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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Multiplicity vs. Polytheism

One of the common things we tend to do today is interchange multiplicity with polytheism. Especially when dealing with Hinduism, we tend to think of the 330 billion deities as a form of polytheism. However, upon taking a course on Hinduism, I learned a new term that explains for a vast array of deities ranging from male to female, elephant-headed to six headed, and destroyer to preserver: multiplicity. Dictionary.com does a fairly decent job at defining the term; the state of being multiple. How does this vary from polytheism? How does this apply to Christianity?

Kali
 A wide approach to address Hinduism's use of the term multiplicity is to look at the Six Aspects of Our World. In short they are: We live in 1) A multiple world that includes galaxies, tiers, and cylces, 2) a moral world in which karma is inexorable, 3) a middling world that will never replace paradise as the spirit's destination, 4) a world in which maya exists, 5) a gymnasium for developing spiritual capacities i.e. "a vale for soul-making", and finally 6) a world in which lila, the play of the divine in its cosmic dance, exists. (Huston Smith, Illustrated World's Religions.) The immediate reason for displaying these six aspects is to point out that the fundamental message of Hinduism's perception of our world, while it was founded in the East well before Abram and Sarai were renamed as Abraham and Sarah, holds many of Christianity's similar perceptions. But simply put by Professor Jeaneane Fowler of the University of Wales College: “The relationship between the many manifest deities and the unmanifest Brahman is rather like that between the sun and its rays. We cannot experience the sun itself but we can experience its rays and the qualities, which those rays have." Brahman would be the equivalent of the Trinity complete, all Three in One would compose Brahman. However, broken down into three parts, equivalent to the Trinity's Three Persons, Brahma is the deity associated as Creator, Vishnu as Preserver, and Shiva as Destroyer. I would personally argue that within these three deities, the remaining 330 billion (minus three) deities originate. How is that possible? And why isn't this referred to as polytheism?
Devi
The term avatar explains how the number of deities is capable of jumping to a whopping 330 billion. Vishnu alone has ten avatars in which the Eighth Avatar is Krishna (from which Krishnaism branches off from,) and the Ninth Avatar is commonly believed to be the Buddha. With each deity springs up a female consort, wife, or counterpart that ultimately pertains to an aspect or characteristic of the primal deity. Why do these deities exist? Certain aspects are portrayed through a womanly figure rather than a male deity. This can't be argued because how should a male deity embody maternal characterstics that figures like Durga, who I consider to be a midway point between Kali and Parvati in certain aspects. While those three names are indeed inclusive of three separate persons, they all fall under Devi, the ultimate goddess mother, loosely identified with being the female counterpart of Brahma.
Trinity
But immediately, I feel like my train of thought has been lost while trying to correlate the similarities between gods and goddesses. Hindu art especially helps to depict the aspects among deities. To use Kali, Durga, and Parvati again, Kali is always depicted as the embodiment of "tough maternal love" in which she chops off the heads of ignorance from her devotees. Durga is a more balanced figure that is powerful and stern at times, but is not associated with violence, but does not have a soft side like Parvati. Parvati retains qualities that which a newborn child would be treated with instead of bloody acts like Kali. While Durga falls somewhere in between, these three goddesses depict just a few aspects that which Brahman retains.
I find this similar to Christianity embracing their God as omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Brahma, the Creator deity consequently is omnipotent. Vishnu, omniscient, and Shiva as omnipresent because where does death not reach? This isn't to ignore the differences between 330 billion versus 3. However, both 330 billion and 3 boil into one. The means by which each religion explains how this is possible relates through multiplicity, rather than polytheism because many gods would deny the fact that each deity or person (of the Trinity) is not absorbed by Brahman or the Trinity, that each god is a separate outlier. Catholicism is quick to define the Trinity as the Christian Mystery: "In the Symbol of the faith the Church confesses the mystery of the Holy Trinity and of the plan of God's "good pleasure" for all creation: the Father accomplishes the "mystery of his will" by giving his beloved Son and his Holy Spirit for the salvation of the world and for the glory of his name." (CCC 1066, Ephesians 1:9.) This echoes Hinduism's simple structure of Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer. What both religions share is what fills the spaces in between.

I hope to get a Part 2 for this...Please comment on anything that isn't clear or if it seems like I'm smashing two religions crudely together.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Complacency

I have finally found the all-encompassing word that describes the Western thought that America embodies. I repeatedly refer to this "theme" in the majority of my posts. And the word has finally popped into my head. Rudimentary in our society, complacency is this very evil that blinds our faiths and morals. My previous post, and many others discuss and argue how morals are short-lived when we fall for hedonism, gluttony, and excess comfort.
A perfect Hindu term for this illusoriness is maya. (Please read the short story to understand the full meaning of this post.) Summarized, there are several stories within stories. Three, if including the larger context of the Legend of Narada within the Hindu texts of the Puranas. The protagonist of this story is none other than Narada, who has been journeying with Lord Krishna, a Christ-like reincarnation of Vishnu. The story is dizzying, especially since Western thought's story line follows the outline of past, present, future, rather than disrupting the excess weight of time. How short-lived and ephemeral do Narada's pleasures and family seem. Ultimately, Krishna remains at his resting spot, waiting for Narada to turn. This emphasizes the incomparable downplay of our venerated, worshiped deities and their lack of need for our acts of worship or praise. 
Instead, we find ourselves caught up in the time spent in our own illusions. 
Rather than return to what is ultimately real, we find pleasure and comfort in distractions. And our Western society has done a tremendous job on having the accessibility to any type of excess of pleasure at any individual's fingertips. There is much to be said about the harms that derive from a culture that promotes consumerism. But the crucial point to come away with is that though we may find ourselves stooping into the world of illusoriness, our faith in our chosen ishta, one's chosen ideal of God, allows for us to pull ourselves back out of what is not ultimately real. Again, what is not real is what is ephemeral, temporal, and nine out ten times tangible. If it's a man made object that's mass produced, it's typically going to be a potential distraction, not an immediate one. It is the individual, us, who turn something that doesn't necessarily have to be a distraction into illusion. This directly corresponds with Moses' reading of the Ten Commandments: "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below." (Exodus 20:4.) Similarly in Narada's test put forth by Krishna, Moses relieves the people by saying "“Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” (Exodus 20:20.) Between these two traditional stories we find that God wants us to choose what is ultimately real over the illusion. Anything other decision puts us further from our God, and it becomes difficult in discerning what is ultimately real and what is inevitably holy. 
    

