Beautiful for us



A short autobiographical sketch from another of the Dhamma Brothers, named Torrence Barton, illustrates how practice makes an artist.

Torrence Barton
Torrence Barton is in his twenties. Born in Montgomery, Alabama, he and two sisters were raised by their mother and never knew their father. Searching for a father figure, Torrence strayed from home, embracing people he thought exemplified strength. …

Might I permit myself a sympathetic laugh here? Of course, this is my website after all. Not some evangelical’s !!! In grade 2 during a class teaching Moral Science our teacher asked a question, “Who is God?” Quickly as a flash, I raised my hand to reply. The teacher smiled at me and asked me to stand up and answer. I said, “My uncle.” She laughed and asked me why I thought so. I said, “My uncle is tall and strong.” She parried, “Not your father?” I replied, “My uncle is taller than my father.” She ended the exchange with, “Wrong.” She went on to explain that God was taller and stronger than my uncle, and that he was taller and stronger than anyone we knew of.

She didn’t convince me. She merely puzzled me. It flew in the face of what I was seeing of life around me. So yeah, I can see why Torrence would embrace people who exemplified strength as he kept seeking a father figure.

To continue,

He dropped out of high school in the tenth grade.

MY FATHER, namely my biological father (in case any evangelicals actually read anything besides the assigned passages and scriptures from their books, if that) put his foot down in no uncertain terms when I said I wanted to study accounting so I could help him with his livelihood. Not exactly similar to dropping out of school, but it was a vastly different course from what he had observed me pursue all my life, namely, the sciences and the arts. In this he included the quantitative pursuits of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and trigonometry. Accounting is related to commerce, a field I had neither expressed nor demonstrated any interest in whatsoever.

ANOTHER EXAMPLE, my frenemy Amanda sought a scientist for a significant other. In doing so she sought to seek a father figure, as her father was a scientist. Yet, behind his back, she calls him her large child. Where did she go wrong? In what she encouraged him to become to keep their partnership together? Or in seeking a man with activities as similar to her father as she could?

So even with a family around you actively raising you, you can still stray off course, if both parents are spiritually blind.

To continue,

In an attempt to better his living conditions he pursued fast money, which ultimately led to his incarceration.

Hmm! Reminds me of when I described how I made the decision to study architecture to this same frenemy, she snorted it off describing how she knew as a little girl that she wanted to be an architect. Left unsaid but clearly expressed was the implication that this made her a natural architect, therefore a superior architect. What she left unsaid was that this was due to the fact that she and her brother spent their childhood summer vacations helping their father build an A-frame lodge in the mountains. Naturally, she’d develop skills and preferences for what made her childhood a happy one.

To continue,

His mother died while he was in prison. This was a huge loss for him, and he keeps a photograph of her over his bed. Torrence writes poetry now and aspires to write his life story. “Bondage in my eyes stems from the avoidance of reality and the embracing of illusions. Facing life as it really is leads to freedom from the two.”

Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!

He attended the Vipassana course and then, four years later, the three-day refresher course, in order to participate in a “constructive endeavor.” He says, “Vipassana meditation is a practice I’m using while residing in this contaminated womb. The practice has become one of my most productive tools against a stillborn delivery becoming my fate. I’ve learned that through consistent practice, I can receive proper nourishments that aid me.”

To conclude, what makes an architect different from an artist? Is it any of the following?
1. taking resources into consideration
2. taking certified courses in an accredited program of study
3. creating work product meant for others, to standards determined by others
4. apprenticeship before achieving the status of a licensed practitioner
5. licensing requirements

It is item #3. An artist can create a profoundly moving piece of work product if his primary aim to communicate what his subconscious has to reveal to his conscious self. It matters little if no one sees it during its life time. An architect’s sketches of visions are just that. Sketches and visions. If these are not developed to be built without modifications, then it lacks proof that it is something with the potential to be realised / realized.


LETTERS FROM THE DHAMMA BROTHERS: MEDITATION BEHIND BARS written by Jenny Phillips, with a foreword by Robert Coles. The book is published by Pariyatti Press.

The quote on the cover, “No human being should be considered beyond the reach of redemption.” is from Congressman John Lewis.

On the fly leaf is the following:
Dhamma is a word in Pali, the language spoken by Gotama the Buddha (Dharma in Sanskrit). It means the Way, the Truth, the Buddha’s teachings. The group of inmates who took the first Vipassana course together at Donaldson Correctional Facility call themselves “the Dhamma Brothers” in recognition of their shared experiences.


How many Hunekers* have you?


Regarding Roosh’s latest video responding to the “beating” he received on US national TV when he appeared on some women’s show, I watched both of them. Those who have developed a habit of looking into their own souls to cleanse it of blemishes always criticize themselves the hardest. So I found in the first video. Those who fight on behalf of others, irrespective of motivations, irrespective of history, will always be more ruthless, more devious, infinitely less honorable. So I found in the second video.

I loved the real pain I saw on all the women’s faces in the second video**. I suspect that Roosh had his eyes lowered because he couldn’t take that pain without identifying with it. That too is a mark of those who look into their own souls. He looked up when that last woman spoke to him in what she said was his own language. Did she? I don’t think so. Not by a long shot.

The announcement of upcoming conferences in the US will be a Test Match for him, instead of the T20. Grit against strength.

Clues to Betrayal

I think he was betrayed. Most likely by his former friends, current friends, wanna-be friends. I further postulate that it could be someone associated with that pretender representing men’s interests, namely, Chateau Heartiste=son-of=Captain Renegade=son-of=Roissy. Its writers are anonymous. Its writing style changes faster than some women’s water weight during their menses. Its content has changed from straight-forward practical advice to men in need with no regard for their backgrounds or affiliations, to a straight-forward advocacy of a Christian perspective. Some of the writings smell strongly of a woman’s voice. From a Christian perspective, of course.

For more on a Christian perspective, for more on an Evangelical perspective, check out the category, Evangelical Tendencies.

This is all my own idea. No pretenders of any kind injured. I promise by my pinky finger.

Exposition on Grit against Strength

The following is excerpted from an email exchange with the proprietor of All That Cricket.

Test matches are paid well by cricketing nations. Its a 5 day game, a test of character, skills, tactics, and other attributes associated with game. Hence the word “Test match”!. However as far as popularity is concerned it is only popular in England and bit in Australia (depending on who is playing Australia). T20 is the most popular, thanks to IPL***.

Here’s a post titled, “A Captain is Born from a Team” from this website that illustrates this idea some more.


* For Huneker, see

** See David Maister’s book “Strategy and the Fat Smoker”, especially the first chapter to understand why. Or not.

– Indian Premiere League
– Franchise cricket
– Highest impact of any sport – prime time TV altered in content and schedule; potential blockbuster movies not released during its “reign”, viz., mid-April to May-end.
– Similar to American football’s popularity where armchair quarterbacks exceed real ones
– Inferior quality compared to that found in Test Match though the latter has also degraded from its hey day


In an age of rapid technological and population changes it is natural for individuals to feel useless and left behind. They may be naturally drawn to institutions that offer security without threatening their self-esteem, while meeting their innate aggressive instincts. Religious institutions offer all this. Nations offer these three, but in return demands that you join an army and shedding real blood. Or preach patriotism. A bit too real and crass for most people. But religion is not so tainted. What bloodshed they shed, it is due to the other religion’s actions and ideas. This unholy cocktail can be found in the suburb of Richardson. I have written about it here and here. The Bikram Yoga studio there is owned by Yassi Maige, the last time I checked.

The studio location is perfect for a war zone, Christianity of the suburban variety and distribution, an Islamic mosque and cultural center, a wealthy Indian community from Andhra Pradesh with their own temples distributed nearby, a Jewish synagogue (maybe two) and an orthodox Christian church.

But not a war zone between these religions.

A war zone between reason and faith.

This is what I wrote a few blog posts ago. I’ve also made reference to the account of Dhamma Brother, Grady Bankhead, in those posts. There is a remarkable similarity between Mr. Bankhead and that pastor-cum-father of many, many children in our neighborhood.

