Monday, November 24, 2014

Too Many Questions

Namaste Light Club readers. Sorry for the absence. A lot has happened in my life recently, some good, some bad. What is good is that I have a new job that I will be starting soon - I don't want to divulge any details of it, but suffice it to say it's a job I think I will genuinely enjoy. :)

I just wish that news came under better circumstances. In case you don't know or haven't been paying attention, race relations in the US took a bit of a nosedive following the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri not to indict the white officer that fatally shot Michael Brown. The link I just posted here goes to a white anti-racist activist website run by Tim Wise, who offers his own commentary on what happened.

This raises a lot of questions in my mind. Most of the questions revolve around what I can do to fix this, and, well, I don't have any answers to that. There's too many questions swirling around in my mind at present for me to effectively make sense of anything regarding these events.

However, I do know one thing - one thing not to do in light of what's happened. And that is to blame myself and smother my mind in guilt. I know as a white person I'm a benefactor of a system that oppresses other people, whether I like it or not. Therefore it's my responsibility to do something about that. But one thing I've discovered is that miring myself in blame, guilt, and other negative emotions doesn't change a thing.

That brings me to the crux of what I'm trying to say here - what one personally feels is important, but it's not as important as what one does. To use an old cliche, actions speak louder than words. Actions are also good for one's mental health in times like these. No one person can change the world. But doing something, anything to try to counter these systems of oppression can at the very least purify your soul.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Special Announcement, Now With Video!

Namaste readers - actually, you're going to be viewers today because this next blog post is a video! In case you didn't know, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, is going to be visiting New York City on September 28 to speak at Madison Square Garden. I made this video about this upcoming event, because I'm looking to attend myself. :)

Please watch, if you so desire:
video

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mata Lakshmi

Namaste readers! This blog post will be sort of short, as it's mainly a question I wish to ask the audience.

A friend of mine recently recommended that to improve my current economic situation, I should worship and pray to Goddess Lakshmi. But my question is, what is the best way to do it? I know Goddess Lakshmi to be the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, among other things, from my preliminary internet research. However, I would like to know ways to worship Her...preferably ways that are within my meager means.

If anyone can help me in my quest to reach Mata Lakshmi, I will be in your debt. :-)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Unintentional Yatra

Namaste readers! As cliche as this opening line may be, a funny thing happened on the way to the Hindu Temple of Rochester last night...

Last night, I attempted to take the bus to the Hindu Temple of Rochester, to attend Sankat Hara Chaturthi, a puja performed in honor of Shri Ganesha. The bus system here in Rochester is a bit of a mixed bag...it's cheap, on one hand, a plus for me since I can't afford a car, but you get what you pay for, in the form of confusing routes that don't really get you where you need to go sometimes.

This was hardly the first time I took the bus in Rochester - I live here, after all - but what ended up happening is I wound up on the completely wrong bus! In a semi-panic, I had to get off three, maybe four miles from my destination. I then had to walk the rest of the way.

It seemed like a Herculean (maybe Krishna-sized) task walking all those miles in a single hour, and my right foot protested incessantly in pain as a result. But I still made it there. And on time! I was certainly a sweaty mess when I got there, but I was still accepted at the temple to partake in the puja.

I brought this up on Facebook and a Hindu discussion forum, trying to make sense of what had happened. One forum goer had an interesting idea: apparently in India, there are special walking pilgrimages one can undertake called yatra. Oftentimes these yatra are pretty lengthy, and since it's a pilgrimage the ultimate destination is a Hindu religious place.

This forum goer suggested that maybe Shri Ganesha wanted me to undertake a yatra. I don't know if walking through an American suburb would count as a yatra, but regardless of where I walked through, the end result was the opportunity to worship Ganesha...so maybe it's not that far off the mark.

At any rate, I certainly feel I've accomplished something.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Shri Ganapati, Show Me the Way

Namaste readers! I've had a...revelation of sorts. No, it didn't take the form of a special vision or literal miracle or anything like that, but rather it was a thought that stuck with me. That thought: I should place even more trust in my Ishta Devata, Shri Ganesha (also known as Ganapati) than I do now, and to that end, I should show more devotion towards him, as I feel a swelling of devotion towards him in my heart right now.