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Postnatal Abortions=Infanticide=Homicide

Giovanni Battista's The Madonna and Child in Glory with Cherubs
Upon reading this post, I couldn't help but have my own response. I would like to point out the argument of how the sex culture of America is the factor to look at in any of these instances (abortions, infanticide, and homicide.) Anyone would be a fool to ignore that an American teenage girl has been given the green light by society to have sex. Several of these "green lights" are seen in condom commercials making it on TV, the tendencies and promotions of sex as an inevitable act of pleasure in SexEd classes in schools, and our culture that says yes to everything and anything an individual wants i.e. greed. I personally find that any movement for postnatal abortions ignores the fact that a woman is seen only for her sex. And if any argument should be made about the woman in the instance of an abortion, it shouldn't be about if its a choice, her choice, or any choice is to be made at all, but rather that the woman has been subdued by a paternalistic society. This shouldn't be shocking because based on the reality, who has the abortion? Males are never  held accountable for their actions in these instances because they never have been held to such a standard since it was absurd to have sexual relations with a woman out of wedlock. While this argument could go straight to the argument over marriage is the only place for sex, I find that one has to look no further than our local communities. I find it horrific that PlannedParenthood or any clinics that ultimately end in decimation (rather, death,) should be considered or esteemed so highly as bright and cheery resources for a woman. It's considerably flip flopped in that the woman is "free" after submitting to have sex and given the ability to erase any trace of responsibility or submission. In this Culture of Death that we promote, it is seemingly mechanical for the woman to make the hardest decision with what to do after sex. I find that something as destructive and evil as postnatal abortions is just a glimpse of how far our (world) culture is willing to go in order that our immediate, hedonistic pleasures; the highest of these being sex.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Qigong, A First Time Experience

This past weekend, I spent a good hour and a half participating in Qigong session. As to what I was actually partaking in, I am not 100% sure. I was, of course, informed shortly before the session began what we would be doing, but I admit I was too focused on stretching and warming up- not sure how physically demanding this course would be. I write this because I've done several Hatha yoga sessions before, and I thought it could be of some value to compare this new martial arts class to my experiences in the Hindu realm of physical meditation.
Immediately, I detected that breaking a sweat was inevitable; Qigong was physically demanding. Where yoga has one moving to get into positions that one eventually holds for a period of time, Qigong was a continuation of fluid movements. These movements were broken into the Eight Treasures, all of which had very interesting names which we were to meditate on (if we could simultaneously) while trying to follow the instructor. My favorite Treasure pertained to the Tiger energy. Again, compared to yoga, I found that some of the same balancing and flexibility techniques were shared, but Qggong was very demanding in holding one half (in the Tiger "set" it was the legs stuck in a pose) while the upper body went through a circuit of movements in sets of either three or nine. I think that Hatha yoga allowed for me personally to meditate instantaneously once I was able to get into a pose, but Qigong was consistently demanding for my mind to be focused on trying to get into a rhythm. I feel that my recent inactive lifestyle was really jump started by the combination of all Eight Treasures.

Sorry for the vagueness, it was hard to retain all the details of the names of the Treasures I was doing, and similarly, I didn't have much of grasp on the history of Qigong. However, I would recommend it for anyone who is interested in yoga already or one who would like to start some form of martial arts. This exercise, though, was not seemingly as "violent" taekwondo or any other martial arts. I'm still curious to learn about its history and why it's placed under the category of martial arts. It did, however, have a strong physical affect on my body. I was thoroughly exhausted when I finished. The extensive stretching in each Treasure was very unique and apparently healthy. "Realigning the channels" was the goal of Qigong; a shared Hindu/Buddhist, Eastern Asian practice.

Fascinating.  

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Crito, A Peter-Disciple of Socrates Part 2

It's no coincidence that we find shared characteristics between a philosopher's disciple and a messiah's apostle. While both masters endured physical pain, specifically the Agony in the Garden and the Death (suicide) of Socrates by poison, we find two disciples that act rashly on human impulse. Peter reacted violently when Jesus was arrested: "Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear." (Matthew 26:50-51.) We similarly find Crito pleading for Socrates to use his finances to escape from prison: "Simmias the Theban, has brought a sum of money for this very purpose; and Cebes and many others are willing to spend their money too. I say, therefore, do not on that account hesitate about making your escape..." (Crito.) Through both students' seemingly impulsive responses, we use hindsight to prove their humanity and therefore, their actions embody actions that any human being is bound to make. However, through this process in which we justify both disciples' humanity, we tend to overlook how their actions are selfish. I don't mean to deride either of their characters but it is important to signify each of their wrongs, especially the ones that their teachers have highlighted. After His Transfiguration, Jesus "gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves..." (Mark 9:9-10.)My interpretation of this, in addition to Christ's fulfillment of revealing Himself to Man, is that there is an initial limitation to what Jesus was able to share with Peter, (James, and John.) Eventually, however, Jesus gave Peter the "keys of the gates of Heaven," but before this significant turning point in his life's journey as an apostle, Peter was incapable of taking on the full revelation of the "mystery of Christ." (Matthew 16:19, Colossians 4:3.)
This inability that the human disciple embodies is seen ever more clearly in Crito's personality. Failing to live Socrates' teaching, Crito was only capable of regurgitating the words of his teacher, rather than devotedly converting his lifestyle to that of Socrates' doctrine. Consequently, Crito was only able to retain a minimal quantity of teaching and was not allowing his soul to undergo the dramatic changes that Socrates had intended for his followers. Spearheading Socrates' expectations for Crito is existentialism. In essence, Socrates believed in democracy. Condemned by democratic means accounted for in Plato's Apology, Socrates lives unchanged through his incarceration. Crito depicts Socrates in prison: "I wanted you to be out of pain. I have always thought you happy in the calmness of your temperament; but never did I see the like of the easy, cheerful way in which you bear this calamity." By doing so, he signifies living in the "now."    

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Crito, A Peter-Disciple of Socrates

