Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Bring Back Forgiveness

Namaste readers...this is a rant that's been brewing in my mind for a while now. I figured I'd finally put it to paper (or blog post, anyway).

You know what's truly dead in today's world?

Forgiveness. No one forgives anymore. If I've learned anything about modern humanity, it's that today's humans are spiteful, vengeful, petty, and unforgiving. No one gives or believes in second chances these days. If you want any evidence of this, take a look at both sides of the political spectrum where the de facto rallying cry is "never forgive." The hacktivist group Anonymous is a perfect example of this - part of their creed is "we do not forget, we do not forgive." Forgiveness is dead in every religion as well. It's rare these days to find a follower of any religion (Hinduism included) that truly forgives people.

The common excuse that's provided for why people never forgive these days is that it's supposedly an excuse for people to repeat their sins over and over. Forgiveness is seen as weakness - that you're supposedly granting the person you're forgiving a "free pass" to harm you again and again. This is the creed of terrorist groups of all stripes and colors everywhere, that to forgive is to let your enemy walk all over you. And this philosophy is seeping its way into the consciousness of the everyday human.

I don't have a solution for this. I have no idea how to get people to forgive again, nor do I have any idea how to get forgiven people to stop doing harm to others. But what I can say is this - forgiveness is not just about the so-called "enemy." It's about the forgiver. The forgiver is taking the moral high ground by forgiving. They are preserving their innocence by forgiving. The forgiver is investing in himself or herself to never become like the enemy they so despise.

I wish forgiveness would come back in today's world. I want to bring back forgiveness. Sadly, I have no idea how, except to be a forgiving person myself. And I have to admit I'm finding that a harder thing to do with each passing day.

I know Ganesha forgives...and it is my wish that I can channel His forgiving nature.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Animal Welfare/Meat Eating on National Dog Day

Namaste readers! On this day that's been declared National Dog Day for reasons I don't know, I decided to make a quick blog post on animal welfare and how best to promote it, at least here in the society I live in.

This may be old news, but it's still relevant to what I'm talking about here: over 400 million animals were spared last year in the United States due to people eating less meat.

Experts, at least like the one quoted in the above article, are attributing this to meat reduction campaigns, like Meatless Mondays. Of course, hardcore vegans are saying that meat reduction campaigns are not only not enough, but they may be contributing to the problem of eating meat because such campaigns still encourage meat eating.

I want to say to such people, can't you take success where you can find it? Yes, there may be more to do, but putting a negative spin even on progress such as this isn't helping anyone. If anything, in my opinion, poo-pooing an obvious success like this is only showing that you're unreasonable.

I know I shouldn't be one to talk on this topic because I still eat meat...but I wish people could recognize that I am cutting down. I try to avoid beef whenever possible (I don't always succeed, and for that I'm sorry). I cut down where I can, and will continue to do so. Will I be vegetarian or vegan one day? I can't predict the future on that. But I just want some acknowledgment that I am making a difference. And I think the above article is proof.

If meat reduction campaigns weren't successful, then wouldn't news like the above not occur? Wouldn't meat eating rates stay constant? Yes, there is more to do in order to promote a more compassionate humanity. But if you lose your compassion towards your fellow human because they happen to eat meat, what's the point?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Support my Blog on Patreon!

Namaste readers!

This blog post will be short and sweet. In a nutshell: I'm starting a Patreon page for my blog! You can find it here.

What is Patreon? For those who don't know:
Now that you've got a primer, check out my Patreon page linked to above to get an idea of what I want to do. For starters, I'm hoping to move my blog to a space where I can make it much prettier without having to learn to code - I want to migrate the blog to Squarespace.

Unfortunately, Squarespace charges subscription fees. Which is why I've set up the Patreon campaign - I want to transform this blog not only into something that's not an eyesore, but something genuinely useful to those who read it.

Financially supporting my blog is completely optional, of course. I can still write great content on Blogger. But wouldn't it be nice for it to look nice, too? :)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

I'm a Subraminion!

Some of you have probably seen this before, but I want to share it regardless:
I didn't make this image, obviously. But it still strikes me in a good way. I mean, it's yet another collision between Western pop culture (in this case the Despicable Me movies) and Hindu tradition (more specifically the South Indian deva/deity Subramanyam...I hope I spelled that right). I've seen several of my Indian friends share this on Facebook.

There are still sometimes I still wish I was born Indian (or any other skin color for that matter). But I've come to realize that if I'm unhappy with the skin color I was born into in the first place, odds are being born a different skin color wouldn't have changed anything for me. The self is the self, and while you can change yourself, you have to be the one to do it. So there's no point to lament the body or mind you were born with. Change won't come that way. Self-confidence is the key to changing yourself for the better.

It is through self-confidence that I know I'm a Minion of Ganesha by now. ;)

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Hidden Test of Strength

Namaste readers.

I'm typing this blog entry calmer than I was a few moments ago. Let's just say something...major happened. I don't want to disclose too much of what happened, but it was a home security issue and police were involved.

The reason why I'm writing about it now is because I managed to emerge through it all not only unscathed physically, but also unscathed emotionally. I was shaken up, for sure - what happened in my apartment would shake up any sane human being - but...I felt in control. In other words, I didn't get distraught, inconsolable, or even panic.

If this had happened even a few months back, this wouldn't be the case. But through faith in Shri Ganesha, and applying what I learned over the years from the Art of Living and a life coach that I've been seeing, I managed to calm myself and stay calm. I think I have concrete proof that Shri Ganesha is watching over me, because the potential for this ending far worse was almost limitless.

Maybe that's the reason why I feel so Zen right now after the fact. Something might have gotten stolen, or I could have been hurt, or worse. But none of those happened. Not only that, but I have proof that my own emotions can be mastered.

