All posts by Paul Nieto

Could We Already Be Dead?

“Could we already be dead?”

“Of course not!”

“How do you know? “

So often we fool ourselves when looking at life.

“I have fourteen years of experience in this field,” the applicant said. He was proud and smiling.

Does he really? Does he have fourteen years of experience, or is it the same first year fourteen times over? Perhaps his job was a bit more complicated and he has two years of experience seven times over. Perhaps there were a few procedural changes every couple of years and some occasional training to help promote the illusion of more experience. That is what happens to most of us.

This applicant might be in a rut. The same is probably true for the person giving the interview. We go to work and do the same thing every day. Some people may fool themselves into believing every day is different. Good for them. But it’s only the faces, outer appearances, and circumstances that change. It’s all for the same goal, all to the same end. Sugar and flour combine into many appearances, such as doughnuts, cookies, muffins, and cakes, but underneath it is still sugar and flour.

At best, it is nine to five. Many do not have it so easy. Many salaried workers do considerably more than forty hours.We get up in the morning, commute to work. Lunch is at about the same time every day. We work more, then commute home. Now we have a few hours of personal time spent mostly on other things needed for survival. Sleep and repeat. Pass “Go” on Friday and get the paycheck deposited to the bank.1

Some may protest. “Well, that is your life. Mine is different!” Others will say, “You got a bad attitude, you can change that situation. A person can move up or change jobs.”

Great. I’m glad you brought that up. What the above means is that if a person jumps through the right hoops, they get a different plot on the same farm.

“What to you mean? I work for a different company now!” Someone protests.

Look at the facts. 1% of the world’s population owns 50% of the wealth and the top 10 % controls 85% of the world’s wealth.2 In the US the top .01% owns as much wealth as the bottom 90%.2 So, who are you fooling? The same group owns both plots, It’s the same farm.

“But I own my own business!” Good for you! Now we are getting somewhere. Congratulations, you may be smarter than the rest. Still, let’s ask a few things.

Are you working longer hours? Are you still taking problems home with you? Does the business affect your marriage or relationship with the kids? Are you truly Man in hamster wheelhappy? Do you feel satisfaction or has it become something you have to do? Do you suffer from anxiety? Is it affecting your health? Do you sleep well? Do you love what you do? If you pass this test, you are among the few who have truly succeeded. That, however, is a very small percentage of the world. Even being a business owner does not guarantee happiness. Divorce, alcoholism, depression, anxiety, addictions, suicide, and violence hit all social groups.

Most of us simply fool ourselves as the system has trained us to do. We may convince others we are happy and even believe it ourselves most of the time. We put on a mask that all is well, but deep inside something just is not so perfect. Something inside knows it isn’t happy.

Masking things is our way. It is how we were taught, domesticated, indoctrinated, or educated. Education prepares us to be cogs in this huge piece of the machine which is often a sham of a life. We pursue ideas given to us and programmed into us by others. We accept these things as our own values.

It wasn’t our fault. We were young children conforming so we could be loved. Then we were corrupted and exploited, our dreams hijacked and exchanged for an insane world’s ideas of success, security, and conformity.

When the coroner signs our death certificates, often it is just a formality. Most of us died long ago. We are living out a lie, living our programming, but not our lives. Like robots on autopilot, we did as the world instructed and expected.

We were never free. Our overlords told us when we were allowed to take a vacation and for how long. They even dictated what time we could have lunch, and for how long. In some jobs, they even limited when we could use the toilet and how often. Even after work, our lives were controlled by laws, governments, traditions, expectations, insurance stipulations, our employer’s policies, our customers’ expectations, and society’s conventions. They called it freedom, but it was only a myth.3

The solutions are not easy and vary person to person. Once cast into a hole, there are only two things you can do. The first is to put on blinders and keep digging yourself deeper. The second is to dig smartly and build a ramp to get out.  Until we admit to the problem, however, it will never be solved.

We can start with small steps. We become aware and then examine our simpler values first. Is mowing the lawn more important than spending time with your child if he wants to play? Is getting the house spotless so important that it is worth ignoring your spouse and children or fighting with them? Are you really too busy to spend some time with the dog after you feed him? What is it that is so important that you cannot? Why? Why do you have the dog? By the way, if he is tied outside, why don’t you bring him inside the house? Don’t you realize your pets can be the most loyal, loving and accepting companions you will ever have?

