ways” she’s terribly wrong.

And now I’m pissed and sorely disappointed. Although, in all fairness I’m pissed at and disappointed with just about everyone, regarding this. What follows is my meager attempt at detailing how I feel about said suchery.

1) Karol is a grown human and should have known to take a better approach. I understand precisely where she’s coming from because some of my own experience as a non-ethnic Hindu seems to mirror her own. Still, that doesn’t warrant free license to offend as one wants. She should already recognize, as a white Hindu, that eyes are on her from both sides of the fence: ethnic Hindus will be skeptical (thus her frustration) and non-ethnic Hindus will think her every misstep reflects on them directly, or on the blessed Faith of their choosing. Otherwise, she’s simply misguided. The frustrations she’s expressing are unique to no one. As such, no one has any room to hate on her for them, and in fact it would be far more productive and beneficial to all, literally to ALL, if those who are a bit farther on the journey would guide her instead of judge her.

2) The online Hindu community would be better served if Tandava-ji would ignore the things he finds to be so immensely offensive and stick with posting what he appreciates. (I do realize that, in the context of the last sentence, the very nature of this post makes me a hypocrite. I’m okay with that.) For one, that’s why his blog is what it is. I go there because I know I’ll find useful material for my own betterment. And now that’s not as true. His first point seemed two-fold: we should be sympathetic to those who feel their religion/culture is being appropriated and be careful so as not to offend them. Umm… Anyone who feels something has been stolen from them is likely to feel insulted no matter the subsequent usage of what might have been stolen. For one, I don’t think we need to offer sympathy for ethnic Hindus who feel their religion/culture is being appropriated. That’s essentially apologizing for loving what they’ve brought to the table. I’ve never apologized for asking someone for the recipe to a dish after openly adoring his cooking. Sympathy to someone who is offended when outsiders adopt his/her way of life? That’s bullshit.

I agree with Tandava that we shouldn’t necessarily use someone else’s symbols and then insult them. But I don’t think Karol is insulting anyone but herself. She’s showing her ass, for sure, and if she wants to get in someone’s face I’d say she’s succeeded. Otherwise, all her words amount to, regardless of how crass they are, is that she’s a western Hindu and anyone who doesn’t believe her can go to hell. She’s abrasive, and she’s sloppy, but she’s not wrong.

Tandava’s next point dealt with ethnic Hindus who don’t agree that outsides can also become Hindu and how we shouldn’t insult them. Again, I agree that insults are unnecessary and wrong, but again I don’t see Karol’s words as an attack on anything except the ego of those who, for no good or valid reason, refuse to welcome her. It can’t be stated enough that she should have used a different and more responsible approach, but beyond that I’m with her. Maybe it’s because I’m a gay non-ethnic Hindu in religiously-barren old Indiana that I can relate to the effort required by one having to “prove” one’s own validity. I don’t know. Sometimes people say things and use the wrong words. Karol has certainly used the wrong words. I suspect, though, that all she’s saying is, “I don’t care what you think, I am one of you.”

Tandava’s last point really gets me. He first correctly distinguishes that a Hindu can be either cultural or spiritual and that, when it comes to ethnic Hindus, if one doesn’t act very spiritual then they’re assumed to be merely cultural. I don’t know why this can’t apply to everyone. I’ve known a number of ghetto thug idiots who go around representing what many consider the worst of my society, yet they may well be wearing a gold cross around their neck. Are they Christian, or just in a Christian culture? It could be either or both – it doesn’t matter. If culture and religion can be adopted by anyone, and truly they can, then it also doesn’t matter if Karol is a cultural Hindu or a spiritual one. She’s not ethnic, but she’s still Hindu either way. Asking why a westerner would wear Hindu symbols without strong faith is assumptive and stupid. Many people, in many cultures, in many religions – everywhere- do this very thing. The reasons vary widely and include every excuse from shallow fashion preference to sweet, sublime devotion. The only reason I care about, in this context, is why do I wear what I wear and do what I do. I would encourage the same for everyone.