One of the main underlying themes of Crito is the importance of how avoid conforming to social norms. The short dialogue between Socrates and Crito takes place in prison. Crito enters upon Socrates as he sleeps, and when he wakes, Crito comments on how he retained a serene face during his dream, representing that his imprisonment was having minimal affects on his attitude. The city of Athens awaits the arrival of a ship from Delos, and on its arrival, Socrates is to be put to death. Crito tells Socrates the ship has yet to come to Athens, and in return, Socrates retells his dream. In it, a woman speaks to Socrates saying, “O Socrates, the third day hence to fertile Phthia shalt thou go.” Believing that either the ship’s arrival or the woman’s prophecy was bound to come true shortly, Crito presses Socrates to make a decision whether or not to escape from jail. Having the financial means to do so, Crito believes that Socrates should escape his unjust imprisonment in order to keep teaching the apparently large multitude of believers that did not argue against his incarceration. Crito also depicts the weakness in Socrates’ plan of becoming a martyr for his cause; by leaving this world, Socrates would be abandoning his children as orphans. The conservation quickly switches to Socrates reviewing his teachings on society and the evil it contains. By doing so, Socrates depicts the importance of seeking wisdom from a teacher, not from persons, especially those who stress the importance of the body over reason.
                I can’t help but immediately think of Christ and his disciple Peter when reading the dialogue between Crito and Socrates. The gist of Socrates’ conversation with Crito is a confirmation of his teachings and their application to their current state: incarceration. Too quickly does Crito panic and search for the immediate, self-preserving resolution to Socrates’ imprisonment. I find this paralleled in Mark’s account of Jesus rebuking Peter: “[Jesus] then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.” (Mark 8:31-33.) Both Socrates’ and Jesus’ responses to their disciples’ reactions to their self-sacrifices are “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (ibid.)
                Another large parallel I’ve drawn between both men is the denial of accepting society’s definition of their personality. Repeatedly, both Jesus and Socrates deny their true identities, or at least how society wishes to identify them as; initially, outcastes. Socrates tells Crito: “My friend, we must not consider what the many say of us, but what he, the one man who has understanding of the just and unjust will say, and what the truth will say. (We will not be defined by society.) Therefore you begin in error when you suggest we should consider the opinion of the many about the just and unjust, the good and evil, the honorable and dishonorable, (anything less than the truly enlightened “man,” Buddha, Christ will inevitably be prone to faults and thus failure) but what if someone says, “But the many can kill us.” Crito responds that the many, or rather the multitude of society wishes to kill him. Socrates responds: “Still I believe our old argument is unshaken. I would like to know whether I may say the same of another proposition-that not life, but a good life, is to be chiefly valued?” I would argue that this strongly resembles Jesus’ short dialogue with Pilate in which He is questioned: “So Pilate asked Jesus, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied…On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean.” (Luke 23: 3-6.) While the length may not be the same, the content mirrors one another. Throughout the Four Synoptic Gospels, Jesus does not full reveal himself as the Christ until certain points like his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well: Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he." (John 4:26.) Similarly, Socrates holds out with his revelation of him being the “gadfly of Athens,” until he is on trial.
     

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Need For Anarchism, Christian Anarchism

            I think that Christian anarchism is the only probable sect of anarchism that would have a chance in today’s society. With the talk of how we are able to communicate with random people across the world through the internet, the world isn’t necessarily getting smaller. We are just realizing how separated the world once was before we could shoot emails. This being said, I believe that only certain governments, theologies, and societies can thrive in this vast environment. Christian anarchism is what the world needs. Its concepts can apply to a large world, or rather to a small community within the global society we live in the 21st century. However, I do not mean to say that the world could be fitted with Christian anarchism. Being too big, the global community could not settle on a common set of moral laws that would be shared throughout the Christian anarchist world. But, if there was an attempt to create a Christian anarchist society, it would have to mock the utopian colony attempt in Alduous Huxley’s Brave New World. What inevitably happens to a combination of Alphas on one island is disastrous and somewhat realistic; powerful people want to take charge. So there needs to be structure within a community that is larger than a town. I envision the idea of a Christian anarchist community would be the size of a nudist colony or a hippy commune.
There’s a quote from Men in Black (which I hate to use, but it holds some truth to it) which says something like, “A person is smart, but people are dumb, rash and they panic!” I think the concept of a thriving community is hard to envision without some authority. Christianity has a set of morals that can be found in the Bible. The Ten Commandments encompass a widely accepted set of morals that can cross into multiple religions. So it’s not just the idea of Christ himself being the unseen, spiritual ringleader of a Christian anarchist group, but the morals He set by example, some of which reflected the teachings in the Old Testament. I think the early Christian communities, such as Antioch, exemplify the reality of a group of individuals coming together and being led by only an agreed set of morals and beliefs.
There is a need for spirituality in setting morals. Inevitably, anarchism’s lack of leadership and/or government demands for a set of said morals. However, without any spiritual influence, morals can’t be agreed on. It is not one religious sect whose name has to be put before anarchism. I think Hinduism’s term ishta, meaning one’s chosen ideal of God, explains the transcendence of shared spiritual morality. This means that Arjuna experienced the same laying down of laws in the Bhagavad Gita, as did Moses on Sinai, and the Buddha under his Bodhi tree. This explains how there is a shared set of morals only to be found in a spiritual setting. I think that governments like republics, democracies, and autonomies depict the failing attempts of using philosophy as a common ground to group communities under one set of morals. Without the spirituality aspect, morals cannot be respected. I think today in the 21st century, we see that morals aren’t respected anymore. If the morals can’t be respected, then there is a definite need for rule by government and authority. But if there is a well thought-out attempt at establishing a realistic Christian anarchist community, I think that the global community would gain the respect for morality that was recently lost.     
I think that Christian anarchism could also apply to an individual’s mind. An example of someone’s mind that would look like a democracy would have the cliché devil and angel sitting on his shoulders. His conscience would be ruled by both sides. But a Christian anarchist mind would free one’s conscience, influenced by society, from ephemeral limitations. I think that a mind such as that would have a moral compass that comes into play time after time in that minds’s life span. And it is never disrupted by societal norms as a democracy’s mind would. Again, I think Hinduism’s concept of atman, meaning the ultimate being within, defines how free our conscience could be if we were to train it to be still. If our minds were constrained only by morals that had to be inevitably developed from the lack of leadership found in a democracy’s mind, then we would be in total control of our thoughts. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Karmic Propensities: An Uncomfortable Cause and Effect

Even after Jesus said “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also," we still are quick to condemn. (Matthew 5:38-39.) I never find it acceptable to let a convicted criminal to walk guilt-free. However, Hinduism's definition of karma is loosely "action or work." Buddhism takes the notion of negative karma a step further. This blog's namesake define how negative karma effects our lives: kleshas (कलेशा) consist of Three Poisons: greed, hatred, and delusion. Tanhas (तन्हस) are cravings or desires. Both of these fuel our negative actions which in Catholic terminology translates to sins, both venial and mortal. However, where Catholicism believes in the forgiveness of sins through the sacrament of Reconciliation/Confession, Buddhists believe that the negative karma remains with you. 
I write this because until recently redefined by my Comparative Religions teacher, I always assumed that karma would come back to you for the sake of its harmful effects on the sinner. However, loosely summing up what he said, negative karma reaches the doer in the long run so that they may be more aware of their sins or kleshas. By being aware of their sins, similar to how Catholics acknowledge their faults through an Examination of Conscience, both Buddhists and Catholics attempt to achieve equanimity. "Equal mindedness" is a step closer to Buddhahood, or in Western terms, enlightenment. 
Why, or rather how, can be accepting negative karma be uncomfortable, especially for Americans? I was reading my local newspaper today, and one of the front page articles read: Attack suspect found guilty, Man faces 30 years in beating of elderly woman. This by no means justifies or liberates the attacker of his crime, but by Buddhist beliefs, the 87 year old woman had done something within her past that was now being brought into light through karma. What I find hard to understand is did the woman's past sin that caused this- was it equal to her being blinded in one of her eyes? And returning to what my teacher said, karma, doesn't necessarily fall into this "eye for an eye," equal punishment, or even (Western) justice. But, not to ignore the reality of an 87 year old woman being beaten blind, the crime of the guilty man will cause him to receive negative karma in order to understand what harms he caused to obviously his victim, but also to himself. I think it's within this point in which the guilty doesn't receive negative karma as a handed-down judgement, it's uncomfortable for us to think that the man isn't being punished for the woman's injuries, but rather the injuries he inflicted upon himself for the act of violence against another human being. The magnitude to which the karma will reach in the criminal's life is uncertain, but it, going off of what I've summarized my teacher for saying, will be to the extent by which the man will fully understand his sins. 
Again, to highlight how this is uncomfortable, for me especially, the woman doesn't seemed "revenged" or accounted for in the world of karma. But an interesting aspect that plays into Buddhism as well as Catholicism is life after death. Both concepts are fairly similar: Buddhists believe (in simple language) that the criminal will return in his next life as a victim to such violence he committed. An analogy that better describes this is if one harms dogs in this life, they will return as a dog that receives harm from its owner. Catholics believe that you will be judged on the Final Day. This relates to Buddhism because God, acting as the judge, reviews your actions and sins that are within your heart. Both faiths have a negative response to sinful actions done within this life. And while Yahweh did indeed say "But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise," Jesus did contradict this with the idea that God, or rather love in a karmic fashion, will ultimately judge the sinner's action. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Weight Gays Carry and How This Should Affect Moralists and Conservatives

