Category Archives: Spiritual Rants

The Third Floor

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It was the day when all people…died.
But it is also the day when the game
of after-life started..
This is nothing but a personal dream.
This is no Pilgrim’s Progress.
This is just my subconscious creating
a story.

It was the day when all people…died.
The moment I opened my eyes,
I was inside an elevator, with Jayson,
my Girlfriend’s brother, and some
unknown people–a Crowd.

Some worried
Some afraid
Some curious.

Will hell’s fire devour us as it opens?
Will heaven’s white clouds welcome us?
I am all worried, afraid and curious.
But I have to face judgment.
I have no choice.

6th floor

7th floor

8th floor

DING! The elevator opened.
It was an amusement center.
No fire.
No clouds.
No demons.
No angels.
But this is definitely heaven.
Computer games.
Basketball booths.
Karaoke booths.
Cotton Candies.
Children Running.
I was speechless. Jayson was all smile.
We did a great job on earth.
This is our reward.
He tried some games.
I explored the place.

On one corner, there was a weird door.
I walked towards it for a closer view.
There was a sign on top.
“THIS WAY TO HELL”
It is an open door.
No guards.
No demons with tails and pitchforks.
But people started entering it.
I asked myself why.
Amusement centers are way better
than a pool of molten lava.
Then I realized that hell is a choice.

I tried some games.
I nailed every level.
Combos.
Streaks.
I am invincible.
Oh yeah, because I am in heaven.
And my price is a pack of food.
I placed it inside my handcrafted Vietnamese bag
if in case I get hungry.
But this is heaven. I don’t get hungry here.
My job here is to play.

After a couple of hours, I got bored.
When I get bored, I get great ideas.
I saw the same elevator which took us here.
I looked for Jayson and when I found him
I told him about my plan.
Go back to the elevator.
Try new floors.
Try new heavens.

“That’s a great idea”, he said
as we walked back to the elevator.

I pushed the 12 button.

9th floor.

 

10th floor.

 

11th floor.

 

12th floor.

 

DING! The door opened.
And a blast of cold air welcomed us.
It’s still an amusement center.
This time it was cooler.
Lesser people.
5D arcade games.
Advanced computer gadgets.
No children running.
No cotton candies but only plated food.
This is a very rich place.
This seems like a place for rich people.
This is the heaven of the 8th floor amusement.

Jayson left me and entered a game room.
I peeked in.
It’s LASER TAG.
Not the usual laser tag.
It is Star-Wars themed.
You have a lightsaber.

It is tempting to play, but I started exploring this heaven.

On one corner, there was a weird door.
I walked towards it for a closer view.
There was a sign on top.
“THIS WAY TO HELL”
Again, it is an open door.
No guards.
No demons with tails and pitchforks.
But people are still entering it.
I asked myself again why.
This amusement center is posh and cool.
I sighed..
“Hell is nothing but a choice.”

After a couple of hours, I got bored.
When I get bored, I get great ideas.
I saw the same elevator which took us here.
I looked for Jayson and when I found him
I told him about my plan.
“Go back to the elevator.
Try new floors.
Try new heavens.”

“That’s a great idea”, he said
as we walked back to the elevator.

I pushed the 24 button.

13th floor..

14th floor…

then something weird happened.
the elevator stopped and it rotated 180 degrees.
then it went down.

13th floor…

12..

11..

10..

9…

8…

7…

6…

5…

4…

3…

DING! The door opened.
Warm air welcomed us..
Red light dominated the place.
But this is still heaven.
No fire..
No demons,,
It is still an amusement center…
with no games..
with no arcades..
no laser tags..
no fancy food…
not even cotton candies..
Just benches, chairs and tables.
Plus the incredible number of books
scattered everywhere..

It’s a bit scary.
This is hell for the 8th and 12th floor amusement center.
Jayson was shocked.
I wanted to leave the place.
But the elevator stopped working.
We can’t push other floors.
I guess this is our punishment for discontentment.
We have to face this.

Jayson explored the left side of the area.
I explored the right.

On one corner, there was a weird door.

I walked towards it for a closer view.
There was a sign on top.
“THIS WAY TO HELL”
Again, it is an open door.
No guards.
No demons with tails and pitchforks.
But people are still entering it.
I asked myself again why.
This amusement center is neither posh nor cool.
But this is way better than a pool of molten lava.
I sighed..
“Hell is nothing but a choice.”

