Monday, December 23, 2013
I know I said when I started this blog that I was under the impression that I didn't need anyone to approve of me. That I didn't need anyone to say I'm a good person or whatnot, because I was capable of doing such affirmations on my own. And therefore I didn't need anyone's approval to go on living.
Yet here I am, two and a half years after I wrote those initial blog posts, and I need affirmations now more than ever.
Maybe it's just the time of year - the holidays are very stressful for everyone involved. But somehow I seem to be mired deeper in my own tears than ever before. Perhaps I should just be patient and wait for this period to pass...shadows eventually give way to light, after all. Still, I know they'll creep up on me again just as quickly. And when they come again, I'll be just as debilitated as ever.
It's become more appallingly apparent than ever that I need help - that I need someone to save me from myself. I don't want to die...but I don't want to live like this either.
I'm in no imminent danger, but I need a light in this darkness. Someone needs to show me the way out. Guruji (H. H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar)...Lord Ganesha...Maa Saraswati...anyone...I need a miracle now more than ever.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
As for why? Well, there are several reasons, but foremost among them, is that I keep hearing and reading about how artists and musicians feel like they attain closeness to God(s) via their art or music practice. I hope to deepen my Hindu spiritual practice by learning an instrument such as the Saraswati veena. I know some might say this may seem like a passing fancy, that I might lose interest early on, but somehow I don't think this will be the case. I say that now because...well, I need some way of delving deeper spiritually through art. I love writing, but for some reason, writing alone doesn't fulfill my spiritual needs. It's like I need a companion art to really express my soul.
I know I will need a teacher to guide me, and I've already started looking on that front. In fact, I've already made contact with a teacher. However, the next step is a bit harder than one might expect - acquiring a Saraswati veena seems prohibitively expensive for someone like me right now.
Perhaps the potential expense of a Saraswati veena might be a sign that I'm not to pursue this instrument yet, but as the old saying goes, where there is a will, there's a way - I already have some friends of mine searching for one that might be more within my reach. Also, if any of you readers have any tips on this, I would love to hear them. ;)
Here's hoping Sri Saraswati blesses me on my quest...
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Namaste readers! If any of my readers from India are interested in answering this question, I'd like to ask it as a sort of thought experiment.
You probably know by now of my desire to be Hindu, to follow the Hindu faith and culture. That's why I made this blog, after all. However, I know that because I was raised in mainstream white American society, it would be near impossible for me to follow the Hindu faith to the letter, and/or emulate Hindu culture perfectly (not that I need to, I think).But...if I was indeed born in Indian society...raised Hindu...had that sort of life instead...what would be different?
Sometimes I wish that was the case - in a way that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, if you know what I mean. I know I should be happy with who I am. Still...the curiosity of what life for me would have been like, and would be like now, is a burning one.
Would things be better? Worse? Equal out to be the same? What path would I have taken? Would I be in the same position I am in now? Would I end up being the same person?
According to the laws of karma and reincarnation, it's entirely possible that I was Indian and/or Hindu in a past life. But I'm talking about my present life. Would I, or the world, have been different, if my soul found an Indian body instead of my current one, for this life?
I know I must make do with the life and body I have now. But things like this are idle curiosities.
Saturday, November 16, 2013
First off, to better explain the book: it is a collection of Hindu mythology, interpreted through the lens of the author, John Jackson. Therefore the tales within the book are not original creations, as they are mythological tales as old as Hinduism. They are, however, original interpretations, though at this time I couldn't find what Mr. Jackson used as his original source. Being interpreted through a Western lens such as Mr. Jackson's indeed makes these tales easier reading for a Western audience (such as myself). However, as is almost always the case with when tales cross cultures in this manner, some of the authenticity is lost. For many Western readers this won't be that big of an issue, but the reason why it is an issue in the first place is because interpretations can be inconsistent across sources - the events told in Mr. Jackson's versions of the tales here may have things happen differently than the original mythological tales, for one, but it can differ also across different versions of the retelling.
If you're just getting started reading Hindu mythology, however, you could do far worse than Mr. Jackson's versions in Brahma Dreaming. The tales are told with lively prose, great pacing, and a method of organization that warrants reading the book from cover to cover. The organization of the tales is of note here because they are sorted into three categories, "Tales of Creation," "Tales of Destruction," and "Tales of Preservation." These are concurrent with the three main gods of Hinduism, Lords Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, so the tales being sorted into these categories does a lot to help newcomers to Hindu mythology understand not only the chronology of these tales, but their importance. One thing some readers learned in Hindu mythology may gripe over, however, is the length of some of these tales in the book; some of the tales covered in Brahma Dreaming, most notably the tales based on the great Hindu epics the Ramayana and Mahabharata, are covered only briefly. However, the most important parts of the two aforementioned epics are covered, for rest assured those two epics are long, and a book like Brahma Dreaming couldn't do those epics justice without devoting multiple volumes to it. Think of the tales of Brahma Dreaming as trailers for movies - their purpose is to get readers interested in Hindu mythology, not be exact replicas of the original tales. If you read Brahma Dreaming, you will be interested to find out more about Hindu mythology.
Of course, part of what makes Brahma Dreaming so special as an introduction to Hindu mythology are the illustrations by Ms. Terrazzini. These illustrations are meant to be interpretations of Hindu mythological scenes rendered in the style of the "Golden Age" of graphic printing in Britain during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. To say these are striking illustrations is an understatement, and in this case it's a good thing. The illustrations are definitely a unique spin on what pictorial interpretations of scenes in Hindu mythology have traditionally been like, and they are quite beautiful. It's important to note that these illustrations are black and white, with the occasional splash or highlight of color - those who have read Frank Miller's Sin City comic book series may find parallels.
Overall, Brahma Dreaming serves as a great introduction to Hindu mythology for those interested in it. While it's not comprehensive by any stretch, it does enough to stoke curiosity in its readers to uncover more about these great stories. Brahma Dreaming is available in both hardback and eBook editions.
By John Jackson
Illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini
Published by JJ Books
RRP: UK £3.99/US $5.99
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Some of you may remember back in the summer of this year, when I made a fundraiser on YouCaring.com to help me with going to an Art of Living course hosted by the Art of Living's spiritual leader, H. H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (a.k.a. Guruji amongst Art of Living devotees). That fundraiser was not successful, some of you may also recall. But that doesn't mean I can't try again, especially when another opportunity like it presents itself.
In the second-to-last week of December (i.e. the week of Christmas), Guruji is hosting another course in the Boone, NC ashram. And again, in order to attend and benefit from his teachings, I will need help. So that's why I've reopened the fundraiser!
The fundraiser is still set for its previous goal, which I know may be high, but in addition to the course fee, there's lodging and travel. Still, if you're generous enough to invest in my spiritual future, I would appreciate it. And if you can't donate, that's okay - spread the word instead, there might be someone else you know who can!
Anyway, the fundraiser in question is right here: http://www.youcaring.com/tuition-fundraiser/help-phillip-partake-in-an-art-of-living-course-with-sri-sri/69840
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
This is a big moment for me, because this is the first time I've been approached by any publishing company, be they big or small, national or international, to cover one of their books. They approached me first; I had no idea this even existed until they emailed me about it! I never knew my blog would reach that far and wide and be that well received!
Needless to say, I'm excited, and I hope this is a sign of other good things to come for this blog. I may just be hitting the big time! (Well...a bigger time than previously, anyway.)
Again, anticipate a review of this book next post!
Monday, November 4, 2013
Namaste fine readers. I want to get to know some of you a bit better. I know it's a question I have asked before, to know more about my readers, but I'm trying to fight against my own personal isolation. This isolation is not self-imposed...rather, it comes from a combination of factors, most of which are outside of my control - my inability to afford a car, my social anxiety, etc. Sure, there's the local temple, but again due to lack of said car it's hard for me to get there.