Is serving society’s implied expectations really more important than your family and pets? What about you? Is what you think you are expected to sacrifice worth living a life full of things you don’t want to do? Why are you trying to impress people you do not know, or do not like, with your status or image?

Keep asking questions. What is important to you? Why is it important? Who told you it is important? Was it your original idea? Or was the idea placed in your mind by parents, teachers, and society? Is the idea serving you or helping you? Does the idea or value bring you peace and joy, or is it draining you of energy, making you edgy or anxious? 4

Finally: What do you want? Have you answered that? Truly answered it? Do you even know? The real answer may surprise you. What do you really want? 5

Question everything you were taught; beliefs, preferences, values, and thoughts. Rethink them for yourself. Perhaps you can’t change most of it, but you can rearrange your perceptions. You can become more aware of what you are doing, more aware of when you are a robot and when you are truly living. You can develop a better outlook and happier life, maybe even actually live! Remember the words of Albert Einstein “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Start slowly. Don’t do anything drastic, but start. Quit redecorating the prison. Find the way out of the prison instead.6 Live your own life, not the world’s idea of what it should be.

Footnotes:

1 “Go” is a reference to an American Board game called Monopoly. Every time you circle the board past the initial starting point you are paid $200.

The Wealth Inequality figures quoted are backed up by the following:
Forbes – https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurashin/2014/01/23/the-85-richest-people-in-the-world-have-as-much-wealth-as-the-3-5-billion-poorest/#3e50643b1753
http://newatlas.com/go/6571/
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/nov/13/us-wealth-inequality-top-01-worth-as-much-as-the-bottom-90
Washington post – https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/01/22/10-startling-facts-about-global-wealth-inequality/?utm_term=.8b7c6664212f

3Refernces from Chögyam Trungpa, The Myth of Freedom 1976

4 Some of these questions posed in the book The Code of the Extraordinary Mind: 10 Unconventional Laws to Redefine Your Life and Succeed on Your Own Terms, by Vishen Lakhiani

5 Question posed by Gangaji in chapter 5 of The Diamond in Your Pocket, 2005

6 Refence to J. Krishnamuriti – Reformers and changers often do nothing but redecorate the prison, often arriving at solution that is worse than the original problem. Think on These Things, 1964

Related Articles:
Gangaji – what do you want?

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Caring for Your Dying Pet

Pets are our best friends and often become family. Their love is generally unconditional. They love us so much we can’t help but love them back. They are almost more human than some people we meet.

The last days of your pet’s life are hard. One day you notice things are changing. Your friend or companion is not as strong as before. He can’t move as fast. There is weight loss and perhaps blindness. You know the inevitable is coming. Still there is time.

Veterinary costs can often be a full day’s wages. For some people, it is three or four day’s wages, for a single visit. It is worth it, but not everyone can afford it. Don’t blame yourself if you can’t. Medicine can only prolong the life that must end anyway. If veterinarian visits are out of the question, just be there for your pet and keep them as comfortable as possible. Give them extra time and love. Cut out unnecessary activities, so you have more time at home.

If you can afford the veterinarian, you have taken your pet several times over the years. Maybe she needs medicine or a prescription diet. The cost of prescription food is considerable. Even worse, if you have other animals, they may want to eat it too. Maybe your sick friend still prefers the old food. It’s definitely a challenge sorting that out.

Tired 20-year-old cat
A 20-year-old cat, that looks tired because of its advanced age.
Time passes. Maybe something happens, or the veterinarian gives you the news. Your pet is now in the advanced stage of an irreversible terminal disease. The reality hits hard. Your eyes swell with tears. You now know time is short. You can already feel the loss.

Many people can’t face this sorrow and try to avoid it. When the owners can’t face the pain, the pet is left alone or ignored. It dies lonely, on its own, with food and water provided, but with little human companionship. This is a big mistake. This is when your companion needs you the most. Don’t neglect her now. Your pet has served you and loved you for years and you need to reward her for her love and service.

You only have a limited amount of precious time left. You need to talk to her more, pet her more, and tell her she is still beautiful to you, no matter how sickly she may look. Tell your pet how glad you are they came into your life and how you would never change it. Some pets will understand. They will in the least feel your love for them. Again, this is the time to cut out unnecessary activities. You need to be home more with your beloved. Some animals as they get closer to death will cling to you more and more. Give them the time and attention.

