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

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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.

Little Boy Blue, Come Blow Your Horn…

…The sheep are in the meadow! The cows are in the corn! Where’s the little boy who looks after the sheep? Under the haystack, fast asleep!

Is there anywhere, any place at all, within the Catholic Church that isn’t touched or overshadowed by pedophilia or other sexual immorality? When this institution collapses (it’s already crumbling), the face of the earth will surely change.