Thoughts on a lecture . . .

So, I watched this over the last few days. Well, listened to. Right off the bat I need to mention that while I’m aware that ISKCON is not representative as a whole to what Vishnu or even Krishna worship may look like, I do find that they’ve got, you know, lectures available, and they are reputed for being pretty open to people, and as someone whose just sticking my toes into the water that is Vishnu/Krishna, that alone is enough to be inviting. Or at least, not intimidating. Or at least, not aggressively negatively intimidating.

Anyway. I’ve been listening to this, on and off, for a week, during my commute. So far . . .

I’m still cranky unsettled re: Krishna. I’ve spoken to a few p/People about this, and have received valuable advice, feedback, etc. Poseidon reminds me that this is not the first time I’ve approached People whose contexts I did not know entirely well, and that my treating this as though I’m brand new to the interactions with People scene is doing nobody any favors. I’m putting in a concerted effort to uncrank myself regarding Krishna, because really, it’s not at all His fault.

#

Everything, everything else aside, I am deeply mistrustful of people. So I’m having issues with this whole, elders and gurus and whatnot. There’s an idea that’s floated out in this video (I think it was this video) about how every day people can’t just approach Krishna, that offering to Krishna is really done with the understanding that you’re offering to your guru, who is offering to their guru, and so on and so forth, until it finally reaches Krishna, and in this way He is approachable. I have issues with the ideas of purity and cleanliness, and all of that, too (but my gods are in the muck, down and dirty, hands in your viscera sort of gods) but I readily admit that those issues are different, are intellectual, are me used to thinking or being or acting in one particular way. I’ll admit that using a different language to tell the story of religious experience might be useful. But I find it extremely, extremely distasteful, the idea that I cannot approach the Power I am aiming to approach on my own, that I’d need a go-between.

(Though, I realize that, one way I could describe this whole venture would be faring forth with Poseidon’s sponsorship, and that in a sense I already *have* a go-between)

edited to add: the lecturer also made it clear that what they mean when they say deity is what I would mean when I say icon or idol, which was interesting, and is a nuance I need to keep in mind going forward.

The lecture is interesting, and thought-provoking. I’ll be watching more of theirs, for sure.

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16 Comments Add yours

  1. Silence says:

    The way that Krishna is described as receiving offerings is pretty distinctive to ISKCon so definitely don’t worry about it.

  2. Silence says:

    I keep meaning to do a blog entry on purity. The past couple years have been a lot about me getting to know purity energies and it’s been so immensely educational. In a way, purity is a way of looking at clarity of purpose (which I think I’ve sort of talked with you about) but following various purity-related rules has made me quite attuned to the energetic nuances of the different Powers and currents I’m dealing with. My requirement to adopt various ritual forms has also forced me into the space of beginner, which was important. I needed to learn to do things differently, in a very new way, without the preconceptions that can come from a preexisting practice (like what I had had with Kali back in the day). It was very frustrating, very challenging, and I made a lot of mistakes (still do, all the time). Along the way I’ve actually become a better ritualist, which is important some of the very-long-term projects I work on. I’m more deliberate and thoughtful about how my ritual space is organized, I’m much more attentive about cleanliness and orderliness, and I hold myself to a slightly higher standard. Just as importantly, purity is very important to the Powers I’ve been worshiping and if it’s important to Her, then it can be important to me for no greater reason than that purity pleases Her.

    None of this is to say that I’m in any way any expert on the subject. I just was a little dubious about the whole subject going into it and am continually astonished at the many valuable lessons that have come from it. Even a very minimal attention to standards of purity can have profoundly positive effects. (And now I must go clean the altar before bed. Can’t leave incense ash on the Mother’s plate.)

    1. Jolene Poseidonae says:

      I’m trying to stay mindful of reactions that are based on a reluctance (and/or possible resentment) to change how I’ve done things all this time. What I need to remind myself is that approaching Others does not mean I have to change how things are done with regards to Poseidon, and I manage to keep that in mind, I think I’ll be good to go.

