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

Advertisements

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