THE DASHING FENCER

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8da3adf3c53bf14b391fd6a892025c43At a certain phase of my life, when I was desperately planning my escape from a city many would give their eye teeth (whatever that means!) to enjoy (Manhattan), I worked for a posh law firm and took every opportunity for overtime that I could, hoping to pay down my big fat mortgage, sell my adorable apartment, and flee to the Himalayas. One of my favorite lawyers to work for was the powerful head of the Real Estate Division and a multi-millionaire many times over.  During our post-midnight stints as he churned documents out and I whipped them into shape, he had let slip that as a young idealist he had dreamed of wandering India, ancient land of sacred cows and hoary temples, in quest of himself. But he had sold out when he won a scholarship to an ivy league outfit and even more when he had married a woman who wanted him to make more and more money so he could send their kids for horse-riding lessons and to vacations in Paris.

fb_img_1486272499213It must have been about 3 in the morning when my eyes fell on a photo on his desk. “Who’s that?” I asked, intrigued by the handsome and dashing figure of a young man dressed in fencing garb and brandishing a sword or whatever. He glared at me, offended. “That’s me,” he said. I laughed and shrugged, “how could I tell?” You have mask on.” But the truth was that that slender young man bore absolutely no resemblance to the pot-bellied rotund double-chinned bespectacled worry-wart before me. Continue reading

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YOUNG SOUL, OLD SOUL

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Kiri 16GB sd card 6243-1The New Age (which I happen to mostly detest and keep my distance for, for really it is all recycled material that they use often to great detriment of depth and richness) has popularized many buzzwords and one is that someone or the other is an old soul. Now when I threw the words “young soul” at a close friend one day in frustration, he blew up at me and said these phrases were ridiculous nonsense. Not so, I said, for to me the difference between an old and a young soul is as clear as the full moon shining over Arunachala on a balmy summer’s night.

An Old Soul is simply a human who has seen through the mesmerizing veils of Maya, the Cosmic Enchantress. He or she has either experienced the double-edged sword of samsara in this lifetime, or his knowing has emerged from countless past lives. Never mind, but this person is no longer enchanted by stately mansions surrounded by a forest of palm trees, obscenely plump bank accounts or stock portfolios, expensive vehicles, supermodels, celebrities of all kinds, or by those pampered creatures with access to the so-called good life. Why is this? Simply because this person now knows for sure that while there is a great deal of pleasure to be drawn from the world, this pleasure is invariably followed by pain, which is why the mystics refer to indulgence in a hedonistic lifestyle as licking the honey off a razor’s edge. And what about the Young Soul? Oh, he or she is still dazzled by the façade, that’s all.

c945ed890f540a675b775ccb608893f3Now for the critical question: is one better than the other? My honest answer is, while I would prefer to be an Old Soul, the essence of both is exactly the same—pure existence, awareness and bliss. Would you turn back as you ascend an infinite stairway and have contempt for those who have just begun their journey of comprehending reality? Not if you were wise and loving, for sure. An Old Soul was once a  Young Soul and a Young Soul will inevitably evolve into an Old Soul, but, and it’s a big but, this depends on consistent effort. Liberation is guaranteed to all of us, but no one is saying when. So its up to us to prolong the suffering or not.

Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva in the form of a hill of fire and light, who vows to open our inner eye so we can discriminate between the real and the unreal, between true joy and the fake pleasure that comes from the reckless enjoyment of the senses!

NEW!!! My latest book – COPPER MOON OVER PATALIPUTRA – just went live on Jun 30th. Read all about it and on how to get your own copy here.
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EVERYONE HAS A HIGHER POWER

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c54413c0d2a06f18743e8ad014a31eaeManhattan broke down my identity; in south India I was more or less confident that I could accomplish anything I set my mind on. I was popular, well-known in certain circles, and could have launched myself into a lucrative creative career had I wished to. Instead I suffered a deep dread of never leaving home and so I finagled my exit to a foreign country that I admired for many reasons. Yes, I loathed the deep-rooted misogyny, caste and class system I was surrounded by and longed for the freedom I hoped to find in America. But I was unprepared for the shocks to my system in the land of the brave and the free. Indeed, nothing was as I had expected it to be and I had to literally reinvent myself, alone, since my husband and in-laws were no help, and instead actively wanted to shove me into a box, lock me up, and throw away the key. You see, they had not expected an Indian woman to be feisty, independent and outspoken about her rights, and so they lashed out in me in a variety of inventive ways until I was deeply miserable despite abundant material comforts. My husband had promised that I could study creative writing and film at NYU, but now he ruthlessly nixed that idea and I found myself temping on Wall Street and in posh law firms, making a lot of money but still a prisoner of my new family and my husband in particular, who insisted on controlling our finances as well as the trajectory of our lives. Continue reading

