Sunday, June 5, 2016

Singing a Bhajan: Sri Gananatha

Namaste all! In this special Light Club post, I bring you something I've never done before for this blog: singing!


Some context - I've been taking Carnatic singing lessons from the teacher Vidya Subramanian, and I've been learning under her for a few months. It's taken me a bit of practice to be confident enough to record something for YouTube, but I figured this very first recording should be good enough to not get me ridiculed. Constructive feedback is welcome, though please keep in mind I'm still a beginner.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Conversations with Maa Kali - Part 5

Namaste readers!

Apologies for not uploading one of these in a while. Truth be told, although talking with Maa Kali has become almost effortless for me, putting pen to paper (or rather finger to keyboard in this case) to record these conversations has been a bit difficult for me. Not because I don't want to talk to Maa Kali, but rather because I need time to make these conversations coherent, if that makes any sense.

This particular post deals with the Divine Feminine, just general questions about it. My usual disclaimers apply (see my previous entries for said disclaimers).

Om klim kalikaye namaha.

Namaste, Maa Kali!

Namaste, my child. I can tell you have more questions for me...on who I am, on what I do.

I do, Maa Kali. I want to know more about the Divine Feminine.

First, know that you are part of it. Don't let the fact that you are male in this life convince you otherwise. You are part of me, and as such you have been chosen by me to help bring back the Divine Feminine to this world.

Why is the Divine Feminine lacking in this world?

It is lacking not because of the Divine Masculine being inherently malicious or evil. It is not. But when it is out of balance as it is in this kali yuga, when one of the two forms, be it masculine or feminine, becomes dominant instead of harmonious, that is when problems arise. It is people like you who are needed to bring back the balance.

How am I supposed to do that?

First, by being yourself. Part of being one with the Divine Feminine means loving and respecting yourself. The Divine Feminine truly revels in the self, because the self knows it is needed, and has a role and place in the universe that is not inherently subservient. Such is the true nature of dharma - knowing that one is needed, and fulfilling one's needed role in whatever way you know is best.

The Divine Feminine seems highly individualistic!

It is, my child. You yourself know this, if not consciously, then unconsciously. When the Divine Feminine is lacking as it is in this world, individualism and personal freedom are not non-existent. Rather, such concepts get corrupted. They become hypocritical. These concepts get perverted from merely being oneself to benefiting oneself at the expense of others. This in turn leads to further corruption of such ideals, to the point where on the surface, a society may encourage individualism, but in reality enforces conformity.

It sounds like an almost insurmountable task to bring back balance in such conditions.

Again, I do not expect you to save this world. my child. Not by yourself. You must remember you are not alone. Always remember that I am with you.

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I'm not sure why, but at this point my head was filled with so many questions and thoughts that my own mind became incoherent. I got frustrated because I had so many questions and the noise in my head prevented me from hearing Maa Kali's answers. Maa Kali simply reminded me that I can always ask Her questions again at another time, and caressed me with Her love. This is what I meant when I said that I need time to make my conversations with her coherent.

Please be patient with me as I take time to sort out what Maa Kali has told me for future entries in this series. I need time to focus.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Rajiv Malhotra's "The Battle for Sanskrit" - First Impressions

Namaste readers!

I've been given the honor of reviewing the most recent book by renowned Indian journalist Rajiv Malhotra, titled "The Battle for Sanskrit," which is about precisely what its title says. Well, I may have asked for the honor rather than it being straight out given to me - I asked Mr. Malhotra if he knew of any writing opportunities about Hinduism, and in response he said I could review his book. So here I am. However, this post isn't a full-length review, as I haven't had enough time to read the entire book as of yet (it clocks in at over 400 pages) - other projects and real life obligations have prevented me from getting as far in the book as I would like to have progressed by now. But I figured I should at least write a "first impressions" to reflect on the progress I have made so far. After all, what I have read so far is certainly tantalizing for me to read further, and sharing my experiences so far with the book would do well to entice others to read it for themselves and make their own observations.