I guess the origin of this revelation is the dark period I'm going through right now - perhaps my mind suddenly wanting to seek out Shri Ganesha even more now is probably a sign that my soul has had enough. I know what some people will say - that I should focus on more real matters, and not worry so much about Shri Ganesha.

To that I say: would it be too much to do both? Working towards bettering my situation is definitely my primary goal, but can't I have two primary goals, the other being to engross and envelop myself in Shri Ganesha's love?

After all, it's not like I have anything better to do. :)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

10,000 Views!

Namaste readers! I probably should have written about this milestone when it happened, but recently my blog has hit the milestone of 10,000 views! I don't know how many of those were legitimate versus how many were spam bots trolling the web, but regardless, this is a big milestone and I want to thank everyone who has read my blog. You readers are the reason this blog is still around, so again I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I think I will mark this milestone with a dream I had tonight, which I remember very vividly and I hope to share with you readers. This is partially to write this down, as I feel it's important to remember it.

In this dream, I apparently had an opportunity to meet Lord Vishnu, which seemed unusual, but I was elated! Upon meeting him, he seemed to send me off to a female consort (who I didn't know anything about), and this consort then told me that in my next life I was going to be a tiger, and that beforehand I was to undergo some testing. As if to reflect this fact, I could actually feel myself becoming a tiger, growing the tiger fur and everything! The testing seemed to consist of me being a tiger cub (or maybe a house cat?) and testing what decisions I would make. I remember making some decisions regarding what I would do in certain situations...and then I abruptly woke up.

I have no idea what this means, if it should be taken literally, or if there's a deeper meaning, or if this dream is of no consequence at all. Perhaps one of you readers might have some insight? You will have better insight than those internet spam bots, at any rate! :-)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

On X-Men: Days of Future Past, and its Unexpected Spirituality

Namaste readers!

I recently wrote a piece for the official Art of Living blog on the recently released movie X-Men: Days of Future Past. It's been published and you can find it here:

http://artoflivingsblog.com/art-of-living-x-men-days-of-future-past/

As for what it's about, in summary it's about the unexpected spiritual angles of this most recent of X-Men movies. There are mild spoilers in this piece, but don't let that stop you if you've already seen it, of course. :)


Monday, May 12, 2014

Short Book Review: the Power of Dharma

Namaste readers,

Recently I've had the pleasure of reading an eBook on how the scriptures of ancient India can be applied to modern times. This book is none other than The Power of Dharma, written by Dr. Nicholas Sutton and Hemal Randerwala.
The Power of Dharma is a unique book, in the sense that it has taken the scriptures of ancient India and Hinduism and found ways to interpret them for the modern world; while this book isn’t the first or only text to do so, what is unique about this work is that it has ways to apply the ancient wisdom of India to everyday life in present times. This is important because the scriptures of ancient India have valuable things to teach the modern world about topics such as altruism and working to benefit others. What is especially important about The Power of Dharma is that the book offers guidance on how to properly balance the needs of oneself vs. the needs of others! After all, if one cannot take care of oneself, it is doubly hard to take care of others as a result. This I would say is why reading this book is so important, because it actually offers compelling, relevant advice on how to live dharmically, as to live in that way is the epitome of the aforementioned need of balancing the needs of oneself vs. others.

There are two ways which you can acquire this book: one is through the website GoDharmic.com, where you can also find more writings by Hemal Randerwala. You can also buy the book through Amazon.com.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Fract OSC Bhajan Adaptation

Namaste readers! I'm doing more experimentation with Fract OSC, but this experiment...well, let me just tell you what it is and you can decide for yourselves.

At the suggestion of a friend of mine from India, I made a Fract OSC synth version of the Hindu devotional bhajan Jai Ganesha Deva.
Upon learning of my ability to make synth music with Fract, she suggested I try making Fract synth versions of songs from India. I decided to start simple by adapting a Hindu devotional song (called a bhajan) to Lord Ganesha, as I've been trying to practice the Hindu faith for a number of years. (But you regular readers of my blog already knew that.)