I can’t help but point out that yes, there is St. Paul’s quote "Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-11.) and a statistic saying 97%, (Fr. Leonard Kennedy, Catholic Insight, “The Annulment Crisis in the Catholic Church”, March 1999 issue, re-posted by Janet Fernandez.) but there is more of a natural law that one can look at rather than faith (which doesn’t cut it for some, and a statistic certainly doesn’t do it for others.) I think that “this country was founded on Christian principles,” however, we have either strayed too far from them, ignored them, or mutilated them. (Celia Lamb.) And one doesn’t have to look much farther than the inability for two males or two females being incapable of reproducing a child. It is a matter of fact there is no natural way for gays to reproduce. St. Paul, along with many other Christian writers, does not necessarily write to always condemn and to "kill the fun of the party." I think that especially in St. Paul’s context, Christian philosophy is an attempt to live life to the fullest. And one can view St. Paul’s writing as a restriction that bars homosexuality, but at the same time, he is stating a simple fact that God did not intend for two males to create a family. God, nature, genitalia-
whatever it is- does not work in favor of homosexuality. I think that because of this ultimatum, gay supporters in this instance are quick to lash out. There IS indeed a level of frustration that gays express which consequently points to the natural inability for two members of the same sex to have children. This is why the term marriage means one man, one woman. I think today, people tend to think that the buzzword(s) “definition of marriage” is deductive; that Christians or moralists believe that gays are wrong because Scripture says so-that argument doesn’t get very far when people don’t believe in it. However, being inductive with the concept of one man, one woman leads one to think of that marriage is just the word that gives a name to the reality of their union.
With that in mind, one should fully recognize the high wall of natural law (reality?) that homosexuals face. Condemning them is the last thing people should want to do, inherently we do though. Something innately different really freaks people out, and it does and it has shaken many peoples beliefs. But realizing what homosexuality does to heterosexuals, that is, discomforts them, one should always recognize the weight that gays carry in their inability to start a family through love, sex, and compassion for another.

Apple Siding with Gay Extremists Over Conservative Christians

I think that you don't even need to bring Christianity into this subject. Apple is making a pathetic attempt to side with the "in crowd" which has only 7,000+. The "very vocal protest by those who favor gay marriage and abortion" happens to be a group that uses cynicism. I have absolutely no sympathy for Apple, but the "in crowd," in almost every situation will hold the First Amendment as their sword and as their shield, condemnation of their opposition as homophobes. I think, or at least wish to think that Apple had to have seen some degree of pressure from a minuscule group to override the 500,000 people who signed the Manhattan Declaration. It by no means justifies what they did, but for the "hipster/in look" that Apple so strongly desires, it undoubtedly had to have sided with the louder and newer crowd. I think Apple is self-damaging its reputation for the larger consumer body, I mean come on, 500,000 dwarfs the 7,000+ crowd. And there is obviously more at stake than just Christian consumers, Apple risks taking a stance against ancient morals that other world religions share with Christianity.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

America's Consumerism and How It's Backwards From Faith

Guy Fawkes Effigy
After enduring Black Friday, I couldn't help but observe how we Americans love to indulge in purchasing material goods. The fine line between essentials and desires is undoubtedly crossed on Black Friday when the "herd instinct" is to put your life on the line (no pun intended) to get a few percents off on worldly products. And as Americans, we value these secular, ephemeral, and hedonistic "goods" more than spiritual treasures. Proof of that is seen in the overflow of Black Friday into "Cyber Monday" in which all the left over stuff (that apparently was left over stuff from 2010,) is sold online through sites like Amazon. This isn't to say all Americans participate in Black Friday, or the U.S. is the only country that consumes (though we rank fairly high on the consumer chart...) but you don't hear about the sales on the day after Guy Fawkes Night. Maybe that's because I'm here in the States, but still, where in the world did Cyber Monday come from?
I think looking to Hinduism's doctrine on consuming would be one of the more encompassing and straight forward teachings on the harm of consumerism. While the Christian philosophy is summed up in the line: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19.) the Hindu philosophy (coincidentally in the 6th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita titled The Science of Self Realization,) pertains to a more self oriented belief. And I find this somewhat more appropriate for American Christians because people really have "stored up their treasures on earth" during days like Black Friday and continue to do so through the Advent season leading up to Christmas Day. Lord Krishna, the Eighth Avatar of Vishnu, (the Ninth is Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama) tells Arjuna, an Abrahamic figure in the Gita, of the Vaisnava Sampradayas. In short, there are four of these sampradayas, or as Wiki says "traditions or religious systems." Kesava Kasmiri's commentary on the fourth sampradaya, known as Kumara Sampradaya, or "duality in unity," describes the harmful aftereffects of consumerism:
"It should be clearly comprehend that attachment to worldly pleasures locks one to samsara or the endless cycle of birth and death while contrarily detachment from the infatuation of worldly pleasures frees one from samsara."
Excessively buying into secular goods does not advance our path to moksha, or liberation from the cyclical dance, samsara. It does not lead us further down the narrow path to Heaven. One of the more profound and intricate Christian beliefs is that Jesus came into the world through Mary, the handmaiden of the Lord. And as  King of the Heavenly Hosts, He  wasn't clutching a scepter, wearing a signet ring, and indulging in excessive wealth. Similarly, raja yoga encompasses an assortment of practices; the one defining Jesus' rejection for worldly goods can be seen as tantrism. While tantrism contains metaphysical exercises, they focus the mind inwardly on speech and outer actions and reject physical surroundings. (That's a stretch to make that parallel,) but Jesus also placed emphasis more on action, dharma, rather than physical objects.
Another stretch would be to say to solve America's intense consuming rate would be to return HOLYdays and their true meaning, especially Christmas as Catholics begin the liturgical season of Advent, the waiting of the arrival of the Lord. The Spirit of Christmas hasn't been Jesus oriented for quite some time now, and with unbelievable days like Black Friday that seep into Cyber Monday, there seems to be no mass movement of trying to curb our intake of products; in fact it's apparently going the other way. It can be deduced, or maybe even induced, that the growth of American consumerism is a fear originating from the ultimate reality of samsara/salvation. Or vice versa, because the paths for either of these two are too demanding, people result in ignoring reality and submerse themselves in hedonism and secularism.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Things To Be Thankful For

