Learn about Hinduism and Buddhism

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What is Guru?

"Guru" is a word that has come to mean something different than its definition would otherwise imply.  It is a word that connotes that which is heavy and must be borne, like the weight of a late term pregnancy, or the obligations a head of household owes to their family.  It connotes a difficulty that must be accepted: as we must accept that we cannot see some things without a lens. It connotes impetus, the effect or shaping which cannot be avoided during profound interaction, or impact, whether physical and natural as snow striking trees in an avalanche, or psychological in the friendships and enmity we share with others.

From these meanings, it has been applied more broadly: the spouse, parents, and other loved ones of another cannot be known by direct familiarity, but are evident in the people we do know, for they have been shaped by the profound depth of those familiar relationships.  It has come to connote the respect you would show someone who is the head of your household, you are their burden, and they are your support; this bond cannot be broken.  It is the respect you have for one who has impacted you positively or negatively - they have very much become a part of yourself, and this bond cannot be broken.  Guru is a capital city, a capital letter, the longest vowels, a chieftain, the first among equals, great, utmost, superior, large, extensive, that which exemplifies a violent excess, devoid of moderation and mediocrity.  It is the meal that is difficult to digest, which sits extensively in the stomach or intestine.  And, in more modern times, it has become applied to those who would teach - for by teaching, they actually learn.  And with double-meaning, especially to a particular sect of "heads of household" (Swamis).

There are hundreds of kinds of teachers in Yoga, and especially in Sanskrit: far too many to list.  There is the Krishti who cultivates knowledge in themselves and others, the Ijya who is the merchant of knowledge, the Karanika who is capable of judging whether something is correct. And so forth.  But none of these are, truly, a "Guru."  Among the hundreds of kinds of teachers, there is made further differentiation: there are those who teach this or that, who specialize in technical skills, or pure knowledge, or even in particular methodologies - there are even those teachers who have the ability to teach how to teach.  There are those who teach by example, those who lecture, those who teach by socratic interrogation, those who teach by attacking and criticizing, those who teach by taking what is improper away, those who teach by giving what is lacking.  A teacher can be an enemy, or a friend, or someone who is indifferent.  And among so many kinds of teachers, there are instructors, masters, apprentices of greater or lesser degrees, there are those who are practiced, and those who are trained, those who are informed.  But none of these are a Guru.

The object of a teacher must necessarily be to cease their teaching.  The object of learning must be to learn how to learn.  The lessons of Yoga are such that you must necessarily teach yourself to learn.  And you learn that only You can teach your Self.  It is a fact that by teaching yourself you understand the truest nature of your self.  This is why "Guru" is the source and inspiration of the knowledge of the self: the nature of reality is determined by the seeking of one who seeks it.  Reality has no innate nature, and cannot be known until knowledge is conceived.  

The seeking, the seeker, and that which is sought is co-conditioned: thus, we always will find what we are looking for.  It is vitally important to be unbiased and detached in our search for knowledge.  In seeking a teacher, you will find what you are looking for.  You will find yourself.  You will find all your teachers inadequate, and eventually, learning only from yourself, find yourself inadequate as well.  You will discover your bias, and come to understand the truest nature of reality - and yourself.

Who do you seek for when you come to doubt yourself?  How will you give up your attachments to confidence, and be comfortable with degrees of uncertainty?  Western science has already caught up to the eastern in this sense: it is undeniable that perfect certainty is neither possible, nor desirable.  The line between fiction and fact must remain blurred.  It is a difficulty which must be accepted: we cannot see accurately without a lens obscuring our vision.

Therefore, the sacrifice of a guru is most important to learn: necessarily, you must give up your teacher, as you would turn close the back cover a book. You must excel, and exceed, your teachers.  You must exceed your own humanity.  The purpose of seeking a teacher is to not require that teacher anymore.  Do not lose sight of your goal, but let it guide your studies.

Om! Mahamuni. Svaha.  What is "Siddha Artha" but the skillful accomplishment of your own goal.  You will know a great teacher when you see one, they embody your Dharma.  You will know sufficiency when you see it.  You already have the capacity to judge whether something is correct, Karanika.  You already have the capacity to obtain knowledge from those merchants who peddle it, Ijya.  Or to obtain it directly, by cultivation, Krishti  Who will give you a mantra to sing, when you already break into song so freely? What mantra will you sing? And when will you be quiet in it? Who will train your knowledge into skill, Siddhi?  What will give you Siddhi, but your Self, through practice and training?  For what purpose do you seek Siddhis, except contentment, Riddhi?  Are you not capable of self-contentment? 

