See more articles, reviews, fiction and poetry, including more of my writings, at group blog PLUTO'S REALM.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Problem with Writing

(Trying to clear the air, or my head, or both.)

The problem with writing isn't that I have nothing to say.  It's rather that once I open the gates, the words rush out, and there's not stopping them til they're all said.  And who has that kind of time?

The problem with writing is that no matter what I say, I can't make you understand.  To quote Jethro Tull, "I may make you feel, but I can't make you think.

The problem with writing is that if I say what I truly feel, what I truly see and know, they'll come for me like they've come for so many others.  We live in dangerous times.

The problem with writing is that words are capable of expressing such a tiny portion of what I truly have to say.

The problem with writing is that if I were to try to utter more than a bit or a fragment, I'd be writing book after book, for the rest of my life, that no one would ever read.  And I'm not the sort that writes books.  Life is too short.

The problem with writing is that I see from so many points of view at any one time that I can't pick one to stand on and to speak from.

The problem with writing is that it feels like a waste of time when I should be learning.

The problem is that there's nothing to teach but lots to learn.

The problem with writing is that I'm not really willing to tell you much about myself anyway.

The problem with writing is that I'm likely to hurt your feelings.

The problem with writing is that I don't have the time for it.

The problem with writing is that when I do it I realize how much of my other time is truly wasted, sucked dry by the evil ones for whom we are all forced to labor.

The problem with writing is that I'm afraid I'm not as good at it as I used to be.

The problem with writing is that I'd rather be doing it in another language, in German, or in Sanskrit.

The problem with writing is is that I'm afraid to tell you what I really see in the world, for fear you'll hate and misunderstand me.  And I hate it that I care what you think.

The problem with writing is that I'm afraid to tell you what means the most to me, for fear that you'll use it to hurt me.

The problem with writing is that no matter how long I keep on doing it, I can never say it all.

(To be continued.)

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Simple Morning Exercise

Perhaps some of you are wondering, after my attacks on the American Buddhist and Yoga establishment, "Well, what does he do, then?  Is it all neti, neti, with no practive? The answer is yes, I do do something; it's changed over the years, as I change, and the form is not fixed.  Plus I've made use at times of forms I haven't documented in these pages.  But as to what I do, in terms of what most people would call a practice, is this: about five rounds of Sun Salutation, followed by about fifteen minutes of meditation. In orders words, yoga I learned from Yoga classes, and mediation based on what I originally learned in Zen.

"How can he?" you ask.  How could I not? I did years, hundreds of hours of Yoga classes, to learn the forms.  I was never comfortable, until recently, doing them on my own.  Likewise, I spent hundred of hours in Zen meditation, often in groups (all of the longer periods), often alone.  These are the tools I have, albeit modified.

I start with the Yoga.  I do it after exactly one cup of coffee in the morning.  I begin standing (on my yoga mat - carpet is horrible for this), breathe a few times, and do a series of sun salutations.  I start very slow, and never get very fast, concentrating on my breathing and on hitting and holding asanas correctly.  I've been playing music - Ravi Shankar's Chants of India works perfectly - and doing fairly elaborate variations on the salutations.  I know lots of variations because I spent many hours learning them in many classes from many good yoga instructors.  At the moment I've begun, because of a diagnosed problem in my upper back (from my brilliant massage therapirst) doing lots of back bends, stretching out my front body.  It's easy to improvise when you know your stuff.

Then I drag out my old zafu and sit facing the wall, mediating for fifteen minutes.  I find it's best to turn the music off.  I often sit silent for a while.  Often I chant my own version of the Gayatri.  I find the Gayatri best because there are millions (billions?) of Hindus and other Vedantists who find that a good way to start the day.  Or just om, or om namah shivayah.    I find it useful to visualize the sun rising, though I'm indoors, because (1) I do this about sunrise, (2)I think visually, and (3) the sun, in the Northern and Vedic cultures with which I most indentify, to honor the sun , as Surya, as Savitr, this I find most honorable, suitable, intuitive and pleasing.

Note that this is all devoid of ritual, usually (sometimes I'll light a candle or bow to the cushion).  I don't have an altar of any kind set up, though I could.  I would kind of like a Siva altar, but I can't really see worshipping a huge penis to begin my day.

That's all.  That's simple.  And it changes everything, optimizes how my day starts.  More yoga than that might exhaust me, and the point is to get me up and aware, get my body warmed up, and set the stage for my meditation.  My meditation is not zen meditation.  It's permutated over the years.  I started in zen, Shikantaza, when I was doing the really long ones.  For a little over a year when I had left zen and joined an Asatru kindred, then joined the Rune Gild, I incorporated their Nine Doors program (really a magical development program crafted by Edred Thorsson based largely on the books of Franz Bardon, among others).  Then the more of the Vedas I read, the more of the Vedas I liked, and that's the tendency drawing me lately.