The last days are a time of both joy and sorrow. The joy is knowing you have them for another day. There is joy in seeing they are still eating and still drinking.  You find joy in seeing they can still move around. The sorrow is knowing things could change suddenly. Any day things could turn worse. There is sorrow knowing they are eating less. The worst sorrow is you know they will soon die. But again, don’t punish your pet because of how hard it is for you. You need to face the pain and be there for them. Give them your time. Give them your love. Hug them. Hold them. Lie down beside them. You won’t regret it.

We all wish the best for them. We wish they would pass peacefully in their sleep from old age before any suffering starts. How happy that would make us. Often that is not the case. Sometimes it seems your pet is hanging onto life only because he loves you so much and does not want to leave you. Still, you must make a decision – natural death vs. euthanizing. Depending on your philosophy, religion, and culture you will choose. Even not choosing is a choice.

In countries such as the U.S., many believe in not letting the animal suffer. Many say euthanizing a pet before they suffer, “is the last best thing you can do for them.” Other cultures have different views.

What is best – I don’t know. Either way is heartbreaking.  Still, either way, whatever your view, just be there for them and keep them as comfortable as possible until the edog-1691421_220nd. The best gifts you can give to your dying pet is your time, your attention, and your love. You will never regret it if you do. If you give them time, attention, and love, you will never experience the guilt of “I wish I had done more.”

A pet’s last days teaches us much. Similar to when a loved one or a  family member is dying, we consider what is important in life. We realize some of the things we valued, are not as important as we thought. We see how selfish we have been with our time, how we may have ignored our pet in the past, and also ignored our loved ones. We remember our loved ones who have died. We realize we too will die. We realize the loved ones we ignore because we are so busy in our daily struggles will die also.

Our dying pets help us realize what truly matters – other beings and how we treat each other. In a world of thoughtless and cruel people, our pets are often the ones to show forgiveness and unconditional love beyond what any person we ever meet will show us. They teach us that we should be more like them. They show us what is more important in life. It is other beings and how we relate to each other that is more important than the material things we slave for our entire lives. They show us where we need to change. We need to give up our petty quests. We need to quit judging others. We need to love others and our loved ones more.

If you believe in reincarnation, you may wonder if you and your pet were together in a past life. You may wish that if you both have more lives, you will be together again. You may wish that someday you both be liberated and can clearly remember the present relationship and laugh and share the joy again. If you don’t believe in reincarnation, you may wish you could be rejoined in the afterlife as human and pet. It’s alright to think silly things. Your pet loves you just as much.

Your pet is dying. Now is the time to be strong.  Be there for your loyal friend. Make sure they are loved and as comfortable as possible. Do what is in your heart and know they loved you and that you loved them back as best you could. There is no better way to honor your special friend than to give them the extra time, attention, and love they want in their dying days. Be strong and honor them. Comfort them and know you did your best. Your pet is worth it. Make her last days as good as you can for her. Give her the love she deserves.

[Attribution: Main Photo at top of article – By Katja Schulz from Washington, D. C., USA (Sad Dog) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Author does not necessary support this work.]




The Life of Sri Ramakrishna

A fast look at the life of Ramakrishna – February 16, 1836, to August 16, 1886

Early Life

Gadadhar Chatterjee was born in a remote village named Kāmārpukur in West Bengal. It was an area of rice-fields, banyans, palms, a few lakes, and a nearby mango orchard. A road passed through the village to the great temple of Jagannāth at Puri traveled by workers, farmers, holy men, and pilgrims.

As a child, Gadadhar Chatterjee loved listening to stories from Hindu mythology and the epics. Afterward, he could recite them from memory. This brought great joy to the villagers. He also enjoyed painting and molding images of the gods and goddesses. Mathematics was his greatest dislike.

At the age of six or seven Gadādhar had his first experience of spiritual ecstasy while walking between the rice fields. He fell unconscious during the vision and some villagers that found him carried him home.

Gadadhar’s parents were poor Brahmins, the highest rank in the Hindu caste system. He received a simple village education and was a mischievous child, eventually shunning his education. Gadadhar’s father died when he was only seven years old.

Growing up Gadadhar became interested in the wandering monks and pilgrims who stopped at his village on the way to the temple at Puri. At sixteen Gadadhar traveled to Calcutta to assist his eldest brother, Ramkumar, in his duties as a priest. His brother hoped to encourage Gadadhar to complete his education.