Do they have a similar background, with a mother abandoning them to the cruel fates? Do they have a similar baggage of unearned guilt for being saddled with the survival of another human being without the provision of adequate means? I honestly don’t know. As I was reading and then re-recording the account of Mr. Bankhead, his picture struck a familiar chord. And that instance of unearned guilt pointed to an interesting psychological aspect, that maybe worthy of further investigation by someone more qualified than myself.

But then there is another point of similarity that is actually more disturbing than this:

Previously I have mentioned that I was one of four or five girls in my neighborhood to have been sexually abused. Among them was a girl called Viju, who was two years older than I. She came from a large family that hailed from the East Coast of India, specifically from the state of Andhra Pradesh. There were two parents, of course, six siblings older than me and three siblings younger than I. There were a total of nine children and two adults (total eleven human beings) living in a tiny tenement consisting of a kitchen, a bathroom, a sitting room and a sleeping room (for lack of a better term). Toilet facilities were shared in common with other tenements.

From among the nine children, four were girls and five were boys. There was about an even balance between the number of boys and girls. You could say, that the parental strategy for their future consisted of an almost even bet between forming alliances through opportune marriages for their four daughters and fighting tooth and nail for resources through the agency of their five sons in a highly competitive religious environment, with a slight tilt towards the latter strategy. The country had only gained independence in 1947. Not enough time had passed to determine if the Union of 25 distinct languages going back at least four to five hundred years if not at least a thousand, co-mingled with four distinct religions, three of whom were dominant numerically or in youthful energy, would hold in a new secular environment. Some fighting was anticipated by most people (the fear) with some hope for the British legacy of a common foreign language, namely English, to hold the centrifugal pieces together. In that large family in my neighborhood, one girl was smart and hard-working. Another girl who was highly susceptible to social currents. Consequently she was slower than the rest in academics, sports, social interactions and other abilities necessary to live as an independent adult. Viju was balanced between these poles.

Since the 2000s I have learned that Viju died of a heart attack in her mid to late forties. And that highly susceptible girl died of AIDS. These two events happened within a few months to a few years of each other. The latter was working in a restaurant or some similar eating facility. Her job paid well and supported her family. For both, reasons of personality and financial need, she remained unmarried. So when I heard of her death due to complications resulting from contracting AIDS, I immediately recalled the old scandal associated with the chain of Indian restaurants based out of California, with branches (or franchises) in Texas and other states. The scandal was about the women waitresses being used in the flesh trade. When I heard of my neighbor’s death due to AIDS I thought it was most likely due to a similar situation with her place of employment.

Turns out that those five sons could not support the family adequately, so they were negligent (to say the least) about where their unmarried simple minded daughter worked. They were used to her coming home late – after all, restaurants are usually patronized in the evenings. In Bombay they remain open till at least 12 midnight, if not later. The money was good. The family sent all their children to school and college depending on their abilities and inclinations. But remember that all this was embedded in a milieu of religion, both within the family and in the larger society.

The disturbing parallel between them and that large family of the pastor is that the eldest son in the Indian family also resembles the pastor and/or his son. Another aspect is the ratio of boys to girls. There are significantly more boys than girls in the American family. And the total number of children in the family is also large. There were eleven of so when we moved into our home. There have been additions since then.

Unlike the Indian family this family is highly religious, enough to run a church. The preponderance of boys over girls is indicative of their strategy for their future. War and conflict! No alliances! This is very strange in a predominantly Christian community, city and state. Who are they expecting to fight? Those who threaten them? Those who resist them? Those who want to be left alone? Those who want to pursue knowledge and its applicability? And what might be the fate of the few daughters, if they are not already married off?

Personally I find their presence a disturbing reminder of that family from my neighborhood in India growing up and what may therefore be highly probable. There are way too many similarities between them. In addition the girls in the American family do not seem to be encouraged to pursue academics for fear of “contaminating” their minds with heresies such as the theory of evolution and other scientific ideas and concepts. I suspect the same goes for the boys also. Too many items seem to parallel to be the result of mere coincidence. In conclusion it is not the facial resemblance as much as the combination of facial, behavioral and mental resemblances that are disturbing and merit concern.

Previously I have mentioned that Swami Narayan girlfriend of mine. As I was thinking about the parallels between these two families, I recalled an accident she was involved as a student of architectural. In the first year of the course, she badly cut her hand or wrist on the wood cutting power machine. I presume her attention flagged for a moment long enough for this to happen. Apparently her Hindu evangelical upbringing was insufficient to teach her to pay attention in dangerous situations. Another likely explanation is that the parent from whom she would learn the use and advantage of such a skill was himself deeply embedded in the bowels of their faith. He was a fine artist, who painted religious themes for his temple and its wealthy members. When he was not painting he was proselytizing. So all she learned from him is to pander to those in authority, sketch and paint very well, and proselytize. Neither of them sought to analyze those wealthy patrons at a more psychological level, in order to discern larger patterns. Doing so involves using their rational faculty. With this is mind, I wonder about the social pressures my friend was subject to when she decided to pursue becoming an architect. The designs and ideas taught were cosmopolitan, even modern. I am sure that when she related their nature to her family and fellow faith members she may have set off alarm bells within her community. Her lack of attention to danger from mindless machines and naivete regarding men from outside her restricted community points to strong dangers of belonging to a restrictive faith. Such restrictive faiths tend to be adversarial in their attitude to the larger world around them.

Religious pressure to conform does not occur through the medium of ghosts and spirits, but real live human beings. Whether you like it or not, you become influenced by them and censor yourself accordingly. Besides the examples I have given on my website, I find a similar pattern in the writings of Ayn Rand. For all her combativeness she was strangely hesitant to criticize Christianity’s role in the numerous essays and stories she wrote of what ailed her native country of Russia and her adopted country of America. She spent copious words in speeches and print on the evils of socialism, communism and fascism. She didn’t spend nearly enough on the evils of faith and religion, except to say that they bored her. As a daily practitioner of Bikram Yoga I know that when the mind is resistant to some task, it usually indicates a rich and disturbing source of new insights that may prove iconoclastic yet simultaneously integrative to one’s development.

It is a difficult thing to do. Most religions are not as obviously restrictive as Islam in its patterns of behavior. They prefer to dominate the minds of those within their circle of influence through the use of social and political connections, so that the victim remains unaware of the string puller behind the puppet human being creating obstacles and causing difficulties. In case of Ms. Rand the more she wrote books and articles clarifying the issues at stake and the stakeholders responsible, the more virulent hatred and vilification she received at the hands of intellectuals, political leaders, social celebrities and morality upholders. Recall the trajectory of her career: by the time she wrote and published Atlas Shrugged she was in her fifties, exhausted with using reason to answer the mindless slings and arrows let loose from multiple directions. Throughout her hope remained that appealing to her opponents’ rational faculty was the way to win them over. Thing was they didn’t want to be won over. They wanted to be left alone or fellated in abject gratitude for allowing her to be naturalized in her favorite country. Ironically she was held dumb by her own sanction – she granted them a nobility they didn’t want to possess or didn’t possess (I don’t care which).

FOREWORD continued from the installments published in the series Faith Against Reason. …

… Volumes can be and have been written about the issue of freedom versus dictatorship, but, in essence, it comes down to a single question: do you consider it moral to treat men as sacrificial animals and to rule them by physical force? If, as a citizen of the freest country in the world, you do not know what this would actually mean – We The Living will help you to know. …

Personally I find the idea of crucifying a man on the cross for other people’s sins (the idea of Jesus dying on the Cross on behalf of everyone else) as abhorrent as that of an innocent man forced to accept a woman carrying another man or spirit’s child as his son (the idea of Joseph marrying or keeping his wife Mary who is carrying a child not his own). In both cases neither of the guilty party has to atone for anything. Compassion is one thing, but when a faith or religion turns a blind eye to injustice being meted out to the innocent, it takes evil to a level difficult for any thing else to surpass.

… Coming back to the opening remarks of this foreword, I want to account for the editorial changes which I have made in the text of this novel for this present reissue: the chief inadequacy of my literary means was grammatical – a particular kind of uncertainty in the use of the English language, which reflected the transitional state of a mind thinking no longer in Russian, but not yet fully in English. I have changed only the most awkward or confusing lapses of this kind. I have reworded the sentences and clarified their meaning, without changing their content. I have not added or eliminated anything to or from the content of the novel. I have cut out some sentences and a few paragraphs that were repetitious or so confusing in their implications that to clarify them would have necessitated lengthy additions. In brief, all the changes are merely editorial line-changes. The novel remains what and as it was. …

I find it fascinating to see how often and how painstakingly Ms. Rand gives her critics the benefit of the doubt, attributing to ignorance what ought rightly to be attributed to sloth and fear.