I just finished helping out at a PACEM meal this evening. And the basis of the organization is helping the homeless. I went ahead and started my Thanksgiving vacation with some service, knowing that come this Thursday, I'll be enjoying more turkey and stuffing than I can eat in one sitting.
One of the first things I picked up with the men I was serving was that they were grateful for not only the food I was serving, but the simple act of serving them. And for many, to serve someone else in the smallest of ways can be easier said than done. I don't think one has to look far to look far to find reasons to serve; the beginning of the New Testament is nothing but Jesus serving the people; the Wedding at Cana, Feeding the Five Thousand, healing the blind man etc. But one can also look at the general lifestyle of the Buddha. After gaining awakening, he calls two disciples, similar to James and John, and begins 45 years of teaching and aiding the outcastes in modern day Nepal. Depending on the sect of Islam, zakat is a continuous act of giving. And looking at a Hindu figure like Hanuman, the monkey god who helps Rama find his wife Sita, one sees a story among the vast variety of stories of charity and aid.
(from right: Rama, Hanuman, Sita)
Rama and Sita: Path of FlamesNow, these random stories could be viewed as just separate examples of helping the less fortunate, but they all do point to a venerated figure helping those in need. By doing so for a couple of hours, I realized that those in need are very grateful, and their gratitude is really the goal of this holiday; not so much about what we are thankful for, but about how we can be helpful to those who have nothing and make them thankful for something, even if it is a small necessity like a meal. The time spent with those less fortunate then us is something to be thankful for in itself; because we take too much for granted, we need to see how life is lived in the rawest form: poverty, hunger, and those without homes. They may seem to have less material possessions than we do, but what they are grateful for is worth more just like the poor widow in Luke's gospel who "put in two small copper coins."  "Truly I tell you,”  [Jesus] said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others." Having less material wealth than the rich, the woman was able to gain the benefit of giving. So too are those who have little to nothing this holiday season.  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Catholic Origins of Thanksgiving!

The Catholic Origins of Thanksgiving! ~ Canterbury Tales by Taylor Marshall:

"And let everyone remember that “Thanksgiving” in Greek is Eucharistia. Thus, the Body and Blood of Christ is the true “Thanksgiving Meal”."

Got to love that!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Comment on Safe, Legal and Rare

A follow up quote from the author Mark Shea: "We have to radically expand waterboarding RIGHT NOW TO SAVE LIVES!!!"

I think there is a parallel to what this quote encompasses, and it's right within our American heritage. The American Colonization Society within the mid 19th century supported the deportation of black Americans to Monrovia (named after yours truly, Little Jimmy Madison.) The Society encompassed concept of sending blacks back to Africa which to us now looks odd because hindsight allows for us to know the solution to the problem of freeing millions of slaves in the 1860s. But at the time, Lincoln, Thoreau, and Henry Clay were among other prominent supporters that were then-moderates. It was then-extremists like Henry Garrison and the first abolitionist martyr, Elijah Lovejoy, that spearheaded the "radical" opposition of slavery. And I would like to point out that Garrison's profound "Manifesto of the Anti-Slavery Society" was published in 1833. It wasn't until 1863 that the Emancipation Proclamation was put forth. In between '33 and '63 that the radical abolitionist and end to racism movements became widely accepted.

I would like to single someone like Mr. Shea for being one of the "extremists" that demand for radical change. Without spearheading a controversial topic, like abortion, with an absolute conservative opposition, there would be no movement for this radicalism to become more mainstream and accepted.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thoreau Living Hinduism's Doctrine Through A Buddhist Lifestyle Part 2

To recap on my last post:
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”-Henry David Thoreau
To fully undertake the Eight Fold Path in order to end dukkha, or lives of quiet desperation, one must cut off their ignorance. And so when something profound like transcendentalism appears to mainstream America in the late 19th century, only that which can coincide with our comfort is learned and accepted from that philosophy. 
Reasons why we tend to be surrounded by comfort are found within technology. Technology should never be condemned, and within Buddhism’s Three Components, prajna encompasses the benefits that inventions bring. Described as an accurate understanding of reality, prajna accepts technology because it is a part of reality; its transformation. But prajna isn’t found within a Westerner’s vocabulary. We have no discernment; our logic isn’t prajna. Nevertheless, we still find ways to justify gluttony and desire. Hedonism is now called “play;” we go to work and we come home on the weekends to play. Engaging in ephemeral pleasure and abusing technology delude what our true desires are and become factors that make pictures of Kali seem so shocking and primal. To have our ignorance that resides in our beautiful and omnipotent heads chopped off by a fierce female deity is abhorred by not only the arrogant, presumptuous, and self-righteous, but also the weak, lazy, and incompetent. I think that going straight after our egos, our tanhas, with a sword wielded by a higher being is something that completely contradicts our self-gratifying Western society.
I think looking at Thoreau’s radical movement really puts Hinduism’s ideology into perspective; it is not simple, it is not half-hearted, and it certainly isn’t a Sunday-only devotion. When you start looking into the Four Yogas, you realize how inclusive Hinduism is, especially when it engulfs Buddha as an avatar of Vishnu. What is to be gained through the practice of yoga, particularly raja yoga that embodies psychophysical tests on a yogi, is similar to what Thoreau wishes to achieve at Walden Pond. However, even though Thoreau’s profound experience came across as a radical response to the 19th century, it is not radical enough. This isn’t to say that Hinduism trumps transcendentalism, but it does hint at how something profound in Western society is dwarfed by mainstream Eastern culture.
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There are burdens that the First Amendment of United States Constitution instills. A common Hindu philosophy is discerning right from wrong, what is holy and divine, and ultimately what is atman or soul; “Neti…neti…” which translates into “Not this…not that…” And this is the complete opposite of freedoms that are given, particularly those within the First Amendment. Freedoms say “this is acceptable…this is acceptable.” And this isn’t necessarily suppose to be bad or limited, but look at how much precedes and follows the First Amendment, seven articles and nine amendments. And again, this isn’t to say that Hinduism’s “neti” discernment process is a one-size fits all moral law, but with prajna, one is able to make decisions and say no, rather than be tempted to test the legal restraints. I immediately think of the protesting at the Lance Corporal’s funeral in Kansas, it was within the restraints of the law, but what was ultimately gained from using the law in that way?
               I think that the idea of laws saying “this is acceptable, this isn’t” is another reflection of how gluttonous and self-assertive we are in the West, especially when our freedoms were initially instituted to protect our self-interests, our tanhas. Protecting our excessive wants and desires make it even harder to ever consider chopping our egos off for the sake of devoting time to someone else, much less a god, or God, or even our true selves. Our atmans, souls, aren’t reaping the benefits of our hedonistic indulgences. “Ephemeral” doesn’t mean anything when technology and innovations make it cheap for replacements. Our animas, to trump our weak English word for soul with an etymologically superior word coming from Latin, aren’t fueled by our tanhas, but are weakened drastically.
               As an aside, the Media plays into our tanhas. The availability of what news we want to hear, when want it, and how we are going to receive it are all now determined by the individual. This is just another example of how we are able to shape our worlds into what we want, and this is consequently the definition of gluttony. We may or may not need news, but since it is there, we might as well obtain it for what it is worth. However, instead of consuming it raw, uncooked, and pure, we begin to perceive reality in a skewed telescope. We no longer perceive the tangible reality of this world, which in Buddhist, Hindu, and transcendentalist contexts is not the ultimate reality. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Comment on The Pope is Darth Vader