So call it me wanting to seek out new life, or whatever, but I want to talk to the Hindus (or otherwise) who read this blog. Some of you I have encountered already, at least online, but feel free to speak up again if you wish. I'm just going a little stir crazy and need to know I'm not alone...well, I know I'm not. Maybe affirm is the better word.
Please tell me about yourselves!
Friday, October 25, 2013
Namaste once more, readers. Sorry for not posting for so long, but my life has actually been quite busy. There have been good things going on, such as the Dustbowl video game convention last weekend. There have been some bad things too, which I won't mention for the sake of my privacy. But suffice it to say, I've been occupied.
Life, I have learned, comes in waves; waves of happy and sad periods. I know the secret to enjoying life is learning to surf these waves so you stay emotionally afloat. I know meditation and its associated spiritual practices can help me do so. And yet...I feel little motivation to regularly do them. For the life of me I can't figure out why. I mean...I know it will help me, but I can't bring myself to do them.
However, keeping in mind one Hindu god has helped me forgive myself of this and other mistakes I've made: Lord Krishna.
It was only recently that I have learned about how as a child, Lord Krishna was quite the mischievous one. Stealing butter (back then, butter was hard to make), stealing clothes, and, well, stealing hearts - he was known as the Heart Thief. (I forget how to spell the Sanskrit term.) Despite his mischievous behavior, people loved him anyway.
Who would have thought He could teach me how to surf the waves of life? If He wasn't perfect, I shouldn't expect myself to be perfect. It seems like some people in my life expect perfection from me...but I know Lord Krishna does not.
I don't know what metaphor to use in this case, but Lord Krishna keeps me afloat somehow. I will have to learn more about Him.
Sunday, October 6, 2013
Those of you who follow the holy days of Hinduism know that the period of time known as Navaratri has begun recently...so yeah, I'm a bit late in acknowledging that. Sorry! Still, better late than never in regards to writing something on it, I guess.
Before I share my personal thoughts on the occasion of Navaratri, I should probably link to more information on the topic. I will link rather than write on what Navaratri actually is, since, well, there are people more learned on it than I am. Among those more learned are people at the Art of Living, who have written a series of knowledge sheets on Navaratri, which I have just linked to here.
Anyway, these thoughts of mine aren't really related to Navaratri per se...they are tangentially related in that they're about issues of gender and equality, since Navaratri is a period devoted to worshipping the Goddess in Hinduism. But these thoughts of mine take on a certain...profoundness on the nights of Navaratri.
Basically...considering all the inequality, injustice, and oppression women from all over the world face today, sometimes I feel ashamed to be a man, a male, whatever term you want to use. I know some people would say there are evil women out there too, and there are, but systemically, me being a male saves me from more brutality than if I were female. And then there's all the cultural oppression out there, saying women should only be confined to certain roles, meaning I as a male benefit once more.
I hate it. I hate this fact that just because I'm a man means I get to be free from these inequalities. Many men take it as a blessing, well, for me it's a curse, because it means I have the stigma of being born an oppressor, being born a benefactor of a system that excludes the other half...being born evil.
I honestly can't handle it. But as tempting as a sex-change operation is, I honestly don't have the courage to be medically maimed to be free from the male badge. And I honestly know no other way of freeing myself from male privilege, so...I'm stuck.
If I had to ask one question of the Hindu Goddess, be Her in the form of Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, et al, it would be: why am I male? Why was I born into a gender that my own personal conscience can't handle being? Sure, the obvious answer is that we're all born into equal parts male and female incarnations, i.e. we've been both over the course of our many lifetimes. But that answer alone isn't satisfactory for me, because why have I been born a male now, at a time when oppression against women is at a peak? Why am I male now, when men are reasserting their privilege and power when they don't deserve it, and representing me when I don't want to be represented that way?
Of course, all this could be my mental maladies acting up again, clouding my thoughts and adding to my delusions. I oppress myself as much as men oppress women these days. Still, everyone with half a decent conscience keeps saying the same thing to me...as a man, I have it better than women. And I don't want it!
What makes it all the worse for me is my inherent programming as a male. My Y chromosome alone means I can never grasp the thought processes and intelligence of women. As a result I keep saying things that are offensive, and I can never grasp how the ways I act hurt women as a whole...because it's the way I'm wired.
Of all the issues out there that personally hurt me, gender is by far the most devastating to my psyche every time I think about it. Discussing it beings an abysmal low emotional period for me every time. And I'll never be free from it...
I'm sorry for the depressing whiny rant here, readers. I just don't know how to...well, take it like a man.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
I am subscribed to a particular Bharatanatyam dancer on YouTube, and her name is Savitha Sastry. Recently she has put up a video preview of an upcoming dance performance of hers called The Prophet, which, if the video is to be believed, addresses the question of "who am I."
Seeing this preview has given me cause to ask this question myself. Believe it or not, it's still a question I struggle with.
I tend to be a people-pleaser most of the time, and often that results in me "going with the flow," agreeing with whoever on the issues of the day if they present a convincing enough argument. As a result, how I really feel on certain issues is obscured to me. In fact, my therapist has often said that is the reason why I get so upset about such things - because I am not in touch with how I really feel.
However, I can safely tell you right now that me starting on the Hindu path, on the path of Sanatana Dharma, is the most "me" thing I've ever done. The system of thought that Hinduism prescribes certainly wasn't authored by me, of course, but so much of Hinduism genuinely appeals to the "me" that I've denied the opportunity to let out for so long!
Sanatana Dharma truly speaks to what I want out of life...what I believe a "religion" should provide me with. That may sound self-centered at first, but what would you rather have - someone like me converting just to please others and be more "correct" in some way, or someone who is sincere in following the faith, albeit for self-centered reasons? If I know most people, they would probably want me to be sincere.
After all, I can't please everyone. I might as well please Shri Ganesha and Shri Hanuman!
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
I wanted to take a break to tell you about SuperHot, a first-person shooter...wait, it gets better, honest! It's a first-person shooter where time moves when you do.
It's the most unique first-person game mechanic I've ever seen. Hopefully this video will do it justice:
Anyway, that's enough off-topic veering for now. Back to your regularly scheduled spirituality. ;)
That said, I feel I need to write a post with this same title again because I feel it's a duty that I should explain to my readers what I sometimes go through. When it comes to emotions, I feel them more intensely than most people, at least it seems to me. Sometimes these extreme emotions in my mind manifest themselves in negative ways...some of you have probably already seen the results.
Controlling my emotions and my impulses has been on top of my list of things to learn how to do. It keeps feeling like I fail miserably, though, and sometimes what I have learned about life and dealing with these emotions goes right out the window when my brain keeps upping the signals to "do something!" Maybe there's something medical behind this phenomenon, but this wouldn't be the place to discuss it.
Anyway...what originally got me going in the first place were the racist comments made towards the Indian descent Miss America winner. There are some calmer things I wish to say about it now that I've regained control of my anger.
First of all...well, sadly the side effect of free speech in the United States of America is that we have to deal with the bad speech as well as the good. While it's not all correct or good, it is almost all legal. So as far as these spewers of hate go, we can't really shut them up...but what we can do, is counter their hate speech with speech of our own.
See, there's a difference between critical speech and censorship, and what's needed to combat these hate spewers is critical speech. We need to criticize these people. Thankfully some American organizations are already doing so, such as the Anti-Defamation League.
The point is, what I did last night with my initial post was sort of akin to letting them get under my skin so much I became like them momentarily - intolerant and irrational. And being that way is not going to solve anything, I've learned.
So I would say just keep up the fight against racist ignorance like we've always done. This particular event has become a lightning rod, but the goal of fighting against racist ignorance is still there, and it's still needed. We should fight this ignorance not with more fire, but with water.
Sunday, September 15, 2013
At the Hindu Temple of Rochester, the last of the pujas for the installation of the murthy of Shri Hanuman were going on this morning. I sincerely wanted to go, but for reasons that weren't clear to me at the time, I could not find a ride to go there this morning. (I don't have a car.)