Continuing with the story of Dhamma Brother, Grady Bankhead, we find that the early development of guilt within him pays dividends in yet another way. Recall that its onset began with the death of his little brother who was left in his care by his mother when she abandoned them both on the porch of an abandoned house at the end of a long driveway in the countryside.

… In a similar way Grady has blamed himself about the murder he witnessed. He has experienced tremendous anger and a sense of restlessness about his incarceration. The fear of fully facing and experiencing his anger made him reluctant to sign up for the Vipassana course. …

Does this mean that I was not afraid to face my own anger when I signed for their 10-day course for beginners? What does that imply about those women I saw at this course who seemed to have enjoyed it, extolling the spicy food served for lunch? Ah! Why should they feel anger! They had never been victimized by other women or men. They were actually the abusers and the criminals. Why should they not enjoy sitting and meditating for 10 days in complete silence, when the problem of food has been solved for them!

… But during the course he was able to look at the crime in a deeper way, experience the underlying grief and finally come to a sense of self-forgiveness. …

What might Mr. Bankhead have to forgive himself about? His failure to protect and defend himself, his mind, his body, his spirit, from the harm done to them by his mother initially. That is the source of anger, a well that never seems to dry up. No amount of reasoning that he was only a five-year-old boy is going to remove that sense of failure, nor its resulting anger, of rage, of contempt. And of frustration with those of the helping profession, most of whom are religious, only there in a competition to get more converts to their own faith in a captive environment such as prisons.

… “Until then I had actually justified and excused myself for the crime. …

At the core Mr. Bankhead’s crime is of self-neglect to the point of making friends with criminally minded people. He does not say this in his account. For a very good reason. Once you point your rightfully accusing finger at the one who harmed you, you feel compelled to seek compensation or some sort of mitigation. This completes the circle of exercising one’s identity as a rational human being. Try to do this, and you run smack into rationalizations, excuses, circumstances and explanations, against which you have no defense, except to forgive the attacker. See what just happened here? Now the victim is forgiving the attacker. The attacker gets the initial goodies from her violence and later forgiveness for both the violence and enjoying the fruits of her violence.

… During Vipassana I just couldn’t get away from myself. I had to see it. And one of the things Vipassana teaches you is any negative behavior starts within. The misery starts in here. Then it carries somewhere else. So I’m guilty, even though I never hit the man. …

As you can see, I have a different opinion than Mr. Bankhead of why his misery starts inside him. In order to seek out punishment for one’s own mother, one has to care enough about her in order to nurture the sense of anger, of hatred, of revenge against her. Besides the impracticality of such a course of action, it also grants her more of one’s own resources than she rightfully deserves. In addition, nurturing such feelings over the long haul becomes inimical to one’s health. But forgiveness is morally wrong. Which is why the person’s spirit rebels in myriad ways – drugs, alcohol, overeating, suicide, other pathologies – just the spirit’s way to get the person to use his rational faculty, and find a healthy solution to a most difficult conundrum.

… Now I don’t have to make excuses to myself anymore. I pulled some of my masks off. In my other treatments, I never have been able to do that.” …

Guilt in a victim is built up in layers. It is not a simple matter of finding the perpetrator, accusing her, seeking to punish her and watching it be meted out. No. Before one can rightfully and morally attack the perpetrator, one has to purify one’s own soul. One does this by taking away all the actions where one was at fault from its surface. I call it cleaning the mirror of the soul to be able to see one’s true self in it. You see, in the first flush of realization of having been wronged, the self hides this essential truth by frantically seeking excuses, taking actions, thinking thoughts that puts itself at fault, all the while seeking to balance the wrong done to it by multiple wrongs it does to itself.

Mr. Bankhead says that he was able to pull some of his masks off. That is a necessary preliminary step to take before confronting the mother. His subconscious knows that if she hasn’t seen fit to acknowledge and mitigate her violent actions towards him, then she has accumulated all sorts of anecdotal evidence for why she did what she did, which she will throw at his face in angry and/or tearful justification. It is crucial to have forgiven oneself to the deepest level possible to be able to stand still, thrive even, under such a barrage, and without any scars, walk away into the future. Not for nothing is the still-forming soul afraid of facing such an artillery barrage. It will do anything, bend in any way, to avoid this hard climb up the mountain. Man makes his soul. He is born with the tools to do so. He is not born with it fully-formed, bright and shiny like some gaudy bauble. I recall Ayn Rand stating this idea in Atlas Shrugged, I think as part of the speech of John Galt.

Of course society will demand public apologies and reparations. Those that self-identify as proudly belonging to society, enjoy its hierarchical nature and the all-consuming occupation of watching one’s position change within it. When his mother comes to say she is sorry, she is only doing so because she needs her son’s forgiveness. This clearly indicates that she is still not sorry. She is expecting something more from him – his forgiveness. Why? Is it status related? Is it about her place in society? Is it her conscience prodding her, whatever remnants might still remain within her?

The Foreword to We The Living by Ayn Rand continues as follows:

When, at the age of twelve, at the time of the Russian revolution, I first heard the Communist principle that Man must exist for the sake of the State, I perceived that this was the essential issue, that this principle was evil, and that it could lead to nothing but evil, regardless of any methods, details, decrees, policies, promises and pious platitudes. This was the reason for my opposition to Communism then – and it is my reason now. I am still a little astonished, at times, that too many adult Americans do not understand the nature of the fight against Communism as clearly as I understood it at the age of twelve: they continue to believe that only Communist methods are evil, while Communist ideals are noble. All the victories of Communism since the year 1917 are due to that particular belief among the men who are still free.

It is not that Americans do not understand the nature of the fight against Communism. They do. They agree with the Communist principle that Man must exist for the sake of the State. In fact they may go further to say that Man must exist for the sake of the Other, Greater than itself. By specifying this Greater Other as the State, Communism obscures this deeper principle. A religious dictatorship would replace the State with God or with His earthly representative with no qualms at all. If they were sophisticated they’d say Man must exist for the sake of a Higher Purpose. This purpose is invariably tied to the good of some numerical quantity greater than a few, at the expense of the few irresponsible enough to believe in this principle. Irresponsible because by this action they give up ownership and liability for whatever happens to them. In turn this leads to the beginning or addition of more guilt for such a profound abdication.

I am aware of the separation of church and state designed into the Constitution. I am also aware that every year this separation is infringed upon more and more. In 1954 when the words, “under God”, were added to the US Pledge of Allegiance it was in response to the Communist threat of those times. Did the leaders forget the consequences of letting God creep back into matters of the state? Or did they assume that anyone who didn’t believe in God was not a true American, but someone who would turn Communist at any time? I don’t recall any comment Ms. Rand made on this (but I have not read all her works) small but crucial change. I must presume that the smoke generated from the threat of Communist fire was dense enough to obscure its meaning.

In 1958 Ms. Rand wrote this Foreword to We The Living. There was still no comment regarding the changed Pledge of Allegiance. The matter seemed to be still presented as the conflict between Communist Russians and Capitalist Americans – a materialistic conflict instead of a spiritual one – a more accurate description would have been Atheistic Russians and Religious Americans. The Conservatives understood it better, but they chose not to reveal this clarity of perception. No point upsetting and alienating the atheistic and agnostic Americans now, is there?

In 1961, upon listening to John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address where he calls upon his fellow Americans to “… ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. …”, the issues are made crystal clear. I recall an essay of hers critical of the President’s call to self-sacrifice.

If Ms. Rand was smoked by the hot air of superficial conflict between Communist Russians and Capitalist Americans while struggling with the need to earn a living as a serious thinker by maintaining a regular schedule of articles and commentaries, I was smoked by my girlfriends jockeying for my preferential attention for quite a long time. I have to emphasize that it is harder to maintain girlfriends in the proper preferential hierarchy without endangering the moral at the hands of the immoral. Even if I don’t reveal who’s who amongst them, the immoral always know who the moral are.

