Buddhism, love, yoga, yoga in politics, yoga politics

Voting As a Yogi

Yogis (practitioners of yoga) believe in (and live by) a few principles, if they truly follow the path of yoga (as more than just a different type of workout). We base our practices first on non-violence, which simplifies candidate choice immensely. In fact, it eliminates the ‘Big Two’ (Democrats and Republicans), whose platforms obviously and loudly promote war and militarism.

It’s quite simple…either we are for peace and non-violence, or not. It is impossible to vote for candidates who start or promote wars in sovereign countries and still tell ourselves we support non-violence and non-harming.

yoga journey

As yogis, we also believe in the unity of people, the inclusion and consideration of others in our thoughts and actions (and voting decisions). Thus, parties who exclude others are easily removed from our consideration. This effectively eliminates the Libertarian, Constitution Party, and the ‘Independent’ parties.

That is quite simple as well. Any party or group that does not allow the rights and privileges we claim for ourselves to others is beyond the pale of humanity, beyond what we as people aspiring toward decency (if not divinity) could accept.

What is left? What choices do our yogic values leave us? They leave us only with minority, mostly progressive parties. These are parties people say are for the dreamers, for those who look at the world through rose-colored glasses. These are the parties with few votes or seemingly few chances of winning.

black sheep

Do we care? No, we are dreamers, in a world that seems bent on killing each other. Yes, we look at the best in the world, try to see (and invoke) the best in ourselves and others. Call us stupid and naive, but we follow the Higher Path, one pointed out by sages throughout the ages, and by our own hearts.

Do we stick to our beliefs? Yes, if we are truly yogis and not just people out copying the latest fad. Our confidence comes from knowing that some things are indubitably right, such as consideration, compassion, and understanding (and the political parties that promote -and act out- these values).

Yogis ascribe to other values, values I suggest we all could benefit from using as a compass or guideline when dealing with each other (and politics is all about dealing with each other). These observances and prescriptions (yama and niyama) are our basic ‘Bible’ (and as we can see, they do not interfere with the sacred literature or beliefs of any truly non-violent and peaceful belief system. They are:

yoga sutra

Observances:

Restraint, observance, posture, breath-control, sense-withdrawal, concentration, meditation-absorption and enstasy.

These are mostly internal observances, and merely help us to discern clearly between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, to help us see beyond the unreal to what is Real. They are not directly related to politics, but help us to discern clearly (as reasonable and peaceful political decisions require).

Restraints:

Non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, chastity (in ways different than you think), and greedlessness (or non-coveting).

These restraints can and do help us in choosing political candidates and parties.

Violence: How can we support people who advocate violent means to solve problems? How could we possibly support candidates who espouse these (violence-begetting) solutions? Wars on drugs, wars on terrorism, wars on crime have all proven to be futile, and have caused (and do cause) more problems than they solve. How could a yogi who believes in non-violence support such things? The clear and easy fact is…they cannot.

Honesty: How can we vote for candidates that knowingly and willfully lie to us, those they are supposed to represent? How can they engage in ‘shady’ affairs and still hope to get our support? How could we support candidates who play semantical games with the truth? How could we support them when they do such things?

Non-stealing: When we invade sovereign countries, when we use power to force others to do our bidding, we attempt to steal their liberty and freedom. When we live richly, a nation of fat people while others starve (or promote policies that seek to continue this madness) we effectively take food out of the mouths of others to feed our own gluttony. How could any yogi support such things? How could any Buddhist or reasonable person?

Chastity: How could we support candidates who speak in sexual terms, award or seek outward appearances more than substantial realities? How could we support a empire-building paradigm that seeks to impose our own vices and lack of modesty and respect on other cultures?

Greedlessness: How could we support policies that put people out of their homes, result in massive numbers of refugees, or otherwise marginalize others, policies which seek to gain ascendancy over them to support our own greed?

These basic guidelines of yoga (and I contend of all reasonable people worldwide) can definitely help us in discerning who (and who not) to vote for. ‘Pragmatic’ considerations, and other justifications cannot be used to dilute the undeniable truth of these core principles we believe in. If it is wrong to harm others, then it is always wrong. Saying we need to put aside what our hearts and consciences tell us to gain some ‘practical’ or ‘tactical’ (or even ‘strategic’) goal are nothing but situational morality…essentially immorality, as convenience dictates.

The idea of ‘preemptive strikes’, ‘collateral damage’, and ‘justified war’ are insanity to us, the mere justifications of madmen and warmongers. The idea of imposing our might on others, loss of civil rights for our own ‘security’, and many of the other things promoted by the Big Two parties has proven to be pure and unadulterated madness.

Earth burning

Choices are simplified by yogic guidelines, and obviously inappropriate candidates can be eliminated, but still hard choices remain. We might ask ourselves ‘would one of the sages vote for one type of madness to avoid another?’ Would they accept a little bit of war, but merely because we just had to? We must ask ourselves these questions, and decide if we truly believe and live by yogic principles, or if they are just ‘guidelines’, to be conveniently altered at our convenience.

Only yogis can ask these questions, each individual yogi, in the confines of their hearts. Only they can ask…does this candidate or platform reflect my yogic values? Only the individual yogi can know the truth of their own heart, and the answers that come naturally from them.

