Why I got the COVID-19 Vaccine and why you should too

I received my 2nd dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday. Apart from the usual side effects, I feel a great amount of the burden lifted off my shoulders that the Pandemic has brought.

As we see the Pandemic getting stronger despite a year of continuous and differing levels of restrictions, it has been painful to watch the scenes that we are seeing in India today. I am hearing of a growing number of family and friends getting COVID-19 and some even dying as a result. I can’t seem to voice how I feel, but I am definitely feeling a vacuum. This vacuum contains the memories and moments I could have created and spent with some of these people, only if COVID-19 didn’t take them away.

There is still some of the burden left on my shoulders. This burden is about not allowing myself to become complacent after receiving the vaccine. It is very easy to start acting like normal and pretending that we can now be free from COVID-19 infection. But the fact is, we can still get it and we can still spread it. The chances are low and maybe very slim but still the chances are very real indeed.

With the amount of misinformation about the vaccine, I fear that we will not reach global herd immunity. Yesterday, I came to know about Joe Rogan talking about if you are a healthy 21 year old then you shouldn’t get the vaccine. I find that what he has said to be irresponsible and a clear lack of understanding about COVID-19. It affects people differently, healthy or unhealthy. It doesn’t care about your age, your religion, your diet, your location as the virus only cares about it’s own survival. Dr. Fauci gave the best response to what Joe Rogan said and implored us all to think about society as a whole. We are seeing growing numbers of young people getting COVID-19 and some dying as a result. Some COVID-19 deniers, who were young and influential on social media, died after contracting the virus. I encourage everyone who can get the COVID-19 vaccine to get it. Do it for others, for society, or for your community. If you love yourself tremendously, get the vaccine, you want to stay healthy and especially, if you want to eliminate one possible cause of death. This is all about common sense.

We have experts, who study infectious diseases, who have worked hard to create technologies and science to create vaccines. We have public health bodies that want to ensure that clinical trials are conducted and that results are published. All of this is for our safety. Yes, some people may still get COVID-19 after getting the vaccine, some may die or get abnormal reactions from the vaccine but compared to number of people dying once they are infected by COVID-19, there is and will be a massive difference between the two. We only need to look at the statistics.

But my friends, who have received the vaccine, don’t get complacent and don’t think that everything is now back to normal. It isn’t and it will not be until every person eligible for the vaccine receives the vaccine and I am not talking about your country alone. I am talking about the whole globe. We are an interconnected world, dependent on each other, it benefits us all to get vaccinated. To help the poorer countries get the vaccine for their population, the WHO Foundation have an initiative called Go Give One – please donate to this. They say that $7 gives one vaccine to a poor country that cannot afford it. We can all do our bit to help. By the way, I am not affiliated by the WHO Foundation at all but feel we need to do this.

Adding to this, I want to express the steps we need to take going forward as this Pandemic continues and variants will appear that may affect the efficacy of the vaccines. I strongly encourage everyone to continue to wear masks, maintain 6ft of social distancing and wash our hands regularly. Avoid crowded places, public travel and large gatherings as much as possible. Until our Public Health bodies say that we have reached herd immunity, we should continue to take precaution. These steps apply to everyone – vaccinated and unvaccinated.

We need to keep in mind that this is a new disease that our experts are continuously receiving new data about. Guidelines may change according to the data. Instead of being annoyed that they have changed, let’s understand that circumstances change according to new information. Once we understand this, it is really easy to accept that some restrictions may get eased and then they bring those restrictions back. Instead of seeing it as control, we know it is about safety. We have to keep an open mind as much as possible regardless of how fatigued we get with the restrictions. However, politicians have to be honest with the public in regards of the severity of not complying to restrictions. It is about educating the public with respect. Don’t tell them that everything will be okay, instead prepare them that restrictions will be adjusted according to current data and it will always remain an evolving situation.

I don’t care about being preachy about this because like I said COVID-19 is an infectious disease that can lead to death. If you can book an appointment to get the vaccine, go and book it. Don’t delay it at all. The vaccines are a safer way to protect yourself and others. None of the doses of the vaccines itself will give you a COVID-19 infection as the doses do not have the live virus. I encourage you to read the CDC information on the vaccine.

I feel this is our duty and responsibility as a global citizen. Who knows what normal will look like going forward but all I can say is that today, you can stay safe.

Spiritual Practice – How much is enough?

I was reminded this Friday during a Spiritual Discussion about Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule in his book Outliers. Gladwell guides that it takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice to achieve mastery of complex skills and materials. Let’s take a look at what this looks for the casual spiritual aspirant and then for the serious spiritual seeker for them to achieve spiritual mastery. In the end, I will look at what other activities we can do to increase our hours to reach this 10,000 hour rule.

First of all, 10,000 hours is a guide. We may have to put much more hours in or we may have to put less hours. It is not that once you reach 10,000 hours, you will achieve spiritual enlightenment and all the secrets of the universe will be revealed in the most majestic fashion. Our honesty, intention, passion and sincerity will matter when it comes to spiritual attainment. So as I go through these scenarios for the casual spiritual aspirant and the serious spiritual seeker, I believe it is best to understand that these people are honest, compassionate, genuine, sincere and have good intentions. They are not fake in any way. To me, faith, devotion, worship and reverence means nothing if we do not have the basic decency of being honest and genuine.