3) Ethnic Hindus and non-ethnic Hindus alike need to step back and take a look at what Hinduism means. Aside from a sad little handful of basic tenets held in common by almost all Hindus, Sanatana Dharma is too big for anyone ever to say, “You gotta be like this or you’re a bad Hindu.” And, in fact, that aspect of the Faith is part of what makes it supreme among man’s religions. Modern Christianity is undergoing an immense struggle currently. It’s flailing as it tries to maintain what it thinks its image is, while grappling with modern issues – a struggle that, according to Depak Chopra, could push it into extinction. A result of the internal conflict within Christianity that I’ve experienced is that whenever one Christian group misbehaves, many of the others are quick to distance themselves saying, “Those people aren’t true Christians.” This is horrible and disgusting. A family that turns on itself will not survive. The sentiment expressed in Tandava’s post and in the comments that followed are dangerously Christian and it almost makes me sick.

This might sound mean and shallow, but something about her physical appearance tells me that, in person, I’d likely be annoyed by her. Although, in all honesty, if we get past the fact that she has boobs and no penis, she and I are likely far more alike than we’re not. She seems to like challenging where people think they stand. I couldn’t begin to speculate her reasons for this, but I know I do the very same for my own reasons. Let me be clear: the path she and I walk, however differently we walk that path, is not easy. Throughout most of humanity, throughout most of human history, people have loved the very chains that bind them. Anyone committed to using their own brief human existence for the cause of shaking folks out of their ignorant slumber should be commended, not ridiculed by others who not only have no room to ridicule, but also have more in common than not.

Ekam sat…, right? Truth is One. It seems like we’re all good with that part. The other half is “vipraha bahudha vadanti” The wise call It variously. Like no other religion in the world, Hinduism alone offers the richest pool of methods, margs, icons and ishtadevatas for the aspirant to draw from. In a faith where it’s acceptable to live a worldly life, to retreat to a mountain cave and let everything fall away, or to wander around nude and covered in ash foregoing all of society’s norms, I promise you -like it or not – one of God’s names is Karol.

Om Shanti

P.S. My apologies for the lengthiness of this post. In all honesty, everything that contributed to it gave me quite a bag of mixed feelings. I did my best to convey those feelings and thoughts in as orderly a manner as I could, while under the influence of cold medicines. My intention wasn’t to attack any one person, but to attack the principles I perceived to be in action and which I perceive to be mostly adharmic in nature. Please, spare us all, and before commenting read the last bit of this for the rule I have about comments.

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guruganesh, et all

A friend recently asked me a question I found to be a little troubling. This is no fault of his. Although I had partially answered his question in communication that had taken place some time ago, we’d both temporarily forgotten this and I sought to find another (new) answer for him.

The question that was given to me was based on something I’d said once, I think maybe in a Facebook post or perhaps somewhere here… “I’m certainly no Vaishnav and probably never will be…”

My wording and the myriad contexts this could be interpreted in could easily lead someone unfamiliar with me to a faulty conclusion about my opinion of Vaishnavs/Vaishnavism/Sri Vishnu. The responsibility for this falls in two places: The ego of  anyone reading my words, and me for poor word choice or grammar.

In the last post, I pondered why humans tend to ask questions that they either already know the answers to, or don’t actually want the answers to. That post was kind of in response to my friend’s question… but only indirectly. While considering all the possible answers to his question, I naturally began to wonder about the very nature of questioning in general. My mind often follows this kind of logic, which is why I end up looking at a pencil eraser and finding some deep, ultra-universally cosmic truth. It’s a good thing, but also a type of burden. It’s definitely proven itself to be an annoying trait of mine that those around me must endure.

At any rate, there are a number of things I plan to address in up-coming posts. Namely, these are to be a possibly uncommon or unpopular view of Arjuna’s “grief” in the scene of the Bhagavad Gita, details as to why I’m not a Vaishnav, and how Hinduism allows to very different views to be correct simultaneously –an approach often quite rare in the Western world. I’ll be planning these posts very carefully before publishing them, which means they’re going to take longer for me to piece together. In the meantime, and in between, please forgive my silence.

So… Here we go.