Which is to say, I didn't start out like this.  I started doing Yoga in 2000 to stretch my hamstrings, and did challenging classes, mostly vinyasa yoga in which the teachers made their own modifications to basic Ashtanga series, until my body learned a lot of the poses and knows enough to give me options when I need to modify for a specific purpose.  It takes a lot of kinetic training to learn to do Yoga right.  The best way to get the training is in a class, from a good teacher.  You can't see your posture from the outside to correct it, at least not in the beginning.  Then you learn how it feels and you can internalize it.

Likewise, though nothing is simpler than seated meditation, it's extremely unnatural for most people and has to be taught.  There's not a lot to be taught.  I've taught many people to do simple Shikantaza in ten minutes or less.  What they do with that teaching, is their deal.  Most of the techniques they teach you in Zen are bullshit, and are meant to drop off anyway.  Follow your breath, if you like, but don't count them.  Don't try to control your thoughts.  Become aware otherwise.  And then just sit.

Caution: I'm not saying not to do long meditation practice, for hours a day for days on end.  It's a good learning tool.  But as a daily practice, it's not only very hard to work in, but I think in the end destructive.  Long meditation is like dropping acid.  Doing it a few times will teach you something.  Doing it every day harms you mentally.  And some people have been doing that for thirty years or more, many because they just don't get it.  Fifteen minutes for me is enough to let tapas arise, but not to let it burn out.  Especially avoid people who tell you it's about 'being there' or 'presence' or 'mindfulness'.  They are vexations to the spirit.  I may have already explained why this sort of thinking about thinking doesn't help; I'll do so more in the immediate future, I think.

And one more word:  You can't stop your mind from thinking, no matter how hard to try, or to 'let the thoughts go' without more coming.  You will stop thinking when you stop breathing, which the people at these Zen 'centers' hope does not happen on their watch.  I did discover the simple technique as a teenager of letting images arise instead of words.  But all that is up to you.

In fact, it's all up to you.  But you do need to learn things, and to learn those things you have to go to the people who know them.  But remember those people are these to teach you a technique, not how to run your life.  Because most of those people run pretty shitty lives themselves (the Yoga teachers seem to fare better than the Zen ones).

So find something that works for you.  More later on what other schools I've worked through, and why.


Wednesday, February 01, 2012

San Francisco, 1980-1983: a Zen Prequel

OK, as I'm sure you've figured out from looking at the cars, this is not a picture from the early '80's; it's a screen capture from Google Maps of the sort-of-Edwardian home I occupied only for one year, in 1982 and 1983.  That's it, the yellow building in the center (I'm lucky it hasn't been as extensively remodeled as the rest of the street).  You went up the stairs and through the red door on the right, which led to the main floor and the "basement" of the house (the latter still being above street level).  I'm sure there are architectural terms for these things, I just don't know them.  The house had been subdivided, and I shared in with a largely absentee roommate during my last year in law school and my last year in the Bay Area. That year was mostly a raucous party time, though largely a joyous one.  San Francisco is one city where I've lived from which, after I'd left, though I didn't really miss the people, I missed the city itself - which has a personality like no other.  I don't know how similar it feels now, but at that time, it was magic.

I'd moved to California in 1980, my choice of law schools influenced less by Stanford's prestige than by the pictures of palm trees on the promotional materials I was reviewing while sitting out a wet, cold winter in Rutland, Vermont.  I'd been on the move since my graduation from UT Knoxville in 1979, taking a year off after my B.A. to figure out the next step.  I'd met my girlfriend, who became my second fiancee, at UT during the one semester she (barely) attended there, and the two of us had gone to Vermont because we had nothing else to do, she had family and personal connections there, and she could work as a ski instructor.  I spent a season as a snowmaker and lift attendant, and learned to ski from a bunch of expert instructors was to get stoned and make me come down from the top of the mountain (which admittedly, wasn't much of one.  I think the ski area went bankrupt that year; I remember that we had problems getting paid).  Enough said of that at the moment; we drank a lot, and you notice there's no pic of Rutland, VT, on here.

Actually, it was prior, in the basement of an old home which backed up to the Tennessee River in Knoxville which had been reorganized into a semi-commune for UT professors and grad students (my being there is yet another story for elsewhen), that I had introduced my girlfriend to my Zen books and thoughts.  Please realize that it was about this time that the San Francisco Zen Center was getting really big under the leadership of Richard Baker; all that is better documented in the book reviewed in this earlier blog entry.  But all we had to read at the time - for I know of no actual Zen practice in that area at that time, as an alternative - for Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, still often used as an intro to Soto Zen, Kapleau's The Three Pillars of Zen,  and I remember Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, though the cites I find now show a later publishing date for that latter.  That and whatever I had been taught in some classes.  So I had acquired some interest, but never practiced.  My girlfriend caught onto it like a house on fire, though, and the Zen seed apparently germinated during the Vermont winter, because by the time we got to the Bay Area in the fall of 1980, she was ready to try real practice.