CHEAP THRILLS

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9e1a511e7a9166a72e30bd913768d213Growing up in south India at a time when the West was not as accessible as it is to Indians today, my first glimmerings of the wild life I (delusionally) believed all Americans and Europeans led was via the thrillers of writers like James Hadley Chase. Yes, I read Agatha Christie too, and more sedate authors, but it was the paperback thrillers I found most addictive, for they spoke of hippies and drugs and scarlet women pouting at bad guys and getting murdered—and of course there was always the unwary bystander or canny detective who got dragged willy-nilly into the spicy stew.

Oh, how exciting it was to get one of those books in my greedy hands and to devour it at a single stretch! There were times I’d read a book a day, and since it wasn’t easy to find this kind of material lying around then, I’d woo anyone who had a home library and was willing to share his/her hoard with me.

It was my brother-in-law, an academic and professor, who dourly pointed out to me the effects that reading what he called ‘trash’ would have on my impressionable mind. It’s a hard addiction to break, he warned, and when you need to digest serious stuff, you won’t be able to. I dismissed his warnings since I was doing very well in academics myself, and believed, with all the raw arrogance of youth, that I knew better than preachy fuddy-duddies how to separate study from fun. Continue reading

MOUNTAIN GODDESS

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14876327_10155479883214199_334843953_o-768x575When I first landed in Dharamsala in the foothills of the Himalayas, straight from the frenetic city of Manhattan, I was lost and bewildered by a strange new world. Soon I found my way to the Tibetan Library, where every morning a beautiful old Geshe, aided by an English female translator, patiently taught us the ancient scriptures. I was sitting outside the small cafeteria when I saw a woman I liked on sight, nonchalantly rolling a cigarette. I asked her to roll me one, whereupon she handed me the fixings and retorted sarkily that if I wanted one, I’d have to roll it myself. Oh, I thought, amused, liking her even more, for she reminded me of folks in Manhattan who are also uncomfortably direct but also possess shining hearts of gold if you stick around long enough to get past the prickly surface.

We became friends, and I discovered she lived right above my beautiful apartment with the huge glass windows, through which I could gaze at the splendor of the snow-clad Himalayas. As a seasoned practitioner capable of handling any crisis, she was often impatient with me, rightly viewing me as a spoiled infant with no clue how to handle herself in a small Himalayan township peopled by hardy Tibetans (most of whom had bravely made their way over the mountains to be with their charismatic leader, who incidentally lived a mere ten minute walk away from me on the peak of a hill guarded by both Indians and his own people) and equally tough Indians. Continue reading

This is what separates artists from ordinary people…Anne Lamott QUOTES FOR WRITERS (and people who like quotes)

BRIDGET WHELAN writer

sandcastleYou are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won’t really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we’ll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.
Anne Lamott


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INFATUATION ADDICT

9a98b5caac8b4a9fc6c46747c8fdfc73Some time ago, a friend called to inform me that a guy we both knew had died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage in the middle of a conversation in a Delhi 5-star restaurant. I had met this fellow during a party in north India and quickly turned my back on him. (Those of us who live for a reasonable amount of time in Manhattan are not easy to con with fake words and pretenses.) And besides, I knew this friend had been cheated by him in business and had even threatened to sue him. She mentioned that he had many enemies who were actually thrilled that he was gone. In his sixty years or so, despite movie star looks and excellent material resources, he had never grown beyond the juvenile delinquent stage; his agenda, pure and simple, was to have a good time at the expense of others. I don’t believe he had a single real friend, she ran on, except for that old boozer who lived in that rambling old mansion up on the hill, and who put up with his misbehavior and always forgave him his transgressions.

