Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer?

It is keeping peace and good relations between people,

as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.

- Prophet Mohammed


Day 3

Let's just say that Friday night as a Jain isn't that exciting. It's not all bad though. At work, we hired a new teacher and I must say that I'm pleased so far. Aside from the fact that he seems wise, professional and dedicated to his job, he's close to my age, married to a Korean and also teaches at an elementary school. He's essentially me plus two years. It's nice to have some similarities with a co-worker beside being from the same country. In addition to him, we have a part-time Korean-American who also joined the staff. Like any new colleagues should do, we decided to go out after work and get further acquainted. 

I always feel like I should give a disclaimer about this project when meeting new people. You know, something like...
I'm actually quite fun, but for some reason I started this restrictive project that limits my recreation time severely, so maybe you should ask again next month.
I did tell them about The Pious One and, like most people, they looked at me with a puzzled look and asked 'Why?". I usually give the same spiel to them as I gave you back in March. Remember?
I’m great at quitting things that inconvenience me, but horrible at actually sacrificing something for a cause.
That really doesn't satisfy their curiosity, though. I honestly can't answer the "why" question, but at this point it doesn't matter. I'm already in my fourth month, so it is what it is. 

Either way, I managed not to scare these fellows off with my disclaimer and the three of us accompanied by our wives and girlfriends went to a German beer hof. I was pretty jealous of the beer I was sure to miss out on. I've never been to Germany, but I did go to the Hofbrauhaus near Cincinnati a few times and had an absolutely wonderful black-out drunk time, so this was a perfect match for this Jain, right? We sat down and they got some brews and even threw in the extra slap in the face by ordering fully loaded chili cheese fries. No meat for this cat, either. Long story short, we had fun, but called it a night at about 11pm. 

I woke up today to a very familiar furry, brown face sharing my pillow with me. He looked so comfortable there that I gave him a little more room and I scooted down and used his chest as my pillow. Listening to his sleeping heart beat was really relaxing actually. Imaging my dog being caught in the same karmic cycle that I am in (according to Jains) allows me to view him in an even more equal light. While I'm technically higher on the karmic scale than he is, we're both battling to break free from the shackles of karma and I intend to do everything I can to ensure that his life is good and pure so that after his death, he'll be reborn as a human and, therefore a step closer to the celestial kingdom. I'll be talking about this more later, though. I've only started to dig.

The weather here has been pretty bad as the Asian monsoon season slowly makes its way from India to Korea. It seems that every time I prepare to go somewhere, the rain starts to come down. Today was no different. My wife takes Spanish classes on the weekend in hopes that it'll help with her American transition and since it was raining I offered to drive her. Once we got there, though, we discovered that the class was cancelled this weekend leaving us with a bonus three hours together. Win.

I wish I could convey clearly the area that we live in because you have no idea just how lively, dense and bustling our neighborhood is. Wait... I can.

As you can see from all the silverware icons (which excludes drinking establishments and probably 50% or more of the restaurants), we are literally surrounded by eateries, coffee shops, bars and hofs. So, on the way home, we stopped into a coffee shop, had a cup of coffee and watched the people go by. After a few minutes, I decided to start boring the wife with some interesting aspects of Jainism. (On a side note, I have fallen even more in love with her since starting the project. The fact that she is willing to put up with this whole thing is enough, but she likes to get in the trenches with me and comb over belief systems just as much as I do. Keeps me on my toes, this one.)

We started discussing what detachment means to us. I offered some Jain (and Eastern) ideas about the body as a vessel and how detaching from our physical form is the first step towards freeing ourself from its passions and altering the transmigration of our soul. Characteristically, she knocked me from my fantasy world and switched the focus a bit to attachment and, more specifically, why I'm so attached to my hair. 

There is not a moment in my life that I can remember not battling someone over haircuts. My mom was somewhat militant about haircuts growing up. I understand her though. She wanted me to look presentable. The problem was that her desire of presentableness has somehow remained intact until as recently as our last Skype conversation.
"George, I thought you said you were going to keep it short?"
I've thought about why I'm so concerned with my hair and especially haircuts many times before. Am I more insecure than I realize? Have I been silently protesting my mother all along? Do I really place that much value on appearance? I mean, don't I have something to offer besides a face with a little hair stapled on top?

What a waste of time! 

As my wife and I delved into the nuance of attachment and detachment, she made the bold move and stated what needed to happen.
Wife: Let's go then. 
Me: Tomorrow. We'll go tomorrow. 
Wife: Why tomorrow? You always say that. Let's go right now. I want to see you put some weight behind your words.
Me: <:crickets:>
Wife: Come on. 

I had nothing to say and nowhere to run. Images from my whole life were running through my head. I mean, this is how serious a situation I took this to be. I thought of my wrestling days when I was one of the only ones who refused to shave my head. I thought about bad short cuts I had gotten and how on the drive home, I would just stare in the rear-view mirror in disgust. I thought about how much anger I've felt at hairdressers over the years. As we walked up to the doors of the trendy salon, my mind had frozen on one scene playing over and over again.

We sat down and waited. My heart was racing. Pathetic, huh? The American pop song, "Break Your Heart" was playing in the background. The whole thing was quite stressful for me, Finally they called me up, shampooed me and sat me down in the chair. There I was; face to face with that damn mirror. The lady asked what I wanted and I didn't respond. I wanted to, but I don't know the Korean for shave my head, but don't make it bald. They wife chimed in and together they shared a laugh about something in Korean and then she pulled out the sheers and got started. 

Ten minutes later my hair was all but. It's between one or two centimeters long as I write this now.  I feel fine. The world didn't end, nor am I weeping for the loss. 

Something that I have feared my entire life was so easy to let go of. And while many of you might think that I'm pathetic or hyper sensitive about hair and you'd be right, but I'm sure that all of you have something that you have held onto for too long that really makes no sense. 

This wasn't about confronting fears. It was about detaching myself from a part of the physical world that I clung to for no reason. And while I feel that this is a step for me this month and understanding detachment, I know it's a good move for me in life. 

As for Jainism, simply cutting my hair isn't really going to cut it.

One may have a tuft or matted hair on the head or a shaven head, remain naked or wear a rag. But if he tells a lie, all this is futile and fruitless.
(Bhagavati Aradhana 843)


  1. Yes, your Mom has always been militant about your hair and pretty much you have not listened to me. I know the old saying "You have to pick your battles" always haunted me as I nagged but this was the battle I chose. Silly, huh? Anyway, good for you and thanks to Go for encouraging you to step into the here and now with your hair and no more I'll do it tomorrow's...

    This will be a tough month for you. I just hope enough people offer you food that you will stay strong enough for all that reflecting!

  2. A tough month shaping up, it sounds like.

  3. Wow- I like what you said about physical detachment. What a great thing to ponder in my own life. Now I just have to find/make time to do it!

  4. Finding the time is easy. Understanding the importance is what stands in our way.

  5. Really interesting that you have that picture of Full Metal Jacket. I thought the first montage of haircuts in Full Metal Jacket was haunting, because it foreshadowed the violence that the soldiers would go through. To me, the haircut itself was an eerie scene of violence.

  6. Seems inappropriate considering that the driving force of Jainism is non-violence, huh? I used it because the head shaving is typically the very moment when soldiers realize that they have drifted into uncharted waters and the gravity of their decision is now upon them.

    For me, being a lay Jain is tough and while a commitment to the military is for four years and could end in injury or death, it's all relative.