      The classical concepts of miasma from within the Hellenic tradition(s) have mostly never sat well with me, and have by and large struck me as developments of societal ritual norms that are more about social cohesion and cultural language and less about keeping offense from the gods. But then, my Poseidon is as much the rotting, stagnant, putrid water as He is the holy, lustral water, and He has worked hard to guide me to a place where humans are not better or worse than any other animals, to get me to understand fundamentally that we are simply animals — and if other creatures don’t need purification, why should we?

      Again, though, that’s He and I, and I will admit that taking steps to refocus the mind or purify to help move beyond a particularly dark period has been helpful from time to time. I’m not dismissing the concept from my head so much as I am expressing extreme mistrust of what it might entail, and, more, how the concept might be poorly represented by humans.

      And I have to admit that there may be not a small amount of reluctance to the entire concept due to Christian influences, from the “not worthy to approach God directly,” to the “dirty with sin,” and so on. (To make it clear: the above video spoke of purification exclusively in terms of physical cleanliness — bathing twice a day, spotless grooming, etc. They also made a distinction between standards for temple and standards for home worship, with the understanding that standards for home worship would be lower due to time constraints, etc.)

      What I know in my heart, and understand from experiences with Others is that, the less I know, the lower the standard of expected behavior is. So I’m not exactly worried about offending People that I approach, providing that I am respectful and am willing to hear feedback even if it makes me uncomfortable. I’m not in this to be comfortable; I’m in this because He said I should be.

      I suspect that there’s connotations to ‘purity’ as a word in English that I dislike. I can understand it as a clarification and a refinement process. I don’t like the “worthy or not” connotation that I immediately pick up and focus on. But that’s me. (I’m also always surprised that purification isn’t MORE of a thing with me, in my path, all things considered, but it’s not — unless we start talking about things like burning away the habits and thought-processes, and ways of being in the world that hold me back or drag me down, or cause me to stagnate, etc., and then maybe it is there after all.)

      And yeah, you really, really ought to write that post about purity.

      1. Silence says:

        Yeah, purity definitely has very different connotations in English and our usage is definitely colored by Christian ideas surrounding it. I think you’d actually get along with Shakta theology very well. Shakta theology (in a very broad sense, making concessions for all variations of individual practice and the particulars of lineage/philosophy) holds that all things – seen, unseen, moving, unmoving, perceptible, imperceptible – are fundamentally divine because everything within and beyond conceptions rests within the body and energy of the Mother. Variation in manifestation is a combination of Her play (lila), Her disguising power (maya), and the infinitely complex combination of three primary energy emanations (namely the gunas satva, rajas, and tamas).

        The result of these ideas is that there is no such thing as impurity-as-incompatible-with-divinity because nothing of the Mother can be impure in this sense (She Herself contains impurity and it is non-different from Herself, the same as all other expressions and emanations of Her power/presence). However, the fundamental sameness between, say, poison ivy and a grilled cheese sandwich doesn’t allow us to interact with these two things in the same way and expect the same outcome; this is philosophically explained using the guna model of reality and other frameworks. Adherents of Shakta philosophy generally therefore keep in mind that everything rests equally in divinity (namely Shakti), that perception and experience of the world is entirely real because our facilities for such also rests in divinity (but that such capacities are clouded by unhelpful tendencies, obstructive pyschologies, etc.), and that our experience of difference between poison ivy and grilled cheese sandwiches are therefore also real and to reject the distinguishing qualifications would be to reject that very particular expression of divinity.

        All that said, Shakta ritualists seem to come at the issue of purity from the points of view such as, “This is how I was taught,” “This is how my teacher told me to do it,” and “This is why my tradition tells me is most pleasing to this or that form of the Mother,” in addition to broader cultural ideas of what worship is supposed to be and how one can approach an active divine presence with the maximum of respect.

        Of course, one might ask what purpose ritual purity serves inside a philosophic framework that regards im/purity as a simple fact and not as an indicator of greater compatibility/incompatibility with sacred principles. Further, what use is ritual purity if the Mother is equally present at all times, at all places? Aside from the practical benefits that come from having a clean, organized, and orderly ritual space (and this is super important in places like major temples where crowd control is a consideration), standards of ritual purity helps to clarify our awareness of divinity, especially in places that have been specifically set aside for the purpose of paying attention to Her (temples in particular but home altars, too).

