Om Sweet Om

Ever wake up smiling?


I went to see Dasi Karnamrita lead kirtan at the Ashtanga Yoga Studio and Ganesh Temple in New York City last night. In a word, the evening was magical.

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something about the show that made it seem less like a performance and more like a shared prayer. Maybe it was the studio itself, which houses an authentic South Indian style temple honoring Lord Ganesh, Lord Shiva, and Sri Sri Radha-Krishna, lit by traditional oil lamps. Maybe it was the poignant black and white portraits of beloved Ashtanga Yoga master Sri Pattabhi Jois, who passed away earlier this year, dotting the soft pink walls.

Or maybe it was Karnamrita herself, her lilting voice accompanied only by the pleasant drone of the harmonium and the tight beats of a traditional Bengali khol drum.

ny-yankees-logo.jpgThe New York Yankees, World Series champions yet again, are preparing to have 50 tons of confetti dropped on them. Yes, Math Wizards, that would be 100,000 pounds of little, tiny bits of paper. On Friday, the champions will be honored with a ticker-tape parade down a stretch of lower Manhattan that has been poignantly dubbed the “Canyon of Heroes.”:

Fans are expected to begin gathering early in preparation for the
ticker tape parade, set to begin at 11am. The parade route will move
through the “Canyon of Heroes,” beginning at the Battery (the
southernmost tip of Manhattan), heading up Broadway and concluding at
City Hall. About twenty buildings along the Yankee parade route have
been supplied with shredded paper

as actual ticker tape was retired from use by the NYSE in the 60s. The
city estimates a cost for the Yankees victory parade similar to that of
the Giants’ Super Bowl parade in 2008, around $330K. All but $24K of the cost was covered by private donations. 

(source: The Inquisitr)

Even before the Yankees beat the Philadelphia Phillies to clinch the title, and even in the midst of a heated mayoral race, NYC Mayor (and gazillionaire) Mike Bloomberg made it a point to clarify that he wouldn’t dream of New York not having the ticker-tape parade if the beloved home team won — bad economy or no:

The Bloomberg administration won’t jinx the Yankees by prematurely
planning a ticker-tape parade – but City Hall says it would be a smart
event to hold in a tough economy.

“We always find a way to honor our teams, but we don’t discuss plans beforehand,” mayoral spokesman Stu Loeser said.

city’s last ticker-tape parade honored the Super Bowl-winning Giants in
January 2008 and cost $331,000, all but $24,000 of which was covered by
NYC & Co., the city’s marketing arm.

costs don’t count the expense of staffing it with city workers – a
figure Loeser said was unavailable – but was justified by the economic
boost and national exposure New York will get from the World Series.

(source: The NY Daily News)

So, at the risk of being the unpopular one to rain on this ticker-tape parade, might I suggest that when a city is willing to spend upwards of $400,000 to throw 100,000 pounds of paper on top of men for winning a game, there is something a tad bit wrong with this situation?

cowlooking.jpgThanks to Chris at the Yoga of Ecology blog for the heads up on this fascinating Times Online piece about UK Climate Chief Lord Stern of Brentford proclaiming that “People will need to turn vegetarian if the world is to conquer climate change.”

Rajendra_Pachauri.jpgThat is a powerful statement, and Lord Stern is hardly the first politician or climate change expert to draw the connection between a vegetarian diet and the environment. Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, who received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize on
behalf of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (which he
leads) along with Al Gore, has spoken
out strongly about the impact of meat-production on the environment. You might recall that Dr. Pachauri (who is a practicing Hindu) began his acceptance speech by
quoting the Hindu concept of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which means the
whole universe is one family,” and argued that this concept “must
dominate global efforts to protect the global commons.”

Not all Hindus are vegetarian, of course, but the faith does seem to promote making lifestyle choices (including one’s diet) based on principles of compassion (daya) and non-harming (ahimsa). Usually, this is interpreted as showing compassion towards animals; however, in light of Lord Stern’s point about the relationship between the meat industry and harm to the world’s resources, one might look at daya and ahimsa as having broader implications for how we contribute to the preservation or destruction of the earth we inhabit.

Whether or not Hindus take up the banner of vegetarianism for ecological purposes, it does provide some interesting food for thought.

I like the idea that one should be able to look at another faith and think  There is
something in this other religious tradition that I really value and I wish we had it.
I can learn something here.  The late Krister Stendahl, who served as Professor of Divinity and Dean of the Harvard Divinity School, coined this feeling “holy envy.”  

I remember experiencing holy envy while having lunches with my friend Aaron.

hands on prayer book.jpgAaron and I would eat together in a small cafe in the lobby of the New York City hospital where we both served as chaplains. A religious Jew, Aaron would dutifully bring his kosher lunch in every day. And every day after we were done eating, he would gracefully but unapologetically excuse himself, pull out a small prayer book, and take some time to re-connect spiritually.  I could see that in a matter of moments, the small cafe in the hospital lobby melted away for Aaron and he was able to create a sacred space right there and dive deeply into it.

Observing the scene, I found myself wishing that as a Hindu I had something like that, something so grounding and deep. I loved the fact that it followed the act of eating; to me, it seemed to imply that along with feeding the body, Aaron was taking the time to nourish the soul. I was deeply impressed by how consistent, disciplined, and regulated the routine was. And of course, I envied how unapologetic and open the whole thing was — Aaron’s simple act of excusing himself made such a profound statement about how he prioritized his spiritual practice and wasn’t afraid to show it.