Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category

Wisdom, Number, Measure, Hunger, Thirst

November 24, 2011

(written 9-29-2000)

When we dwell as pedestrians in a land, we behold the scenery from the most intimate detail and perspective, but that very closeness and intimacy in perspective prevents us from seeing symmetry, intention and design on a grander scale, bearing profounder implications. If we ascend to a mountain peak, we lose discernment of much of the finer details, but we can begin to recognize the “lay of the land” and its geography. From an orbiting space station, we can perceive global structure. And from vantage point of another galaxy, we may comprehend cosmic design.

When we seek Divine intention, design, laws, and principles in Nature, we consider NUMBER to be the highest authority of truth. We seek mathematical certainty. Mathematical proof is the hallmark of modern science.

The Bible also associated “wisdom” with “number”. We find “wisdom” and “number” mentioned together in three verses of the King James Bible:

Job 38:37 Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven,

Psalms 90:12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Revelation 13:18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

In Job, it is our inability to number and measure creation which exhorts us to humility and surrender to the Divine Will.

In the Psalms, it is the measure of our temporal finitude which gives us pause for the reflection which leads to wisdom.

In the Book of Revelation, it is a precise number which reveals to us that person who is an embodiment of evil.

We never find “wisdom” and “measure” mentioned in the same verse in the Bible, not even in the Books of Apocrypha. Measure is a human activity and not a Divine activity.

We first encounter the word “measure” conjunction with “cubit” in Exodus 26:2 “The length of one curtain shall be eight and twenty cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits: and every one of the curtains shall have one measure.” When King Solomon is in the act of consecrating the newly finished Temple, he suddenly exclaims: 1 Kings 8:27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded? ”

A “cubit” is the length of a man’s forearm, which is subjective and variable, not objective, absolute and unchanging.

In Hebrew, cubit is ‘ammah; i.e., “mother of the arm,” the fore-arm, is a word derived from the Latin cubitus, the lower arm. It is difficult to determine the exact length of this measure, from the uncertainty whether it included the entire length from the elbow to the tip of the longest finger, or only from the elbow to the root of the hand at the wrist. The probability is that the longer was the original cubit. The common computation as to the length of the cubit makes it 20.24 inches for the ordinary cubit, and 21.888 inches for the sacred one. This is the same as the Egyptian measurements. A rod or staff the measure of a cubit is called in Judg. 3:16 _gomed_, which literally means a “cut,” something “cut off.” The lxx. and Vulgate render it “span.”

The earliest mention of “measure” is in conjunction with the precise instructions for building the Tabernacle: Exodus 26:2 The length of one curtain shall be eight and twenty cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits: and every one of the curtains shall have one measure.

The third mention of “measure” occurs together with the first appearance of the word “unrighteousness” in relation to dishonesty in trade: leviticus 19:35 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure.

Mathematicians consider “Number Theory” to be the Queen of all Mathematics. Number Theory deals with such properties of number as Odd or Even, Perfect numbers (which are the sum of their prime factors), and with such properties as “excess” and “deficiency” in multiplication.

The number Nine is a number with several very interesting properties. Nine is a Trinity of Trinities, in the sense that it contains the number three thrice times. In a Greek Orthodox liturgy, the priest or deacon will incense a Bishop NINE times, but the icon of Christ only three times because the Bishop, when vested and serving in his sacerdotal capacity, is considered to be the “Living Icon” of Christ.

Hindus consider NINE to be a divine number, because it may interact with any other number in multiplication, and yet somehow, retain its identity. Two times Nine equals 18, and 1 + 8 = 9. Three times Nine equals 27, and 2+7 = 9. Four times Nine equals 36, and 3 + 6 = 9. So Nine is perfect in this respect, whereas the other numbers are sometimes “excessive” in this respect and other times “deficient”. Two times Seven equals 14, and 1+4=5. Three times Seven equals 21, and 2+1=3. Therefore Seven is deficient in these equations. Three times Five equals 15, and 1+5 = 6. Five times Five equals 25, and 2+5=8. Number Five is excessive in these equations.

If you look at all the sacred scriptures of all the Religions, you will discover that there are only certain sentences or phrases in which is a WHOLE WORLD OF THEOLOGY.

For example, Mother Theresa put Christ’s final words from the Cross, “I thirst”, on her convent wall.

John 19:28 After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, “I thirst”.

How many times in our lives might we read this verse, and pass it by, not seeing the entire world hidden in two words?

A world hidden in a word is a pearl hidden in a field.

Hidden, amidst all the other verses of the Gospels, “out of context”, is something which opens up a whole world in the mind.

In a certain way, the very nature of our thought processes, is a non-sequitur. Hence, structure and form in writing is, in a sense, illusion, or maya. But we come to think of that ordered “structure” as the nature of reality.

Regarding the “I Thirst” of Mother Theresa, Jallaladin Rumi once said, “Do not seek water, for water is EVERYWHERE! Seek THIRST!” For without the THIRST the water is of no value to you.

In the Psalms, “O Lord, I have thirsted after Thee like a deer in a waterless land.”

I have written the preceding as a prelude to the consideration of the motif of “hunger” and “thirst” in the Scriptures.

It is most curious that there are a total of NINE verses in the entire King James Version which mention “hunger” and “thirst” in the same verse. The word “hunger” always appears first, followed by the word “thirst”.

It is significant that the word hunger should always appear first in these verses. We know that thirst will afflict us much sooner than hunger, and the pangs of thirst are far more intense and severe than hunger pangs. We can endure a much longer period of time without food than we can without fluids. Why is it that Hunger is always mentioned first, and not Thirst? Perhaps “thirst and hunger” is the human order, whereas “hunger and thirst” is the Divine order.

The word “hunger” makes its first appearance in Scriptures (Exodus 16:3) PRIOR TO the first appearance of the word “thirst” (Exodus 17:3 ).

This same consistent word order may be observed in the Apocrypha as well; “hunger” always precedes “thirst”. In the Apocrypha, we also find this most unusual verse: 2 esdras 15:58 “They that be in the mountains shall die of hunger, and eat their own flesh, and drink their own blood, for very hunger of bread, and thirst of water.” We may see in this verse the beginnings of the imagery of the Eucharist.

Because NINE is an ODD number (rather than an EVEN number), there is a mid-most verse, the FIFTH of the verses: 5.) John 6:35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

Indeed, this is a most central verse, portraying Jesus as the Bread of Life and the Living Waters.

The first occurance of hunger, (which appears BEFORE the first occurance of THIRST), Exodus 16:3 “And the children of israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

The first occurance of thirst, which inspires murmuring against Moses and God: Exodus 17:3 “And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? ”

We see here the totally Human aspect of hunger and thirst, the fallen nature of humanity, driven by appetites and desires.

The second occurance of “hunger and thirst” is 2.) Nehemiah 9:15 “And gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them.”

This is the totally Divine aspect of God, who provides food and drink, and sustains all creatures.

The third occurance of “hunger and thirst” is 3.) Isaiah 49:10 “They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.”

Here we see a prefiguring of the Book of Revelation, the New Heaven and New Earth, where there are no more tears, no more hunger or thirst or desire.

The fourth occurance is 4.) matthew 5:6 “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”

We see a UNIFICATION of hunger and thirst as ONE, no longer two, and the object of the desire is no longer physical food and water, but Righteousness. But what or Who is that Righteousness?

The fifth occurance is 5.) John 6:35 “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”

Remember that this is the MIDDLE-MOST of the nine verses, about which the other eight verses are symmetrically balanced. This verse answers our previous question “Who is that righteousness for which the blessed hunger and thirst.”

We may note that at the Last Supper, or Mystical Supper, the Institution of the Eucharist, Christ offers the broken bread FIRST, and afterwards the Cup. It is logical that the Bread or Body must be broken first, before there is Blood.

The sixth occurance of “hunger and thirst” is 6.) Romans 12:20 “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.”

This is the fulfillment of seeing the Divine Image of God in all others, even enemies. And it is We, the Mother Theresa, who now assume the role of the God-Man Christ, as we minister unto our enemies and are perhaps rent asunder, bleeding. St. athanasius said “God became man, so that Man might become God”.

The seventh occurance of “hunger and thirst” is 7.) 1 Corinthians 4:11 “Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place”, which is the Disciples/Apostles in “imitation of Christ”, taking up their cross.

The eight occurance is 8.) 2 Corinthians 11:27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.

The ninth occurance is 9.) Revelation 7:16 “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.”. Here we see that time and space, heaven and earth, pass away, and all souls dwell in the very fabric of God, which now becomes their space, light, raiment, sustenance and all things. These souls dwell in “the bosom of abraham”.

The verses ‘The Kingdom of God is WITHIN’ and ‘in my Father’s house are many mansions’ are thought provoking verses. I recently learned that it may also be translated “the kingdom of heaven is AMONG you” , which has very different implications.

If we look at the Book of Revelation, in the chapters surrounding ch. 10…. (where it says…’God shall wipe away every tear’)…. we see that THERE SHALL BE TIME NO LONGER (CH 10, verse 6), and “heavens and earth shall be rolled up as a scroll” (no more SPACE).

So, time and space ceases, and God becomes raiment, light, air, food, etc. An image which is faithful to St. Paul’s words, “ HIM we live and move and have our being–Acts 17:28” and, Acts 17: 27 “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.”

This passage, Ch. 10:6 in Revelation, depicts time and space itself passing away, and all dwell WITHIN God, within the “fabric of God” so to speak.

We do see in the parable of lazarus and the rich man that Lazarus is “in the bosom of Abraham”, which is metaphorical, but supports the notion of what is described in Revelation

What is interesting is that Christianity condemns notions of Pantheism, that God IS the universe; yet in the final analysis, based on what the Book of Revelation describes, God literally BECOMES the Universe, once the Universe passes away.

In light of the above understanding of Revelation, it would seem that the “many mansions” are WITHIN God Himself.

(a reader’s reply):

Interesting study! Indeed

John 4,10

10. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knowest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

11. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; from whence then hast thou that living water?

12. Art thou greater than our father jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?

13. Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:

14. But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (!)

I have come across a nine pointed form of star. It could be called a master blueprint.

The Seal of Solomon (six pointed star) is said to be all time and space.

Is not the manifest universe a great cycle arising out of the Source? Is not this cycle eternal? Who could count the number of mansions within Gods creation?



Dialogue with Psychiatrist in India

June 13, 2011

Dialogue With A Psychiatrist


(highlight from dialogue):
“When Individual Self perishes; Universal Self is Born”
“Only when your particular individual self perishes may that
Universal Self be born in its stead”

(Note: “Mad_Shrink” is actually a minor alteration of the screen name which he has chosen)

Mad_Shrink: Hello, Sitaram, so, how’re you doing today?

Sitaram: You are the psychiatrist whom I met on-line in yahoo chat last week, yes?

Mad_Shrink: Yes , you have a good memory

Sitaram: Yes, you were flattering. You said I was “expansive”…

Sitaram: and you said that I gave you an inferiority complex

Mad_Shrink: I accessed your website

Sitaram: Thanks for visiting.

Mad_Shrink: You have a sharper memory than I could ever imagine

Sitaram: Actually, I am very forgetful and absent-minded, but your words happend to stick in my mind.

Mad_Shrink: Yes, I read some of your inter-faith dialogues

Mad_Shrink: and think that you are expansive

Sitaram: Do you find anything useful there, or of interest?

Mad_Shrink: I’ve learnt a lot already

Sitaram: Ah, good! I like it when people learn.