        Keep in mind, in Shakta theology, standards of ritual purity are real because they too are supported by Maa’s energy (and we can trust them because they’ve been given to us by people who are acknowledged to have had greater insight into Her living presence than we ourselves do at this present time). Is there a contradiction inherent in a framework that posits the value of ritual purity while also maintaining that there is no difference of quality? Only at first. Besides, the beauty of this particular bit of trickiness is part of the Mother’s play. We might be aware of the deeper truth, but engage with Her in lila because such things are beautiful and valuable without justification or explanation.

        I know you don’t need any more reading on your plate at this point but maybe you’d like to take a look at some material on Shakta theology. Good thing I know someone who could help with that. ❤

        1. Jolene Poseidonae says:

          Recommend away, please. I want more books.

        2. Jolene Poseidonae says:

          Better reply when at keyboard.

        3. Jolene Poseidonae says:

          I think you’d actually get along with Shakta theology very well. Shakta theology (in a very broad sense, making concessions for all variations of individual practice and the particulars of lineage/philosophy) holds that all things – seen, unseen, moving, unmoving, perceptible, imperceptible – are fundamentally divine because everything within and beyond conceptions rests within the body and energy of the Mother. Variation in manifestation is a combination of Her play (lila), Her disguising power (maya), and the infinitely complex combination of three primary energy emanations (namely the gunas satva, rajas, and tamas).

          Okay — I thought I was going to have an actual comment, but really, this whole thing is just — yes. Yes, please, this, yes.

          I find that I’m exceeding grateful again for being introduced to the concept of simultaneous holding, which is a fancy way of thinking of holding paradoxes in my head, or just different ways of thinking being true, and it’s a good skill to have, and I can see how it might help, in this whole thing. Considering the *incredible, incredible* place of honor than Female Divinities have held in my worshiping *with* Poseidon, and considering Durga (just, oh, Durga</em), I'm thinking, you know, need to explore this maybe.

          And since the books I ordered won't arrive until the 21st, I'm open for new books to look for. 🙂 Just sayin'.

          1. Silence says:

            OK, here are a few recommendations off the top of my head. Most should be quite easy to find through biblio.com or whatever source.

            Kali: The Feminine Force (by Ajit Mookerjee)
            In Praise of the Goddess: The Devimahatmya and Its Meaning (by Devadatta Kali)
            Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine (by David R. Kinsley) (I like Kinsley’s work in general)
            The Devi Gita: The Song of the Goddess (by C. Mackenzie Brown) (I no longer have a copy of this, sadly. I need to replace it.)
            Grace and Mercy in Her Wild Hair (by Ramprasad Sen) (Or really any book of devotional poetry you think looks good. Kali in particular has inspired many exceptional poets over the centuries and there are several nice translations that are easy to find.)

  3. I hung out with the (1999/2000 era, Melbourne based) Hare Krishnas briefly (they had cheap food and I was very close to homelessness, and I did and still do like Krishna/Rama) and while I can totes get on board with a whole lot of what they do and believe, some of it gives me cause to side-eye them. Namely that women are intellectually and spiritually inferior to men no matter what woman you compare to what man, sex is for married cis/het couples for the purposes of procreation ONLY and everything else is wrong, and the insular cultish thing they had going on. Reminded me so very much of my parents’ fundamentalist Baptist church.

    I didn’t encounter the idea that you HAD to go through a Guru with the Hare Krishnas, but I have some thoughts on this related to (esoteric, Tibetan) Buddhism, which is where I’m ‘at’ right now. The idea doesn’t sit well with me on first glance, either. I can’t (shouldn’t?) access Buddha directly and (ideally) have to have a human to go through? But I don’t LIKE most humans, and I don’t LIKE hierarchy, and I don’t LIKE someone having that kind of power over my spiritual life. Though if you replace the living Guru with a long-dead human Guru, that kind of makes it a bit better. And if you go via a ‘lesser’ deity, not directly to the Buddha, I’m ok with that. So for me, I think it’s the intrinsically flawed living human Guru that I’m really uneasy with, not the chain-of-command bit. YMMV of course!

