Tag Archives: Grateful Dead

Thoughts on the Bhagavad Gita (translated by Stephen Mitchell)

I’ve been wanting to read the Bhagavad Gita for a while, but the copy that I had (provided to me by the Hare Krishnas at a Dead concert) seemed very long, so I was reluctant to start. But recently I did give it a shot and quickly realized that it was about 90% commentary, so I put it back and made the decision to find a different translation. So when I was perusing books at a bookstore recently, I discovered a translation by the poet Stephen Mitchell. I figured this would be a good version for me to delve into, and I was correct. The text flowed beautifully, and it was very easy to follow and digest the text.

As with all spiritual texts, there is such a wealth of wisdom that it is impossible to do it justice in a short blog post. With that in mind, I will share a few quotes that I connected with, as well as my thoughts regarding those passages.

Driven by desire for pleasure
and power, caught up in ritual,
they strive to gain heaven; but rebirth
is the only result of their striving.

They are lured by their desires,
besotted by the scriptures’ words;
their minds have not been made clear
by the practice of meditation.

The scriptures dwell in duality.
Be beyond all opposites, Arjuna:
anchored in the real, and free
from all thoughts of wealth and comfort.

(p. 54)

While mystical and spiritual texts are great sources of wisdom and inspiration, Lord Krishna points out the issue—they fall short of the wisdom and freedom gained from active spiritual pursuits. Scripture uses symbolic language to try to express the ineffable experience of direct connection with the Divine which is gained through yoga and meditation. Those who seek the Divine solely in text will never find what they seek. It is only through actively engaging in practices that one may catch a momentary glimpse of the Divine.

As fire is obscured by smoke,
as a mirror is covered by dust,
as a fetus is wrapped in a membrane,
so wisdom is obscured by desire.

Wisdom is destroyed, Arjuna,
by the constant enemy of the wise,
which, flaring up as desire,
blazes with insatiable flames.

(p. 69)

This made me think a lot about our current society. Social media, advertising, and even the news to some extent, all feed the human desire for what they don’t have, or what they don’t have enough of, or what will keep them safe, and on and on and on. This desire, this constant striving, is manifesting much of our current social and political problems right now. People are prone to react rather than think and respond carefully. I have made a conscious effort to minimize the amount of social media and advertising information that I am exposed to, and as a result, I have become much happier and calmer.

I am the father of the universe
and its mother, essence and goal
of all knowledge, the refiner, the sacred
Om, and the threefold Vedas.

I am the beginning and the end,
origin and dissolution,
refuge, home, true lover,
womb and imperishable seed.

I am the heat of the sun,
I hold back the rain and release it,
I am death, and the deathless,
and all that is or is not.

(pp. 116 – 117)

What I like about this passage where Lord Krishna is describing himself to Arjuna is that he uses a series of opposites to describe his essence. It is like a balancing of light and dark, yin and yang, life and death. The Divine must surly encompass all, for everything emanates from the Source and, therefore, everything must exist within the Source. This kind of echoes Revelation 22:13 where Christ says: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

This is the soul-destroying
threefold entrance to hell:
desire, anger, and greed.
Every man should avoid them.

The man who refuses to enter
these three gates into darkness
does what is best for himself
and attains the ultimate goal.

(p. 173)

This is so true. If more people would replace desire with acceptance, anger with love and forgiveness, and greed with charity, what a different world this would be. How much happier we would be as a global society. There is still hope for us. Although I sometimes despair, I remember that humans have an incredible capacity to change. I will do my best to help promote change for the better.

Thanks for stopping by, and many blessings!

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The X-Files Conspiracy: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

XFilesConspiracyTMNT

OK, I admit this is pretty goofy, but honestly, I liked it. I guess it’s because I like the TMNT’s. I remember the first time I was introduced to them. I was traveling with a bunch of people to see the Grateful Dead and one of the guys had a copy of a TMNT comic. I read it and thought it was cool and have had a warm spot in my heart for the turtles ever since.

In this issue, the Lone Gunmen track down the turtles because they suspect they are aliens and that their blood is somehow connected to the virus that is beginning to spread. The turtles clarify that they are mutants and not aliens. They refuse to help the Gunmen, except for Leonardo. He sneaks off and meets them clandestinely and offers his assistance.

There is nothing deep or profound in here; it is just fun and entertaining. My brain needs that sometimes. I read for work and I read for personal enrichment, so sometimes I just want to read for fun, and this is perfect for those moments.

When I picked this up from the comic store, they also had the next issue in my folder: The X-Files Conspiracy: Transformers. I suppose I’ll read that one now. I’ll share my thoughts on that one next.

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“The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern

Let me start by saying that I loved this book. Not only was the writing great, but the story was engrossing and worked for me on many levels. Basically, it’s the story of two magicians, male and female, who are pitted against each other by their teachers. Their competition is staged within an unusual circus setting. The two eventually fall in love, and I won’t give away the ending.

While on the surface, the story probably seems similar to a hundred stories you’ve read in the past, but that’s the beauty of this book. It is really a book about the cycles of stories and how they are passed down and retold. It is the telling and retelling of stories that is important, keeping timeless tales alive by narrating them in a new way that speaks to a contemporary audience. So it’s “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Tempest,” and a dozen other stories woven together in the black and white fabric of the circus, like black ink on a white page. As one of the characters in the book states: “Old stories have a habit of being told and retold and changed. Each subsequent storyteller puts his or her mark upon it. Whatever truth the story once had is buried in the bias and embellishment. The reasons do not matter as much as the story itself.” (p. 345)

The image of the circle is a prominent motif in the book. Structurally, the story itself is circular. Rings are used to bind the two young magicians to the challenge, and ultimately to each other. The circus itself is comprised of rings. All these images tie together to reinforce the importance of the cycles of storytelling.

Another aspect of the book that I found very interesting was the dynamic between the two teachers, Hector and Alexander. They each represent a particular school of thought, Hector being the embodiment of experiential learning, while Alexander represents the classical textbook method of education. The struggle, played out by their respective students, symbolizes the conflict between the two predominant educational styles. I also noticed a similarity between the two teachers and Plato and Aristotle. Hector is more like Aristotle, appreciating the importance of the stage as a means to communicate, while Alexander is more like Plato, staying with the more private, traditional forms of learning.

On a personal level, I connected with the reveurs in the book. These are people who follow the circus from town to town, attending as many performances as possible. They reminded me of my younger days following the Grateful Dead from city to city. The reveurs are the equivalent of the deadheads, seeking to escape the ordinary by indulging themselves in a counter-culture, sharing rides and accommodations with other fans, identifying themselves by their splash of color (a touch of red for the reveurs and a tie-dye for the deadheads). I suppose there is no coincidence that taking off to follow the Grateful Dead was often referred to as the modern-day equivalent of running off to join a circus.

I could certainly write more about this book, since there are many levels to explore, but I will let you wander the tents yourself. As with any great book, the life experiences that you bring with you when you open the cover will add to the story. To quote the book: “We add our own stories, each visitor, each visit, each night spent at the circus.” (p. 223)

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