Mad_Shrink: ..although I have’nt seen too many pages.

Sitaram: It is good to use our minds.

Mad_Shrink: Yes, of course.

Sitaram: Dont forget, you can download the entire site to your hard drive in minutes and view off-line.

Mad_Shrink: How does one do that?

Sitaram: You must be able to use pkzip or winzip to unzip the files that you download.

Mad_Shrink: Will you please explain, I am new to computers.

Sitaram: pkzip,winzip is free shareware, from

Sitaram: Yes… you click on my INDEX OF PAGES

Mad_Shrink: Yes?

Sitaram: Then, the first three items will download 100 pages at a time

Mad_Shrink: and then?

Sitaram: each download takes less than 5 minutes

Mad_Shrink: and then, how do I access them later?

Sitaram: then… you must have pkzip winzip installed,… which is I think from

Sitaram: When you unzip them… they expand in a directory to files called page001.htm , page002.htm, etc

Sitaram: up to page255.htm

Mad_Shrink: OK, I’ll try to do as you say

Sitaram: Then you simply key into your browser for example c:myfilespage001.htm, if the htm files are in a folder called myfiles on drive c: , and you will be viewing everything in your brower… but without need for internet

Mad_Shrink: I want you to talk to me today about the Bhagvad Gita, please?

Mad_Shrink: if you wish

Sitaram: Did you give me your email… are you on my email list?

Sitaram: I send out about 5 articles today…..

Mad_Shrink: what, in your erudite opinion, is the essence of the Bhagvad? in very brief

Mad_Shrink: your knowledge of comparative theology is indeed awesome

Sitaram: Thanks for kind words….

Mad_Shrink: and you are well-read, indeed

Sitaram: Some of the articles I send out are simply interesting ones I find on the internet…

Sitaram: Today, I found a nice one on srimad Bhagavatam

Mad_Shrink: I often wonder how you found so much time to do so much?

Mad_Shrink: anything you’d like to tell me about the Bhagvad Gita, once again, please?

Sitaram: well… I just emailed you that one article on srimad bhagavatam

Sitaram: but… since you ask…

Sitaram: I will say….. some of the things i like to mention frequently from Gita

Mad_Shrink: I’d like to know your perception of the essence of the Gita not quotations, please, if you do not mind

Sitaram: Ch 4 vs 11 In whatever way people approach Me, I accept them…

Mad_Shrink: your own viewpoint

Sitaram: people everywhere follow My path….

Mad_Shrink: so, do that

Mad_Shrink: I approach you in this way

Sitaram: of course…. there are other translations of that verse which are more sectarian….

Mad_Shrink: no quotations, please, talk to me, don’t show off your knowledge

Sitaram: hmmm….. but…. I am trained to think in this fashion… giving references for everything….

Mad_Shrink: I want to know the essence of the Gita, in your opinion, your views

Sitaram: usually, people reject anything which is not substantiated

Mad_Shrink: No, I am interested in you as a person relating to me, not as a mouth-piece

Sitaram: It is like asking me to write to you, but without using letters of the alphabet, since I would be showing off my knowledge of the alphabet

Mad_Shrink: You have a point

Sitaram: to talk about Gita,… we must quote the Gita

Sitaram: to talk about Gospels, we must quote Gospels

Mad_Shrink: but the analogy is not quite accurate

Mad_Shrink: I am seeking your opinion

Mad_Shrink: I do not mean to say that I know so much that I can discuss with you

Sitaram: there are a certain number of dialogues at my website, where I speak theology apart from any scripture or textual reference….

Mad_Shrink: I am interested in relating to YOU

Sitaram: yet you must realize that whatever I say,…. I am only the sum total of everything which I have internalized…

Mad_Shrink: here, on the net

Sitaram: I have a suggestion for you,… an idea….

Mad_Shrink: fine, tell me

Sitaram: have you ever read Dostoevsky?

Mad_Shrink: yes

Sitaram: the Brothers Karamazov?

Mad_Shrink: No , I have read Crime and Punishment and The Idiot

Sitaram: the first 100 pages or so is an account given by the fictional character, the monk Zossima….in Brothers Karamazov

Mad_Shrink: You are very factually oriented, brother

Sitaram: the monk Zossima tells how as a young man, he rejected a career in the military to take up the orthodox monastic spiritual life

Mad_Shrink: I wonder how your family ever coped with you, or did they?

Sitaram: But I am trying to make a point for you…

Mad_Shrink: Alright , go ahead

Sitaram: If you read Doestoevsky’s account… you will see that….

Mad_Shrink: yes?

Sitaram: Someone like Zossima…. BECOMES ZOSSIMA,…. precisely by internalizing all the scriptures until they become second nature

Mad_Shrink: Yes

Sitaram: in other words…. the indivuality of Zossima is not what is interesting

Mad_Shrink: That is true, indeed, but you are stuck midway

Sitaram: that individuality dies as part of the spiritual developmental process; that which TRULY interests us is the personality which evolves as a living embodiment of those scriptures and traditions….

Mad_Shrink: I also thought, albeit open to criticism, that you are a poor listener

Sitaram: so…. a Ramakrishna, or a Ramana Marharshi fascinates us PRECISELY because their own individuality perished as they became LIVING EMBODIMENTS of the traditions that they represent.

Mad_Shrink: You are pontifical

Sitaram: but.. I am addressing myself in a very precise way to your first objection… but you do not have the attention span to pursue the thought to its conclusion…. ( I know that sounds harsh), and you mix in too much of I, Me, My ego which makes it difficult for you to listen and perhaps benefit…

Mad_Shrink: I merely asked you to tell me your view of the essence of the Gita, from your gleanings

Sitaram: but… then in a bizzare fashion… you forbade me to quote from the Gita…

Mad_Shrink: to quote, yes

Sitaram: Yet anyone and everyone who speaks on Gita is expected to quote from gita

Mad_Shrink: But where was your originality?

Sitaram: The object is precisely NOT to be original.. that is the very point that you are missing… Although I have written 2000 pages on these things.. which you may download and read…. yet you want me to speak DIRECTLY to you… on the same subject… which is a desire that stems from your personal ego….

Mad_Shrink: Do i have a right to disagree?

Sitaram: So when I try to oblige your desire…

Mad_Shrink: Yes, I am listening

Sitaram: then you feel you must CONTROL the manner in which I discourse

Mad_Shrink: Fine, go ahead

Sitaram: which also stems from your personal ego…

Mad_Shrink: and tell me using the form you wish

Sitaram: I am merely trying to hold up for you a mirror so you may perhaps see your own psychodynamics

Mad_Shrink: I understand and I do not mean any offence

Sitaram: you currently have obstacles, impediments to your inquiry…

Mad_Shrink: for at a level, I have tremendous respect for a person such as you

Sitaram: until you understand and remove these ego impediments… you will not benefit from readings or discourse

Mad_Shrink: Yes, I am grateful that you point this out

Sitaram: If you truly want to understand, and to BECOME the Gita, Upanisads, Gospels, Dhammapada… then you must give up desires for originality

Mad_Shrink: but you could have just said that earlier

Sitaram: Only when your particular individual self perishes may that Universal Self be born in its stead.

Mad_Shrink: stopped me there, saying that you will decide the form or that it is not possible for you to have me control the way you would answer the question

Sitaram: so, getting back to Doestoyevsky, Zossima is of interest only when, through a process, his individuality dies… and Zossima becomes an embodiment of the Gospels….

Mad_Shrink: I understand

Sitaram: but if you can manage to download my website to your local drive you can read for yours the highlights of dialogues I have had over past 2 years….

Mad_Shrink: why do you always get back to your website?

Sitaram: which is, in some ways BETTER than speaking to me directly

Mad_Shrink: You probably are right, I’ll try that

Sitaram: Since I am an organic being… with moments of weariness, forgetfulness, etc….

Mad_Shrink: Your style is too expansive for me

Sitaram: …so, writing is a tool which distills and synthesizes something that is MORE than me at any given moment

Mad_Shrink: I prefer a simple, straightforward chat, do not mean to be hurtful

Sitaram: If we could chat with Plato or Socrates… it would not be as rewarding as a Platonic dialogue for the same reason…

Mad_Shrink: but I find your manner a trifle adversarial

Sitaram: Those figures which we admire in history… we come to know them ONLY THROUGH that distillation of writing and tradition

Mad_Shrink: I know exactly what you mean

Sitaram: Which by its very nature is LARGER THAN LIFE…

Mad_Shrink: You are right! Yes, sitaram

Sitaram: SO you see, if you met me face to face… well… I might be a disappointment after the ME that you might come to know through my writings

Mad_Shrink: sure

Sitaram: but I understand peoples need to have something straight from “the horses mouth” so to speak…

Sitaram: actually,.. you have raised some intersting issues in this dialogue of ours

Mad_Shrink: Thank you, sitaram, like what for instance?

Mad_Shrink: What issues?

Mad_Shrink: Please?

Sitaram: Well… our entire discussion of the person we meet in writings vs the person in real life

Mad_Shrink: and one may now add net life

Sitaram: that the literary persona is LARGER than life…. just like the moviestar on screen is more striking than in person


Reader response to Dialogue with Psychiatrist

===== (a readers response):

I enjoyed that post of your dialogue with the psychiatrist. Would a meeting with the Buddha be a disappointment? All the stories I’ve read about encounters with the Buddha (or Ramkrishna Paramhansa) are eloquent about the peace radiating from the person. The person impressed more than the words. Would you then make a distinction between (learning and knowledge) on one hand and (enlightenment and self-knowledge) on the other? Can the latter be attained without the former?

I have a question that I think Mad-Shrink was leading to… With all your learning of Theology, Hindu and otherwise, would you consider yourself to be happy and enlightened?

I’m not trying to be rude. I’m just curious.

=============(my reply):

Actually, you are correct in pointing out that Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharshi and others wrote little or nothing themselves, and did radiate a tremendous grace or peace. In fact, Someset Maughm had a meeting with Ramana Maharshi and, because he was an “intellectual” totally conditioned to that “literary presence”, he totally missed the point of sitting with Ramana Maharshi in silence. I was rather hastily trying to make a point to the psychiatrist, a point which still has validity, though it does not precisely apply to people like Ramakrishna or Ramana Maharshi.

Lord Krisha said “Better to do ONE’S OWN DHARMA, even if imperfectly, rather than to do another’s Dharma to perfection.

I am reminded of some of those New Yorker cartoons of the clown sitting in his dressing room forlornly reciting Hamlet before the mirror. The clown desires to play Hamlet. Mr. Spock of Star Trek grows to detest his portrayal of a Vulcan alien, to the point of writing a book entitled “I am not Spock”.

I am a failure at many different things at life, but curiously successful in this strange little thing I have been doing for the past two years. I personally believe that I am doing that Dharma which I was ment to do in this lifetime, however imperfectly I may be doing it. I myself am a means to some greater end. That end has nothing to do with my own personal happiness or enlightenment, other than the fact that it is “good” to do ones own Dharma, to surrender to it. I am also aware that I may very likely pay for my activities one day with my life. That is something which I realized long ago and accepted as “part of the job”. If you take what I was told in my dream with any seriousness, in page 1 of my website, then you realize that I must be reborn several more times to be “purified” through suffering.