I made a brief comment siding with the author of  this post, Eric Sammons.
The New York Times has repeatedly made out the Catholic Church to be the Intergalactic Empire...

My comment:

I probably should finish reading the article before I post a comment, but I really couldn’t help but laughing at the second comment you made on the grassroots movement. I mean, on that note, Catholicism could never really embody a “true” grassroots movement. Anything less than a legitimate mass is like you said, Unitarian or any other form of Protestantism.
As to the comment on resisting like Ghandi, I find that Rachel Donadio’s article ended on the scene of a “young girl watched the flame flicker in memory of the 475 Belgian victims of sexual abuse.” I think what Donadio was trying to attempt was make an analogy to Ghandi’s passivity. However, using hindsight we are able to see that his passive aggressive style, like the young girl’s in the article, still contradicts their opposition, in this case the Catholic Church.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thoreau Living Hinduism's Doctrine Through A Buddhist Lifestyle

               “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” The recognition of this statement as reality is Truth. It is also the first of the Four Noble Truths in Buddhism. What Henry David Thoreau paraphrases into a simple sentence happens to encompass a much larger philosophy of dukkha, or suffering. Hinduism similarly points out that the human condition is samsara, which is life’s wheel of birth and death. The three beliefs, transcendentalism, Buddhism, and Hinduism prescribe medication, or rather certain rituals and practices to heal oneself of reality’s inflicting pain. The concept of life not being experienced fully is pointed out in Thoreau’s philosophy. Quiet desperation is prominent, hence “the mass of men lead” this short-sighted and ephemeral life style. Hinduism’s term samsara describes the limited life Thoreau mentions as innate; human beings are born with this dukkha, or the suffering of living in the veiled world.
Shiva Nataraja
               Hinduism’s definition of the human condition is the most complex of these three definitions. Samsara incorporates an identification of the unconscious because one is not able to recall previous lives. This belief that one has lead many lives through samsara is profound and seems irrelevant and foreign compared to Thoreau’s idea of quiet desperation. The dizziness that samsara can create, best depicted in the Hindu artwork of Shiva Nataraja sculptures does not encompass what the quiet desperation happens to embody. But if one was to look at these two concepts from a more general viewpoint, they both require the same medication. Quiet desperation calls for the recognition of nature as ultimately being God. The process through which one recognizes the ultimate reality of God is samsara’s opposite, moksha, or liberation from life’s repetative cycle. Moksha can be achieved through the Four Yogas which inevitably lead a yogi, the equivalent of a transcendentalist following Thoreau’s ideals, through several stages before reaching the final goal of moksha. These two medications are the same because “desperation” is in fact samsara; it is the fear of life’s unending cycle and consequently, the fear exclusively in desperation is a continuation of samsara.
               Thoreau’s prescription to cure a man’s life of his quiet desperation put in the simplest of terms is experiencing nature. It is crucial to understand that the quiet desperation derives from Thoreau’s previous life in New England life before becoming a transcendentalist. It’s also worth noting that the desperation is quiet because it is shameful. It is a weakness in Thoreau’s New England world to visibly wear the weight of life’s burden.  What Thoreau is escaping from in the “real” world, the world that is noisy, despairing, and hedonistic, is what yogis try to escape through the prescription of the Four Yogas. Raja yoga best exemplifies a transcendentalist’s escape from the world. Because a transcendentalist is not a reform worker or religious fanatic, he is not a karmic or bhakti yogi. The preliminary requirements for raja yoga are “one’s personal life needs to be in order by practicing the five abstentions that restrain one from injury, lying, stealing, sensuality, and greed.” (Huston Smith, 34.) This mirrors Thoreau’s previous life before escaping to Walden Pond; studying at Harvard University. There is a certain amount of preparation that both the yogi and transcendentalist undergo in order to fully experience moksha and nature.
               While these two types of believers follow strict rules, they in essence achieve what they are striving for in their work. “The object of…raja yoga is to unplug one’s sense receptors…or put them on hold so the clatter of the world’s boiler factory won’t disturb the yogi’s concentration.” (Smith, 37.) The escape a transcendentalist makes from society is this unplugging of one’s sense receptors. Both Thoreau and raja yoga point that too often are one’s surroundings and they are distracting and perverse. This establishes a need to perform rituals, such as raja yoga, to reach an ultimate truth above quiet desperation. This truth, found in nature and moksha, ultimately bring one to what is ultimately real. Realizing that there is in fact more to life than just quiet desperation is moksha, and to achieve it, one most consume and perform the necessary prescriptions that their medication calls for in healing.
               Buddhism prescribes explicitly what medication to take and in what dosage. Buddhism takes the Hindu term samsara a step further in explaining what it embodies. Known as the first of the Four Noble Truths, dukkha, meaning suffering, is what Thoreau coins as quiet desperation. The second of the Four Noble Truths is the cause of dukkha known as tanha, or thirst or craving. (Smith, 70-71.)This thirsting is fueled by kleshas, which are afflictive emotions and mental defilements. (Robert Clark.) Kleshas are divided into the Three Poisons: greed, hatred, and delusion. Thoreau viewed these as the causes for a man to consequently live a life of quiet desperation. Quiet desperation, or kleshas, creates negative karma. In the Buddhist context, negative karma builds the amount of dukkha one undertakes.
The Four Noble Truths, however, don’t only echo the reality of dukkha; they also prescribe a cessation to its harm. Known as the Eight Fold Path, the Fourth Noble Truth is a course of training to end quiet desperation. The Three Components establish context for the marga, or path: sila meaning ethics, dhyana depicting concentration, and prajna, an accurate understanding of reality which translates into English as wisdom. (Clark.) Viewed as a pyramid, the Three Components are founded on sila. Ethics are ruled by the Five Precepts that hinder killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct, and the consumption of intoxicants. (Smith, 74.) By observing these laws, one is able to step to the next level of the pyramid known as dhyana. Concentration in this context refers to meditation, and through the practice of it, one can attain prajna, an accurate understanding of reality. Prajna is known as wisdom because wisdom allows for one to fully embody the Three Marks of Existence: dukkha, anicca, and anatman.
The Three Marks of Existence are the ultimate goal which Thoreau desires to reach, that is wisdom. Dukkha, or realizing that one does suffer, is the first step that leads one back to the beginning of the Four Noble Truths. Anicca means impermanence which encompasses the idea of an accurate understanding of reality. Anatman literally means “no-self.” Deriving from Hinduism’s term atman,
Kali
anatman rejects the egocentrism that a life of quiet desperation carries; self-centeredness, known as tanha, restricts one to fully partake in dhyana and prajna. (Smith, 71.) Hindu and Buddhist artwork depict the bloody rejection of egos, which inevitably derives from our ignorance. In certain portrayals of the Hindu goddess Kali, her necklace of severed skulls is the egos of her devotees. To fully undertake the Eight Fold Path to end dukkha, or lives of quiet desperation, one must cut off their ignorance.
This is where minute differences begin to appear between Thoreau’s ideal Walden Pond and Buddha’s strict teachings that derived from Hinduism’s seemingly sanguine doctrine. To an extent, it can be viewed that in the East, this shedding of hedonistic pleasures in a gory fashion are not warmly welcome in the West. If any change is to take place, even the “most dramatic” like Thoreau’s escape to Walden Pond, it is not painful. I think that there is too much gluttony and accessibility to comfort and the apparently profound idea of chopping this tanha, this “ego-oozing” desire as Smith puts it, from ourselves is too difficult and overly demanding. This can also be weighted with the West’s growing xenophobia, but I think there is more than just a fear for what is distant to us; there is a fear of dramatic change, even in this case when it is for the obvious better. It can be based on my opinion, but there is much to be gained from these outlying philosophies that reject the fulfillment of our egos. I think that much of what is coined with transcendentalism today is sustainable living, and thus it remains on the fringes of society. But in the East, both Hinduism and Buddhism thrive on the surface of Asian culture. I think that the “dramatic and bloody” baptism into a life of anatman is inevitably lacking within Western, fringe philosophy. Because we feel comfortable half-associating ourselves with certain ideals, we are able to pick and choose qualities of certain philosophies. And so when something profound like transcendentalism appears to mainstream America in the late 19th century, only that which can coincide with our comfort is learned and accepted from that philosophy.  

