Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ganesha Saves

"Save me from myself if you ever really cared
Save me from myself, tell me you're not scared"
--Damageplan, "Save Me"

This isn't the first time I've quoted the band Damageplan in this blog - they are quite good, as short lived as they were, being the last band of legendary guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott before his untimely death in 2004. But I'm not just plugging them in this blog post, as I'm quoting them for a reason.

What's the reason? It has to do with a lesson that's taken me this long to realize: that if I am to save anyone else, I have to stop waiting for someone to save me and start saving myself. While I could say, in light of recent blog posts, that Lord Ganesha was the one who saved me from myself, one could also say He was the one who taught me the above maxim as well.

To elaborate: those readers who have stuck with this blog have seen my lamentations for the state of America, the world, and whatever negative role I play in it as a white male American citizen. The desire to change my role has been there, but the mental toolbox to do it with wasn't. I kept criticizing myself, as you have been witness to, for my inability to "save them all," as one commentator so eloquently put it. (Thanks for commenting, by the way. :-)  )

I'm not quite sure what it was that motivated me to finally start saving and improving myself, but one other thing I've learned is that for other people to be saved - for the world to be saved - they have to want to be saved. It is my belief that is one thing I've gotten out of a recent satsang hosted by Art of Living guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. (You can find said satsang at http://www.artofliving.org/us-en/our-lives-should-be-rhythmic-and-harmonious if you like.)

In that satsang Sri Sri mentions the problems currently faced by India, and what must be done to counter them. He also mentioned one disparaging fact about America that is, sadly, true, at least to my knowledge: that only about a quarter of our population usually votes when election time comes. But what do those two things have to do with each other? Well, one other thing that Sri Sri mentioned in that satsang is that voting in India these days is often decided along lines of caste, social status, and religious beliefs rather than who an individual voter actually believes will genuinely help things. (Of course, the same thing could be said about America, except the caste system of India doesn't apply.)

There is a point I'm getting at with all of this. In one movie on Mahatma Gandhi that I saw part of at one point, Gandhi is in prison talking to a British Christian priest who wants to help him. When the priest asks how he can help, Gandhi replies he can best help by accepting a transfer assignment and leaving India. Gandhi elaborates that the Indian independence movement "needs to be won by Indians." When I first saw that scene, I was initially upset at it - I thought it was implying people like me wouldn't ever be able to help such movements by nature of who we are born as.

Thinking about it now, however, I think I recognize the true message of that scene - in that particular instance, Gandhi was trying to get across that the people of India have to genuinely want their freedom, and that the British couldn't simply give it to them.

In the same vein, I want to help change things in America and the world, but, well, the world has to want my help first. And seeing as I'm not Superman and can't save the world single-handedly, I can understand that America and the world don't want my help...or my help alone, anyway. At the same time, I've been wanting help all this time, and now I have it from Lord Ganesha...except it wasn't the help I expected.

Lord Ganesha essentially taught me that He couldn't give me the self-improvement I was seeking - I had to take it from Him. And I did. Hence, He saved me...because He taught me how to save myself.

Heh...I know this isn't the most articulate blog post in the world, with my thought process wandering all over the place like that. But it's 3:49 AM as of the time I'm writing this. So I better get some sleep. :-)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Vision?

Something interesting happened yesterday evening...something I was hoping to get some input about. Hopefully you readers will have some!

Around this time yesterday evening, I don't remember exactly what I was doing, but it was something mundane. Then, suddenly, an image of Ganesha's head forced its way into my mind. I say forced for lack of a better term; however I wasn't thinking of Ganesha at the time, or anything spiritual if I remember. But I knew this wasn't an ordinary wandering thought - I could tell because this image of Ganesha's head was present in my vision without me having to actively think of it. I could see it very clearly, and attempts to dismiss the image didn't work - I closed my eyes and opened them again, but the image persisted. It was like an image burn on my retina, sort of - you know how old cathode ray tube monitors got image burns that lingered on the monitor even after it turned off? Like that.

The image disappeared after a few seconds, but I can remember clearly what it was like. Using Google image search to try to find an approximation for you readers without having to resort to vague text, the closest resemblance I could find is located at the bottom of this blog post.

Of course, I'm not sure what this means, otherwise I wouldn't be asking my readers for input. Also, I know I sound crazy...I don't know how to prove that I had this vision to you all. But hopefully you readers trust me enough to know that I'm not making this up.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Time is Right to Fight

(Apologies to Atari Teenage Riot for shamelessly quoting their song "Deutschland Has Gotta Die" for the title of this blog post. Anyway...)

After requesting help from one of my Art of Living friends, at their suggestion, I met with someone else today to talk about my diabetes. (For those that don't know, I have Type II diabetes.) This person has lived with diabetes for at least 10 years, and so he has given me advice that has worked for him...but what's unusual this time is that while this is advice I've heard before, for some reason I feel as if I can actually internalize it and use it. I'm not sure why. That's why I titled this blog post like I did, because for some reason, the time just feels right for me to take on my diabetes head on.

