Painus in the Anus

Taken from Google Image search

Taken from Google
Image search

There are two things I know to be (at least mostly) true: If someone recommends a book or movie or… almost anything to me, I’ll not enjoy it. I’m still figuring out why this is the case. The other thing I know to be true is that if / when I recommend something to someone, it’s usually enjoyed or valued or, in best case scenarios, both. Maybe I know people really well. Maybe I’m just a bitch. Either way, for a while I’d been encouraging a dear pal to check out Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth” and had even offered to mail him a copy – which he pretty much made me promise I wouldn’t follow through with. Finally, and not long ago, said pal indicated to me that he’d picked up his own copy of
this book and was reading it. I was thrilled. Since that time, he’s posted a number of quotes from the book to his Facebook page and seems to be enjoying it well enough. If I can be honest, I’m more
than a little surprised at the speed in which he’s breezing through the pages of the book. I spend portions of my days contemplating things spelled out in this book, and I’ve read the book a number of
times, and it still takes me months to get to the last page. Perhaps he has more leisure time on his hands than do I. Perhaps all of this is old news to him. Perhaps the dark-n-wondrous life-changing-ness of the book is already in place in his life and he doesn’t need to masticate the material as much as I feel I do for the full benefit. I don’t know, and better yet it’s not really my place to know or care about suchery. However, this dear pal did send me a request: That I should write about what Tolle details as the “pain body.” So that is what this post is (supposed to be) about.

I called this post “Painus in the Anus” because everyone knows the concept of something being a pain in the ass. A pain in the butt can be anything that makes life less enjoyable, long-term
or short. But what if something was part of your life, was pretty much complicating your life on every level, and you weren’t even aware of it? That’s the pain body. It’s not just a pain in the
butt, it’s a pain in your very existence and there’s a close connection between one’s pain body and his ego (something else most people aren’t quite clear on, at last regarding what it really and
truly is).

Since the request to write about the pain body came from someone who’s been reading Tolle’s “A New Earth,” I went to that friend and asked for any knowledge he already had regarding the subject. The digest version of his response was something along the lines of, “Not your karma, but having an effect on your karma.” He’s absolutely right.

The pain body, according to Tolle is very closely linked to human emotion. Many humans (most?) are basically possessed by their own minds and the patterns that the mind operates in. These patterns are essentially what Hindus (and others) call samskara. It’s like the deer paths in a wooded area – with enough travel, there becomes a really worn place, not just a path. Sometimes those worn places are actually like narrow ditches – quite deep. Similar impression-like grooves form within a person and account not only for one’s thoughts and behaviors, but also the resultant actions (aka karmas). Be sure, this is what so very much hinges on because as long as a person not only is adding to their internal impressions but also is not doing anything to smooth those grooves out, he or she will be bound to rebirth.

The pain body is a trip, be sure of it.

One of the first steps in understanding the pain body is to understand mind-identification. I think a lot of Hindus understand the basic trickery of the mind and then choose a path that seems not to center around it because it seems safer or because it’s easier for today. In truth, any path one might take that doesn’t afford a decent amount of focus on knowing the mind and all its components will have a tougher time not only getting rid of pesky karmas, but preventing new karmas from forming. This is actually a really vital step in getting anywhere in one’s personal evolution because we are not the mind – a challenge to recognize!

So, thought / mind is at times a tool of the ego (which Tolle writes about extensively). According to Tolle, emotion is as well and may be even more of a tool of the ego since emotions form specifically as a byproduct of thought and act primarily as fuel for this kind of fire. And lucky for us, the two are often not far from one another. They are so practically joined because, according to Tolle, emotion is the body’s response to a thought. So, essentially what happens is that the mind perceives something, emotions form in response to those thoughts, and then the two cycle off of each other. It’s a lot like smoking cigarettes being the smoker’s problem AND solution to that problem. When this ricocheting goes on without examination, Tolle says emotional story-making results. This nonsense constitutes the voice of the ego and ruins most hope for true well-being.

When all of this happens, we’re talking about the pain body. It’s a cyclical mess whirling around within each of us and varying in “size” and intensity depending on the individual. Memories are often a part of this, as are many other components of human existence. The pain body is a semiautonomous thing that forms when emotions and thoughts reverberate off each other, and then feeds on thoughts later produced. To be more precise, Tolle describes the formation of the pain body like this: The remnants of pain left behind by every strong negative emotion that is not fully faced, accepted, and then let go of join together to form an energy field that lives in the very cells of your body… This energy field of old but still very-much-alive emotion that lives in almost every human being is the pain-body.