One of the pages at my website states that “we are exactly what we should be at each point in time”. Someone was scandalized by this and said, “Does that mean that people should be prostitutes or drug dealers.” My answer was that people like Gandhi and Mother Theresa and Ramana Maharshi were as much ineluctably drawn to satyagraha, charity, and ascetical tapas, as the thief or prostitute or drug addict is drawn to their life and activities. It is part of a karmic cause and effect that each of us must work through. There was a necessity for Hitler and Ravanna; without them there would be no Schindler’s List, and no Ramanand Sagar (or Tulsidas) Ramayan. For all we know, a bee is happy makeing honey, the viper is happy making venom, and the cow is “happy” making milk; yet all three drink from the same pool of water to quench their thirst.

Bottom line: If you are circus clown, and know you were meant to be a circus clown, and have surrendered to that Dharma, then be a GOOD circus clown. Dont pine away because you are not playing Hamlet.

(the reader then asks):

Why didn’t Krsna reveal the message of the Geeta to Duryodhan? If Arjun *needed* the Geeta at that point because he was hesitating from doing his duty, does that mean that the Kauravas were ‘better’ (in a loose sense)? They were fairly committed to their Dharma. Is there a bias in the cosmos towards ‘good’ or is there no such thing as ‘good’? What does the Geeta say about this? Why did Krsna side with the Pandavas?

I understand intuitively when you say that your dharma may not be coupled strongly with your peace of mind.

Your comment about the viper reminded me of a rather heart-warming thought that I read in this book called ‘The snake-bite survivor’s club’ or something like that. It was to the effect that ‘It is only in India that you might learn not to fear the snake, and indeed learn to love it.’


(my reply):

Why does Lord Krsna manifest to Arjuna and not Duryodhan? Lord Krishna says (paraphrasing): “Whenever righteousness declines, and unrighteousness increases, I will descend and Manifest Myself, in every age.”

It is true that Lord Krishna appeared to Arjuna, but that does not mean that the Supreme Lord manifests to EACH and every one of us personally when we are in need.

Through all the centuries of history of the Jewish peoples, God appeared in some personal fashion to only a relative handful: Moses, Abraham, Samuel, David, Job, Elijah, Elisha, etc.

It IS TRUE that God will manifest in some way to each of us during our lives, if we are ripe for it, but for the majority of us, that manifestation is WITHIN our reading, meditation, and absorption into such Divine Lilas as the Geeta, Gospels, the Torah, etc. And if we take the Anugita seriously, with Arjuna’s predicament, that even though he was given spiritualized vision and was allowed to see the Lord’s Universal Form or Satsvarup; now the radiance of that experience was fading to a dim memory, and Arjuna approaches Krishna asking what he should do.

Even though only certain Apostles beheld the Transfiguration of Christ on Mt. Tabor as a radian Being of Light surrounded by Prophets in transcendent dialogue, yet when that moment ended, as all moments end, those apostles were left with there original embodied human frailty and doubts.

That is why Jesus said “Yea, blessed are you who see these things, but far more blessed are those who never see and yet believe.” In the Ramayan, Shabari’s most blessed moment was NOT when she met her Lord Ram face to face; but was rather that moment in her devotion, her bhakti when she attracted the Lord’s attention. Lord Krishna says a very perplexing thing: “All sentient beings, embodied jivas, are the same in My eyes and I treat them all equally; yet My devotee is most dear to me.” This would seem to be a contradiction, would it not?

Since the Lord as the author and master of all dualities transcends all dualities, i.e. is immanent in each quality as its source (I am the cleverness of the cheater, I am the old man upon the staff, I am the young maiden, I am the green parrot with the red eyes); hence the eight siddhis or powers of the Lord seem mutually contradictory. The Lord may become infinitely great, or infinitessimally small; He may become heavy as a mountain, or light as a feather….. etc etc…. but here is the most significant of the Lord’s abilities… He may become absolute master, BUT ALSO HE MAY SUFFER ABSOLUTE BONDAGE AND SERVITUDE.

One of the names of Lord Krsna is Damodar, which means “bound at the waiste or stomach”.

When Mother Yashoda attempts to bind young Lord Krsna to a pillar for His impish pranks, she discovers that all the rope in the village is not enought to encompass Him. No matter how much she adds, it always falls short by half an inch. But finally, Lord Krishna allows Himself to be bound. Is this not strikingly similar to the Crucifixion? The imagery is the same, The Infinite takes human birth and suffers to be bound.

It is bhakti (devotion) which binds the Lord.

I could say much much more, but this post is sufficiently long.


SOME WEEKS LATER (9/20/2000),… the dialogue with Mad_Shrink resumes:

Mad_Shrink: STOP “I” ing me to death with every sentence. Simply talk with me without constantly saying “I”, “I”, “I”

=======connection is lost

Mad_Shrink: You left! Was I too harsh? Did I anger you?

Mad_Shrink: sorry

Sitaram: no.. i clicked wrong button and closed the chat window

Mad_Shrink: fine

Mad_Shrink: yes, back to your question “is there some the confluence of all religions”

Sitaram: sorry for my grammer…. i was taught from ealiest childhood that it is the greatest impropriety to stray from correct grammar and spelling, so I do not feel comfortable unless I frequently use the personal pronoun.

Mad_Shrink: never mind

Sitaram: it is a cultural thing…

Mad_Shrink: let’s talk about religion

Mad_Shrink: the confluence

Mad_Shrink: the Jehad

Mad_Shrink: please

Sitaram: ok… wait a minute.. i want to take a moment to add you to my yahoo pager list… this yahoo pager is very new to me

Mad_Shrink: i do not wish to do that

Mad_Shrink: please

Sitaram: aha.. it worked fine…

Sitaram: ohhh… sorry.. didnt see your last post

Sitaram: so.. then… simply deny request

Mad_Shrink: never mind

Sitaram: sorry

Mad_Shrink: never mind

Mad_Shrink: accepted

Sitaram: didnt mean to be presumptuous

Mad_Shrink: but you always are presumptuous

Mad_Shrink: never mind

Sitaram: you see.. i have a problem with absentminded ness….. and i speak with hundreds…. so its more convenient,for people i really like

Mad_Shrink: the confluence of all religions

Sitaram: to have them on a buddy list

Sitaram: ok back to confluence

Mad_Shrink: what is the common thread running through all the religions?

Sitaram: let me gather my thoughts one second

Sitaram: we must distinguish between two aspects of “confluence”,…. point of origin (more properly effluence, i suppose), and teleological/eschatological confluence (or unity) if that should indeed ever come to pass

Mad_Shrink: what is eschatological mean?

Sitaram: there is the issue of the common origin/source of all religiosity/spirituality….

Mad_Shrink: sorry

Mad_Shrink: what does,,,,,,

Mad_Shrink: yes

Mad_Shrink: what is eschatology?

Sitaram: in greek (you must be patient with me, i speak greek, and someties think in greek)

Mad_Shrink: please

Mad_Shrink: oh

Mad_Shrink: i see

Sitaram: eschatos means temporal end…… but not necessary a final teleology or goal towards which something is perfecting

Sitaram: Teleios means “end” in the sense of a perfected goal towards which things were striving

Mad_Shrink: what is your understanding of the Holy Spirit?

Sitaram: for example… if the sun explodes tomorrow, or a comet strikes the earth,… that is the eschatological end of things (but with no purpose of design…)… simply a temporal end

Sitaram: but…. a “final judgement” a “second coming” a “new heaven/new earth”… the things which Abrahamic religions dwell on… such is a teleiological end

Mad_Shrink: fine

Mad_Shrink: thank you

Mad_Shrink: Holy Spirit?

Sitaram: and… to have an even better understanding… it helps to be somewhat familiar, as a good example of this, of the thinking of Hegel…. and his notion of “an end of History”,

Sitaram: sorry.. i know you are now impatient to change subjects to “holy spirit”

Sitaram: though we have not delt adequately with first question of “confluence of all religions”

Mad_Shrink: not a “change” of subjects at all

Sitaram: but… i aim to please….

Sitaram: ok… regarding question of Holy Spirit… one moment

Mad_Shrink: please do not aim to please me

Mad_Shrink: i wonder how you must be in your personal life

Mad_Shrink: you hardly ever pay attention to what the other is saying…..

Sitaram: it is my nature, a cultural thing… like the grammar business of personal pronouns,… or my habit of trying to proceed along one line of thought in a certain progression

Mad_Shrink: perhaps because you have so much to tell

Sitaram: you are unfair in your criticism…. because i am bending over backwards to do things “your way”….

Mad_Shrink: very linear

Sitaram: not that im angry or offended… but in one breath.. you say “do not try to please me”.. but in another….you insist that everything be “your way” =======(loss of internet connection. I log back in and resume dialogue)

Mad_Shrink: hi

Mad_Shrink: glad i waited

Sitaram: sorry… i often loose connection

Mad_Shrink: what happened?

Mad_Shrink: you were logged out?

Sitaram: static on phone line

Sitaram: perhaps

Mad_Shrink: oh

Sitaram: sometimes i get 6 hours straight… no problems

Mad_Shrink: i do not mean to hurt you

Sitaram: other time, i get “booted” every 30 minutes

Mad_Shrink: but in a dialogue, you can’t necessarily be so linear

Sitaram: no… actually… i think i rather understand the “psychodamics” of how you perceive me, and interact with me…

Mad_Shrink: one often gets interrupted

Mad_Shrink: and one has to change

Mad_Shrink: track

Sitaram: but… were i to speak candidly… you would think me presumptuous

Mad_Shrink: you may not be able to reach the completion of a thought

Mad_Shrink: unless you are alone

Mad_Shrink: i believe you are not a good listener

Sitaram: you see… you were quite accurate, in our initial meeting, when you described me as “expansive”

Mad_Shrink: but you want complete conformity from those who listen to you

Mad_Shrink: in the way they need to listen

Sitaram: but… you fail to see that it is YOU who insists on complete conformity… an you project that on me…

Mad_Shrink: till you have completed your linear thought to it’s logical conclusion

Sitaram: if i may share something with you in all sincerity and candor

Mad_Shrink: i think there is a mismatch here

Mad_Shrink: please share

Mad_Shrink: waiting, Sir

Sitaram: in the past 2 years… of chatting with literally hundreds of people.. literally 12 and 16 hours per day….. you are unique in certain things which you have insisted upon/or said

Mad_Shrink: this was not candid

Sitaram: and… my website is a audit trail of many of those dialogues

Mad_Shrink: not candid at all

Sitaram: im not finished with my thought

Mad_Shrink: waiting, Sir

Sitaram: you lack the patience to even allow me to compose my thoughts and express myself

Mad_Shrink: fine

Mad_Shrink: and do you ever listen?

Sitaram: in 2 year (full time)… with HUNDREDS…no one has become angry at my use of personal pronouns… for example

Sitaram: no one has ever insisted that i discuss a scripture.. but use absolutely no quotations…

Mad_Shrink: fine, so that is unique?

Sitaram: i am trying to help you get some insight into your own “personality”

Mad_Shrink: so?

Mad_Shrink: so?

Mad_Shrink: so?

Mad_Shrink: you are indeed kind

Sitaram: you are a VERY PROUD individual… and that pride gets in your way…

Mad_Shrink: sarcasm very much intended

Mad_Shrink: how do you know?

Sitaram: you see.. you are angry… and i am not

Mad_Shrink: yes, i am proud

Sitaram: i realize that it is difficult for a physician, such as yourself, to approach someone such as me, a self taught layperson, with no degrees….