We must decide if we want to use our votes to reflect our consciences and beliefs, or to achieve the political goals of someone else. We must decide if our votes are commodities, to be bought by the highest bidder, or if they are reflection of our vision for ourselves and our nation. In the case of the latter, we vote not to win, but to be right…according to our own hearts and convictions, to our own ideals. It doesn’t matter if our votes serve to make someone else win or lose, for we know what our own truth and thus duty in this matter is.

arjuna

It’s like the tales of the Great Epic: the warrior (Arjuna) had to simply perform his own duty, as he saw it, without regard to imagined consequences. He had to do only what was right by his lights, and let the chips fall where they may. That’s all we as yogis (and humans) can hope to do. We vote what we believe, and let the chips fall where they may. Dang the durn torpedoes and straight ahead, as they say.

So our beliefs can undoubtedly help us in our political decisions, but even so, many good options exist. Among the choices, a yogi can hope to discern, take action to help them discern more clearly. Read the platforms of the remaining parties. Feel the truth of what they stand for in your heart, and pick the one which resonates best. Does Green seem a bit more humane and conscientious than socialist? Do their voting records seems so? Or does the opposite seem true to you, feel true to you? Then vote that way, in confidence that you have evaluated the candidates and platforms, given thought, consideration (and heart) to the issue, and done your best as you know it.

This will relieve us from political arguments, concerns, or divisive ‘debates’, and allow us to focus on the things that matter, the things dear to us: life, our practices, those we love, the things we can do to help make this a better planet, to help make us better people. If we vote by these guidelines, we can’t go wrong.

heart om2

peace earth

Yogi brothers and sisters, friends, New Romans, fellow countrymen (the three who might read these words), lend me your ears and hearts, give me the boon of your true consideration. If you feel my words resonate, or are merely worth considering, please share them with your friends.

(c) 2016 Mark Francis Mullen. Please do not reproduce without permission. Publication on Facebook or other social media are not intended to (or able to) assign any rights to the same.

 

Advertisements
Standard
Buddhism, chakra science, life, love, miscellaneous maunderings, spiritual consumers, western yoga, yoga, yoga science, yoga transformation

Selling me Enlightenment

In the western world, yoga is a ‘growth industry’. So I am not surprised when people try to sell me yoga spin-offs…or yoga itself. In their exuberance and desire to share, they might forget that they can’t sell me what I already own. Yet I get it, and am glad they are excited enough to even try.

I’d take a pair of PF Flyers. Sometimes I do. I like them and am glad to be sold a pair. Oh, hold it…you don’t need to sell PF Flyers…they sell themselves…kinda like yoga does. They could sell me a chance to dance under the summer sky as well – but I already do.

unicorn stars

I know a woman who is the perfect enlightenment consumer. She travels all over the world, attending classes and course and seminars on stuff like tantric massage, non-dualism, whatever seems to interest her. She buys beads and yoga classes and Esalen courses like they are going out of style. She could probably feed an entire African village on the money she spends yearly on this stuff.

Still, I’m down. It’s her money and she earned it. I might do the same if I was as monetarily ‘rich’ as she was (is). Might. I might buy me some new mala beads, or pay to go to one of those groovy juice cleanses, or take a course on manifesting the Divine through my eyes and smile. Maybe. Or maybe I’d just buy an apple or some PF Flyers.

PF

It used to kind of freak me out how our Noble Path has become littered with billboards selling hints on how to get further down the path. Sometimes those commercial come-ons are planted right in the middle of the path. Yeah, it used to freak me out, kind of like selling sex does. I found it slightly abhorrent, a bit tawdry, and generally in poor taste.

See, the merchants trying to sell me these beads and trinkets were…merchants. When I considered their words, I also observed their eyes. Did the products they tried to sell me work for them? Were their lives visibly improved by the products they were selling?  Quite often they had that same look all salesmen have, no matter what they are selling.

salesman

These days, I am quite a bit more open to what they are selling, and the fact they are selling it. After all, they have to eat too. I remain less enthusiastic about being sold something. Once again, a caveat – I get it. Selling something of real value (like yoga or associated ‘products’) is perhaps even helpful. I am quite sure I would benefit from these offerings. Yet in the end, I see the money I might spend as a new set of drums for a young drummer, or as broccoli when I most need it, or maybe a new pair of PF Flyers.

From my words above, I can see that while those merchants might be sellers, I am somewhat of a consumer; I evaluate products and their worth, look for the best buy, for the ‘most bang for my buck’ (even though I don’t want bangs and have few bucks to spend on anything superfluous). So I find when I ‘point a finger’ at merchants, I am also pointing at myself; when I look askance at those sellers, I am pointing my skepticism at myself.

Some of the people ostensibly ‘selling’ to me are merely offering products they found helpful themselves, and they have a desire to share that with others. Some work on a ‘commission’ of helpfulness, of spreading knowledge and healing. They may get some money as an epiphenomenon (sort of a residual result of their actions). They may use money to signify the exchange of energy. In those cases, unabashed mercantilism is a bit more palatable, makes quite a bit more sense.

They know I am a ‘poor’ yogi, somewhat of a renunciate…but still they try. Kundalini classes, cleanses, ecstatic dance (as if I need to be sold that, which to me is natural). They do it in good faith and with an open heart. They never ‘hard sell’…and on consideration, most of them don’t really sell at all. They simply offer, offer what is indubitably a good deal.

So where does the ‘problem’ lie…in their innocent (and perhaps ingrained) commercialism, or in my (quite possibly unreasonable) resistance to that perceived commercialism? Who knows? As an author, I can rarely give concrete answers, just ask questions…or simply state my viewpoint of the moment, allow the thought-clouds to drift away through the world, released from the expansive confines of my mind.