Later, for the closing cultural program that went on this evening, I actually did manage to find a ride to get there. However, when I got there, I found out something that genuinely astonished me, and made me believe a miracle had just happened.
The floors and carpets all over the temple were wet. I had no idea why. I went upstairs to see Shri Hanuman in his newly installed glory, and after a little bit of mingling, I managed to find the one who usually coordinates getting me a ride to and from the temple.
He told me the reason he couldn't get me a ride this morning was because during the pujas, the fire for the havan (I think that's what it's called) actually rose high enough to trip the fire alarm and cause the sprinklers to go off.
My first thought upon hearing what happened was, "I'm glad I wasn't there for that." After thinking about it for a little bit further - and thinking that the sprinkler incident would have definitely triggered anxiety for me - I came to a realization. I finally realized what had really happened.
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe the below video can clearly summarize what I realized had happened.
As for the rest of the devotees in the temple, they are all okay of course, but they were calm about the whole event and also regarded what happened as a miracle, as it meant all the elements were present for the glory of Shri Hanuman.
And as for myself...I am eternally thankful to Shri Hanuman that I avoided what could have seriously triggered my anxiety. I don't think I am overanalyzing it this time - I honestly believe a miracle happened.
Jai Shri Hanuman.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Namaste readers...new and old! Apparently I got a lot of new readers as a result of my blog being mentioned on Western Hindu. You can check out Western Hindu's piece on my blog here:
In the mood department, the depression appears to have lifted, and not a moment too soon. Yesterday was a day of strange luck - not necessarily bad luck, but rather bad balanced with good. And today I attended some pujas in honor of the Hanuman Murthy Sthapana at my local temple. Today was also the day my blog got name-dropped at Western Hindu...with the resulting traffic spike.
Somehow I don't think this is coincidental. Maybe, just maybe I have the attention of Lord Hanuman?
Regardless, I want to thank Lord Hanuman. He has given me strength in these recent times, at least in spirit. Jai Hanuman!
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Sometimes I get a reprieve. Sometimes it's in the form of distractions, or simply my brain having enough of one feeling. But it doesn't last for long. I would try some meditation right now, but in the past, when I've tried to meditate under similar circumstances, I ended up feeling worse. Seems like I can only meditate when I'm already happy and/or motivated.
I should be happy...after all, I am going to the above event I mentioned. Therefore it's baffling why I feel so emotionally awful.
I know everyone has highs and lows. Perhaps I shouldn't analyze every single time I have such a change in emotion, and just accept it and move on. Still, for such a long period of sadness to come out of nowhere like this...I have to ask what is going on...
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
I know life has its ups and downs. But...well, I've written about this before, but when I encounter a downer, I don't just feel down emotionally, I downright crash. And these emotional crashes can come from anything - a conflict I see happen in front of me between two people. A negative Facebook post or Internet article. Even an errant thought that pops into my head for no apparent reason. Any one of these can send me on that downward spiral. Once I get onto that downward slide, there's no going back up for quite some time.
I won't hesitate to say that these down periods are ruining my life. They can turn the happiest of days for me into the most crushing. They can turn me from happy-go-lucky and cheering up everyone around me into the negative vortex sucking everyone else down with me. They turn my smile upside down, quite literally.
I know everyone feels sad and depressed sometimes. But can't I just feel sad or depressed without going into hysterics and near-suicidal melancholia?
I've tried what seems like so many things in attempts to fight these abysmal lows. From medication to meditation, from diet change to exercise, it feels like I've tried everything. But nothing stops these pits from becoming bottomless.
The only solution I've been able to practice so far is avoidance - attempting to avoid that which can sink me. Unfortunately, that involves avoiding some of the lows necessary to live a productive, independent life.
Bruce Lee once said, "do not pray for an easy life; instead, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one." Well, I've prayed for that strength, and it never showed up. I've tried to work for that strength, and it never showed up.
God(s), where is my strength? Can anyone answer?
Thursday, August 8, 2013
Namaste readers - you might remember this time around a year ago I made a post concerning the Hindu holiday Nag Panchami. Well, more specifically, it was about a dream I had that seemed influenced by it...more specifically a dream where a king cobra snake wanted to be my best friend, just about. In the intervening time between then and now, obviously no snakes became my friends. Yet I still think about this holiday, and cobras in general, from time to time.
I had the silly idea of posting about this dream on Yahoo Answers, and as one might expect, I got trolled pretty badly. But one answer seemed legitimate and made sense - since the snake in that dream wanted to be my friend, and snakes feature pretty prominently in Hindu iconography, this person speculated that perhaps it meant that I should fully embrace Hinduism, and that not only had I nothing to fear from it, but that I would benefit immensely from it.
I would say this to be spot on. My faith may have waxed and waned from time to time, as anyone's faith is prone to do, but in both the real and spiritual sense I have had nothing but good results from my embrace of the Hindu faith and culture. Right now my only wish is to go deeper, further immerse myself.
So to the king cobra in that dream, I say thank you...and to those readers who observe it, thank you as well, and have a blessed Nag Panchami this year.
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
- Devotion to Lord Ganesha. Thoughts of Him are prominent in my mind right now, mainly in the way of asking for guidance. It's like I don't know how to proceed in life this very moment. I know what I want, but not how to get it or when, etc. So to beseech Sri Ganesha for guidance, I shall post this link to the Classical Yoga Hindu Academy page on Lord Ganesha.
- Wanting to meet people. Not quite sure how to explain this beyond feeling lonely and wanting to mitigate that feeling. It seems like a lot of nights I spend alone despite my best efforts to reach out to people to talk to. I know many people by now, and yet I still desire some kind of companionship constantly.
- Work to be done. Yes, I do have other writing assignments I could work on right now, but my brain just doesn't want to think that way. That's kind of one reason why I'm writing this, to try to gently coax my mind into working on other things.
- How to deepen my Hindu practice. I guess this goes in the same category as devotion to Lord Ganesha, but...well, I need some more advice in this regard. I know one obvious thing I could do is work towards becoming vegetarian, but I honestly don't know if I'm ready to make that leap yet, especially since I'm on a diet involving pre-packaged food. And I got to learn how to cook better too.
- How to better myself in general. Part of me still doesn't know how to act around people, what are appropriate boundaries, if I'm saying certain things (like "sorry") too much, etc. One would think after 29 years alive I'd have all this figured out, but no. It's like I'm incapable of learning these finer points.
Saturday, August 3, 2013
This past week has been, as the subject line says, a week of accomplishments. I feel...well, accomplished! From finding new freelance writing work (hopefully...I have my foot in the door, at least), to getting a new computer, to helping out the Hindu Temple of Rochester with their Hanuman Murthy Sthapana, I've had a busy week. Helping out my local temple is the thing of note here, as how I helped is I got the company I work for to buy ad space in the brochure being handed out at the actual Hanuman Murthy Sthapana event.
It may sound like I'm tooting my own horn here, but...can't I do that occasionally? I know it's proper seva (service) to not expect rewards for one's community service, and I'm not expecting any, but I still feel like I need to shout my accomplishments to the world every once in a while. Again, it's that recognition, that positive feedback I crave. Maybe my soul isn't quite ready for truly selfless service yet...
Perhaps I crave this sort of positive feedback because I feel I've been held back for so long. I've been told that I've been a sub-par human being for so long that I want to prove otherwise. I may not need to prove it, but the urge is still there for some reason.
I know Shri Hanuman, the incarnation of Lord Shiva that selflessly served Lord Rama in the Ramayana never wanted reward...but I'm still human. By that, I mean I can strive to have qualities like the Gods, but I'm most certainly not one myself.
All I'm asking for is for people to recognize that fact...and that in spite of that I'm still willing to help people.
