Emptiness and God

dav

As a big city westerner who’s spent most of his life hanging out with punks, metalheads, conceptual artists and various types of moody post-marxist intellectual I think it’s a fairly safe assumption that most of my friends would identify as atheist, or perhaps the less controversial term “agnostic.” It is a community, at least in principle, committed to the unflinching gaze; to the notion that truth does not care about your feelings and that its better to come to terms with the truth then to blissfully ignore it. Often the primacy of the scientific method in determining the truth is assumed to be inviolate and if in it’s scouring of the physical world a cultural value is found to be lacking in credibility then it must be confronted and dispensed with, no matter how provisionally sacred. Many have concluded, not only that God is such a cultural value, but that all conclusions about a reality beyond the ken of our senses or the instruments we use to extend their sensitivity are to be jettisoned.

And so I have imagined this conversation between an unfair caricature of such a person and an overgeneralization of a certain type of Hindu mystic.

“My son, do you believe in God?”

“No”

“Oh, so what do you believe in?”

“I don’t know…nothing.”

“Oh, so you do believe in God”

The interlocutor could just as well have been a follower of Vedanta, Tantra, Shaivism or, indeed, of Yoga. My understanding of these concepts is incomplete and piecemeal, and it’s also important to note that the word God is an imperfect translation of numerous Sanskrit words that each have their own subtle distinctions, but I will attempt to illuminate my own understanding of the issues at hand.

Imagine being a newborn baby. Bursting out of the womb into a buzzing, blooming cacophonous smear. There is no context for any part of the smear to be differentiated from any other part of the smear, there is merely an awareness of this field of colour and sensation where once there was no colour and perhaps only a muted sensation. At this foundational stage of human incarnation there are only 2 things to know. The smear and the time when there was no smear. Almost immediately the brain begins forming boundaries around different parts of the smear that seem to interact with other parts of the smear and the physical world is conjured into being. These formal delineations are the beginnings of language. Without this function of our minds our bodies could not survive in the world but it’s important to note that much of what we take for granted as the state of the physical world, a space inhabited by objects interacting with other objects, is quite literally a figment of our imagination. It is a coping mechanism. What we are conditioned to call the material world is a linguistic construction and what the material world actually is is a single field of energy in a constant state of processional flux. If we pursue this line of reasoning to it’s conclusion then there are really only 2 final objects of knowledge: The smear and that which perceives the smear. In Yoga these 2 concepts are referred to as prakriti, the perceived, and Purusha, the perceiver. In some schools of Tantra and Shaivism they are referred to as Shiva and Shakti. We could just as easily translate it as something and nothing.

These 2 states seem inextricably linked, somehow emptiness is creative, at the very least in the sense that the substance-less thing that perceives is required to complete the relativistic gestalt in order for the physical world to be said to exist and matter seems to go about propagating loci of interaction between the void and its other. A die-hard materialist may be able to convincingly assert that the impossible miracle that is the physical world emerged as a result of random chance, but the idea that that world should then open it’s eyes and be seen by a formless identity embedded within it but clearly distinct from it doesn’t seem to equate with our concepts of causal procedure. There is a formless witness somehow sheltered from the currents of causality and the simple fact of the matter is that it is inconceivable for the physical world to exist at all without this formless witness to perceive it. This formless witness is what is staring out of your eyes right now. Emptiness is the creative force from which everything springs. A fairly fitting definition for the concept of God. And so if you are reading this then you are God.