The original situation was odd:  Though we'd been living together off and on since the spring of 1979, the fiancee and I lived separately in California.  I had housing in the Stanford Law School dorm, with a roommate, and she went to live with her brother and his girlfriend in Tahoe City, CA, about five hours away by car (which I didn't have with me, that first year).  So I used to fly frequently from the Oakland airport to Carson City, NV, where I would be picked up and trundled through the mountains up to the Calfornia side of Lake Tahoe.  It was beautiful and I fell in love the little remnants of mining and gaming towns in Nevada, a love which was probably a factor in my later move to New Mexico.   The situation was fascinating in and of itself; as my girlfriend and I drifted apart over the years, I stayed close with her brother, who if he reads this will be one of the few I know now that I knew then.  With him I had some of the wildest, craziest times of my existence, which could be the subject matter of quite a lot more writing.  There was a lot of heavy drinking and Doors music involved, not to mention my real introduction to Kerouac and the beat writers, whose ghosts I chased through San Francisco for three years.  He (the brother, not Jack Kerouac, though at time it would have been hard to tell, since both were writers and had some of the same habits) was living with the estranged wife of one of the founders of the Haight Street clinic, in a big house one row up from the Lake which had originally been bought as a place for Haight Street addicts to be taken to dry out, and which showed the scars therefrom.  Wild times indeed, but lots of thoughts, white hot thoughts, seared deep into my memories.

Anyway, the mistress of that Lake Tahoe house had connections to the San Francisco Zen Center, and she encouraged and abetted my girlfriend's connection with it.  I honestly don't remember how that all got started, but soon she had moved from Tahoe City to San Francisco and was living (a "resident") at what the SFZC now called City Center, on Page St. - a few blocks from where I was to live later, above.  I don't remember how long she lived there, but during that time (while I lived at Stanford in Palo Alto for two years), I visited her, of course, and the Zen Center a bit less often.  I remember the intro talks in  the main room upstairs, then downstairs to the basement areas where the students sat zazen, and it was there, probably in 1981, that I got my first taste of it.

No doubt, zazen and Zen itself were not for me at that point.  For one thing, I was heaving involved in the first year of law school, which is a fundamental revision of one's thinking that I've never escaped, for good or ill, probably both.  On the other hand, I was apparently too young, at 24 (though some can do it that young or younger) for the discipline of Zen - was well as too debauched.  I remember sitting through a seemingly endless day of zazen and painting bathrooms, really only dreaming of going out and getting a beer somewhere in the wonderland of San Francisco that I'd just discovered.  I remember visiting Green Gulch farm, and hearing Richard Baker speak, though I don't, and probably didn't, retain a shred of what he said.  I remember that the scenery was beautiful; but honestly at that time, in that area - I'd rather drink some wine.

And drink we did! In our homes, and with our friends and her brother, in aging WPA-rebuilt and redecorated bars up and down the Pacific Coast Highway, through North Beach, in Vesuvio's over the City Lights book store where in those days one could still find Lawrence Ferlinghetti and some aging beats among the wannabes.  And later, during my third year of law school, I moved with a roommate to San Francisco.  He had an externship with the San Francisco Public Defender, I with the US Attorney's Office.  It was only during that nine months or so that I had a chance to fully explore, within my own limits and those of my student's budget, that city that I came so much to love.  Mostly I remember the hungover, early morning fog-shrouded Saturday mornings that I'd walk from my home at Page and Laguna through the Panhandle and through Golden Gate Park itself, to the ocean.  Seeing the old men playing at lawn bowling, the horse, the remants of the hippies, and the distinctive smell of that city - to emerge at Seal Point, at the Cliff House at the North end of Ocean Beach, to start drinking beers and wandering back across town, homeward via everywhere... eventually to wind up on the bus....

So you see, I never really got started at Zen in those days, just a lasting taste that came back years later, through other forms of Buddhism to manifest over twenty years later.  Meanwhile, my girlfriend I remember stayed affiliated with the San Francisco Zen Center for some years, living after City Center with some Zen roommates, and some classmates of mine from Stanford to whom she became closer than I ever did.  Later, following the event known at that Center as the Apocalypse, the fall from grace of Richard Baker, she moved on to other teachers, other worlds.  I remember she was excited about Rajneesh at one time - before he had his own crash and burn and was reincarnated as Osho.  And others.  Her brother and I feared that the stream of teachers and teachings for her was never ending. But she eventually found her own peace and a family, it seems, and I'm glad for that. For me in those days, such things were not to be -  I had a long way to go before I encountered any kind of serenity.  But you know that part.

I left San Francisco in May, 1983, and returned only once after that, a couple of years later, to visit.  But it has a permanent place in memory.  Some day soon I hope to recover a pic from that era, and put it here.  Meanwhile, I just wanted to put up these memories here, because it's a missing piece in this library of articles, the personal side of my first relationship with Zen and its followers.  Maybe there's something about how, even at the time, it seemed to work as a solvent to the kind of relationships I think are really important, and to encourage something else, a communal spirit that I think, even at that time, in which I no longer believed.  Maybe not - maybe I just wanted to think about San Francisco, and my adventures there.  You choose.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Requiem for an Honorable Man (Jerry H. Damon, 1933 - 2012)

Yesterday, I became aware of the death of my uncle, yet another Texas relative and one of those relatives of whom I have the earliest and most vital memories, in a strange way.  My cell rang at work when I could not answer it, from a number I didn't recognize - only later did I realize that I did faintly recognize the name of the town in Arkansas, and belatedly link it to one of my cousins, of whose father I had recently heard a story of medical crisis.  No message was left on my phone and it was only hours later that I reluctantly called it back, by which time I had anticipated the news - that my uncle, the cousin's father had died, of complications of Alzehimer's, two days before.