Monday, July 15, 2013
First of all, I wanted to apologize (once again!) for the whiny tone of my last post (which I deleted). I won't obsess over the past in this case, but I still need to learn how not to repeat my mistakes.
All this being said, one conclusion I've arrived at is that when it comes to having a healthy self-image - one that respects the self as well as others in balance - duality, or dualistic thinking, isn't conducive for it. I was gravitated to Hinduism in part because it did not promote dualistic thinking. I know sometimes there are things which only can be seen in black and white, or right and wrong; I do not deny that there are times when wrongness shouldn't be tolerated.
But when it comes to the self and paths to one's salvation, one needs to realize that there are at once many paths...and just one. I was reminded of this in a forum post where a fellow forum user said that the Bhagavad Gita teaches that in order to reach the One, one must abandon the concept of two.
I'll have to look into that, but for right now, know that I'm feeling better, and can hopefully resume my path, readers. :-)
Saturday, July 13, 2013
*wipes away the dust from the blog* Yeah, I know it's been a while since I've posted with any sort of regularity here. Truth be told, I've been a little discouraged about this blog...it just doesn't seem to be having the reach I want it to have. However, I'm definitely not giving up! I've written over a hundred posts to this blog so far, why stop now?
With that in mind, as you probably have guessed this blog post is about Lord Krishna. Thing is, though, this isn't an informational post on Him...rather, I'm requesting information. He's somehow been on my mind lately, even going so far as entering one of my dreams! Still, though, I know next to nothing about Him. I know the basics: He's an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, He is a central character of the Hindu epic the Mahabharata...and that's about it. I've seen His depiction in art, and I do have to say one thing that moves me about Him is the fact that he's depicted as having blue skin. That says a lot to me - it says to me, personally, that skin color shouldn't matter when it comes to divinity. That says volumes to me.
So, I am hoping for some good sources on Lord Krishna, so I can figure out why I've been so fascinated by Him lately. The internet is there for a reason, I know, but there's a lot of misinformation and inaccuracy out there...therefore if I can be pointed in the right direction, that'd be great!
Saturday, July 6, 2013
I am posting to my blog today to make a special request. This request hopefully won't come off as presumptuous or too demanding, but I figured the only way to know if my readers would be interested in this is to ask them. :-)
So, the request: as you readers know (if you follow my blog long enough), I am a devotee of the guru H. H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who is better known as the spiritual leader of the Art of Living organization. More info on the Art of Living can be found here.
The Art of Living regularly hosts courses and retreats throughout the world, a few of which are hosted by H. H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar himself. A course/retreat being held in the Art of Living's new ashram in Boone, North Carolina is one of these courses hosted by Sri Sri.
The problem is...it's expensive. And I'm not going to lie to you - it's a bit out of my financial reach at the moment.
I know it seems to ask a lot of my readers, asking for support of something like this. But...well, if you read this blog, you probably have at least some interest as to my spiritual well-being. Otherwise, why read it? :-)
If you're interested in supporting me in this endeavor, please consider giving to the online fundraiser at the link above. Please note that at the moment, you need a PayPal account to give.
If you care about this, then please give. Or don't if you don't think it's worth it. It's up to you.
Friday, June 21, 2013
As you've probably seen on this blog before (at least if you've been following it for a while), there have been some points where I write really negative posts where I'm down on myself or something/someone else. I know no one wants to read such self-deprecating whining, but I still do it.
Why? Because oddly enough, I find it therapeutic. It's like the subject line of this post says - writing eases the pain. Problem is, writing to ease pain also seems to drive away readers. No one wants to listen to a self-loathing whiner bitch and moan all day.
Therefore, I am hoping to get some advice on what I can do to change this. I need to find some other way to let out the pain, without exposing myself to the world in a way that might jeopardize me. So far writing has been the best way to let out all my angst, depression, anxiety, and other negative emotions, but I need to find another outlet.
Sure, there's meditation (and video games in my case!), but that doesn't seem to have any immediate effect, whereas writing does. I need some other way to get an immediate release valve. If any of you readers have advice on that, I would gladly like to hear it.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
For example, the Memorial Art Gallery near me has an ancient (as in 14th century) bronze statue of Lord Ganesha, Thai in origin, on display:
There's a part of me that thinks, though, that maybe it's beautiful art like this that might have guided me - perhaps ever so slightly - towards the dharmic path of Hinduism. My mind - and the will of God(s) - work in mysterious ways.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
I recently completed a meditation experience that was nothing short of blissful. It was so blissful that nothing seemed to faze it - not my left leg falling asleep, not the random noises outside, not even the random tingling sensations I seemed to experience across my face. More on those later.
I wasn't quite sure how long I should've stayed in my meditation...I wanted to stay there for as long as possible, but I also realized I had to come out of it sometime. I had no idea how much time had passed until I came out of it, and it seemed to be a full hour, or close to it, anyway.
Somehow I have this idea in my head that the longer I stay in meditation, and the more intense it gets, the more likely I would be "rewarded" somehow. I know that's not the point of meditation, and that it's my bloated ego talking that's asking for the "reward" of some sort. Still, it's the hint of a "reward" (sorry to keep using quotes) that keeps me going for long periods of time, and even motivates me to meditate at all sometimes.
As for what kind of reward I'm expecting...I honestly don't know what would qualify. A visible miracle of some kind? A vision from Lord Ganesha? I don't know. I realize that meditation and the benefits it confers are subtle, and they're their own reward, but there's a part of me that hasn't internalized that fact yet.
I'm trying to overcome that selfish ego, honest! But I guess that's the real reward of meditation I haven't gotten to yet, that final mastery of one's ego. Part of me wants it now rather than later, but I know that won't happen quite yet. Maybe it will happen in, as the old saying goes, due time. I just wish I knew when the due time would be!
Anyway, I'll close this blog post with a question: remember those tingling sensations on the face I talked about earlier? Well, what do they mean? I know a pressure in the middle of the forehead is the pineal gland getting stimulated, but I get tingling sensations elsewhere on my face too - below the eyes, from the top of my head extending down, and other odds and ends I can't pinpoint exactly. If anyone has insight on what those mean, I'd appreciate it.
Stay enlightened, my friends.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
(Enjoy this Hindu-themed poem I have authored, my attempt at shaking things up in this blog. Feedback on this poem is welcome, but please be gentle.)
Identity thieves are everywhere.
The mundane ones, they want your material wealth.
The ones to watch out for, they want your spiritual wealth.
Governments want to steal your identity.
With it, they buy consent.
Consent to impose authority.
Consent to wage war.
Consent to make laws.
Laws in which they keep your soul.
Corporations want to steal your identity.
With it, they buy denial.
Denial of your beliefs.
Denial of your choices.
Denial of your individuality.
The individuality of your soul.
Those who distort religion want your identity.
With it, they buy your servitude.
Servitude to guilt.
Servitude to blindness.
Servitude to death.
It spells the death of your soul.
Against these identity thieves, there is only one defense.
LifeLock will not save you.
No, there is only one agency, one authority that can help you.
Help you get your identity back.
This authority is the Ishta Devata.
The God you worship.
Through this worship of God, you regain your soul.
My God has the head of an elephant,
And I know through Him
That I am not the contents of my wallet inside the pocket of my khakis.
I trust Him to protect my identity.
Who do you trust?
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Namaste readers, I'm not sure what inspired me to do so tonight, but I recently looked up what Hindu perspectives on mental illness were. The things I found were...interesting, though I'm not sure what to make of them.
For instance, I looked in an article in the very issue of Hinduism Today that I got published in, one that deals with Hindu perspectives on modern medicine. When I got to the section on mental health, I came across this passage which I found a little shocking:
"Many Hindus attach a stigma to mental illness and cognitive dysfunction. Many have a strong belief in the concept of the evil eye and may believe this to be a cause of mental illness."