The Temple at Dakshineshwar

2013-Kolkata-Dakshineshwar-106
Kali Temple, Dakshineshwar, Kolkata Photo by By Wiki-uk (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Within a few years, Ramkumar served at the new temple in the nearby village of Dakshineshwar, a few miles outside of Calcutta, now called Kolkata. Ramkumar became a priest at the temple of Kali, known as the Divine Mother. The temple is still located along the banks of the east bank of the Ganges River or to be technical the distributary known as the Hooghly River.

The temple grounds were purchased by a rich widow named Rani Rasmani. She created a temple garden and constructed the temple of Radhakanta, the Twelve Siva Temples, and the main temple dedicated to Kali, the Divine Mother. The dedication ceremony took place on May 31, 1855.

When Ramkumar died in 1856, Gadadhar assumed the role of the priest to the Divine Mother Kali. He spent long periods of time in meditation, sometimes neglecting his formal duties while lost in ecstatic singing before the temple image of Kali.

Gadadhar also spent whole nights in meditation in the deep jungle north of the temples. The area was thick with underbrush and at one time used as a burial ground. The locals shunned the area, even during daylight, for fear of ghosts. He would stay all night returning to his room in the morning with his eyes swollen from weeping.

It soon became impossible for him to perform his temple duties. The temple manager relieved him of his duties and gave him use of every facility for his spiritual quest. The temple manager was the son in law of Rani Rasmani, who had developed great respect and admiration for Gadadhar.

It was from that setting, the garden at the temple and his solitary spot in the jungle, that Gadadhar Chatterjee transformed into the loved and revered God-loving master known as Sri Ramakrishna.

In 1859 Gadadhar’s mother arranged a marriage for him, hoping to bring him back to an earthlier existence. It did not work. When the bride became of age to join her husband at the temple he remained celibate, eventually worshiping her as a symbol of the deity Kali. Ramakrishna viewed all women as a manifestation of the Divine Mother. His wife was Ma Sarada.

In 1861 a woman Master of Tantra declared Ramakrishna an avatar. The local religious authorities investigated and accepted her claim. Mahendra Gupta quotes the nameless woman as having said to Ramakrishna “My son, everyone in this world is mad. Some are mad for money, some for creature comforts, some for name and fame; and you are mad for God.” Although Mahendra Gupta does not appear to name the women, from the book “The Sayings of Ramakrishna,” I believe her name was Bhairavi Brahmana as the stories from both books converge in 1861.

Over the next few years, he worshiped Rama and Krishna as the formless Brahman of the Vedanta branch of Hinduism. He went on to also find God through Islam, and later by Jesus Christ. His gospel was the gospel of unity and diversity. Ramakrishna is recognized worldwide for his message that all religions are paths to the truth. He taught that The Ultimate Reality is one, but it is personal as well as impersonal and is indicated by different names in different religions This view is known as Pluralism.

Gradually Ramakrishna attracted more public attention as devotees, and visitors flocked to his room in the temple garden overlooking the Ganges River. He attracted a diverse mixture of people including scholars of Sanskrit, educated intellectuals, shop owners, landowners, educators, and common people. Among those who gathered, was also Ramakrishna’s most beloved disciple, Swami Vivekananda.

About the Book – The Gospel of Ramakrishna

Sri Ramakrishna was a simple villager and produced no writings. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna was written in Bengali by Mahendra Gupta, who was a high school headmaster from Calcutta. Mahendra Gupta wrote under the name M. Whenever you are reading of Ramakrishna and see M either speaking or being asked a question, know that is referring to Mahendra Gupta.

It is interesting to note that Mahendra Gupta was also a teacher to the well-known Paramahansa Yogananda, who spoke and wrote quite fondly of M.

The Gospel of Ramakrishnan is an eyewitness account of the Master’s conversations with visitors, devotees, and disciples during the years 1882 -1886. The book is hailed as one of the greatest spiritual classics of the twentieth century, as it was translated into English almost six decades later.

The unabridged book starts chapter one with Mahendra Gupta’s first meeting with Ramakrishna in February of 1882.

The Setting

By this time, the 1800s had already brought the Battle of Waterloo, the first photographs, the California Gold Rush, and the invention of the Typewriter.

Within two years, the Taiping rebellion in China would end with 20 million people dead. The American Civil War was only in its third year. Queen Victoria was on the throne and steamboats had been crossing the Atlantic for nearly 45 years. The Transcontinental Railroad in the United States was still five years from completion.

The Austro-Prussian War was four years away. Cash registers and incandescent light bulbs were not yet in use. There were no telephones. There were no radios. The first commercial movie film wouldn’t debut for another 30 years. The first home refrigerators would not appear for  47 years.

