Universal Truths: Hinduism, U2, and Kushiel

Yesterday was a rough day for me. In the midst of this massive transition/transformation/internal rewiring and reconstruction, it’s normal that not every day is one blessed by epiphanies and insight. Sometimes it just sucks. Yesterday was one of those for me. I felt grumpy, cranky, restless yet with no will to actually do anything, tired, etc.

I think I mentioned during some post recently (it might have been one of the many that I’ve started writing and then ended up trashing so if you’ve been actively reading and are feeling confused right now, don’t worry – it’s not you) that I was reading The Bhagavad Gita shortly before we moved and I had to return my library books. I picked up a different copy of it here from our local library within the past week and read the 40 some page preface and the first few chapters yesterday. Reading through the preface, I felt like I was chewing gravel at first – there was so much to take in that was designed to help guide readers in understanding the Gita, but the amount of information and its conciseness were enough to make my brain hurt. When I got to the actual text of the Gita, I resonated with Arjuna’s frustrated and urgent pleas to Krishna to simply give him one straight answer instead of advocating for one practice in a moment and then a totally different in the next. Action? Non-action? Knowledge? Renunciation? Wisdom? Service? Which is it?! At the end of the evening, I set it down, not as frustrated as I’d been in my previous reading of it, but not much at ease either. Terms and concepts swam around in my head in a dizzying and noisy swirl – dharma, karma, non-attachment, renunciation, action, selfless service, etc., and a part of me sighed in sorrow at feeling how far I am from any of those goals.

One of the most incredible people I’ve met on the planet is a man who I’ve had the honor to train with in some shrink practices. He frequently said at the end of each session/meeting that we learned and were taking away with us far more than we realized. This morning, I found that to be true with my reading of the Gita yesterday. Sore from a fitful night of sleeping, I went out on the patio with my coffee and settled in to my meditation time that I’ve just recently retaken up.

As I sat in my chair and breathed, I allowed my thoughts to travel as they would. It went something like this: I had waited until I was awake for 1/2 hr before having my first cigarette of the day. I thought about having quit smoking recently and my lack of long-term success due to not having taken any measures to replace that activity with one that accomplished the same purpose (under the extreme stress of the eviction, I got crankier and meaner and more irritable – particularly with our kids – and so, though I could have continued abstaining, I had no immediate way to fix it, and I started again in order to avoid the wrath of my wife). Would increasing my daily meditation time be beneficial, I wondered?  Then, I thought of the Gita and Krishna’s explanation of renouncing sense-objects (material things and desires). An image popped into my awareness of catching a ball thrown to me by my ego – a sense-object – and my gently releasing the ball from my hands and rolling it away from me. I remembered that, in meditation, the point is not how long one can remain quiet and centered, but rather the committment to and practice of drawing attention back to center after it starts to wander. I recalled that one of the sense-objects Krishna particularly advocated release of was other people. I remembered that when I read that line, I knew that would be a challenge for me. But this morning, as I thought about that, I recalled a section of Kushiel, a fabulous fictional book I read a while ago about a sexual masochist, and the main character’s vow to love her partner with “an open palm.” It was the same thing that Krishna advocated – that non-attachment to others. From there, my thoughts led to how the rest of my family is faring with the stress of everything we have going on right now – in particular my Beloved. I recalled my tendency to take on that which is not mine and wondered if I was doing that with her. It was at that point that something settled within me. Rather amusingly, my mind drew parallels from the Gita to some U2 lyrics, “We’re One, but we’re not the same.” My Beloved and I are One, just as I know (though not yet in my belly) that everyone is One; yet, we are still different people. Just as the Gita pointed out. As I began remembering other snippets of lyrics, I saw further parallels. “Love is a temple, love a higher law, Love is a temple, Love the higher law,” and “One Love…One Life, You got to do what you should.” I inwardly chuckled as I heard Bono singing in my mind about these Hindu concepts and practices endorsed in the Gita – the Oneness of all people, united by the Self that is Divinity; the recognition of a higher law and instruction to focus on that alone; the concept of dharma and how it is important to follow our own individual dharmas (doing what we should).

I have no idea if Bono ever read the Gita. Regardless, what I’ve been noticing recently is the thread of Universal Truth that surfaces in the tapestry of so many different spiritual systems. The semantics might be different (Hinduism and Buddhism call it non-attachment or renunciation, my studies of Witchcraft use the word “surrender,” numerous other paths discuss “letting go,” or giving “it” to god, etc.), but the concept remains the same. After playing connect the dots with these passages of the Gita and everything from pop music to fictional books about sexual masochism and simply sitting in the midst of it all and breathing, I feel much calmer. And when I feel my chest tighten in regards to some outside thing, I am going to try to remember to take a deep breath and simply release that ball from my grasp and breathe again.

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