Somehow the physical world has been compelled to organize itself towards self-apprehension. The cascade of cyclic emergence proceeds with perfect elegance towards the construction of conduits between emptiness and form. The physical world appears random when investigated based on a self-contained causality. Yet the totally absurd, impossible luck that any of this should actually occur despite an infinitude of other options seems to suggest a purpose. Since a world that isn’t perceived by it’s reciprocal is inconceivable, the purpose of any conceivable world is to create itself by creating the path to it’s opposite; a perfectly stable, eternal and omnipotently creative force of pure awareness. The process of the physical world apprehending this force of pure awareness is what enlightenment is. If we are conscious beings we are already enlightened. The formal bodily procedures by a physical being that are called enlightenment, samadhi, or God-realization are merely ways for the human body to relax into a relationship of trust and fearlessness in the face of this fact. Certain bodies are more predisposed to this process then others, and so proceeds all the sturm und drang of the human experience.

dav

Hinduism is an easy religion to misunderstand. For one thing it’s not really any one religion, but a patchwork of mythological and philosophical traditions that got lumped together by British bureaucrats in the 1700’s. More importantly the dizzying pantheon of gods and supernatural entities doesn’t seem to fit with the inexpressible simplicity of the above philosophy, which is essentially cribbed from various mystical Hindu traditions. It’s important to state that Hinduism has been profaned by paranoid fundamentalism just as all the other great religions have, but I think there is a subtler, more holistic understanding that explains the traditions persistence in the face of modernism, as well as it’s appeal to inquisitive spiritual minds dissatisfied by the anxious positivism of the west.

There is a problem associated with the belief that a thing’s existence is contingent upon being perceived. That problem is that our mind is the filter through which everything we perceive is passed prior to its perception, and the vast majority of what we perceive is vastly distinct from what the scientific mindset has demarcated as the material world. We’ve already discussed the world of concepts, of narratives, of linguistic objects which inform the way the vast majority of us experience the physical world the vast majority of the time. These are non-physical objects of perception. Then there are dreams and hallucinations, as well as the creative imagination which creates the mythologies, symbols and archetypes that for much of history defined the linguistic paradigms upon which the human psyche built its conception of the physical world. These are all non-physical objects of perception, and if you believe that the only meaningful test of a things existence is that it is perceived then they have just as much a claim to realness as any property of the material world. They are, in fact, themselves properties of the material world in the only sense that is meaningful. We are the builders of our world, and we can either build a world populated by lifeless particulate bumping into each other or we can build a world of gods and goddesses and elemental forces and mythological archetypes. Of Logos and Mythos and Eros. The latter seems more complete to me, but both realities are provisionally true. It is your choice whether or not you adopt an attitude of devotion and love towards your reality, whatever it is. I submit that it’s the only attitude that makes any sense.

Ultimately it doesn’t really matter what you believe, but how you approach life. An atheist is just as likely to be an ethical, introspective person as any spiritualist. Indeed, many atheists adopt their position because of the moral failings and logical contortions of religious fundamentalism. But in my view they’re missing an important part of the picture. Religious fundamentalists are atheists.

By demanding that works of deep, divine inspiration lower themselves to masquerading as mere history; By insisting that archetypal symbols of transcendence are relegated to being imprisoned by the formal boundaries of physicality, simply a more powerful version of the lowest conception of what a conscious being is; By assuming that the highest aspiration of revelation is that it should basically function like a technical manual for a complicated fridge, fundamentalism is revealed to rest on a far more entrenched materialist bias then any atheist could ever have. At least science, in its purest form, is axiomatically committed to change. As the search for the truth behind the physical world becomes murkier and more troubled by absurdity and paradox and as the transparent fraudulence of religious fundamentalism becomes less connected to the actual spiritual experience, the lines between what it means to be spiritual and what it means to be a materialist are blurring. In the most extreme cases they are all but switching roles.

At the end of the day I don’t really know any of this stuff for sure. It’s wise to be suspicious of people who claim certainty in these matters. It’s almost always a mark of dishonesty. I have attempted here to rationally explain something that is best apprehended through transcendence of the rational mind, and that thing has no doubt suffered for it. So be it. I think the best strategy for a life well lived is to simply surrender to the mystery, to understand that there are truths we are not privy to and to appreciate life for the miracle that it is.