Ramakrishna trance 1879
Ramakrishna in samadhi supported by his nephew Hriday and surrounded by Brahmo devotees. Photograph taken on Sunday, September 21, 1879 at the house of Keshab Chandra Sen, Calcutta.
In this world backdrop, M takes us to what seems like an almost magical time and place in the beautiful gardens at the temples along the Ganges River. It was a different and distant world, in a far more peaceful time. It was as a flower that can never be replicated. The nearby jungle has since been cleared and replaced by a modern city. Nowadays Highway 2 runs practically next door to the temple.

It was on a Sunday in the spring of 1880, that M first arrived at the Dakshineshwar Temple. He and his companion Sidhu arrived at dusk while visiting gardens at Baranagore. They found Ramakrishna sitting on a wooden couch facing east. He smiled as he talked about God to a room full of people totally absorbed in his words.

M was speechless and did not want to leave. Sill, he thought, “Let me see this place first.” Leaving the room, they could hear the music from the temple service, the gongs, bells, and cymbals. He could also hear the music at the south end of the garden. A spring wind blew carrying the fragrance of the flowers and the moon had just appeared.

After visiting the temples, they returned to Sri Ramakrishna’s room finding him alone. The master requested they sit. He asked them “Where do you live? What is your occupation? Why did you come to visit Baranagore?” After some conversation, M saluted the Master to leave.

“Come again,” Sri Ramakrishna said.

It was from this meeting that the book known as The Gospel of Ramakrishna started. Much of what we know of him and his teachings, including his biography, is contained in this book.

(It is interesting to note that early in the book M crosses paths with devotee named Narendranath Datta. Narendranath went on to become Swami Vivekananda.)

 

A Fast Glimpse at Ramakrishna’s Message

Lex Hixon wrote, “Ramakrishna in not a quaint person from and ancient culture, representing a particular religious background, but and Einstein of the planetary civilization of the near future, a greenhouse for the future evolution of humanity.”

Some of Ramakrishna’s teachings include that the goal of human life is the realization of the Ultimate Reality, God, which the only thing that can give man true fulfillment and everlasting peace.

He believed that God, or the Ultimate Reality, can be realized through various paths and that all religions are true in so long as they lead to the same ultimate Goal.

He thought that God dwells in all people but the manifestation of God varies from person to person. In saintly people, there is a greater manifestation of God than in others.

He strongly believed that Women are special manifestations of Divine Mother of the Universe, and so are to be treated with respect.

Helping the needy should be done not out of compassion but rather as humble service to God

God realization is possible for all. The householders need not renounce the world, but they should pray sincerely. God listens to sincere prayer. Intense longing is the secret of success in spiritual life.  Trough spiritual practices, man can overcome his evil tendencies, and divine grace can redeem even the worst sinner.

The Gospel of Ramakrishna Translated

The first English translation was published in 1942 by Swami Nikhilananda. Swami Nikhilananda also produced and abridged version, so keep this in mind if you ever research or purchase.

Both books are long and difficult for those not familiar with either Ramakrishna or any aspects of Hinduism. The best thing for a beginner to do is to get a condensed and annotated version.

I researched and found the Skylight Illumination version as a starting point. I found it easy to read and like all Skylight Illumination books, all foreign words and concepts are annotated in an easy to follow manner. The title is Selections from the Gospel of Ramakrishna. It also includes and index.

Free Links for Ramakrishna Material

Biography only – from The Gospel of Ramakrishna  http://www.belurmath.org/gospel/introduction.htm/

Read or search The Gospel of Ramakrishna free online http://www.belurmath.org/gospel/

Full the text version of The Gospel of Ramakrishna https://archive.org/stream/GospelOfSriRamakrishnaTheMahendranathGupta/TheGospelOfSriRamakrishna_djvu.txt

The Gospel of Ramakrishna  PDF http://www.wearesentience.com/uploads/7/2/9/3/7293936/gospel_srk.pdf

Sayings of Ramakrishna PDF http://estudantedavedanta.net/Sayings%20of%20Sri%20Ramakrishna.pdf

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Thoughts on the Separation or Fall

Eden was an epic event. Whether you believe it to be allegorical, psychological, anthropological, developmental, or a doctrine of absolute literal truth, I believe at least some of the following will still apply.