My friend Safia has one weak elbow joint. Our circle of friends knew about it and made allowances for it. Except for Susan Roth. Earlier I had written about Susan guilting me into carrying her bags by pointing to her elbow (opposite to that of Safia’s weak elbow) and essentially saying, “Mama, I got a boo-boo.” I carry it a few steps, while carrying my own, before dropping it, and reminding her of my warning not to pack so many bags for a four day professional conference in San Francisco. Her elbow only started “to hurt” on seeing me walking faster than her while carrying all my bags without resorting to pitiful looks at passer-bys or Susan herself. Susan was over a foot taller than me. I was struggling not to have my bags drag on the ground (which incidentally increases its weight and the resulting strain on the muscles) as I usually have to. Susan has no such problems. She shortens the strap, but it doesn’t help. She laughs and comments about how short I was. Feeling better about herself, she is now able to carry it herself, but continues to walk slower to keep up the pretense. But she does have a repository of anger and envy within her. With that one action, Susan demonstrated her envy of Safia’s vulnerable appeal to men and my strength of will and presence of mind. As for the anger, she ought to care enough to deal with it without endangering innocent friends.

Why bring up this story now? How Susan acted in that instant was similar to the veiling of perception by the Conservatives regarding the nature of the conflict between Soviet Russia and the United States in the 50s and the 60s. Let’s continue with the Foreword to We The Living.

… To those who might wonder whether the conditions of existence in Soviet Russia have changed in any essential respect since 1925, I will make a suggestion: take a look through the files of the newspapers. If you do, you will observe the following pattern: first, you will read glowing reports about the happiness, the prosperity, the industrial development, the progress and the power of the Soviet Union, and that any statements to the contrary are the lies of prejudiced reactionaries; then, about five years later, you will read admissions that things were pretty miserable in the Soviet Union five years ago, just about as bad as the prejudiced reactionaries had claimed, but now the problems are solved and the Soviet Union is a land of happiness, prosperity, industrial development, progress and power; about five years later, you will read that Trotsky (or Zinoviev or Kamenev or Litvinow or the “kulaks” or the foreign imperialists) had caused the miserable state of things five years ago, but now Stalin had purged them all and the Soviet Union has surpassed the decadent West in happiness, prosperity, industrial development, etc.; five years later, you will read that Stalin was a monster who had crushed the progress of the Soviet Union, but now it is a land of happiness, prosperity, artistic freedom, educational perfection and scientific superiority over the whole world. How many of such five-year plans will you need before you begin to understand? That depends on your intellectual honesty and your power of abstraction. But what about the Soviet possession of the atom bomb? Read the accounts of the trials of the scientists who were Soviet spies in England, Canada and the United States. But how can we explain the “Sputnik”? Read the story of “Project X” in Atlas Shrugged. …

Does the above passage remind you of anything? Of course, it does. This is one of the tactics employed by anyone defending his position against evidence to the contrary. We all do it under stress or deliberately as a standard operating procedure. It seems to be part of our behavioral arsenal. Girls do it. Boys do it. Children do it. Men do it. Women do it. We all do it. And promptly, as some cosmic payback, we begin to believe our own bullshit. Do this long enough and you forget the truth beneath it all. You may have been innocent but now you are convinced you are guilty as sin. You may have been guilty but now you are convinced that you are an innocent, victimized by your very victims. Words become like taffy, to be pulled this way and that. Reasoning operates mostly through the medium of words. So our internal reasoning become taffy in our hands and in the hands of others.

Going back to the Dhamma Brother Grady Bankhead’s story, we find this:

Grady says that the Vipassana program has helped him accept prison as his home. “So today, this is my home. They may transfer me to another prison, and then that is my home. But I’m all right living here.” This resolve to make prison his home and to peacefully accept that reality was sorely tested last year. Grady found out from another inmate, who had seen the story on TV, that his daughter Brandy had been brutally murdered by a man in a motel room. The terrible details of this crime, coupled with his inability to respond to or seek solace from his family, were an incredible test of Grady’s inner strength. But his inclusion in the Dhamma brotherhood and his reliance upon his Vipassana practice provided a source of support.

Further along in the Letters from the Dhamma Brothers it says this about Vipassana and Christianity and Islam.

October 2003
Vipassana and Christianity and Islam
”… take advantage of this wonderful, scientific, nonsectarian technique. Nobody asked you to convert yourself from one organized religion to another organized religion. The conversion is, rather, the conversion of the mind from bondage to liberation, from ignorance to enlightenment, from cruelty to compassion, from misery to happiness. This is required by one and all.” – S. N. Goenka

“I saw through Vipassana that I was not giving near as much attention and awareness to my salat [five daily Islamic prayers] that I could and should, and that I would be getting much more from it if I did. I compared the attention and awareness I was able to develop through Vipassana and I said, ‘Wow, I haven’t been giving this much attention to my salat, you know, and here I almost didn’t participate in Vipassana because I didn’t want to forego my five salats a day.’” – Omar Rahman

“I wanted rehabilitation over a whole lot of defects in my life. My attitude for one, my sense of respect for others was low – even though I sincerely believed in God, I still didn’t have what I needed to live peacefully regardless of conditions (prison).” – Willie Carroll

I am sure that it is completely unintentional on the part of the Mr. Rahman and Mr. Carroll, but their comments reveal something about their respective religions. Mr. Rahman wanted to jealously guard his five prayers a day that enables him to develop attention and awareness, a harmless concern. Mr. Carroll wanted rehabilitation without fully understanding its meaning along with the serious hard work involved in obtaining it. Furthermore he admits that his belief in God didn’t generate any respect for others within him, a matter that could be a potential source of danger to others. A religion that holds up the sacrifice of the virtuous (the Crucifixion of Jesus) as a model can and does play havoc with the human being trying sincerely to practice its teachings. From seeing oneself as a sacrificial animal it is a short step to seeing others as sacrificial animals. Where is the need for respect for others then?

Mr. Goenka was the latest teacher of the Vipassana technique of meditation. I hear that he died a couple of years ago. When you attend the ten-day course of silent meditation for beginners you will hear his voice on tape walking you through the hours of meditation. My best memory is his story of Gautam Buddha upon attaining enlightenment. On that instant, Buddha laughed at the gods, at one God, of the past, of the present, of the future. He saw through all their games to enslave his mind. In one full instant he saw his past lives and his future lives as a series of cycles chaining him to the transitory to keep him from seeing the essential. And so he laughed. His laughter marked his liberation.

Reminds me of the opening scene from The Fountainhead. Howard Roark laughs with the joy of freedom upon being expelled from architecture school.

Part One

Peter Keating

Chapter 1

Howard Roark laughed.

He stood naked at the edge of a cliff. The lake lay far below him. A frozen explosion of granite burst in flight to the sky over motionless water. The water seemed immovable, the stone – flowing. The stone had the stillness of one brief moment in battle when thrust meets thrust and the currents are held in a pause more dynamic than motion. The stone glowed, wet with sunrays.

The lake below was only a thin steel ring that cut the rocks in half. The rocks went on into the depth, unchanged. They began and ended in the sky. So that the world seemed suspended in space, an island floating on nothing, anchored to the feet of the man on the cliff.

His body leaned back against the sky. It was a body of long straight lines and angles, each curve broken into planes. He stood, rigid, his hands hanging at his sides, palms out. He felt his shoulder blades drawn tight together, the curve of his neck, and the weight of the blood in his hands. He felt the wind behind him, in the hollow of his spine. The wind waved his hair against the sky. His hair was neither blond nor red, but the exact color of ripe orange rind.

He laughed at the thing which happened to him that morning and at the things which now lay ahead.

He knew that the days ahead would be difficult. There were questions to be faced and a plan of action to be prepared. He knew that he should think about it. He knew also that he would not think, because everything was clear to him already, because the plan had been set long ago, and because he wanted to laugh.

He tried to consider it. But he forgot. He was looking at the granite.

He did not laugh as his eyes stopped in awareness of the earth around him. His face was like a force of nature – a thing one could not question, alter or implore. It had high cheekbones over gaunt, hollow cheeks; gray eyes, cold and steady; a contemptuous mouth, shut tight, the mouth of an executioner or a saint.