Om Shanti

Shivohum and Same to You, too.

namaste-sanskirtOne of my favorite publications is a Shaivite magazine, “Hinduism Today.” I’ve had a subscription for years and have purchased a few subscriptions for others as well. Whether one happens to be a vaishnav, shaivite, shakta, or smarta, this magazine is invaluable. It’s been instrumental in my own growth, for sure. One thing I repeatedly adore about it is that, although it is technically sectarian, it differs from most other sects in its openness and inclusiveness. As such, while it’s definitely a Shiva-oriented source, it does great work in covering the broader picture of Hinduism and the Hindu diaspora.

The most recent issue has a focus on Swami Vivekananda, which has been really great for me. His lineage appears to be from the Shakta denomination of Sanatana Dharma, his own guru being a priest for Kali at one of Her temples … in Dakshineshwar, I think. Along with this focus on Vivekananda and all he did for our faith, there are various other articles. One of these deals with the Namaste greeting, and is what this post’s primary focus is meant to be.

Namaste

The article begins in pointing out the differences and immensely varied implications to be found in the Western handshake and the Anjali Mudra (Namaste greeting). For the sake of brevity and keeping focus, from here out I’ll use bullet points to list what I think are the main talking points of the article.

  • The handshake originates in medieval Europe. Weaponry on the person used to be a more common sight, and so was fear. The resultant “accidentally retributive” attacks were sometimes thwarted by showing the other guy your open hand (“I’m unarmed, don’t stab me!!!”). Later, with a little cultural evolution, the open hands were joined upon meeting or passing, and we now have the handshake.
  • The anjali mudra is highly symbolic: “Anj” means to adore, celebrate, honor; the pressing of the hands together symbolizes the bringing together of spirit and matter; the hands coming together symbolizes the self meeting the Self.
  • Three main forms of the Namaste greeting exist: 1) Simple meeting of the hands, vertically at the solar plexus; 2) Same as before, plus the addition of raising the hands until the upper fingertips touch one’s third eye; 3) Same as before, plus the addition of taking the joined hands to a position above the head at the aperture in the crown chakra known as brahma-randhra. These three variations are progressively formal.
  •  The handshake is an outwardly conquering gesture. It hints at Western man’s desire for conquering and acquiring. An overly strong handshake can be meant for purposes of intimidation, and a too-weak handshake is also very telling.
  • Western culture is summed up in the handshake: reaching out horizontally to greet another; we reveal our humanity; we convey how strong we are, how nervous, how aggressive or how passive. Namaste reaches in vertically to acknowledge that, in truth, there is no “other.”
  • It’s more civilized to Namaste instead of shaking hands. Popes never shake hands. Kings never shake hands. Even mothers don’t shake hands with their own children. Namaste is cosmically different: Kings do namaste, Satgurus namaste, mothers namaste their own families, we all namaste before God, a holy man, or a holy place. The namaste gesture indicates our inner valuing of the sacredness of all. Namaste is also more practical: A politician or performer can greet fifty-thousand people with one Namaste and the honor can be returned.
  • The gesture has a subtle effect on the aura and nerve system. The nerve currents of the body converge in the feet, the solar plexus and the hands. To balance this energy, and prevent its loss from the body, yogis and meditators sit cross-legged and bring their hands together. The anjali mudra is a simple yogic asana.
  • An increasing number of celebrities and others around crowds are adopting the Namaste greeting as a polite means of avoiding the transmission of contact diseases. The Namaste greeting has become a veritable icon of Indianness, although an ever-increasing number of non-Indians are also using the greeting.

I’m not sure that all of these points do justice to the practicality, intuition, and value that the Namaste greeting holds versus the handshake. Hopefully these points, as highlighted from the article, hint at some of this.

Om Shanti

11062012/2

Today is Election Day in my country. My beloved had the entire morning’s activities planned out for us when the sun set days ago. You see, he intended for us to awake very early, be out the door only minutes later, and among the first in line at our local voting location. The fact that this week happens to also be the week during which he’s due into the office an hour earlier than usual made this particularly painful. However, much to his relief, I’m sure, everything went virtually exactly as planned. We were, indeed, among the first in line at our voting site and everything went really well except for the machines didn’t work at first. Apparently, the voting machines all over my county (Hamilton) were giving the operators some kind of error when they tried recalibrating them. I have to admit, after hearing about some Ohio machines being owned by Romney’s son, it wasn’t too comforting to know there was a “problem” with the machines in my own majority-conservative locale. After about twenty minutes, though, things were somehow ironed out and the voting began. Within seventy-five minutes’ time my vote was cast and my tired butt was headed to work.