After a couple of hours, I got bored.
When I get bored, I get great ideas.
I saw the same elevator which took us here.
I looked for Jayson and when I found him
I told him about my plan.
“The elevator won’t work.
I think it has a spirit of it’s own.
We had a shot on the 8th floor.
We tasted the pleasures of the 12th floor.
Let us bring heaven on this floor”
Jayson agreed.
We separated.
We both looked for an opportunity
to bring heaven here.

While walking, I saw a little girl.
She was fragile, sad and sitting on a bench.
I talked to her.
I asked what’s her problem.
I asked her how to make her happy?
“I am hungry, Sir. I need food. ”
Then I remembered something…
I have some packed food in my bag!
I opened my bag.
Took out the food and gave to the girl.
She smiled.

Jayson on the other hand made a small library
out of the books, benches and tables.

This place felt more like Earth,
when all people were alive.
This is neither heaven nor hell.
This floor is an opportunity to do good.

Then I woke up.
I looked at my room.
I looked out the window.
I smirked.
I said out loud,
“The Third Floor.”

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Random Thoughts about Church this Sunday

I am writing this via the WordPress App on a Sunny Sunday of May 4. 2014.

Here are my very honest thoughts while waiting for the start of the service:

1. Church makes us do things that we hate. It also makes us do things that we like. That’s why I love church. It is neither heaven nor hell.

2. Our church doesnt have a place for a twentysomething like myself except for a free wifi which I can use to write this post. The adults are like zombies attempting to swarm on me. I need to be on stealth. On the other hand, I need not to be on stealth with the young people (teens) because for them, any elder is non-existent. What’s left of me are my fellow twentysomethings enjoying their lives in a different City or in a different country.

3. Church should be done during the night in the Philippines because of the terrible weather.

4. Yes, it is full of phony people but it is also full of amazing people who are willing to change the world using their skills and talents.

5. Above all, I still love church..it is still the best thing ever invented.

Deal with my honesty.

Uncle Ali (THE BRUNEI-MALAYSIA EXPERIENCE, PART 4)

*I will be using pseudo-names for the privacy of the people I met in Brunei*

Amir, one of my hosts in Brunei took me to a foodcourt in downtown Brunei. This is my first day here. It was a Friday. Fridays in Brunei are different. They close everything at exactly 12noon and will open at exactly 2pm for their prayer time. They take their religion seriously. I am not sure if this is an advantage for me or a disadvantage since I only have a day to travel Brunei and the prayer time will take away 2 hours from it. But I have decided to respect it and not do anything during that moment.

The food court is like a Singapore Hawker but less the noise. Brunei is a quiet country. We were there at around 10:30am so Amir and I must go back to the flat in one and a half hours. I ordered a Beef Soto (Beef Soup) and a Teh Tarik (Milk Tea) since I cannot eat any seafoods because of my allergies. You know how hard it is for me to be a traveler in Asia and cant eat 80% of their cuisines? The story of my life.

While sipping my hot soup, Amir saw his Uncle. He said hi and offered our spare seats for his Uncle’s family to join us. Amir introduced his Uncle Ali. Uncle Ali is one funny guy. He is married with a Filipino girl. In fact, he is good in Tagalog which made me appreciate Uncle Ali more.  He interviewed me and asked the usual “What are you doing here?” , “Why are you travelling alone?”, “How long are you going to stay here” questions. But he asked me a question which i did not expected:”Are you a Christian?”

“Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you if you say YES!”, he added. I grew up in a community where we fear people with religion other than ours. That is one of the reasons why I have started traveling and exploring the world–to get the right perspective and away from the  limited thinking of my community back home. The moment Uncle Ali asked me that question, I took it as an opportunity to learn from a faith system which is really controversial from my Christian-based beliefs.

“I was born and raised as a Christian, but I am now searching for truth”, I answered. Amir and Uncle Ali, both Muslims smiled at me.

“You know why we don’t eat pork right?”, Uncle Ali asked.

“Yes, because pork is unhealthy and dirty”, I answered.

“You are right. So why do you keep on eating pork?”, he asked. I was speechless because Uncle Ali was right. I know what pigs eat in our country and it’s really nasty. How they slaughter pigs is another problem. Back home in the Philippines, we eat everything, all the nasty things sold in the streets. Uncle Ali challenged me without any intentions. And then he asked me another question.

“Do you know why we Muslims can marry 4 times?”

“No. Tell me about it”

Uncle Ali explained to me everything. I will not write the explanations now because this same question was asked to me by another Muslim I met in Malaysia. I will be writing about it soon.

It was 11:30am when Amir and I parted ways with his Uncle Ali because we need to rush to the mosque. I took a picture with him then he hugged me and gave me some advises about my travels and how to get from Brunei to Kota Kinabalu.

