Person-to-Person

16 11 2020
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A first reading of the Srimad Bhagavatam

You could say that the purpose of the 18,000 verse Bhagavata Purana or Srimad Bhagavatam is to tell you what it means to be a person. Or rather, it’s to introduce you to the first or Supreme Person, the one you have been looking for, the one you always knew existed, or at least wish you did. In Vaishnava thought, reality has three levels or manifestations: Brahman, Paramahtma, and Bhagavan. Perhaps I will oversimplify these and say that they are the answers to three separate questions: What, Why, and Who. Brahman is a question of “what”: that there is existence, but not particularly why it is. It’s the truth barren of any qualities or distinctions. Many people seek this, they seek stillness and a peaceful void. This is often the subject of cheap mysticism. Paramahtma is the truth as it works within us and all over: it’s the reason why philosophers ask questions and it’s the voice that provides them with answers, often wildly divergent from each other. Those who seek it still don’t really know the origin of the truth. In a manner of speaking, it is the logos (λόγος) of the Stoics and St. John’s Gospel. But the ground of both of these, the ultimate reality if you will, is not a question of “what”, or even “why”, but of “Who?”

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Defending eternal Hell with Vaisnava theology?

3 10 2020

I don’t know why I keep obsessing about the question of Hell in Catholic theology. I have already stated that it wasn’t a major consideration when I was an orthodox Catholic. I have never really had scruples or an overactive sense of guilt, or a fear of punishment for that matter. My religious concerns have always been about meaning and who I want to be at the end of the day. It has always been for me about transformation and an encounter with that which is outside of me. Meaning is out there, so I have come to think. The question of whether I will be personally saved or damned, and if others will, seems a bit self-absorbed.

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Yoga-maya and the Bible

27 09 2020
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I have wanted to write about the topic of Yoga-maya for some time. While I don’t feel adequate to the task, I’ve gotten to the point of needing to write my thoughts down now or not at all. The question at the center of this reflection is: What is the ultimate meaning of conscious action? And also: Does God need to stop “being God” to fully be God? And perhaps: Why does anything outside of God exist at all, and how?

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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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A note on time

18 07 2020
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To say that Vedic time is “cyclical” is simplistic. It’s more an issue of wheels within millions of other wheels. For one thing, it simply isn’t the eternal return. Certain things do happen over and over again, and the yuga cycles do repeat with variations. However, there isn’t just *one universe*: there are literally numberless universes that come out of the body of Mahavishnu. So yes, someone may very well be typing this exact same thing somewhere out there in the material manifestation (probably not this universe), just as Krishna’s rasa-lila pastimes are occurring somewhere (but eternally in Goloka Vrindavan), Caesar may be crossing the Rubicon (not necessarily the same Caesar), and most problematically, Jesus is being crucified elsewhere…

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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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Silence

15 06 2020

I reviewed Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence years ago, but I only recently saw the film adaptation (I don’t watch many movies these days). My main issue with these types of novels / films, namely one’s the treat issues of tortured religious conscience in a modern context, is that I am acutely aware of the rift between ancient and modern religiosity. Perhaps this is a matter of written records, but the radical subjectivity of this literature is more an indication of absence than a heightened sense of presence. I don’ t believe for a minute that modern people “get God” more than their predecessors. If anything, we are greatly more self-absorbed to the point of thinking every difficulty is some sort of existential crisis.

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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 »





Catholic guru-tattva

25 04 2020

Because the Supreme Personality of Godhead does not actually touch or mix with matter, there are three intersections of Krishna and the material manifestation that are the hardest nuts to crack theologically. The first is Siva-tattva: in Krishna consciousness, Lord Shiva is the Supreme Personality of Godhead as He touches and mixes with matter. Shiva presides over the mode of ignorance (tamas), He is God as He works in matter. That is why in the Puranas He is known as Mahadeva, the Great God. But He is not Krishna: if Krishna is milk, Shiva is yogurt which is milk altered in a process to make it “not-milk”. Nevertheless, Shiva is unique in the material manifestation: He stands on the border between the spiritual and material worlds. Read the rest of this entry »