Unlocking Spiritual Confusion

 


A recent comment from one of my blog readers raised questions about the sincerity of my declared search for “religious” enlightenment” during our recent vacation to India. They suspected I was altering my religious stance perhaps because of the deadly presence of the Corona crisis. In the following story, I attempt to answer this critic with a revealing account about one young adult who might have similarly dealt with such a period of spiritual confusion.

Sam would often wonder how his life stood when it came to the subject of religion. Growing up as an only child, he deeply regretted that he never had a brother or sister to share with them his spiritual void. Knowing however, that his grandparents had immigrated to the United States from Germany in the early 1940s aroused his suspicion that his family connection to the oppressed Jewish faith there at the time seemed likely from a historical perspective. Yet throughout the course of his childhood and adult life, the subject of Judaism had never been discussed in his immediate family. Such secrets unshared in the face of this seemingly marathon period of religious confusion only intensified his curious demands to know more about his family’s religious past.

So it happened then on a lazy Sunday afternoon when Sam was busily putting up wallpaper in his mother’s living room, that she suddenly revealed to him a religious “bomb” that he was in fact a blood disciple of Jewish teachings. It shocked Sam further to see for the first time in his mother’s newspaper clippings notebook, some graphic images of German Jews living in tattered clothes with a prominent yellow badge labeled “Jude” pinned to their chests. One particular image that moved his emotions contained a struggling peddler carrying around a dusty bag in a war torn ghetto, obviously impacted by a viciously “Anti Semitic”island of Jewish shame. He then pondered how his grandfather most likely endured a similarly inferior fate as a Jew by the Nazi regime yet persevered to provide a worthy life for himself and his family.

So what conclusion might be drawn from Sam’s awareness of his grandfather’s crisis as a Jew and overseas escape from German persecution? One must realize the danger of allowing others to exploit the power of organized religion to define who we are as a person. So now my religious critic should know that my recent travels to India inspired new spiritual understandings on my “own terms” (not theirs) of life and death matters.

Have you ever experienced a similar time when your religious views were called into question? Could travel have helped you ultimately handle this situation? Why or why not?

Finding My Inner Shrine

“Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.” (Hermann Hesse)

Sanctuary – anywhere a person feels especially safe and serene.

I have no doubts that I have often been motivated in travel situations to find places that directly uplift my spiritual soul. Yet amidst theses current fear mongering times of the Corona pandemic, it seems imperative for me to redirect my wandering spirit to find new sanctuaries of inner peace within the confines of my home. No doubt, the glitzy features of modern electronics might engage my attention as I navigate Zoom, You Tube, and Facebook more. For I definitely value the multi-sensory appeal of these platforms as they add new entertainment options of live virtual concerts, digital learning experiences, and enhanced social media communications. Yet I yearn in this time of interpersonal sacrifice for something more real that I can interact with loving touch at will.

It seems then the best solution to my own current dilemma would be for me to design my own spiritual sanctuary(ies) in the imaginative manner of my childhood. For I was indeed a very curious only-child who frolicked in the enjoyment of free play manner. So I recall my youthful passion for collecting marbles, baseball cards, and seashells and how I arranged them in a visually pleasing way. I reminisce now as well what “turned me on” most when designing those intricate sandcastles along Florida beaches. In addition, when rushing home from school each afternoon to my Northern Ohio basement, how did I usually rearrange the mini-town setting surrounding my Lionel Train rail track. Or on those lonely kid times with only a babysitter present, what designs did I often create when spreading “Lego” and “Lincoln Log” pieces along the living room floor?

No doubt, the magically sensory experience of our recent tour of South India will also play a major role in my latest sanctuary thinking here. For so many sights I photographed there ( eg. see below) appear amazingly sublime. Perhaps then you will join me now to create your own shrine(s) of inner bliss in the face of your current lockdown predicament. Namaste.

While walking from our resort hotel to the serene beach along the Bay of Bengal, I discovered this romantic wedding backdrop of crimson glory.

Beautiful floral designs provided a warm greeting as we entered hotel lobbies throughout our tour.

While along city streets, flower power also resonated as a major symbol of civic pride for promoting a welcoming spirit in tourism

At the Mahatma Gandhi Museum in Madurai, I acquired deep reverence for Gandhi’s resolve to make his simple loincloth clothes from a spinning wheel. Such humility pleads strongly for disdain of materialistic excess and finding inner beauty of the human soul.

Alongside a temple in In Mahabalipuran, an open air” field of sacred sculptures seduced my spiritual attention. I then took a mesmerizing look at local craftsman constructing sandstone Buddhas/ sacred elephant sculptures there.

Along one town street near Kochi, this imaginative setting of garbage composed artwork provided a positive emotional diversion from the surrounding blight of poverty and homelessness despair.