After all of this, and because I wasn’t able to rest my eyes, I pulled my phone out and began seeing what Facebook might be looking like already. At that time, still rather early, there wasn’t much going on. By the time I’m writing this, it seems the rest of god and the US population has awakened and are posting. One of the earliest posts for today that I noticed was a call from Sister Unity Divine. Her post was a simple request that folks recite the Rudram today while the election is in process. Her post carried a photo of Shiva Nataraj before a background of the American flag.

 

 

I’ve heard of the Rudram before, but I’m mostly unfamiliar with it. Since I arrived at work so early, I decided to take the extra time before other arrived for a little sadhana, and meditated on all Shiva means, focusing on His aspect as the embodiment of pure consciousness. It makes perfect sense to perform Shiva pujas and do other sadhanas pertaining to Lord Shiva, like reciting the Sri Rudram Chamakam. In an attempt to access a little knowledge about the Rudram, I used my work computer to Bing the Rudram and, as would be expected, found a Wikipedia result high on the list.

(Allow me to offer a slight disclaimer on using a source like Wikipedia. Certainly, it should never be cited as credible in academic writing. Beyond that, however, it should be noted that Wikipedia has upped its security requirements in regard to who is able to post/amend their entries, hopefully meaning there’s less actual crap to be found. Also, whether one considers an entry on Wikipedia as credible or not, anyone serious about their inquiry would do well to scroll to the very bottom of the result’s page to view the “Notes,” “References,” and “External Links” sections. Even if the entry itself contains pure bologna, which is very possible, one can usually find valuable information –or sources to such –at the bottom.)

Here’s what I’ve learned about the Sri Rudram Chamakam on this Election Day.

1) Rudra is a name for a fierce manifestation Shiva dating back to Vedic times, and during that period was associated with storms, wind, and thunder. A translation of Rudra is “The Roarer.”

2) The Sri Rudra, as a text, is a hymn pulled from the Yajurveda.

3) The Sri Rudram is an early example of sahasranama.

4) Although Shiva is viewed as the Supreme Godhead by Shaivites, Shiva is understood to be a non-sectarian aspect of Brahman who manifests in “myriad forms for the sake of diverse spiritual aspirants.”

5) Within the Sri Rudram, one can find the Shaivite Panchakshara((OM) Namah Shivaya) as well as the mantra Om Namo Bhagavate Rudraya.

6) Dating back to Vedic times, Rudra is assigned the number 11, and of the thirty-three deities named in the Vedic pantheon, 11 of them are attributed to forms of Rudra.

The Shri Rudram seems to be associated with sacrifice. The sacrifice is meant to be external and/or internal. I find this terrific on account of the association between our consciousness (Shiva) and our external, material-based form. The external sacrifice referred to is one offered in a havan/homa/yagna, although in modern times everyone makes sacrifices in other ways, often much more personal in nature than a community coming together to toss oblations into a holy fire. The notion of internal sacrifice is something I’m very keen on. Humans (especially in Kali Yug) operate from a largely emotional and egoic place internally, the two often working together to create an immense and complicated cycle that proves instrumental to our entrapment in Maya and prolonging our journey toward Moksha. I recognize the value of external rituals, but for me personally the value of internal sacrifice has always been of greater value, although exponentially tougher to perform.

 

 

Sri Rudram is a useful thing to recommend on a day like today, as Sister Unity Divine has done. Speaking in the context of internal sacrifice, the entire nation would do well to consider this all day. If you haven’t already voted, you should be considering why you plan to vote the way you will. It’s a rare person, indeed, who honestly and objectively is able to look within and discern the ugly details behind the way he or she is planning to vote. Further, in the event that one’s hoped-for candidate isn’t the victor of today’s election, the Sri Rudram and the notion of internal sacrifice is definitely applicable.

It might make for an experience of growth if those who voted for the losing candidate make swallowing their pride into an internally sacrificial ritual. This is obviously easier said, than done.

Om Shanti