Wirth’s Wisdom

Periodically another blogger publishes a post and, while they are invariably a bit long-winded (that’s saying something coming from me! lol), they also invariably possess an excellent viewpoint balanced with reason and devotion and much life experience. I would encourage everyone to check out her blog and her “About Me” page to learn some of her background.

I’ve included a link here to a recent post of hers that I found to be particularly logical and well written. It deals with violence in religion and makes some incredible and valid points. Do give it a look.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

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WICKED Li’l Old Me

Taken from Google Images

Taken from Google Images

Everyone seems to have the understanding that holy people, or spiritually advanced people are only humble. After all, the meek shall inherit the Earth, no? (Bible, Matthew 5:5)

However, I’d like to convince you that humility can be a problem in a way identical to that of arrogance or pride. Some posts ago I mentioned that I believe many carnivorous humans are better off from a karmic standpoint, and spiritually, simply because of the ignorant, emotional, and often irrational aversion so many vegetarians have regarding the subject. The post seemed to go virtually unnoticed, which doesn’t bother me in the least, but based on my understanding of how thoughts, emotions, actions, and karma in general work, I really do feel that many who are vegetarian are at times hurting their own progress more than those who bite sentient beings for sustenance – not because of the vegetarianism, but because of the samsaras they build up around the choice. All of that hinges on something good and virtuous (non-violence, non-aggression, vegetarianism) being taken to an extreme.

Religions and spiritual traditions throughout time and around the globe are guilty of this in one context or another, to one degree or another. Of course, some religions are inherently more inclined toward the live-and-let-live model and so there are those who are perhaps “less” guilty of this imbalance. Still, guilty is guilty and people who live in glass houses ought not to throw rocks.

To a lesser degree I think this same principle is sometimes also at work when it comes to humility. Too many people are timid when it comes to displaying a warrior spirit in their own lives. A hymn from the Vedas, in part, says, “Ati Vinayam Dhoortha Lakshanam…” which translates as, “Too much of humbleness is an attribute of a wicked person.”

But how can this be? How can a virtue like humility lead one to wickedness?

Umm… how about by being emphasized or implemented in such a way or to such a degree that it becomes detrimental. Initially, the detriment would be applicable only to the immediate life state of the one exhibiting this imbalance. That person would end up essentially being walked on or abused throughout his or her existence, and while that saddens my heart, I can see, that on that level, it’s still only a localized misery – again pertaining to individualized samsara. If allowed to go further, however, the localization ceases and others begin to suffer, too – others who might need a so-called warrior, Vira, to help maintain or restore balance. The absence of this assertive warrior spirit is adharma, and this is why the Vedas tell us that “too much of humbleness” makes someone wicked. Too much humbleness is an imbalance and is adharmic. So much of the Hindu dharma points to the at-least-occasional need for exhibiting warrior-ness: everything from yogasanas to the Bhagavad Gita hint at this.

If someone tells you you’re going to hell for eating cows, tell them to mind their own damned business and worry about themselves not going to hell. If someone tells you your friend or guru is corrupt or fraudulent, hold them accountable for those accusations – if they refuse, they need to fuck off and you need to make them aware of as much, and if they can offer proof your life has been made better. If someone repeatedly and directly badgers you about your own ishtadevata or chosen scriptures, I do hope you have spine enough (and bhakti enough) to adhere to your spiritual home AND tell them to do the same.

So many people think that if one is humble they’re “good” and if they’re not, they’re not. But the truth is, humility is much like aggression in that it possesses degrees of expression. Ideally, humility is best expressed through patience, understanding and compassion – not necessarily meekness. If one keenly develops these traits, humility will manifest without compromising other areas and without leading to adharma/wickedness.

In posts like this, I eventually begin wondering if my point is lost. Like the vegetarian samsara post, it’s such a broad and deep subject that can be taken in so many directions. It’s actually a challenge to write about effectively without composing an entire book on the subject. If nothing else I’d like to leave you with just two recommendations:

1) Cultivate a keen inner awareness. Progress without this is infinitely more difficult.

2) Follow Krishna’s advice to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. Sometimes we’re called to be warriors. Sometimes dharma, whether localized or general, depends on us being loud, assertive and even bossy. History has shown as much.

Om Jai Shri Ganeshaya Namaha
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

A Christian kind of Hindu

The other day a friend posted to Facebook a quote by Jiddu Krishnamurti. The focus of the quote was nonviolence, often translated as ahimsa. According to Krishnamurti, just about any identification meant trying to separate ourselves from others, which he perceives to be a form of violence. And so, to say you’re a Hindu or a Christian is a violent act because it creates a split between you and those not identifying as Christian or Hindu- or, more generally, between the identity you assign yourself and any different identity someone else might happen to be inclined toward in their own way. I suppose on a super subtle level, I agree. The Jnana involved here is something I align with, and I also think this mostly clicks with Raja Yoga as well. I think, though, that this over-simplification verges on theoretical negation of other paths like Bhakti and possibly Karma. With that in mind, and within the context of living in the three-dimensional realm, from where I’m composing this right now, I mostly disagree. I’ll try to explain. Wish me luck.