Casual Spiritual Aspirant – 10,000 hours

The casual spiritual aspirant probably spends a couple hours a week. Let’s say they meditate for 30 minutes every day. They may attend a satsang or a spiritual meetup for 2-4 hours a week. They may do the occasional listening to a spiritual talk on YouTube or reading spiritual content for an hour in the week.

  • Meditation – 3.5 hours
  • Satsang/Spiritual Meetup – 2 hours
  • Watching, listening or reading spiritual content via social – 1 hour
  • Studying Scripture or Spiritual Texts –  30 minutes

The total will be 7 hours in the week. In one year, this will be a total of 364 hours. To reach the 10,000 hour level of mastery, it would take the casual spiritual aspirant around 27.5 years.

Serious Spiritual Seeker – 10,000 hours

The serious spiritual seeker will definitely be putting in more hours. Let’s say they meditate for 1 hour every day. They may attend a satsang or a spiritual meetup for 2-4 hours a week. They will most likely study scripture or read a spiritual text for a good 2 hours a day. Like the casual spiritual aspirant, they may listen to a spiritual talk between 1-2 hours a week.

  • Meditation session – 7 hours
  • Satsang/Spiritual Meetup – 4 hours
  • Watching, listening or reading spiritual content via social media – 2 hours
  • Studying Scripture or Spiritual Texts – 14 hours

This would amount to 27 hours in the week. In one year, this will be a total of 1404 hours. To reach the 10,000 hour level of mastery, it would take the serious spiritual seeker around 7.1 years.

These are basic scenarios and it will differ person to person and the above spiritual activities will be interchangeable for example, someone may meditate more or attend more spiritual meetups per week. Someone may be living in an ashram and that can change things dramatically. The below examples may be something they do instead of the activities I mentioned above.

Examples of Other Spiritual Activities

There may be other spiritual activities that I will now mention and can be added into the above examples too. For example, someone may do yoga but doesn’t do meditation.

  • Walking in Nature or Gardening
  • Being aware of the present moment
  • Jap or Kirtan – singing/listening to devotional songs or reciting mantras
  • Yoga
  • Contemplation
  • Volunteer work
  • Retreats – weekend, 3 days or 5 days
  • Writing in a journal like a gratitude journal

Consideration

As I mentioned earlier and I want to emphasize that one’s sincerity, honesty and humility is important when it comes to attaining anything spiritual. Our behavior is transformed and if we are still harboring hatred, if we lack compassion or empathy, I doubt we have attained much spiritually regardless of the hours we put into spiritual practice.

Some may even claim that they have attained the highest in spirituality because of some sacred knowledge and even if that is the case, I do believe there is still a refining process. Plus this individual would always be interested in spiritual activities so this would still apply to them. Spirituality is interwoven into their life.

Death needs to be considered here and our awareness of it. If I know that I can die at any time, then would my outlook change? Would my spiritual practice be more intense hence an increase in hours each day? Our understanding of death has a correlation with the hours we put in. If we believe we can do it in future lives, then we should consider it could take us an eternity. If we believe in one life alone, then how many years can be guaranteed that we will live to? If there is no guarantee, then all I have this moment now – so what do I want to be in awareness of during this moment?

Comments

Let me know your comments on this post below. What spiritual activities do you do that I may have missed? If you want, you can let me know how long it will take you to reach the 10,000 hours.

Can Wisdom Be Bite-Sized?

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

We love to have information on the go. We want to be able to understand something as quickly as possible. We prefer to listen to a clip of a podcast or grab a summary of a book. We do all these things so we can somehow remain knowledgeable and aware of current events and most of all, remain relatable.

Who wants to go out with friends or spend time with family and not be able to talk about the latest viral clip out there or the book that transports us to another world? Or discuss that self-help book that taught us one good thing and has dramatically changed our lives. The new diet that has worked when all other diets didn’t work. That new Netflix show that we binged upon. We all want to remain relevant and when technologies and social platforms are taking us in all different directions, there is only so much time, therefore only so much capacity to learn about everything.

The same is with spirituality these days. It desires to be relevant. You can see popular gurus and wannabe gurus (mainly the self-help types) give small clips of 5-10 minutes to capture their new and existing audience and gain new adherents. They also want to gain popularity on social media platforms with reels and TikTok videos, going viral is the next best thing for the Gurus, who wish to put thousands of pages of ancient wisdom in 30 seconds clips. They most likely have a media team that works on this content and who knows how many bots may have been bought to get these gurus featured on Facebook or Instagram. Some disciples share the clips of their gurus and make them viral too.  Some gurus may be completely innocent of the fact that they are now featured on a social media platform. The impossibility of sharing bite-size wisdom somehow becomes possible but with massive disadvantages.

Spirituality requires time. There is nothing instant. The only way to climb up a mountain is to use your hands and feet. If you take a helicopter and go from the bottom of a mountain to the peak, you cannot claim to have climbed the mountain. Sure, it is a shortcut and although the destination is the same, the journey is completely different. The person who climbed up the mountain can talk about the terrain, the view from each side of the mountain, the wildlife, the vegetation and the difficulties faced during different weather conditions. They can talk about the whole journey with confidence and interesting tales. But someone who uses a helicopter misses out on all of these sensory delights. Similarly, the clips we hear of these gurus is never enough. We need to engage with their longer talks or their books to understand their philosophy. We need to know about their experiences and so in turn, we are inspired to apply the teachings.