The pain body is very complex and very prevalent – in fact, entirely prevalent. Everyone has one and brings one with them to this life when they are born. I see parallels here between what Tolle is saying and what “Hinduism” says about one’s individual karmas, which also follow one from one life to the next. Certainly, there is a very close link between karmas and pain body.

Karma and a pain body are definitely distinct. The mind perceives, when this goes unchecked emotions form as a result (this is a reaction), the two then pair up and perpetuate a kind of story telling that virtually entirely flavors one’s life view which in turn flavors that person’s responses / reactions to life experiences – the reactions and responses responsible for the creation of additional karmas, which in turn are interpreted according to the pre-existing psycho-emotional story telling. And the whole mess keeps it up. If a person doesn’t awaken in a fairly timely manner, it’s becomes increasingly tough to dig one’s self out of this kind of mire.

So where’s the silver lining in all this? Some might conclude that people not swamped in their pain bodies are necessarily more advanced or developed than those who are not. This isn’t necessarily the case. According to Tolle, the opposite is often the case: People with heavy pain-bodies usually have a better chance to awaken spiritually than those with a relatively light one. Whereas some of them do remain trapped in their heavy pain-bodies, many others reach a point where they cannot live with their unhappiness any longer, and so their motivation to awaken becomes strong.

So… For me, this is it. This is the pain body in a nutshell and really is the reason for why Jnana Yoga & Raja Yoga appeal to me so much. So much starts in our thoughts and can be transcended by evolving that part of human life. That transcendence, when achieved, affects everything else. Emotions, however, truly fuel so much of what goes into karma. You can think anything in the world, but when it comes down to it you’re actually moved by emotion, whether you recognize it or not. And since emotions stem from thought to begin with, it seems vital to know your way into, through, and beyond the mind. With that under your belt, your chances of forming hard-to-control emotions decreases greatly. And as we’ve discussed already, without those emotions feeding problematic mental stories (resulting in the cycle that grows the pain body), the whole ordeal is minimized, if not entirely avoided – which has a direct effect on karmas and virtually everything else.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

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A Seat At The Table

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

In the disclaimer I offered back on May 25th of this year (which can be read here), I mentioned that there are many kinds of Hindus, and thus many expressions of Hinduism. The kind of Hindu I want to write about is the carnivorous kind. I hope you brought your big mind to class today. I also hope you have your reading glasses and ample time to not only read what is likely to become a rather lengthy post, but ample time to mentally masticate the suchery about to be included. Aum Ganesha!

Before I dive deeply into what I’m planning here, please allow me to be clear: I’m not condoning carnivorous practices among humans. It’s my opinion that our current methodology for farming meat products is not only wasteful and inefficient, but also immensely cruel. I also believe there’s more than enough scientific evidence to support the theory that humans are anatomically and physiologically designed to consume primarily plant material for our nutrition needs. Lastly, I do think, for various reasons which I may end up not going into very much, that humans – as spiritual and intellectual organisms – function optimally when abstaining from eating meat. Beyond that, I’m not mad at folks who chomp beasts.

From where I’m sitting, this topic is a source of contention and too many misguided, skewed intentions. In the middle ages, Christians hunted other groups of people who they perceived to be a threat of some sort. Mind you, those Christians didn’t simply decided against a group and then plot its extermination. There was something about one group or another that was perceived to be a detractor to the process of “saving” the world, or was seen as a roadblock of sorts for those attempting to gain entrance into eternal heavenly paradise. Everyone wants paradise and some people want it for others, too. This was the goal of Christians then, but what ended up happening instead were things like the Crusades where folks were literally hunted and killed for not being Christian. Interestingly, during these times even Christian priests were tested – by vegetarianism. If they refused to eat meat, they were accused of having been influenced by the religion of Manacheanism and would be killed. Some could read this as indicative of the violence inherent in Christian doctrine. I’ll let you take those thoughts where you will.