Class ends. Practice ends. Training ends.  What is the end, the purpose, of this study?  Embody the Dharma, and perform duties of sacrifice.  When you have become a better human being, a Brahmin, perform your duty and perform sacrifice.  Sacrifice is the using up, the giving, the sharing of something - the exchange for something better.  Self-sacrifice, and you will find it is insufficient to merely be a better person.  A Guru takes sacrifice to extremes.  A guru uses (up), gives (up), shares (into infinitely small parts with everyone).  This you can do too, if you truly understand the nature of self and reality.  The best teacher does not teach anything which the student does not already know.  It is insufficient to study, it is insufficient to teach, it is insufficient to perform the Dharma.  The Dharma itself must be given up.  The Vedas must fall silent.  Sacrificing must be sacrificed.  Only in this ending can something truly wonderful be begun.

Origins of Karma Yoga and Activism: Ganesh Chaturthi

Though Gauri and Shiva are popularly recognized as the parents of Ganesh, it was the freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak, born Keshav Gangadhar Tilak, sometimes known as Lokmanya Tilak, who raised Ganesh - as a weapon against the colonialism of British India.

In response to the sedition of men like Tilak, the British had outlawed assemblies in an effort to curb and then reform British India's political and social organization.  No more than 20 people were permitted to gather.  When the Muslims threatened to transform their sedition into open rebellion, an exception was made for religious assembly so that the Muslims might gather at their mosques on Fridays and for daily prayers.

Of course, Hindu yogic practices did not mandate daily prayers, or prayers at all.  No weekly gatherings, or major festivals were observed.  The religious exceptions which permitted Muslim, Christian and Jewish prayers (and allowed the continuation of social and political organization required for the eventual freedom of British India) were no advantage to the Hindus.  This, in large part, was by the design of the British - who more greatly feared the sedition of the majority Hindu population.

Talik was a yogi who had carefully studied the Ramayana and Mahabharata, especially the Bhagavad Gita and, considering the situation, came to develop a new system of Yoga: Karma Yoga, a Yoga of Action, and from this developed techniques of Niyuddha Yoga (fighting Yoga) known now as political and social "activism."  Armed with activism, he found allies in Adi Shankara and Ramanuja after justifying his interpretation of a term used by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita through arguments developed previously by Jnanadeva.

As Karma Yoga was practiced, first by Talik, then by many more capable yogis, it was observed to be effective and proven.  And advanced.  From these proofs and advancements, new comprehension of Dharma, Karma, and Yoga were developed and Hinduism progressed: the teachings of Krishna, that rationality and logic were superior to faith, were finally widely understood: sacrifice was to be undertaken purely for God, and holding the sacrifice of sacrificing the object, even God could be given up: theism could be sacrificed for atheism, atheism for nontheism.  Castes were broken down, together with the other social and political engineering of the British.  In such a state of freedom, there was tantalizing glimpses of something even greater - but for the moment, the present progress was sufficient to organize the first Ganesh Chaturthi.

Talik postulated, "Why shouldn't we convert the large religious festivals into mass political rallies?" The extensive practice of numerous other devotions were inadequate to the present need, and so, exerting the new powers of atheism and non-theism, Ganesh was developed as an excuse for sedition, and ultimately rebellion.  Mythology and ritual were developed not only by Talik, but numerous more competent yogis: not only to the present need, but toward the accomplishment of Karma Yoga, guided by and toward yogic principles of rationality and logic.  It was an exquisite demonstration.

But the new atheism and non-theism of the Hindus, however, alienated their theist neighbors and friends, especially the Muslims, who all began to ally with the British - with whom at least they shared the philosophy of a deity.  Interreligious violence ensued, and the British under Lord Harris took the sides of the Muslims.  By 1893, Talik passionately committed himself to the "god" of his own making, preferring it to any god of the British.  The sedition had turned into open rebellion, and the rebellion into revolution: it became believed and known government, religion and society itself should serve the needs of the people, and not only should, but could be shaped to the needs of the people.