But like the person who took the helicopter, we listen to the gurus and project their achievements as our own. This is only noticed when we carefully observe our own thoughts, intentions, emotions etc. Better to look within and see what has transformed than sing the glory of a god or someone that we do not know. Just because you caught that Guru featured on Instagram that doesn’t mean you know what it is like to be a disciple of theirs. Bite-size wisdom will not work because it doesn’t provide true clarity. It doesn’t tell us of the whole journey. We get a sneak peak and that is all. But who is satisfied with a movie trailer? We rather watch the whole movie. Same with spirituality, it is better to learn and follow any methods than to just glorify a path that we haven’t taken a step in.

I understand that I may sound ‘traditional’ but I have learned more from the larger books that I have read and the longer talks that I have listened to or watched. I love Swami Sarvapriyananda of Vedanta NY’s talks. His explanation of the Upanishads and other texts probably span over several days and I have deepened my understanding of Reality! I love Yog Vasistha – a thousand page book on Hindu philosophy. Or the 500 page Vigyan Bhairav Tantra by Osho. I remind myself of the thousands of pages of poetic wisdom in the Guru Granth Sahib and the 700 verses of the Bhagavad Gita. I am not saying smaller books and talks haven’t helped, they have. The beauty of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran is both delicate and strong. The high wisdom of Tao Te Ching is on many levels unmatched. I am not saying that the length of a talk or book measures how much wisdom is contained. I am talking about the thinking, the silent pauses you take when you pause a talk, or put down the book and you begin to ponder as you grab new insights, as you infer your own experiences to the words just heard or read. A verse from the Tao Te Ching cannot be read mechanically, it has to be properly understood. It may take less than a minute to read but it may need a good 30 minutes to understand and comprehend. Trust me, 30 minutes isn’t enough but you get my point.

Wisdom may come in bite-size pieces but eventually, we need to understand things deeper. We need to transcend the potentiality of something become superficial. Once something is superficial, it can become rigid as a limiting belief and we open the gate for ego to enter and expand. Therefore, if we must utilize this bite-size wisdom phenomena that has become mainstream today, we must not lose the art of contemplation so that this wisdom can penetrate us and complete us.

Time is of the Essence

Over the years, I perfected the art of listening and recently, I have watched it decline. Watching all my efforts go down the drain was extremely painful and this can be applied to my ability to focus and concentrate too. Although, we look to grow and evolve but this does come at a cost and this is what I like to discuss with you today.

Conversations

If you had put me in a room and my only thing was to listen, I used to interrupt someone until they had finished what they had to day. In recent years, I have seen this slowly diminish and now I interrupt when it is convenient for me.

Whenever I would be conversing, you would always find me mindfully listening and I found great joy in it. Listening is an easy way to feel the sense of the observer within you. So it was always a way to continue my meditation throughout the day and it provided fulfillment in my life.

I noticed that whenever I would interrupt or share my views straight away without thinking, I would leave a place feeling more tired and exhausted. Also, I would feel that the person I was talking to will probably feel that this wasn’t a worthwhile conversation.

I am always open to answering a question. So if asked anything, I would take the time to respond. However, in recent times, it was like I must share something otherwise, I would be irrelevant or people will go further into misinformation and maintain misguided views. Letting people be as they are has been a challenge.

A true conversation lies in the listening. It is empowered with the attention of listening. It is the silent observer that catches the nuances of what somebody says. If I am thinking about what to say in the next second, how can I be truly listening? So the art of a real conversation is when we take turns to converse our views and opinions. We take in what each person is saying and truly analyze it, not just from our perspective but mainly for the perspective of the speaker.

Books, Talks or Podcasts – the duration or pages matter

I listen to spiritual talks or podcasts regularly and I am an avid reader. Before, if you put a one hour or three hour talk for me, I could sit and listen and give my attention to it. Yes, my mind would drift now and then but I was able to concentrate for the most part. If you gave me a 1000 page book, I would be able to consume that. I love the longer talks and larger books because they give the necessary background that enhances the topic or concept discussed. The context that is added because time isn’t an issue allows the ideas/concepts to be clear and elucidated.

However, with the advent of social media, our concentration spans seem to be lessening day by day. We watch 10-30 second videos and call ourselves educated and informed. Before, it took us a decent 250-500 page book to be informed or a series of 2 hour talks but today, we don’t consider that necessary. When I listen to a 5 minute talk, I do not feel fulfilled at all or feel I have gained anything special. As easy as it was for my mind to concentrate on those 5 minutes, it was just as easy to let go of whatever I have learned in those 5 minutes. Without full context, we probably will not allow anything to become experiential.

I have recently felt that we must be very clear with our language, we should minimize our words only to maximize the understanding. But it doesn’t matter how long we talk for, or how much we write, it is about the clarity of the message. For anything to be clear, we need to explain it fully. For anyone to understand our views, we need to literally spell out how we got there.

Research – What is that again?

Today, our research is ‘Google it’ instead of let’s read or learn about it from experts in that field. For me, research is about getting a few or more books to understand any topic completely.