I find that something along these lines, although not to the same extreme degree, happens in Hindu/Buddhist circles. There are many many scriptural texts in the Hindu religion. Many of those texts strongly advise that eating sentient beings isn’t too far removed from eating another human and at times those same texts precisely detail the karmic and spiritual repercussions – sometimes with an amount of detail that causes me to question the validity of that kind of precision. What’s often overlooked, though, are the parts of the Hindu family that either say nothing about abstaining from meat, encourage killing in some contexts (perhaps for sacrifice or beacuse of so-called duty), or advise that being too against meat eating is no different from actually consuming flesh yourself.

That last bit is important. I personally know a numerous number of vegetarians and vegans who believe that abstaining from fleshy chews will save their souls all the while completely ignoring the inner landscape they’ve cultivated around the subject and all the resultant karma they’re incurring because of it. All of our external actions have seeds which are subtle, many being as subtle as our own thoughts and emotions.

Please understand that aversion is ultimately, qualitatively, no different than desire – both are dangerous traps! This is affirmed/confirmed in the Gita by Shri Krishna, himself. Ultimately, perception of “goodness” is meant to be avoided as much as perception of “evil.” The only possible benefit of cultivating an abundance of “good” is pleasantry of experience. Be sure – the two are essentially the same. Hating or despising the consumption of meat will put you in the same samsaric/karmic boat as those who actually eat meat. Karma is karma, after all, and even the smallest amount of the most subtle karmic expression is still enough to imprison one on the wheel of death and rebirth – preventing moksha from being yours.

I want to show that, while there may be plenty of Hindu Scriptures or accepted concepts that strongly encourage a meat-free life, there are also scriptures that proclaim the more ultimate benefit of transcending such preferences. I’ll write more about that later. One should also note that there’s a key difference between encouraging someone in a behavior and simply not condemning them for it.

I also want to briefly visit what is probably the most common reason for abstaining from meat: Ahimsa. Most understand the term to simply and broadly mean nonviolence. This is true, but at best this definition only half covers abstention from meat. That’s because, at best, “nonviolence” only half defines ahimsa. Taking the definition of a word like ahimsa to be fully encompassed by something like “nonviolence” is like saying Brahman is as simple as “God.” It’s simply not (completely) true. This form of simplicity is at work in other forms of fundamentalism where something important is whittled down to chewable bites, and then those bits are said to contain every flavor of the original. As with any other Sanskrit word, there are numerous layers of meaning, and saying ahimsa means nonviolence is like saying you are your skin. It should also be pointed out that true nonviolence is not possible in ANY life. This is something else that is key to remember and is a prime example of how fundamentalism works, even within Hinduism. You end up throwing out practicality and reason. Other layers of ahimsa are possible in life, with effort, and when ahimsa is applied to a spiritual context those deeper layers are what’s being pointed to, not simply nonviolence. With that said, ahimsa alone makes a great case for better living, but not specifically a vegetarian diet.

Karma is another word that’s quite often tossed around when arguing whether meat eating is massively detrimental within the perennial context. Everyone seems to be under the assumption that all killing is “bad” and that all “bad” actions create undesirable results. If this were really the case, the warrior caste would be lower than the Shudras and would certainly be doomed to hellish places lifetime after lifetime, and Krishna wouldn’t have advised Arjuna that to kill humans (humans he loved!) is the dharmic thing to do. This is further support that the concept of non-violence isn’t meant to be so encompassing. Surely, with God represented equally in all sentient beings, if there are times when it’s literally righteous to kill other humans, there must also be times when it’s okay to kill “lesser” beings – although not necessarily for food. Still, I have a hard time believing that someone who enjoys a hamburger is automatically somehow karmically worse off than a soldier… at least here in the Kali Yuga.

Three Hindu scriptures do sufficiently well at illustrating all of this – not that consuming flesh is ok, but that it’s worse (or just as bad) to have an aversion to it. Due to the current length of this post, I’ll save the actual meat of what I’m getting at for another post, which is just as likely to be as broad as it is long. Stay tuned if you care.

Jai Shri Ganesha!

Aum Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

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

Valentino

Every year I’m reminded of the general population’s lack of direction and perspective. Every year this reminder comes on Valentine’s Day.

Whether you hold the holiday to apply mostly to couples or to love in general, there’s no reason to be bitter. And yet every year people whine. So much of our culture centers around definitions of what we have and what we think we need to have to attain happiness. God forbid I’m single and someone else isn’t – they MUST be happier than I, no? Love is what we already have and love is what we stand to gain. Ultimately, it’s got very little to do with whether you’re single or not.