He looked at the granite. To be cut, he thought, and made into walls. He looked at a tree. To be split and made into rafters. He looked at a streak of rust on the stone and thought of iron ore under the ground. To be melted and to emerge as girders against the sky.

These rocks, he thought, are here for me; waiting for the drill, the dynamite and my voice; waiting to be split, ripped, pounded, reborn; waiting for the shape my hands will give them.

Then he shook his head, because he remembered that morning and that there were many things to be done. He stepped to the edge, raised his arms, and dived down into the sky below.

He cut straight across the lake to the shore ahead. He reached the rocks where he had left his clothes. He looked regretfully about him. For three years, ever since he had lived in Stanton, he had come here for his only relaxation, to swim, to rest, to think, to be alone and alive, whenever he could find one hour to spare, which had not been often. In his new freedom the first thing he had wanted to do was to come here, because he knew that he was coming for the last time. That morning he had been expelled from the Architectural School of the Stanton Institute of Technology.

Faith Against Reason – 2

FOREWARD … continued

It was not until Atlas Shrugged that I reached the full answer to Irina’s question. In Atlas Shrugged I explain the philosophical, psychological and moral meaning of the men who value their own lives and of the men who don’t. I show that the first are Prime Movers of mankind and that the second are metaphysical killers, working for an opportunity to become physical ones. In Atlas Shrugged I show why men are motivated either by a life premise or a death premise. In We The Living I only show that they are.

The rapid epistemological degeneration of our present age – when men are being brought down to the level of concrete-bound animals who are incapable of perceiving abstractions, when men are taught that they must look at trees, but never at forests – makes it necessary for me to give the following to my readers: do not be misled by those who might tell that We The Living is “dated” or no longer relevant to the present, since it deals with Soviet Russia in the nineteen-twenties. Such a criticism is applicable only to the writers of the Naturalist school, and represents the viewpoint of those who, having never discovered that any other school of literature can or did exist, are unable to distinguish the function of a novel from that of a Sunday supplement article.

How might someone go about bringing men down to the level of concrete-bound animals? How about this as an example?

From Letters from the Dhamma Brothers

Grady Bankhead

Grady Bankhead has a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Now in his fifties, he has been incarcerated for over 20 years, on death row for the first eight. His crime was to stand by and witness a murder. Although Grady did not commit the crime, he drove the getaway car, leaving the scene with the murderers. Tried as a capital crime and sentenced to death in the electric chair, Grady narrowly escaped execution. In a retrial defended by Attorney Bryan Stevenson of Equal Justice Initiative, Grady was released from the death sentence and given life without parole.

Grady has struggled over the years to accept his fate while watching his family lose touch with him. “Life without parole means that you are to be warehoused until you die. It doesn’t mean that you are to be punished, or worked, or any of that. It means that they don’t want you back in society. What it meant to me was just a longer way to die than the electric chair. I thought the judge just wanted me to grow old and die. I wanted to get it over with because my family was suffering.”

When he was five years old, one day Grady’s mother dressed him and his three-year-old brother, Danny, in their best clothes, drove them out into the countryside and left them on the porch of an old abandoned house at the end of a long driveway. She instructed them to stay on the porch, that Grady was to take care of Danny and that she would be back to get them. After standing there all night Grady climbed down and found an old hubcap filled with rainwater. He also found a dead bird. These were the rations that kept the boys alive. Their mother never returned. …

Let’s pause here for a moment. Give some thought to how Grady and his brother grew up from now on. Leave aside the horror of their mother’s behavior. Leave aside your anger on their behalf and your desire to avenge them somehow. Think about their minds, young and plastic. What is the impression created about the adult world? What is the impression created about the real world? What is the impression created about right and wrong? Finally what is the impression created about how to use one’s mind to learn life skills? Now remember the words of Rand “… The rapid epistemological degeneration of our present age – when men are being brought down to the level of concrete-bound animals who are incapable of perceiving abstractions, when men are taught that they must look at trees, but never at forests – makes it necessary for me to give the following to my readers: do not be misled by those who might tell that We The Living is “dated” or no longer relevant to the present, since it deals with Soviet Russia in the nineteen-twenties. …”

With this one action of hers, Mamma Bankhead created concrete-bound animals from the raw materials of human beings. For the Bankhead boys there was now only one world, the world of dog-eat-dog, the world where no one was on their side, and the world where only one sort of behavior was to be applied to everyone. How would they perceive abstractions, when they were reduced to looking at hubcaps and dead birds, not the wheel on which a vehicle moved forward that the hubcap protected, not a live bird flying high in the sky.

Let’s continue with Mr. Bankhead’s story …

… In the days following their abandonment, Grady tried to care for Danny, who had a weak heart and had always been frail. But they were not found for several days. Danny later died, and Grady was filled with guilt about his death. Rather than blaming his mother, whom he didn’t see again until he got to death row, he always blamed himself. …

Here is the concept of unearned guilt that Grady imbibes – do you think someone may have convinced him that his mother’s abandonment represented a real example of his fall from Eden? Did he not upset his mother sometimes? Did she not then punish him for it? Would he not naturally assume that his mother did not return because of something he had done? Later when Danny dies, would he not have confused the sequence of events long enough to mold his mind into certain patterns, inimical to the development of his rational faculty, but eminently suitable to the inculcation of faith?

Back to Ms. Rand.

The Naturalist school of writing consists of substituting statistics for one’s standard of value, then cataloguing minute, photographic, journalistic details of a given country, region, city or back yard in a given decade, year, month or split-second, on the over-all premise of: “This is what men have done” – as against the premise of: “This is what men have chosen and/or should choose to do.” This last is the premise of the Romantic school of writing, which deals, above all, with human values and, therefore, with the essential and the universal in human actions, not with the statistical and the accidental. The Naturalist school records the choices which men happened to have made; the Romantic school projects the choices which men can and ought to make. I am a Romantic Realist – distinguished from the Romantic tradition in that the values I deal with pertain to this earth and to the basic problems of this era.

I hope I am too.

A phrase that many of you are familiar goes like this: “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger!” Abandonment by his mother didn’t kill Grady, but did it make him stronger? No. It didn’t. Ergo, there was nothing to learn from his story for the usual suspects. No politically appropriate person to blame for his misfortune. No interest group could profit from his example. No wonder, Mr. Bankhead strongly felt that “… they don’t want you back in society. What it meant to me was just a longer way to die than the electric chair. I thought the judge just wanted me to grow old and die. …” Not a longer way. Just a way to still their conscience and social scruples. Still Mr. Bankhead felt strongly that “… I wanted to get it over with because my family was suffering.” No one but he seems to be concerned about other people’s suffering. That early stamp of unearned guilt was still paying unearned dividends.

In the last post I said that “… I don’t know how we might have fared if we had lived in Soviet Russia, but it couldn’t have been any worse for Jyoti. She did try to kill herself by increasing the quantity of pills she’d take to go to sleep. She could never go to sleep. …” Numerous trials did not deter her mother from being unfaithful to her husband. Jyoti kept getting more stressed. She began to neglect her studies. She was a bright kid. Now all her energies were directed at making her mother see the error of her ways. In this contest her mother won. You have to see her mother to see why that might be. Her mother had the impassivity of a Mrs. Boynton on a mountaintop. In other words she was mentally and physically obese. This density of mind kept her from perceiving the pain she was causing her daughter. Just as it had kept her from perceiving the value of my mother’s warnings about her child rearing practices with regard to Jyoti’s younger sister, Priti. Ignoring the warnings was one of the causes for Priti’s raging fever to develop into polio while still an infant. How do young girls fight the sheer malevolence of their mothers? There is no way that I know of, except to develop and maintain the rationality of one’s mind by whatever means possible.

To continue with Jyoti’s story, she fell in love with a boy from another creed. Unfortunately for her, he was too attached to his family traditions to fight their choice of a bride for him. He broke their relationship. Jyoti’s pill intake increased even more. My constant and boring advice of focusing on academics to build independence of spirit and self-reliance seemed too long term to ameliorate her immediate sufferings. How might I have fared in her place? I don’t know. Alternative histories are boring and pointless, in my opinion.

Eventually one night her drugged body expressed in great detail the imminent mortality it was facing. I don’t rightly recall what it did. But it was enough to awaken her family to seek the family doctor, who then rushed her to the hospital to have her stomach pumped of the poisons. Jyoti’s suicide did not work.