Jumping

I wrote a blog about ‘Selling Yoga’ a few years back. Since, I may have refined my views on the subject (as I may later on this one). It’s an ongoing process, revising and refining my perspective. What seems true today may seem like horse dung tomorrow; it’s the way of the world, dontcha know? So I just blab these thoughts out in words, and later read and consider them. Sometimes it seems like someone else wrote those words, someone slightly (or totally) ridiculous. Sometimes it seems like someone fairly wise wrote them.

light

To paraphrase a famous quote (whose author I forget at the moment), how will I know what I think unless I say it? How can I examine what I ostensibly think unless I put it out there for later consideration and assessment? Sort of an odd logic, but somehow relevant despite that. So I say stuff, any crazy old thing that pops into my head, or piques my attention and demands my consideration. Then I regard what I have said..does it ring true? What are other valid viewpoints on this subject? Are any viewpoints or insights more valuable than another? I don’t know, but still I do it.

So here I am, about to embark on another great day, full of play and laughter, full of fun. Along the way, I may get a glimpse of enlightenment. Most likely I will not buy or rent it from others. I don’t want their brand of enlightenment, but my own (even if it is a poor facsimilie for the real thing).

meditator

Give me something, freely offered, and I will gladly accept (assuming it is worth having). Share ideas, concepts, or action that may be helpful to me, and I’m down. Try to sell me something, and I will most likely RUN. Or resist. It’s just me..being the current version of me.

me 4

Standard
Buddhism, chakra science, hot yoga, life, love, meditation, miscellaneous maunderings, Uncategorized, vinyasa yoga, western yoga, yoga, yoga science, yoga transformation

‘Hot’ Yogis and ‘Vinyasa’ Yogis

I spent about six years doing daily classes of Vinyasa yoga (well, Ashtanga to be more specific). Sometimes before my morning flow(s), I’d take a hot class. Recently (the last two years) I have been taking ‘hot’ (what used to be called ‘Bikram’) yoga classes almost exclusively. The differences between the two (and the people who gravitate to one or the other) seem at first glance substantial, but let’s explore this further…

During this time (mentioned above), I noticed some ostensible differences between those who regularly attend hot classes and those who attend ‘flow’ classes. Before I get into those perceived differences, let me first share my own experience, and then let’s focus on the commonalities between the two.

In my initial experience, I first found ‘hot’ yoga to be, well…too hot. It also seemed far too regimented to me, with a defined and basically never-changing sequence. How was one to find and express bhakti or samadhi under these conditions? Contributing to my initial reservations, Bikram Choudry had ‘patented’ this ancient warm-up sequence, and even the dialog associated with it. The fact he was later accused of violating the sexual spaces of his students somehow added (illogically or not) to my growing aversion.

After six or so years of Vinyasa, I sort of ‘forced’ myself to go and see what was up with this almost cultish group of people. I sensed that in avoiding these types of classes, or in my nascent ‘aversion’ to them, I was missing a key yogic lesson. So I decided to immerse in it, see what I could learn, what I could experience, what ‘truths’ (or insights) might reveal themselves to me in the course of this journey.

What I discovered was (as with almost all life)  not what I had expected or perceived from the outside looking in. At first, it seemed incredibly hard. Not the postures (essentially basic), but the durn old heat…the sweat dripping into my face and nostrils, pressing on me palpably, like a closely fitting (smothering?) hot air suit, or the embrace of the mythical Satan (or Looficer, as I prefer to call this idea, as the dyslexic satanists do). It was just so darn triggering…it reminded me of Djibouti, Somalia, Iraq, Kuwait, Quatar…super hot places (in the now common parlance of P.T.S.D. and ‘veterans issues’, it ‘triggered’ me…or tried to). I could feel my H.P.A. (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) axis fire up, giving me P.T.S.D.-like symptoms. I could feel my mind and memories (or my amygdala and hippocampus, to be more precise) trying to ‘go back’ to those memories, not all good.

It was hard to find time or ‘head-space’ (heart space) to be filled with gratitude, with devotion in the midst of all that heat and potential triggering. It was hard enough to stay focused, maintain my calm breath (and thus mind) and ‘do the drill.’ I was much more soothed by my home Kundalini or Yin practices. What was so good about this nonsense? Why was I even here?

The people seemed super-focused, almost grim in their concentration, determination, and almost religious attendance (and adherence to rituality). We didn’t ‘OM’ or talk about ‘spiritual stuff’ much, as we typically did in Vinyasa classes. The people seemed more there to ‘sweat it out’, more focused on using outer strength or Yang energy to get there, when Vinyasa is implemented by inner strength, by Yin, by allowing, not forcing or striving for some goal. They seemed to feel secure in the predictability of the sequence, in the ‘rules’ of hot. Nobody seemed to hug each other, or hang out sharing the bliss afterward, as they were apt to do in Vinyasa classes. They rushed in at the last minute, looking like someone who was grimly setting out to do an unpleasant job. They got the heck out of that oven the minute they could, as soon as class was over. It was a like a ‘fast food’ gym, done on a yoga mat. No enlightenment please, just here to lose twenty pounds or get in better shape (or maintain a good shape). It could have been hamsters on a yoga treadmill of effort without goals (or without meaningful ones)…or so it seemed at first glance.

Now bear in mind, these were my perceptions, and may not have reflected the actual reality. After all, I didn’t know these people, had no idea what their actual experience was. So I decided to have an experience of my own, find out what the deal was, come to know in the only way truly possible…through my own experience, and through sharing the experiences of others.