One point we can glean from this story of the fall, or separation as some like to call it, is that when we grasped to be like God [or our Higher Power] by knowing the difference between good and evil, we not only separated ourselves from God, but we also separated from each other and even our own selves.

Before that event, our relationship with Him was so close that the entire concept of being like Him was foolishness. We were already so near Him in our natural state that there was no real conceivable need to be as him, except for perhaps the desire of the Ego. He communicated with us. We understood Him. Only peace and harmony existed. Division among men had not yet been conceived. No issues to divide us had yet come into existence.

Once we fell and we separated from God, we likewise found ourselves with a new separate identity considerably different from the previous one. The consequences of knowing good from evil were more than what was anticipated. We now had a good and bad self. Judgment, shame, good and bad, right and wrong, fear, danger, reward and punishment all came into being.

Man gained the capacity to oppose God, other men, and even himself. The core of our being was fragmented. We could dislike parts of ourselves or dislike ourselves entirely. We compared ourselves to others and found ourselves superior or inferior. Hence we not only split from God but likewise from others and ourselves.

Lucas Cranach d.Ä. - Adam und Eva (National Gallery of Art)
Adam and Eve in Paradise by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553)
From that point forward, we based everything we see, do, and believe on that new flawed or fractured identity. The ego rose to supremacy, alone against all others and even somewhat frightened as our psychologists will tell us. It created a group called us for safety, protection, and support. It created the group called them as in those who are different or not among us, who are enemies, or at least potential enemies.

Nearly everything mankind has created from that point forward was built on that separation, that fractured personality, or the new renegade ego. All society, ancient and modern, reflects this with me, us, and them mentality. Society at large is the macrocosm of the microcosm.

Mankind has been trying to fix himself and his problems ever since and just one look and we can see how well he is doing. The us and them mentalities are so ingrained that if it were possible for one side of the equation to drop that mentality, surely the other side would conquer and destroy them. And that they must do, as it is the nature of the separation, the fractured being, and the extended fractured society.

The other side could not help but to continue the judging of right and wrong, superior and inferior, and reward and punishment. It must do so by its fractured nature. It is one of the bigger consequences of the fall. Man needs to attack others and defend himself. Attacking others is part of his defense. He is an ever comparing, ever criticizing, ever projecting, and ever judging creature. Just list all the judgment and criticism you hear for one single day. Write it down as the day progresses. It comes at you from all directions, work, relatives, friends, the television, the papers, and more. Also, add your own critical and judgmental thoughts to the list. You will be surprised if you can stay focused enough to do the exercise,

Man has a need to prove himself or his group right. Prone to violence, man will strike others to prove himself correct. He justifies his anger then justifies his attack on others verbally or physically. The cycle escalates. Entire societies get involved and the division increases exponentially resulting in fights, elections, murder, protests, and riots. The ultimate effect of separating, of creating us and them, is war.

Although the rate of death from war is declining since 1945, we have no guarantee that trend will continue. The Peace Pledge Union Project claims that three times more people have been killed in wars in the last ninety years than in the previous five hundred. My search on how many days there have been no wars in the past century ranges from 26 days to 45 days. One could argue that having a fifty-year decline during a historical surge is not the best argument for progress. Perhaps that is why it is said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

Before the fall there was no need for peacemakers. Since the fall, however, creating peace is a very difficult thing to do. Ironically, it’s a good way to make enemies or even get killed.

[Inspired by ACIM Chapter 5, II, 1-11]

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Ramana Maharshi and Lakshmi

Lakshmi was one of Ramana Maharshi’s most devoted and enlightened devotees. What makes this story so special and interesting is that Lakshmi was no regular devotee. She was a cow.

This story comes from the work of David Godman, who wrote on the life and teachings of Ramana Maharshi.  It starts in the middle 1920s when a man called Arunachalam Pillai had a dream instructing him to take a certain calf to Bhagavan. (Bhagavan is the title name of a holy teacher or glorious person.) Arunachalam Pillai did as the dream instructed. It was a long and difficult trip (approximately133km). Bhagavan, however, had a rule, not to accept any animal unless somebody in the ashram volunteered to look after it.

With no volunteers and not wanting the responsibility for himself, Ramana Maharshi tried to convince Arunachalam Pillai to take the mother and the calf back with him. Arunachalam, however, insisted that he had to leave it.  Bhagavan argued that he brought the calf and presented it as the dream demanded, so now with his obligation fulfilled, he could take her and her mother back.