How terrible I thought, for a human to live to sixty years and to have people actually celebrating his sudden death. And then I thought of my darling friend in the USA who had also died recently in his late sixties, surrounded by those who adored him and admired his fine questing mind. With tears in my eyes, for I had grown to love him too, I recalled the meticulous effort he had invested in trying to teach men, in particular, how to move past the infatuation stage and into really love. He focused first on self-love, for the paradox is that men and women who do not value their own precious selves are incapable of deeply loving another. Why is learning to love even important for us? Because, in my opinion, and based on sincere study and practice, there is no other way to break free of the dreary cycle of samsara (relative reality) unless we blast open the invisible portal of our Spiritual Heart. Corny as it may sound to the cynic, the key to that portal is simply Love—not human fickle love, but the highest love that recognizes the Oneness of all beings.

The second man who had died, surrounded by grieving relatives and friends, had loved my writing and had generously promoted me to his circle of friends. Here are two different passages from my novels in the Moksha Trilogy that he had made it a point to tell me he deeply appreciated:

279dbfcf2cba52b1ecbc23c53cf96b95****** In a rare burst of trust, Takshak had long ago confirmed Inanna’s words: while his mother had always indulged him materially, he had said, she had grown bitter and hard after Shaardul had tossed her aside for Inanna. Kings were intended to raise fire with their tantrikas, Abhilasha had sullenly averred, not to fall crazily in love with the rutting whores. For sure, Ishvari thought now, shivering despite the afternoon sun filtering in, Abhilasha had set her devil’s mark on her son. Takshak was incapable of seeing a woman as fully human—what pleasure he gave stemmed solely from his massive ego. Love to him was no more than a ravening lust, something that flared and died. The idea of aging alongside a lover, of watching wrinkles line a beloved face, nauseated him—and so he had chosen to flit from flower to exotic flower, to sip the nectar of the new rather than to savor the mature wine that alone evokes bliss. (Whip of the Wild God: A Novel of Tantra in Ancient India). ******

And the second:
****** Why were so many men compelled to inflict suffering on the women they desired? Odati came to believe that, at least to the conventional male, what was referred to as ‘love’ was in fact infatuation. All it seemed to involve was being drawn by the color, smell, taste and touch of the packaging, conveniently forgetting the contents within—rich contents that demanded patience and effort to savor. Manjari claimed most men were disinclined to milk intimate relationships for more than an orgasm, the little death all beings craved—for, apart from the oblivion of sleep, the rough pleasure of mating seemed to provide them with the only remedy to the dull ache of samsara. Real love, Manjari added, did not change when circumstances changed, or when the inexorable passage of time destroyed the freshness of physical charms. A true lover was happiest when the object of his affection was evolving into light. However, this kind of partner, the old woman added drily, was as rare to find as a star in a noon sky.(Copper Moon Over Pataliputra – the final novel in the Moksha Trilogy, about to be published.) *******

7293fc79f579a35ec9fc884aa6b3cadf-2What is love? A friend asked me yesterday. He loves Arunachala and visits here often, but claims to be too busy with worldly affairs to study the theoretical underpinnings of Advaita, which I personally feel are vital to Self-Investigation or the Direct Path (unless we have imbibed this wisdom in other lifetimes). Ironically, at some point we also have to jettison all we have learned as we enter the depths of the Spiritual Heart. I considered his question and then I said: for me, right now, it is that both Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj stayed on after they were both free of desire and fear, just to reveal to us sure way to escape the tedious hell of mundane living. Sages dwell in a blissful state ordinary humans can only imagine—to listen with compassion to the often ridiculous questions posed by all sorts of people, and to give each one what was needed to move on (although Nisargadatta was known as the Hammer for his blunt ways and would ask those not prepared for the path of jnana to leave his presence, which is itself a tough teaching) would take immense love. Infatuation is purely egoic; love is cosmic.

303537_3128548673069_1069126392_nGreetings from Arunachala, Shiva in the form of a hill of fire and light, who has no hesitation whipping the darkness out of us so we can melt into our true nature, which is cosmic love!

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ADVAITA IS NOT TWO

20dbcbc664f4efce769d85cf3c84993cAs a little girl, I discovered an interesting trait about myself—that, when I hurt others, as I often did, (almost always inadvertently, but sometimes intentionally—when I wanted to force them to look at their behavior through my eyes, see that they were wrong, and then choose to transform)—I would be just as hurt as they were, if not more. I was born intense and fierce, so I guess everything I said and did had an impact, positive or negative. Now this pain one experiences is actually our guru, for it warns us that we are powerful beings capable of inflicting suffering on others; if we ourselves don’t like pain, why then do we callously disregard the feelings of others?