Soon the heat didn’t seem quite as bad…or at least it didn’t affect me as much. The pesky sweat coming off me no longer seemed like unwelcome and salty extrusions, but like holy rain. I had figured if I really had joy and peace in my yoga, I should be able to find it anywhere (or in any type of yoga ‘class’)…and did. Soon, the seemingly regimented sequence stopped becoming a limiting box, and became instead a expansive space from which I could find expression and personal growth and movement….while moving in the ‘constraints’ of the practice. Soon, laying in Savasana for fifteen minutes after class was not an ordeal, but a treat, as the room slowly cooled and wisps of cool, fresh air caressed my body as people left the room (and let cool air in).

Soon I found a lovely set of teachers who managed to bring a bit of joy, devotion , introspection, focus, or detachment  into what on the face of it may seem an unimaginative and uninspired sequence/paradigm. Really, they helped (guided) me to bring that bit of joy into it myself, inspired me to bring it, or gave good examples by bringing it themselves. Soon, I was finding as much focus, joy, and peace in hot sequences as I had previously in vinyasa sequences, or in my home practice.

It became really cathartic. Laying in a pool of sweat at the end, I felt drained…of impurities. I had sweated a gallon in an hour (or close, it appeared). I was getting ready to fill myself up with clean, pure water – like a little oil change for my body. Keep those cells filled with fresh water, dontcha know?

So I continued that way for a while until one summer day recently I walked into the studio and my body, mind, and spirit (and thus what seemed like the entire universe) told me it was too hot to do a ‘hot’ at 9AM on what looked to be a blistering day. Thus, I returned once again to my core vinyasa practice.

So there it is…my meager experience of a decade. Hardly much to base any firm judgments on, or reach meaningful conclusions. It was barely enough to skim the surface, to teach me that I truly don’t know, and that there are as many answers and paths as there are (or were ever) people. Still, I like to make observations and comparisons, if nothing else for the pure ‘fun’ of it, or maybe because as a writer and observer, these things come to the surface naturally, like little checkpoints of where I am at the time, like little rough maps of the world I constantly update and refine (and sometimes throw away and start over).

This brings us to the commonalities between hot yoga and Vinyasa yoga (and their adherents, insomuch as they stick to one or the other, which many do). Examining the commonalities is always a pertinent first step before trying to define apparent differences.

Both are a type of yoga, which is aimed at union…union of body, mind, and spirit, and union of individuals with a higher Self within (and which possibly permeates the universe). Union of thought, word, and deed.

Yogis see yoga like a lotus flower, with many petals. The physical practice (at its core defined as hatha yoga) is just one petal. Within this petal are the many fibers of the various physical practices; hot, Vinyasa, Kundalini, yin, traditional hatha, etc. Other petals of yoga are bhakti (devotion, praise, and gratitude), seva (service to others), among many others.

In our commercial-based western society, we perceive these as separate and distinct. We try to find the best petal, and throw the rest of the flower away. Many argue that only devotion, or service, or praise, or meditation, or physical practice is the real yoga. Each tries to create ‘product differentiators’ to show how their brand of yoga is better religion, theology, or exercise. Each tries to develop new ‘products’ (types of or interpretations of …or focus on one of the petals as the best one…to the exclusion of all others. Each yoga ‘product’ is tailored to meet the desires of untapped segments of the ‘market.’ It’s taken a path toward enlightenment (or at least improved control over/acceptance of/union of) body, heart, and mind and turned it into the business of yoga, the marketplace of yoga, a growth industry, a financial cash cow for the merchants who peddle it.

In reality, it is just petals on a flower. Each has something beautiful to offer, each is needed for a complete understand or practice of yoga, each has meaning and value only when taken in context of (and conjunction with) the other petals of the flower. With that said, I will nevertheless try to ‘differentiate’ between ‘products’ as an entertaining and possibly instructive game, or as a way to document my thoughts of today for later review and consideration. Here goes…

First, back to the commonalities. Hot and Vinyasa are both types of physical practice, and thus parts of the same single petal on the flower of yoga. Both rely on the breath to calm and still the mind, to control, relax, and energize the body/mind/spirit complex at various appropriate times. Both help increase physical and neurological well-being. Both bring us together not as athletes or people with some low goal, but as brothers and sisters, as aspirants in a lifelong practice with no definite or even achievable goal. We just point to the light and start walking…or dancing.

Both practices rely on the drishti (calm focus of attention, concentration, consciousness) to facilitate the physical and mental changes going on underneath the surface. In the ‘western world’, both are mostly taught by super-fit young twenty-somethings in tight, fashionable, and expensive yoga clothes.

Both are often praised (or feared) as a sort of cult, religion, tribe apart from the desire-filled, greed-based majority of the world. Both are greatly misunderstood – by yogis and non-yogis alike. Both can better be implemented (acted out or manifested, if you prefer) with gentleness and allowing than with effort or trying. There are so many commonalities, it would take a tome (and has) to begin to describe them all.

The differences is what we Americans generally like, though, what we focus on. Which is better for us? Which will fit our ideas or images of ourselves better, help us lose more weight or get closer to the Divine? I get it, and will play along.

In general, hot yogis seem to love (take sanctuary in) the predictability, in the ostensible regimentation. They seem to like the heat, the sweat, the effort as cathartic, as undeniable indications that they are doing something, going somewhere. They want and get results…now; a pile of sweat and five pounds of water weight (and associated toxins) lost.

Hot yogis seem to be more pragmatic and determined. The might even seem a bit more grim in their seriousness about their practices. They are almost definitely more perfunctory; they show up early, generally stay (and sweat) in the same place day after day, if they can. They take class at the same hour(s) each day, and want the same instructor on that day. Their routines seem to vary little…and they like it that way.