Picture of Ramana Maharshi
Ramana Maharshi (December 30, 1879 – April 15, 1950)
That is when Ramanatha Brahmachari, one of Bhagavan’s devotees, who had no experience with animals, felt urged to jump up saying “I’ll look after it, Bhagavan. I’ll look after it!”

Still skeptical, Bhagavan accepted the calf and her mother to live at the ashram. They named the calf Lakshmi because it arrived on a Friday, Lakshmi’s Day, by Hindu tradition. Lakshmi is the Hindu god of wealth.

The cows made a mess of the vegetable garden, but Maharshi sided with the animals insisting it was the fault of Ramanatha Brahmachari for failing to watch them. The two animals devastated the ashram grounds. It was clear Brahmachari could not watch over them so the Ashram gave up the mother and her calf to a man in town named Pasupatti.

Some time later, Pasupatti came out to Ramanashram to have a bath in the tank that adjoins Ramanashram, bringing the mother and the calf with him.  After he had his bath, he brought Lakshmi and her mother to see Bhagavan.

From that day forward, Lakshmi would leave her caretaker in town every morning, come to Ramanashram and sit in the old hall next to Bhagavan, for the entire day. In the evening, she would go back to her stable in town.

Bhagavan would feed her special foods. She liked some of the same food as the human members of the ashram. She even had a favorite food.

Generally, when Lakshmi approached, she didn’t observe human protocols. There are several stories of her being in a very urgent mood to see Bhagavan. She would charge in trampling people who were standing in her way. Sometimes she would defecate in the hall. Still, Bhagavan never allowed anyone to criticize her or chase her away.

The reason Bhagavan said, is the animals that used to live at Ramanashram were the original tenants. They were the rightful owners of the property. “We’re squatting on their land. We have no right to inconvenience them in any way.”

He made it clear to all, that when Lakshmi entered, it was their job to get out of her way. She wasn’t able to negotiate tight spaces well. She would just walk straight to Bhagavan, trampling anyone in her way. He gave her complete free rein to come and go whenever she liked.

Lakshmi became a priority devotee. “When she comes in, give her some space. Let her come. Let her sit next to me.” Bhagavan instructed.

As she grew Lakshmi had nine calves of her own. Somehow she delivered three of her calves on Bhagavan’s Jayanti. That’s the annual celebration of his birthday. Coincidence or not, the author David Godman, does not know. Three calves in a row, for three years, however, is extraordinary.

Ramana Maharshi didn’t regard Lakshmi simply as a favored pet. She caught him with her devotion the same way that a few other devotees caught Bhagavan with their devotion.

Bhagavan seemed to understand and could mentally communicate with Lakshmi.  David Godman mentioned this to establish that Lakshmi could communicate complex notions and ideas to Bhagavan and Bhagavan could reply without spoken words.

One such incident was when the devotees were not feeding Lakshmi her favorite human food. Bhagavan responded by going on a hunger strike. When asked why he would not eat, he said he would not eat until devotees in the kitchen fed Lakshmi her favorite food. From then on she received her ration.

 photo ramana and lakshmi_zps8jk4u2dw.jpg
Ramana Maharshi and Lakshmi

Lakshmi fell in love with Bhagavan as many devotees did. Every evening, it became more and more difficult to make her take the walk back to town. During this time, Pasupatti had some domestic difficulties. Once Pasupatti could no longer take care of the animals, they returned to the ashram as full-time residents.

Throughout the ashram, the members believed Lakshmi was the reincarnation of a woman who used to look after Bhagavan on the hill. Her name was Keerai Patti. The name Keerai Patti translates into English “Greens Grandmother,” greens as in eatable green plants.

“Greens Granny” was living on Arunachala even before Bhagavan came. Bhagavan said he first met her in the 1890s.

Keerai Patti was one of the first people who took it upon herself to collect food for him, cook for him, and serve him. In the early years of Virupaksha Cave, Bhagavan lived in the cave itself and Keerai Patti lived a few hundred feet down the hill.

When Keerai Patti died, she was buried under a tree along the road. Since that time, the local highway department decided that all of those gravestones were encroachments and bulldozed them away. Now, no one knows exactly where she was buried.

Keerai Patti died in the early 1920s and Lakshmi was born three years later.  Coincidentally, the town of Lakshmi’s birth was Gudiyatham, the same town as Keerai Patti’s birth.