To be honest, I'm not sure how true this is, at least in my case. Maybe my experience has been different because I've used my faith in Hinduism to try to combat my mental illness. If mental illness is indeed stigmatized in Hindu society, my guess is that it's more indicative of humanity's universal stigmatization of "different" individuals than as a result of Hindu religious doctrine. After all, even in Christianity it took a long time for churches, Catholic and Protestant alike, to recognize psychiatry and psychology as legitimate medical disciplines.
It is thanks to Hinduism that I've made strides in treating my own mental health, thanks to many factors such as the concept of dharma, the notion of replacing divine punishment with the math of karma, and of course my real life Hindu friends. But I still have a long ways to go, especially when it comes to those moments when I sink into an emotional abyss. There are times when I want to say to people "I can't get over it" in reference to my mental illness, but I've realized that it's not a matter of "curing" myself - it's a matter of accepting myself.
Perhaps that is why I feel so attracted to the Gods Ganesha and Saraswati...I need to know myself to accept myself. Sometimes, though, my mind works in ways I cannot fathom. It's times like this I wish Lord Ganesha and/or Goddess Saraswati would control my mind. I don't want to surrender my free will, mind you, but rather have them eliminate my mental flaws for me.
I don't know how to fight my inner demons effectively...which is why I pray for them to fight them for me. I have faith that they will succeed...
Monday, April 22, 2013
Namaste readers! Today I'm going to do something sort of useful with this blog, and review a book. This is a book I've had for a while and even though I've read it a long time ago I've only gotten around to writing this review now. Go figure. Anyway, the book I shall review is none other than The Science of Self-Realization by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (whew!). However, as I'm no expert on Hinduism, I can't really judge the worth of this book to those practicing Hinduism, and I can't really comment on the organization that published it, ISKCON (acronym for the International Society for Krishna CONsciousness). Therefore I put "Sort Of" in the title of this blog post to indicate that I'm not trying to be any sort of authority figure on this book or the subjects it covers.
However, I do feel I have some insights into this book that I think are worth sharing. For instance, the format of the book is a very good one - it's a compilation of articles, letters, and other writings either written by or about Swami Prabhupada that have been collected over the years before the first printing of the book. It actually makes it easier to read, contrary to what you might think, as even though the articles are grouped according to topic, you can go back and forth to whichever articles you want to read, in any order, and since they're all self-contained (after a fashion) you won't miss anything by jumping between them. It's like the perfect setup for those with short attention spans. I don't know if that says more about us readers in the USA or the authors of the book, but it still works.
Even though the book is set up this way, it still tells a cohesive story, at least in my view. Most of the articles in the book have something to do with Swami Prabhupada's attempts to spread the views of ISKCON in the United States. Many of the writings he pens in this regard express...deep reservations about even coming to the United States, and in one entry he even asks Lord Krishna, "why have You brought me to this terrible place?" In a later entry, though, he says in all the Western countries he's visited, ISKCON has been most successful in the United States. Take that as you will...personally, I like to think of this occurrence as proof that Sanatana Dharma is for everyone (i.e. for everyone who wants it), and anyone can have his or her heart opened to it. It's certainly a good takeaway message if there ever was one!
Lastly, even though I personally don't follow ISKCON, this book is still worth reading in that it espouses truths that are universal to every religion, not just Hinduism and ISKCON. The methods to find and realize God are different for every religion, but the end result is the same. I know Swami Prabhupada is one of the more controversial figures in Hinduism (or so I've heard...he's said some controversial things), but even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Not saying Swami Prabhupada is a stopped clock, mind you - just saying despite his more controversial statements, he still says some things that are correct. Kind of like me and this blog. :-)
Monday, April 15, 2013
I don't know how many of you have heard of the tragedy in Boston today. I'm going to ask that you look it up on Google if you're unaware...I don't feel like posting what happened again in my blog.
However, what I am going to post is a very good point raised by comedian Patton Oswalt. This was shared with me via a friend who follows Patton Oswalt's Facebook page, and I'm re-posting it here because it's very true, very well stated, and very well needed to be said in times like this.
Please read the whole thing, and share if you can. I know that sounds like a cliche mass email command, but I think in the case of something so true as this it's worth it.
Again, all credit for the following goes to Patton Oswalt:
Boston. Fucking horrible.Namaste - I look to the divine in all of you - and stay good, my friends.
I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, "Well, I've had it with humanity."
But I was wrong. I don't know what's going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.
But here's what I DO know. If it's one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness.
But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, "The good outnumber you, and we always will."
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Namaste readers, in this post of Light Club I'm going to briefly talk about global warming. First of all, yes, I know global warming exists. I know it's real, man-made, and a threat to humanity.
But to turn it into a sensational, ratings-boosting profit vehicle by publishing doomsday proclamations and prophecies based on it is nothing short of unethical, in my humble opinion. I mean, have you looked on the Weather Channel's website lately? It's full of sensationalist apocalyptic stories based on the scenarios now being played out by global warming. Regardless of whether or not these stories are true (and they most likely are, sadly), the writing style and promotion of them reeks of Yellow Journalism.
Yes, global warming is a real threat that needs to be acted upon, and soon. But do we have to resort to such crude, unethical tactics to move the general public to action now? Perhaps the editors at the Weather Channel website have no faith in humanity, but their point gets lost when they lose their humanity in sensationalist doom-mongering.
If this is what it takes to move humanity into taking on global warming, then the cause is already lost.
Monday, April 8, 2013
According to those who practice and teach Bharatanatyam, there is a heavy spiritual aspect to the dance. As someone who watches it, and especially as a Westerner trying to embrace Hinduism, I would have to agree. I know there may be issues with that perspective - I've learned that sometimes the societal position with which I gaze at Bharatanatyam performance (or any other cultural aspect of a culture I'm not a part of) can tarnish my perception, and by extension my soul. I can accept that, but I want to emphasize that I genuinely want to appreciate (not covet, there's a huge difference) the beauty of the art form.
I think there's evidence that I can truly appreciate this ancient art: for example, I try to promote such events in local publications when I can, or otherwise help out with these events in ways which I'm capable. A couple of performers I know have appreciated my efforts in that regard, and I am grateful for their appreciation. But my ultimate test comes in terms of my mind and what it comes away with from the performance.
What does my mind take away? It takes away stillness and clarity. I say that because whenever my mind watches this art form, it becomes still, able to observe itself objectively. Does my mind wander when I observe Bharatanatyam performance? Yes, it does...but I'm able to observe this wandering, and for once accept that it happens, not to judge myself for it. After all, thoughts only get power if you let them gain it by focusing on them. As for clarity, this has to do with what I mentioned earlier about trying to promote these events; I feel that by trying to do my best to help these events out, I can look at my mind clearly and accept that yes, I do have a place in this world, somehow. Am I fulfilling this role perfectly? Of course not. But I still work at it, and that's what matters.
I certainly hope that my service genuinely helps Bharatanatyam in my area...because watching it certainly helps me.
Friday, April 5, 2013
I know many readers have complained about the black background of my previous blog layout. However, I couldn't find a suitable replacement until now, when I came across the beautiful picture of Lord Ganesha that you now see on the background before you. I forget who is the artist behind the piece, but the picture belongs to the Sanatan Society, and right on their website it says this picture is royalty-free and can be used in this manner. So kudos to them for providing free art to devotees. :-)
Monday, April 1, 2013
Namaste readers...I'm typing this at 3:30 AM Eastern Time in the US, so if I'm a bit incoherent, it's because I'm sleep-deprived. Moving on...
Some of you readers know that I follow the Art of Living and have His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar as my guru. Well, this weekend in New York City, I got to meet him in person, if only for a minute. True story, and yes, I mean it. I met Guruji (as Art of Living followers affectionately call him) for a New York minute.
Even though it was only for a minute, I feel like I've walked away with something awesome. I have a story to tell, right now, and even though I forget what Gonzo Journalism is right now in my sleep-deprived state, maybe this can qualify, because this story was a roller-coaster for me, and I realize that's the hallmark of any good story. This one was a doozy, but it was worth it.
