In a Holy Nutshell

Excerpted from Life of Pi by Yann Martel, © 2001:

But religion is more than rite and ritual. There is what the rite and ritual stand for. Here too I am a Hindu. The universe makes sense to me through Hindu eyes. There is Brahman, the world soul, the sustaining frame upon which is woven, warp and weft, the cloth of being, with all its decorative elements of space and time. There is Brahman nirguna, without qualities, which lies beyond understanding, beyond description, beyond approach; with our poor words we sew a suit for it– One, Truth, Unity, Absolute, Ultimate Reality, Ground of Being– and try to make it fit, but Brahman nirguna always bursts the seams. We are left speechless. But there is also Brahman saguna, with qualities, where the suit fits. Now we call it Shiva, Krishna, Shakti, Ganesha; we can approach it with some understanding; we can discern certain attributes– loving, merciful, frightening– and we feel the gentle pull of relationship. Brahman saguna is Brahman made manifest to our limited senses, Brahman expressed not only in gods but in humans, animals, trees, in a handful of earth, for everything has a trace of the divine in it. The truth of life is that Brahman is no different from atman, the spiritual force within us, what you might call the soul. The individual soul touches upon the world soul like a well reaches for the water table. That which sustains the universe beyond thought and language, and that which is at the core of us and struggles for expression, is the same thing. The finite within the infinite, the infinite within the finite. If you ask me how Brahman and atman relate precisely, I would say in the same way the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit relate: mysteriously. But one thing is clear: atman seeks to realize Brahman, to be united with the Absolute, and it travels in this life on a pilgrimage where it is born and dies, and is born again and dies again, and again, and again, until it manages to shed the sheaths that imprison it here below. The paths to liberation are numerous, but the bank along the way is always the same, the Bank of Karma, where the liberation account of each of us is credited or debited depending on our actions.

This, in a holy nutshell, is Hinduism, and I have been a Hindu all my life. With its notions in mind I see my place in the universe.

Deep Purple

This song was in my head, and it was really hard to find.  There’s a rock group named “Deep Purple,” and this song has been covered dozens of times since it was written in 1933.  That resulted in a lot of red herrings popping up in my search results.

This version, by siblings Nino Tempo & April Stevens, is from 1963.  It won the Grammy that year for best Rock and Roll record (seriously!)

Full lyrics HERE.  (The lyrics are correct, the writing credit is wrong.  For some reason they credit it to Todd Rundgren, who hadn’t been born yet when the song was written.)


“If we throw a rock up in the air, then what will fall on our head will be a rock. If we throw a flower up in the air, then what will fall on our head will be a flower.”  ~Tai Situ Rinpoche

Strangers to Us

“We need to get to know our emotions. Right now, they are strangers to us. When we come across them, sometimes we react as if we were being confronted by a bandit. Instead, we should make their acquaintance, and then gradually make friends with them or create a wholesome relationship with them. In the end, the fact that anger or some other emotion no longer arises is not a result of forcefully shutting it out, but a matter of very naturally or even joyfully coming to the point where you make friends with it and are naturally in control.”  ~Ogyen Trinley Dorje

Experience the Weird

“Don’t expect to practice hard and not experience the weird. Hard practice that evades the unknown makes for a weak commitment. So an ancient once said, ‘Help hard practice by befriending every demon.'”  ~Kyong Ho

Everybody terrified, it don’t seem fair…

The tempo to this song is really slow for rock and roll, but it just powers forward like a bulldozer.

Full lyrics HERE.

Sweet Ripe Mango


“Dhamma is in your mind, not in the forest. Don’t believe others. Just listen to your mind. You don’t have to go and look anywhere else. Wisdom is in yourself, just like a sweet ripe mango is already in a young green one.”  ~Ajahn Chah

Do not worry too much.

“We shouldn’t get carried away. We shouldn’t get lost when things happen to us. Getting lost in good things is as bad as getting lost in bad things. We should not get lost in anything. We should always be aware and mindful. We should always follow the path no matter whether we are taking baby steps, elephant steps or kangaroo steps. Kangaroo steps are pretty big. Elephants cannot jump because their knees bend backward not forward, but Kangaroos can. Anyway, whether our steps are big or small we will get there. Our destiny is nothing more and nothing less than our potential, and our ultimate potential is no less and no more than Prince Siddhartha’s. Whatever he was able to attain, we will attain. Do not worry too much about your life. Enjoy it. Just do not be too indulgent. Practice diligence but do not let your practice become a burden for you. That is not very good karma. You may find yourself thinking, ‘Oh no, I have to do my practice. I have to do this hard work. I don’t like it but I have taken vows so I have to do it.’ This is very negative. Do not let it happen. Instead practice comfortably, happily, joyfully with honor and gratitude. It may be bad karma for me to speak like this but if it helps you to understand more clearly then that is okay.”  ~Tai Situ Rinpoche

That’s how come

“I am a monopolar depressive descended from monopolar depressives. That’s how come I write so good.”  ~Kurt Vonnegut

Getting the Knack

“To stay with that shakiness– to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge– that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic– this is the spiritual path.”  ~Pema Chödron

Full of Meanness

Of The Empire
by Mary Oliver

We will be known as a culture that feared death
and adored power, that tried to vanquish insecurity
for the few and cared little for the penury of the
many. We will be known as a culture that taught
and rewarded the amassing of things, that spoke
little if at all about the quality of life for
people (other people), for dogs, for rivers. All
the world, in our eyes, they will say, was a
commodity. And they will say that this structure
was held together politically, which it was, and
they will say also that our politics was no more
that an apparatus to accommodate the feelings of
the heart, and that the heart, in those days,
was small, and hard, and full of meanness.




On to the next one!

I’m reading You Can’t Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe, ©1940, and I’m at that horrible point where I’m not really enjoying it anymore, but I’ve invested so much time I hate to walk away without finishing it.

He writes beautifully.  The problem is that he hates everybody.

I’m 165 pages in to a 744 page novel, and so far he’s expressed specific disdain for Negroes, Italians, Irish, Jews, and Orientals. He doesn’t like people from small towns, nor people from big cities; he doesn’t like the working class, nor the leisure class; he doesn’t like evil people, nor the pious. He doesn’t mind women, per se,  but finds them frivolous.

Actually… I think I’ve just decided what I’m going to do.