For me, personally, the holiday applies to all. I feel loved and I love loving others. On the one day of the year dedicated to love’s expression, the last thing on my mind is the fact that I’m part of a “liebespaar,” a love-pair. In fact, aside from sneaking to work early enough to slip a holiday card under my beloved’s keyboard, today was much like any other: We worked, then he went to the gym and I went to two bookstores, we eventually both ended up at home where we shared a very simple meal and now he’s downstairs watching an all new episode of The Office while I’m upstairs in my temple room bloggering and about to conclude the night with puja. I could just as easily have had the same evening were I single.

The Bible says “God is love,” and Christians are commanded to love everyone as their guru loved them. Greeks and Romans understood many forms of love – some forms being more carnal than others, which were virtually too lofty for humans to attain. And within Hinduism love has as many expressions as the Divine does.

Human-sized bears, overpriced chocolate and heart-shaped chalk candy are of course the more commercial aspect of the holiday’s modern incarnation, but the real idea of the day is no less changed. And mark my words, plenty of people today were gifted amazing flowers, steak dinners and wine, chocolates, jewelry, and romantic nights in… and will go to sleep feeling just as empty as they did when they awoke this morning. Our celebrated day of love truly has little to do with whether you’re single or not.

This year Valentine’s Day and Vasant Panchami coincide. I find this to be very auspicious. My Facebook status early today was to wish all “the love of knowledge and the knowledge of love.” I think the combination of a Day of Love and a day spent worshipping Saraswati, the holy personification of Wisdom, is wonderful. Think about what it means to actually love knowledge, and also to have knowledge of love. It’s much more than just a clever switching of word order. Possessing the love of knowledge as well as the knowledge of love, I feel, has played a large role in shaping me into who I am – and as long as I retain that perspective, I think it’s likely that this will continue to shape my personal evolution. I sincerely hope the same for you.

Love. Learn to see it in its myriad forms, please.

Om shanti

Yoga of Wisdom/Intellect

Since just about forever, Jnana Yoga has been the approach my heart feels most inclined towards. It seems to me that if you have things figured out(aka you know), then little else is to be done. Thatte, though, says this path is the hardest. According to him, “This path requires supreme concentration and takes tremendous discipline and sacrifice.” He also claims Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra(Raja Yoga) offers guidance for this(Jnana) path.

In my experience, Jnana Yoga doesn’t “cost” any more than another yoga path does and this is actually the first I’ve heard where Jnana and Raja yogas have been linked.

As offensive as this might sound to some, the entire path of Jnana Yoga can be summarized as follows, “Since the Atman is a part of Brahman, once you understand the Atman(Self) you would know Brahman(God).”

To expand on this, Thatte mentions an analogy which is actually fitting and succinct. He says that the air in an empty pot is the same as the air outside the pot. The air is the same regardless. The Atman which is in your body is the same as Brahman outside your body, and which the basis of the universe. So once you understand Atman, you undestand Brahman.

Thatte says that in order to understand the Atman you have to focus on your inner self-which apparently means giving up any distractions the senses may offer. I will agree with him in that this is hard for most people to do.

I think in my own life, my attraction to sense gratification has ebbed and flowed so much that, generally, this path has been easier for me than it might be for someone else. Nowadays, even when I’m in the clutch of sensory attraction to a person or a thing or a habit, I find that I’m still able to at least realize what’s going on inside me. I may chose to indulge anyway, or I may not, but with practice I’m now actually quite able to separate myself from what’s going on(or what might …), the result being that I tend to act instead of react.

In my own life, I can’t say how very valuable this has been. So many around me go from one reaction to the next. They’re perpetually trying to save face or avoid taking two steps backward. People whose primary mode of operation is reaction, are deepening the karmic rut they’re in and they’re likely to repeat the cycle of death and rebirth until the decide to choose otherwise.

For me, Jnana Yoga has been instrumental in gaining more control of my senses and my responses to my senses. I will admit that in this process, for me, it’s meant that my life is less influenced by my emotions or the motions of others. Some have found this to be insensitive, but I disagree. It’s emotional responsibility and to manage something like that a person has to invest a serious amount of their wakiing hours into investigating the reality of things. We’ll touch on all this emotional stuff when we get to the Star dealing with Bhakti Yoga.

At this point I’ll close. Like I said, this is a yoga that is really “near & dear” to me… I’m likely to revisit it in more, non-Thatte, detail in the future.

Star Six on its way!

Om Tat Sat Om