His name was Jerry Damon.  I don't normally name the people I discuss herein, for reasons of their privacy and mine, but in this case I have no criticisms of the man, no negative press, and if someone wants to use this information to ferret out details of my own life, so be it.  Jerry Damon was, above all, an honorable man, a man from a world and a time just recently passed, but which in the degeneration of our world, we won't see again - his type nor the world he lived in, grew up in, believed in.  He was a country doctor who married my aunt in a romantic dream and pursued that with her, as the world about them fell apart.  I remember my Uncle Jerry from the time of his medical residency, in San Antonio, I believe, and from my grandparents' home in Galveston.  All of the "facts" in this entry are subject to question; they come from the memory of a child and from the conflicting verbalized memories of others, my mother and aunt, mostly and especially the dates are questionable.

My mother and her sister were contrasts in personality - my mother, of German stock (Pennsylvania Dutch of Ohio) on both sides and raised largely by relatives in the north.  Her half sister Greta, Jerry's widow, is also of Adams descent, with that blood from the Isles, more like the mixture in my own veins. My mother was resolute, calm, and passionately resolved; my aunt is and was also very loving, but seen through my mother's eyes, flighty, erratic, somewhat frivolous.  The clashed as sisters will and their memories frequently disagreed, but they always loved each other.  Jerry was the love of Greta's life, there was no doubt of that.  She found, when young, her idealistic, darkly handsome doctor, an intelligent boy from a small town in Texas who had always wanted to pursue medicine.  He realized that dream, and as my childhood memories from those twice-a-year visits to Texas become more mature and more focused, bought a seven-acre property outside a small town called Lewisville, a distant (at that time) suburb of Dallas.  There they built their dream home which is only now going up for sale, and which I am told by my cousin Lori, Greta and Jerry were taken recently for one last visit, perhaps when Jerry had some coherency left.

I was an only child and was loved by my aunt and uncle.  When after quite a few years the Damons were unable to bear children, they adopted two girls, in sequence, then amazingly at around age 40, my aunt bore two of her own in quick sequence.  These parents and these four children grew up as Dallas surrounded them and their country town became part of an endless suburb, and pieces of the property were sold.  My uncle, constantly working, supporting this family which certainly had its eccentricities (to me and my mother, from our more orderly world, it was chaos!), numerous animals, and becoming enmeshed in my aunt's dreams and the vagaries of the modern world - was a rock pillar, an island of stability, purpose and calm, in a sea of what seemed madness to me.  We all drifted apart.

Prior to my visit to Texas in October to honor the death of the husband of my cousin from the other side of my family, my fathers side, I hadn't seen Greta since the funeral of my mother in 2003, when Lori came with her, and hadn't seen Jerry for years before.  I had last tried to reach him or my aunt earlier in 2011, when I had called the house in Lewisville - or Highland Village, now, I believe and got my male cousin, and was told that the parents had gone into assisted living.  Somewhat on a whim, in October, being in the area, I looked up and found them, and had a gracious visit.  My aunt, who was always a bit scattered, seemed more focused and calm than I had seen in her in many years, maybe ever, glad to be with her Jerry in what she knew were his last days.  I am also grateful that Jerry, at that time, though certainly reduced by his disease, mentally and physically, from the man that I remember, knew who he was, knew who I was, and was able to participate in our visit - a capacity that he lost later.  I was told last week that he had been taken to the hospital because he'd stopped eating. Apparently the other night, his body forgot how to breathe, and thankfully he was allowed to stop.

Jerry Damon and I had our disagreements over the years, few of them explicit.  He and Greta were Texas Republicans, my parents staunch Southern Democrats of the Depression and WWII era, and hilarity ensued.  Greta and looked about and wound up in the Episcopal church, taking my family with her and even my grandfather Adams, my mother's stepfather, another noble man who put up with that church for years, finally leaving in disgust when they began to ordain(if that's the world) gay priests.  In later years, I had stopped communicating with my aunt and uncle, partly over my frustration with their unwillingness to facilitate my communication with a family member who went through hard times in which I thought I might help.  So I always loved them but lost touch, and am grateful that I regained it at the end.

My aunt was hospitalized for medical treatment of her own yesterday morning, and it was unknown if she would be able to attend the funeral.  She and I said goodbye in October; we knew that we might not see each other again.  We were both grateful for the opportunity to know that.  I cannot attend the funeral under the circumstances, and understand that I'm not expected to.  My uncle was an honorable man, who lived for a time in one of the last times and places of an honorable world.  His type will not be able to live in its proper environment again.  I celebrate his release from a world that in the end, he could no longer understand.

