Hindu Story: Tell the Truth, Don’t Get Angry

arjunaIn the Hindu epic the Mahabharata, the young princes studied archery with the famous archery guru, Dronacharya. In ancient India, instruction in a particular art or skill was not limited to the techniques of that art alone but involved discipleship – the student would be trained in self-discipline, surrender, meditation and self-knowledge, as well as archery or whatever skill was being taught. One day Dronacharya told the class: “My lesson for the day is ‘Tell the truth; do not get angry.” Contemplate this and come back when you have mastered it.” The princes wrote the lesson down and went off to consider it. The next day all the princes except Arjuna (the hero of the Mahabharata epic and the famous Bhagavad Gita, which it belongs to) arrived on time for class. Dronacharya asked them: “Can I take it that you have mastered my last lesson, ‘Tell the truth and do not get angry?” The princes agreed that they had. Their lessons continued.

Days passed, but still Arjuna has not returned to class. After a week Drona sent for him. When Arjuna appeared he asked him why he had missed so many sessions. “My revered teacher,” Arjuna said, “you told us to contemplate ‘Tell the truth and don’t get angry.”
“That is correct,” said Drona.
“But,” Arjuna said, “you also said that we were not to return until we had mastered it. So far I have only mastered, ‘Tell the truth…'” Deonacharya smiled: “My son, it is indeed easier to learn to tell the truth than not to get angry, and your fellow princes have not even learned that much.” He turned to the other students: “Learn from Arjuna, this is not a lesson to be mastered in one day. You have not demonstrated your cleverness, only your dishonesty!” The student’s heads turned to Arjuna angrily.

Hindu Story: Tat Tvam Asi

atmanOnce a seeker went to a great master. Bowing reverentially in the traditional manner he said: “O master, I seek enlightenment, please initiate and teach me so that I may attain That!” The master replied in a kindly manner: “Certainly my son, tat tvam asi, you are That, the divine Self lives within you. Meditate on that Self, know that Self, merge in that Self, realise that Self!” The seeker was disappointed. “O master, I know all that already. Why, that very teaching was featured in this month’s Yoga Journal. Please give me the secret teachings, I want the real stuff!” The master said: That is all I know. That is my entire teaching I have no secrets. There is nothing that I have not given you. However, if you are not satisfied, you can go down the road to the next swami’s ashram and see if he has something more suitable for you.”

The seeker approached the other guru and said: “O master, I seek enlightenment, please give me the initiation and your most secret teaching so that I may attain That!” The guru said: “I do not give my teachings so easily. You must earn them. You must do sadhana, spiritual practice. If you are sincere then you can stay here and work for 12 years. Only in this way will you earn my initiation.” The seeker was delighted: “That’s just what I wanted. That is real spiritual life, real sadhana. I’ll begin at once.” The guru assigned him the job of shovelling buffalo dung in the back paddock. The years went by. Each day as he shovelled the dung the seeker dreamt of his future enlightenment. He ticked the passing days and months off his calendar.

Finally 12 years were up; the great day arrived. He approached the guru with hands folded palm to palm. “O my guru, I have served you faithfully for 12 years. I request your teachings and initiation as you have promised. Please bestow your grace upon me.” The guru said: “My son, you have served me well. You truly deserve my teaching. Here it is: “Tat tvam asi. You are That, the divine Self lives within you. Meditate on that Self, know that Self, merge in that Self, realise that Self!” The seeker became enraged. “What! Is that all? The guru up the road gave me that the first time I met him and I didn’t have to shovel buffalo dung for him for 12 years!”
“Well,” said the guru. “The truth hasn’t changed in 12 years.”

Hindu Story: The Ten Pilgrims

riverThe following story – originally told in a Upanishad (collection of philosophical texts which underline the Hindu religion) – is about ten men who went on an arduous pilgrimage to a faraway holy city. At one point on their journey they had to carefully make their way across a roaring river, which was surrounded by jagged rocks. When they finally reached the other side of the river, the leader of the group decided to count everyone to make sure they had all crossed safely, and so he lined each of the pilgrims up and started to count.