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Importance of Understanding Hindu Terminology and Concepts

Together, Hindu philosophy and scripture depict how “truth is one, paths are many.” One gives evidence towards the other; the philosophy derives from the scripture. Huston Smith’s Illustrated World’s Religions defines many of the Sanskrit terms that are key to understand within Swami Satchidanananda’s commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. Within the Chapters 2 and 18 that have been analyzed, Krishna specifies Arjuna’s dharma, or duty. In addition to Krishna’s explanations, Satchidanananda’s commentary explains how the Hindu terms and beliefs from Smith’s texts fit into scripture and reality. It is crucial to understand Smith’s concepts before diving into the Bhagavad Gita; though Satchinananda’s comments are easy to understand, the broad Hindu terminology has to be learned and experienced to a degree that allows for the reader to relate to the scriptures. The Four Yogas are the philosophies that both Smith and Satchinananda write on; however, the Sanskrit words are better defined within Smith’s text while Satchinananda elaborates more on the concepts and beliefs that the same words have. This depicts the need to understand the diction before understanding how “truth is one, paths are many.” Both writers point to this significance of this philosophy through the shared medium of the Four Yogas. While learning the Hindu terms, one can follow their teaching through the steps prescribed by yoga and achieve what is true.   
            Within the quote “truth is one, paths are many,” the Hindu yogas are the paths. Hinduism’s inclusivity binds many variations of how an individual can become closer to God. “The result is…there are multiple paths to God, each calling for its distinctive mode of approach.” (Smith, 26.) While there are four paths called the Four Yogas, each believer is included in a branch of yoga. The goal of yoga is “to discern the self’s deep-lying divinity.” (Smith, 26.) Again, Smith defines the terms that are applied in the Bhagavd Gita; “The first step of every yoga involves the dismantling of good habits and the acquisition of good ones.” (Smith, 26.) The paths in “truth is one, paths are many,” are meant to be journeyed on while the truths are to be discovered.
In Chapter Two of the Bhagavad Gita, Sloka 41 rephrases the concept of “truth is one, paths are many” as: “If your mind is unsteady and wandering, many-branched and endless are the thoughts and choices. When your mind is clear and one-pointed, there is only one decision.” (2:41, Baghavad Gita.) To achieve a clear and one-pointed mind, yoga is prescribed. It encompasses the physical, mindful, and spiritual demands of Hinduism. While Smith states yoga’s ideal, Satchinananda follows the Bhagavad Gita and discerns the reality of one who is trying to live yoga. Satchinananda quotes Krishna telling Arjuna, “‘You haven’t harmonized your thought, word, and deed.’” (Satchinananda, 13.) At this point, Krishna begins teaching Arjuna the use of yoga.
The spiritual and mindful demands of yoga are best seen in the form of raja yoga. Known as the “royal way,” raja yoga encompasses the teachings of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. According to Satchinananda, in raja yoga, also known as integral yoga, “You blend theory and practice. You apply the theory in your day-to-day activities.” (Satchinananda, 19.) The day-to-day activities can be seen as karma yoga, which is the way through action and work. To integrate truth while on one of the many paths of karma yoga, one needs to apply the said “theory” from Satchinananda’s quote. But in order to understand truth of that theory, one must incorporate jnana yoga, or the path of knowledge and discrimination. Because yoga literally means “yoking, or uniting together,” one needs to yoke the truths found in jnana yoga. “For those already enlightened, the scriptures are as useful as a water reservoir during a flood.” (Chapter 2:46, Bhagavad Gita.) While one can learn as much as possible from the teachings found in scripture, Hinduism does not stop at this point. Bhakti yoga signifies love and devotion. “The aim of bhakti yoga – the yoga of love and devotion – is to direct toward God the love that lies at the base of every heart.” (Smith, 28.)  Because love and devotion can both be continual, the combination of the Four Yogas is unconditional.
However, yoga does not call for one to rejoice in their accomplishments. Satchinananda is quick to point out that “one’s duty is to perform the act, but not for the fruit.” (Satchinananda, 23.) The fruits of one’s actions can delude yoga’s attempt to bring one’s atman, or soul, closer to God. Though there are many paths on which a yogi can follow to reach ultimate truth, there are also false paths that are distracting.  In Chapter 2:49 of the Gita says: “Work done for the sake of some results is much lower than that done in mental equilibrium, Arjuna. Wretched are those motivated by the fruits of their actions.” Instead of being led down the wrong path towards distractions, Satchinananda advises “equanimity of mind is yoga.” (Satchinananda, 23.) Equanimity has two Latin roots: eques, meaning equality, and animas, meaning soul or mind. While in philosophical terms, the word equanimity can refer to equal- mindedness, Hinduism combines this meaning with the idea of an equal or calmed soul. Equanimity enables a yogi to stay on the correct path to truth. “With minds full of desires and heaven as their highest goal, they speak mostly of rites and rituals, which they believe will bring more pleasure and power.” (Chapter 2:43, Bhagavad Gita.) Only with equal minds and souls can a believer truly practice the Four Yogas.
I think that Hinduism’s inclusivity is something that world religions lack today. While both Christianity and Islam require for a believer to be completely committed to their faith, I think Hinduism allows for some picking and choosing. This can be reflected in the multiplicity of deities. Hindis are able to pick an ishta, or one’s chosen ideal of God, and this allows for believers to worship a more appropriate deity that reflects their chosen path of yoga. Hinduism’s teachings are not loose and unrestricted. With many deities come multiple mythological stories that convey the same message of yoga and stress the significance of yoga. I find that some of the major concepts of Hinduism, such as the Four Yogas, can be applied to other faiths. I think that when reading Hindu scripture, such as the Bhagavad Gita, there can be an array of interpretations, all of which are accepted. I think Satchinananda’s commentary portrays how analyzed and complex simple terms such as yoga and dharma can hold so much meaning while at the same time, the same terms in Smith’s context can be used as simple building blocks to create a much larger picture. The quote “truth is one, paths are many” depicts how the same terms can be used with the same meaning, but explain an assortment of Hinduism’s traditions and teaching.  
  