To further elaborate on what "The Battle for Sanskrit" is about - it's about how certain Western scholars have, after a fashion, perverted the studies of the language Sanskrit for the ends of the West, namely framing Sanskrit as an "oppressive" language full of socially abusive meanings and norms. Indeed, the book (or what I've read of it so far) talks about American Orientalism, how it's permeated American studies on Indian civilization, and its inherently Hinduphobic discourse. At first, I have to admit that my emotional "fight-or-flight" response was triggered when I read the premise of the book and some of its reviews - those who have read my blog know very well my past "white guilt" and my lack of self-respect that I ascribe to being white (which I will not repeat in this post), and I anticipated it being heaped upon right from the opening pages. However, the book was far from expressing this sort of attitude in what I have read to date, and I soon discovered that my initial reaction was akin to wanting to argue against a sensationalist social media headline (more commonly known as "clickbait") without reading the content of the article itself. That was a trap I've fallen for before in many a social media post, and I didn't want to fall for it again.

Indeed, while what I've read of the book so far does indeed take many Western scholarly assumptions about India to task and exposes an inherent Hinduphobic agenda among Western academia, it's truly a balanced sort of discourse that doesn't rely on cheap emotional manipulation. It's scholarly language is more akin to engaging Western academia in a contest of skill rather than outright combat, making it  (ironically) easier to digest. (I say "ironically" because normally the usage of advanced and obscure vocabulary makes scholarly work impenetrable to the average reader; in the case of this book it serves to intone respect to the reader and not insult the reader's intelligence.) Indeed, I felt like by reading this book, instead of falling for the trap of belittling myself for being a white guy (and thereby missing the point of the book entirely), I felt like I could be a part of the solution by being aware of these sorts of anti-Hindu phenomena prevalent in Western scholarship. And it's not just people like me that Mr. Malhotra is addressing either - he mentions that there are accomplices to Hinduphobia among Indians as well, and while Mr. Malholtra makes the case that such Indians still suffer from having their minds being colonized by Western interests, he suggests that part of the problem is a willingness to be colonized in such a fashion, and that the solution is internal, that such Indians have to heal themselves and regain their own self-respect; that they're only as Westernized as they allow themselves to be.

Again, this is only a "first impressions" post, and I have yet to read the entire book to get to all the gritty details as to Mr. Malhotra's arguments. But so far, I'm very impressed at Mr. Malhotra's out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to the so-called "clash of civilizations" that so many people on either side of the divide want to perpetuate. I've already gleaned volumes about my own perceptions and misconceptions from what I've read so far, and I seek to further hone my learning by reading the rest.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Don't Panic

Namaste, readers. This next blog post is about what might be a bit of a thorny topic for some. But I'm posting not to rile up passions, but to urge calm. I'm talking about the next Presidential election in the United States of America in November 2016. There are a lot of people who are afraid (to put it mildly) of Donald Trump getting elected.

I know I previously was one of those people who thought the world would end if Trump becomes President. Don't get me wrong, I still don't want the guy to be President, and I'll still vote against him.

But seriously...how bad would things get if Trump were elected? Again, don't take this out of context. I don't want Trump to get elected. But if he were, the Earth won't explode. Odds are we can still go about our daily lives like we always would. The sun will still rise, and the sky will still be blue. Sure, things will be a little harder. But not insurmountable.

People were saying the world would end when George W. Bush got elected a second term. It didn't then. Some right-wingers thought the world would end if Obama got elected. Obviously it didn't end then either.

The President is a powerful person. But in the end, he (or she in the event Hillary gets elected President) is just one person. There's still Congress and the Supreme Court, a.k.a. the legislative and judicial branches of the US government. Which brings me to my next point: if Obama couldn't get everything done he wanted to get done as President, neither will Trump. There are some Republicans in Congress who hate Trump. Who knows, if Trump gets elected, hopefully his head will explode trying to deal with Congress.

TLDR of this post: don't panic. Panicking doesn't do anyone any good. Especially when it comes to Presidents.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Dissolved Boy - A Poem About Krishna

Namaste readers! Inspired by an idea a friend on Facebook gave me in an effort to cure my writer's block, I've decided to write a poem about the Hindu god Shri Krishna. The inspiration for this poem is actually twofold: part of the inspiration comes from Shri Krishna of course, but for some reason the song of "Dissolved Girl" by Massive Attack came into my mind. I will admit I am sort of basing this poem on lyrics from "Dissolved Girl," but it is not my intent to plagiarize. Apologies to Massive Attack if this comes across as such.