I remember on one of my last visits to his home, probably in the '90's that my uncle and I, rarely alone, stood in the front yard of his home talking about the cancerous expansion of humanity and living space in the community that had grown up around him.  He shook his head.  "What I don't understand," he said, "is all these million-dollar homes.  I've done pretty well for myself and I can't afford a million-dollar home." You couldn't, Jerry, because you hadn't sold your soul for a McMansion, and instead you'd spent your love on a community and a family that will always cherish you, and can never live up to your legacy.  You were a Saturday night emergency room doctor who patched together the knife-fighter and brawlers, and a father who couldn't understand how children grew up in such a benighted world that was falling apart as you grew as you were planted, older but still true.  You will be missed, and you could never live again.

I normally wouldn't do this, but someone - at the funeral home? - wrote quite a good obituary for my uncle Jerry, and I quote it extensively, here.  The full story is to be found here.

Dr. Jerry H. Damon died January 23, 2012 from complications of Alzheimer’s Disease. He was born August 28, 1933 to James and Hildegarde Damon in Crawford, Texas. Jerry attended Crawford public schools and graduated in 1951 in a class of nine. Dr. Damon received his Bachelor of Arts in 1955 from North Texas State College in Denton, Texas and was a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. He received his Doctorate of Medicine in 1960 from UT Southwestern Medical School in Galveston, Texas and was a member of the Phi Chi fraternity. Dr. Damon met his wife, Greta, on a blind date his 2nd night in Galveston. They were married June 7, 1958. He completed his medical internship at Brackenridge Hospital in Austin, Texas from 1960-1961. He completed his surgery residency at Robert Green Hospital in San Antonio, Texas from 1961 – 1964. Dr. Damon moved to Lewisville in 1964 with his wife Greta, a pregnant dog and $264. He went into practice as a General Surgeon and Family Practitioner with Dr. Harold Schlegel at the Medical- Surgical Clinic. His practice ranged from setting broken bones to delivering babies to removing appendixes. He was of the last generation of doctors to make house calls. Dr. Damon had a strong desire to serve his community. He was a member the Lewisville ISD School Board for 12 years. He served as Vice President for 7 years and President for 3 years. During his service LISD grew from 8,600 students to more than 18,000. He presented diplomas to many children that he had delivered. In 1988 he was voted Citizen of the Year by the Lewisville Chamber of Commerce. His life was one of great character, dignity and compassion. He was a man of his word. His greatest peace was found in nature to which he was extremely attuned. After retirement in 2005, he spent most of his time outdoors, in the woods and meadow at his home in Highland Village, gardening and landscaping and planting trees. He loved all animals and took in every stray that came his way. Though his reading material consisted mostly of medical books and journals, he had an affinity for poetry and could quote many poems from memory, two of his favorites being, "The Old Oaken Bucket" and "Annabel Lee". He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Greta Adams Damon and children

Jerry Damon was, to the extent his upbringing and education allowed him to be, in the world he inhabited and helped maintain, a man of tradition.  We will not see his like again.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

American Yoga: A Perspective

I'm sure most of you who follow these Diaries recognize Kali.  This particular image captures most of what I've always found so much fascinating about her - her darkest aspect.  Academic inquiry about Kali about her can be frustrating because as one of the three entities who are the most common objects of devotional followings in India, along with Siva and Vishnu, her following is necessarily diverse and features aspects of maternity and warmth - but this is the image I've always held of her and always loved.   I carry it in some place deep inside where I cherish it, and I bring Kali out to fight and counterbalance the Rainbow Moonbeam school of Eastern thought wherever I find it. And I find it a lot.

This New Year's Eve, I was brought by a friend to a "kirtan" held in a local studio, its last event before closing.  I found this a bit sad, as I'd been to the studio quite a few times, though not recently and always enjoyed its particular urban ambience - in the basement of what used to be a Maxwell House coffee warehouse in downtown Nashville next to the railroad.  Let me say that I enjoyed the experience and got quite a lot out of it - it being my experience that one gets from such things depends a lot on what one brings to them.  It helped being in the company of a friend who just recently (relatively speaking) discovered her own inner darkness, by way of surviving trauma, and became much richer and deeper for it.  Once inner darkness is discovered, it either becomes a cancer and eventually kills you, or if properly cultivated (and with the necessary aptitude, luck and training) can become the inner shining Black Diamond of which I've spoken previously.  In my friend, the dark shines brightly, though manifesting through layers of much lighter brightness.  I can't really speak to the other people who attended the event; I'm sure some of them are persons of some realization and others are not, as occurs in any unregulated gathering.