It’s a bit sad to leave Uncle Ali because that short conversation I had with him is life changing. In fact, I already stopped eating pork.

Hare Krishna Part 5 (Finale)

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After my conversation with Mataaji, I went back in the kitchen to help. One of the twins taught me how to make a samosa. I thought I flunked again, but he told me that I was good at it. I just don’t want to ruin their feast so I stopped making stuff and just observed the devotees.

After a couple of minutes, Prabhu called everyone so that we can already start the ceremonies before the feast. We all hurried upstairs.

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In the altar, I saw small amounts of every viand that we prepared. They call it the Prasadam, meaning the food was already offered to the Lord. The devotees call it “mercies of God”.

Then, Prabhu asked each devotee to get 3 petals in the bowl next to us. Then he instructed us to offer one petal at a time in the altar and offer obeisances in front of it.

First petal…. Bow down.

Second petal…Bow down.

Third petal…Bow down.

After the petal ceremonies, we did the chanting and dancing similar to the morning program until it ended. The devotees exhaustion from the tedious preparation of food was gone. Strength was renewed. I myself felt that bliss.

——————

The devotees and I went downstairs in the kitchen to get the viands that we prepared. I’m good in carrying stuff, so this time, I felt that I am very useful. Prabhu took the food offering in the altar and returned each food in their respective food containers.

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Then the devotees prepared my plate and asked me to sit in the garden floor outside the temple. One by one, the devotees sat with me. There were 9 of us that time. It was a good weather and a good conversation. We were laughing at simple things plus we can now say that the food is delicious. I sighed and said to myself “This is the REAL life”.

——————–

After the meal, Prabhu instructed us to clean the temple. The twins and Vraja’s brother were instructed to clean the kitchen. Vraja and I were assigned in the garden.

That moment, I cannot help but smile while sweeping the floor. God really did designed that day perfectly. A week ago, Vraja was just a stranger in front of a Buddhist temple. Now, I am with him cleaning the temple after a huge feast. I felt good. My spirit was refreshed. I met great people who were passionate about God, living simple lives. Their stories are inspiring. I chanted. I danced. I cooked. I served. I worshiped.

One great lesson that I’ve learned in my day with the Hare Krishnas is that although we have differences with our beliefs, we also have loads of similarities. I really want to focus on the latter. I really want to understand instead of pushing others away. That’s who I am before. Scared to challenge my faith. Scared to meet people outside my religion. Scared to ask. Scared to learn. But now I am free from that. Real faith is willing to embrace the unknown, the unfamiliar and the mysteries of life.

To the Hare Krishna devotees in Manila, I really thank you for a wonderful experience. I have learned a lot. Thank you for being God-like and welcoming me with open arms. I will be back very soon. Hare Krishna!

Hare Krishna Part 4

Mataaji Fe’s Story.

“I started to ask spiritual stuff when I was a teenager or probably when I was about your age. I have been asking a lot. Why is life unfair? Why are there people who were born pretty, rich, and smart. There are also people who were born poor, ugly and stupid. I have been asking spiritual leaders from our church but they kept on telling me ‘its life’s mystery’. That is too vague for me. Everything is vague that time. No one can answer my questions properly, intellectually and philosophically. I believe faith is nothing without philosophy. Vice Versa.

I’m not like this before… wearing a very conservative Sari, eating Vegetarian meals, and all this Hare Krishna thing. I used to be a designer. I wear really revealing clothes. I party all night. I socialize a lot especially with my fellow designers. But I feel empty inside.

Then one day, I saw some Hare Krishna devotees who were walking in our office. It felt really weird. The devotees look weird. They are weird, but they have peace in their faces. They look really happy. I want that kind of happiness. I believe Krsna prepared that day for me. There are no coincidences. Everything is predestined.

I was about to go to America that time to visit my parents. But because I want to learn more and because I want to devote myself in the service of Krsna, I cancelled my trip. My mom was furious. I just faked my reasons. I know it will be difficult for them to understand the path I just chose.  I hid this new faith system of mine, but eventually they found out about it and understood what I just got myself in to. My mom started preparing veggie dishes for me because I am not a good cook. Thanks to Krsna.

I am now in peace…real peace which cannot be found outside or from any material stuff in this world. Only Krsna satisfies. I remember the bible verse about Jesus telling us that we should not worry about the food that we will eat because if the birds in the air have food to eat everyday, how much more for us? Jesus’ teachings in the Bible can also be found in the Bhagavad Gita, but the latter is deeper and specific. The 2 really work hand in hand.

