India Trip Notes
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4-01-11 - I was wondering what to put on cuke today for April Fool's day, and then I read this excellent article entitled Look Who's Fooling You by Sirshree in the Deccan Chronicle, "the largest circulated English Daily in South India."
This article was posted in the Deccan's Mystic Mantra column on the Op-Ed page in which daily there is a spiritual or inspirational article by someone from some religion, practice, or method, almost always from India. Almost all of them are worth reading - to me anyway. The other English papers have columns like this too and I'm sure the Indian ones do as well. Most of them are to my mind well within what has been referred to as perennial philosophy (that's a really good article on perennial philosophy in Wikipedia).
I indeed am impressed with the level of spiritual discourse in this most mundane area - the editorial section of the paper. I don't know what's going on elsewhere and in people's minds around here, but what I bump into tends to be nourishment for non-thinking.
This area is said to be the center of bhakti, or devotional practice which some, especially the Krishnamurti fans, see as superstitious bunk. But I don't see bhakti as outside of the perennial philosophy. It's like the other power (tariki) of Japanese Buddhism which DT Suzuki wrote so much about and which he and many think can be a strong part of the mix with jiriki, self power. Think of Shunryu Suzuki's admonition to a student that went something like, "Don't think you can sit zazen, zazen sits zazen!" To me that statement includes them both.
I'm thinking now of the level of religious discussion in American media which is almost entirely dominated by pro and con literalist thinking, taking myth and metaphore as the point rather than the pointer. Extremely simplistic nonsense. I remember once on a show about the New Age, a guy said something like, "Well we ought to just determine once and for all if Jesus is the son of God or not and if he is then we can forget all this stuff," to which the New Age astrologer of Shirley McLean (who lives or lived near the SFZC's City Center) said that the New Age's roots are more Christian than anything and that he's a Christian. The other guy was baffled, baffled because he had this action figure image of what Jesus means.
To me, literalism is the great disease of religion and we see and hear it daily and almost exclusively where I come from. It enhances a view of separation, that brewery of ill will and war. Bill Maher says that if you're a Christian or a Jew it means you believe in talking snakes. Poor guy doesn't have a clue. But he's right about a lot of people's clueless idea of what it means to be a Christian or a Jew. The Mormons have a home built for God for when he visits with his wife and it's got canned food ready to serve.
To me this is what the Bible's first one or two commandments (depending on who's counting) are about - those of having no other god and no idols - any type of idol, "whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth." (See Ten Commandments). Suzuki Roshi said, "Don't stick to some idea." That's not to make an idol of a thought and worship it. To believe one's thoughts absolutely is to me to have another god before the real deal, making an idol of an idea.
Shiva is everywhere here including in the Ramana Ashram. People are bowing to representations of Shiva all over - if they're not bowing to something else. The number one thing to bow to around here, to worship, to walk around, is Shiva's lingam. They can be naked or all dressed up. I always thought that lingam was penis and yoni vagina and that this was a fertility thing. Maybe it is that too. I don't know much about what goes on around here and I don't plan to learn, but I have learned what the lingam stands for, is a metaphore of, and that is - the perennial philosophy. The lingam is the pillar of no attributes. It stands for that beyond conception, beyond phenomena though identical with phenomena. Like Christ is God incarnate. Like Buddha is the oak tree in the garden. Etc.
I should point out that my particular spiritual path is messy and fuzzy. I don't really care if the Prajna Paramita is "the crowning achievement of the human cortex" as Edward Conze said in a class I was in, or not. I like it but I like Oprah too. I don't think it matters much. Even one's understanding of the perennial philosophy is merely ideas - but it's the non literal part that allows one to drop them.
I do assume though that literal and non literal understandings both ignite in the bright truth beyond truth - Holy Rollers and Advaita sages, Bible salesmen and Buddhas all vanishing in the spiral vortex to no when no where. These very words making me the laughing April fool.
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