Ramana Maharshi would never answer a direct question on whether Lakshmi was Keerai Patti reborn. The devotees who wrote about this said Bhagavan never said it wasn’t Keerai Patti. When books were written claiming Lakshmi was Keerai Patti, Ramana Maharshi always approved them for publication. Lakshmi died in 1948. Ramana Maharshi died on April 14, 1950.

If you liked this story or if you are interested in more detail, I suggest you see David Godman Youtube Video, talks on Sri Ramana Maharshi: Narrated by David Godman – Lakshmi the Cow. It is truly a great historical documentary on Ramana Maharshi.

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Facing Problems and Fears

Thoughts on Facing Problems and Fears

What is the best way to face our problems and fears? We are told many ways not to face them. Do not dramatize them, as that makes them bigger. Fighting them also makes them worse. If you push them down, swallow them, or run from them that makes them bigger too.

Everyone knows ways to run from things. We can use drugs, over-working, alcohol, relationships, games, or other entertainment. We can use food, illness, denial, anger, humor, or neurosis. It becomes obvious that running is rarely a good idea.

By facing them properly we are told, the fears and problems dissolve and you see that they never were anything at all. At least, that is what Gangaji and other great teachers tell us. It sounds good but quite frankly the author of this post just isn’t there yet. Are you?

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Ultimately we lose everything. Everything we fear must eventually vanish, but we also lose all we hold important. Our jobs, our homes, health, our mates, our children, our possessions, our friends, and our pets; we lose them all eventually. Nothing lasts forever and no one gets out of here alive.

We understand these things intellectually. They are obvious. Still, it is not so easy to actually live these ideas at the higher spiritual levels. Instead, all those things become even more problems and things to fear.

We can remember Ramana Maharshi, in “Who Am I?” We grasp the realization that we are not our bodies. We realize that we are not our thoughts and emotions. We are not even the air that we breathe. We discover that we are is that force which animates or allows all those things.

Can’t that just be another intellectual layer? A person can say I’m not this body and the problem is only an illusion, but if the fear or problem remains, the process is only another layer or a cheap mask at best.

The intellectual realizations may calm us in many instances. But how do we know we are really succeeding? How do we know we are facing problems and fear properly? The answer would be when they no longer consume us or cause, fear, worry, anger, or any other negative emotion. The answer is when we stop replaying them within our minds, in a repetitive loop.

Somehow we are to live, love, and experience both good and bad, but yet let go once the experiences are over. We are not to attempt recreating things the great teachers tell us.  But we do try. We experience fun, love, or joy and we try to recreate it. We have a special moment with someone and try to relive it. A couple has a special moment with the first child, they try to replicate it for the second child. Often it is not the same. Sometimes it is a disappointment. Clinging to happiness, we are told, chases it away. Misery appears as the joy vanishes.

We also recreate problems and fears. We humans like revisiting them too much to let go. We do it constantly. We worry. We obsess. We replay our fears and problems over and over in our minds. It’s almost a bit masochistic, isn’t it?

Some people carry their problems, pains, and fears so proudly they tell everyone they meet.  You would think they were medals of honor they received for heroic deeds. They can’t stop trying to relive and recreate the problems, the fears, or the pain. It becomes their identity. Still, embracing them and clinging to them is not truly facing them. “Emotionalism is the avoidance of the deepest emotions,” Gangaji tells us.

We also try to recreate spiritually. Meditation is an example. If we achieve a great feeling or realization, we keep trying to get it back. The chase almost always ends in frustration. We are told that we are not to do that. Krishnamurti instructs not to expect anything when we meditate. If you are expecting, you really aren’t meditating. You are chasing, or running. Trying to relive the past experience is not meditating. Furthermore the more you chase that blissful feeling, the more it eludes you. Only when you let go and let go of the grasping and expecting are you meditating he tells us. Many of the great teachers go on to tell us that life is the same way.

Problems, fears, happiness, life, and meditation seem to have some commonalities. Running from any of them seems futile. Nothing is gained. Clinging to them does not bring happiness or solve things either. It is opposite. Clinging to any them makes you feel worse or backfires.

It seems like you need the same approach for all of them. There seems to be a middle road that is difficult to find.   Do not cling. Do not run. Do not overanalyze. Do not recreate. Do not expect. Do not force. Do not fight. Do not judge. Do not justify. Do not regret, Do not repress. Do not hold grudges. Do not blame. Do not hate.

There seems to be no escape. The only way to approach fear and pain is with a calm level mind. “No matter how much you try to run away from hurt, you still experience it.”  Gangaji



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