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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Contradictions in Matter

By Charles Feldman (Prana)

There is a commonly known experiment in science, where the exact same thing can be measured at times as a wave, and at times as a particle. This is a contradiction in matter.

If you look at or touch a stone or a piece of wooden furniture, it is solid and unmoving. Yet science says it is composed of atoms that are in constant motion. This is a contradiction in matter.

Different elements are composed of merely different quantities of protons and electrons. Yet these different quantities are supposed to be what creates different qualities in nature. This would be like putting various wooden blocks of different dimensions together and getting glass. This is a contradiction in matter.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Evolution in Religious Thoughts and Practices (2)

By Shiva Gardener

I grew up in a typical Indian family in a small village in the proximity of Mumbai. A shrine in house where daily ritual worship is performed, the community temple of Lord Sri Krishna, and the celebrations of major Hindu festivals, was the religion of my childhood, teenage, and years beyond. Celebrations, fasting, food, fun, new clothes, were the major highlights of these events. Visits to religious places distant and nearby, were taken as a combination of pilgrimage and adventure.

The concept of Guru Diksha or spiritual initiation was introduced to me by my parents, both of whom were initiated by Shanti Ma – Bhakta of Lord Vitthal, and at one point my grandmother had asked me whether I would like to be initiated by her as well. Some religious impetus came from watching the TV series on Ramayana, Mahabharata, Shri Krishna, stories of Saints. There were also some self-efforts in terms of devotions, readings of Gita and scriptures, prayers and vespers, these being partly driven by devotion and partly by what Swami Vivekananda terms as formative aspects of religion.

The life of challenges and free choices in a big city was awaiting me. I was putting myself into situations of adolescent life, encountering new people and new attitudes, the Mumbai frame of mind. Between the fun and struggles, I got introduced to Dream Theater, a progressive metal group and the works of Ayn Rand, these two would strongly influence my ideals and perspectives.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Evolution in Religious Thoughts and Practices (1)

By Prasoona

Just as any child raised in a middle-class Indian family, life revolved around activities related to God. My grandfather ensured that the memory was trained well by learning many hymns of Sri Sankaracharya. Daily prayers were a must, even if only as a chore. My dad introduced us to the “concept” of monks, and although he portrayed them as “super humans” I only grudgingly went along! What stands out from those visits was the sincerity and openness he exuded during such trips. My parents were very liberal in their definition of religion, and they introduced us to other faiths through their visits to the places of worship. Although I didn't appreciate any of this back then, I understand that it is to such exposure that I owe my current inclination.

Sometime during my high school years, I got my Guru per chance. I got initiated only because I was at the right place at the right time, without any previous plan or knowledge of it. As I write this, it occurs that this was the one event which I didn't ask for, but was blessed with. I did the Japa only because someone put it into my head that if I didn't do it regularly, my Guru would have to pay the penalty, and I was afraid of my mom’s outburst if such a thing should ever happen!

I turned into a hypocritical rebel during my college years. Although I'd despise my dad's habit of visiting monks/temples, I would secretly pray for good grades, job, money and even boyfriends! What surprises me - God gave me everything I ever asked for; every little desire has come true sooner or later.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Thoughts on Islam

by Charlie Feldman (Prana)

Because Vedanta says that all religions are paths to God, I have tried to see how various religions could be founded by actual avatars or prophets. I have had a problem with Islam, because, while Christians have fought many aggressive wars, I have felt that they have done so despite what Jesus said, whereas Muslims' aggressive wars seem to be because of Islam, and not despite it.

I read The Heart of Islam by Seyyed Hossein Nasr. This book has cleared up some of my confusion. I know that he does not speak for all Muslims, but what he says makes sense from the point of view of Muhammad being an enlightened soul. Nasr says that the Quran states that the only justified war is a defensive war, and that there should be no compulsion in religion. He says that when people want to fight an aggressive war, they use whatever ideology will appear to give legitimacy to their efforts, be it religious or political.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Reading vs. Meditation

by Charles Feldman (Prana)
 
I was just looking through some of my old Cheri Huber books, and I don't remember which one she said this in, but she essentially said that people tend to prefer to read spiritual books because they feel inspired by them, and they tend to avoid meditation because they are likely to fidget in meditation, yet it is meditation that removes suffering from our lives. She did say that reading spiritual books is a precursor to meditation. Cheri Huber is a Zen teacher and author in California, who has written many books.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Essay on The Real and the Apparent Man, Chapter 16 of Jnana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

By Patrick Horn ("Rishi")

Swami Vivekananda says, “The one theme of the Vedanta philosophy is the search after unity. The Hindu mind does not care for the particular; it is always after the general, nay, the universal. ‘What is that, by knowing which everything else is to be known?’ That is the one theme. ‘As through the knowledge of one lump of clay all that is of clay is known, so, what is that, by knowing which this whole universe itself will be known?’ That is the one search. . . .” This quest for transcendence need not be an unconscious motivation that misses the mark. While the common man will mistakenly seek for unity in enjoyment of objects or association with a group, the spiritual seeker desires to know God and become absorbed in that Presence.

There are many obstacles to perception of Truth.  First, the body and the work required for its survival and comfort. Also, the ignorant and confused mind with its many fantasies, preferences, and selfish tendency toward personal aggrandizement and calculating gains and losses. Third, social situations, from the subtle pressure of ancestors and error-as-custom to the more direct influence of our family, friends, and colleagues to effect conformity to norms and taboos. The unthinking crowd’s collective wrong emphasis results in superstition (misinterpretation) and nihilism that denies Truth and stigmatizes its witnesses. The built environment does not encourage contemplative inquiry: there is distracting noise of electric media and machines whose only virtue is their speed.  There is a cultural epidemic of mindlessness and mindwandering that is exploited by a sick economy which preys upon physiological needs and psychological desires. The marketplace offers a variety of false identities in the stereotypical roles of consumer lifestyles. The custodians of wisdom, the schools and the religious institutions, have few qualified guides and true masters, and their message is bastardized into a commodity promoted as a cure for misfortune, love problems, and failed health. Many come to the Truth, not for Truth itself, but as an avoidance of pain and suffering.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Essay on The Atman: Its Bondage and Freedom, Chapter 15 of Jnana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

By Patrick Horn ("Rishi")

 Swami Vivekananda says, “According to the Advaita philosophy, there is only one thing real in the universe, which it calls Brahman; everything else is unreal, manifested and manufactured out of Brahman by the power of Mâyâ. To reach back to that Brahman is our goal. . . . The Atman in bondage is called Jiva. . . . Projected from Brahman, it passed through all sorts of vegetable and animal forms, and at last it is in man, and man is the nearest approach to Brahman. To go back to Brahman from which we have been projected is the great struggle of life.” For most people, infatuated with material enjoyments, this struggle is passive and unconscious. Only a few great souls struggle consciously to attain freedom.

The ancient Sankhya system of Kapila is the companion to Patanjali’s yogic method. It was studied by Pythagoras and imported into the Alexandrian school and European Gnosticism. There are two main principles: purusha, the changeless witness, and prakriti, the material phenomena subject to three conditions of rajas (creation), sattva (preservation), and tamas (destruction). The first manifestation of prakriti is mahat, or intelligence. It is sometimes translated as buddhi, which in mankind is discrimination, or the determinative function.  There is no consciousness inherent in it; consciousness itself (purusha), independent of mechanical processes, illumines the mind, the senses, and the objects of perception like the sun is reflected in a jar of water.