Hot yogis often seem to eschew the potential religious, theological, spiritual aspects of yoga, preferring instead the tangible efforts and rewards of the physical realm. To many, it is just exercise, and they like it like that. They don’t want to be pestered with pesky OMs and spiritual ramblings. They have to get to work soon, and they only have one hour to get down and sweat it out, get their workout in. They don’t want to trouble their mind with new concepts that may conflict with their world views, religious preferences (or lack of them), or whatever. They want it like they want it, and that’s that.

Now of course, trying to generalize people and categorize them is a fool’s errand, one which we authors seem to love engaging in, even though we know it for what it is. Maybe it’s simply fun and passes the time between yoga classes, hikes, and pedaling (or skiing or snowboarding or climbing or riding). But (feeling like the old prejudiced ignoramus who said -back in the bad old days- that all African Americans were lazy, or all Native Americans were drunks), I’ll continue, since I took this thread this far.

Vinyasa yogis seem more about the devotional aspects of the physical practice. They like to invoke the pranavah; to AUM (OM) together, or sing kirtan (songs of praise, often in Sanskrit) and mantras (healing or focusing sounds and vibrations). They seem to dig the variability of various vinyasa flows (sequences). They most definitely seem to like the fact they can flow and they (nor I next to them) gets covered in icky, unsightly (and possibly stinky) sweat.

Yet we yogis are about union. Yoga means union. We are not about division or distinction, not about discrimination or determination. We are about experience, the special intimate inner experience and transformation that only the individual aspirant can know (through their own direct experience, and shared with the experiences of others, without judgment).

While the two ‘types’ of yogis may seem different, in the end they are the same. In the end, their eyes shine and they hug me…and the world. In the end, they experience the almost magical transformation a continued yoga practice eventually brings. And funnt enough, those same dedicated Vinyasa yogis you see at 9AM every day may also be the dedicated ‘hot’ yogis you see at 6AM (or whenever) every day as well. Surprise, surprise.

Maybe we’re all just yogis after all, each on different parts of our personal paths. Maybe you are a yogi as well, even if you don’t practice (for the beginning and pre-beginning are also parts of the path). Maybe we’re all yogis of the sort, inextricably united by the primary engine of yoga…the breath, which we cannot escape sharing with the entire planet. Maybe we are not just 7 billion shipmates on a rock hurtling through space, bnut seven billion yogi shipmates, untied by breath, despite our apparent or ostensible differences, united in spite of them. United. Yoga. Mmmm. AUMmmmmm

 

‘…and the less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine…’

-The Indigo Girls

(c) 2016, Mark Francis Mullen. All rights reserved. Facebook or no other entity owns or is entitled to unassigned rights to this document. It may be shared for free (with credit given to the author), as defined in applicable international copyright laws. I in no way allow rights to this document by virtue of publishing it on the original ‘blogging website’ or subsequent ‘posts’ or ‘shares’ on Facebook or other social media.
Photo credit Radiance Power Yoga (I’m pretty sure)

 

Standard
Buddhism

The Real Story of Buddha…An Alternate View of a Young Prince

The Buddhist catechism tells us the story of an idiotic prince Siddartha, a young man who was not even aware of pain, suffering, aging, and death until he was a full-grown man. It tells us of his abusive and ignorant father, who supposedly tried (in his kingly wisdom) to prevent his son from being aware of these inescapable truths of life. It tries to convince us that one of the greatest men of all time sprung from these maladjusted, retarded roots. I beg to differ…

No king in those times (approximately 600 years before Christ) would imagine preparing his son and heir to assume the throne by such outright trickery. The king and his son were of the Brahmin caste, and the well-educated king would have seen that the young prince Siddartha was well-educated about the nature of birth and death and rebirth (the cycle of samsara or reincarnation that was so tightly woven into their culture), at least as the culture of Vedanta and Hinduism then perceived it.

No king would have tried to withhold such knowledge from an heir he hoped would govern wisely, nor would he be so stupid as to think any amount of wealth and power could hide these truths. Exposure to stories about Shiva, the Lord of Death and Destruction, Vishnu the Sustainer, and Brahma the Source would have been inescapable, woven into every story and dance and holiday celebration. It would be like trying to hide the existence of the sun…futile and idiotic.

I suggest a more likely alternative is this:

The young prince Siddartha was taught all the vast knowledge of Vedanta and yoga, as befits a potential king. He was as aware of death and aging and suffering as you and I are, which is to say aware of them in a mostly theoretical way. Of course he had seen funerals up to this point, and watched servants and family age. His grandfather and grandmother were surely not hidden from him, and as he grew, even the dimmest person in the kingdom would have noticed the effects of time, and the democracy of death.

At some point (in his teens or early twenties perhaps), he must have become aware of A) aging B) pain and suffering and C) death in a more than theoretical way. He must gained knowledge of it in the only way any of us can gain true knowledge – through intimate personal experience. Perhaps he noticed his grandparents aging, decreasing in capability. Perhaps he witnessed the severe pain and sickness accompanying aging. Eventually, someone close to him must have died.

Like all of us eventually will, he must have eventually seen the precious things in his life begin to fade or disappear, and (unlike all of us) began to wonder why, and what the cure for it was. 

I suggest it is from this base of knowledge (intimate and undeniable knowledge) that he formulated and began his quest, to discover the nature of and cure for suffering, not from the colossal ignorance stories of him tell. Something intimate and close to him must have motivated and inspired him to do this, not just discovering the simple facts of life and death known to all kindergartners, discovered at a much belated point in his life. I suggest it is from his own compassion that he then sought to find the cure for this, not just for himself but for all people, and from his strength that he succeeded in passing this knowledge on.