Nowadays, we read a few articles and suddenly, we find people on social media pretending to be experts on the matter. You will probably find a few social media influencers who will talk about mental health but have minimal understanding about what it is or have not gone through any mental health issues. Those people that have studied it, got degrees and are well-versed on the whole topic, they are not even consulted when these influencers share their ‘tidbits of wisdom’. This can be applied to any subject today. It is just a matter of reading a few articles and now we are completely enlightened on that subject. Who has time today to read a few books? Unfortunately, we think that these articles alone are enough to feel informed but this is not enhancing humanity at all, in fact, it is to the detriment to the community around us. I noticed this within myself and that is when I realized something is not right. We should be informed through a variety of mediums, like books, articles, research studies, and talk. Information overload is better than information minimization. Ignorance is certainly not bliss.

What to do next?

I have now started to read more books and listen to longer talks. I am constantly looking at how to increase my concentration, not just the longevity but also the intensity too. This requires work and effort. When someone is speaking, I need to learn to keep quiet and listen without interruption from my side. When I am reading a book, I must read a few pages without looking at my phone to increase my concentration and focus. Listening to a long talk on any subject, and reflecting on what is being said completely. Listen to panel discussions and the variety of opinions and thoughts.

A lot must be done to reclaim our focus and concentration, to become informed of a subject and most of all to have real conversations. Frankly, I must take the time to efficiently know something. In fact, efficiency is not about lessening the time to know something, efficiency is about increasing the quality of information and discussing valuable insights with others when necessary.

5 ways a Spiritual Master helps you on the Spiritual Journey

I want to focus on the Spiritual Master and 5 ways that it has helped me on my journey, so it is incredibly personal. Before I go into this, let me discuss with you briefly the difference between a Figurehead and a Spiritual Master. The Spiritual Master has a personal relationship with your spirituality and the focus is purely on spiritual growth. The relationship has more compassion, forgiveness and love. The Figurehead is someone that carries on a tradition and is impersonal for the most part and has the danger of operating with fear and complete obedience. An image is created for them and the Figurehead follows this image accordingly. There are cases that some are a mix of a Figurehead and a Spiritual Master and each case is hugely dependent on the disciple or the follower.

My last blog post dealt with how we need to be self-reliant in our relationship with spirituality, if we are to be serious seekers. I mentioned that having a fixed framework that is a ‘one size fits all’ like a philosophy/ideology that all must follow and following a Figurehead was important for a casual spiritual aspirant. It offers structure, some practices that are not strenuous, and it will at least give us all the tools to make us decent human beings.

Let’s now look into the 5 ways a Spiritual Master helped me on my journey.

Individual Path

My Spiritual Master understood my approach with spirituality and responded according to it. My Spiritual Master guided me to carve my own way to understand the deeper realities. I was to pick myself up when I fall and remain grounded whenever my ego could soar to unnecessary places. My Spiritual Master was very quick in understanding and accepting that I didn’t belong to any organization/movement and that my Spiritual Master’s guidance is everything and would remain so. I would ask questions on what I was confused about and my Spiritual Master would give me answers sometimes. Occasionally, I would follow up with more questions. Then there were times that silence was the answer to my questions. Normally, a day or two later I would find the answer I was looking for. It was always within me.

Discovering the Inner Guru

My Spiritual Master through silence and the knowledge of the Self showed me the Inner Guru that was always residing within. I was to befriend this as much as possible. I was to ask this Inner Guru my questions, share my doubts and worries, and even my joys and feelings of bliss. Whenever I sat down to meditate, I was to focus on the image of the Inner Guru, who would then take me to the Formless, Impersonal, Ultimate Reality. So when I met my Spiritual Master, I could give a highlighted report about the progress of my spirituality and whatever answers I couldn’t find, I would ask those questions and would receive the answers accordingly. The more I connected with the Inner Guru, my Spiritual Master gave me a lot of love and we grew closer.

Return to the Source

The focus was always on returning back to the Source, the Origin, and the Formless Reality that is always there in the background. This doesn’t and has never disappeared. It is always there and I just had to focus as much as I could on it. My Spiritual Master would tell me to stick to the Formless, and don’t look anywhere else. If I would listen or read something, I could relate it back to the Formless. Explore and find the connection and then bathe in that Awareness. The more awareness I had, the better. This became the base of my meditation. I was blessed with some amazing experiences and this was because of simply following my Spiritual Master’s guidance.

Synthesis of Spiritualism and Materialism

My Spiritual Master laid great importance on connecting the spiritual and material. I wasn’t to live dual lives – one that is spiritual and then one of the world. I was to find the Spiritual in the Material World. I was guided that the Spiritual is very much present and that I had to lift the veil in order to see it. I did find that the more I focused on my spirituality, then I never had to worry about my job or anything like that. Somehow, life always remains smooth. I do my work to earn a living and I focus on my spirituality. Both have a beautiful relationship with each other because I was told to see the oneness between them.

Let the Heart Speak

This is something that is very dear to me. My Spiritual Master guided me to only share my best and that was through my heart. If I was to speak to a gathering, I was not to be prepared. It is funny but whenever I prepared something, I would forget it and deliver something totally different. I always enter a different state of being – very similar, if not the same, as when I meditate. I lose sense of my individual self, finding Awareness through the Heart and then I speak. For some reason, I can never remember anything I say verbatim. I can never remember lines of spiritual texts. I just seem to understand the essence.