While a colorful object shrine hanging from an aging tree provided a relaxing oasis for me from surrounding urban chaos in front of a local storefront in Madurai.

Graffiti clutter was noticeably absent on this Madurai city wall at the beginning of our tour. Instead, I admired these visually uplifting paintings as a welcoming spirit of the Hindu way

Intricate tower designs of ancient Hindu temples in Tamil Nadu provided spectacular “backdrops” to remind me of the depth of spiritual knowledge we would be gaining on our sixteen day tour.

You might notice that my wife has taken the lead for our home sanctuary effort now full of South India travel inspirations. Certainly this inner shrine will grow in the coming days as I add my own artifacts to this much needed antidote in this uncertain time of Corona confinement.

 

 

Hindu Spirit Ascension

“A spirtually illumined soul lives in the world, yet is never contaminated by it.” (Swami Bhaskarananda, The Essentials Of Hinduism)

I’ve never been particularly enamored by faith-based tenets requiring me to submit myself to organized religion. For I have always embraced the power of finding my own path to right and wrong behavior in each passing moment. So as I explored my spiritual journey of “now” on our recent South India adventure, the fanatical devotion of followers to the Hindu faith seemed at first oddly strange and out of place. Yet as I continued my walks through the stunningly beautiful mazes of temple corridors, each subtle head nod, pleasing eye glance or gentle Buddhistic smile made me surprisingly realize that I had taken the rare step to reach outward of myself to obtain fresh spiritual guidance. I indeed seem mesmerized to this day by the sacred teachings of “Dharma” and “Karma”, the righteous path to Hindu ways.

Thus our recent South India journey has given me good reason to reconsider what best drives me spiritually these days. For Hinduism has shown me the critical need for practicing daily goodness to nourish my “inner soul. In this “trying” time of the Corona pandemic where so many struggle now to stay healthy and survive, I could certainly use such moral guidance. What places that you have visited in your life similarly evoke new ideas of spirituality in your life.”

At many temples I visited, curious Hindu followers crowded near me to humbly rejoice that I would be sharing my photographs for them to see soon.

Despite all the distractions of crowd noise and loud music from a Sunday service, this pious man seated outside the temple, remained determined to study his Hindu Scriptures.

I stared intently at God-like statues in every temple feeling a strong reverence toward Hinduism’s spiritual beliefs.

As I entered this great temple , I observed the welcoming presence of a Shiva- like figure overhead.

Daily offerings inside each temple provided evidence that Hinduism contains a strong spirit of giving.

Dance and music played a powerful role in entertaining holy gatherings in all of the temples I visited on weekends.

Why do these elephants sculpted along temple walls seem so friendly to others? Maybe only a Hindu would know!

Temple life provided a safe, quiet and clean haven for families/friends to bond away from the congested chaos existing in the nearby city. Contrast these two scenes.

Observe the exalted presence of this Hindu spiritual leader at the daily call to temple service .

When a call to Hindu temple prayer began, all eyes paid dutiful attention to the spiritual leader’s daily teachings.

Note: If you are interested in knowing the names of each of the temples described above, please let me know. Namaste

 

My India Spiritual Evolution

“The search for wisdom is a great challenge; to act on wisdom is an even greater challenge.” (Siddhaswarupananda)

Ruth and I have completed an arduous yet exhilarating tour of Kerala and Tamil Nadu regions in South India. During the 20+ hour flights home to Miami, I read an article stating that it’s best for tourists these days to travel conservatively. Following such reasoning, one should be wary of traveling to new places on their own and also limit their visits to well established tourist sites home and abroad. In this era of virus pandemics,religious extremism, and nationalistic fervor, such an argument to minimize travel risk today certainly seems very enticing.

Yet we have no regrets for following our free wandering instincts in South India. For by embracing those “off the “beaten track” moments of unfamiliar culture, food, and religion during the past sixteen days in this strangely sublime country, ten spiritual essentials described below seem clearer to me now.

1. Try meditation for myself not to please others.

2. Embrace the temporary moment of everything that surrounds me. For all must pass.

3.Displaying greater compassion for others will inspire me to find authentic spiritual moments.

4. I cannot seek spirituality. It will find me!

5. Spirituality cannot be bought or sold with my money or physical possessions.

6. Say it, sing it, dance it, or be silent with a spiritual idea. It’s all good.

7. An iPhone or WiFi connection can be a serious impediment to my sustained inner reflection.

8. Divide or unite. I must make that spiritual choice.

9. Be kind to animals to enhance my own soul.

10.Be creative in setting up my own spiritual shrine. I don’t always need a church, mosque, or temple to feed my inner soul.

I want to give special thanks to our Gate 1 tour guide Raj, who encouraged us to be free and daring on our 16 day, South India tour. I invite you to check into more blogging snippets of our South India adventure in the coming days.

How might the following photographs from our South India tour inspire you spiritually?

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