I realize I might be opening myself up to potential scrutiny and criticism by doing this, but my friend from India had a firm belief that this would be accepted and supported by potential listeners. If this offends anyone I do apologize; all I ask is that you give me the benefit of a doubt and know that I did this not out of intentional malice but genuine devotion. Thank you. :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I Make Ritual Noise

Namaste readers!

It is said that creative acts, such as making music, can be beneficial for the soul. Well, for quite a while, at least in the music category, I was creatively barren for some time - the last time I picked up an instrument was a saxophone during my elementary school years. I've listened to lots of music across many genres since then, but while I had the thought of trying to create music again, I never had the courage (or resources, for that matter) to try.

Now, I guess you could say I've found my muse, so to speak. There is a video game out there, independent in nature of course, called Fract OSC, which is not only an adventure game where you solve puzzles to generate music, it's also a tool with which to make music! My computer kept getting bogged down during the game part, though, so I took the shortcut of unlocking all the music creation features (which is allowed in game through the menus).

From there, I decided to try my hand at making music. I made my first ever electronic song in this game, and if you're interested, you can listen here on YouTube.
I realize it might not be of the best quality music in the world, but hey, I gotta start somewhere. Hopefully my first effort is at least enjoyable.

At the very least, I think I've found a creative outlet that I can access with ease. At the end of the day, that's what matters.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A SPARX of Life

Namaste readers,

Sorry for the lack of updates. My real life has been quite busy of late, but this time in a positive way - I have made great progress in the search for another paying job. I might actually be employed soon, should the grace of Shri Ganesha bless me!

However, the main focus of this blog post is to recommend something. It's something that has helped me in recent days, and while I can't guarantee it will work for you, it probably wouldn't hurt to try it out. I am referring to a video game called SPARX - this is a video game designed to help people suffering from depression and related mental illnesses by teaching a set of skills called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.

My therapist kept mentioning cognitive behavior therapy as a way to change how I act in the situations that provoke negative feelings in me. But learning CBT has been a bit difficult for me, mainly because there was no easy way for me to remember what to do when difficult mental situations arise. However, from my experience with SPARX so far, this might be a real way for me to learn, as it gives you opportunities to practice CBT, in a way.

I've only done the first level so far - they recommend doing one a week or thereabouts. But it looks promising. I know I keep saying that, but to me it really does - I have to admit, one way to get me to learn something is by putting it in video game format. That's because video games involve me, rather than have me passively watch and listen.

If you want to take a look for yourself, check it out here: http://linkedwellness.com/play-sparx-the-video-game-for-depression/

Other than that, Ganesha bless, readers. :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Nurturing the Crazy

Namaste readers,

Ever since I got laid off from my full-time job, I've obviously been looking for work, but in addition to regular full-time jobs, I've been nurturing some crazy ideas for how to pay the bills. By crazy I mean fun stuff I've been wanting to do but might be out of my reach at present.

One of these crazy ideas? Travel writing. Obviously I can't fund it myself because, well, I'm currently unemployed, but at least I have a unique goal in mind: there are plenty of Hindu holy places around the world, not just in India but in places like Bali, Mauritius, and more. And as someone who wants to embrace Hinduism as a Westerner, I do want to visit some of these places - and perhaps in the process share my experiences with other Westerners who are interested in the faith.

Since I have little experience in travel writing (although some of my blog entries might count as travel writing - see "On (Not) Being a Beautiful and Unique Snowflake" from the Most Popular posts section of the sidebar), and practically no contacts in the travel writing or travel institutions in general, this is indeed a lofty goal.

But in between my regular job hunting sessions...well, do I really have anything better to do?

I'm sure if I put forth the effort and time, something will come of it eventually. Who knows, this might be the time for me to shine.

Friday, March 14, 2014

My Opinion on the Whole Wendy Doniger Book Scandal

Namaste readers,

Whew. It's been a while since I last posted. There's a good reason for that. I recently got laid off from my employer, so I've been scrambling to make the best out of a bad situation by seeking out new jobs, new writing opportunities, etc. So this blog has understandably fallen by the wayside while more important matters were seen to.