The terrible irony and ugliness revealed itself the next day. While Jyoti lay in the hospital deliberately alone – she did not ask for anyone to be by her side – her mother went around telling everyone in the neighborhood of how shocked she was at her daughter’s antics, about how her daughter was so out of her hands that she couldn’t reach her, Jyoti’s father couldn’t reach her, and more such plausible denials. Neighbors believed the mother. It was in their interest to do so.

Jyoti survived. She never regained her former lightness of heart, nor her health. All that seem to remain was her will. But its purpose was gone. By now, I was enrolled in architecture school. Coursework kept me awake at nights. I think Jyoti failed to clear the crucial tenth grade city level exams, but I am not certain. She started hanging out with some other girlfriends belonging to a creed variant to her own. We maintained friendly relations, but I found less and less time to just hang out with her. When I described my coursework, my life attending college, it seemed too high a goal for her to reach. I tried and failed to persuade her to retake her tenth grade exams. She may have tried to later on, but from now on events are hazy in my mind. My own interesting experiences in architectural school, with girls from well-to-do families and their monkey brain activities, kept me fully engrossed.

The beginning parts of We The Living deal in some detail with the interactions between the heroine, Kira, and her family. Like all of Ms. Rand’s novels it is an idealistic portrayal. But there are lessons here in how to maintain neutrality in the face of seemingly conflicting pressures. It may seem difficult, but as I recall real events and read other people’s short life sketches, it may not be as hard as trying to maintain social relations with people who are either inimical or indifferent to your own plight. Here is one excerpt that may shed some light on this matter:

… After dinner, Kira brought her books into the dining room, for they had but one wick. She sat, the book between her elbows on the table, her fingers buried in the hair over her temples, her eyes wide, engrossed in circles, cubes, triangles, as in a thrilling romance.

Lydia sat embroidering a handkerchief and sighed bitterly: “Oh, that Soviet light! Such a light! And to think that someone has invented electricity!”

“That’s right,” Kira agreed, astonished, “it’s not a very good light, is it? Funny. I never noticed it before.”

One night, Galina Petrovna found the millet too mildewed to cook. They had no dinner. Lydia sighed over her embroidery: “These Soviet menus!”

“That’s right,” said Kira, “we didn’t have any dinner tonight, did we?”

“Where’s your mind,” Lydia raged, “if any? Do you ever notice anything?”

Through the evenings, Galina Petrovna grumbled at intervals: “A woman engineer! Such a profession for a daughter of mine! … Is that a way for a young girl to live? Not a boy, not a single beau to visit her. … Tough as a shoe-sole. No romance. No delicacy. No finer feelings. A daughter of mine!”

In the little room which Kira and Lydia shared at night, there was only one bed. Kira slept on a mattress on the floor. They retired early, to save light. Tucked under a thin blanket, with her coat thrown over it, Kira watched Lydia’s figure in a long nightgown, a white stain in the darkness, kneeling before her ikons in the corner. Lydia mumbled prayers feverishly, trembling in the cold, making the sign of the cross with a hurried hand, bowing low to the little red light and the few glimmers of stern, bronze faces.

From her corner on the floor, Kira could see the reddish-gray sky in the window and the gold spire of the Admiralty far away in the cold, foggy dusk over Petrograd, the city where so much was possible. …

When you read this excerpt, note the different mindsets of each character, Kira the younger sister, Lydia the older sister, and Galina Petrovna their mother. Note what concerns each of them. I like Ms. Rand’s economy of words. It allows her to explore topics in greater detail and yet maintain consistency of plot. Coincidentally, Jyoti’s younger sister, Priti, ended up focusing more on her academic studies than anyone in that family, within the limits allowed by that family tradition. Wonder why that may be so?

To continue with the Foreword to We The Living,

We The Living is not a story about Soviet Russia in 1925. It is a story about Dictatorship, any dictatorship, anywhere, at any time, whether it be Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, or – which this novel might do its share in helping to prevent – a socialist America. What the rule of brute force does to men, and how it destroys the best, will be the same in 1925, in 1955 or in 1975 – whether the secret police is called G.P.U., or N.K.V.D., whether men eat millet or bread, whether they live in hovels or in housing projects, whether the rulers wear red shirts or brown ones, whether the head butcher kisses a Cambodian witch doctor or an American pianist.

I may add that this applies equally to a religious dictatorship, be that religion Hinduism, Islam, Judaism or Christianity. The danger might be even more with their appeal to faith that automatically puts each beyond the reach of man’s reasoning faculty.

Faith Against Reason

A war zone between reason and faith.

A war I have seen up close, growing up with my childhood companion Jyoti Shah. Three years older than me, she is the oldest of three siblings. Her parents are also eldest in their respective sibling order. Both of us were sexually abused as little girls. But in case of Jyoti the betrayal went beyond that meted out from neighbors and well-wishers. Her mother was a primary source of pain for her. Her creed was the second source of pain. The first of these she would talk to me about almost daily. The second of these I became aware of, only in these years of deliberate solitude.

Why do you think I have avoided training to be a teacher? Something was terribly wrong when students would come in, practice seriously in the beginning, see true results, and then allow it to be taken away from them. What did they get in return? Better jobs with higher salary (mo’ money), easy childbirth (mo’ power over their financial supporter). Their health suffered but this didn’t matter. Poor health became yet another stick to beat the world with.

Elsewhere on this website, I had pointed out that Bikram has said and written many times that yoga is not a religion. Unlike a religion where with some sort of a card, an ID, a pendant around the neck, the regurgitation of acceptable words, you are eligible and entitled to its benefits, benefits of yoga don’t remain with you. You don’t show up, you lose the benefits gained. Yet,

Finding nothing in common between their individual faiths without sliding into New Age mumbo-jumbo, they (religious organizations) latched onto the idea of yoga. It is old (attractive to men), it is exotic (attractive to women), it is healthy (attractive to youth), it has words written in a dead language (attractive to scholarly types) that can be pulled about a bit like taffy. But for the pesky Bikram Choudhury who insisted on keeping Bikram Yoga free of religion. Why not use any other variety of yoga? None of them were as successful as Bikram Yoga though. Nor as systematic. The work involved in systemizing these others into a doctrine would be too great. And none of these religions are in their youthful prime. They are all old and decrepit, hanging on to legitimacy and relevance by a thread. In Yassi each found the perfect instrument. A new studio needs students. It was run by a woman who admitted to feeling deeply the loss of her father at a young age. Any dogma becomes attractive to such a one.

Into this mix my arrival as a student made it that much more potent and lucrative. I have written about the role of ISKCon, Swami Narayan, Lake Highlands Churchgoers and sundry other anti-reason or religiously oriented individuals in my life, all with the goal of converting me to their faith or sub-culture.

Because of my lifelong war against religious and social authority whose many battles I have won, I still hesitate to train to become a Bikram yoga teacher. No surprise. The teachers I have encountered don’t have the time, don’t make the time, and don’t get the time to solve their own issues. The better they are as teachers the less time they seem to have for themselves. In conversations I have found that it is a rare teacher who spends any amount of time on a regular basis on keeping up their practice. Like their students, they allow life to happen to them. The saddest thing is to watch Yassi practice as a student. She never forgets, nor allows herself to forget that she is a studio owner and a Bikram Yoga teacher. Over the years I have hated to watch her practice suffer as much as she has allowed it to suffer. Initially I wished for it to be just my own silly assessment. But as I watched her growing ill-health I found myself forced to agree with my initial silly assessment. Every suggestion of mine she threw away, so much did it disagree with her identity as a teacher and studio owner.

In this she is no different from my childhood companion, Jyoti. I spent years, listening to her pain upon learning of her mother’s infidelity, of her pain upon learning of her mother’s intransigence upon discovery and confrontation of her infidelity, of her pain upon understanding her mother’s indifference to anything but the need to secure control over resources in a joint family situation, of which Jyoti was unfortunate enough to be a part of. Mothers are designated the role models that girls emulate in their path to womanhood. To learn of her mother’s relentless blindness to what is right, what is moral, was a shock that kept sleep and hunger away for months on end. Turned out this girl who loved to eat out at the drop of a hat and would pay for friends to accompany her on such trips, could do without food, but not without sleep.

