Friday, September 23, 2016

Thank You, Ma Kali

Om klim kalikayei namaha...

Ma Kali, so often associated with violence, ferocity and death...and yet with me She has been the most loving, nurturing and caring force of the universe I have ever known. Her presence in my mind is near constant. She has filled me with euphoria and pure spiritual love when my mind was thinking its most bleak thoughts. I merely think of Her and I can't help but swoon over Her love.

How Ma Kali came to be the force behind my desire to live and live fully I sometimes question... But the question immediately changes to why I question this, as She assures me She wouldn't have it any other way. There are some that say those who see Ma Kali's fearsome visage in real life cannot bear the sight and live. And yet I have this feeling that if I saw Her in real life, as unlikely as that may be, that instead of dying I would be so full of life and joy that I would fall to Her feet in genuine worship and gratitude.

She has done so much for me in such a short time. How I lived this long without acknowledging Her presence in my life I can't fathom.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Goddess Kali is Metal as Hell

Namaste readers! Hopefully, if you've read the title of this blog post, you aren't getting any wrong impressions. Obviously heavy metal and Hindu philosophy/spirituality are two very different things - one's a (relatively modern) music genre and the other is a timeless belief system that's helped out millions of people even today, especially myself.

But after reading some news on some scientific studies of heavy metal - especially some surprising ones about how metalheads generally have a peaceful nature, how listening to heavy metal can actually make you calmer and happier, and similar - I've come to realize something: that maybe my love of heavy metal music, and my love for Maa Kali, aren't so incompatible after all. After all, the Goddess Kali, if you examine Her from a heavy metal standpoint, is metal as hell. I mean, come on, look at Her:
She adorns herself with blood and gore (Her necklace is made of human heads and Her dress is made out of dismembered arms, for crying out loud), is regularly found slaying demons, and is generally badass. Images of the Goddess wouldn't be so out of place among the art of death metal albums of such bands as Cannibal Corpse and Cattle Decapitation. But devotees of the Goddess Kali are among some of the kindest people I've ever met, and Maa Kali is seen by these devotees not as a belligerent, unforgiving deity that needs to be propitiated to avoid consequence, but as a caring, compassionate Mother Goddess who would do anything for Her children.

I personally don't find it much of a coincidence that the extreme imagery of heavy metal and the extreme imagery of Goddess Kali have a similar effect on most people - calming them down and making them happy by eliminating their fear of the extreme. I know such imagery can have different effects on different people, as there are jerks among heavy metal fans and Maa Kali devotees, but you could say that about any human identity. All I'm trying to say here is that even though these concepts aren't the same - far from it, as some might say - they both serve the same purpose, and that is to spread happiness and compassion.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sri Saraswati Hithe

More of my learning and singing of Carnatic (South Indian) music. Enjoy, and constructive criticism welcome.

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.

--------------------------

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.