However, I wanted to take some time today to finally return to this blog and render my opinion on a matter of great debate in the Hindu community of late - the publisher-led banning of scholar Wendy Doniger's book The Hindus: An Alternative History (it's not the government of India banning it, mind you). This is one area where I've been hesitant to render an opinion, seeing as I haven't read the book in question (it's still available in the United States to my knowledge but, honestly, I hesitate to buy it).

Still, there are aspects of this I can render an opinion on. First of all, while this may be considered censorship on the part of the publisher, Ms. Doniger should have seen this coming, because of her selective interpretation of historical facts and Hindu religious practices. Ms. Doniger has taken a rather narrow view of Hinduism and its associated culture, focusing overtly on all its negatives while neglecting its positives. I'm sure if she wrote a book about Christians in the same style she wrote The Hindus, she'd get a similar reaction from readers and publishers here in the United States. I don't know Ms. Doniger's opinions on Christianity, but the fact that she chose such an approach to Hinduism without first establishing a background of criticism of other religions (particularly Western ones) does seem rather suspect.

There could have been a number of ways Ms. Doniger could have approached the subject of Hinduism and addressed its flaws. The approach she eventually chose should not have been one of them, because, again, she isn't known for her work on other religions (if she did work on other religions; again, I'm not familiar with Ms. Doniger's other work). I understand the need to pick one's battles and the need for focus, but let's face it - there aren't that many scholarly works that openly approve of Hinduism here in the West. There are some, don't get me wrong, but not enough to counter the critical ones, in my humble opinion. Ergo, if Ms. Doniger wanted to be taken seriously on the subject, she should have taken that into account.

I realize this blog post seems more like a criticism of Ms. Doniger's methods rather than her message, but seeing as I haven't read the message from The Hindus: An Alternative History, I can't really comment on that. The most I can comment on here is the way it's been handled, which can most definitely be criticized, on both ends. It certainly highlights the need for two-sided dialogue, because a dialogue that favors either side at this point can only end in tragedy.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

To Whom am I a Disciple?

Namaste readers!

I've been thinking a lot about the concept of formal conversion lately. I know many say formal conversion is not necessary to become a Hindu, while others say it's extremely necessary.

These thoughts have entered my mind recently because I was thinking a formal conversion might be to my benefit - if anyone questions my sincerity, I can look to my conversion and say, "it doesn't get more sincere than that!" I just don't know which groups are willing to accept me beyond the Art of Living.

This conundrum reminds me of the Hindu saying "it is not the disciple who chooses the guru, it is the guru who chooses the disciple." But it's not like a guru will suddenly appear out of the blue and say I am his disciple. Still, how do I search for a guru if I can't make the decision myself?

I need some advice on the situation - should I formally convert, and to which Hindu group? It's a rather personal question, I know, but I honestly don't know what to think.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Language of God(s)

Namaste, readers.

I honestly don't know what Sri Ganesha and the other Gods are trying to tell me. The bottom has sunken further beneath me, as I've been cut from full-time to part-time at work, greatly reducing my income and my ability to be independent.

That's pretty much the biggest problem I'm facing right now, and it's pretty significant, but it's been making me wonder why things have happened the way they have been to me. I have several theories, but I have no way of telling which one is correct.

Perhaps Sri Ganesha wanted to teach me what real problems were like, as opposed to my quibbling over my inborn human identities. I'm not sure how valid this theory is - why try to teach me about suffering by compounding it? Wouldn't that obscure the message?

However, a friend of mine did say that perhaps this is a sign that maybe I should start fighting back...since I only have part-time hours now, I have more time to find a better job I actually like to do more. Combined with the prior theory, it actually makes sense. Perhaps Sri Ganesha is compounding the suffering to teach me that I should do something about it!

I'm just not sure how best to go about it. I've made several job applications; some have been turned down already, but many I simply haven't heard back. I have hope and faith that something good will happen, but the rational side of my mind says not to count on it. I'm like Fox Mulder from the X-Files...I want to believe.

I do believe in Sri Ganesha, Sri Krishna, Maa Saraswati, and the others...I just don't know what they're trying to tell me, what they have in store for me, or whatever. Deciphering the language of God(s) is always tricky. But if any of you readers have input, I'd love to hear it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Further Down the Spiral

My progression towards the emotional abyss continues...