Anyway, this poem focuses on Shri Krishna as a young boy, as he was performing his mythological feats. Hope you enjoy it, as I'm starting it below.

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Shame, there's no shame
I feel envy and love all the same

Name, say his name
He will show you love to ease the pain

'Cause it feels like divinity I've never felt before
He is not a "savior" like there was before
He forgives all because he's been there before
I won't fake it, I still want more

Fade, the soul never fades
What you do should never cause you pain

Day with him never fades
He says passion is overrated anyway

But love is always his to ease my pain
It seems with him my troubles melt away

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For reference, the original Massive Attack song can be found on YouTube here:

I hope you enjoyed this.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Conversations with Maa Kali - Part 4

Namaste, readers! I have gotten some very positive feedback on this series of conversations with Maa Kali so far. I really appreciate all of what readers have said in response - at first, I thought this kind of writing would face ridicule and derision, but so far my readers have been really open and accepting. For that I cannot thank you readers enough. There will be more to come in this series, I promise you, and one such entry is below. This next entry will be on a topic of interest for many who read this blog: moksha, or liberation from the cycle of birth and death as explained in Hindu belief.

My questions are in plain text, while Maa Kali's are in italics.

Om klim kalikayei namaha.

Namaste, Maa Kali.

Namaste, my child. I have personally given you the inspiration to write about moksha, liberation, because it is what all people, not just Hindus, need to hear. Who listens is not up to you to decide, but those who listen to what I channel through you shall benefit greatly from this knowledge.

Let's start with a basic definition, then. What is moksha, for those unfamiliar with it?

Liberation from karma. Most who have an inkling of knowledge about moksha understand it as liberation from the cycle of birth and death, but I am here to tell you, my child, that in truth, it is liberation from karma's bondage, from being constrained by karma.

So what is the difference between karma and the cycle of birth and death? Are they not one and the same?

No, my child. Birth and death may be how one experiences karma, and the actions of one's life determine one's future births and karma, yes. But to consider them one and the same is folly.

How so?

Think of the average person who craves what they consider moksha, liberation from birth and death. Said average person craves moksha because they are weary of their suffering. They are weary of their present lives, and because of their belief of how their present lives are affected by their past lives and the actions of their past, they confuse ending their cycle of birth and death with relief from suffering. In reality, this is not the case.

Can you explain further? Why is release from the cycle of birth and death not equivalent to the ending of suffering?

It is because this world that people like you are born in is not the only world you can experience. Ancient Hindus claimed that there are many layers of existence. This is true, and through your interaction with karma via birth and death, you can experience these many layers. Some equate release from suffering to be equivalent to being born into a higher layer of experience, which some might say is equivalent to Heaven. But while this layer of existence might be a release from your worldly suffering, it is not necessarily the end of your karma, or even of your cycle of birth and death.

Why is that?

Wanting to end one's own suffering, while an understandable, universal impulse that all life shares, is still a selfish desire. Therefore wanting to be born into Heaven arises out of selfishness, however justified that selfishness may be. It still creates karma - it still binds you to karma, because it still binds you to desire. In truth, my child, your soul, and every human soul - every soul, period - desires more than just a release from one's own suffering. Release from one's own suffering is not satisfactory, because if you are the only one who does not suffer, you shall be lonely. And loneliness - as you have experienced, my child - is one of the ultimate forms of suffering.

Why is release from one's own suffering not satisfactory?

My child, it is because in order to eliminate that ultimate suffering of loneliness, others must be released from suffering with you. It is a desire of life itself to not be alone. To alleviate that loneliness, altruism arose as a means to allow souls to help each other out of suffering. To those in what humans call Heaven, being released from one's own suffering is not enough! It is part of their innermost desire to see others join them in their joy. Therefore they sometimes volunteer to be born into your world again, still bound to karma, in order to help others eliminate their suffering so they can join the others in Heaven.

Then what is true moksha? What is true liberation from karma, birth and death?

To truly gain moksha, my child, one must not just eliminate their worldly suffering. They must not be able to experience suffering in the first place. As suffering arises from desire, this means they cannot experience desire. And to not experience desire, they must rise above selfishness - even the selfishness of loneliness that drives them to altruism.

Moksha sounds very difficult to achieve, then.