We know from history that heirs apparent were taught the best of Vedic wisdom: logic, astrology and astronomy, mathematics, logic, science, meditation, martial arts, dance, and yoga. He must have had the best teachers available, and been taught to the highest standards. This knowledge surely was not new to him at the time of his ‘discovery’ of the facts of life. Being of marriageable age, he must have been a well-trained martial artist, philosopher, Brahmin, and yogi. He was surely no ignorant dumbass, as the stories claim.

One thing that any observant person would have eventually ‘discovered’ is that a caste system existed, unfairly holding the poor in poverty and ignorance. Of course it would have been presented as a necessary manifestation of society, and his dharma (duty) as a member of the higher caste to the ‘lower’ castes must surely have been stressed, as well as his kingly responsibilities. He would have seen that the prayers and intercessions with the Divine were unfairly limited by this society to the priests, the Brahmin minority. He might have perceived that this situation was virtually unchangeable, even by the most powerful monarch, and that the relief from suffering he sought for all must come from within these very circumstances.

He surely saw that these inarguable and inescapable Vedic truths were not available directly to all people, and that the knowledge was preserved only in elitist Sanskrit, not in the day-to-day language of the people.

The young prince of the Gautama family must surely have been wise enough to comprehend these facts. He must have experienced the value of yoga for himself, and seen the inaccessibility of it to the common person. He must have seen that the relief offered by yoga was temporary at best, and that the causes of suffering arose again and again with attachment and ego, as yogic wisdom had taught for milleniae before.

So what consisted of the young prince Gautama Siddartha’s ‘discovery’ of the facts of life is unknown. What motivated him to leave his family for a life of dedicated practice, to assume the renunciation of a sannyasin will perhaps remain forever veiled. What led him to become the Martin Luther of Hinduism is also unknown. The roots and motivations of the great reformer and popularizer of Vedanta are lost in time, changed from life events to legend and parables.

buddha peace

What is known is that he spun the wheel of the dharma. He took the intricate and complex wisdom and traditions of Vedanta and distilled them down to a form accessible by the common man. He codified this wisdom in Pali, a common language known by everyone, and promulgated it to all, in a way that could be experienced and validated by all, wise and ignorant, rich and poor, old and young.

No fancy (and quite possibly imaginary) stories and fables can make the beauty and importance of what he did any less. He took the responsibility and action for enlightenment away from the priests and sages, and put it where it belongs – in the hands of each and every individual. With such a feat, no miracles are needed. There is no need to divinize him, or to place him on a pedestal; it was all the more impressive that he did this as an ‘ordinary’ man.

Yet there is no denying there are many unique and special things about this man:

-He sought a cure not only for himself, but for others

-He sought to provide the means for liberation to all people, the chance to transcend their normal existences

-He made the ancient knowledge accessible and understandable to the common person

I suggest the Buddha was much smarter than the stories make him out to be, even when he was still known as Siddartha. I suggest he was more moral than the simple deadbeat dad the stories make him out to be, abandoning his family, wife, newly-born child (named Obstacle), and dharma (or duty).

Actually none of this matters. Whether he was an idiot or genius, his words are as important and true today as they ever were. His lessons are just as applicable whether his life was like the stories say, or if it made a bit more sense than that. What counts is that he spoke Truth, made it available to all beings, for the sake of all beings.

That is holy enough and wise enough for me.

 

AUM

Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi svaha

buddha kid

Next related blog: Buddha as the world’s first deadbeat dad…another barely believable fable, or hidden lesson?

Standard
Buddhism, meditation, yoga

Jana Samooha Kadamai

SRIMATHE RAMANUJAYA NAMAHA.

Dear Sri Balaji,

Some nice insights have been given by learned devotees
to your question on Dheergaayush.

May I be permitted to add the following,  drawing some
inputs from Taittria upanishad and Katopanishad.?

The very purpose of creation is to provide congenial
atmosphere for the jivas to take up sariram so that it
can discharge its karma and aim for libeartion.

To use the  Vedic language, the jiva is capable of
discharging its functions of  karma / rituals (karma
kanda) and realisation of the brahman (brahma kanda /
gyana kanda), only when it is enshrined in a sariram.
It might take many births (bodies) to perform these
two. But to the enlightened jiva, i.e., for the jiva
which knows how it has to conduct  the journey, it is
desirable to finish the show as early as possible and
attain liberation. That is why one is blessed to live
a long life.

In the first category,  discharge of karma comes in
the course of what you call   ‘jana samooha kadamai’.
These have been laid down in many texts and in
particular in Taiittriya Upanishad as  ‘swadhyaayam
and pravachanam’ , meaning that which have to be done
compulsorily and as  a way of life.

In the course of one’s life, the person passes through
four ashrama  levels and of the four, that of the
grihasthashrama has been identified as the most
important one. Because it is  the grihastha on whom
others are dependent. It is he who has to carry out
multiplication of material wealth  for the sake of
taking care of his immediate dependents and also of 
the needs of the other ashrama- vaasis.
He has to bear the  responsibility and duty
(swadhyayam and pravachanam) of taking care of others.
He has to do as many as 40 samskaras that directly or
indirectly benefit other ashrama –vaasis and also
other forms of creation. 

He has to make offerings and sacrifices for the
benefit of the society.

These  samskaras create in him certain rights and
previleges not possessed before, to enter upon certain
duties and responsibilities for attaining the goal of
perfection. This requires that he has a healthy body
and long life.