It was nice, genuinely, to have something to do on New Year's Eve, a holiday I always hated (like the Fourth of July), even when I enjoyed drinking, a lot - it's amateur night for first-time drunk drivers and an excuse for every childish pashu to unleash his inner Dennis the Menace, loudly and late.  In recent years I've fled the city, when I could, to avoid the idiotic merrymaking.  It was somehow satisfying that I spent this one a scant ten blocks from the Riverfront, where Lynryd Skynyrd was playing and had promised to delight the audience with a fifteen-minute version of "Free Bird" at midnight (and I'm not making this up!).   I've been listening to a lot of Indian music the last year or two, mostly Ravi Shankar, so I enjoyed the music, although a bit disappointed that it consisted of Western arrangements of Indian chants and hymns, including some Vedic, in Western scales and with guitars in standard tuning.  Gotta love the tabla though!  The first group to perform was in fact delightful, with some very nice harmonies.  The second though - and I know I'm projecting - seemed to me to be a nice picture of what's wrong with American yoga, although the lead singer was a dyed blonde who lives in India.  To wit:

I started doing Yoga in 2000, mostly because, as I completed the ascendant arc of a cycle after some dissipation and a car wreck with injuries, I wanted to stretch my hamstrings.  Like a lot of us who grew up with gym class and forced group sports as exercise models, especially the males, I'd never gotten into the habit of adequate stretching and my body core strength wasn't adequate to the strength of my limbs, so I was in a typical imbalance.  The Yoga I was doing began at the YMCA, the object of much vitriol in prior early blogs, and toward which my feelings have not altered, though I still go, for the same reasons.  It was purely what the West calls Hatha Yoga - yoga of the body only.  As evolved, it's good for what it is, stretching and strengthening, and a good counter to jogging, weight-lifting, football, whatever.  Interestingly enough, I discovered recently that the term 'hatha', from Sanskrit, has to do with violence, force, a striking, or a man stricken with despair - which gives us a faint echo of where the practice originated, in the ascetic schools of Hinduism.   In fact, the Y, twelve years ago when I took my first Yoga class, had only recently allowed the classes to be called Yoga - seeing it, accurately, as the intrusion of a foreign religious practice into their smug corporate Christianity.  Those preachers are right, you know - Yoga practitioners are acting against Christianity, and more power to them in that regard - they would have been burned as heretics in earlier times.  Although the Yoga found today in every class retains almost exclusively the physical, and it is indeed when American Yoga meander into ersatz Hindu spirituality that it manifests the most syrupy, revolting, 'puppies and kittens' aspect of that vast philosophy. Of course so do some authentic Hindu's. I guess the bottom line is that the Sunflower School of divinity is not to my taste, nor do I find it likely to be helpful except maybe for pre-school girls.

Having researched 'kirtan' just a bit, it is a practice of chanting, call-and-response style, adopted from the Hindu - notably in Vaishnava schools - and in some Buddhism.  Notably, I don't see any indication of it in Shaivism, though Hindus are a very large and diverse lot, and I'm sure it's in there somewhere.  What I found profoundly comical was the evocation of Kali and Durga in musical stylings that led the performers into medleys with classic rock tunes (folk versions of course) and even 'Imagine', that most irreligious and misunderstood of all the hit masterpieces of our modern age.  I may see a bit of Goth in Siva and even a little Tiny Tim, but almost no Peter, Paul and Mary.  The lead singer of the second performance apparently has an Indian husband and fosters seventeen Indian children. I'll leave that one lie, and my opinion that mass charity to populations like that of modern India makes a bad problem worse, for another time.

Suffice it to say that by the end of the evening, during a fifteen-minute meditation that was unfortunately interrupted every few minutes by the meanderings of the 'onstage' muse, I was channeling great currents of dark energy and flame up through the earth into the basement study, blasting the event with masses of fire and skulls, where Kali danced in delight.  'Fresh meat!' she cried.

To tell the truth, I find that the almost all of the Americans I know - hell, almost all of the people I know - have grown up and been irrevocably formed by modern deteriorated (yes, even of that vile seed!) Christianity and its sectarian manifestations - Capitalism, Consumerism, Marxism, Scientism and most especially, Humanism - in such a way as to lack understanding of the power, truth and value of Darkness.  This is so incredibly stupid in the Kali Yuga that I cannot, in the face of such ignorance and profound unawareness, hold any hope for the human species in its present form.  In the evolutionary sense, if any life on earth is possible after the human cataclysm, I can only hope that it diverges in some way so intense as to avoid the present murk.  For myself, I find that the horizontal aspect of existence is a lost cause, and only in a vertical sense -by "moving" "above" the realm of space/time with one's awareness, does the possibilty of meaningful life manifest.

Having said all this, I'm planning on doing a Yoga class tomorrow - it's a great physical exercise which becomes a mental and even spiritual one as I, as I get closer to the end than the beginning of my lifespan,  find my intent contrasting with my abilities, and it does really flush out the toxins!  I had originally in this writing intended to point out the similarity of American Yoga to American Zen, in their assumption of the names of traditional practices and their assignment to them of forms which could only have originated in America.  They are both Reconstructions; American Yoga is no more the Yoga of the Yoga Sutras nor of the authentic (and appropriate, for this devolved Age!) practice of Tantrism, nor is American Zen the Zen of Dogen - than the Society of Creative Anachronism is a faithful portrait of medieval Europe.  I have various friends who are enactors of both Civil War and WWII battles; I find that their faith is more genuine, for being conscious imitators, actors and admirers, rather than deluded practitioners of modernized and degraded faiths.

By all means, people, do your Zen and do your Yoga.  The Yoga is good for your body and the Zen is not.  Learning to sit still, the very starting premise for these old traditions, is in itself a challenge for most of what passes for humankind these days.  I was disgusted and amused that so many of the audience members at the kirtan could not even sit on the floor comfortably without props for any length of time - and the ability to sit without the products of manufacture would seem to me to be a minimum requirement to call oneself even a human-like animal!  But I digress.