It’s more important to be love then to be right, and you don’t need to believe anything in particular to do that.

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare

dav

Anxiety, Depression and Yoga

bmd

When I was 22 years old I was working a dull but decently paying job at a bank, dealing with customers on the phone. A large part of my job was convincing people to purchase investment and credit products that they were otherwise uninterested in. The vast majority of these people did not need them and, to be perfectly frank, would have been better off without, but I was amazing at convincing them to buy. Within my first quarter on the job I had hit 1000% of my sales targets, and was ranked 4th in a department of hundreds of people. My life outside of work appeared to be going great as well. I was in a long term relationship with a successful and intelligent older woman. I had a band that was showing promise. Lots of trendy friends. A little collection of some nice wines.

This state of affairs would not last long.

In hindsight I probably should have seen it coming. When I was young I was constantly told that I was a “problem child,” explicitly by some, implicitly by others. I received the obligatory ADHD diagnosis and attendant psychopharmacology. As I became a teenager, my very real existential anxieties, and what was, to my mind, a valid distrust of institutional power were dismissed as the misguided rebellions of reckless youth, the consequence of truancy and marijuana and disrespect for authority. I became deeply bitter towards society, towards my teachers and towards my parents. I dropped out of high school and left home at 17. It took years to patch things up with my family.

At any rate, about 6 months into my fancy adult job things started to go wrong. I would vacillate wildly between unbearable states of tension and borderline narcolepsy. I had angina and heart palpitations. I would get dizzy and short of breath. My throat was constantly swollen and I often had trouble swallowing. I would spend hours in the shower just trying to cope with what was happening to me. On several occasions these spells would get so bad that I would vomit or pass out on the bathroom floor. I saw a number of doctors, got all the blood tests and a catscan. I saw a cardiologist, a thyroid specialist and an ear-nose-and-throat guy. Nothing.

Eventually it was decided that all of this misery was simply the result of severe anxiety and depression. I was slapped with a diagnosis, put on high doses of 4 different types of medication and initiated into the revolving door of public mental health treatment. I spent the next year on disability. I lost that job. My relationship unravelled. The band broke up. My physical health started to collapse. Within a couple years I was badly overweight, with dangerously high blood pressure, sleep apnea and terrible psoriasis. I would eventually develop a problematic relationship with alcohol and cocaine.

I had many mental health professionals over the years tell me, in a disinterested, superior, finger wagging sort of way that I had to get my shit together. But it was all so abstract. Nobody had any real techniques, any tangible methods for getting ones shit together. The one technique, besides medication, that was offered with any consistency was Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, the goal of which seemed to be that whenever I feel like choking someone to death, I should rather instead opt to not choke said person to death. It didn’t seem to occur to anyone that the issue was not that my behaviour was inconvenient for other people, but that I was miserable, sick, constantly uncomfortable and hating my life. To date I have had precious few encounters with western allopathic mental health care that have not been disillusioning. Beta blockers and blood pressure meds helped with my physical symptoms, but that only sort of counts.

Then one day I went to this sleep specialist for a fairly routine appointment to check my sleep apnea. The normal doctor at the clinic was away for some reason and I was brought into see someone new who was taking the doctors patients while he was away. I walked into her office for a consultation. She looked me up and down, glanced at my paperwork and immediately clocked me for what I was. “If you don’t lose alot of weight, start exercising and change your lifestyle immediately you’ll need a CPAP machine within 2 years and you’ll be on all this medication for the rest of your life. You need to start doing yoga and you need to learn to meditate. It works but you have to actually do it.” She provided me with a full page of recommendations and resources on where to go and which books to read. Something about her calm self-assuredness, her blunt compassion, and her distaste for the medical status quo stuck with me and I actually did it.