Some localities had practiced a minor processional in celebration of Ganesh as early as the 18th century, now Talik proclaimed these as a preferred ritual: Ganesh Chaturthi processionals became marches.  Some localities had practiced other minor celebrations of Ganesh: these were transformed into the means for political activism, intellectual exchange, cultural recitals and development, and folk events.  These efforts by Talik built on the previous efforts of others: during the Goal Inquisition when yogic rituals were banned and conversion was forced, the rituals of Ganesha were easily adapted to be practiced in secret.  When a devotee of Ganesh is able to merely use a small leaf, any picture on any paper, miniature tiny easily destroyed idols hidden away (not put on display), offered even a single grain of rice, etc., rebellion and disobedience becomes easily practiced, and habitual.  Law is given up (together with other false gods) for Liberty.

It should be said that Ganesh was not wholly borne of the 18th and 19th centuries, but this is when he was raised up.  His truest, oldest origin is in the Rigveda (2.23.1, and 10.112.9), but merely as an indirect reference: the guardian of the multitudes, a seer, abounding in food, presiding over the elders (as in many democratic governments there is a President of the Elders, or Senators), the master of invocation.  In fact, these were, until those recent days, sometimes understood to mean Indra.  It was only during the Muslim domination that Ganesh began to literally take the form we know today, as traders from across the world met and mingled through Dharmic Asia.  Taking this, and that, from here, and there, Ganesh was made to suit the needs of these multicultural Dharmic travellers.  This reflects how Gauri took mud from here and there.  The replacement of his head with Indra's (vahana - elephant head), the ultimate destruction of the material form of the idols of Ganesha so painstakingly made, the numerous other mythological and ritualistic traditions reflected the gradual quickening of Ganesha. But born hapless as he was, as all humans are, he was raised by humans into a most powerful expression of Yoga.  Born as one thing, he became another - as caste and other oppression is cast off by all people, sooner or later.

Today, consider your own power - not only over society and government, but over yourself.  It is not how you were born, but how you were raised up, how you yourself raise yourself up, that matters most.  Raise yourself up, and discover freedom in rationality and logic!  This is the truest spirit of activism.

Even a criminal may have their share of honor, if they are loyal and true.  For as often as a person must violate one or another principles they hold, so that they might adopt newer, better ones, so too must we all be willing to progress our laws and society - gradually shaping them toward the form of our good conscience, and heart, so that we never again be forced to break laws and principles.  Law and principles must not chafe our heart.  Indeed, law and principles are precious, and good, to the extent that they permit the freedom of love.

Now learn patience

By Yoga we learn that everyone does as much as they can to the ability that they can. When we find our own limits, we are able to see how we need to become more able - stronger and smarter.  Whatever adversity we find is our own fault.  And while this may appear adversarial, and frequently we are a cause of our own self-harm, especially in whatever obstruction we are now confronted by, there is good reason to trust we will eventually grow and overcome this, and all that would limit us.

However, until then it is necessary to temporarily tolerate your own faults: this tolerance is Ahimsa, the promise of non-harm, of safe passage, given to even such a constant enemy as our Self.  Learning to tolerate our faults helps us become more tolerant of others who are not always our reliable friends, and our world, which is frequently a hard place.  Eventually we come to see that the world is exactly as it should be right now, and though others may present to us adversity, they are not our antagonists.  We learn to even withstand our own distress.  This is Shanti, the peace of invulnerability, of invincibility.  It is possible to learn this invincibility and be victorious - and you will succeed, if you persist a little longer.

Have you yet learned persistence?  Then persist.  Do not feel distressed by your present inability.  You are doing enough to eventually succeed.  You struggle honorably, intent on success.  You have always honored your limits in the past by exceeding them when it was possible to do so.  However, now it is not possible - and that is acceptable.  You will grow stronger if you do not waste your strength on senseless fighting.  Patience is the means to your victory in this challenge - and in many others you must soon meet.  You have learned persistence.  Now it is time to learn patience by practicing tolerance.

Going to work

There are Asanas which are easy, and those which are difficult: but neither of these are what is necessary to do.  We learn what is easy so we may accomplish what is difficult.  An Ashram is a place where things are easier, and was intended to be so.  However, just as you do not lay in bed all day, and stop after eating enough, when strength is recovered, performance of what has been learned, trained in, and practiced is undertaken naturally enough.  An Ashram is merely a rest-stop in life, whether we are talking about the Ashramas of a lifetime (Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha, Sannyasa), or those Ashramas we construct on our wanderings (through samsara).  A mindful, focused environment is restful, and conducive toward study, training and practice - but this does not make Yoga possible. 