The Taiitriyam  addresses the sishya ( the
brahmachari)as a Pracheena yogyan  and lists down what
all he has to do after  leaving the guru kulam. These
duties are characterised as “Tapas” by  Rishi Naga,
the son of Modhgalya.

The foremost purpose of blessing one with long life is
that he may be capable of performing this “TAPAS” in
all effectiveness. The blessing ‘padinaarum petru peru
vaazhvu vaazhga’ is to emphasise that the person be
endowed with the 16 types of wealth in order to
discharge his ‘jana samooha kadamai’ effectively.

In the second category,  the need for a long life is
for one’s  own spiritual development. 
We can find reference to the importance of the body in
Kathopanishad.

In his reply to Nachikrtas’s last question, Yama
dharmarajan tells about the means of reaching Sri
vaikuntham .Yama says that the sariram (body) is the
vehicle for the jiva to reach Sri vaikuntham. “The
jivan enshrined in the body enjoys  paramaanandham in
Sri Vaikuntham. Therefore treat the sariram as a
vehicle capable of transporting the jivan to
Vaikuntham.”

“AthmAnam rathinam vidhdhi, SarIram rathamEva thu/”
Bhudhdhim thu sArathim vidhdhi mana: pragrahamEva
cha//
IndriyANi hayAnAhUr vishayAn thEshu gocharAn/
AthmEndriyamanoyuktam bhOkhthEthyAhur manishina://

Yama asks Nachiketas to treat the SarIram as a
chariot. The jiva is the yajaman of the chariot. And
Bhudhdhi is the charioteer. The chariot is being drawn
by the horses which are nothing but the Indriyas and
it is for the Bhuddhi (charioteer) to control / rein
them using the manas. The horse may stary  anywhere as
they like, but unless the charioteer guides the horses
properly , he can not take the Yajaman (the jiva –
Bhokhtha) to his ultimate destination, Sri vaikuntham.
In the journey, the chriot, namely, the body is an
imporatnt carrier bacause, in the absence of it , the
yajaman can not undertake his journey. That is why
Yama concludes in his answer that the body is the
vehicle for the jiva to reach Sri Vaikutham. 

When blessed with a long life, for the prapannan, or
even for the one who takes rejoice in doing the
Kainkaryam, every day in the sariram is a blessed day.
“ettraikkum, EzhEzh piravikkum, undranOdu utromE yAvOm
unakkE nA mAtchaivOm.
Therefore
 “Matru nam kAmangal mAtru”

A pretty long life, even in good many births is
something great to ask for,
provided  the jiva  knows how  to conduct its journey
well for the purposes it has been ordained to.

Jayasree sarnatahn


This is a post from Sri Vaishnava on Ramanuja.org web page (http://www.ramanuja.org/sv/bhakti/archives/jul2002/0065.html). More blog posts to come on this subject.

Image

AUM, Shanti
Standard
Buddhism, Uncategorized, yoga

Nothing.

I can relate to the Buddha. Deadbeat dad, family-abandoning fuckhead Buddha. Abdicator of thrones and inheritances. Rebel and questioner. Dropper of questions. Dude who supposedly tried it all and came to the realization that none of it mattered. Only this does. Oops, it’s already gone.

(Just more evidence of impermanence, I guess).

Image 

Buddha, the guy who passed on important and ancient teachings in terms and language the common person could understand. Buddha, breaker of Brahmin monopolies on prayer. Buddha, who tells me that all meaning is imputed, and all my visions of Divine Light are really my mind creating something out of nothing, out of Void. 

Buddha, the world’s first spiritual atheist. The world’s first Martin Luther. If you meet the Buddha, kill him. If you become the Buddha, kill it. Kill that in yourself. Just be it. 

Okay.

What I really like about the Buddha is that he was once Siddartha, Guatama Siddartha. After all, the Buddha wouldn’t ditch his wife, his kid, and his kingdom – he was incapable of that. But ole Siddartha was, and did it just in case we weren’t sure. I can already hear the minds picking that apart, the egos rising to tell me how I really don’t understand the Buddha, how I really don’t understand him like they do.

I understand this: Siddartha sat under that Bodhi tree until he was empty, until the stars had dimmed and there was nothing left. I can relate to that. He sat -until he had given up his search and just dropped it. All of that had to happen before he could know in the one way we truly can – through our individual and intimate experience. A lot had to be dropped to create space for this new wisdom. A lot of people lecture me on that point, but they are no more enlightened than I am, no more liberated than I am. This is evidenced by their actions and attitudes, not their words, for anyone can parrot the sages. 

I can feel him in my experience, though. Kriyas and pujas, endless sitting, endless conversing, endless searching. Beyond endless meditation and asana. Nothing. Nothing left.

Void.

Endless void.

Image

And filling that void, the stories I tell myself and others. The wispy tendrils of maya, the material. The endless pounding of the illusory world, the phenomenological world. The chattering of our minds, like rooms full of drunken monkeys. 

…and finally, out of the ridiculous futility of it all, dropping it.

Jumping

Image

Image

Like Patanjali millennia before him, Buddha advises me to still the chattering of my mind, that I might see clearly. 

Patanjali seems to think I’ll see Divine Light (I do). 

Buddha seems to think I’ll find void (I find that as well sometimes, depending on the way I choose to look at it). 

Who cares? If I meet the Buddha, I’ll kill him. If I meet Patanjali, I’ll manifest bhakti and perform asana with him.

Image

As i find myself alone, without a Beloved to distract or comfort me, without family or career, or material things, I face the void, stare over the edge into the abyss. There is nothing there. I can much more easily deal with something. Something is what my mind and ego can deal with, are made to deal with. What does one do with nothing?