Mad_Shrink: that is untrue

Sitaram: it is the very nature of our society to view MDs in a special light

Mad_Shrink: untrue, again

Mad_Shrink: some deserve it

Sitaram: even our President is “Mr President”…. but we always say Dr. and Mrs. Smith

Sitaram: you know.. I will share something with you that I read in David Viscott’s autobiographical book “The Making of a Psychiatrist”

Mad_Shrink: please do

Sitaram: Viscott pointed out the great irony that….. the very process of Medical School and Residency to train a Psychiatrist, tends to allow only those who are “hard boiled owls”…. to make the grade

Sitaram: in other words… thick skinned, highly competitive, driven…etc

Mad_Shrink: yes, true in general

Mad_Shrink: now you will be happy because i agreed with you

Sitaram: and yet in practice… they are engaged in an activity which requires compassion in the utmost… and perhaps…. a great degree of humility

Sitaram: aha.. but… you again project YOUR OWN happiness at “receiving approval”… upon me

Sitaram: if you will read through my website.. you will understand how little such agreement means to me……

Mad_Shrink: sitaram, thank you for your valuable insights, i would like to leave

Sitaram: i am sorry you feel that way

Mad_Shrink: bye, sitaram

Sitaram: i do hope, if you are calmed down… you will chat with me in the future

Mad_Shrink: well, you are overestimating me

Mad_Shrink: bye, sitaram

Mad_Shrink: sitaram?

Sitaram: this is very sad

Sitaram: i hope you reflect upon these issues

Mad_Shrink: sure

Mad_Shrink: sure

Sitaram: actually… we both have something to gain by continued dialogue

Mad_Shrink: bye, sitaram

Sitaram: bye…

Mad_Shrink: bye

Sitaram: you must one day confront this enemy within you

Sitaram: or you will never know peace

Mad_Shrink: which enemy?

Mad_Shrink: which enemy?

Mad_Shrink: which enemy?

Sitaram: your anger, your pride… your stubbornness… your desire to control

Mad_Shrink: thank you, again

Sitaram: you will not be able to properly serve your patients… unless you change

Sitaram: I can help you with some suggested readings.. such as David Viscott’s autobiography… and some other works in psychology, psychiatry

Sitaram: such readings would not be the advice of a layperson like myself…but would be words from fellow physicians

Mad_Shrink: thank you, sitaram, you send mail regularly anyway

Mad_Shrink: bye, sitaram

Sitaram: bye… I am most saddened by your behavior

Sitaram: for your sake..not for my own

Mad_Shrink: i meant that in your mail, you send references anyway

Mad_Shrink: for that, we do not have to chat

Sitaram: would you prefer that i send you some thoughts on this matter in email…

Mad_Shrink: no, please

Sitaram: perhaps you would find email less upsetting than on line chat

Mad_Shrink: you have humiliated me enough, without bothering to get to know or understand me

Sitaram: but… it is you who humiliate yourself… that is what the demon of pride does…

Mad_Shrink: alright

Sitaram: look at great personalities like Jesus or Gandhi…. who were never humiliated…

Mad_Shrink: how would you know?

Sitaram: humility is the vaccination against humiliation

Mad_Shrink: how would you know?

Sitaram: it is most evident in their lives and writings….

Mad_Shrink: but you have taught me one thing

Sitaram: you know a very great woman Eleanor Roosevelt said it best…

Sitaram: No one can humiliate you without your consent

Mad_Shrink: and that is, this kind of dialogue cannot appreciate the non-verbal nuances of expression

Sitaram: she was a very unattractive woman, in the public eye, with a handicapped husband who was unfaithful to her

Mad_Shrink: thank you for that

Mad_Shrink: this is a very deficient “form”

Sitaram: yet.. she never allowed herself to be humiliated



Sitaram: humiliation and anger is an admmission of defeat

Sitaram: I do not have a great desire “to be right”

Mad_Shrink: I take this lesson today with me

Sitaram: I do have a desire to assist others who are trying to improve themselves… along whatever path


Mad_Shrink: YES

Sitaram: are you sincere… or is this sarcasm


Mad_Shrink: THANK YOU

Mad_Shrink: NO

Mad_Shrink: SINCERE


Sitaram: have I truly helped you see something of value

Mad_Shrink: IN THE MIND

Sitaram: ?

Mad_Shrink: YES, YOU HAVE

Sitaram: there is perhaps a purpose for our meeting…


Sitaram: things do not happen without purpose

Sitaram: there is something which you need from me, and you have been attracted to communicate with me….


Sitaram: we must both be patient and discover what that “something ” is…

Mad_Shrink: yes

Mad_Shrink: yes

Mad_Shrink: yes

Mad_Shrink: but not on this impersonal net

Sitaram: i have a suggestion… but perhaps you will find my suggestion strange, or even egotistical… but… it has come to my mind just now

Mad_Shrink: this is definitely my last net chat with you

Sitaram: really!

Mad_Shrink: tell me, please

Sitaram: I thought you were finding something of value.. with your last statements

Sitaram: ah… my suggestion…

Mad_Shrink: what came to your mind just now?

Sitaram: I am thinking of Ramana Maharshi…..

Mad_Shrink: yes

Sitaram: how people would come and simply have “darshan”, sit silently in his presence….

Sitaram: when we look into someones face… something is communicated…

Sitaram: so.. here is my strange idea…..

Mad_Shrink: true

Mad_Shrink: yes?

Sitaram: get a photo of ramana marharshi… and also a picture (drawing of Shirdi Sai Baba)…..

Sitaram: and finally… go to page 1 of my website and print out the photo of me there…..

Sitaram: perform this unusual experiment….

Mad_Shrink: and?

Sitaram: spend some time looking at those three pictures…. ramana and sai for the obvious darshan…

Mad_Shrink: and?

Sitaram: but look too at my picture… my face…. to access that about me…in me… which does not come easily in typed words

Mad_Shrink: ok

Sitaram: and perhaps…. something in you will change, which will facilitate further discussions

Mad_Shrink: bye, sitaram

Sitaram: of course.. another possibility in the future is yahoo voice chat in a private chat room,

Sitaram: where we can hear each others voice

Sitaram: do you think my idea has any merit… or does it seem foolish to you?

Mad_Shrink: i do not know

Sitaram: you need not answer today

Mad_Shrink: fine, thank you, sitaram

Sitaram: your welcome

Mad_Shrink: may i leave now?

Sitaram: certainly… i hope you return

Mad_Shrink: bye

Mad_Shrink: God Bless

Sitaram: the both of us… blessing

Mad_Shrink: i am small, you are knowledgeable

Mad_Shrink: bye

How should we pray, when and for what?

January 4, 2011

Joel: Have you tried praying about it? I know people with more guts than I who would actually turn such a place into a mission field (seriously). I’ve found God really enjoys these tough nut cases because He does the unexpected to resolve them in a way that nothing you could have done would do.

Well, Joel, if prayer is effective, the would it not suffice for YOU to pray on his behalf and of course, since Jesus said one should not pray on the street corner, you would modestly keep the fact to yourself. And, why stop there? Pray for and end to war and poverty. Pray for a cure to AIDS and cancer. Pray the ultimate prayer that no further prayer would be necessary because all that is needful would be done. Or, perhaps it is simply God’s will that the world be exactly as it is. Do you think God is sitting around waiting for someone to pray for something? Does it make sense to you when a football prayer makes a touchdown that he kneels on the field and thanks Jesus. Do you think Jesus is sitting up in heaven watching all the disease and war and suffering and murder and torture that goes on every day and Jesus really cares about some disgustingly overpaid athlete making another touchdown or goal or home run? DO YOU? Tell me! With all due respect, I really want to know, because if you really believe these things then I question the soundness of your judgment and values and it would be to your benefit to re-assess your beliefs.

David: For having never met you, and disagreeing with you on any number of things, I have nonetheless found your insights and challenging comments to be one of the values of a medium such as Facebook. I appreciate the perspective you bring to discussions, and the earnest manner in which you seek knowledge and truth.

All that said, I think your last comment crossed the line in terms of educated, and polite discourse. There are ways to make your point without slipping into such brutal verbosity with someone you don’t otherwise know, and in a medium where the softer elements of direct communication are not available to gentle the impact of such language.

This was the first time I’ve ever seriously contemplated deleting a comment from a blog/webpage/whatever I’ve had some control over. I tend to be rather guarded with whom I choose to deal because I believe that sensitive issues need to be both discussed and yet done so with sensitivity–something depressingly lacking from nearly all wide-open public fora… In the past I have found you to be someone both capable of genuine insight, and deft touch.

I’m very saddened that you have failed to live up to the standard of excellence that I have otherwise learned to expect from you.

I think you should all have the courage to confront my the obvious things which I point out. If you don’t have that courage, then what is the value of your prayers going to be?

In fact, check out the Epistle of II Peter, ch. 3, 16 I think which you will rarely hear any sermons on but it basically says that “there are people who are weak in understanding and twist and distort various verses of scripture to their own destruction.” If I am correct in what I point out, then it is a serious matter. And if I am obviously in error, then I am just a foolish old man. But you know what? At least I have the guts to say exactly what I think. Thats what the martyrs did. They said exactly what they think even upon pain of death.

I suggest that you leave my post and let anyone who cares to reply and either refute me which will be to my instruction or perhaps agree with me and benefit from the correction which I offer. What meaning does freedom of speech have if we delete things that make us uncomfortable or that we do not know how to respond to? I happen to have a rabid atheist on my list who repeatedly attacks me whenever I say anything positive about any religion. I give her challenging responses and I refuse to delete or defriend her or delete a word of what she posts because that would be cowardice on my part.

Oh… and I would pray really hard (and I’m not being facetious) before I did this and while this was going on. I’d like to address William’s comments, who made reference to 2 Peter 3:16, which says, “He [Paul] writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” What does Paul talk about? Well, in 1 Thess. 5:17, Paul himself says, “Pray without ceasing.” So, one might make the argument that one of the difficult things that Paul talks about (and Peter references in 2 Pet. 3:16) is constant prayer – and “ignorant and unstable” (to use Peter’s words) distort what Paul and others say about prayer in the Scriptures to their own destruction.

Why pray? Because as a Believer, I’m commanded to do so, and I’ve seen it work. James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” As a Christian, I don’t see prayer as a Santa Claus wish list, but rather it is talking to an all-powerful and living God, Creator of Heaven and Earth. It is communicating with my Savior.

So, I don’t know about all those touchdown prayers or the problems in the world with suffering. But personally I think it demonstrates a hubris and lack of faith in the human soul to go about tasks without prayer. For me, it is saying to God, “I can solve this on my own… I don’t need you.” And yet, I am so guilty of doing this so often. Prayer is not passing the buck. It’s not saying, “I’m not going to do anything about this, but I’ll pray.” It’s not as former gov. Jesse Ventura said, “a crutch for weak people.” Sometimes the answer to prayer will compel us to action (that has been the case in some of my experiences). But we will never know unless we pray.

I also pray because I know that I myself can’t change people’s hearts. And to be honest, that’s the real problem in this thread. There’s a drug dealer and a cop with a calloused core, and I myself can’t change that. We can report people, send them to jail, take action, but no matter how many correctional facilities we build, we can’t change the heart of the individual. Perhaps many of our world problems have continued to worsen because of our lack of prayer… which is due to our misconception of prayer – that we should only take a knee when we’ve reached the proverbial end zone.

William: @Justin: Good advice. Good rebuttal. Thank you for your effort. The fact that I do not see eye to eye with you should not detract from the fact that I admire your detailed reply.

