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Showing posts from June, 2015

THE GURU IS YOU

The other day my father sends me this quote: "No one can become a devotee of the Formless Supreme without having been a devotee of the form."

These words are from Sathya Sai Baba, my father's guru since my mother and he first went to India in November of 1973, leaving his 9-month-old infant (me) at home, I never let him forget. I get behind the spiritual quest and all, but what of his duties as a parent? Water under the bridge. . . .

My reply: "It seems to me you've been a devotee of the form now for long enough. Time to go beyond or else it becomes a crutch. The divinity radiating in Sai Baba's heart is the same as the divine flame that emanates from you. All is one."

I added that worshipping a holy person, be it Christ or Allah or Buddha, or in my father's case Sai Baba (who growing up I also prayed to and sang to and was very devoted to even after I at the age of 22 discarded the medallion he made for me down the mountainside in a rather dramatic ge…

CUTS BOTH WAYS

Time magazine recently ran a feature on plastic surgery. Written by Joel Stein and entitled "Nip. Tuck. Or else." it discusses the prevalence of procedures that were once the exclusive domain of the rich and famous. Now everyone is getting work done, and choosing instead to age gracefully could actually work against you. People may take it as a sign that you don't care about your appearance, or about your job enough to maintain your appearance, and how could you let yourself go like that? These times in which we live. . . .

Stein quotes Abigail Brooks, a director of women's studies who has done extensive research comparing women who undergo anti-aging interventions and those termed "natural agers." She worries that the increasing pressure imposed by one's image-conscious peers in a society in which these procedures are so common is "not only exhausting but also keeps women forever 21 emotionally." I am of this opinion. My grandmother stopped be…

GO YOUR OWN WAY

In the Vedic society of India, whose roots extend back 4000 years, there were four social classes, or castes. The Brahmins were the priests, the Kshatriyas the kings and soldiers, the Vaishyas the merchants, artists and agriculturalists, and the Shudras were the laborers. These classes were distinctly demarcated, and to have for example a businessman rule the country would be as ludicrous as having an actor for president, and look at how that worked out for us! Triple the debt much???

The Hindu caste system is not to be confused with the Ashramas, or four age-based life stages described in ancient Indian texts such as the Upanishads and the epic poems, Mahabharata and Ramayana. It is these I wish to discuss because maybe we non-Hindus could learn a thing or two.

The four asramas are Brahmacharya (student), Grihastha (householder), Vanaprastha (retired) and Sannyasa (renunciation). This system is integrated with the four proper aims of life, which Hindu philosophy specifies are Dharma…

BEYOND THE BILLOWING CLOUDS

For me 1993 was a pretty mystical year. I read many of the books that have to this day 22 years later inspired and informed my spiritual practice. These include the dialogues with Nisargadatta Maharaj collected in the book I Am That as well as Conscious Immortality featuring talks with Ramana Maharshi (thanks Dad!) and Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi not to mention the Hindu epic and national treasure, The Ramayana, which details the exploits of one of India's Avatars, or divine incarnations, Sri Rama and his comely consort Sita. Since then Rama has been a hero of mine. Truth be told I always hoped to find a Sita of my own. Moving on.


The year 1993 also involved a trip to southern India to see the holy man Sai Baba (shortened from Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, in case you're wondering where the syllables went). Talk about an acid trip. Sitting for hours in the dusty heat, my attention transfixed by the form of this Afroed man in his flowing ochre robe. Priceless and ir…

ONE REALITY

A recent Pew report indicates that worldwide, more than eight in ten people identify with a religious group. These 5.8 billion religiously-affiliated individuals around the globe represent nearly 85% of the earth’s population of 7 billion people.

The global religious landscape is dominated by Christians (2.2 billion adherents is 32 percent of all humans), followed by Muslims (1.6 billion/23 percent), Hindus and Buddhists (1 billion and 500 million followers, respectively). Approximately 7 percent of the population follow folk or “other” religions, including Judaism and Taoism.

The question is how many of these 6 billion "religious" people consider themselves mystics? After all, the founders of all these  world religions were themselves mystics (Moses, Christ, Buddha, the Hindu Rishis and also Mohammad, to name a few). Shouldn’t a follower of an ethos pattern herself after its founder? Did the founders of Christianity and Buddhism themselves practice rites and rituals, recite…

REST IN THE ETERNAL

We are about to embark on a quest for truth, the eternal wisdom, that treasure hidden in the center of the soul. Our goal is union with the divine. The question we shall answer: “What is that by which all else is known?”