    If you’ll forgive the clumsy metaphor, I see the whole Guru/lineage thing like a tree growing underwater at the bottom on a pond. I’m wearing floaties/water wings, and find it difficult to swim down under the surface of the water. It is therefore easier for me to grab a twig (living Guru) on the tip of a branch (lineage) on the tree (Buddha) and drag myself to the bottom of the tree than it is for me to just swim down to the bottom of the tree unaided. It is possible to swim unaided, it’s just much harder than it otherwise might be. That said, given that I’m non-binary and trans, a great many Guru-types out there might well want nothing to do with me. I am prepared to do some research and failing that, swim down to a thicker twig under my own steam.

    All that said, I have always found Krishna and Rama to be really approachable and more than willing to help out with stuff. I think ‘please show me how to best approach You’ is a really respectful thing to ask of Anyone, and that if one way of doing things is just not working for you (the Hare Krishna ‘method’ or whatever) that it is completely fine to acknowledge that and try something else. Also, perhaps the Hare Krishna stuff can be useful in that it gives you an idea of where to go next, or at least what doesn’t work for you 😀 If I didn’t try Zen Buddhism, I wouldn’t have found out that it really doesn’t work for me at all, and thereby found out by a process of elimination what DOES work for me.

    TL;DR – If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. BUT if it is broke, try something that works for /you/.

    1. Jolene Poseidonae says:

      Happily, I’m not looking for a group of any sort to join at this point, I’m just gobbling up information where I can find it, and part of my getting over my Krishna crankiness is by sort of diving into learning about His worship, in the various forms it takes. The bits of Vishnu that really call me are Matsya and Narasimha; I am, and possibly expectedly so, less interested in the more human-esque ones . . . which is likely why I’m finding myself pressed to delve more deeply into those. And the bulk of the crankiness regarding Krishna that is not rooted in the discomfort of Poseidon suddenly saying, “Hey, so I’m totally Poseidon, but you know, I may be Vishnu, too. Let’s check that out.” is definitely, hands down, without a doubt, rooted in the language that is used to speak about Krishna, and the frequency with which He is referred to simply as God in a singular sense. None of the crankiness is rooted at all in any experience I’ve had with Krishna thus far — thus far He has been kind and patient, if a bit less than patient with me setting aside the crankiness (which I strive to do. It’s less cranky at this point and more a sense of being unsettled), and we talked about things like approaching Him informally in conversation, and how I don’t have to do things totally different right out of the gate, and yes, my cat Luna *is* gorgeous.

      It’s not a bad metaphor, really. I find — have always found — that I’m more likely to find teachers and guides if I allow them to appear organically rather than seeking them out. It may be terribly American of me, but while I do strive to learn context, I don’t tend to align myself with particular traditions. I have tried, a time or two, and it never works out well. At some point, ego enters into it, and people have a vested interest in building up their tradition, and we do that, it seems, by tearing at other traditions, and I just am not interested in the politics that accompanies such things. And yeah, i’m with you in that I just don’t trust people enough, with these things.

      But, ancestors? Sure! Spiritual ancestor, even? Yes. The guide of other Powers? Poseidon and I worship — not always, sometimes He’s simply there while I worship, but often it us together — Hekate (and others) so having Him as a spiritual guide and mentor in some respect is not unknown or hard to swallow.

      I am not turning away information from any source at this point, and I don’t knew enough at al to know what to discount right out of the gate, which is sort of fun.

  4. Boneweaver (aka pjvj) says:

    Estara may have helpful thoughts on this. I know she worked with at least Shiva, IIRC.

    1. Jolene Poseidonae says:

      I’ll ping her at some point, I’m sure. Aside from a Shiva connection, she’s also very much in the, “will go where called, no neat boxes? aw, too bad!” camp, which is inspiring.