             

Monday, November 15, 2010

Zell Kravinsky, A Secular Saint

MescalitoZell Kravinsky is a saint. The New Yorker’s article “The Gift” portrays the classic story of sainthood. When looking at the story of famous saints such as Peter or Paul, the saint-to-be tends to be initially high in societal ranking. Achieving worldly greatness, the individual turns inwards in order to fulfill a driving need for moral satisfaction. Christendom is only a template for which an individual can look inward. Kravinsky’s story is a much more modern model of one’s path to sainthood without Christianity being the back drop on which his path to sainthood is painted on. A common theme across various saints’ lives is how shocking their defiance against societal norms derides a culture’s priorities and values. While some may view saints’ decisions to give away their financial as shortsighted, this action encompasses Kravinsky’s last comment in the article: “It’s not enlightenment. It’s the start of a moral life.” I think it’s crucial to look at who is judging Kravinsky’s decisions. The world is full of greed. And those within Kravinsky’s life’s story are blindly taken by the hand and dragged through life. Kravinsky’s actions are so shocking to a world based on wealth because he disregards its importance to himself as he donates millions of dollars as well as body parts. I think he is not short-sighted in refraining from using modern means to achieve his journey to sainthood. He takes full advantage of being able to use his body as a part of his wealth he wishes to give away. Again, looking at a saint’s life, such as Ignatius of Loyola’s, we can find how a saint’s alms-giving defines sainthood. A common story tells how Ignatius gives half of his cloak to a man on the battlefield, shortly before he is wounded and confined to his bed. I think modern technology is allowing for people to extend what they can give away. And quite frankly, the act of giving away a highly needed organ is not so bizarre if one can envision the body as part of our given, worldly wealth. Kravinsky understands that his body is a shell that surrounds his soul, and his kidney donation is not anything more than Ignatius of Loyola’s cloak that was given to a man on the battlefield.
               A quote that best displays Kravinsk’s thought process is: “But it’s a fact that our actions, in some sense our thoughts, let some people live and some people die.” He has achieved moksha; not blind to his surroundings, Kravinsky’s take on the world is wholesome and realistic. In a world that boasts how fast individuals can connect through the internet across the world, Kravisnky’s baffling quote shows how blind people are to see the needs of people directly in front of them. Instead of making broad, drawn out decisions, Kravinsky believes action is the right answer to any dilemma. Not acting is the equivalent of killing someone; passivity is unacceptable in the age of technology.
               Kravinsky’s defilement of his family’s concerns also shows a rare example of one’s devotion to morality above all else. While his family’s worries are natural and necessary, they are also selfish and fearful. To immediately question a husband’s sanity when he decides to do something moral and now outrageous depicts how limited society’s faith in piety. A biblical parallel of this essay is God’s call for Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. While in modern Christian and Jewish tradition, God’s test for Abraham seems like a cruel and unusual demand, in historical context, human sacrifice was common. However, this did not keep Abraham from keeping the idea of sacrificing his son’s sacrifice on the “down low.” The father and son journey is not one of secrecy, but reading the story, one can find that both Sarah and Isaac are unaware of Abraham’s intentions. Isaac even asks his father where the sacrificial animal is at one point in their prophetic journey up Mount Moriah. Kravinsky also keeps his family in the dark about his intentions. Though well intended, both Kravinsky and Abraham know that they are driven by something much more than familial attachments to carry out seemingly obscure actions for the sake of morality and/or God. Both men are tested, and both men succeed in passing an examination of conscience. Abraham’s faithfulness is rewarded by God delivering a ram before Isaac is sacrificed, so too is Kravisnky’s selflessness rewarded with moksha, the realization of his inner being, atman. Kravinsky fully understands what he is made of, and it is not of material wealth, nor is it just layers of skin and organs; he realizes there is a soul inside of his body that is guided by morals. In both Hindu and Christian terms, this defines Zell Kravinsky as a saint.       

How I Wana Do This

I just wanted to start this blog for kicks and see what I can do with it.
I really enjoy reading what other people have to say, and I like commenting a lot on
their original posts. As much as I plan to write original content, I am not sure how
much I will produce right now as I am a full time student. I have
a lot to say, but I don't know how interesting that can be to whomever might read
this. I call the blog the Ramen Chef because I am indeed the best .99 cent chef
that cooks those delectable noodles the best way possible. However, that really
has nothing to do with what I hope to blog about. I've recently been to Japan,
love theology, philosophy, current events pertaining to the Middle East, and
read from Time, the Washington Post, and multiple blogs online.