I see all the theology from the Reformation on as a demonic distortion which in no way represents the piety of the first thousand years of Christianity (East and West.) I find it hubristic and deluded for someone to claim that they know “just the sort of problems” that God likes to work on. And I find it Pharisaical for people to publicly boast of their spiritual activities on the street corner or on the Internet or to suggest to others who obviously have religious education that they might consider actually praying over the matter.

I wonder if God would be MORE pleased if those thousands of spectators crammed into the stadium squandering their time and money on overpriced beer and hot dogs would all stay home and pray and take all that money and donate it to alleviate human suffering (or even animal suffering) but some seem to feel that it is sufficient if all those bleary-eyed bloated spectators look on as one of the athletes “takes the knee.” And why is it that the losers do not “take the knee” in prayer in gratitude for their defeat? Are we only supposed to be grateful over gain and victory or are we supposed to be grateful over loss and suffering? I though James said something about “I count it all joy.”

Now Paul is not specific in WHAT things he advocates in this passage but I feel that some of the points I made conform to this advice: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Based upon your personal understanding of sort of person that Jesus is and based upon your personal understanding of what the Republican and the Democratic parties stand for do you envision Jesus as a Democrat or a Republican (and explain what you see in Jesus and what you see in the party that causes you to see Jesus as aligned with that party.)
It is fascinating to read biographies of Darwin who actually seriously considered a career in the clergy. Darwin had his own long, slow struggle over faith. When Darwin published his “On the Origin of the Species and the Descent of Man” he expected that only a few thousand scientists would bother to purchase and read the book. Darwin never dreamed that every butcher, baker and candlestick maker would buy a copy. In my opinion, the REASON that the general public was so attracted was that they WANTED to find something to discredit the organized religion which forbade them to indulge in things which they secretly desired (but this is only my conjecture.)

I should state for the record that I consider evolution to be no longer a theory but a scientific fact proven time and again. The theologians of the first several centuries of Christianity were big on metaphorical interpretation and not literal fundamentalists. Basil the Great wrote a homily on “The Six Day Creations” (Hexemeron) in which he points out that “with God a day is as 1000 years and 1000 years is as a day” and hence the 6 days might be a metaphor. It was the condemned heretic Marcion who FIRST suggested the idea of a canon of approved scriptures in a certain sequence. It was Bishop Irenaeus of the 2nd century who coined the metaphorical understanding that there should be EXACTLY four Gospels because of the vision of the prophet Ezekiel of the flying object with four faces and because of a similar verse in the Book of Revelation. The ancient pagans had little respect for anything which did not trace back to antiquity so the early Christian teachers had to be quite metaphorical and demonstrate that actually Christianity was quite ancient and concealed in the Old Testament as well as in various ancient pagan writers. I think Augustine said “the New Testament is in the Old Testament concealed and the Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed.”


One would think that devout people of various religions would reject modern medicine on the grounds that scientists are evolutionists and a bad tree has never produced good fruit. Women should refuse any form of pain medication during child birth since the Bible condemns them to bring forth children with travail. Those Muslims who endeavor to mimic the Prophet Mohammad down to every detail of his life (even plucking his underarm hairs) should refuse any form of anesthesia since anesthesia is a form of intoxication and the Qur’an forbids intoxicants. Of course the clever Imams have come up with arguments as to why modern medicine is acceptable. People who object to abortions should refuse to seek the assistance of fertility specialists when they cannot conceive but simply accept God’s will that they must be childless.


The REAL question is NOT what Jesus himself would or would not do (since we can never know that) but rather for each reader to confront their own personal understanding of the personality of Jesus and their understanding of what the political parties stand for. Anyone who fails to engage in this exercise is simply evading the real issues of expressing your own personal values and understanding. Sadly our educations often teach us how to be evasive and fool others and, worst of all, deceive ourselves.


I commend David for his courage to resist the understandable temptation to delete my post but instead allow for this free discussion. I am pleased to know that there are some who give prayerful thanks even in defeat or disappointment. I must do some things today and so I will comment on and off but I value this sort of challenge. I have greater respect for Roman Catholicism than for the Reformation Churches but I have greatest respect for the small minority of old calendar Greek (and some Russian) Orthodox who most closely resemble what I understand to be the Christianity of the first 800 years. I must do some chores right now but I shall continue to think upon these things and post what comes to mind. I shall also make a test post on David’s wall just to see if there is some FB qwirk which prohibits you from posting. Right after I made my previous post quoting Paul’s ” if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” it occurred to me that right here is a problem, a conflict, for what can it mean for Paul in one verse to recommend to everyone to “pray at all times without ceasing” but in another verse to exhort people to “think on these things” (and without specifying any details about what sort of things they might be or whether there even are such worthwhile things.) And now I shall do the test post to David’s wall, and do some chores, and give some more thought to this thread.

IIRC David’s wall is private because of problems with his father. I can’t find the post but I recall seeing it a while back.

While I have stirred the pot on David’s wall before, I had no such intent and yet I found myself having to scroll on my smartphone about this notification. And scroll. And scroll…

There’s not enough room in FB to fully digress about the problem of suffering so I will leave that there. But reading the other responses has been interesting. Specifically this quote

“I find it hubristic and deluded for someone to claim that they know “just the sort of problems” that God likes to work on.”

It might sound hubristic but it’s fully biblical. Hubris would be “heaven helps him who helps himself”, implying that we need to help God along somehow. God expects you to do your part. You can’t stand in a fallow field and pray for corn without sowing it with corn. In David’s case, the number of things David can do about the issue (that would produce meaningful actions at any rate) is near 0. So what do you do when you have a problem you can’t solve on your own? You pray.

Consider Jehoshaphat. He faced an army he couldn’t defeat. So he ordered a fast and and sacrifice and then prayed to God. He even reminded God of God’s promises. And God came through in a way they could only have dreamed about.

Consider Jesus and the parable of the unjust judge, where Jesus commends us to pray about our problems over and over.

In my own life, I find the largest problems are those handled by God, sometimes before I even know about them. In fact, God prefers us to rely on him in all situations. This isn’t some invention of the reformation church, this is the core tenet of Christianity: that Jesus is the only mediator between God and men and that we pray to Jesus about our problems.

To not pray and to try and solve them myself is true hubris.
So was World War II won by means of prayer? Did the Germans and the Italians pray? Did Eisenhower pray? I recently learned that Eisenhower was not even baptized until his first term as president and that happened only because Rev. Billy Graham found out Ike was never baptized. Now President McKinley prayed before he sent troops to invade the Philippines and said he heard God telling him to go and civilize the savages, and yet Filipinos had been Christian under the Spanish for 300 years. So American forces invaded the Philippines and behaved in a very cruel and unjust fashion. Do you mean to say that America lost Vietnam because not enough Americans were praying sufficiently? In fact, some of the so-called “prosperity ministers” on TV encouraged people to purchase homes when they could not really afford them claiming that God would cause the banks to overlook the poor credit. Do you feel that it was the prayers of the American religious right that got Obama into office? If Isaiah could say that “as high as the heavens are about the earth so far is God’s mind from the human understanding” then yes I do think it is hubris for someone to claim that they “know just the sort of problems God likes to work on.”

Do you mean to say that atheists never enjoy any success in this world. Did Christopher Hitchens enjoy what success he had because of his devout prayers? If Communist Atheist China one day surpasses America in economic prosperity will it be because of Chinese prayers? When Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world was it because Alexander prayed? When Galileo, Newton and Einstein had their successes and discoveries and fame was it because they prayed?

Now WHY do you end your post by saying “we pray to Jesus about our problems” when everyone knows that Jesus taught people to pray saying “Our Father who art in heaven?”


You bring up some very complex issues regarding prayer that are difficult to answer. And to be honest, I’m far from having all the answers. However, there are some things that I think prayer are not that I hope will be helpful in our discussion.

1) Prayer and action are not necessarily the same thing. One might do action based on an “answer to prayer,” but we should not say necessarily that prayer was related to an action, because it might not be the hard rule. In the case of past Presidents, I have more questions to be asked before I render judgments. Such as, tell me about your relationship with the Lord Jesus, tell me about the prayer you engaged in before making these decisions, tell me about how the Lord answered this prayer.

2) Prayer does not lead necessarily to the conventionally wise thing to do. The phrase conventional wisdom was made famous by economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who used it in an unflattering way. He related conventional wisdom to the acceptability of the idea. Yet, what I find is people who equate answers to prayer with “the conventional wise thing to do” – not because they really feel God telling them to do it but because it seems most reasonable. I had a boss at a religious school (I’m going to refrain from using specifics) say that he prayed about a project and he felt God spoke to him and made a terrible decision. While the context is much more complicated, I’ll spare you the details – only to say, he was clearly trying to convince everyone from the onset that this company offered the best opportunity, everyone who knew anything including myself desperately tried to persuade him otherwise. Not surprisingly, “God” convinced him to ignore the experts and do what he was predetermined to do anyways. I think we could take a lesson from Samuel when he anointed David as King. As each brother passed before him, he was convinced that this one should be king. And each time, God spoke to him and told him “no.” The final answer was anything but conventionally wise. I bring up these points because unless our prayer life and our relationship with God is so strong, it will be easy to confuse the voice of God with the voice of others, or our own voice, or what seems most acceptable.

3) Prayer doesn’t always lead to “success” and failure to pray doesn’t always lead to “non-success.” I use these terms very loosely. Certainly, we see ungodly people who have no prayer life gain success. David constantly points this out in the Psalms – such as 82 – “How long will you defend the unjust
and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

Here’s a clear case of admitting that the ungodly also have success, and if David’s prayer ultimately goes unanswered, then the godly in this case was unsuccessful.

4) An answer to prayer may not be our answer in our timing. When Jesus prayed before his death, He said, “If it be your will, take this cup from me.” That clearly wasn’t God’s will, and Jesus was crucified. However, I would contend that Jesus actually demonstrates something so awesome here. He received an answer to his immediate prayer (though we are not told that he did – except only in the outcome of the event). I contend Jesus received the answer to prayer because He did not use any of His power to resist the torture and crucifixion. He suppressed His fear of the suffering in order to do the unconventionally wise. Yet, Jesus’ prayer is ultimately answered. “If it be your will…” His first priority was to do the Father’s will. Everything was contingent on that, and He proved that that was truly His motive.

Now that I’ve spent time talking about what prayer is not, I’d like to address what prayer is. Since you brought up the Lord’s prayer, that may be a good place to begin. Many have commented that the Lord’s prayer is not just something you recite but rather it is a formula or form to use in your prayer life.

1) Adore God – Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name.
2) Pray ultimately for God’s Will – Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
3) Pray for your needs – Give us this day our daily bread.
4) Repent to the Lord and ask for the same grace to forgive others – Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors
5) Pray for the fullness of the Holy Spirit and spiritual armor – Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

I bring this up because I would venture to say that the primary objective in most people’s prayers – or at least the temptation to make the primary objective is #3 – supplication. I don’t think it was an accident that Jesus mentions worshiping God and praying for God’s will before praying for our own needs. Wow, I’m so convicted writing this post! How often I fail to do this!

How can we as a country say, “God we don’t want anything to do with you,” and then in the next breath say, “But please bless America.”? I find our approach (or at least the political landscape) to be so hypocritical and full of hubris. We have turned prayer into the Santa Claus wish list, and as we sit on his lap, we promise we’ll be good… at least until we get what we want.