I wish to indicate no ill will toward those led down the paths of Zen and Yoga - I myself have been both and survived.  And please, if you are a practitioner of either of these paths who think that you have discovered within them the elements I find missing, please let me know where and when!  I would lvoe to see their hidden mysteries manifest in these times.  I merely find itself that within those paths, as they are, there is such misunderstanding, such good-natured and altruistic ignorance, that only those who are both endowed and fortunate can get through them to what lies behind.  Seek the darkness, friend.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Rudra - Vedic Metal

Soon after I started this blog in 2005, I started posting videos by bands that I thought were seminal, or life-changing, at least for me. That hasn't been done so much these days, because of the ease of sharing music and video on the social networking sites, though I still get lots of hits on those pages.  But given my current direction, here's a band that I find not only inspiring and motivating, but that actually helps me concentrate my psychic energies in ways that I find intuitive and correct.  Therefore, meet Rudra - a Vedic metal band from Singapore!

I wish I knew more about this band - if you do, drop me a line!  I do know they've been around since 1992 or so, have released six albums, and have just finished a world tour.  I only own and have listened extensively to their latest album, Brahmavidya: Immortal I, which was released last year.  That will change.

I don't know if there are any other Vedic metal bands.  I'm not normally a big metal fan, or haven't been - a lot of it leaves me cold.  But the energetic black metal these guys play, blended with bits of Carnatic music, which I love, and rich with Sanskrit, not nearly all of which I have translated or even identified yet, is a perfect soundtrack for the wealth I get from the Vedas.  I was usually disappointed with the lyrical content of the Nordic metal bands some of my Asatru friends like; a lot of their presentation seemed cartoonish.  But these guys have good true content, true not only to the Vedic philosophies as I understand them, but to later, but still strong, aspects of the Hindu metaphysic - especially the warrior mentality, the karma yoga of the Bhagavad Gita.  Nothing says Kurukshetra like - well, Kurukshetra!

Witness these lyrics from "Harrowing Carrions of Syllogism" on the above-mentioned album:

Mind creates a subjective notional world
Limited by knowledge we see what we want to see
The mind can't see beyond its thought constructs
The lack of a valid pramana leads to self-deception
Destroy your world by seeing yourself as the essence of the universe

Like the eye which can't see itself, the I can't see the inner I
Without shabda, you can't know your Self
Without shruti, you can't see your Self
Manobuddhyahankaracittani naham
Na ca vyomabhumir na tejo na vayu
Cidanandarupa shivoham shivoham*

Destroy your world by seeing yourself as the essence of the universe
Like clay in the pot, see yourself as the essence of the universe
Vain reasoning is a bottomless pit
Inflates the non-self with conceit

Shabda alone leads the mind beyond the limit of thoughts
To the self which is beyond logic and reason
Aham nirvikalpo nirakararupa
Vibhutvacca sarvatra sarvendriyanam
Na casangato naiva na muktirna bandha
Cidanandarupa shivoham shivoham*

[*Nirvana Shatkam]

(with thanks to

I present to you two excellent videos; the top one is "Hymns from the Blazing Chariot" from Rudra's 2009 album Brahmavidya: Transcendental I, and the one below is "Now Therefore" from the album Brahmavidya: Immortal I  (and they play a lot better if you double-click and play them on YouTube).  The first is a great depiction of the setting of the Gita, wherein Krishna tells of Arjuna of the karma marga - the path of action without attachment to results.  Enjoy!  The hippie myths of flowery Hinduism are destroyed on the Field of the Kuruks.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Black Sun Rise

Sorry for the long silence, again.  I've been meditating, studying, researching... and working.

I've been continuing my study of Sanskrit (slow but satisfying), and pursuing the essence of the symbols, people and forces that intrigue me, that pull me directly by the gut.  I've been fascinated by the languages, myths, and truths of India, and of the forces other than human that mold and constitute our "world".  I find that whereas once I read book and studied systems of training and knowledge to find some answer, some solution, now I am looking for language to express what I have seen and what I know to be true.  Many of the most powerful symbols known to man have been misused, denigrated, and then ban.  Witness the swastika, one of man's oldest solar designations, known as widely as the American Indians and still found in Hinduism and Buddhism, and whose powerful presence drew the intuitive knowledge of the turn-of-the-last century Germanic mystics like Guido von List and Karl Maria Villegut.  These men had their spiritual fingers on a deep arising of the true spirit of many peoples, behind and Above many peoples, if they never succeeded in devising the complete systems they envisioned (yet, read aloud the powerful hymns, in mixed German and language unknown, in Willegut's writings, and they will move your "soul", if you have one).  The swastika, taken as a symbol for peace by many including the British military early in the 20th century, became in Hitler's Reich a symbol for German nationalism, which it was never meant to be - and then after Germany's defeat, under the aegis of the Allies and their hidden masters, it became reviled as a symbol of evil, which is never was, never is....