First the deterioration of diplomatic relations between the US and Indian governments...and now an American professor's book, Wendy Doniger's "The Hindus: An Alternative History" (which I will not link to here for reasons I shall explain) is being recalled and pulped in India, as it was considered a direct attack on Hindu religion.

You're probably wondering what this has to do with me, why I'm so emotionally distraught over this. I haven't even read the book, so I can't render a direct opinion on it...even so, it's India's right to react how it wants to such texts, so I have no objections to their actions.

But what it has to do with me is that it's further evidence that who I was born as - a white male American citizen, the same people who apparently harbor such hatred of India and Hinduism and inflict damage on it whenever they can - that my identities are a punishment from God!

I want to love India and Hinduism, and its associated culture. I do dearly now and nothing will change that. But as my fellow countrymen prove time and time again, people like me do not deserve to be loved back.

I wish I could fight back against them. Not with violence, mind you, but I wish I could change their thinking, change their perceptions, change their attitude somehow. But I'm an impotent coward who melts when talking to such people. I completely break down in their presence and don't know what to do. And for that reason, I am a failure.

Because of my failure, I will forever be condemned to being the identities I was born as. A punishment that grows in its torture by the day! I honestly wonder what kind of past life I might have led to deserve this torture. Was I someone like Hitler? Or Custer?

I've been judged and I deserve to be judged. I don't know what I can do to redeem myself.

Why am I the way I am, God? Why am I so impotent? Why am I being punished like this? Why...

Monday, January 27, 2014

...But it Isn't Yet

Okay, after that last depressing blog post inspired by the opening for season five of Fringe, I feel it is my duty to you readers to post this. Hopefully it will lift your spirits after my last post. :)
Happiness may be becoming a "fringe" thought, but it isn't yet, so let's enjoy it while we can.

When Happiness Becomes a Fringe Thought

Namaste readers,

Recently I have just started watching the TV series known as Fringe, and I've been enjoying it immensely. I'm only up to episode six so far...I know, I have a lot of catching up to do. But I've done a little reading up on the series, and while I didn't read enough to spoil all the seasons and the ending, I did read that the intro for the fifth and final season is different from the others.

Here it is:
Apparently the text in the season five opening represents ideas that have become the "fringe" in the setting of the TV show. In other words, by the time the story progresses to season five, things like joy, imagination, and even the very concept of freedom have all become "fringe" ideas.

The time setting for season five is the year 2036. Yet here we are in 2014...and the ideas in this TV intro are already being pushed to the fringe. It's not just happening in America, either. The whole world is in the process of making these ideas seem like those of a lunatic fringe.

Yes, I'm scared about the future. And I don't see much hope either. I know some say we should focus on the present...that the present holds the key to happiness. But when the present society seems keen on pushing the idea of happiness outside of its possibilities...what else will follow happiness on its way out?

Okay, this post is getting a bit depressing, and I'm starting to sound like a hypocrite. It's just hard to maintain a state of functionality when happiness seems to be the antithesis of progress. I honestly don't know what to do.

Friday, January 10, 2014

My Own Personal Hell: An Open Letter to US Attorney for Southern District of New York Preet Bharara (and the Rest of the US Government)

(Namaste readers,

The reason why this blog post is titled the way it is, is because I am going to send copies of this post, slightly modified, to whichever US government officials I can get in touch with to protest the arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, and the fallout it has created between the US and India. This incident has been highly damaging to my mental health for reasons I shall cite below, and I feel it is my right as a human being and American citizen to express the mental hurt the US government has caused me as a result of this incident. If you can, please share this far and wide. Even and especially as a white male American citizen, the actions of my government have tainted me as a human being and I will not let this be ignored by them.

EDIT: Preet Bharara's title has been corrected. He is NOT the US Attorney General, at least not according to a Google search.)

Dear US Attorney for Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, and other concerned US government officials,

My name is Phillip Miner, and I live in Rochester, NY. I was born and raised in this city, which has been at times called an "All-American City" by its own marketers, although the minor league hockey team Rochester, NY has, called the Rochester Americans, certainly helps with the nickname.