And it worked. It took about 7 years but yoga did what no other therapy was capable of. It fixed all of the physical problems associated with my mental health and provided me with enough stability that I was eventually able to stop pharmacological treatment altogether. I lost 65 pounds, my blood pressure normalized, my sleep apnea went away and my psoriasis cleared up. I quit the alcohol and drugs. I’m not saying yoga is a panacea. There are many mental illnesses that require medical intervention and I’m not saying my mental health is now perfect, but I feel I have at least successfully accomplished, through yoga, what Sigmund Freud, in an astonishing feat of pessimism, touted as the goal of psychological treatment: “To replace neurotic misery with ordinary human unhappiness.” The difference is that I can see very well that where, for Freud, the discipline of mental health care ends is only the beginning of the psychosomatic frontiers that yoga is capable of probing, and that they run deeper then I am even capable of properly understanding.

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When practitioners of yoga are first exposed to the Yoga Sutras, the philosophical underpinning of most of the yoga common to the west, it is normal for them to be directed to the 2nd of the texts 4 chapters; Sadhanapadaha. The 1st and 4th chapters are concerned with the state of Samadhi or Kaivalya, the purported goals of yoga, an important concept to know of but one that requires a journey into the metaphysical weeds many, quite understandably, can’t be bothered to undertake at first. The 3rd chapter delves into deeper realms of mind control inaccessible to most practitioners and makes a number of claims that would strike any fair-minded modern as supernatural. Sadhanapadaha is by far the most approachable chapter to an aspirant who’s practice is concerned mainly with the physical body, the breath and the grosser functioning of the human mind, in other words, pretty much everyone.

Often people are perplexed at how little actual technique is discussed in a book purported to be the foundation of a discipline so obsessed with techniques. There is no direction on how best to perform postures or breathing exercises, only a brief statement that one should do so. What Sadhanapadaha is actually about is the mind. How it creates and how it relinquishes suffering, and how internal processes of mind effect the way the body relates to other bodies in the physical world. To oversimplify, the Yoga Sutras are essentially a 1600 year old manual on mental well-being for which spiritual enlightenment is mental well-being at its most exquisitely refined.

II.17 The cause of pain is the association or identification of the perceiver with that which is perceived.

Throughout the Sadhanapadaha there is a word that shows up repeatedly: Avidya, which is said to be the root of all suffering. It is often translated as ignorance, or lack of knowledge, but neither of these really sum it up. To characterize it as a quality of the intellect seems to miss the point. Misapprehension is closer. Somehow suffering has to do with a type of understanding. It’s a bit of a leap of poetic license but I like the translation misidentification. The sort of knowledge that we’re after is a spiritual one, and it is concerned with what we are. In order for our bodies to thrive in the material world we are trained to assume roles. Our roles are myriad, they are our professions, our familial and social relationships, our socio-economic positions and our cultural or political affiliations. These roles proceed in subtlety down to our bodily composition, our age, sex, our physical traits, the contents and patterns of our thoughts and finally to our identity as a discrete consciousness among many. These are aspects of the physical world that are real. But they do not describe who you are. They are merely phenomena that coalesce around a point of nexus that connects consciousness; the perceiver, to the physical world; that which is perceived. The attributes of the physical world are constantly changing and so if one identifies as a network of physical attributes then every part of your identity is guaranteed to be uprooted and cause you suffering. The trouble is that merely understanding this concept is not enough. We are taught that the accumulation of knowledge is undertaken by acquisition of the conclusions of authorities and their corroborating data. But this type of knowledge is different then the memorization of data. You can’t transcend identification with the physical world by appealing to it’s authority. This is a thing you simply cannot know unless you experience it for yourself. The spiritual project is the pursuit of this experience.

It is unfortunate that the psychological discipline is so insistent on being yoked to a philosophy of scientific materialism that cannot even come to terms with the mere existence of consciousness, never mind its relationship to the physical world. An illness with its roots in a dysfunctional apprehension of the subjective experience can only be treated peripherally by a methodology which explicitly assumes that the subjective experience is not within its purview. And so we have modalities of treatment adopted by institutions all over the world which are concerned with the objective phenomenon of behaviour rather then the subjective experience of suffering. I have heard and believe the testimony of people who have found relief within these modalities. However, my own experience navigating them has convinced me that they are far more useful to institutions that require docile bodies then to actual human minds. Thankfully this is changing.