From Ayn Rand’s “We The Living”


I had not reread this novel as a whole, since the time of its first publication in 1936, until a few months ago. I had not expected to be as proud of it as I am.

Too many writers declare that they never succeed in expressing fully what they wished to express and that their work is only some sort of approximation. It is a viewpoint for which I have never had any sympathy and which I consider excusable only when it is voiced by beginners, since no one is born with any kind of “talent”

So much for the idea of inborn “talents” in people. We are all born with certain aversions and cravings. Existential events may trigger some while leave others untouched. Ideally nothing is wasted nor overused. Each is used only as needed, keeping the individual in harmony with his nature. People around the individual, on the other hand, will ensure that the traits they prefer are used more often than others. Think of evangelical and religious nations, provinces, states, societies, communities and neighborhoods that discourage the pursuit of science, of independence, of integrity. I would also include my neighborhood, not so much for the churches at numerous intersections, but for the presence of an ever-expanding evangelical family. It is a sign of ignorance and fear that is on display here – they cannot rely upon the power of their own minds and characters to ensure a prosperous future, but find it necessary to keep having children to ensure their safety. People had lots of kids when anyone individual child’s survival was chancy and yet necessary to the family’s survival. What threats do they face now, except the ones engendered by deliberate ignorance!!!

and, therefore, every skill has to be acquired. Writers are made, not born. To be exact, writers are self-made. It was mainly in regard to We The Living, my first novel (and, progressively less, in regard to my work preceding The Fountainhead), that I had felt that my means were inadequate to my purpose and that I had not said what I wanted to say as well as I wished. Now, I am startled to discover how well I did say it.

Jyoti began taking sleeping pills. Coincidentally, she found a job at the local doctor (yeah, that family doctor of mine, belonging to the Swami Narayan temple then) as a dispenser of potions and mixtures. Surely, the doctor must have observed her dispenser gradually losing muscle mass, reducing to skin and bones, her head stuck like an alien on a neck thinner than that of a scrawny chicken. There was no word of reprimand, nor prohibition that I recall. Yes, I know about the cunning of the addict. But Jyoti was not that far gone yet.

We The Living is not a novel “about Soviet Russia.” It is a novel about Man against the State.

I understand it is fashionable to consider the State to be a secular government of some kind. But if you, dear reader, are honest, you will admit that it might as well apply equally well to a religious government. And any combination in between the two poles. I think her word “collective” would be appropriate. That is a more accurate term. But then Ms. Rand was strangely hesitant to criticize religion, especially Christianity, vociferously or relentlessly. Thankfully, she criticized the conservatives more than the liberals, for the former’s espousal of nothing but the past, an amorphous fluid concept at best. To her way of thinking, liberals were slightly better for espousing ideas over the past or tradition – at least there was some basis for a conversation.

Its basic theme is the sanctity of human life – using the word “sanctity” not in a mystical sense, but in the sense of “supreme value.”

Before the conservatives jump at this as some sort of justification for torching abortion clinics, let us remember that Ms. Rand found blind obedience to edicts, doctrines, policies, at the expense of reason to be most abhorrent.

The essence of my theme is contained in the words of Irina, a minor character of the story, a young girl who is sentenced to imprisonment in Siberia and knows that she will never return: “There’s something I would like to understand. And I don’t think anyone can explain it. … There’s your life. You begin it, feeling that it’s something so precious and rare, so beautiful that it’s like a sacred treasure. Now it’s over, and it doesn’t make any difference to anyone, and it isn’t that they are indifferent, it’s just that they don’t know, they don’t know what it means, that treasure of mine, and there’s something about it that they should understand. I don’t understand it myself, but there’s something that should be understood by all of us. Only what is it? What?”

Irina’s words “that treasure of mine” is key to understanding the difference between reason and faith. To exercise reason is an individual act, requiring an individual mind. One may read works by others, one may listen to discussions and discourses on a topic, but one’s mind must still integrate these ideas, well enough to explain them to others with lesser understanding. Faith, on the other hand, requires nothing more than swearing allegiance to some one other than oneself, including deferring decisions to this other. There is no need to exercise one’s mind, except to determine who or what to follow.

On a lighter note, if Irina had somehow made it so that “that treasure of mine” came to be seen as “that treasure of ours”, however she chose to define “ours” she might not have been sentenced to imprisonment in Siberia.

On a sadder note, Irina’s words could well apply to the halting words Jyoti used to express her pain all those evenings as we’d sit on the parapet walls of my verandah, talking about people, events and life in general. I don’t know how we might have fared if we had lived in Soviet Russia, but it couldn’t have been any worse for Jyoti. She did try to kill herself by increasing the quantity of pills she’d take to go to sleep. She could never go to sleep.

Perhaps her mother’s nocturnal activities kept her awake? What do you think, my precious-es!!!

At that time, I knew a little more about this question than did Irina, but not much more. I knew that this attitude toward one’s own life should be, but is not, shared by all people – that it is the fundamental characteristics of the best among men – that its absence represents some enormous evil which had never been identified. I knew that this is the issue at the base of all dictatorships, all collectivist theories and all human evils – and that political or economic issues are merely derivatives or consequences of this basic primary. At that time, I looked at any advocates of dictatorship and collectivism with an incredulous contempt: I could not understand how any man could be so brutalized as to claim the right to dispose of the lives of others, nor how any man could be so lacking in self-esteem as to grant to others the right to dispose of his life. Today, the contempt has remained: the incredulity is gone, since I know the answer.

Ah! Ms. Rand uses the word “collectivist” and “collectivism” to include social imperatives such as religion and tradition. I think sometimes one has to be specific and call out names – I call out the export quality variants of Hinduism and Christianity, the one in the United States and the other in India as I recall events from my past.

Why I don’t practice at Bikram Yoga Richardson

In an age of rapid technological and population changes it is natural for individuals to feel useless and left behind. They may be naturally drawn to institutions that offer security without threatening their self-esteem, while meeting their innate aggressive instincts. Religious institutions offer all this. Nations offer these three, but in return demands that you join an army and shed real blood. Or preach patriotism. A bit too real and crass for most people. But religion is not so tainted. What blood they shed, it is due to the other religion’s actions and ideas. This potent cocktail (a Marxian opiate for the masses) can be found in the suburb of Richardson. I have written about it here and here. The Bikram Yoga studio there is owned by Yassi Maige, the last time I checked.

Previously she owned a studio in partnership with two other Bikram Yoga teachers in downtown Dallas. But it got demolished as part of the regional light rail system’s expansion activities. DART’s plans were well publicized with several public hearings at key stages in strategic locations likely to draw the most public comments, as required by law. But running the studio occupied its ownership’s attention to the exclusion of longer term concerns.

So the studio location is perfect for a war zone for Christianity of the suburban variety and distribution, an Islamic mosque and cultural center, a wealthy Indian community from Andhra Pradesh and its admirers with their own temples distributed nearby, a Jewish synagogue (maybe two) and an Greek Orthodox Christian church.

But not a war zone between these religions.

A war zone between reason and faith.

Bikram has said and written many times that yoga is not a religion.

3. Yoga is not a religion. Listen, I come from one of the most religious countries that ever existed and I have never been to a temple to worship in my entire life. Why? Because I never believed in it. People look at statues, lifeless hunks of stone and plaster, and they pray to them, hoping that the statue is really listening to them – I just don’t buy it. And if this is all about God, why do so many people go to church, mosque or temple and then give money? Do you really think you can bribe God? What does God need money for, anyway? Worst of all, religion has been misused throughout human history. Differences in religious beliefs, often amplified by differences in skin color, caste or ethnicity, have created walls between countries, between brothers and sisters and in our own hearts. That’s the biggest thing I’ve got against organized religion. My duty in this life is simply this: to break down walls between people and nations, men and women, East and West.