As much as I love my country and want to be part of it, though, it is important to note that I did not choose to be born here. It was by the will of the universe - I don't know if you want to call it God or not - that I was born in Rochester, in New York state, in the country of the United States of America, as a human male with a skin color commonly called "white." It is these identities that have been the source of much of my strife as of late, in no small part thanks to the actions of USA government officials who claim to represent me and commit injustices seemingly on my behalf.

The most recent of these injustices was the arrest and ill-treatment of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade. As a result of the actions surrounding her case, other people from around the world have associated me, because of the aforementioned human identities I was assigned, with the other grave injustices the US government has committed around the world. Whether or not the association is justified, it is still my reality.

It is my reality because of the fact that I am a white male American citizen, and it means whether I like it or not, I have a lot to answer for. As someone who benefits from white skin privilege in this country and beyond, I know it is my moral duty as a human being to dismantle this white privilege system that has oppressed others in whatever ways I can, because I benefit. I was born guilty of racism and inhumanity because of this fact. I also want to redeem myself and show the world that I do not want the benefits of white privilege, that I can rise above and beyond the racist system that some of my fellow countrymen have constructed for the benefit of people like me. A benefit I do not want, I must say again.

When international relations are soured through such negligence and wanton disregard for rights as the arrest and ill-treatment of Devyani Khobragade, it denies me the opportunity to make things right. It shatters any and all progress I've made of cleansing myself of the sins of the past. It reminds me that no personal progress I make towards becoming anti-racist and a moral human being matters, because there is always an authority that acts on my behalf, who represents me, whose actions always override anything I do.

I know the United States of America is a democracy, and therefore what the majority of people want and decide upon in elections is what commonly goes into effect as law. You might defend your decisions by saying "this is what the people want," and I should live with it. However, it is important to note that an important aspect of freedom - which you claim to uphold - is freedom of association, the freedom to interact with other people who one desires to.

Actions such as the arrest of the Indian diplomat deny me of this right. Even if the rest of my countrymen do not want cordial relations with India - and if you merely go by what is posted on Internet forums, they seemingly do not, although the Internet is rarely representative of reality - to act with wanton disregard for international relations denies me of the right to free association, because of the fact that it taints my image in the eyes of people from other countries.

I want to talk about patriotism for a moment. Patriotism has a very broad definition, and does not simply mean blind nationalism. It can also mean representing the best of one's country, to show that one's country can adapt - to not only be a sword when injustice elsewhere in the world is present, but also a shield to be a genuine protector of other people. This means that being cognizant and respectful of other nations' cultures, honor, and values, can be patriotic, because it shows one's home nation is tolerant, and therefore worthy of respect. Isn't this why the Peace Corps was originally founded decades back? To show that Americans are generally tolerant, peaceful, and willing to help other nations?

One of the fundamental freedoms Americans enjoy today is the opportunity to be patriotic in ways we, as citizens, want to express. And not just the nationalistic citizens, but ones who want to put forward a positive image of Americans as well. Incidents like the arrest of the Indian diplomat jeopardize that freedom.

I know a lot has happened since the initial incident and much has been written on it since then, but my points still stand. What the US government does in its relations with other nations personally affects the lives of those who live here. Therefore it is of vital importance that the US government do whatever it can to repair its relations with India and the rest of the world.

Otherwise, the United States of America becomes one's own personal Hell for people like me.

Sincerely,

Phillip Miner

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Stayin' Alive

Namaste readers,

Sorry if that last post left you on a bit of a cliffhanger. I am actually doing much better than when I wrote that post, though it took a few days. Shadows always give way to light eventually.

The main reason I haven't updated this blog until now, though, is because I've been busy with other projects. One of these projects is another blog I've made - this new blog is a fan blog about the board game Level 7: Omega Protocol. Obviously this blog has been made to appeal to fans of the game and its genre, but feel free to check it out if you're curious. You can find it here, at Aliens vs. Disco.

I can't write much more at this very moment, but suffice it to say that keeping busy has been the key to lifting me out of the depression I was previously in. I'll try to keep updating this blog as much as possible, but the pace might be slower. Hope you don't mind...it most likely means I'm keeping myself happy with other tasks. :)