When the leader counted the last head, he discovered with horror that only nine men had made it across. He then asked each of the pilgrims to count. Sure enough each one only counted nine. A wise stranger came upon the scene and discreetly asked what had happened to elicit such an outpouring of grief. “We are pilgrims,” said the leader. “There were ten of us when we began our journey, but now one of our brothers has been lost in the river.” The stranger quickly noticed that by his count there were ten pilgrims. He asked: “Sir, would you please count everyone again just to make sure?”
“Yes,” replied the leader who began counting aloud, “one, two, three… eight, and nine! Oh alas, one is gone!”
“But sir,” said the stranger, “you have forgotten to count yourself!” And so, the tenth man was found.

Be Here Now: Book Review

Be Here Now Ram Dass

“Embrace the 10,000 Beautiful Visions”

Be Here Now (1971) is a classic text on Hindu spirituality that bloomed open like a lotus flower in the wake of the hippie movement. The seed for this book was planted in the mind of Harvard psychiatrist turned Indian mystic, Ram Dass, and was written – with the blessings of his guru Neem Karoli Baba – for a Western audience who were, for the most part, materially rich but spiritually poor

Be Here Now offered it’s readers and followers a drug free alternative for attaining higher states of consciousness, while its simple message to live in the present encouraged the pursuit and cultivation of inner peace. Since it’s original publication the book has sold more than 2 million copies and has had an enormous influence on the Western world’s adoption of Eastern philosophy and spirituality. I can’t speak for everybody, but my copy of Be Here Now is one of my most treasured possessions, it opened the door of spiritual discovery and casually pointed towards the way. To this day, Be Here Now’s teachings shine like the sun and penetrate even the darkest spaces. I recommend it with all my heart to those with an open mind, and a thirst for self discovery.

be here now

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Hindu Mythology: Hanuman

Hinduism

Hanuman from the Hindu story Ramayana

Hanuman is the monkey servant who opens up his chest to reveal two little dolls, a boy doll with blue skin and a girl doll with fair skin. The boy doll is the avatar/incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu, called Rama (or Ram), who came to earth thousands of years ago to rescue the planet from the demon king Ravana. The girl doll was Sita, Rama’s wife. When Ravana kidnapped Sita, the pure hearted Prince Rama rushed to rescue her, but he couldn’t do it alone.
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It’s Here Now (Are You?): Book Review

its here nowToo often we underestimate the power of thought. Thoughts manifest. Your life is what you think it is. That’s why meditating and disengaging from the thought process helps free the self’ – It’s Here Now p. 63.

It’s Here Now (Are You?) is one of the best books I have ever read. It was surprisingly very well written, and kept me engaged from start to finish. Even though the book is not a work of fiction, it is definitely out of this world:  `I didn’t know it that night, but we would become close friends for the next six years… our conversation would become telepathic, thought to thought. It was easy to connect with him that way’.

I found out about this book through reading Be Here Now by Ram Dass, which told the story of how Dr Richard Alpert (Harvard psychologist turned LSD guru) had a chance encounter with a 20 year old white kid in India who spoke fluent Hindi and was accepted by all of the Buddhist monks, lamas and travelling yogis, much to Richard’s surprise. Richard ended up following this kid throughout India, and it is through him that he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba. This resulted in his being sucked into a spiritual transformation and spat out a completely new being, freed from the chains of his ego. The young white kid was called Bhagavan Das and he ended up writing a very honest account of his experiences in India, which is this autobiography that I am reviewing, right now. Bhagavan Das never goes out of his way to make himself look good and actually writes into existence a lot of scenarios that put him in bad light, which is admirable. Bhagavan Das (Michael Riggs) also shares all of his spiritual insights and divine experiences, and doesn’t seem to mind if you believe them or not.

The book is flowing with great advice on how to pursue and embrace a spiritual lifestyle as well: `I think many Westerners are frustrated with meditation because they don’t realize that you can’t just sit down and meditate. First comes the need to learn to concentrate. One must practice being completely absorbed in something without thinking of anything else. You can’t skip this first basic step’. The book is difficult to put down, it’s soaking with Hindu spirituality, but even if you’re not into that sort of thing it’s still interesting to read the story of how some white kid from California escapes to India and becomes a saint pretty much over night, and to top it off there’s a lot of drug use and sex on the side.