I worship in a different temple: my body. There is something inside this temple, an animating force that makes my flesh move and speak, that moves me toward my Karma Yoga. What is this mystical but everyday magic? It is the atma, the soul. You can also call it the Spirit, or the true Self. This is God, and God lives in the house of our bodies. We are all Gods and Goddesses. Getting down on your knees, wearing elaborate robes or building a $40 million church doesn’t bring you any closer to the Divine that lives within us all.
So when you ask me if I believe in God, I will never be able to answer with a simple yes or no. I am going to say, “Yes, I do, because I believe in myself, and I am God. I believe in you, too, because you are my God.” The only danger in this belief comes when we refuse to recognize everyone else as an expression of the Divine and see only ourselves that way. If you think you have more of God within you than anyone else, you’re in real trouble, my friend. And so is the world we live in. …

Finding nothing in common between their individual faiths without sliding into New Age mumbo-jumbo, they latched onto the idea of yoga. It is old (attractive to men), it is exotic (attractive to women), it is healthy (attractive to youth), it has words written in a dead language (attractive to scholarly types) that can be pulled about a bit like taffy. But for the pesky Bikram Choudhury who insisted on keeping Bikram Yoga free of religion. Why not use any other variety of yoga? None of them were as successful as Bikram Yoga though. Nor as systematic. The work involved in systemizing these others into a doctrine would be too great. And none of these religions are in their youthful prime, now are they? They are all old and decrepit, hanging on to legitimacy and relevance by a thread. In Yassi each found the perfect instrument. A new studio needs students. It was run by a woman who admitted to feeling deeply the loss of her father at a young age.

Into this mix my arrival as a student made it that much more potent and lucrative. I have written about the role of ISKCon, Swami Narayan and sundry other anti-reason or religiously oriented individuals in my life, all with the goal of converting me and my family to their faith or sub-culture.

Take for instance POSTURE #1: Half Moon Ardha-Chandrasana.

Bikram Yoga

To begin: Stand with your feet together, raise your arms, and bring your hands together, interlocking the fingers in a nice tight grip. Release the index fingers, straightening them and pressing them together. Raise and straighten your arms completely on either side of your head, locking the elbows. Reach upward strongly, pressing the arms against your ears. Keep your head and chin up, looking forward.

Push your hips to the left and, without flexing your arms or legs, slowly bend to your right side as much as possible. Keep your whole body facing front. Keep your arms straight, elbows locked, and don’t let your chin sink down into your chest; keep it three inches away. As you stretch your upper body to the right, continue to push both hips directly to the left.

Stay this way, absolutely still and breathing normally, for 10 full seconds. Then slowly come up to center position, keeping your steeple pointing upward to the sky.

Yassi version of Bikram Yoga

To begin: Stand with your feet together,
make sure your heels and toes are touching
but not everyone can bring toes and heels together without twisting their hips so they end up bending forwards or backwards?
figure it out!
raise your arms,
close to your ears
does that not depend on shoulder flexibility?
look at XXX in the front row! She can do it. Why don’t you?
and bring your hands together, interlocking the fingers in a nice tight grip. Release the index fingers, straightening them and pressing them together. Raise and straighten your arms completely on either side of your head, locking the elbows. Reach upward strongly, pressing the arms against your ears.
this is where the part about the arms close to the ears is relevant
Keep your head and chin up, looking forward.

Push your hips to the left and, without flexing your arms or legs,
sometime while practicing at Bikram Yoga Richardson I began to flex my arms in preparation to pushing my hips but Yassi nor any of her teachers said a word against it
slowly bend to your right side as much as possible. Keep your whole body facing front. Keep your arms straight, elbows locked,
I try and fail to make it look locked. Even locked my elbow will have a crook in it. All I am actually doing is stretching rotating the entire arm length slightly backwards, which means my steeple is pointing back, not up!!!
and don’t let your chin sink down into your chest;
when you flex your arms like I used to your rib cage will rise and pull it closer to your chin, but now there is no room for the chin to move up anymore, not without popping your skull out of its multiple pin-jointed ball and socket joint
keep it three inches away. As you stretch your upper body to the right, continue to push both hips directly to the left.

Stay this way, absolutely still and breathing normally, for 10 full seconds. Then slowly come up to center position, keeping your steeple pointing upward to the sky.
Of course, by now my steeple points somewhere back, not up to the sky. But no one cares about this. All Yassi perceives is muscles and bones stretched out full with no flexure of movement left.


If you are flat footed like me, with no arch at all, then at some point (if you last such specialized attention from Yassi) you will learn to dig all your toes and heels into the ground. This gives you an effective but temporary arch in your foot. An arch is more stable than a flat length. Now you can lock your knees and move your hips without losing balance or risking injury. Doing this will also arch each individual toe.
Flatten your toes!!! Why are you bending them like that?
So I’d flatten then to find my locked knee swaying to the right, to the left, eventually unlocking as it sways to the front, in a desperate quest to stabilize the entire leg and the hip. Soon the hip ball-and-socket joint starts to hurt.
Figure it out!!! You’ve practiced long enough to work this out!!!

Notice what is happening. At each step she is solving some other student’s self-esteem issue using my ability without having to give me any credit for doing so. There are plenty of students who are not flexible and therefore are blessed with the ability to lock their knee. To make them feel better in class, she forces me into their stiff mold. There is no consideration for anyone’s health. There is no fidelity to Bikram’s dialogues. There is only the greed for more students who want to be seen saying nice things more than be seen doing the right things. The religious leaders can take the information gained to their followers as some sort of divine guidance. These latter are most in the wrong of them all! I can forgive greed given evidence of error corrections. But spiritual thieves and liars are the true Fuckwads!
Earlier I had written this:

In 2012, around October – November I was seriously considering not renewing my annual membership at Bikram Yoga Richardson where I was practicing at the time. I was persuaded by the Studio Director, Yassi Maige, to continue for one more year. In November 2012 days before the national elections as I was walking in the local mall I slipped on a perfect circle of some white lotion spilled outside some shop I’ve never visited. I was wearing a red dress and my usual cork heeled sandals (about 2 to 2.5 inches high). Immediately, as if on cue, a woman from the store and some other people gathered around to help. I had the presence of mind to fall in such a manner that there was no free undie show, and no impact on any joints. I took the brunt of the injury on my left foot which twisted. In the few seconds that I was half kneeling on the floor they had time to insist on helping me in, including calling the management or its maintenance personnel to find out someone to clean the evidence. Got on my nerves! Fuck that shit! I declined, got up, ate some dessert, bought lingerie for bodycon gear, all per plan.

Looks like Yassi was prescient, you might say! I showed up for the 5:30 am class the next morning as usual, or close enough for government work. I can check my files but why bother! The first class I took a walking stick and kept it either just outside the room or next to my mat. Never had to use it. Never! I could stand on that left twisted foot that hurt like hell. One-legged postures were compromised somewhat, but not for long. By December 2012, I was back in form, to all intents and purposes, healthy and happy. Then came that compulsion to revisit that fucking Hare Krishna temple, aka, Kalachandjis, aka, ISKCon’s Dallas center. I attended long enough to experience that 80-20 breathing that I have written in detail elsewhere, that finally broke the power of Mantras and chants and led me to learning our entire business project plan by rote, wearing a fricking sari and pacing in our backyard. For a few months I could feel that area within the foot that was injured. Now I don’t even feel it. Its gone!

What I had not written then was that later in November I ended up renewing my annual membership. My intention was to stop attending the studio. The stresses from the religious manipulations, lies, betrayals from students and teachers alike aimed at me and the inane blog posts about moral hazards festering only in a religious mind of a Hare Krishna, a Protestant, a Catholic, a rabid but undecided Hindu, a Muslim was too much for me. (Any good from those posts are purely unintentional and not meant to save any soul whatsoever). But that accident in the North Park Mall got my membership for one more year. A membership I did not use to the full. I quit in six months time. What Yassi did with that extra time – did she allow some other status-minded female student (Rachel) to continue for free as she is prone to do, or was it some religiously connected student – I don’t know.

Since then my attempts to start practice in other Bikram studios have been unsuccessful. It is as if the students, teachers and religious leaders at the Richardson studio don’t like being upstaged. What do you think?






The Story of Safia – Contradiction #1

… For instance Safia says that she was raped. Yet her behavior is remarkably friendly and open to both men and women. No anger or vengeance desires simmer. No shame or regret for her own actions, either imaginary or real. No doubts about people in general. She did not even express any of these feelings in any creative manner, such as through writing, composing, drawing, painting, making something with her hands to work off the aggression. Nothing.

… On the other hand, you have someone like Phoolan Devi.

The Story of Safia – Part 1