The reason I feel this way is because I've had both extremes of emotion during my trip. The time I met Guruji was in the Art of Living Center in New York City, where he held a satsang for volunteers who worked on the Non-Vio launch event earlier that day. On this particular day, I was anxious, but open to being happy, for lack of a better term. To quote the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I was a man on the move, and just sick enough to be totally confident.
At the satsang, he greeted everyone who showed up, but for me, he stopped for that proverbial New York minute, and the (very short) conversation that followed went like this:
"How are you doing?" asked Guruji.
"Good," I replied tentatively.
"Are you happy?" Guruji asked me, with what seemed like genuine curiosity.
I must've resembled a deer in headlights for a moment, but I managed to stammer out "uh, yes!" He moved on at that point.
He gave a talk, which I don't remember too clearly at this moment, but as he was leaving the building like Elvis Presley, I managed to get his attention for one last statement from me - "yes, I'm happy!" If I wasn't earlier, I certainly was then.
The next day I went to the Non-Vio volunteer convention in New Jersey. That day, for reasons I can't clearly remember, I wasn't quite as receptive to being happy. In fact, as Guruji was giving darshan near the end to all the people crowding to get to him, I couldn't take the animated crowd and all the commotion. I developed a bona-fide panic attack and had to leave the presentation hall. The rest of the day afterwards, I was so on edge and anxious I could not calm down for the longest time.
No I was not happy that day. But I still thought on what Guruji asked me the day before - "are you happy?" With the overall experience of the trip, I'd say a resounding yes. If only for a moment, I was able to step outside my comfort zone, even though I couldn't do so for two days straight. For a New York minute, I felt like I truly went Gonzo...whatever that means.
I accomplished something. Maybe it didn't have quite the happy ending I was looking for, but the story still makes me happy for the fact that I can tell it.
Friday, March 29, 2013
This will be a short and hopefully sweet post. I'm just going to post a link to an editorial I wrote that's very important to me - my stand against the sexism present in the video game industry.
Hope you enjoy it, and if you have feedback, please don't hesitate to leave some in the comments!
Friday, March 15, 2013
So yeah, sometimes I do stupid things...we all do. And if you say you never did anything stupid, you'd be lying, and that's stupid too.
But sometimes I have to ask myself...why do I do stupid things? Why am I not perfect?
I guess it has to do with how I sometimes perceive everything bad around me to be my fault, which certainly isn't a healthy mindset. However, it's in an effort to try to be unselfish by being apologetic and considerate...and it usually backfires, making me seem conceited and self-centered.
When it comes to changing myself, however, and making myself better than I am, well...so far I seem to consistently fall short. I guess that's the part I'm really stupid at. I can't seem to motivate myself to change even if my life depended on it...and someday it just might!
I'm just frustrated at being unable to deal with my flaws. Makes me wish I could rewrite my brain or something.
Monday, March 11, 2013
Namaste readers - I figure you would all like to know I have successfully attended the Maha Shivaratri puja at the Hindu Temple of Rochester on Saturday. I even got to be one of the folks who poured milk on the Shivalingam! Unfortunately, even though the event lasted all night I couldn't stay all night...my blood sugar got in the way. Oh well...maybe next year I can pull an all-nighter for this holy day.
Somehow I feel as if I've both deepened my Hindu practice (by pouring milk on the Shivalingam) and missed an opportunity (by not staying all night)...weird, I know. At least I feel I have accomplished something!
Here's a photo of the event that has me in it...there's a lot of people in the photo, but I'm one of the ones in line. (I didn't take the photo, obviously.)
I hope your Maha Shivaratri was just as blessed. :-)
Thursday, March 7, 2013
Namaste readers! I don't know if describing my meditation experiences is of interest to you all or not, but since no one has objected yet...I figure I'll share another one. This one's interesting...although when have I not shared interesting meditation experiences? ;-)
This particular experience happened yesterday. I did my usual Ganesha mantra chanting and Sahaj Samadhi meditation as taught to me by the Art of Living. I forget exactly when this happened, but during this session, I saw a Shivalingam very vividly! It was very clear to me, at least as clear as one can see the backs of their eyelids while meditating, meaning in this case it was like a black-and-white photograph of it, sort of...yeah, I'm not being very clear in my description here. But the point is I saw a Shivalingam that was very clear to me.
(For those readers who don't know, a picture of a Shivalingam is in this post.)
After the meditation session, I did remember that Maha Shivaratri, a very important Hindu holiday, is coming up this weekend. I was planning on attending puja at the temple in my area anyway, so maybe this is my mind giving me a reminder. Or maybe it means something more significant than that...I honestly don't know what to think of it. I'm still thinking of it even today, although for today's meditation session, I did not see it again.
I know I have a tendency to assign more meaning to events, even meditation images, than I should. Even if this vision is nothing significant, my mind still wants it to be...maybe I'm being conceited in this case. It's just...well, I was dearly hoping that maybe Lord Shiva had taken an interest in me...
I have this very dear desire to see the God(s) of Hinduism up close and personal. Call it wanting to be...acknowledged by them. That I want them to directly tell me that I have a positive role and place in this universe. I must sound crazy right now. Maybe I am...but...well, we all have flaws, right? Is this such a deep flaw?
Pardon my self-centered ramblings in this post. I've been trying to shake these selfish notions for a long time...
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
I know the vast majority of my readers don't like metal, and I'm not asking you to. But that doesn't mean that the music I listen to can never be beautiful.
For evidence, I submit this picture from the official Deftones website (I obviously didn't snap this photo, I don't know who did, but I'm just linking to it here, I'm not claiming anything), of the concert the band had here two nights ago at the Rochester, NY Main Street Armory:
I like to think of this photo as evidence that beauty can be found anywhere. Indeed, it can be found everywhere.
Friday, March 1, 2013
Namaste readers. For those of you who are Hindus, I have a very important question to ask: most of you readers probably don't know me in real life, but regardless, would you readers consider me a real Hindu?
I'm asking because in one other online discussion forum (that shall not be named), my authenticity and sincerity of being a Hindu was called into question...not directly, but it was certainly implied.
To be honest, I don't know how to respond to such implicit accusations. I certainly want to be a Hindu, in both my heart and my mind. But oftentimes my mental maladies keep me from going any deeper than I am now. Thanks to my depression and lack of energy resulting from it, I sometimes find it hard to do things like read scriptures, learn how to do puja at home, or even meditate and do its associated pranayama. I try to go to my local temple as often as possible, but my lack of a car prevents me from going there as often as I should. And as for all the knowledge associated with Sanatana Dharma? I've barely scratched the surface of it, thanks to the two previous facts I've mentioned.
And as others have pointed out, I've made blunders in thinking some of my cultural tastes and preferences were spiritual, and that it was not only futile, but offensive, to try to link those to Hinduism. That certainly doesn't do my reputation any good, and certain online people have added "poser" and "racist" to my list of descriptions as a result. (Again, I don't want to say who. I don't want to pay any more attention to them.)
Of course, there are those who will say I shouldn't pay any attention to such people. They say Hinduism is all about diversity and individuality (in terms of how people worship) after all. But still, the last thing I want to do is defile another culture with my stupidity. What I have seen of India's culture so far, I've fallen in love with. I want to belong to it...but old cultural habits die hard.
I want to believe...but am I too indoctrinated in Western ways to be able to join the culture and faith I truly want to believe in? Am I too far gone?
Thursday, February 28, 2013
I know the God(s) of Hinduism don't really abandon their followers, at least to my knowledge...with divinity being in everything, how could God(s) do so anyway? However, lately I've been wondering...if Lord Ganesha even cares about me at all...