  5. Edward P. Butler says:

    I really think that the strong emphasis put here on approaching the God through the master, though it is certainly a point of view one will find within Hinduism, is very characteristic of a particular, rather rigid, understanding of bhakti on the part of ISKCON. To me, it goes against the fundamental spirit of bhakti which we get from a text like the Bhagavad Gita. I see it really as an attempt to find a place in bhakti for the social structures that are necessary to maintain a community of ritual specialists, structures that are otherwise threatened by the very nature of the bhakti movement. As such, it is understandable, but also demands to be questioned. I know it looks bad to recommend my own work, but you might have a look at the paper on bhakti that I just gave at the SAGP conference: (https://henadology.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/bhakti-and-henadology-sagpssips-conference-102515/).

    On the broader question of Poseidon and Vishnu’s avatars, I would feel that it is Vishnu Himself with whom Poseidon is identifying, not one of his avatars, because the latter don’t have Poseidon’s cosmic status. They each come to address a specific problem. Vishnu Himself, by contrast, has very much the same position in the Trimurti that Poseidon has among the sons of Kronos, being the middle sovereign, responsible for the continuity (synecheia) of the cosmos and for the universal continuum of which the sea is just one manifestation. But things may strike you differently, obviously.

    1. Jolene Poseidonae says:

      I really think that the strong emphasis put here on approaching the God through the master, though it is certainly a point of view one will find within Hinduism, is very characteristic of a particular, rather rigid, understanding of bhakti on the part of ISKCON.

      That’s what I’m being lead to understand, and it’s heartening to know. I have to admit that I find myself exploring their material with lumps of salt, rather than grain, which may have more to do with how they were spoken of in my household growing up (hushed tones, ‘those people’) than anything else, but it’s still serving me well enough in this. Any time a human lineage is stressed above worship of the Powers, one has to ask why — what’s the motivation. And, I won’t say that there is anything *wrong* with such things — some people are drawn to/are wired for/need or simply want that tapestry of human connection and hierarchy. I just don’t happen to be one, and I’m so not interested. But then, I’ve been communicating and connected with Poseidon just fine on my own for two decades at this point, so I know we can go directly to Them; why would I want anything less?

      I know it looks bad to recommend my own work, but you might have a look at the paper on bhakti that I just gave at the SAGP conference: (https://henadology.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/bhakti-and-henadology-sagpssips-conference-102515/).

      You are, among other things, an author — I don’t think it looks bad at all to promote your work, especially as it is relevant to the topic at hand. Thank you for the link; I haven’t read this yet, and I’d been meaning to, and this is a great reminder.

      Re: Vishnu/Poseidon — it is without a doubt Vishnu that Poseidon seems to be identifying Himself with, and not specifically any of the avatars. *I* was drawn in to the idea by discovering Matsya and Narasimha, both of which resonate with some things I’ve discovered through my relationship with Poseidon over the years, and so it is their stories and iconography that I am drawn to, of the avatars. I mention Them to differentiate from, say, Krishna or Rama, both of whom seem more popular in devotional worship than the previous, and seem more rooted in human experience by being seen as human incarnations (unless I’m wrong, but as a very unlearned outsider, that’s how it appears to me right now). I consider the avatars at all because 1) they are a part of Vishnu, and I think ignoring them would only be at my detriment, and 2) it is vastly easier to find information or anecdotes of Krishnu worship than it is to find of Vishnu worship.

      It was regarding Vishnu, and none of the others, to which He expressed the idea that He was also this other being, which has never happened in my history with Him. Hell, even when contemplating His connection with Neptune, it was never “Yes,” but always equally yes and no. So obviously I’m going to take note of this, as uncomfortable as parts of it makes me.

      It’s making for some interesting times. Thank you for your comment and, again, for the link.

  6. Widdershins says:

    I’m always skeptical of some bloke who tries to tell me he’s the only way, or that I have to go through him, to commune with the Divine. (whomsoever that may be) Bureaucracy by any other name.

    1. Jolene Poseidonae says:

      You and me both!

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