You can sit there, be there with it, be present for it. That’s all you can do. You can breathe through it, with it, in it, but first you have to face it. 

Nothing.

I want to turn away from that, run from it. For in nothing, there is nothing – no me. Nothing else, either. That is hard, a hard truth to face. There are no answers, no solutions. Just…nothing. 

Image

I want to fill that emptiness with Divine Light, with holy mantras and visions of…something. Yet Buddha stands before me and tells me there is nothing. The nerve of that fucker. The truth of that fucker.

Nothing.

Imagine that.

Image

Live in that.

Breathe in it.

Image

Allow that space, that nothingness to pervade you. Create more space, perhaps from which Divine Light can indeed blossom.

Image

Or not.

Or nothing.

Nothing.

Nothing….

Image

‘Once you dig in, you’ll find it coming out the other side.’

        -Lenny Kravitz

‘Broke my heart, you broke it open/and I looked inside to find…nothin, nothin at all

        -Mark-Francis Mullen

‘MU!’

         -Zen Buddhists everywhere

‘What does the fox say?’

           -Modern Norwegian koan

Standard
Buddhism, chakra science, energy healing, meditation, Uncategorized, yoga

The Next Step of Yoga Practice

Okay, I’ve gone to the various classes, heard people’s sales pitches on ‘their’ type of yoga. I’ve read all the yoga books I could get my hands on, and done the practices at home. I sat and sat…meditated and meditated. I moved and moved…performing asana (postures) and expressive dance, reaching out a hand to help. I’ve sung the mantras, and gazed at the yantras. I have made the mudras, become them. I did the cleanses and purification rituals. I’ve contorted my body and loosened my mind. I’ve opened my heart and stretched my soul.

Image

My body is lithe and supple, My mind and heart are considerably more open and flexible. I’m strong as a bull, and gentle as a lamb. I try to live the yama and niyama, the core tenets of yoga. I try to be them. I have faced my own darkness (and that of others), and embraced it with gentleness. I have exorcised it…at least as far as one person can. I embraced the Goddess, and danced with God. I followed the sutras and the vedas. I stood in the midst of the battlefield Kurukshetra, a bewildered modern-day version of Arjuna.

Image

I took teacher trainings, and yogi trainings. I’ve immersed myself in the traditional wisdom of the sages, pored over the latest validations and verifications of this wisdom by modern science. I’ve observed carefully and pondered. I’ve watched myself and others operate, and seen the ego rear its ugly head in my own life and actions, as well as in those of others. I’ve banished it…at least to a higher degree than I ever have before.

I learned to love at deeper and deeper levels. I learned that love is letting go, accepting, as well as loving in actions and attitudes. I became love, as much as possible in the moment. I learned to see love, to see the Divine in all I encounter.

Image

I did my best.

So now I am faced with the eternal question…now what? 

What do I do now I am equipped with this knowledge and experience? Where do I go with my new-found and transformed self? Once one has glimpsed the Eternal, invited it in and become that, what is to be done? Once I have become (or am becoming) non-duality, what then?

Where do I go now, and what do I do with this new power and energy?

Image

What is the next step?

A plethora of articles tell me (in ten or less easy steps, typically) what I should do.

12 things

A plethora of yogis demonstrate what they think they (if not I) should do; sell myself, market my knowledge, make my yoga a mercantile project, for profit. Write a book on my experiences, share with the world what I think they should do, what I think the solution is. Make my living from yoga, turn it into a money-making career…

Image

Others demonstrate what they think I should do or be – a sannyasin (renunciate), a sadhaka (dedicated practitioner or aspirant), or even (should I ever ascend -or want to ascend- to such a lofty state) a guru (bringer of light), telling others what to do and how to be, imparting my wisdom for the world to share. The more believable tell me I should be a bhakti, a devotee of the Good, spreading love and singing praises of this wonderful realm and its creator.

Image

Some tell me I should renounce it all, others that it is all an illusion. Quite a few tell me there is nothing to do, nothing to be. Many claim this is all a play of illusion, maya. Not a small number tell me I should simply perform my dharma (duty) – as they see it. Some tell me the Light I see in and behind everything is simply Void.

Image

What’s a yogi to think? What’s a yogi to do?

Even though I’ve done these things, not a small number think of me as an asura (demon), not compliant with their expectations of what a yogi should do or be or look like. I am anathema to many of the more fundamentalist yogis. I am an enigma to others – a reformed biker who is just (to them) the same old trailer trash in new shoes. To skeptics, I am a ‘yoga fag,’ and to the gullible I am ‘love on a stick.’

Regardless, I am left to my own devices to answer one of the eternal questions: what should I do NOW?

what to do

There is no sutra that tells one what to do. That knowledge must come from the heart. So I am left with this question of what I should do, most often trying to answer it from the head instead of the heart.

Image

A clue to the answer of that question lies (perhaps) in the other eternal questions:

-Who am I? (A being of Light)

-Why am I here? (to love)

-What do I want to contribute to society before I die? (increase the happiness of the world, and reduce the suffering)

There are no clear answers. Each individual must answer this question for his or her Self. None can advise the other what to do, since each person has unique issues and considerations, specific goals, individual karma and dharma to consider.

That doesn’t bring me any closer to an answer. In fact, those questions may take a lifetime to answer. My answer most likely will not be the same as your answer. We may have some common factors in our answers, but the entire answer for each individual is (I suspect) as unique as the individual themselves.

What should I do? What should you do? What should we do? What is the next step?

act

Standard