Inconceivable, right? I know in my mind it is. But my heart is telling me something different. Which is the opposite way of how it works for most people - their hearts give them hope while their minds are the pessimistic organs. For some reason it's reversed with me...I have to keep thinking myself out of depressive states, keep my mind occupied, so my heart doesn't go to horrible emotions and depression.
Anyway, the point is that lately my emotions have been labile - I know I said that in previous blog posts but for some reason it's intensified. I have happy periods in my day, and I know I have little to be sad about right now. Still, my crying episodes have become more frequent, my energy has decreased further, and I feel like I just don't want to do much of anything.
What's sort of scary about this is that thinking of or meditating on Lord Ganesha either doesn't help, or only helps for a short burst during my sad, depressed periods. That is what is causing these feelings of abandonment. Lord Ganesha probably hasn't abandoned me...it just doesn't seem like His style to suddenly up and leave a follower of his. Still, I can't seem to shake these feelings that something is amiss...
I still need Lord Ganesha to get me through the problems in life...I'm not ready to do everything on my own.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Today for my meditation session I listened to a 44 minute bhajan to Lord Ganesha. I feel it's certainly helped me spiritually for this evening, but today I also found something even more interesting concerning my favorite genre of music, heavy metal. As it turns out, heavy metal can help save lives...that might be an exaggeration, but the point is that National Geographic has covered a study that has discovered that a popular form of dancing at heavy metal concerts, known as the mosh pit, mimics the movements of excited particles of gases, much like what is studied in particle physics.
As for how that can save lives, well, the study says that the research could be applied to people reacting under much different circumstances - namely riots, fires, and the like. But I feel this can also save lives in a spiritual sense...not moshing in a mosh pit, exactly, but rather demonstrating the oneness of the universe. Spiritual people, especially in the Hindu faith, have often said that oneness refers to everything in the universe being made of the same thing - divinity. If everything in the universe can be said to be made of the same thing, then divinity is in everything.
This can be seen as further proof of that concept. For just as matter in the universe reacts in a certain way under certain circumstances, so too do people under certain influences. We are indeed already one with this universe...we just have to realize it, and when great music like heavy metal blares through the ether, our oneness is realized.
It doesn't have to just be heavy metal music, of course, but if heavy metal can prove something like this, surely it shows that the path to the divine is manyfold. Just like how the God(s) of Hinduism are many to show that the many can lead to the One. They are not separate from each other, but parts of a whole, and worshipping a part will grant us the whole.
Monday, February 18, 2013
Namaste, readers! I'm doing better than my last post, but still, recent events and my responses to those events have given me a lot to think about. As you can probably figure out from the quote from the movie The Matrix that I've used in the title, this post has to do with knowing myself ("temet nosce" means "know thyself" in Latin) and my relationship with reality.
This concept of my relationship with reality got a mild jolt recently, when a couple of my friends, one in real life and one online, suggested I look into Vedic astrology. Not the traditional Western stuff, but actual Vedic/Hindu/Indian (or whatever you want to call it) study of how the stars effect our lives. My real life friend who talked about it convinced me it might be worthwhile to check it out at least, but my online friend actually figured out my Vedic astrology chart, even though he said he was somewhat new to the practice. I know doing so involves giving him some personal information, but I've known him long enough to realize he probably doesn't even have the means to use said info maliciously. And it's not like I gave him my credit card number. ;-)
What he discerned through study of my Vedic astrological chart, or what he told me of it, anyway, really blew me away - it seemed to describe my life so far and my personality in a nutshell. I know a lot of astrology relies on generalizations, but there were some specifics he told me that lined up surprisingly well. It wasn't all 100% accurate, of course; one or two statements were way off the mark. But enough of it was accurate that I was astonished.
Of course, I'm someone who believes in free will. I like to think we all have some control over our lives. But at the same time, I have to admit that one potential moral weakness of mine is that when it comes to making mistakes, I'm not one to readily accept them as a product of my free will. (I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who has this weakness, but I digress.) So it's tempting to dismiss astrology by saying it's a way of avoiding responsibility - the stars influence our lives, so why claim responsibility for our bad actions?
This, however, goes into why astrology makes generalizations and avoids going ultra-specific, in my opinion. Sure, the stars may influence our lives, but they do not dictate them. It can influence our general course, but definitely not the specifics. The specifics of how the stars influence our lives are still up to us.
Think of it this way: if you consume too much alcohol and get drunk, you can commit actions you later had no idea you committed because you were drunk. However, even though you might have been out of your mind when you committed your drunken actions, you still consciously chose to drink too much - that much you can be held responsible for, and it's a very serious action which definitely has consequences!
This means we should strike a balance in our lives between choosing our fate and leaving it all up to God(s). Where that balance lies is different for each of us. I still have yet to find mine, I think...but maybe Vedic astrology can help me find it.
Sunday, February 17, 2013
I have reasons to be happy. My fundamental job duties have changed into something I'm more suited for and enjoy doing. I'm able to get more writing opportunities now than I have before. My energy level seems to be improving somewhat due to a new medicine I'm taking. There are other things that aren't so happy in my life, and some things that are downright sad, but objectively, my life seems to have taken a turn for the better.
And yet I'm feeling depressed. Deeply, darkly depressed, almost at a crippling level.
As for reasons, I can't seem to pick out why. There are a few theories I have...the first being that I can't seem to take care of myself, even after things get better. Money still burns a hole in my pocket. Nutrition still seems to be an alien concept to me. So is cleanliness. But then again, these things could be a result of me being depressed...it's a chicken-and-egg question at best.
One other theory I have is maybe on some fundamental level, I don't feel like I deserve anything good happening to me. That if my life goes well, someone else's life has to suffer. I don't want that to happen, but it seems to be the law of karma. If I don't want anyone else to suffer...does that mean I have to suffer most of all?
Or maybe it's just that my values and my mindset don't deserve to exist. One of many examples of this is my apparent hypocrisies towards life. I hate conflict and violence, yet others insist my playing violent video games means I support violence and conflict. I hate consumerism but still spend like there's no tomorrow. I hate social injustice but lack the will and bravery to do anything about it.
On some fundamental level, I hate myself...and the more things get better, the more it seems apparent that I should hate myself. I don't know what to do with myself anymore.
Is being happy too much to ask of myself? Apparently yes.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
I found a fascinating article on left-leaning/progressive news source AlterNet today that I think is the ultimate feel-good article: apparently working less hours and having more leisure time can reduce global warming. If you read the article at the link, that will give you the best idea of how this works; I'm no climatologist, so I can't really give an effective summary. Also, the study isn't perfect; it doesn't take into account what people would do with more leisure time. What I can say, though, is that the message of the article makes sense.
So often in our present-day society, at least here in the USA, so much emphasis is placed on production and profit - how much can I produce? How much can I contribute materially? And most of all, how much profit will it make us all? It's the maxim here that a productive citizen is a good citizen, and those who don't contribute in the form of being employed are ridiculed, criticized, lambasted, etc. I'm not saying this is necessarily bad, but sometimes even those who are employed are subject to this treatment if even after they earn whatever is given them they still can't support themselves. Hard work is the only way to avoid condemnation, and even then that's no guarantee.
I could go into a pages-long rant about how the economic structure of the US is screwed up and only benefits the super-rich and makes wage slaves out of the rest of us, blah blah blah...but that's not the point of this post. The point is that this constant drive to produce, work, and measurably create profit is not only killing our mental health, in the form of work-related stress, mental breakdowns and anguish from job-related worries, and just plain burnout; it's also killing the planet. This constant drive for hard work requires resources and their consumption. If we all work hard constantly, sooner or later the resources required to sustain that hard work will be exhausted.
Yes, hard work can earn you more money, but money can't buy you time, the ultimate thing you need to rest and relax. It can only buy things requiring hard work and resources others use. And what good is that if you don't have the time to use them...or end up killing the environment in the process?