Ok. So that’s my story. Hope you enjoyed it. Hahaha I really love talking. I told you, I grew up as a sociable person.”

Hare Krishna Part 3

After the morning program, everybody started doing their thing.

Vraja formally introduced me to Prabhu. It was funny that Prabhu cannot pronounce my name properly, but after a few tries, he was able to perfect it. Prabhu was delighted that I came all the way from Pampanga just to attend the morning program. He actually invited me to stay for a longer period of time.

“Why not stay here in the temple? You will be working with Vraja. It’s going to be fun. You don’t have to worry about food because everything is provided for. We can cook delicious vegetarian meals. You don’t have to worry about your shelter because you can stay in the ashram. You don’t have to worry about your clothes because you will just be wearing our traditional robes. Call your boss and tell her that you’ll be quitting”

I was just laughing. His offer is really tempting. I want that kind of lifestyle. I want to live in a tight knit, intentional and unconventional community. Even for that moment, I really feel my work-life is starting to fall apart; I feel that I have nothing to lose anyway. That’s why I came in the temple in the first place. To breath some fresh air. To experience something new. I want to give them that YES. I want to live like them and work for God.

“Think about it”, Prabhu added. “If you really can’t, try it for a week.”

“I will…soon”, I said. “I will definitely stay for a longer period of time. For now, I’ll just go downstairs to help the others prepare the food”

“Think about it”, he said again as he smiled at me. “Enjoy the food preparation!”

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I went downstairs in the 4th floor where the kitchen is. The devotees are there–Vraja, his brother, and the twin brothers from New Zealand. The preparation was humongous. Tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, string beans, ginger, lime, bananas, etc. There were also groceries bought from Assad, a local Indian store. While cooking, they were playing some Hare Krishna songs.

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“Do you sing other songs aside from Hare Krishna songs?”, I asked them.

“No Prabhu. We just sing songs that will honor Krishna. The songs nowadays are just about sex and drugs”, Vraja answered.

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The twins from New Zealand are great with their Indian food. Even Vraja and his brother were impressed. I was really, really, amazed.

“Hmmmm. The food really smells good,” I said, trying to compliment them.

“I’m sorry Prabhu, but during the preparation of food, we don’t usually try to please ourselves with the smell and even the taste. In fact, we cannot taste the food while preparing it. That is for Krishna and Krishna alone”, said Vraja.

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know”

“It’s ok. Don’t worry. This is your first time”

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The food preparation is a bit tedious. We  are trying to prepare around 8 vegetable viands in 3 hours. Although pressured trying to beat time, we were still able to chill out, have fun and joke around. It was a great experience for me because I’m not a kitchen person. Well I tried cooking Indian food before but it took me 2 hours to finish a single viand. The devotees were really patient with me as I was their burden that time. I can’t even slice a broccoli. 

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Since I am now useless on the “advanced part” of cooking, Ms. Fe, the Filipina devotee who welcomed me earlier in the morning invited me over to her house located also in the same building. She introduced me to her neice, Sarah (I forgot the name but the girl do look like as if she’s a Sarah or probably an Irene, I dont know). Sarah is a non-devotee like me. She was originally from Iligan who just traveled in Manila for her board exams and staying with her aunt.

Sarah and I sat in the sofa next to Ms. Fe.

“What do they call you here Ms. Fe?”, I asked.

“Oh, they call me Mataaji which means mother. All the male devotees address all women as mataaji even for the little girls. They believe that women should be respected that way.” she answered.

Sarah was quiet throughout the conversation. She’s a Catholic and probably confused about what her aunt is telling us. But I kept on asking mataaji more questions.

“How did you find out about the Hare Krishnas, Mataaji?”

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To be continued…

Hare Krishna Part 2

I filed a leave and traveled to Mandaluyong City to spend a whole day with the Hare Krishna devotees. Since I feel fucked up and fed up at work, a one day leave doesn’t hurt at all! No guilty feelings!

I have been coordinating the whole trip with Vraja, the devotee I met in Divisoria. I was supposed to go on a Saturday but Vraja encouraged me to go on a Thursday because some devotees from Singapore and New Zealand will be coming. Also, they will be celebrating the appearance of Sri Krsna Caitanya (similar to that of our Christmas).

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Since the temple is located at the 6th floor, Vraja instucted me to use the intercom.  He told me that a devotee will pick me up downstairs. So I pressed “6” and after a couple of minutes, a tall white guy opened the gate and greeted me with a smile and a “Hare Krishna!” He introduced himself, told me that he was from New Zealand and traveling with his twin brother.