 

1) I think violence, in the strictest definition of the term, is generally inescapable (and is inescapable only in the context of this very strict definition) – after all, the necessary act of breathing kills! Having said that, I don’t think violence (again, in the strictest sense of the word) is inherent in life or in creation. It’s often unavoidable, but not necessarily automatic. That might sound contradictory, but to me it isn’t. Life is neither coming nor going; it simply is. As such it isn’t phenomenal. Because it isn’t essentially phenomenal, but does manifest phenomenally, violence is able to be both inescapable and not inherent. Truly, it’s Sat-Chit-Anand. Brahman. It’s these kinds of seeming contradictions that make Hinduism so inherently balanced. In many (most?) other paths, things are black OR white, which lends itself to lop-sidedness and possibly extremism. But within my faith things are often black AND white, thus a more reasonable, balanced, and accepting/tolerant approach.

Back to the quote and a few of my earlier assertions… If violence were inherent in phenomenal life, Gandhi’s mission would have been an entire waste. Additionally, violence (strictly defined, or not) is usually associated with some form of destruction. And unless we’re discussing material existence, which would mean our topic should be attachment (not unity), not only does science teach that energy/life is never actually created or destroyed, but also it doesn’t reason well that life would be well-sustained within material existence if destruction/violence were inherent to its essence.

If this were the case (if violence/destruction were inherent), Vishnu wouldn’t have been named The Preserver. In fact, with the realization that literally everything we do likely causes some form of harm or destruction, Vishnu COULDN’T have been named The Preserver or The Sustainer, because in that context preserving/sustaining would be impossible. However, our immediate physical universe seems to be holding together pretty reasonably, and we believe the same about our spiritual skies, so I’m inclined to reason that Sri Vishnu is doing just fine and that violence isn’t as inherent as it might seem at first glance. This is the first exception I take with Krishnamurti’s quote. It’s too much of a generalization and round-aboutly negates the function of Sri Vishnu. I ain’t havin’ it.

2) Another thing I think Krishnamurti doesn’t consider in this case is that ahimsa doesn’t simply mean violence. It also means aggression. And because of this additional layer of meaning, typical of Sanskrit words, a number of other variables in existence open up to us. Contrary to Krishnamurti-ji’s claim, it’s quite possible to assert that I’m a Hindu without the assertion being an act of violence, so much as an act of Bhakti. Bhakti doesn’t work well at all without identification, which is what Krishnamurti’s words in this case hinge on. At a bare minimum, the positions of the adorer and the Adored must be established, or a relationship of devotion is nearly impossible to forge. And even if my own Self is the object of my devotion, saying “Namastu te” still involves identification. At face value, there’s nothing inherently violent in this process/act, and the process of walking the path of bhakti can’t really begin until one identifies both roles.

I will allow, that more often than not, when Christians and Muslims make a definitive assertion regarding their faith, it is something that indeed could be viewed as an act of violence. Christians proudly proclaim that their guru/avatar Jesus, is THE Way. Likewise, the Islamic equivalent of the Christian Sinner’s Prayer, “Laa ilaha il-Allah, wa Mahammad ur-Rasool Allah,” boldly states not only that The God is the only god (which is actually pretty much just common sense), but also that Muhammad (the Muslim guru, but not avatar) is God’s final messenger to humanity. When we consider these authentically exclusive religions, I can definitely agree that identifying one’s self as an adherent is veritably an act of violence. In my opinion, these religions actually prove Krishnamurti right because it’s very difficult indeed to join those religions, specifically, and not subscribe to the Us-versus-Them identification Krishnamurti is hinting at. The incredible amount of exclusivity alone-just in joining!- seems to constitute violence.

As with many things, I consulted my beloved to get his take on exactly what behaviors define violence. His answer was that (most) actions alone aren’t enough designate violence, but that intention plays a significant role as well. He did, also, carry the opinion that speech alone isn’t usually enough to “be” violent. So, from where he stands, actions are violent depending on their intent- something that occurs easily enough. Violence in speech, though, is a tougher matter.

For me, all things are connected and evolve together. Thoughts often become speech. And the two often heavily influence our actions. Asserting something isn’t automatically violent, but rather depends on the thought patterns which were foundational to that speech.

And there you have it.

Om Shanti