When you begin to examine what prevents you from actually accomplishing Yoga, you will see that the wider environment cannot be kept wholly out.  There is pain, there is weakness, there is death.  And these are here, in your place of rest, too. Like a cow is prepared for slaughter with a safe pen and grain, we have chosen to not ignore the consequences of our Karma: there is an urgent necessity to practice Karma Yoga, and taking control of this destiny requires self-sacrifice, the sacrifice of "self", the sacrifice of identity.  This requires skill in the four Jnanas: self-control begins with the body, the mind's thoughts and feelings, the consciousness and ultimately with the identity.  Perfecting this skill (Siddhi) toward your contentment requires understanding sufficiency (Svaha), and this requires a mastery of Hatha Yoga.  Ashrams are comfortable, and easy - and are frequently necessary.  But an island in a flooding river is no place to stay very long.  We have chosen to not be afraid of the water - we want to cross entirely over, and see what lies beyond.  It is necessary to journey on from each Ashrama, from Brahmacharya to Grihastha, to Vanaprastha, to Sannyasa.

A house provides shelter and safety.  But a Yogi cannot stay at home all day.

Sacrificing time

"Sit and do nothing."  If You were to sit, You would still be doing something.  You are always in action.  This You is your Self.  To still your Karma, and control it, requires self-control, which is mastered through practice in Jnana and other forms of Yoga.  Consequently, when sitting, it is beneficial to undertake some training and practice before attempting to do nothing.  However, having obtained all necessary prerequisite skills and strength to sit and do nothing, it becomes possible to perform any other Asana selflessly.  This selfless action is Karma Yoga.

It is by the requisite skills and strength of Karma Yoga that sacrifice becomes possible: training and practice in the sacrifice of self (becoming selfless) is foundational to training and practice in any form of sacrifice.  A sacrifice of Time, by sitting and doing nothing, is difficult to accomplish.

There are many other benefits to this Asana: sitting and doing nothing is one of the most expedient means toward recovering strength of mind and body, and naturally results in awareness of Time, especially its effects of impermanence - and its nature of destruction, which is not unlike sacrificial fire.  An understanding of Time permits a better understanding of Dharma.  One who frequently sits and does nothing finds awareness of their Self, and their Dharma, easy.  Their desire, ignorance and hatred are easily observed - as are the effects of these.  All of their Karma can be understood - and as one might discover their body, and is subsequently able to learn self-control of their body, and mind, and consciousness, and self, merely developing awareness of Dharma founds the development of many other profound skills.

For example, it is possible when sitting and doing nothing to become acutely aware of all your other pressing duties, or to become aware of your own thoughts and feelings, your own inclination toward action.  Understanding these as your own, you are able to see your Self.

Food burnt at the altar is not wasted, nor is a proper gift of food well given and refused wasted.  Time spent in Yoga, even if it is only by sitting and doing nothing, is not wasted: rather, when it is understood You are part of this world, it is easy to see that doing nothing improves the entire world.  As beings perform the sacrifice of food to sustain the Yogi's effort, Time may be sacrificed by the Yogi to bring an end to their Self, to being, to beings, to entire worlds, to all of Karma, even to the Dharma itself.  Even to Time itself.  For this is the meaning, the purpose, the use, the nature of Time.

Sacrificing strength by exhaustion

It is easy to become lazy in each Asana and simply rest, but the Yogi must bear into them with all their strength and heart.  It is by the sacrifice of strength, by exhaustion, that we learn to trust our second wind, to trust our recovery of strength, that we gain honor and become capable of heroism. An occupying army can never rest, but must remain vigilant and constantly exert themselves: so too must the Yogi become occupied by their breath.   A field must be continually weeded to remain cultivated, a wheel continually trued to remain round, an animal continually trained and practiced to remain domesticated: a Yogi must continually remain aware and alert in their self-cultivation, their truth, and tameness if they will bear the yoke to perform their duty.

Certainty of success

It is not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game which matters more to whether it is worthwhile and enjoyed.  Sacrifice attachments to winning and losing to obtain the truer prize of honor.

Some things are impossible to accomplish.  But the victory of success is never one of them.  The warrior who falls in battle may die, but remains unconquered.  The captive is defeated, but rebelling, disobedient and defiant remains unconquered.   The land and people who lose a war to be occupied are not necessarily conquered.  But a hero, the one with sufficient honor, will conquer, and sit (Asana) in this victory.  And would be worthy of their subjects.  Thus the victory blow, the strike which ends a enmity and fulfills the vow for which fighting was begun, is made not by destroying the opponent, but by winning their friendship.  Thus, the Yogi seeks to earn their own self-respect, and honor.