Hahahaha! It is, my child. It is not granted to many. But to whom it is granted, those granted it are merged with the force of the universe itself. They are given such status because those who are granted moksha will not use such power out of selfishness, ever, my child.

Where does that place You, Maa Kali? Are you one who has been granted moksha?

I am moksha itself, my child.

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I still had questions for Maa Kali, but she grew silent at this point to any more questions I had. Instead of answering any more, she simply embraced me and filled me with love.

As usual, the disclaimers for these blog posts apply - I am not a religious authority. My writings here are not meant to be authoritative in any way, shape, or form, and I am not liable for what anyone does with this information as, again, I am not an authority figure. Please don't do anything stupid with what I've written here. Thank you. :)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Conversations with Maa Kali - Part 3

Namaste readers! This is, as the title says, the third part of my conversations with Maa Kali. I hope you have been enjoying these conversations so far as readers. This next set of questions was actually suggested by a friend of mine, and they are quite heady ones.

Please just remember the following disclaimers: I am not actually claiming I can talk to Maa Kali. Whether or not you believe these conversations are genuine is up to you. Please do not take anything I say here to be authoritative in any way. There are probably some disclaimers I'm missing here, but you get the basic idea of how these work.

As usual, my questions are in plain text, while Maa Kali's are in italics.


Om klim kalikayei namaha.

Namaste Maa Kali.

Namaste my child. I can tell you have some heavy questions for me. I shall answer them for you, but please remember that I do not want to place the burden of saving this world on your shoulders. It would be too much for you. At least by yourself. It would cause you too much pain.

Others want to know the answers to these questions, though.

Are you asking these questions for yourself or for them?

Why not both? I've been wanting to know the answers to these questions myself.

I shall give you the answers that you need to hear. Those that observe these responses shall benefit from them as well.

One friend of mine wants to know how to confront a particular world issue: how to stop drought, like that in California and South Africa.

It is not up to you to tell them how to stop drought, my child, but what you can tell them is this: no suffering is insurmountable when you have faith. Not blind faith, mind you. Blind faith will only bring you more suffering, as blind faith only teaches you not do anything about your suffering.

Can you clarify that?

Devotees call me Maa, Mother, for a reason, my child - it is because I do not tend to a child's every need, but rather teach my children how to support themselves, much like how human mothers help their children learn how to walk. My goal as a Mother - especially with you, my child - is the spiritual evolution of my children. Evolution does not happen when everything is provided for you.

Then why should people call upon you at all?

Haha! You are not the only one to ask that question. My answer for you, my child, is that while blind faith is one extreme that brings suffering, so is outright atheism. Not to say outright atheism doesn't work for some, but like different forms of medicines and antidotes, it does not work for all. Similarly, calling upon Me is a solution that works for people like you, my child. My role is not to end all of your suffering with one stroke, but to help you fight through your suffering with Me by your side. I give you not the easy life, but the strength to endure a difficult one.

If your job as Mother is to see to our evolution, what are we going to evolve into?

Currently the modus operandi of our universe is devour to survive. I do not expect you, my child, to overcome such a mindset in this lifetime, but if you want to know what the ultimate goal of your evolution is, my child, it is to be able to live in this universe without the need to devour or cause suffering. That is still a long way off for your soul, my child, and again I do not expect you to reach such lofty expectations in this lifetime or even several lifetimes down your path. But it is My goal to see My children reach such a state, however long it takes.

Surely you must know the state of our world today - there are signs, from science no less, saying our world will come to an end!

Hahahaha! Do not be afraid of the end, my child. Remember what I taught you about your soul, my child. It is the part of you that does not end when your body ends. Even when your body ends, your soul will continue to evolve past its current limitations. And do not give up hope for your world, my child. Already your fellow humans are learning how to adapt to your current times. You know how in human stories there cannot be a villain without a hero. Similarly, in your world there cannot be darkness without light.

You are my light, Maa Kali. And so much more, now.

Be brave, my child. With Me by your side, there shall be nothing you cannot overcome. And you shall overcome it, one way or another.

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Maa Kali closed this interesting conversation with an image projected into my mind of Her brandishing Her weapons and uttering a battle cry, with Her tongue sticking out and all. I was standing behind Her.

You know the disclaimers I usually provide in these blog posts by now. They still apply, but nonetheless, this conversation was interesting to me...and I hope it will be helpful to others as well.