Friday, April 15, 2016

In Sanctum Aeternum

A person is said to be established in self-realization and is called a yogi (or mystic) when he is fully satisfied by virtue of acquired knowledge and realization. Such a person is situated in transcendence and is self-controlled. He sees everything — whether it be pebbles, stones or gold — as the same Bhagavad Gita 6:8

Paul Vitello, in an article about yoga, published in The New York Times, raised an interesting dilemma. The Bhagavad Gita teaches its followers (to the wisest of its transcendentalists) that they should always engage the body, mind and self in relationship with the Supreme, that they should be free from desires and feelings of possessiveness. No easy task.

Further, they shall regard all “honest well-wishers, affectionate benefactors, the neutral, mediators, the envious, friends and enemies, the pious and the sinners all with an equal mind." (Bhagavad Gita 6:9.)

This is universal wisdom, and for a Christian can be found in Matthew 7:12:  “Always treat others as you would like them to treat you….”

And in 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

There are no differing shades of gray then, or even black and white for God's people.  We see someone, meet someone, know someone, we treat them as we would like to be treated. We see all with an equal mind. We do not covet, and we do not lust over money.

Who can truly do this, other than perhaps Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha or Krishna?  In this modern time, followers of ancient wisdom don’t even try. The “would-be” pious often show rejection of others when their Lord and sovereign does not reign supreme in the hearts and mind of the “other.”

Muhammad said: Worship God and consider no one equal to Him. Be kind to your parents, relatives, orphans, the destitute, your near and distant neighbors, your companions, wayfarers.... God does not love the proud and boastful ones.

In Vitello’s article, entitled “Hindu group stirs debate over yoga’s soul,” ( there is a sectarian bent that is all too familiar today: Our God is better than your God.  He showed us first!  Granted, this is not the same as "Daesh," or the horror of this extreme hate. But what would Krishna say?

Sadly, there is nothing new here in this modern age, but too many practitioners of Hinduism, according to the article, have been scapegoated for far too long.  Is truth found by giving credit where credit is due?

Vitello cites the Hindu America Foundation in their campaign “Take Back Yoga.” At face value this appears oxymoronic; the Bhagavad Gita calls on all its followers to divest themselves of “feelings of possessiveness.” According to the Bhagavad Gita then, the call to “take back” yoga could certainly be heresy.

Still, Doctor Aseem Shukla, the foundations cofounder, believes the children need a break.

“When our kids go to school and say they are Hindu,” Shukla, a urologist and a second-generation Indian American, said, “nobody says, ‘Oh, yeah—Hindus gave the world yoga.’ They say, ‘What caste are you?’ Or, ‘Do you pray to a monkey god?’ Because that’s all Americans know about Hinduism.”

Indeed, on "30 Rock," a once popular television sitcom on NBC, Liz Lemon, played by Tina Fey, is the head writer of the fictional comedy-ensemble series "The Girlie Show." Liz works for the none-too-skilled network executive Jack Donaghy, played by Alec Baldwin, whose previous experience had been confined to the offices of the network's corporate owners General Electric, or GE.

In one episode, Jack returns to these roots. He is excited about being in the "microwave lab," one of his responsibilities as an executive in product development.

To be fair a Hindu scientist, now in charge of the lab, tells Jack that western names all sound alike to Hindus, and calls him John Donavan repeatedly. "Westerners all look alike," he said (a stab at stereotypes). But the laugh comes quickly back on the Hindi

As the scientist touts the new microwave (it talks like Hal the computer on "2001: A Space Odyssey" ), Jack exclaims, “My God.”

“Which one?” the Hindu scientist said, in all seriousness.

It’s true that tongue-in-cheek stereotypes may be the best way to understand and explore, if not laugh at, prejudice. But the point Shukla was trying to make is not at the expense of America's children on the playground.

In "From the Pulpit," the Rev. Nonin Chowaney, writing for the Omaha World-Herald, said that one of the most important vows in Zen Buddhism is knowing that "beings are numberless," and vowing to free them.

According to Chowaney, we start by freeing the being directly in front of us. That Hindu child on the playground, for example.  Or perhaps, by helping a homeless person.  By feeding the birds regularly, or even helping with the dishes.

"By living this way, 'freeing all beings' becomes possible....  We not only ease their suffering but also open our hearts so that we ease our own."

Krishna, in the wisdom of eternity, surely nods in understanding at Vitello's call for possessiveness.  But is this the message of the holy and the eternal, in Sanctum Aeternum?  We of the pebbles, the stones and the gold, all the same.  

Be kind and surely the need for possessiveness will vanish.


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