Obviously what happened wasn't anything good...but I feel good having gotten through it. It was a test, and I apparently passed.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Music Review: My Sleeping Karma - Moksha

Namaste readers! For those of you who have read some previous entries of my blog, you may know of some of my interests - some more obvious than others. One interest that should be blatantly obvious by now is my interest in Hinduism and its associated spirituality. Another interest that is less obvious is that of heavy metal and its subgenres in music. I've written on how I perceive the two areas of Hindu spirituality and heavy metal sometimes intersect in a couple of previous posts, both of them titled Heavy Metal/Hardcore Music as a Universal Language. (The other post is here.)

Now, I'm not trying to make heavy metal sound mystical, nor am I trying to make Hinduism somehow tied to heavy metal/hardcore music. What the point of those posts was is to demonstrate how it's possible to have a foot in both worlds without having to compromise one's own beliefs. And I've just encountered music by a band that apparently believes in the same thing: a band called My Sleeping Karma.

While I haven't done that much research into the band itself, I think I can safely assume that they have their foot on both sides of the divide as much as I do. After all, they openly claim influence from classical Eastern music, especially that of South Asia, and it shows right down to their album artwork, especially from their most recent album, Moksha:

The album art here clearly depicts the Hindu god Ganesha, albeit in a form that is obviously seen through the artistic eyes of the band. On the left side of the album cover, you can see Ganesha holding up the "horns" that have become a universal hand gesture among heavy metal enthusiasts. Interestingly enough, that hand gesture is similar, but not identical to, a mudra in Hinduism, that is, a hand gesture with spiritual significance. More specifically, it shares its resemblance to the apana mudra, as pictured below. Again, they are not the same, but I'm pointing out the similarity to prove my point.

So far, so good, so what? The ideas that My Sleeping Karma explore - that of using South Asian classical influences in their music and artwork - is nothing new. After all, Tool have been doing it for decades. But there's one key difference I think will shut down MSK's critics on this point - Tool haven't released an album for almost 9 years. MSK have certainly been more prolific than that, having released a total of five albums (including Moksha) in less of a time period than Tool have been around. Man cannot live on Tool alone, so MSK can fill the void.

How so? While MSK have inevitable similarities to Tool, there are some key differences that prevent them from being just another soundalike. For one, there are no lyrics. While the vocals of Maynard James Keenan certainly lend the music of Tool some of its uniqueness, the absence of lyrics from MSK's music can actually give the music itself more importance, and more focus. Also, MSK's exploration of the themes of Hindu spirituality are far more prominent than that of Tool. For instance, all the track titles on Moksha (save for the interludes) are titled with words from Sanskrit (for instance, the title track "Moksha" is Sanskrit for liberation, at least in the spiritual sense of liberation from the cycle of birth and death). MSK is also more consistent with their influence from South Asia, at least with the album Moksha, than Tool have been - where Tool's influences are scattered all over the place, borrowing (and sometimes appropriating) from any culture that has a perceived "mystical" element to it, MSK sticks more to this one influence, so in a sense it pays the traditional spirituality of South Asia more respect and gives a more grateful homage to it than Tool have done.

All this being said, the South Asian influence comes into play more on Moksha in the key notes and beat structures than actual instrumentation. There are only rare instances of actual South Asian instrumentation being used on the album, and they're confined mostly to the interludes between tracks. However, there's still enough sound experimentation on Moksha to give the listener an otherworldly impression, and it's got more substance to think about than many heavy metal songs with lyrics. Pretty much the only straightforward instrumental rock piece on Moksha is the closing track "Agni." All this comes across, once again, as paying homage to their influences rather than being so dependent on them that it would be seen as appropriation. One needs to toe a fine line as an artist when attempting to borrow influence from another culture that it doesn't seem like you're disrespecting it by overtly stealing from it, and that's a line MSK have seemingly mastered to balance upon like a tightrope.

I would highly recommend Moksha if you're a Tool fanatic who's about ready to do something stupid in the absence of new Tool music. MSK's music can not only fill the void, but also give you new sonic elements to ponder and be stimulated by. Moksha adds to the proof that heavy music doesn't have to be simple and/or stupid to be enjoyable. My Sleeping Karma are most certainly not the first pioneers into this intelligent territory. But they're pioneers worth your time and attention.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Helping Nepal

Namaste readers,

As you might know already, there has been an earthquake in Nepal, that has had a devastating toll of lives. It's been estimated over 4,000 lives have been lost as a result of the earthquake.

The most pressing question for those of us outside Nepal, right now, is: how can we help?

I know many people will say "pray for Nepal." If you want to pray for Nepal, that's all fine and dandy - sometimes prayer is all one can do in the face of disaster. Prayer can give those who otherwise can't help situations like this at least some comfort that they're keeping these disasters in their minds and the minds of others.

Still, prayer should be backed up by action. I'm not one to say that prayer does nothing...honestly, I'm no expert on prayer whether it helps or hurts situations like this. What I will say is that there is real action you can take, and should you be able to take this action, you should, as a supplement to your prayer.

One action is to donate to Global Giving's Nepal earthquake relief effort. Global Giving is among the most reputable sources of charity that one can donate to, as they are very transparent about their efforts and where the money goes. Donating to them can help them give to emergency services in the region that are otherwise stretched.

Another place to donate to is a Nepali immigrant association in New York City that is called Adhikaar. They have direct connections to organizations that are aiding Nepal on the ground right now, and they've started an Indiegogo campaign for helping them out.

Again, I will say this - pray if you can't do anything else, for at least that keeps the victims in your mind and the minds of others. But back it up with real action if you can. Anything can help at this point.