Concluding Thoughts

The reality is that my Spiritual Master has allowed me to really develop my own spiritual path, according to my understanding. Being agnostic, this is very helpful for me. Even though, my Spiritual Master talks about God, I understood what was meant by that word. Although, I don’t like using the word but I know my Spiritual Master’s discourses reach a wider audience. But in private conversations, the word ‘god’ was seldom used. Only Formless, or Awareness was used with me.

The Spiritual Master understands you and works with you to excel in spirituality. The focus is on your own improvement alone as a spiritual disciple. One of the best moments during a conversation with the Spiritual Master is whenever you come to a realization or you discover a beautiful insight and you share it with the Spiritual Master. They will listen to it as if it was completely new to them as well and you will see wonder glowing through their eyes. In that, they teach true listening along with keeping an attitude of wonder. The Spiritual Master is the truest advocate of mystical experiences and their aim is to create a Mystic.

1st dose of Covid-19 Vaccine

Yesterday, I received my first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. I received the Pfizer one. Apart from a really sore left arm, there are no other side effects. If this changes, I will let you know.

I got my vaccine appointment at the Mercedes Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta. The whole journey was very smooth and very well organized. Most of the volunteers were super friendly.

I encourage that people go and get vaccinated. Do it for yourself and do it for your loved ones too. This is a chance for things to go back to normal and most of all, nobody wants to suffer with long Covid or even with Covid-19 itself.

I want to thank all the Government Officials that arranged this both local, state and federal. I want to thank the Army and the volunteers for their dedication.

A little picture for you from yesterday! And yes, I do wear two masks!

The 4 Ways of a Spiritual Seeker

For the casual spiritual aspirant, where a few hours a week is dedicated to the Spiritual Path, then a spiritual organization is very necessary. It helps them with a framework that they can use to have a sense of purpose, to have the benefits (and pitfalls) of belief or faith, to remain dependent on an outside agency (like a deity, God, or Gurus) to help guide when errors or mistakes are made.

For the more serious spiritual seeker, that actively practices and settles at nothing but the highest attainment of moksha (liberation) then the path of the Mystics is important. The function of an organization, centered on an individual or a group becomes a massive hindrance along the way. Therefore, this seeker must carve their own path.

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Non-Dependency

A casual aspirant will not benefit from non-dependency, but the serious seeker will benefit the most. The seeker doesn’t depend on their own experience nor the experience of others. All experiences are fleeting and this whole world is transient. They understand that nobody can guarantee anything without one’s own effort. The spiritual aspirant, with their few hours will depend on the good graces of the philosophy, ideology, group or figurehead and will always dance according to that tune. It is even alluring that you do nothing but grace is given. Now, the spiritual seeker cannot understand why we should depend on that grace alone. When we have to get rid of duality, then why add more to that duality with the other? It is better to focus on the One alone and upon our own effort. No need for anything else. Yes, right now for the seeker, duality feels real but they understand that what feels real is actually transient. I don’t like to use the word ‘false’ because this world is beautiful and isn’t wrong or a mistake. In every quark, there is the essence of the most beautiful yet, Formless Ultimate Reality.

The seeker instead goes up the levels of reality, where they see their life and everything connected to it as a transactional reality and they are not to depend on any transaction. They are to work through these levels of reality until they reach that Reality where there is no difference, no separateness and is a complete, perfect Oneness. In fact, if the serious seeker does depend on anything then it is the Formless Ultimate Reality or the Self alone.

Philosophy or Ideology

For the sake of this discussion, when I mention philosophy, I am containing both philosophy and ideology in this. For the serious spiritual seeker, they cannot do with a fixed philosophy that someone else has developed. They always seek to deepen any existing philosophy or look to develop their own. Their efforts and their experiences leads to a higher state of being where they start noticing the ‘devils in the details’ and cannot adhere to such conventional thinking. They then choose to transcend those details and conventions much to the disappointment of the group that they belong to. The group of casual spiritual aspirants or the figurehead may look at the philosophy as a great template from afar. But even the genuine figurehead knows the conventional wisdom template needs to be erased and written with the seeker’s own wisdom, therefore, they truly give that seeker the freedom to develop. This has always been done and the reason why we have Mystics like Rumi and Kabir.

As much as a philosophy is a great starting point, it is not the means and it is not the end. The seeker recognizes this and moves forward. They spend time analyzing every philosophy, their own thoughts and continue to evolve. This is why I admire Hinduism as a religion for its amazing diversity of philosophy – you can be a theist, an atheist, an agnostic and still be called a Hindu. You can even reject Hinduism and that is still a very Hindu thing to do! The Buddha rejected the Vedas and is still considered an avatar! For the Hindu sees evolution and celebrates it. For this reason, Hinduism has created a strong philosophy called Advaita Vedanta, which is now being considered as aligning with Science on the basis that reality is non-duality or a unified field. What the mystics found within, scientists are finding with their equations and formulas. Hindus accept that philosophy is not meant to stick around but it is meant to be molded and created into something new. In fact, each individual is a religion in their own self. For this reason, there is neither dependency nor one single philosophy. The seeker must find their own.

