The Kingdom not of this world

28 08 2021

I listened to the Honest Man’s podcast’s recent episode, Vedic Pornography, with special guest Madhavananda Das, a senior Hare Krishna devotee who lives in Jagannath Puri, India. The topic of the podcast was specifically on the role that erotic art plays in the temple architecture of India. However, that is peripheral to what I want to talk about here. Specifically I would like to discuss Madhavananda Prabhu’s point concerning the Linga Purana. As a quick summary, the Puranas are Hindu scriptures that generally tell of divine and human histories, often from the point of view of a particular god. I have referred extensively on this blog to the Bhagavata Purana or Srimad Bhagavatam, which tells the story of Krishna and related avatars. While the Srimad Bhagavatam states that Krishna or Vishnu is the supreme Deity, other puranas state that their respective subjects are the supreme Deities. So the Devi Purana thus thinks that Durga or Devi is the Supreme Goddess out of who emerges all other manifestations of divinity. The Linga Purana is one of the puranas devoted to Lord Shiva, and not only does it state that Shiva is the Supreme Deity, but also that Vishnu doesn’t even exist. He is merely a dream of Shiva.

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Durtal – II

19 08 2021
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Zelus domus tuae comedit me

July 16th, 2021

It was hard to get anything done that morning. Fortunately, I had the day off. I was finishing some work in the very early morning (remember on weekdays I get up at 3 am), when I checked Twitter and noticed something was abuzz. A document had come out from the Vatican about the traditional Latin Mass, but it wasn’t translated yet and wild reports were circulating about what it meant. I tried to muddle through the Italian, which is harder than you’d think for someone with a working knowledge of Latin and Spanish fluency. However, it became clear what the document meant. Traditiones Custodes issued by Pope Francis was meant to walk back the generous and theologically significant 2007 motu proprio of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, Summorum Pontificum. As I’ve written several times over the years, 2007 marked a point in the traditionalist movement when the old Mass became available to a larger number of Catholics in the United States, Europe, and a few other parts of the world. Priests no longer needed special permission from the Vatican to say the old Mass akin to getting a permit to handle nuclear waste or James Bond’s license to kill. A priest could just say the old Mass whenever it was requested of him by enough of his faithful, which opened up the traditional Mass to a lot of “normal” people (i.e. people not like me).

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Durtal – I

14 08 2021

Early morning driving

It’s three o’clock. Not early for me really. I arise from my bed, alone, do the necessary, and I am out the door in about fifteen minutes.

This time, not to work. But still, early morning driving is the same all days. My wondering if neighbors are alarmed by my being up and about at this hour (they are probably used to it). The random car that meets you at a stop light or sign (“What is that person doing up? Where are they going?”) Good luck if you have to get gas or if, before COVID-19, you wanted to run to the store for a very early errand (a couple of them used to be open at this hour). I once saw a family of four doing their grocery shopping at three in the morning. The youngest may have been two years old. You might see vagrants in front of a convenience store, trying to hitch a ride to somewhere, anywhere. A policeman might role up to the gas station for a cup of coffee, another person might be filling up their tank (again, what are they doing up at this hour?)

The thing that scares me most is the thought of hitting an animal. I have seen some weird ones at this hour: foxes, armadillos, tons of possums and raccoons. There was a doe and her faun who lived a mile from our house, you would see them dart into the woods during the spring days. At night, they would stand comfortably next to the road, until I rolled passed. I stopped in front of them and they fled in a panic. Down the road, I saw a deer leap over a four foot fence when my car came upon it in the middle of the road.

There is an audio book playing in the car. I dart past the eighteen wheelers and the random cars that also happen to be on this interstate. I envision in my mind’s eye what each exit looks like in the daylight, what animals must be up and about in those woods, what creatures are hunting and which fleeing for their lives. The loneliness and darkness hits you sometimes, like you’re one of the few people who survived some global calamity. “Everyone else is asleep. I am an island in this vast sea of silence.”

I get to the temple after about an hour. It is dark save for a light or two. I am weary but still quite awake. A devotee or two might see me and greet me quietly.

“Hare Krishna.”

“Hare Krishna prabhu!”

“I’m ok. Hari bol!”

Someone is in the corner chanting japa quietly. I look at the large head of Lord Jagannath, smiling, with a flower for a dimple below His nose. The bell rings on the door, open and close, open and close. Finally, after a few have gathered, the pujari blows on the conch. The curtain opens.

“Jai Sri Sri Radha Radha Kantha”.

I fall down flat sideways. Like a stick….

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Grifting

10 08 2021

The reason I wanted to read Wilfrid Sheed’s novel The Hack is that I was once involved in Catholic writing some years ago, and even got a check for it (which I donated to the Church). I was never more than an “amateur” and never sought to make it a regular source of income. Sheed’s novel is about a “professional” Catholic writer in the early 1960’s who has a severe case of writer’s block brought about by a crisis of faith. The protagonist author, Bertam Flax, writes kitschy emotional dreck for Catholic magazines and gives talks based on his notoriety as an author. This is how he supports his non-Catholic wife and their five children. The message of the novel is that Flax never really matured in his faith past the mediocre spirituality expressed in his poems and stories. The novel is supposed to be a cautionary tale about having an overly mercenary attitude towards your beliefs. Flax was supposedly Catholic just to make a buck, and not a Catholic who happened to make a living from his faith.