Perhaps it's because this time I have measurable goals and time frames set up. Maybe it's because I'm motivated to make this my singular focus, and not let anything else phase me. (That is, I don't let failures in my other goals for life get to me, because right now my diabetes is what I have to focus on.) But somehow, it feels like I can do this now.

Admittedly, this new focus requires me to at least temporarily adopt some dietary practices that might not be conducive to my explorations of Hinduism - I'm going low-carb for this, and going low-carb in this society, at least with the kind of life I lead, requires a meat-centered diet. But I think for the sake of improving my health, so I can live longer, and thus devote more time later to studying the Hindu faith and adapting to it, God(s) can forgive me. After all, it's not like I have to go low-carb forever, and getting my diabetes under control now will lead to a healthier mind and soul, so I can be a better person, right? :-)

I think Ganesha can forgive me going low-carb now for the sake of living longer later. Perhaps after I get my diabetes under better control I can go vegetarian. Regardless, I'm doing some Ganesha mantra chanting tonight to get started properly. ;-)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bhagavad Gita Discussion: Chapter 2

Bhagavad Gita Discussion: Chapter 2 - Topic of Knowledge

So now that the stage has been set by Chapter 1, establishing the context for the revelation of this knowledge, we get to the good stuff, so to speak. The second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita explores knowledge of the self, and in reading it, I get the feeling that the overall message of the second chapter was summarized by Gandhi during his organization of resistance to British rule, in this single quote:

"Everything that you do will be insignificant. But it is important that you do it."

It certainly seems contradictory at first. But the Bhagavad Gita does a beautiful job of explaining what it means. To me, this chapter's discussion of the eternal nature of the soul and knowledge of one's place in the universe gets across the following message: you gotta do what you gotta do, but if that happens to conflict with someone else, then it's not the end of the world.

It's a lesson I still have to internalize, for I still cannot deal with conflict. Someone once said to me, "you need to learn to piss someone off." (Pardon the vulgarity.) When I asked why, this person said to me, "so you can learn that someone being angry at you isn't the end of the world."

And to think I just wrote a blog post on apologies and if I apologize too much or not. So apologies are good, obviously, but I shouldn't have to apologize for doing what I gotta do. Wow. The Bhagavad Gita is more applicable to my life than I thought!

I know the Bhagavad Gita's teachings are more complicated than this, since they deal with the metaphysics of the soul and of being, and how the universe is supposed to work. I get that. Still, though, I think it's good to discuss how practical the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita are for everyday life. After all, it's my belief that any faith that's legit doesn't just reward you in the hereafter, but benefits you in the here and now. So...I guess I would apologize if I offend anyone with oversimplification, but no one has accused me of that yet, so...

As usual, if you readers think I'm right, wrong, or somewhere in between, please chime in, in the comments section. Namaste.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

All Apologies

What, you may ask, am I apologizing for? Well, I'm not apologizing for anything right now, but I do want to have a discussion on apologies. Mainly because a lot of people I've met have the opinion that I apologize too much...and yet I keep getting the personal feeling that I apologize too little.

This was sparked by an article I recently read on the Huffington Post, of all places, about the dharma of apologies. (You can find the article at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suhag-a-shukla-esq/the-dharma-of-an-apology_b_1110845.html) The article is about a sort of extreme case of someone not apologizing when they should have, in this case a politician not apologizing after making disparaging remarks about Hinduism and its practitioners. The author goes on to say that the politician "did not intend to offend," but still refused to apologize. I know in this case the need for an apology was clear cut. But in my everyday life, it's never that simple.

See, I say "sorry" or "I apologize" a lot in my everyday life not necessarily because I know I did something wrong, but because of the fear that I did something wrong. For me, that fear is ever present, even before I became interested in Hinduism. You could say for most of my life I was afraid of karmic backlash. However, if I'm interpreting the intent of the article correctly, it does say even in the case of accidental offense one should apologize. That leads to my next question, though: how do I know if I've offended someone?

Unfortunately, I tend to be a literal person, which is unfortunate in this case because I can only ever grasp if I've offended someone when they say so to my face. Body language and other indirect behavior is not something I can grasp easily. (As for why, that's another story.) I try to practice the principle of non-harm, but how can one adhere to it when almost nothing gives an obvious indicator to someone like me? To me, it's like trying not to make ripples on the water when the only part of the lake that's shown is that under the moonlight; too much is completely shrouded in darkness to see if I made any ripples in it at all.

Add to that the fact that so many actions in life - in Western society, anyway - are of the accidental harm variety, and yet are ones I have to do to survive from day to day...and I find it draining to even contemplate. For example, my eating habits...I know I should go vegetarian for the good of the planet, but modifying my behavior accordingly is way too daunting a task for me to start on. I'm so stressed out from everyday life that focusing on not doing the everyday things I do that are harmful to others is just too much.

Maybe that's the reason I feel the need to apologize all the time?

I know I can't save them all. But if the only way to be a good person is through non-harm, and the harm I potentially do to others is so shrouded...what's someone like me to do? Living in fear of having hurt someone without knowing it is something I do not want to experience any longer. Can I possibly live my life without this ever present fear?