Decades later I came upon the ancient teaching on Oneness, of Advaita, which literally means “not two” and understood my angst in a different way: Of course, I realized, when I hurt you, I too would suffer, simply because the essence of my mini-me is no different from yours. (Now I have met people so thick-skinned and non-empathetic that the pain they inflict does not currently seem to bother them; what they may not realize is that the karmic counter is clicking inexorably away, and that what they are giving out now is bound to eventually swing back to them, multiplied; at some point their agony will be intense).

Yes, some humans develop a tough hide and a monstrous ego that prevents them, literally, from feeling. Recently I listened to a woman complaining (really, it was an accumulation of doubt and bitterness due to subjecting herself for decades to a dishonest, warped, cold and materialistic man, who did not give a fig for her as a person, or as a vulnerable woman who craved love and connection. If at all he honors her, it is because she is the mother of his children whom he blindly adores, and because it serves his ego to present a shining façade to his family/community. The sharp pain I heard in her voice instantly became my pain—and that this man had chosen to hurt a sensitive woman to this point (clinical depression), and for so long, made me literally cry.

279dbfcf2cba52b1ecbc23c53cf96b95And I was angry with her too, for being weak and submissive to a tyrant, no matter his façade of being a talented and wonderful guy with more resources than the majority of our world. She reminded me of thousands of Indian women (I know this syndrome is not restricted to the East) who do more or less the same thing by allowing the patriarchy to torment and bully them. And yet I can empathize with the older generation of women, who felt they had no option but to stay and take the abuse. If they had stood up for themselves, most often their own blood families turned viciously on them, and even ostracized them. Besides, women did not work during that time, so how were they supposed to feed themselves and their children if they antagonized the narcissistic breadwinner of the family?

But this woman was different; she’d remained in a horrible marriage for decades despite being highly educated with oodles of money and the freedom to seek sure answers to her problems. Some of us, as you can see, are our own worst enemies. (If you encounter one such, after trying to get them to see the light, it is best to leave them to stew in their own misery, otherwise you are only wasting your precious time and energy. I am now learning when to stop trying to help—the reason being that I myself get dispirited and drained, and then I am of no use to anyone).

Others are empathetic to other humans, but not to birds, animals and reptiles. Don’t they know, I wonder, that the essence of all beings is the same? The outer covering is merely that—a shell; within each of us—dog, cat, cobra, pesky house fly or human—is the very same golden essence, for the Divine is embedded deeply within us all. As the Bhagavad Gita says so poetically, nothing can destroy this essence, neither fire, sword, wind nor water.

FB_IMG_1456878290224Karma has projected for us a certain form to learn new lessons in, and when that karma is exhausted, the spirit returns to the source, the One, Parabrahman. To give generously of our love and resources to a sick dog or cat, for instance, to feed strays and to support sanctuaries, orphanages, homes for battered women, or whatever, is only one way of acknowledging our Oneness. Who knows how we will return to the relative realm if we don’t figure out this potent truth despite all the wisdom that is spreading through our realm?

If we treat others with disdain and contempt, if we invest all our energy in protecting our egoic self (which is “unreal” according to Advaita, for it will dissolve back into the elements at the instant of physical death), we might come back as an amoeba, or a deadly serpent, or even a clump of moss or a pretty rock, and be forced to make our way back up the ladder of evolution in painful little steps. Think I’m joking? Not.

I once asked a wise man what would happen to a certain dictator after he died (he had committed genocide with cold and brutal efficiency). Yes, he had convinced himself that the race he was determined to exterminate was not human, but demonic. (Oh, really? Clearly he could not see his twisted ego attempting to compensate for the wounds some of these humans had unwittingly (or wittingly) subjected him to. Was this not a particularly virulent form of egoic payback, rather than the great cleansing work he had convinced himself, as well as thousands of insane followers, to believe he was doing?)

The old man told me he would have to return to the bottom of the ladder of evolution and go through billions of births and deaths before Karma would once again give him a human form. You see, he had been given so many blessings, and he had abused them. What goes around comes around, simple as that.