Anguttara Nikaya 3.22 – the logic of hope

The Buddha said, there are three types of sick people: there is the one who will recover from their illness only if they receive medicine, nursing, proper food, and other care - and will not recover if they do not receive these things. There is also the one who will not recover from their illness, even if they were to receive all the proper care. And there is the one who will recover whether or not they receive care.

Though it is unknown whether a sick person will benefit from care, care is nevertheless given to the sick.  Though it is just as reasonable to fear that a sick person will not benefit from care as it is to hope that a sick person will benefit from care, it is not the hope that guides the provision of care: there are many reasons care is not withheld from the sick: if one seeks health, the unnecessary withholding of care is less reasonable than the unnecessary provision of it.  It is because there are some who do benefit from care that care is given to all sick people.

In the same way there are those who will benefit from seeing the Tathagata, from hearing the Dharma instructed, from training, and other guidance. And there are those who will not - some people will develop sufficient understanding on their own, or fail to do so. But it is because there are those who do benefit from guidance that guidance is provided.

Good luck, Mr. Sessions

There is something to agree with in Jeff Session's stark complaint.  Every person has the right to determine their own faith and creed according to conscience, including the renunciation of faith.  And because of this, government shouldn't interfere with the religious practices of its citizens by imposing requirements for practices upon any citizen contrary to their religious traditions.

Our City shouldn't conduct activities or adopt or maintain policies to prevent any citizen from participating in official public functions by cause of their religion.  And yet they do, at the beginning of their meetings (and many other times, besides).

All men and women of majority age, without any limitation due to religion, have the right to marry and to found a family - regardless of its adherence to or aberration from one religious belief or practice or another.  And yet, these rights too are limited unnecessarily when we deprive homosexuals and others with un-Christian practices of their freedom.

Everyone has the right of equal access to public service and participation in civil leadership and functions regardless of their religion. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work, and to protection against unemployment by cause of their religion, and its required practices - including religious observances like prayers and holy days. Everyone has the right to purchase property which has been offered for sale to the public, to just, equitable and favorable conditions in public commerce, free of discrimination upon the basis of their religion.  But we frequently and unjustly deprive our fellow citizens of these rights.

In the exercise of their religious rights and freedoms, everyone should be subject only to such limitations necessary for securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.

Good luck, Mr. Sessions.

The temple of Kirtan

Kirtan is a word that connotes a type of temple or monument which is constructed by repeatedly mentioning, saying, reporting, and telling - in the sense that a physical temple is constructed by repeatedly placing bricks, or other construction materials.  In this regard, Kirtan has aspects of study, training, practice and performance. 

This temple of Kirtan, once constructed, is no different than any other temple: it is a facility for particular forms of sacrifice.  Sankirtan is the svarupa, the true, or essential, form or nature of Kirtan.  It is differentiated from mere Kirtan by evidence of spontaneous emulation in sacrifice: in the sense that a Priest facilitates the spontaneous emulation in sacrifice of a devotee within a Temple they construct or maintain.  When Kirtan is performed successfully, others emulate the construction and perform the sacrifices too.

Kirtan is accomplished by any of the athletic or performing arts through play; these plays are undertaken through a system of Asanas for the purpose of Dharma, Artha and Kama.  Sankirtan manifests the Vedas themselves: as the Vedas are not the words, but the melody which carries them, so is the Dharma not the play, but the player.  

Like all Yoga, Kirtan is an individual and lonely practice.  However, there are reasons for which Yogis gather to perform not only Kirtan, but numerous other things.  Kirtan is performed together typically either because of the need for the assistance of a Priest or the Priest's need for assistance in sacrifice, but also for study, training and practice.  

When people play together, a harmony and concord naturally arise which make success easier: as a fairer price is settled upon by buyer and seller in auction than in individual bargaining, as a melody is stronger when sustained by multiple voices, as a team of athletes succeeds where an individual might fail, as an army succeeds where a single warrior would fail.  The merchant sings advertisements of their price and wares, and the buyer spontaneously responds.  The athlete wins a game, and their fans spontaneously celebrate in the same victory.  The musician plays the melody, and the words are immediately sung by a thousand voices.  It is by Sankirtan that spontaneous mutual service for the same goal arises: truth, love, fairness, and numerous other objectives which are shared are achieved.  This is not mystical, but the result of the fact that all beings desire the same things, and when they work together, these become priorities which overcome any minor differences which differentiate the individual players.  We all desire truth, and love.