As everything does.

Om Tryambakam Yajamahe
Sugandhim Pushtivardhanam
Urvarukamiva Bandhanan
Mrityormukshiya Mamritat

dav

Ahimsa and Samadhi

Hey there everyone,

I’ve just started a long yoga course and it’s pretty intensive, so it may take me some time to get into a rhythm with these but I intend to make a little bit of time everyday to write. Going forward these will likely begin to hone in on matters directly relating to yoga, spirituality and philosophy as that has become the focus of my day to day existence. I must state at this point the obvious fact that I am no expert in either dialectic or priestcraft. I am not even an expert at downward facing dog, as the first few days of this course have proven. I am a student of dharmic matters and a spiritual dilettante at best. However I’ve found the process of writing helpful in bringing these concepts into focus in my own mind and perhaps others may find them valuable. Your kind attention, in any case, is always appreciated.

I’d like to start by focusing my attention on what is really Page 1, Paragraph 1, Sub-Section 1 of yoga, a concept called Ahimsa, most commonly translated as non-violence. I would say that it feels pertinent to the political landscape at the moment, but it always is and always has been. It’s no revelation that war, injustice and abuse have proven to be a consistent theme throughout human civilization. Yet throughout the peregrinations of history there is evidence that this has always felt against not only our better judgment, but our very nature at the deepest level. This is why most religions have felt the need to enshrine it so prominently in their various doctrines, commandments and precepts. In every cultural context, whenever people look deep enough inside themselves, they invariably discover that violence is simply missing the point of what our mysterious incarnation as human beings is all about. But it’s in the details where things quickly get murky. The specific rules of conduct intended to achieve non-violence, who they apply to, and in what situations it is appropriate to disregard them; these form a patchwork of cultural practices, philosophies of living, restrictions and taboos whose development over time and in different geographical contexts have coalesced into the superficial aesthetic and practical differences of the worlds religions, and, in a particularly human stroke of irony, has itself become a source of enmity, distrust and violence.

The concept of Ahimsa is the framework of non-violence espoused by Buddhism, Jainism and most forms of Hinduism, particularly those influenced by the philosophical schools of Vedanta, Samkhya and Yoga.

I have mentioned before that yoga is far more then a practice of physical exercise. Of the 8 limbs of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga, the first two are a series of ethical precepts known as the Yamas and Niyamas of which there are 5 each. The Yamas are intended to govern your outward behaviour, in contrast to the Niyamas which tend to focus on the treatment of oneself. The 5 Yamas are as follows: Ahimsa; non-violence, Satya; truthfulness, Asteya; non-stealing, Brahmacharya; normally translated as chastity, though its meaning is far more complicated, and Aparigraha; non-possessiveness, essentially an injunction against greed and material acquisiton. Ahimsa is always mentioned first and is generally said to supercede the others. In other words if following the other Yamas, or Niyamas, would somehow violate Ahimsa, then Ahimsa must take precedence.

Non-violence is the most common translation given, but it’s meaning is far broader then mere physical violence. Violence in this sense would mean anything that harms another living being whether physically or emotionally, directly or through negligence. It includes both specific acts of force and more abstract patterns of injustice. Though intended to be a prescription for an individuals personal conduct, it would also take into account that persons influence on other individuals and larger social groups, as well as the negative ramifications of his habits and modes of consumption. It is also intended to apply to ones conduct towards oneself as well as to society as a whole and the world at large. Following Ahimsa is not simply a matter of being vegetarian and refusing to join the military. It is the lifelong project of living in harmony with the world around you, of cultivating love for yourself and learning to see yourself in other people. When taken in it’s true depth Ahimsa is not just the first of the Yamas, it is the goal of them all. And it’s not just the goal of the Yamas. It’s the goal of the Niyamas, of all of the physical postures and practices, of meditation, of philosophy. It is in fact the goal of the whole yogic project.