That is not prayer at all. When President Obama asked us yesterday to pray for the families involved in the terrible incident in Arizona, did he mean for us to first adore God, pray ultimately for God’s will, then pray for these families, not to mention repenting and praying for the Holy Spirit? I don’t know for sure, but I kind of doubt it. But I bring this up to say that our understanding of prayer is so wrapped up in our culture’s understanding of prayer that we are bound to get confused when we ask the reasonable questions like – “What does it mean that McKinley prayed before sending Americans and leading to the destruction of many Philippine’s lives?” or “Why is it that a devout atheist like Christopher Hitchens enjoys so much success?” Is it any wonder then why people make terrible and destructive decisions and call it “God’s answer to prayer” and suddenly the masses are driven to either deny God’s existence or hate God altogether?

I read a book once about the purpose of fasting. The authors’ point was that fasting is not about twisting God’s arm (I’m going to starve myself until you get me what I want) but rather it was about worship (I’m going to forgo all pleasures and distractions in order to concentrate on hearing your will). I think that’s a good understanding of prayer as well. If Paul tells us to pray constantly and that our bodies are the Temple of God, and that we are living sacrifices, then we have God’s ear all the time. But there is one stipulation.

Proverbs 15:29 and James 5:19 talk about God hearing the prayers of the righteous. While I’m not going to say that God doesn’t hear the prayers of the unrighteous because I don’t think that’s always true, I do want to point out this idea of worship and a relationship with God as being a necessity in experiencing the fullness of prayer. If Jesus makes us righteous, then the first step in a full prayer life is surrendering to Jesus.

Thomas Aquinas pointed out that so many people run to God for issues of peace but they run away from God in the sense that they reject Jesus the Messiah. We are so concerned with being PC, that we want to say things like “pray for these families,” but we dare not tell the public to “ask it in Jesus’ Name.” So, for those who vehemently deny the Divinity of Christ, but yet pray for whatever requests, I have to ask, “What must that be like to God?” If Jesus is the Mediator between God and man, if He is the One that makes us righteous (not by our merit, but by his blood sacrifice), then what is the person who does this saying? Aren’t they saying, from the very onset, “I deny your Divine existence and appointment, I deny my sinfulness, I deny my need for a Savior, I deny that Jesus is my Savior, I deny that the Father and the Son are one, I deny that Jesus is my Mediator, I deny that I even need a relationship with you… oh but by the way, here’s what I need you to do for me.”

The reason I said earlier that I would need to ask a lot more questions before I judged is because I don’t know the hearts of these presidents. Did they make that decision and then come to God and say, “Help us today in this action that we’ve already decided to take?” If such is the case, then we should never say that they were motivated either out of prayer or out of a relationship with God.” They threw up a prayer like a “hail mary” in a football game hoping for another immaculate reception.


@Justin You write some good posts. You give some great arguments. I am not convinced by them, but I admire them. But before I read through what you have posted since yesterday (and it looks challenging and intriguing), I am going to give you the one single biggest reason why you are so totally full of baloney that you haven’t the foggiest idea what the message of the Gospels is. You are supposed to LOVE YOUR ENEMY. I am certainly not your enemy. You mentioned that you did not want to “hijack” the thread here. SO I went to all the trouble to recreate the entire thread in my notes, tagged David so it would appear on his wall, and sent you a FACEBOOK FRIENDS INVITATION, which you ignored presumably because you are afraid to have someone on your list that does not swallow your particular line of dogma hook, line and sinker. Now there are those with your convictions who would actually trek into the deepest rain forests of Brazil in the hopes of converting some natives who have never heard of Jesus. Yet here you are, ignoring my friends request and continuing to post on David’s thread. I am certain David does not mind. But I just want to point out the ENORMOUS hypocrisy of your life and values to ignore my FB friends request and ignore the post on my wall where I recreate the important portions of my thread. I think you should seriously reexamine your life and values. Oh, and you’re the one who would have approached all those officers and drug dealers on the street and set up some kind of mission prayer field and got them all to give the knee to Jesus! I have to have my breakfast and I am going to study your posts over coffee. Thanks! I do appreciate what you write and that you take the time to write it, but I hardly think anyone can blame me for seeing a certain hypocrisy in some of your actions (or inactions.)

@Justin: (sipping my coffee) I must commend you as a person of deep faith and determination to spend all this time responding to my questions, especially since I give the impression of being someone who is unlikely to be persuaded (but then perhaps many others will read this thread.) You mention asking various presidents how they might have prayed before a certain decision. I don’t get it?! Jesus said pray and fast in PRIVATE and what your heavenly Father sees in private he will reward openly. So doesn’t that mean that one should never have the audacity to ask another if they pray or how they prayed? I have seen photographs of G.W. Bush in prayer with squinty eyes and pursed lips resembling someone with a hemorrhoid and I just see that as photo-op hypocrisy. Where in the Bible does it tell us we must pray with eyes closed? Perhaps it does, I am not certain. Where in the Bible does it say to go down on ONE knee, why not TWO knees, or why not a full prostration as Orthodox Christians and Muslims do? And why would so many of America’s leaders come from a strange little secret society at Yale called Skull and Bones which most CERTAINLY must be demonic and against all that Christianity stands for. So in what sense can G.W. Bush be a devout man if he willingly joined Skull and Bones and then spent years drinking to the point of intoxication. And G.W. Bush is described as FAR MORE religious a person than Reagan or Eisenhower. And with regard to FASTING and battle, do you HONESTLY think that I will find some historical examples of soldiers willingly fasting during World War I or World War II or Korea or Vietnam? The most memorable fasting of the 20th century was Mohandas Gandhi fasting almost to the point of death and Gandhi was a Hindu who politely rejected the Christian faith even though he had made an elaborate study of it. Is God pleased by Hindu fasting or Muslim Ramadan fasting? But if Jesus is “the only way the only door” to heaven and approach to God the Father then the prayers and fasting of non Christians must be useless or perhaps offensive.

Justin: first your comments were so hurtful and unjustified, by calling me unloving and a hypocrite, and I hope to have an apology from you once I finish this post.

First the reason I didn’t comment on your other note was because Joel had commented further on this post, and while I considered commenting on the note you created, I decided to continue on this post since Joel had already done so.

Secondly, and more importantly, I did not accept your friend request, and I make no apologies for not doing so. My wife and I have made an agreement that we don’t friend people we don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know you from Adam. My profile has information about my work, where I live, and most importantly pictures of my family. You may say, “What’s the big deal? You have 750+ friends, why not add another one?” The answer is I don’t know you. I have been many places, have many relatives, but I have never met you. You could be a serial killer for all I know.

You say that missionaries go to the most remote parts of the world to try to win the lost, but they don’t expose themselves unnecessarily. Jesus said, “be as gentle as doves but as shrewd as serpents.” In other words, don’t be stupid and act foolishly. If you equate love with stupidity and acting unwisely, then I can’t help you there.

I’ve already seen how you have lashed out at someone on this thread for approaching the subject of prayer, so let’s just say that I’ve already had my guard up with you to begin with. You should consider it a great act of love that I’ve even come back to this post to even consider continuing our conversation after you unjustly railed on me. If such is going to be the nature of our conversation, then count me out… it’s fruitless, unproductive, and not the nature of God nor gentlemen.


William: How can I apologize for what is so obvious to me. I went to a lot of trouble to invite you, you ignored my friend’s invite. How can I see your action as anything other than that of a hypocrite. And IF you argue that you did not see my invite that would still not explain WHY you did not immediately invite me yourself when we first began this conversation. Would that not have been the loving Christian neighborly thing to do. You SHOULD feel hurt. You failed. It is SO OBVIOUS how you failed. At the very least be man enough to admit to your failure to extend the courtesy of Facebook friendship to me. IN FACT, even if I never apologize to you you are STILL required to love me as your enemy and to return my evil with your blessings, and I am hardly your enemy. Dont you realize that I was waiting day after day to see if you would add me to your friends list?

And, if you don’t know Adam, and you dont know me, and you have read hundreds of words that I have written, then how can you claim to know Jesus and the Father? When those missionaries enter into the rain forests, are they guaranteed a friendly reception. What about the martyrs who face the lions in the arena. Am I truly as scary and dangerous as a lion. I dont think you have the first clue about what it means to be a Christian. What about Dietrich Bonhoeffer going to Nazi Germany and writing “The Cost of Discipleship” which speaks of “cheap grace”… would Bonhoeffer have hesitated to add me to Facebook? I frankly think you let Jesus down and I am not going to apologize for that. I think you should repent over it if these are your convictions.

In fact, I wrote you a cordial note to accompany my request for a FB add and you did not even have the courtesy to write back and explain to me all your reservations and concerns. How do you explain THAT as the actions of a devout Christian?

So if you are fearful of ME on Facebook then how would you have to courage to approach those police and dealers in the street and use your religious skills to reform them?

That Death Which We All Must Face

December 31, 2010

I watched an interview with the aging William F. Buckley, Jr. made a year or so prior to his death. Buckley was asked how he felt about the inevitability of dying (this is paraphrased in my own words from memory) and Buckley basically said that he had grown weary of life and was ready to rest even though he had experienced an unusually rich life of good fortune, education, fame, and even such things as being a skilled sailor of small boats and a musician who could play the harpsichord. Buckley spoke Spanish before he could speak English. Buckley remained a devout Roman Catholic all of his life which I did not realize until I happened to find his book “Nearer My God” which was his account of why he valued Roman Catholicism (and I have that book here on my shelves.) I realize that my age of 62 is not that old but I agree with his notion of weariness and see death as a form of relief. I met a very wealthy and successful man from Morocco who was Muslim (but I suspect not extremely devout, perhaps more secular.) When he met me, he commented that I should take better care of my health and diet (not that I am so delinquent) and he explained that he had survived a heart attach. I laughed cordially and explained to him that in my estimation I am better off in a curious way than he is simply because I have no wealth or power and will not be sad if I learn that I am to die in a month but that he enjoys much wealth and power and will be greatly saddened when the time comes for him to give up this earthly life as we all must sooner or later. Perhaps I would feel differently if I had wealth or fame or power. But it was interesting to hear a man like Buckley state that he had grown weary of being alive since surely he was a person who had everything to live for. I did feel sorry for Christopher Hitchens who is dying of cancer and publicly expressed regret that he had encouraged people to smoke and drink and drain every drop of pleasure from the earthly body since he believed that there is nothing after death. Perhaps I am a fool to which that I had such a life of intellectual intensity as Hitchens even though I do not share his beliefs or values. I suppose I am even envious of the intellectual life of Oscar Wilde although is problems were far more sordid than Hitchens. Perhaps in my folly I will stop short of coveting Wilde’s life and only covet Hitchens and those on the Charlie Rose Talk shows (the intellectuals of course, not the artists or politicians.)


I greatly admire one devout Roman Catholic woman (who shall quite possibly read this post) who told me that she adores Hitchens writings and feels sorry for his illness and prays for him. I questioned her very carefully, privately, to assure myself that she understood that Hitchens was an outspoken atheist and a critic of Mother Teresa. She assured me that she was well aware of his positions on these matters but adored his style and wit anyway. I gave what she said much thought an came to realize that one could indeed be fond of such a person as Hitchens for his wit and style even if he espoused something diametrically opposed to our own values. I came to see such magnanimity as hers to be the mark of a truly great souled (Maha-Atma) person. We must be able to admire even our enemies and especially our enemies which is quite a bit less that Jesus suggests when he says that we should LOVE our enemies. Those things that we would be wise to do in life are very difficult and yet extraordinarily simple and often we only understand such wisdoms late in life when it is too late to go back to our youth and live life differently. I watched the “Motorcyle Journals” movie of the early years of Che Guevara. I saw a photo of young Che and Fidel together in a shack of a room, perhaps still in their 20s and the earliest known photo of them together. One conservative asked me how I could possibly find anything to admire about such a cold-blooded killer but I asked if one could not see George Washington or McKinley or Eisenhower or Truman as a killer or a murderous person in some respect. Surely Napoleon and Caesar and Alexander the Great were also killers. Democracy and freedom runs more on the blood of victims than it does on oil or gasoline or prayers of the pious. But the same might be said of any revolution.