There are tools for play which players rely on, as there are tools to accomplish any task easier.  A single musical instrument can keep the tone steady for a vast number of musicians by remaining constantly in true tune, a drum can keep an army marching in the unity of courage by remaining constantly in true rhythm, a book can keep every voice in harmony by maintaining the constancy of verbage, the northstar can guide millions on different journeys by remaining in constant position in the sky.  The tools of Kirtan are designed toward constancy: an objective standard of perfection to which every participating Yogi may look for guidance.  Say the name of fire in a theater - and everyone runs in terror!  When you say a mantra, or the name of a beloved, their influence is brought to bear; by repeating training, confidence is gained.

When gathered for group Kirtan, each Yogi strengthens, guides and reinforces each other, together with whatever tools are used.  Kirtan is an expedient means by which even amateur Yogis may share in expertise and confidence - if only for a while.

There are simply too many techniques to summarize here, each specific to a particular tool, or objective of a particular sacrifice.  However, it may be said that as each instrument in an orchestra must be both heard and not dominate, these techniques are intended to bring harmony among the multiple efforts of each Yogi.

Kirtan relies on the use of Maya (magic, illusion, abstraction - like a graphical representation of numbers, or a 2 dimensional rendering of a 3 dimensional object, or the convincing performance of a theater actor, etc.), and this makes it both effective and dangerous for someone who is unskilled or insufficiently trained.  Of the numerous dangers of Maya in Kirtan, the greatest is entertainment: the athlete or musician must enjoy the game differently than the spectator, and each must remember their place.  For the spectator, it is easy to become entertained and too passive in their witnessing, and in such a dreamlike state, gain no benefit from the work of Dharma.  For the athlete, it is easy to become entertained and too active in their participation.   

If a Yogi stays aware of the Maya by perceiving the tools through which it is created, this danger is somewhat minimized: this is why it is necessary to first train in describing the merits (gunakirtana) of the players and their tools, why Puja is necessary to honor all those who play.  This act of friendship helps one remain conscious of the Maya, and not be overcome by it. Understanding the illusion does not rob it of its potency, only its power to control.  Understanding the illusion permits the Yogi to benefit from it without being overcome.  Taste each ingredient in the meal, smell every flower in the perfume, see every color and stroke in a painting, discover the actor behind the mask of your favorite character - if you can understand and praise the study, training and practice the player on the field undertook, even if they oppose you, you not only can come to understand what athleticism truly is, but will doubtlessly emulate them and exceed them.  

There is no honor in overcoming a less capable opponent, only in withstanding their antagonism.  There is no honor in speaking over a more eloquent voice, only in patient dialogue or supporting chorus with it.  The honor of a Yogi is observed in their self-restraint, their collaboration and cooperation, their ability to construct and service the temple for the sacrifice of this self: it is in Kirtan that we willingly give up our own individual voice to lend it to the choir.  Our voice, distinct and powerful, is important to hear - but is frequently bettered by supporting others.  

While entertainment is a desired effect of the performance of Kirtan, and necessary to achieve Kama, the enjoyment of the work, it is not the primary goal.  Performance is often the best (and sometimes the only) means by which a student may come to understand the Dharma.

Silent meditation free-style

Come and sit around and do nothing with us - at the Ashram on Mondays from 10:30am to 11am. Silent meditation, free-style. Every tradition welcome. Tea is sometimes available before hand, beginning at about 10:15. But sometimes there is no tea.

We also sit and do nothing in other (semi-random) places and times around Grand Junction - email us at lokahathayoga@gmail.com or call (970) 778-2835 to get on a list of where we'll we'll be sitting and doing nothing this week. .

Soon, you can also come and sit and do nothing with us at Metta from 5:30pm until 6pm on Fridays. There will be (sometimes) tea available beginning at 5:15. Sometimes not.

Beyond interfaith friendship

We participate extensively with the Grand Valley Interfaith Network in various capacities, and helped to organize a Theological and Knowledge Exchange.  Having attended the services and studied (to some minor extent) the practices and traditions of all our friends in the several faith traditions of Colorado, and shared our own practices and traditions with others, it is immediately clear that the most pressing question for any visitor is not the reason why the practice was undertaken, but the reason why it is persisted in.