The final limb of Ashtanga Yoga is Samadhi, or enlightenment. When one leaves thought forms and personal identification behind and unites with the absolute. Isn’t this the goal of yoga? Yes. But what I’m trying to get across is that in their purest, most refined sense Samadhi and Ahimsa are the same thing. Perfect enlightenment is simple non-violence at its most essential, and every seemingly insignificant act of selflessness and love is ones innate enlightenment poking through the veil of illusion. So, in Patanjali’s 8 limbs we see, once again, things ending where they begin. The gestation and the conclusion spiral into one another and, finally, are indistinguishable.

The practical trouble is that when we consider a doctrinal position to be this broad, this abstract and this open to personal interpretation the issue of how to follow it becomes far more complicated then simply following a rule by rote. Every action we take has consequences both positive and negative, and every attempt to relieve suffering will invariably cause some suffering somewhere down the line. There are no spiritual points to be earned simply by the fact of being vegan or attending anti-war protests or denouncing problematic political positions on facebook. These may very well be highly moral acts but the impact they have is always situational and it is very possible for these actions to have harmful repercussions if they are done out of dogmatic obligation and without sensitivity to the context in which they occur. Additionally, even if these acts seem unimpeachably noble in a material sense, they have very little usefulness to ones yogic or dharmic path if they are carried out with agitation, bitterness or contempt, however well hidden.

There is a term used in Mahayana Buddhism called “Upaya,” which is normally translated as “skillful means”. It is at its core an incitement to pragmatism and an injunction against dogmatic rule following. If someone is truly selfless in their intentions, then it follows that they will have no problem bringing all of their resources of creativity, analysis and insight to bear when attempting to solve a problem, since none of that energy is wasted on any kind of self-aggrandizement. This means seeing the nuance in every narrative and reserving the right to have a complicated opinion or to acknowledge that multiple sides of an issue may each contain truths. It acknowledges that the precepts we follow as spiritual, or simply ethical people may sometimes contradict or conflict with one another and so it is up to us as individuals to use our practical wisdom to decide how best to proceed.

At the end of the day the goal of yoga remains the same, Satchitananda; the state of Being, Consciousness and Bliss that attends union with the absolute. But if what we’re after is our own private joy how can we work to end suffering in the world? Because from the dharmic point of view if someone is truly joyful, they literally cannot do otherwise. Selflessness and joy, like Ahimsa and Samadhi, are the same exact thing.

Hare Om

sdr

Dussehra Tangent

dav
Hello all,

Well Rishikesh was abuzz with holiday celebrations all week. Dussehra is the culmination of the nine day festival of Navaratri in which the triumph of good over evil is celebrated in the form of the complex multi day rituals of Durga Puja and Vijayadashmi. In Durga Puja the divine mother in the form of the warrior goddess Durga is worshipped. Large clay statues of Durga, along with Saraswati, Lakshmi, Ganesha and Kartikeya are brought into town on palanquins, where offerings are made, and then, at the end of the festival, immersed in the river, symbolically dispersing their energy back into the cosmic churn. Vijayadashmi is a seperate ritual where episodes of the hindu epic Ramayana are reenacted on a massive scale, the most striking of which is the erection of a giant effigy of Ravana, the scheming ten-headed king of Lanka who kidnaps Sita, the beloved consort of Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu. The effigy is burned with fireworks in a celebration of archetypal righteousness. For several days Rishikesh was overwhelmed with pilgrims and the air filled with the din of local drum troupes, high energy music blasting out of loudspeakers and the regular explosions of some rather deafening fireworks.


