Will the Real Om Please Stand Up - Umberto Tosi
Pretty soon I fell into the research rabbit hole removed from my original intentions, but often wonderland of odd discoveries in any case. The piece delved into the sacred inscription generally inscribed on such a ring's spinner - "Om Ma-Ni Pad-Me Hum" - the six syllables of mantra said to create and purify ritual spaces, protect against evil spirits, sickness and misfortune and invite peace into the soul. Specifically:
- Om (ohm) - overcomes ego and fosters generosity.
- Ma (Mah) - dissolves envy and promotes ethics.
- Ni (nee) - replaces desire with patience.
- Pad (pahd) - eliminates prejudice and strengthens perseverance.
- Me (meh) - releases possessiveness in favor of concentration.
- Hum (hum) - banishes anger and hatred in favor of wisdom.
The list reminded me of my first experiences with meditation in the 1960s when the Beatles went to India, intellectuals and rich kids were visiting ashrams and gurus were lecturing all over the states inspiring American interest in - if not full comprehension of - Eastern philosophies and spiritual teachings.
The Laughing Buddha lecturer, however, had no connection to the Transcendental Meditation movement led by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi that was mushrooming during that decade. My mantra provider, moreover, didn't charge me the going mantra price of a hundred bucks either - not really affordable to me as a working father with small children at the time.
I did try to meditate often, and found it sporadically rewarding. Often as not, I found it difficult to escape my chattering "monkey mind." Plus, I realized much later, that I took my difficulties to the penalty box of wrong ideas. Namely, I started to suspect that my mantra wasn't "good enough," or wasn't authentic in some way. After all, I hadn't earned or paid for it, I thought.
Enter Groucho Marx. I wouldn't want a guru who would have me as a disciple. I go there a lot. It's right there in the Standard Neurotic Playbook under "I'm not good enough" and Imposter Syndrome. Like, if I wrote it, how could it possibly be any good? One just has to look and see. Yes, writers must "kill their darlings" and know when to cut and rewrite, but also not fear recognizing the good.
Set aside the precept that a mantra isn't meant to be understood as much as repeated to get beyond language and meanings. Perhaps if I had learned more about Buddhism, Indian and Tibetan culture instead of bouncing around in my own house of mirrors I would have understood the profound meanings of "Om Ma-Ni Pad-Me Hum" in a way that benefited me more and widening my horizons sooner. Of course, one must beware of pop philosophy and commercialized cultural traditions of all stripes - from East and West.
Like all classic comic ironies, Groucho's line about club membership sprouts from a seed of wisdom as well.
Shameless shout: Vote! Vote! Vote!
It might be unnecessary to say this. I hope so, but here goes: My next blog posting is scheduled for U.S. election day, November 3, and be written well before we know the outcome. I will have already voted and I urge every qualified American voter to do the same - i.e. "Vote like your life depends on it, because it probably does." Trump will surely lose the popular vote by a margin even bigger than his nearly 3-million vote loss in 2016. The volume will make a difference, however. America's unique, undemocratic, antiquated, slave-era Electoral College system that put #HairHitler in the White House in the first place, still holds, unfortunately. That archaic obstacle, plus massive ongoing, race-targeted Republican voter suppression in key swing states and Russian meddling make it imperative that progressive-minded and independent voters turn out in record numbers to overcome Trump's advantage and end his corrupt, deadly misrule. As of this writing, I have received my mail-in ballot, courtesy of the US Postal Service (which also is under Trump's siege). Some things still work in America. Being particularly at COVID_19 risk I will vote remotely. I will fill it out and deposit my ballot at an authorized drop-box (or mail it) post-haste. Fortunately, there are many reputable sources of reliable information on ways to vote early -- pandemic be damned -- e.g. - Plan Your Vote. States differ, but they can't stop a voter tsunami if we make one.Vote early, up and down ballot! Make it count. Every friend and family member within reach is doing the same, by the way, a good way to form a small, but potent voter bloc. Together we are strong.
Umberto Tosi is the
author of Sometimes Ridiculous, Ophelia Rising, Milagro on 34th Street and Our Own Kind. His short stories have been published in Catamaran Literary Reader and Chicago Quarterly Review where he is a contributing editor. He was contributing writer to Forbes, covering the Silicon Valley 1995-2004. Prior to that, he was an editor and staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and its Sunday magazine, West.
He was also the editor of San Francisco Magazine. He has written more than 300 articles for newspapers and magazines, online and in print. He
joined Authors Electric in May 2015 and has contributed to several of
its anthologies, including Another Flash in the Pen and One More Flash in the Pen.
He has four adult children. He resides in Chicago.