Bhagavan Das does it all, and you can’t help but think of him as a spiritual materialist, snatching from every religion and ritual to find the sweet nectar of enlightenment. But this makes for a really interesting read as he allows you a peek at how spirituality is treated in India through all of its diverse religious practices. Throughout his journey Bhagavan tastes from every fruit of every tree, even forbidden fruits as he happens upon witches and demon worshipers and becomes fascinated with their `dark energy’. At one point he witnesses an Indian man meditating in a pit of fire, without so much as a scratch on his body. He also shows that at the end of the day he is still human: `Major Rikki also had a big stack of Playboy magazines, which I eventually gave into reading. I couldn’t resist the temptation. As soon as I was given the opportunity, I gave in to all of it. I was masturbating to pornographic magazines, smoking State Express No. 555, and listening to Major Rikki boast about his Military career’.

It’s Here Now (Are You) is a great companion piece to Ram Dass’ Be Here Now, and is an excellent book on its own as well. It is about a single person’s journey, and this is something we can all relate to. If you are into Indian spirituality, travel books or just need a good escape then this book might just be what you’re searching for!

Below is an interesting two part interview with Bhagavan Das about the writing of his book, for those of you that are curious.

We Are All One Family: Religion and its Role in Society.

Peace

“The ocean of suffering is immense, but if you turn around, you can see land” - Thich Nhat Hanh

There are something like eighteen billion cells in the brain alone. There are no two brains alike; there are no two hands alike; there are no two human beings alike. You can take your guidance and instruction from others, but you must find your own path.” – Joseph Campbell – Pathways to Bliss

Social stratification is an important term in Sociology; it refers to the universal process of ranking people into categories based on a social hierarchy of traits such as economic status, age, gender and race (Macionis & Plummer  2008, p. 232). Religion is a form of stratification which doesn’t get much attention; however, it is a topic that Weber, Durkheim and Marx saw as an important theme within the sociology of culture. Social stratification centers itself on the topic of inequality and division; this essay will explore the inequalities present in modern day religion and argue the possibility that religion can overcome these inequalities and instead replace them with peace and unity; it will also determine the extent that religion influences society on a personal and collective level. This essay does not focus on any particular religion; instead it deals with modern day religion as a single philosophy which transcends social labels.

Macionis & Plummer (2008, p. 610) define religion as a social institution which is grounded in faith rather than scientific evidence. This makes it very difficult for sociologists to dissect religious beliefs and explain how billions of people across the earth can structure their lives based on profoundly different belief systems. This prompts the question of the importance in having so many religions, which William James’ attempts to answer in his book Varieties of Religious Experience. In this classic text James (1902, p. 487) argues that due to the immense differences between each individual, it makes sense that there are a variety of religions available to accommodate to these differences. He asserts that because no two people have identical difficulties, we shouldn’t be expected to work out identical solutions or beliefs. Brunelli (2001, p. 227) agrees that ‘every human being should be allowed to freely choose the system of values governing [their] life’ and therefore choose a religion that suits their personal values and cultural norms and abandon the ones that don’t.  Brunelli (2001, p. 227) also holds the belief that there is only one truth which is evident in all world religions, a statement which has the power to cause either great religious conflict or create strong unity. In Aldous Huxley’s introduction to the Bhagavad Gita, the sacred text of the Hindu religion, he comments that its message is timeless and its words belong to no language, race or period of time (Huxley, in Prabhavanananda & Isherwood, p.10). With this statement Huxley is outlining the perennial philosophy, a concept which states that all of the world religions share a single universal truth, hidden beneath a narrative of symbolism and culture. This truth is the soil from which all religions have bloomed, with Hinduism being the first to emerge; Huxley asserts that different religions sprouted after Hinduism to accommodate the social and spiritual needs of each respective epoch and culture. Whether the religion is Hinduism, Islam, Tibetan Buddhism, Christianity or Taoism, all of them ‘were attempting to describe the same essentially indescribable fact’ (Huxley, in Prabhavanananda & Isherwood, p.12) thus making all the differences between religions superficial. Huxley inspires one to look beyond the differences of religion and instead notice the similarities in order to find and adopt the deeper spiritual message.

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