We can learn to be happy and peaceful the easy way, or the hard way. Right now, for instance, I am in my Saturn period (according to Vedic Astrology) and so I have to be extra careful. Saturn (Shani) has been likened to a powerful but stern father who wants to see his precious offspring make the best use of their potential. Fortunately I accept this, and so I am careful with how I think, speak and act. And when I do wrong, as often happens, I am as quick as lightning to make amends. Pain is essential, as Gautama Buddha said so long ago, but misery is optional. I, for one, have suffered enough. If treating all beings as my own precious Self leads me to the permanent freedom from desire and fear I crave (moksha, in Sanskrit), then why not invest all my energy in this awesome venture?

31bfa8c67297ecc9ab574db35cd84ca5Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who vows to dissolve all our conditioning, delusions and blinders, so that we can see that essentially we are ONE!

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FIRST FIGURE OUT WHO YOU ARE….

FB_IMG_1463360088510I confess that I am (or used to be) an impatient and demanding creature. The only problem with instant gratification in your case, as a friend laughingly told me a long time ago, was that it took too long! Anyway, so when I first got to Tiru eight years ago, determined to understand the simple but powerful teachings of Ramana Maharshi (who, by the way, never wanted to be a guru, but was forced into the role by his great compassion for those who begged him for answers to their perennial problems), I used to get mighty annoyed with his answer to almost everyone. No matter their particular issue, he would invariably say: first find out who you are, and then you won’t have this question anymore.

It literally took me years to understand his brilliance in repeating the same damned thing over and over again: yes, he was a sage and had found the golden key to transcending duality. A simple but critical key we would miss if left to our own devices, for the mind doesn’t like to be bored or held down by a single piece of work, and insists on wandering into all the nooks and crevices of mundane reality, simply to distract it from its real chore of penetrating through the dream states of waking, sleeping and dreaming, and awakening to our true nature, which is pure existence-awareness and bliss.

FB_IMG_1460704987387I was used to teachers who explained the wisdom teachings at great length. Naturally I didn’t, at least at the time, comprehend Ramana’s simple style in driving the nail in. Then one day it struck me like a bolt of lightning what he was really saying; that all our problems pertain to the relative world, to samsara, which is ephemeral, “unreal” by Advaitic definition, composed of people, events and things that come and go. Which leads to the particular definition of “real” and “unreal” in the context of Advaita: the “real” is that which is permanent and lasting, and only pure awareness, which is the substratum of being, meets that requirement; the “unreal,” on the contrary, is everything, people, places and objects, that comes and go out of our lives, in a word, the ephemeral.

But once we understand that in truth we are the cosmos itself in human form, pure existence, awareness and bliss, the relative bubble bursts and we understand the impermanence of every single one of our problems, from the most trivial to the sublime—that they are just the result of past karma, spun at an incredible speed by the collusion of the powerful forces of Lila and Maya, the Divine Sorceresses, fueled by their mighty sister, Queen Kundalini (for without Her energizing fire, nothing happens.)

Reality is simply loss of ego - RamanaGreetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who embraces us in his powerful arms and feeds us with the final antidote to samsara, even as He leads us into the peace and job that surpasses all mundane understanding!

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MYSTICAL FRUIT

cc56cbb87382e2c7f74faf1c64cc03f7At dawn, I sink again into the sweet waters of the Absolute,

Sat-chit-ananda, sages call it, pure existence-consciousness and bliss,

And emerge with yet another pearl of great price in my hungry maw—

That the I AM’s function is to unfurl one’s destiny, one’s prarabdha karma,

To transmute primeval mountain ranges of thought, speech and action,

Via a bizarre mixture of desire and fear,

Into the mesmerizing dramas that have kept me spinning in delusion for eons.

 

In my finite form, I am but a pesky ant climbing up the massive leg of an elephant,

And yet I hold a deadly secret—

That this terrible business of life and death,

Of pleasure that is always followed by pain, is only a game,

And that you four are in collusion with the One, to make humans believe

This cosmic theatre you stage so effortlessly is real, oh, what a cosmic joke!

 

What is the antidote to being trapped in samsara?

First to isolate the I AM, and then to paralyze it with unwavering concentration—

A form of mystical hypnosis that brings the whole befuddling game to an end.