Universal Mindset

Even though, a group may claim that they have a universal approach to spirituality, you will find a nuance in their thinking. Only their approach is universal, anything else is not universal. What is really funny is that most spiritual organizations claim the monopoly of having the only way. They are the chosen ones with the Chosen One to lead. They have been picked out of the billions for this sacred journey that they dip their toes in once in a while.

Even though, they may claim to be open-minded, but anything that is different to the Group’s philosophy is rejected and considered to be false unanimously by everyone. Like I mentioned, whenever we start to think that we have a better path than everyone else, we automatically close our minds to the universality of wisdom. The wisdom that we start to associate with becomes incredibly narrow and is never the focal point anymore. Hence, we start worshipping one god, guru or group only and cannot go beyond that scope.

To be truly open minded is to transcend all associations to an organization. Yes, we can belong to a group but we should never feel alpha about our group compared to others. We should have the humility to see the similarities and bond over that. Where there are differences, we should accept them as someone else’s journey and findings that are just as valid. Then again, I expect only a serious seeker to understand this and be able to differentiate on whether a difference in philosophy is based on experience or mere tradition. The more casual aspirant will want to stick to their way because it is the best way and the only way. It is comforting but not ego transcending.

Convenience

We can get too comfortable and start becoming lazy with our spiritual journey. Whenever dependency arises, the sense of comfort sweeps in and imprisons us. The spiritual seeker is not spiritual for their own convenience or comfort. They seek to disturb the current worldview that they hold. They look to dissect their ego to what it really is and to check if the ego actually exists! Spirituality in the truest sense is an inconvenient Truth. It doesn’t care about your feelings, your thoughts, your intentions, or what you want reality to be. It shows you reality and then you have to learn to deal with it and work accordingly to It.

When the spiritual aspirant get comfortable and lazy, we prefer to do the easy things that gives us the cloak of doing something spiritual. It helps our ego to think we are doing something towards seeking a Higher Reality. It fools us. It puts us in shackles and gives us the illusion that we are reaching great progress. Therefore, it is important to check if we are settling in the Ultimate Reality or are we settling in our ego that we have fashioned into some God or Higher Being.

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The Possible Dissonance

There are some serious spiritual seekers that function within an organization/group and may also follow a figurehead. There may even be a deep reverence for the group and the figurehead and will share the collective teachings according to their understanding or findings. However, there will be a marked difference and that is they follow what is right according to their own being. They will not simply accept any idea, thought or action and they may even challenge anything that they disagree with. It is then dependent on the group or the figurehead if they want such a person. They may find that such dissonance is not welcome and it is with that understanding that I go back to the central idea that within each one of us is a religion waiting to be born.

Be a Spiritual Seeker

What you want to be is truly up to you. But if you want to enter spirituality, then there has to be a seriousness to it. I do believe that being a serious spiritual seeker is super fun and is a thrilling journey like no other but I can see how it isn’t for everyone. For some, the minimal effort is all they can do and they have other priorities which is fine. For them, a framework set by another, whether an organization or figurehead, does suit them and their lifestyle so why go further? It does help them at least live a good and moral life.

For the more serious spiritual seekers that understand that Liberation or Moksha is the ‘end’, they need to put some serious work. This spiritual work has to be done all on their own, after they have exhausted the help of others and all philosophy. This path is less traveled and no compass, no GPS can help because the GPS will always re-route you back to where you are and the compass will always point back to you.

Unity is where Justice Begins

Yesterday, I watched something that I didn’t think I would ever see. Zack Snyder’s Justice League. His version, the complete version, the way that he intended the movie to be experienced. There were many great moments in that movie, which maybe I can discuss another time. However, I want to really express how this is a victory of many kinds and the one that deserves the most mention is the Snyder Fans and DCEU fans that fought for this cut of the movie after the diabolical theatrical version that was released in 2017.

Background

Zack Snyder is behind the Man of Steel and Batman Vs Superman movies. With Batman Vs Superman, when the theatrical was released, the Studio interfered and wanted to cut the movie by 30 minutes. So this led to this movie being critically panned. Later, Snyder released the Ultimate Edition of that same movie, and this elevated the movie to another height. It was much, much better, the 30 minutes added so much context.

During the filming of the Justice League, the studio interfered to a greater extent. They would ask to make things lighter and the director that Snyder is obviously resisted most of the time. He was building a universe for these Superheroes and he understood what was needed. The Studio wanted something lighter and more kid-friendly like the Marvel Universe and not the more mythical, grittier, darker and more grounded Universe that Snyder was created.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck and the Snyders lost their daughter Autumn to suicide. Emotionally this is tough to deal with and the Studio wasn’t compassionate to this situation and kept interfering to the point that Snyder had to leave the Justice League. Which is understandable when a father has just lost his daughter. So the Studio then hired the man that created the first two Avengers movies and the rest can be seen in the critically-panned and rejected by the audience 2017 theatrical version of the Justice League. To be honest, it’s Whedon’s Justice League and that is how it should be referred to. Not to forget, cast members had to reshoot a lot of scenes say corny lines and jokes and face a hostile work environment. This is all well documented by Ray Fisher, who played Cyborg and he made an official complaint.