Unfortunately, my ability to document the holiday was a bit hampered by some technological failures. My decision to bring my computer to India was a difficult one. The length of my trip and my desire to write about it seemed to necessitate it, but I knew, based on my earlier adventures, that it might not survive. I hardly expected it to break within 5 days of my arrival after barely travelling at all, which is what happened. My last post was written entirely on a mobile phone and formatted in 20 minutes at a travel agency with a few computers hooked up to the internet. Luckily I was able to fix my computer cheaply, in what, for India, was a relatively short amount of time. I’m back up and running for the time being, but this minor crisis got me thinking a lot about technology and its consequences.

The biggest difference between being in India 10 years ago and being here today is essentially the same everywhere in the world, it’s the ubiquitous presence of smartphones. This is hardly surprising, but for someone who, perhaps despite my better judgement, fetishizes the spiritual journeys of people like Gurdjieff, Ram Dass or even The Beatles, it’s a fairly stark reality check. I joked on Facebook recently that if Ram Dass had Facebook and Netflix when he went to India he’d probably be alot less like Ram Dass and alot more like me. This is hardly a useful comparison for any number of reasons, but the basic assumption feels accurate. Technology, especially social media, plugs us into a world where distraction from the inconveniences of the here and now is constantly available, where the importance of being important is implicit and an idealized, romantic, and utterly false conception of how other peoples lives are going and how our lives are supposed to go is constantly reinforced.

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This is a giant pile of garbage. They are everywhere in India. Rishikesh is actually relatively clean compared to some parts, depressingly, this multi-storey garbage pile is a comparatively small one and its the only one I’ve seen around here, but it’s right next to the Ganges in Tapovan, down the hill from where I’ve been staying and I walk by it literally every day. I’ve been almost hit by cars and motorcycles so many times that I’ve stopped reacting, and I’ve only been here 2 weeks. I went to see a physiotherapist yesterday because my left knee is bothering me to the point that I’ve had to drastically modify my yoga practice, and the intense 2 month course, which is the whole reason why I came here in the first place, hasn’t even started yet. Plus I’m still a grumpy, antisocial, judgmental motherfucker despite the change of scenery.

Now then. I’m fine. Everything’s OK. I just wanted to explicitly make the disclaimer, as I digitally exalt and solemnize my time in this place that I love, that the real story is complicated. Part of coming to a place like India is resigning yourself to the shitty things about the world that you are powerless to change. By being lost in a crowd of people with a completely different set of cultural assumptions and values who could not care one bit about your opinion of them one is purged of the illusion of importance. That’s how you realize that importance is a trap; Being concerned about your legacy; Feeling personally responsible for the future trajectory of society. Anything that uproots your consciousness from the here and now and deposits it in an imaginary future or a closely curated past is a trap. Many people will think that this is a recipe for nihilism, but it isn’t. Compassion is what happens when you leave your story behind, when you can appreciate things as they are and love them anyway. Nihilism is caused by hopelessness, by fantasizing about a future where destruction, decay and death is certain, without appreciating life’s attendant cycles of renewal and rebirth. Compassion is caused by gratitude, by accepting with reverence the way life is right now, because that’s the only life that exists. All the time we’re told to be selfless, but all we’re given as tools to understand what that means is an abstract sense of personal responsibility and personal guilt, both of them artifacts of the disconnected self. I think in order to truly be ethical, one has to understand that ones body is just a piece of the puzzle, an atom in the larger body of the archetypal force of creativity and birth and let that force, which is what you truly are on the deepest level, work through your body. In India that force has many names, one of them is Durga, another is Rama.

See what I did there? Everything ends where it starts.

Enough sermonizing. I am hardly an exemplar of this type of thinking. Think of this as nothing more then a rambling, public note-to-self.

It’s a clear, quiet day in Rishikesh. There are butterflies everywhere. I feel pretty good.

Jaya Jagatambe

Durga_Mahisasuramardini