But the symbol which draws me more, and which I wear every day, is the Black Sun.  The Black Sun is a pattern, a design which drew me from the first sight and mention of it, in whatever obsure text.  Its true origin is unknown, obscured by time and man; the best known current incarnation of it was on the embedded on the floor of the Wewelsburg castle which was the headquarters of Himmler's SS (and Himmler was among other things a student of the Germanic teachers, despite where his openness to "lower" powers led him, apparently).  Seeking the emblem's sources, one is led to theories of a physical dead sun which is or was part of our solar system, or a sun inside the earth in unlikely meanderings... or perhaps the concept of a black hole, which could not be voiced in the astronomy of earlier times.  The design itself seems to be a twelve reversals of the Sig or Sowilo Rune, itself a solar symbol in the Armanic and Older Futharks.  But whatever its origin, it is a powerful symbol of a presence abiding in me and in the universe.

When I was young and quite dedicated, in a fairly unconscious way, to my current explorations, I find myself, having abandoned my first (pre-Zen) form of Buddhist practice, drawn to a moving meditation based on action - years before encountering the Bhagavad Gita, or the teachings of Gudo Nishijima of Zen as action.  As my body became more purified (a state I wish I could regain, in my middle age!) I envisioned in the core of my Self a Black Diamond - and even voiced to myself, if no one else, the understanding that was I was practicing was the Black Diamond Sutra, which had no words, but consisted of the constant polishing of a that gem within myself, which shone with a nocturnal luminance.  More like a black light, if you want an image, in the shape of a diamond, yet hard.

The black diamond was lost to me for a time, but resurrected in my last movements.  After leaving formal Zen, I took up for a bit over a year, the Nine Doors meditation formulated by Edred Thorsson as part of the Rune Gild teachings.  Those teachings, which appear to borrow in large part from Franz Bardon's excellent (if badly translated) works, brought a depth of visualization, of learning to perceive, inculcate and channel flow of energy ever-present but invisible to waking eyes, to my meditation process, already formatted by my years of Zen practice.  And the Black Diamond began to re-emerge, and softened now, opened.  Thus I perceived the Black Sun, which I was able to recognize when I read of it and saw its emblems.

And yet, in my search for language, for concept accessible to opened human minds, I could find little.  Luckily I encountered a Tantric exercise described by Julius Evola in The Yoga of Power, a book which contains many other delights and which still draws me on.  He describes therein a nocturnal sun, which rotates unseen in our world, though not the material one as we know it.  First, let me mention another teaching of Tantra which I have also encountered elsewhere; the concept that man, when open to them, has four primary states of awareness, usually described as the waking state, the dream state, and the state of deep sleep - and a state called turiya, of a higher awareness that encompasses the crowns the others.  this system never made a lot of sense to me.  The waking state was obvious, and it was also clear that in the dream state and especially in deep sleep, repairs were done by autonomous and autonomic processes in my body and mind.  But how could the muddled images of the dream be a higher awareness, let alone the delta-wave state of deep sleep?  It seemed to me that as one moves through these states, consciousness itself was degrading, not purifying.  Although of course I have long been aware that dreams can hold much significance, outside the neurotic drivel of the Freudians and most analysis.  I should add that sleep has not come easily for me for a long time, and contrary to what one is taught of sleep's cycles, I normally seem to be dreaming every time I awake, although most often the contents of the dream are soon lost if I don't make an effort to retain them (and sometimes when I do).

The Tantric practice which Evola describes consist of envisioning, as one is drifting off - in the stage between wakefulness and sleep - a nocturnal sun, which arises in the east and parallels the course of the daytime Sun, while it is down.  Envision this, devote oneself to its observation, and form the intent to maintain awareness of it while sleeping. When waking in the morning, observe this sun again, and form the intent to maintain awareness of it during the day, while it is invisible (on the other side of the "earth") but still present.  The teaching of this?  The dream state and the state of deep sleep are state of lowered consciousness for normal man, whose filtered perceptions are not capable of handing the higher states to which these states are doorways.  By maintaining awareness of the nocturnal sun - which I imagine as white disk, like a purified moon, though quite distinct and separate from that lesser entity - one is able to open the doors between the higher states and the residual consciousness during sleep.

What I did immediately become aware of (hang me for a dangling participle!) was that I slept deeply, for almost twelve hours, on the first night of attempting this practice.  And that the nocturnal sun became clear to me, and can be maintained during the day.  Surely the linking of this to the Black Sun, the teaching of which are so elusive, are clear now.  And now... the resonance of the Black Sun within to the bright but invisible sun without? That is the synthesis I'm working on now.

But find your symbols where you may - I don't know if my symbols are yours, or ever could be, though some appear to be universal, across cultures to the initiate - but rest assured that there are forces in this universe much more powerful than the mind of man, which threatens to destroy all.  The religion of the worship of man is the "sin" of our Age of Iron, our Kali Yuga, which though it leads to eventual rebirth of the Universe (but not in the chronological sense!) is going to be anything but pleasant for those who cling to the Earth's "surface".  And is my job, our job, whoever "we" are, to persist, to know, to live in or move from...?

Black Sun Rise, indeed!