The Fans Movement

The moment the theatrical was released, as far as I can remember there was whispers on the net that there was another version of the Justice League that Snyder had originally visioned. Then then snowballed into a massive movement of #ReleaseTheSnyderCut and as we know, this was finally released.

Now, this campaign kept growing and growing. The one noteworthy thing that I want to discuss especially is that it wasn’t just the Snyder Cut that they were campaigning for, they also found another cause and they supported that with just as much passion. This was the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and this is because Snyder directed them to follow this cause too. This meant fans raised thousands for this charity and what a beautiful cause. Mental health is such an important topic that can never be discussed enough and suicide is a feeling that anyone can feel one day. What people need is support and unity and the fans united behind this cause.

Eventually, the Studios could not ignore the fans commitment to seeing the Snyder Cut and they did everything to make it happen, from making trends on Twitter to having billboards asking to release the Snyder Cut. Thankfully HBO Max began conversations with Snyder and today, we can enjoy that movie. The fans won this long battle of almost 4 years.

#UsUnited

The greater message of this whole thing is that when we are united around a cause, and this was a noble cause indeed, we can achieve great things. This is felt throughout the whole 4 hour superhero epic. This underlying theme of unity and that division only brings greater evil into society. But when we unite, when we go beyond culture, beyond language, beyond borders, beyond color then we become a force for good, we can tackle any human-made problem.

The unity that the Snyder fans created around Suicide Prevention is so important during this time of the pandemic when aspects of life have been reduced somewhat. When we listen and support each other compassionately, when we understand each other, when we respect each other, when we understand how to communicate better with each other then we can get rid of a lot of problems, even our internal struggles. The fact is we face our struggles alone and I feel that society can do a lot better in not letting people feel they are lonely. But mental health is different and diverse for each person and this must be respected and understood from a place of compassion.

I do wonder whether Zack Snyder’s Justice League was ahead of it’s time even for 2017. As a globe, we have gone through so much and specifically in America, we have had to deal with growing domestic terrorism, violence and death due to racism, an incompetent President and administration between Jan 2017 – Jan 2021 and then a global pandemic that has only seen wealth inequality grow. I wonder if Snyder’s film makes more sense today because of our shared experiences as a society.

#RestoreTheSnyderVerse

I end with this one request to Warner Bros – restore the SnyderVerse in its entirety. Give him complete freedom to create this DC Universe on the cinematic screen with the other directors. Stay out of their vision because when you let creative people do what they need to, they can create something you can never imagine.

Next…

There is a lot in my head that I am currently processing still and maybe they will result in some more blogging. Anyway, I hope you are all well and thank you for always supporting my blog.

You Are Not Alone

If you are struggling with mental health or are having suicidal thoughts, here is more information on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention https://afsp.org/. If you feel you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. Or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

Empathy – Is it so difficult?

Today, I write with a heart that isn’t able to understand where humanity has disappeared into. Recent events in India have been disturbing and conflicting and one thing has been missing. That one thing is called empathy.

The Farmers Protest in India has been riddled with misinformation, misbehavior of a few and a lack of empathy from the nation. Whether the Farm Bills are right or wrong isn’t my issue here and that is something the Government has to work with the Protestors on. My issue is why has the country lacked empathy and when I say country, I specifically mean its spokespersons like Bollywood, Politicians (regardless what wing you are), Large Corporates, Spiritual and Religious Gurus and organizations etc.

Around 70 protestors have reportedly died, many are still protesting in very cold conditions and some of these people are the elderly and young children. People who are risking their lives regardless of the outside conditions are protesting against the Government. Instead what has the Indian Government done – absolutely nothing. Not even empathy has been shown, forget compensation.

While I sit here writing this in a centrally-heated home in the United States and still feeling cold, I cannot even imagine what an elderly farmer must be going through in the biting cold in Delhi or wherever in India they are protesting. But one thing is for sure, this isn’t fair to the protestors. They have been protesting for over 3 months and that during a pandemic but the empathy from our leaders, our celebrities, our religious/spiritual gurus has been missing.

Empathy is something that every emotionally intelligent person should feel. The pain of someone else, we should feel this. The thought of another in pain should make us shudder. This is something basic that we should all feel. Instead what we get is distraction from the actual issue. We get a few Bollywood celebrities who are obviously fed from the current Indian Government to give standard tweets out and ironically state that India is against propaganda. It is an absolute joke! Why have they all of a sudden spoken up? Because Rihanna sent out a tweet asking one question! Greta Thunberg sent out a tweet in support of the Protestors and India loses its mind. They start burning effigies of a 17 year old child and the Government, these bollywood celebrities, spiritual gurus say nothing about this? They don’t condemn this?! This 17 year old has done much more humanitarian work for the environment than all of these celebrities put together. Instead they tell people like Greta, Rihanna to leave the country alone, it is an internal matter and say their views are propaganda against India

Now this leads me to the next point, where are the Spiritual Leaders hiding today? Why are they not addressing the inhumane response to these protestors? One Guru did speak up but defending the Government. In fact, this Guru tweeted that celebrities outside of India shouldn’t interfere with Indian politics. This very Guru has celebrities ‘interview’ him and I have to ask why does he need their help? Maybe to become popular? Make more money? Look more credible? It is hypocritical of him to pick and choose when celebrity status is important. Maybe, he should stick with staying in his own ashram instead of going to the UN and interfering in global politics or meeting Logan Paul and other global celebrities. The less I say about his actual teachings, the better.