Someone may begin a practice for any number of reasons: their friends, parents, or even distant ancestors may have benefited by the practice, by growing up and knowing no other choice, or even the casual discovery of the practice through some accident of coincidence.  But the reason why a person persists is always the same: for someone to persist in a practice, it must give benefit to them - not only in the present moment, but in the future as well.  Such is human nature: we hold onto what is valuable, and let go of what is not.

Yet after only the most cursory exploration of a culture, it is clear that the practices of today are not as they were a decade ago, or hundreds of years ago, or even thousands of years ago (if that religion has even lasted so long - many faiths are quite new).  And getting to know in friendship any of the practitioners of that religion, it is clear that their own personal practices have changed radically since childhood, or when the religion was first adopted - and even differ considerably from a year ago, or months ago.

By practice, greater skill and competence is gained: there is improvement.  In every culture, first human and animal sacrifices are given up, then sacrifices of plants and all other living creatures - as the knowledge of what a sacrifice is is truly understood.  Eventually, sacrificing is sacrificed, prayers fall silent, and in the quietude of this vedasamnyasa atheism is adopted.  Eventually, atheism is itself given up for non-theism.  And non-theism given up and the practitioner, now Tathagata, unbound and free, travels far, far, far, far beyond.  And never again considers themself a hindu, or buddhist, or christian, or jew, or muslim, or bahai, or atheist, or anything at all.  Not even human - for they have exceeded their humanity to develop a much better nature.

That we all journey on the same path is not the consequence of any god, but the consequence of a shared human nature.  It is our nature to self-improve.  To change, to grow, to seek what is true and valuable, and let go of all that is not.  It is for the purpose of discovering - and fulfilling - the full promise of our humanity that we undertake any practice at all.  And all faiths and religions are expressions of this same humanity.

Just as the purpose for which a path is taken is that we may not travel the expanse alone, but enjoy the journey through friendship with our fellow travelers, the purpose of our humanity guides us from being lost to the wilderness from which we were borne.

The gift

The gift of food is important, and we participate in community-wide food drives with the Grand Valley Interfaith Network to help supply the area's local food banks.  But we also provide direct assistance to those who are hungry, or who are not able to obtain all the foods they require: these gifts of food are given to honor these individuals and families, their role and service in our shared community, to celebrate our friendship (even if we only just met), and in such a way that feeds their body, and their dignity.  We also give food to those who beg it.  As often as we have food to give.

But we also beg others to give food.  And other gifts.  We would beg you to give.

There is an uncanny antagonism against such beggars. Our City has invested in numerous signs to dissuade giving to beggars, suggesting that giving will not bring an end to their poverty. As if this is the reason a person should give to beggar - to end their poverty?

Hunger is merely suppressed a while by food - what gift then can conquer poverty, that it would be acceptable?

When an apology is offered, the forgiveness sought it is not to benefit the transgressor, but the one who would unnecessarily hold onto and attach to their anger.  Giving reason to let go, to make a sacrifice of this anger, through penitent self-improvement is a gift worthy of giving, whether it is accepted or not.

Grass is raised for its fruit, which is harvested and made into flour.  This flour might then be honored by being made into a lingam or other offering, then ultimately consumed as food.  This food will soon become discarded as feces and urine - but not before it accomplishes the purpose of the grass's sacrifice by sustaining our efforts another day.

Medicine may suppress sickness a day or two, or many years - but though the patient eventually dies, the efforts of their physician are not wasted.  Both giver and recipient are trained and strengthened in mind, body and heart, so they develop friendship and goodwill.

Please give.  What you sacrifice will not be wasted.

Invitation to practice

If you have interest to improve personal and professional yogic practice by practicing in Hinduism, and especially Buddhism, we'll be celebrating the opening of Metta Yoga by providing a short series of classes to provide introductory background information, skills and conceptual orientation. Of course, even if you are not interested in attending a class, we would love your company while we are "sitting around doing nothing." lokahathayoga@gmail.com, 970.778.2835

Samyutta Nikaya 35.63

Gotama said, “though a person may live even in a crowded city, they may live alone – if they leave behind their pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain. A person who seeks pleasure or avoids pain is never alone, even in remote forests, far from the noise and business of crowded cities. A person need not persist in their desire for pleasure or avoidance of pain, they need not persist in their attachment to things they have seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched or thought. A person can indeed live alone, even in a crowded city.”