At the 4th floor, 3 Filipino devotees welcomed me. “You must be Bhakta Darby”, said the Filipina devotee in Sari. Bhakta means student.

“Yes I am. Good morning and Hare Krishna”

“Hare Krishna. Welcome to the temple. Go upstairs and enjoy the morning program”, she said.

“Aren’t you coming with us?”, I asked.

“Oh no. I will be leaving in a while. I need to buy some food for our feast later.”

“Oh Ok. See you soon. Hare Krishna”

“Hare Krishna”

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I can already smell the incense in the 5th floor. I am becoming more excited because in a couple of seconds, I will be entering a temple without any ideas on what’s going to happen.

I missed such moments. Those moments when you don’t have a clue on what’s going to happen. What does the temple look like? Are the devotees going to be friendly? What is the festival all about? What am I going to learn? How would I move? It’s all mystery. Life should be like this. Excitement. Full of surprises. Not routinary. Not ordinary.

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Then finally I arrived at the 6th. There I saw Vraja in the altar waving a broom-like object in front of the pictures of their spiritual masters and Krsna Himself. Aside from Vraja, I saw the twin brothers from New Zealand with small cymbals in their hands, a guy from Australia carrying a drum, the older brother of Vraja, another Filipino devotee and an elder from Singapore. We were 8 that morning.

The older brother of Vraja approached me and handed me a book where I can find the lyrics of the song they were singing.He was explaining to me why they are singing it and to whom they are singing it for. I’m a bit overwhelmed because the room was really loud because of the chanting, the drums and the cymbals. Also, the song was written in Sanskrit making it difficult for me to chant it. I tried to sing it anyway. I felt peace not because I am chanting a foreign scripture but because these strangers I just met opened their temple for me and accepted me wholeheartedly.

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After the chanting, Vraja took a golden object with 4-5 small candles in it. He approached every devotee. The devotee touched the flame of the candles about half of a second and placed their hand on top of their heads. I did it as well. After the candle ceremony, Vraja took a flower and asked each devotee to smell it. I did the same thing. I’m not really sure about the symbolism of the flower but I said to myself, “Hey, we should not forget to smell flowers every once in a while.”

After the candle and the flower ceremony, we did a lot of dancing while chanting the Mahamantra:

Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare. Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

The devotees and I formed a circle and each devotee will go in the middle, do some praise dance and turn around until you are dizzy. I did it too and it was blissful but a bit awkward. I was just there for 10 minutes and the next thing I know is that I am dancing in the middle of the devotees. After that, Vraja took my hands and we turned around together until we were both dizzy. It’s a different dizziness. It’s not the “I need to puke” dizziness but its more of a “Am I in heaven?” kind of thing.

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After the chanting, the devotees and I formed a semi circle, sat down, while the elder (We will call him Prabhu, meaning Master. Everyone in the temple call each other Prabhu as a sign of humility. For this post, I will be referring to the elder as Prabhu) sat in front of us with his small table. Vraja’s brother sat on the right, opened a laptop and the lcd projector. I was in the middle of Vraja and the Filipino devotee.

Prabhu is a bit techy. He is bringing his iPad. His lessons are there and probably his copy of the Bhagavad Gita. Anyway, I’m a bit proud because I also have a copy of the Bhagavad Gita although Prabhu instructed me not to put it on the ground after seeing mine on the tiled-floor. Well this is true even for the Bible. I remember the time when I was also reprimanded by our youth pastor when he saw my Bible on the floor. How could I be so insensitive?

Anyway, Prabhu emphasized the need to be pure especially in the time of Maya (illusion). He told us that lust can turn into anger and so on and so forth. He also told us that we should turn away from illicit sex as stated in the Bhagavad Gita, one of the world’s oldest religious scriptures. This is the same thing with the Bible. The message of Prabhu became an answer to my questions after having some confusions about the topic of sex and purity. I’m surrounded with people saying “Everybody is doing it” and “If you love someone, you can have sex even before marriage”.

I was reminded of Shane Claiborne, one of my favorite Christian leaders. He said “You can live without sex, but you can’t live without love.” 

The Hare Krishna devotees take that seriously. Some of them took a celibate life and yet they have peace in their faces . They are having the most pleasurable time of their lives but in the service of Krsna.

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I am starting to love the Bhagavad Gita. According to Prabhu, the Bhagavad Gita doesn’t contradicts the Bible. In fact, it complements it. That’s what I want to hear, to be honest. I dream that one day, all the religions will come into an agreement with each other. I want them to come up with a common ground. And that common ground is where I want to stay and serve God/Krsna/Allah in all his splendor.

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To be continued….