Spiritual Gurus are known to be great thinkers or reformers, they are meant to present to us how to be model citizens. But their current response has been lacking across the board. There are a few who have understood the plight of the Farmers. But they were called terrorists by the current Indian Government and the mainstream media that is in bed with the government. I can understand the hesitancy but empathy is larger than that. Compassion is about responding with rightful action against the oppressed. Heck, I wonder what names the mainstream media and the government would have called Mahatma Gandhi today?

We have to understand that democracy doesn’t mean that a government can do whatever they like because they got the votes a couple of years ago. A democracy is about having a voice and allowing voices the freedom to express themselves, to have a non-violent dialogue about the pressing issues of our times. Democracy is all about being in the moment.

Some people may turn around and tell me that some protestors have been violent. But if you look at the language of those against the protestors, it is nothing short of violence. Calling a peaceful protestor – a terrorist is calling for violence. When you put spikes in the road and concrete barricades, that is creating violence by showing division. When you block the internet so protestors cannot communicate with each other – it becomes authoritarian rule. When you block food and water supplies – that is a crime against humanity! Every single bollywood actor, every journalist, every politician, every corporate, every spiritual/religious guru, every citizen is complicit if they side with the Government and it’s ridiculous misinformed narrative and violent actions in regards to the Farmers Protest. Silence will not do, we have to defend the right to protest.

I end with a question. Why has empathy become so difficult to feel?

The Easier Path or the Simpler Path

Life is such that when we choose the easier path, it ends up being more disastrous for us entirely. Now, the easier path doesn’t necessarily mean the simpler path either. They are major differences between the two, let’s explore this together.

The easier path tends to be one that we do out of fear. For example, what would by friends think? What will my colleagues think? What will the people in the church think? We think more for the approval of society than the betterment of our own self. We make sacrifices for people that are living their lives but somehow we are impacted by their thoughts that have not even been conceived. Yes, we make their thoughts and reactions up in our mind. There are times, we do things because we think the struggle will bring us down. Yet, I can tell you from my social media feed that most people will claim hustle is in the struggle but when it comes to day to day life – they avoid struggling or suffering. Many times, with my own problems, I learned the hard way that whenever I thought the easier path was better, it would go horribly wrong for me, I suffered more as a consequence because we all think the easier path is better, and others advised me the easier path too because that is what they would have done. So our suffering, yours and mine becomes cyclical, we become busier and more invested in our problems, so how do we end this?

In fact, it is the recognition of suffering that leads us to think in more simple ways. We can analyze a situation, a thought, a problem, emotions with a mind that understands what is bringing suffering and will come up with the solution itself. We look at the simple solution to everything. If I am upset with something, I must understand why am I upset? I must look at it as a whole problem. Not just my angle, or the angle of the other but as a whole without inference from anyone. Now, there have been times when I have guided my friends, the more simple path but it wasn’t what they wanted to hear. Heck, I didn’t want to say it but it helped them in the end. See simplicity is embedded with the Truth. We live a more truthful life when everything is simple. When we complicate things, it is best to look at a problem through simplicity, rather than the easy path.

Let me highlight this with a very clear example. When we are in a disagreement, it is very easy to shout one’s thoughts or to react. But the simpler way would be to be silent, to listen, to be and then decide if a response is needed or not. The easier path will just change the situation and travel in all directions but the simpler path will transform the situation and bring the issue to stillness, to a standstill.

This was with worldly things but as you know, there is a spiritual context here. In fact, until we understand that Truthful Living is with simplicity, only then are we ready for a spiritual life.

In spirituality, we find ourselves always going towards the easier way. We look for the quickest way to enlightenment. We entangle ourselves with ideas that are definitely simple to understand, but if our mindset is a fast-food type of spiritual enlightenment then we will complicate it. Instead of doing arduous practice, we like it when we hear someone say, if we give you this or that, chant this mantra, you will realize the Truth or realize God. We love it when someone says we can attain something easily but what is the bigger picture. I covered this in my previous blog post Instant Enlightenment – Is it a Myth? that someone has probably practiced spirituality, lived an austere life, meditated a lot and then they met a Guru, who gave them the wisdom and they attained all that needs to be attained. They got it not because understanding spirituality became easier, they became simpler. There are less desires, less thoughts, less attachment, less emotion. All these things add up. Therefore, spirituality is always simple, we complicate it because we would rather pray to a deity or to the Guru and ask them to get rid of our karma, to grant us liberation. Unless you are a poet or a singer who performs or writes this to invoke the spirit of seeking, we should commit to being disciplined in our spiritual practice – that would be being simple. But we cannot, we want shortcuts, we want it all easily, but unfortunately God or Truth, whatever you want to call it, isn’t so easily attained.

With life both material and spiritual, be real. Don’t think about what others think. The first thought should be if you are ready. If you are ready, then think of the simplest way to get what you need or to do what is needed. Otherwise, the easier path is there and sometimes, it does work out but only for a while. We think our situation has changed, we think people have changed and we are deceived. The illusion of change is such that transformation becomes a lost cause. Therefore, to transform is to be simple.