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Notes on St. Bonaventure

5 09 2020
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As a Christian, my mind was Augustinian, though I am by no means a scholar of St. Augustine. As I have written elsewhere, I have always had a problem with Thomistic Scholasticism. This is not for lack of engagement, as I like reading Thomistic authors, and have even tackled the Angelic Doctor himself on occasion. Much of it still didn’t sit well with me. As stated previously, one of my difficulties was trying to reconcile faith and reason. Though my problematic dives into modern philosophy led me down disastrous paths, I think I have purged enough of their influence to soberly realize that the narrative of making sense of faith through purely rational premises still doesn’t appeal to me. In my opinion, trying to marry faith and reason too closely can only be done through “cooking the books,” or begging the question. If you value the “reasonableness” of faith that much, you are already beginning the inquiry with a foregone conclusion.

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Deus sub ratione Deitatis

26 07 2020
I love the frolicking Krishna' - The Hindu

In summer, I sleep badly. I have come to expect this from the humid swampy nights. In the last decade or so, summer has been both a time of rest and exhaustion, of trying to keep up with the time clock and suffering through periods of languid repose. There are long days and short nights, fits of furious activity and weeks when less gets done than expected. In this subtropical heat, I have to catch up on a lot of neglected reading. Time for this slips through my fingers quite easily. It is in this heavy air, amidst the buzzing of insects and continuous discomfort due to the climate, that I have to contemplate the higher things. It’s not ideal.

In my express sightseeing tour through the Srimad Bhagavatam, it is precisely at this time that I have come to the most significant stop in the whole scripture, and that is the description of the rasa-lila: Krishna’s dancing with the cowherd maidens of Vraja in the luminous autumn nights. In Gaudiya Vaishnavism, the socially inappropriate dancing of Krishna with the wives and daughters of Vrindavan is the highest manifestation of the love of God, and of God’s nature itself. Though it may be inappropriate for a relative neophyte to comment on the mystery of the rasa-lila, I am a man in middle age so I don’t think it will be any more appropriate later in life. As I have said elsewhere, I am probably about as wise as I will get in this lifetime.

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Hog of God

12 07 2020
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Gaura Purnima 2020

Part of me will never get used to the idea of mangala aarti. It’s not the idea of the service itself: getting up at 4 am to greet the Deities in the temple by singing and dancing before them. I am an early riser, and always have been. It’s the drums (mridangas), cymbals (kartals), and the loud noise that are strange to me. It’s a shock to the system to start banging these instruments in the darkness. I like my mornings calm, and this hour long service is the opposite of calm.

Eastern Orthodox monastic Matins is more what I am used to, and that service is mostly a dull and very hushed recitation of prayers, with some chants interspersed. It is quite a monotonous affair, day in and day out. In seminary, the only times we had Matins was for Christmas and Holy Week (Tenebrae), and the assigned time for these services isn’t four a.m. Most days, we had Prime at 6 am, followed by a a period of silent meditation and Low Mass most days. So my mornings were by and large quite quiet and contemplative.

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Again, on the Catholic 19th century

4 07 2020

It’s a bit strange that I continue to write on Catholic themes, considering my actual beliefs at this point. But I swim in a very Catholic milieu, and I still deal with the ghost of previous beliefs. So anything I state here should probably be taken with a grain of salt by actual believers, if not disregarded entirely. I don’t feel particularly bound by the rules of the contemporary Magisterial discourse for obvious reasons. I am merely commenting on the consistency and inner logic of various ideas from the perspective of a struggling God-conscious person. It’s an outsider-looking-in dynamic, but not so much from the the outside.

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A God who waits

14 05 2020

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A possible advantage of Dharmic religion over Christianity is not having an idea of an eternal Hell. Getting deeper into Gaudiya Vaishnavism, however, this supposed advantage becomes a bit complicated. I will start in the Sixth Canto:

[Nārada Muni had described that there is a bila, or hole, from which, having entered, one does not return. The Haryaśvas understood the meaning of this allegory.] Hardly once has a person who has entered the lower planetary system called Pātāla been seen to return. Similarly, if one enters the Vaikuṇṭha-dhāma [pratyag-dhāma], he does not return to this material world. If there is such a place, from which, having gone, one does not return to the miserable material condition of life, what is the use of jumping like monkeys in the temporary material world and not seeing or understanding that place? What will be the profit? Read the rest of this entry »





Progress

11 05 2020

My entire adult life has been a refutation of the liberal idea of progress. (By liberal, I mean the intellectual principles coming out of the Enlightenment.) That’s a bit exaggerated, but I’m running with it. The first real historic milestone in my life was the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain: this brought about the unenthusiastic prosperous years of the 1990’s. These were my teenage years, and also the time I was most “politically active”. Having put that aside, I was welcomed into adulthood by 9/11, which took place around the age I would have graduated college (had I not dropped out). That was the first indication that rumors of the the End of History were greatly overblown. Read the rest of this entry »