Now, I'm not advocating anyone quit their jobs here...keeping busy is one good way to keep the blues away, as I can attest to. And working for one's place in society is a good thing to practice, as it can teach selflessness as well as selfishness. Everyone needs to do some work to keep themselves, and others, alive. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing in this case. We need to find a balance in our lives, and that balance is not only beneficial to our lives, but the lives of all living things.
Some might balk at the idea of having too much time on their hands. Here's a hint on what to do with more free time, though: meditate. ;-)
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
It seems the content of this blog has gotten slightly stale of late, at least to my eyes...I can't seem to come up with topics to write about that truly inspire me. It looks like my writing has reached some sort of peak, in the sense that it honestly appears as if I've gone as far as I can go...writing doesn't seem to get me much of anywhere these days, be it in terms of recognition or adoration, paying the bills, or even personal gratification.
I will keep writing, and I will keep this blog alive by whatever means necessary. It's just that...well, in summary, I'm a bit burned out. Writing seems to be more of a chore these days than anything. I don't seem to be gaining anything from it. In response, I've tried going into some other artistic pursuits - I've tried drawing, most recently, and I can't seem to draw well even with instruction from a book or teacher. I've juggled around the idea of playing a musical instrument, but it seems like that road would lead to frustration. I know these aren't things that are learned overnight. I know one has to practice to be good at them. But for some reason, I can't muster the patience...
Perhaps this is the reason why worshipping Goddess Saraswati comes across as such a good idea to me right now, as She is the Goddess of Creativity. I've said some prayers/mantras to Her. I just wish inspiration, perseverance, and other such artistic blessings would come a little sooner...
I have the urge to create. I feel it's in my blood. But the urge to create, and the ability to create well, are two separate things, I've discovered. If I can't even create well, then why do I still have the urge? I'm even beginning to wonder what the point of me creating is. It's like I'm trying to attack the darkness - darkness isn't something that can be killed with just a candle. But that's all I have against it.
Please help me, Goddess Saraswati and Lord Ganesha...
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
During a recent meditation session, I had visions of the Goddess Saraswati. I'm not sure if they were strong visions at all, but they were to me, as She seemed to be on the forefront of my mind during this particular meditation session...and beyond. Even though these visions of Goddess Saraswati might be of little consequence or import, they've nonetheless stoked my curiosity about Her. What I've found makes me desire to worship Her more.
I know that all Gods and Goddesses in Hinduism are manifestations of the One, so She couldn't really be considered a separate Goddess from Lord Ganesha. If anything, in some regions of India, Goddess Saraswati is Lord Ganesha's sister! So it's not inconceivable that I would think of her during my mantra prayers to Lord Ganesha, which is when this happened. The one thing I've been told is that worshipping both Lord Ganesha and Goddess Saraswati is not only good practice, but common. This seems like something I might want to do.
For those who don't know, Goddess Saraswati is considered to be the Goddess of knowledge and the arts. She is often worshipped alongside Lord Ganesha to provide inspiration and remove mental obstacles to creativity. She is often depicted as having a swan as her mount. This was the first I saw of Her in my meditation - I saw the swan first, and when I figured out it was a swan, Goddess Saraswati took over my mind!
I offer this post to Goddess Saraswati and Lord Ganesha, to be my two guides through my blogging and my life.
Monday, January 28, 2013
Namaste readers! Recently I've begun a new undertaking in my Hindu practice - I have begun reading the Hindu epic known as the Ramayana. More specifically the Ramesh Menon translation, as that particular translation came highly recommended to me. Seeing as I don't know how to read the original Sanskrit the Ramayana was written in (I think, correct me if I'm wrong), this translation was as good as any for me.
So far I've reached chapter nine of book one of this translation. I have to say, I'm quite enthralled so far! Even from a purely literary standpoint the Ramayana is a revelation - its themes of good vs. evil and the ones chosen to fight this battle are timeless, of course, and have been written upon many, many times since then, but I never before have encountered a tale of this theme told so well and with this much...authority, for lack of a better term. Other similar tales seem pretentious in comparison.
Still, there are aspects of the Ramayana that make me feel a little...uncomfortable. However, maybe this uncomfortableness is a result of my own emotions and perceptions of reading this tale for the first time. I can't help but feel...envious, envious of the character Rama. I feel envy because Rama has so much adoration upon him for merely being born, and he is every bit deserving of such adoration because of his ability to literally save the world. Yeah, I know what you're thinking...how could I be envious of a God, of an incarnation of Lord Vishnu?
Let me explain. I think this envy comes from the powerlessness I feel in everyday life...powerlessness to change and defeat the evil that happens everyday in this world. I know no one human can change the world, but considering the everyday consumption I have to partake in, and how that consumption harms others... The point I'm getting at is that if I'm supposed to be of benefit to this world, why wasn't I born in a a place and time and with a temperament that's more suited to do so?
In summary, I want to believe that I'm of benefit to the world around me somehow, but then I look at the example of Rama...and I see an impossibly high standard. A bar so high I'd have to fly a plane to clear it.
Maybe this isn't what I'm supposed to feel when reading the Ramayana, but...my mind works in mysterious ways when it comes to this sort of thing. I know the laws of karma and dharma are unfathomable, but...it just seems unfair to have the responsibility of helping the world and not having the power to effectively do it!
Friday, January 25, 2013
I'm kind of going out on a limb here with my next post. The reason I say that is because I'm going to be talking about a video game in this post, more specifically the recently released fifth game in the Devil May Cry series (called simply DmC: Devil May Cry). While I'm not connecting it with Hinduism here (that's sort of impossible with a title such as Devil May Cry), I am going to make some commentary on it here which I hope provokes discussion along the lines of the theme of this blog. I certainly believe the new Devil May Cry game has moral lessons which should be embraced by all, even though it's most certainly violent in every way a video game can be; it's certainly not a title the kids can play, but I think adults who like video games will find much to enjoy and contemplate.
A little background first - the fifth Devil May Cry has been loathed and despised by many fans of the series, mainly for reasons I don't comprehend. These are the sorts of fans who want "change" and "innovation" in video games, yet they balk at the changes to Devil May Cry. This isn't a moral weakness unique to gamers, though...change to anything that's been long established is bound to be met with a negative reception. This goes into the first moral lesson I believe the new Devil May Cry can teach its adult players - one should give change a chance. Reacting to any change in a negative way, to put it simply, isn't worth it. Change is inevitable in life; it's better to learn to adapt than to curse this fundamental nature of the universe. "If you dance with the devil, the devil doesn't change, the devil changes you" (I can't remember who said that quote, but with DmC it certainly applies). Especially with video games, cursing change just isn't worth your time.
The main character of DmC, Dante, at first is aloof and uncaring about the world he inhabits and the people that populate it. He regularly fights demons, but only when he starts caring about humanity and wants to defend them does he gain power. This is another moral lesson I feel the game can teach its players - caring about your fellow human beings can uplift you. I haven't gotten a chance to play the whole game yet (I only just got it today), but it feels to me that Dante will change from being a cynical, jaded jerk to a true fighter for justice - albeit one with a foul mouth. (Yeah, the level of profanity is high in this game.)
Thirdly, the game has a highly moral political bent to begin with - the organizations that the demons control in this game are financial institutions, governments, and right-wing news broadcasters. Since Dante hunts demons, he's branded as a terrorist by these demon-controlled organizations. This certainly highlights the political direction America is going in - disagreement is becoming heated, and differences in opinion are being treated with increased disrespect. One shouldn't be branded a "terrorist" simply because he or she disagrees with the prevailing national attitude!
Granted, these observations may be a bit of a stretch, but I'm not trying to make DmC sound like a moral authority. Rather, I'm pointing out that these are universal moral themes that can be expressed in any medium, even in a video game as violent as DmC. As I play more of this game I will report back and see if it holds up under my moral scrutiny, but for now, suffice it to say that this is a mature game - not just because of its violent content, but the themes it tries to explore. I recommend this to any adult video game player who wants a cerebral tale of morality.