Do you feel alienated in the modern world? Do you see through the nonsense which seems to so thoroughly preoccupy everyone else? It has been said that man is a meeting ground of various levels of reality, from the ridiculous to the sublime. At what level do you reside? Do you perceive transcendental reality? Have you established your identity with that?

The four stages of spiritual progress are purgation (of bodily desires); purification (of the will); illumination (of the mind); and unification (of one’s will or being with the divine).

Mysticism, to give it a name, and since what you are after all is precisely that, a mystic - is the core and basis of the oldest religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, and its influence has been felt in the more esoteric strands of Judaism (as…

LIFE AS THAT

What is the one constant in your life? The one thing that has been there with you from your earliest memories, with you both in dreams and in waking, and even dare I say, in dreamless sleep. That does not change, is not subject to moods, is unaffected by all that you do but rather is the witness of all that happens to you. The answer: Consciousness. It is this consciousness which proclaims: I exist.
What is the nature of this consciousness? Bliss. Or if you will, joy. Fix yourself in this delight of consciousness. In its light all else is experienced, and it alone abides, detached, unaffected by events, however frightful, pleasant or somewhere in between. Remember a random event from your past. Think of the memory in exquisite detail. Does it make you feel a certain way? Or do you just remember being there, witnessing it? Live today like you remember the past, as the witness, calm and serene, regardless of how events may have shaken or stirred you at the time of their occurrence.

Yo…

SHINE LIKE THE SUN

Nearly 250 million Americans, as part of a worldwide population segment that currently stands at over 2 billion people, I'm speaking of Christians, start each day (or at least one day, at some point in life) with "The Lord's Prayer," also known as "Our Father," in which the supplicant asks the Lord to "give us this day our daily bread."

What does this mean? Of course we ask for the food we eat, since without it we wouldn't be around for very long, and what use would God be to us then? But as more and more people are interpreting religious wisdom not just literally but also symbolically, making these sacred teachings deserving of the word wisdom rather than merely nonsense, the phrase can also refer to "that bread of grace and inspiration upon which depends the life of the spirit," to use the words of 20th century literary heavyweight Aldous Huxley.

Huxley wrote these words in a war-tormented world, where getting one's daily bre…

THE GREATEST MYSTERY

One of the greatest mysteries in metaphysics, and therefore in the world, is that human life is a great boon to the individual, and yet it is unreal.

The Hindu philosopher (b. 788 AD) Adi Shankara, author of the Crest-Jewel of Wisdoma true jewel of a book, as it is an excellent manual of spirituality beyond which nothing need be read to prepare for Self-realization - writes:

"For beings a human birth is hard to win . . . hardest of all to win is wisdom . . . This triad that is won by the bright one's favor is hard to gain: humanity, aspiration, and rest in the great spirit."

Later in this same work, discoursing on the individual who is free in life, the author writes: "He whose thought is free from outward objects, through standing ever in the nature of the Eternal, who is as lightly concerned with the enjoyment of sensual things followed by others as a sleeping child, looking on this world as a land beheld in dream, when consciousness comes back . . . (For) thi…

MY LIFE AS A DOT

Ever thought that your life may be not dissimilar to a dot in a painting? A pointillist painting of the universe and just as variegated and vast. Or of you getting out of bed in the morning, since that's what you do everyday in this humdrum thing called life. If you haven't, I mean considered the meaning of existence and your purpose in the grand scheme, then you're too busy.

Put your phone down, stop watching the tube and massaging your genitals, and contrary to what Budweiser says, ask why. (Like why follow Bud anyway when their product tastes like watered down piss.)I'm not asking you to write about your astonishing revelations about the nature of Absolute Reality and its relation to this cosmic dream. For that, there's me. You're welcome.


But your individual life may be very much like a dot, or if you prefer a note in a symphony, the symphony of manifest existence. What's wrong with being a measly little note? On its own whole and melodious, each D and G…

ONCE UPON AN ALTAR BOY

I was thinking of calling this post "Confessions of an Altar Boy" but that title was already taken several times over.

Now I know what you think this is going to be about. How as an altar boy from age 10 to 14 I was sodomized and my holes repeatedly violated by priests in the vestibule before and after Mass. The bloody rogues. No. They were all very decent men. We even had a couple of Christ’s stand-ins, as they’re called (by nobody but me) over for dinner. My mom made pasta. Father Oulle sure could put back that wine. He was French, so, excused. Ruddy cherubs, the lot of them. But I'm no mind reader. For all I know . . . I'll let your imagination take it from there.

But this is not about that. This is more about the Catholic Church. The Church has many problems these days, not the least of which is the tendency of certain men of the cloth to fondle young boys. It’s about the Church’s insistence on ritual, on remaining so stiffly traditional, with its stained glass and…