Nothingness is Necessary

December 23, 2010

I remember that somewhere Sartre says that there MUST be “nothingness” to allow for freedom and freedom requires change. IF there were no Tohu-Va-Bohu (void) then all would be a plenum in which nothing could take place in the sense that everything is pre-determined. Jewish mysticism expresses a similar notion of TSIM-TSUM or “divine withdrawal.” One of the names of G-d is “Makom” which means “place.” Somewhere in the Talmud it says “G-d is not IN the universe but rather G-d is the PLACE of the universe.” More specifically, G-d is such a FULLNESS and completeness that God must WITHDRAW (Tsim-Tsum) to create the “makom” place for the universe and that makom commences as tohu-va-bohu (darkness and void) [Sartre’s Nothingness] and furthermore, as Solomon says, all is chance and happenstance. G-d is OUTSIDE of time and eternity and outside (beyond) existence and non-existence and furthermore outside of the causal nexus except perhaps in rare circumstances of intervention (which Maimonides and others call “divine overflow”.) Just some random thoughts/reactions to this thread.

Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer

December 17, 2010

That song “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “He knows when you are sleeping.. he knows if you been bad or good so be good FOR GOODNESS’S SAKE.” Stop and think that if you really were good solely for the sake of goodness then you would not need toys or rewards or quid pro quo and it would not matter what Santa knows or does not know!

It is most likely that the only people who do good PURELY for the sake of goodness are ethical atheists and agnostics.

The Chukshi Reindeer herders life above the arctic circle and all their food and clothing come from the reindeer who live on lichens (moss) on the rocks. Apparently prehistoric peoples who depended upon following migrating herds had myths about a flying reindeer (or medicine man or spirit) which could see where the best hunting might be and hence the notion of flying reindeer has very ancient and logical mythic roots.

And all of this is related to Plato’s classic “Euthyphro Problem,” namely, does God love good things like truth, justice, mercy, charity BECAUSE of inherent properties in those good things OR are things good simply BY FIAT because God decrees them to be good. We observe in the Qur’an a famous verse (paraphrased) “for do ye not know that Allah may ABROGATE anything and will replace it with something better.” Some religions have the idea that God must not be limited by anything, not even by God, so therefore God can be capricious and unpredictable. This is why some Calvinist denomination stress predestination because IF it were the case that human free will consent and choice and cooperation were involved in redemption and repentance and salvation then it would NOT all be God’s doing but there would be some human dimension and therefore God’s omnipotence would be compromised.

Guest Is God: Hospitality of a Hindu Saint

November 28, 2010

Guest Is God: The Hospitality of a Hindu Saint

The story of a holy woman who sacrificed her life’s dream–and her
dying wish–in order to serve the poor.

By Doug Glener and Sarat Komaragiri

Considered a saint during her own life, Dokka Sitamma (1841-1909
C.E.) spent years feeding the poor and sick in her Indian village.
After her death, the holy woman was lauded throughout India as “Apara
Annapurna”— an incarnation of the goddess Annapurna.

Excerpted from Wisdom’s Blossoms: Tales of the Saints of India with
permission of Shambhala Publications.

Everyone in Andhra Pradesh knew Dokka Sitamma, and everyone had an
opinion about the elderly widow.

To the superstitious, Sitamma was an omen of bad luck because she,
like all widows, was responsible for the death of her husband. To
those blinded by caste and custom, she was an impudent old woman for
refusing to remain confined to her house as a Brahmin widow should.
But to the destitute and the devout, Sitamma was mercy personified,
for she unfailingly fed the hungry.

With no children of her own to care for, and a heart overflowing with
motherly love, Sitamma adopted the poor as her sons and
daughters. “This illiterate moron is doing great harm by inviting
those of a lower station into her home,” sniffed the orthodox
Brahmins, and when their condemnation failed to deter her, they took
to humiliating her. Though the calumnies and threats and loneliness
stung her, in the end they were little to one whose heart sung of
compassion and love.

“Come in! Come in! I have just finished cooking and was hoping that
you would join me for dinner tonight.” Sitamma would quickly say this
to those who came to her in need, thus sparing them the humiliation
of having to beg for food.

Because of the chicanery of some unscrupulous neighbors who despised
her ministry and prized her fertile fields, she found her large
holdings reduced year after year until she was left with a small plot
of land. A famine came and still Sitamma never turned away those in
need, somehow managing to make her shrinking supplies feed a growing
stream of hungry souls. And even when she had little to eat, she
remained grateful for the opportunity to serve, for it gave her joy
and feeding the poor was her chosen path to salvation.

One night after working in the kitchen for many hours, Sitamma
thought: `I have served four decades and now my body has become worn
out. I am nearing the end of my life. It is time for me to go to
Varanasi. There I may pass away in peace with the Lord’s name on my

For the last few years, Sitamma had dreamed of going to the holy
city, for to die there was to be assured of liberation. Every time
she set out, however, a desperate arrival or a traveling pilgrim
prevented her from leaving. So she would return to her cooking and
chanting, putting aside the only desire she had for herself, a desire
that daily grew more powerful. But tonight she knew that the hours of
her life were few and that only a handful of tomorrows remained

When morning came, Sitamma gave away her last few possessions so as
to bring her charitable works to a close. She hired a bullock cart
for the first leg of her journey and set out for Varanasi. Though
every rut and rock in the road jarred her old bones, and the sun was
unmercifully hot, Sitamma was filled with a happiness that increased
with each passing mile, for every turn of the bullock carts’ wheels
brought her nearer to the end of her earthly sojourn.

At eventide, Sitamma and the bullock-cart driver took shelter in a
free roadside inn for traveling pilgrims. The hard day of travel
weighed on her and she wearily lay down on a bed of rags. As she
began to fall asleep, she was awakened by the cries of young children
in the next room.

“I know that you haven’t eaten today, but we don’t have any food to
give you, my love,” she heard a father’s voice consoling his

“Can’t you ask for some? I’m hungry and my stomach hurts.”

“It’s not fit for us to beg. It would be better to starve. But don’t
worry. Tomorrow we will go to the home of Sitamma. She never sends
away those who are hungry.”

“Why is Sitamma the only one we can ask?”

“Because she treats her guests with respect and never expects
anything in return for her charity.”

Once the family had fallen asleep, Sitamma began to stir. “Get up,
get up!” she whispered to the snoring cart driver. “We must leave
right away!”

“What is the rush? If you have waited for 40 years to go Varanasi,
you can surely wait one more day,” the driver sleepily said. “We
can’t travel at night anyway. The road is filled with bandits and
wild animals.”

“I cannot wait.” Sitamma firmly replied.

“Grandmother, do you want to die in a ditch tonight or die in
Varanasi in a week?”

“Get up this instant! I have paid you to drive me and we are
leaving!” And with that, the two travelers stole into the night.

With the first rays of dawn, the starving family awoke and set out
eagerly in the direction of Sitamma’s village, unaware that the one
they were looking for had been lying but a few feet away.

The family traveled the same rough and wild road as Sitamma, the
whole way the children crying from hunger, their mother and father
struggling to soothe them despite their own wretched condition. By
evening they reached Sitamma’s village and after a few inquiries
found the dirt path that led to her home.

Seeing the darkened little house, the father despaired: `Is that a
candle light in the window or is it the reflection of the moon? Do I
hear the clanging of a pot or is that the sound of a cowbell?’

The mother feared, `She’s not home. If she is, will she receive us?
Have we come all this way for my children to die of hunger.’

Before the father could knock on the door and end the family’s
suspense, it swung open. The fragrant smell of dal and rice greeted

“Come in! Come in! I have just finished cooking and was hoping that
you would join me tonight,” Sitamma cheerfully said.

If they had not tried to conceal their tears of gratitude, the family
might have observed that Sitamma’s sari was frayed and sullied from
the dust of the road. If they were not so fatigued, the family might
have noticed that Sitamma was trembling with exhaustion from having
spent the night being bounced and bruised in the bullock cart and
then having to cook this meal. If they were not so hungry, the family
might have seen that Sitamma’s cupboard and garden were bare, and
that she had taken the shame of begging upon herself from her
neighbors so that they could eat.

Sitamma did not die in Varanasi. It was reported, however, that upon
her death, a great light burst forth from the roof of her house and
shot up into the heavens.

One reader responds:

7/12/03 1:18:46 PM

It is more compassionate to let the poor starve to death rather than
feed them. Otherwise, they will spawn more “copies” of themselves who
will more likely than not bask in the light of poverty themselves,
the chain continues (they spawn poor children), etc. In the long run,
you will be lessening the total misery on Earth to a far greater

The above is not true if you do not believe that poor/starving people
are miserable. But if you believe that they are happy and content,
then there is no reason for you to try and help them in the first
place! So you are caught, I have you. This charity business is not
real compassion. This logic is unassailable. If you operate on the
plane of superiority/inferiority, you must always come back to this
Beliefnet post of mine in your head.

The other option is to break your attachment to money, which no one
can do. Then you would be worthy of some respect. You will all run to
Shop-Rite gleefully with coupons galore in hand.

A second reader comments:

These days most People will only give if they get…a tax receipt or
a favor.

True giving (charity/love) is when you give something before one
needs to ask, for you can see a need, and it is still given
cheerfully with love from your heart, with no expectation of ever
seeing a return for your giving. To be blessed, your gift causes you
suffering, and you do it silently and cheerfully. Peace!

A third reader remarks:

It’s haunting that someone could give so much compassion in a time
when prejudice and caste-bias was so rampant.

I had never heard her story before, but to say the least, I am in
awe. A Brahmin woman who helped so many people (and even took to
begging), despite what other members of society thought—that’s
truly a work of God. I have tried to help the poor in many endeavors,
and I hope that Sitamma is watching over me.



In antiquity children read and memorized Homer’s epics because they
showed patterns and standards of behavior citizens were expected to
emulate. Among these was the all-important ethic of hospitality.
Today, if we’re wise, we don’t open our bolted doors to strangers
without proof of identity, we fear hitch-hikers, and we expect
visitors to bring a dish or bottle of wine when they come for a
visit. Rules of etiquette require us to make our guests feel at home,
but not to make people we don’t know our guests.

Strangers are the bogey-men we warn our children about. This hasn’t
always been the case.

Before the advent of coins, credit cards, Motel 6, and McDonalds,
hospitality to strangers saved lives. And it had its rules, the most
infamous breakers of which are, of course, Penelope’s suitors.

The miracle is this: The more you share, The more you have. —
Leonard Nimoy

Today, I think we are confused about the true definition of morality.
To the ancient Greeks, one of the most sacrosanct of these codes of
morality, that is, codes of how to live with one another, had to do
with extending hospitality to everyone, including strangers and
travelers. It was considered one of the greatest insults to the gods
to not extend hospitality to someone in need of shelter and a meal.

If one of our younger relatives was to announce he was going out
traveling to see the world and didn’t have much, or need much money,
but intended on relying, rather, on hospitality of people along the
way, our normal reaction would be to say that he was crazy, to deride
him, and do everything possible to stop or impede him from such an

But it was not always like this. There is a story from Greek
mythology of Philemon and Baucis.

Back in the days when the gods walked upon the earth, the gods would
occasionally come down from their mountain residences to check on
their earthly holdings. One day, Zeus, god of the gods, heard that in
a certain Greek town, bad things were happening. So he and his son,
Hermes, the messenger of the gods, decided to go take a look for
themselves. Dressed as common travelers, they took all day to walk to
this particular town. Hungry and tired after the day’s travel and
getting toward nightfall, they knocked on the door of the first house
they heard voices coming from. But as soon as they knocked at the
door, the voices stopped, and no one came to the door. The next door
down there were lights on and a party going on the second floor.
Again they knocked, and again no one answered. Knocking again,
finally someone looked out from the second floor window and, not
recognizing the men, told them to go away. And so they went, each
knocking at all the doors in town, and always the response was the
same – either no one would come to the door, or they were told to go

Coming to the edge of town there was a small shack, and when the
elderly couple who were its inhabitants heard the strangers walking,
came out to greet them. Seeing the two men were travelers, the couple
asked if they needed a place to stay the night. The couple had little
in the way of worldly possessions, little to share and the shack was
small, but the two men readily accepted.

The travelers asked if there was anything to drink, and the wife
brought out their only carafe of milk and poured glasses for them.
When they finished drinking they asked for more, and she was afraid
that there was not much left in the carafe, but when she went to pour
more, it was full again. They offered the men their own and only bed
and the couple slept on blankets on the floor in front of the

The next morning the strangers awoke ravenous, and the couple shared
what they had, a bunch of grapes from their grapevine, milk and part
of a loaf of bread. Each time the men asked for more, Baucis worried
that there would not be enough to feed them, but every time she went
back to refill the plates, there was always food there. And they all
commented on how delicious the food was – the milk had never tasted
so sweet, nor the grapes. The bread was fresh and wonderful.

Finally, after awhile and getting ready to resume their journey, the
two men asked if they could have some meat for a meal, as they had
much walking to do. The couple had only one goose and Baucis went out
to fetch it. While she was gone, Zeus remained at the shack and
Hermes took the Philemon to the front yard. There Hermes asked him to
look back at the village. There, where once was the town, now was a
beautiful lake. And when the wife returned carrying the goose, in
place of the their shack was a small temple – dedicated of course to
Zeus. And the two men revealed their identities and thanked the
couple for their generosity and hospitality, and asked if there was
anything they could do for them in return.

The husband replied, asking only that they be allowed to be the
caretakers of the temple, to which the gods had graciously hoped they
would. And also, since they had no one other than the two of them,
when the time came for one to die, that they both die together. This,
too, was granted by the gods.

For years the couple would extend the same hospitality they always
had to whoever passed by. And one day, when their days were no longer
so good, they walked hand in hand to front of the temple, looking
over the lake and reflecting on how fortunate they had been, the two
were transformed into two great oak trees, with branches intertwined.

For centuries after, travelers would hear the legend of the first
caretakers of this temple and left boughs and wreaths on the branches
of the trees in tribute to them.

The Mayans of present day Guatemala, have no word for door; they only
have one for a doorway “chijay”, which means “mouth of the house”. It
is a passageway to bring people into the home; the only purpose for a
home was to share it with not only family and friends but also
strangers and travelers when needed. A passageway is an opening and
an invitation into;while a door is a closing off from the other side,
it is intended to keep the outside out.

To the Bedouins of the Middle East and many other desert cultures,
hospitality was automatic; without thought. It was unthinkable to not
extend hospitality to a stranger passing by.

Today, the limit of our hospitality, outside of family and friends,
is a hotel.

We have doors with locks, and we protect our material goods,
extending hospitality only to family and friends – but what have we
lost in the process?

While we talk about “security,” what has the real cost been to our

I do not know, but I wonder, has modern civilization really
progressed – or have we regressed?

Entertaining Angels Unawares

Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain
strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels
without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their
fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves
were suffering.
Hebrews 13:1-3

Hebrews 13:2 tells us, “For by so doing,” that is, by giving
hospitality, “some people have entertained angels without knowing
it.” The writer may have been reflecting on the story of Abraham
which we find in Genesis 18. There we read, “The Lord appeared to
Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the
entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and
saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the
entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. He
said, `If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your
servant by. Let a little water be brought and then you may all wash
your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat,
so you can be refreshed and then go on your way–now that you have
come to your servant'” (Gen. 18:1-5).

Notice, we do not see the angels knocking at the door of Abraham’s
tent. Here Abraham is taking the initiative, going to these
strangers, and saying, “Please come and be refreshed. Be my guests.”
Abraham is showing hospitality to these three men.

Who were these three men? Two were angels, but one was the Lord
himself. And as a result of entertaining these three men, Abraham and
his wife received a great blessing–their son Isaac.

We see the same type of thing in Genesis 19 when two angels went to
Sodom. In Genesis 19:1-3 we read, “The two angels arrived at Sodom in
the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he
saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the
ground. `My lords,’ he said, `please turn aside to your servant’s
house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your
way early in the morning.’ `No,’ they answered, `we will spend the
night in the square.’ But he insisted so strongly that they did go
with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking
bread without yeast, and they ate.”

Here again we notice that Lot took the initiative to meet with these
two men and show hospitality to them. As a result, Lot also received
a blessing: he and his household were delivered from the destruction
of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Malachi prophesied to Israel that Elijah would come before the
Messiah and before the “great and terrible day of the LORD” (Mal.
3.1, Mal. 4.5-6). The Jewish scriptures ended with this prophecy.
Every Jewish family that celebrates the Passover seder provides an
empty chair at the table. The empty chair is for Elijah as serves as
an invitation for him to return.

Matthew quoted Isaiah (Matt. 3.1-3; cf. Is. 40.3) and applied his
prophesy to John the Baptizer. According to Luke’s account, the
angel prophesied to Zacharias (Lk. 1.13-17) of John’s birth that he
would come in the spirit and power of Elijah.

The Empty Chair

Once we used to leave an empty seat for Eliyahu Hanavi, for Elijah
Prophet, at the Seder table. Tradition tells us that Elijah will come
on Pesach to herald the coming of the Messiah. So we set a place for
him and pour out a cup of wine, in case this year he comes. Over the
years there are many traditions that have evolved regarding an empty
chair at the Passover Seder table.

Do you remember Seder night over 50 years ago? We had empty seats at
our family Seders after the Nazi Holocaust.

Do you remember Seder night 20 years ago? We had empty seats in our
homes for a Jew in Soviet Russia.

Do you remember Seder night 15 years ago? We had empty seats in our
home for a Jew in Iraq or Iran.

This year, a high percentage of young Jews are being lost to apathy
and assimilation. Shouldn’t we still leave empty seats at our Seder

Please take a moment at your family Seder to join in this prayer,
written by Rabbi Naftali Schiff.

The Light in the Window

Rev. J. Vance Eastridge, 1998

This year we added a ‘tradition’. Traditions aren’t begun, traditions
become such by repetition over a period of time. But, in this
instance, it ‘started’ as a tradition because it visually represented
what was in our hearts all the while. After the lights were hung on
the ‘great tree’, the garland was strung, and the windows decorated,
we placed the candles in the windows. The candles were on electrical
timers that turned them on at dusk and turned them off at midnight.
Each year everything as planned has been carried out. This year,
however, a glitch occurred. The candle in the guest bedroom window
would not turn off with the timer. We replaced the timer with
another. That timer was defective. Yesterday I replaced a third timer
to that candle.

It came on at dusk as expected. This morning, however, at five
o’clock when I went to the gateway to the street to pick up the
morning paper, I discovered, on walking back, that although all the
other windows were dark, the candle in the guest bedroom was still
burning. Immediately, a revelation came to me. That is how it should
be. We should be leaving a candle burning in the guest bedroom window
to guide and welcome the Christ child into our home. And so, at the
breakfast table I announced that a new tradition has been born.
Whenever the Christmas season begins with Advent and the decorations
go up, the candle in the guest bedroom will be lighted and will not
be extinguished until Twelfthnight when the Christ child is at home
in the world. The candle is burning now!

In the Jewish heritage of our Christian faith, there is a custom that
is relevant to this. At Passover, an empty chair is placed at the
table bearing the Seder meal around which the family gathers. The
empty chair is left for Elijah should he come. The entry door of the
house is left ajar for Elijah to pass through to his place at the
table. The expectation of Elijah is central to the celebration
because it was believed that when the Messiah came, Elijah would
return to lead him into the world. It was in the fulfillment of that
prophecy that the apostles and early Christian saw John the Baptist
as Elijah announcing the Messiah, as, in truth, he did by the Jordan
River on that afternoon of Jesus’ baptism, beginning his messianic

So, symbolic of Jesus’ coming into the world that first Christmas
with no room at the inn and a forced hospitality in a cattle stall,
there is a candle in our window, burning in the darkness, to lead the
Christ child to a place of welcome and warm hospitality. Our guest
room is ready, and the candle burns in the window….

Wash your bowl

November 26, 2010

An old Zen koan basically ends “Since you have eaten your breakfast therefore go and wash your bowl.” Christopher Morley had a few dish washing scenes in “The Haunted Bookshop” with a shelf and an open book situated so that one might read while they work. Morley was a great advocate of reading. Back then, shortly after the Great War, various authors felt that if they could only create the right novel it would persuade the world to give up warfare.

Love the soldier but hate war

November 13, 2010

Augustine said “Love the sinner but hate the sin” somewhere in book 14 of “The City of God” … I am guessing that many Protestants who love to quote that have no idea who said it or what he embodied.. but on the other hand it was possibly Augustine who laid down the foundation of the Reformation and only Luther first realized the ammunition he could find in Augustine. Rome began to scrutinize Augustine more closely during the counter-Reformation conducted by the Jesuits. — I reminded of all this by the thought that one may love soldiers but hate the crime of war. Gandhi said that “ahimsa” (non-violence) is the highest form of dharma (righteousness.) … just my spontaneous thoughts as I sip my coffee


November 10, 2010

I just finished watching the entire excellent video. About Italy, I asked myself “Where does Galileo fit into all this and Dante?” Many timelines mark the beginning of the Renaissance with the birth of Galileo. I never realized that Wm. F. Buckley, Jr. was Roman Catholic until I picked up his book “Nearer to Thee.” I think the video is very clever. I am reminded of “The Peter Principle” which says that each person is promoted to their highest level of incompetence. I mean, it makes a lot of sense to say that a person is promoted until they are no longer qualified or able to go higher. But is the Peter Principle a true reflection of life? Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, around 6th century BCE set forth perhaps the first example of cognitive therapy, namely, changing how you look at things can change how you feel (e.g. “My glass is half full not half empty.”) One of the wisest things I ever read was on Jamaal Barnes’ thread when he was graduating:”Don’t be sorry it’s over; be glad it happened.” Viktor Frankl, author of “Man’s Search for Meaning” speaks of “rescuing things to the past.” Nothing that ever happens can rob me of the 4 years I spent at SJC ’67 to ’71 except perhaps Alzheimer’s and of course death. Various forms of Zen Buddhism try to free people from the “monkey mind” which constantly tries to analyze and teaches people to be in the present moment. Oh yeah, and Augustine said “Time is the moving image of eternity” (I think, but I would have to google to be certain.)