 

Kiri 16GB sd card 6243-1Then the I Am, that rogue sense of separation from which has sprung

Royal dynasties, world wars, genocide and an array of beautiful things too,

Bursts into tears like a disgruntled child.

But don’t stop here— drive the nail in and warn it to cooperate;

Inform it that its collaborators are now your allies;

Say you are aware that, minus the astonishing creativity, power and style

Of Lila, Maya and Kundalini’s serpent fire working in tandem,

It is an impotent genie imprisoned in a glass bottle.

 

Plead shamelessly with your brilliant comrades:

Lila, Handmaid of the Gods,

Maya, Cosmic Enchantress,

And Kundalini, Fire Goddess who fuels all forays into samsara—

An unstoppable female trio so potent that together they spawn

Quasars, black holes and uncountable galaxies—

Cry HELP ME, for only you can set me free.

 

Kiri 16GB sd card 6886On the other side of the darkness of duality,

Is a timeless realm of incandescent love and light,

And it now where I wish to live—

Help me to move permanently out of dismal samsara;

Consider yourselves unmasked as stellar actresses,

Cease your torment and stun yourselves into perfect brilliant stillness,

And gladly walk me home.

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All Are In God

You want to see God in all, but not in yourself? Ramana Maharshi

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“Whether you make dhyana of God or of Self, it is immaterial. The goal is the same. But you cannot escape the Self. You want to see God in all, but not in yourself? If all are God, are you not included in that all?” Sri Ramana speaking in Talk 254 (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi).

Devotee: Is the Universal Soul (Paramatma) always different from us? 

Sri Ramana: That is the common belief, but it is wrong. Think of Him as not different from you, and then you achieve identity of Self with God. (Talk 31).

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A DEMON CALLED HOPE

cc56cbb87382e2c7f74faf1c64cc03f7A long time ago in Manhattan, a wise friend caught my attention with this sad story—he claimed that hope too can be a demon, when used by the ego as a tool to keep us locked into demeaning situations. As an example, he explained that almost a quarter of a century ago, his beloved twin sister had married a charmer who had swept her off her feet. Everything was hunky-dory until their first child was born. Then the trouble began: he began to subject her to a mix of physical and emotional abuse, played around with other women on his business trips, and to top it all, told shameless lies about everything from the trivial to the profound.

Since they belonged to a fundamentalist Christian community down south that frowned on women standing up to their men, no matter their low caliber, his talented but quiet sister, who could have made something of herself in the art world, had stayed in the marriage. This despite my friend’s loving offers to support her if she left the creep. The guy was so wily, my friend added, that he could easily tell when his wife was getting to the end of her rope. Then he would turn on the magic and convince her that he had seen the error of his ways and was ready to transform. And so the years rolled on, and she lived on with him in the hope that TOMORROW he would change. Two more children were born, and by this time, she was too dispirited and beaten down to make a fresh start. If the guy had not died in a car collision a couple of years ago, my friend said dryly, she’d probably still be pandering to and defending him.

Until I heard this tale, I had not realized how the ego can co-opt a beautiful emotion like hope for its own sinister purposes. Besides, although the details were different, I had gone through a similar experience. Fortunately I had had the guts to cut loose when the discomfort of living with someone whose values were so divergent from mine outweighed my fear of being penniless and ostracized as a divorcee. And yes, in my case too, hope had played the role of demon—for I too had hoped for years and years that things would get better, and so I moved heaven and hell and did everything I could to make our life harmonious. Since I was an asset in many ways, and made life interesting for him, it served my partner to allow me to believe he was ready to change, when in fact he had no such intention. (Come to think of it, I don’t think he could have changed, because transformation involves possessing integrity, courage and a willingness to see that we are wrong and causing damage to others. The three steps of change: first awareness, then acceptance, and finally action). And so I too had remained trapped in a claustrophobic and demeaning situation for too long.

7293fc79f579a35ec9fc884aa6b3cadf-2In the end, words are only labels we slap on to experiences and events because we are unable to communicate effectively without them. (Only the true sage who has transcended duality can radiate wisdom in silence.) But it is not necessarily hope we have to guard against, but our own egoic fear of breaking free of a matrix that, while painful and disturbing, is paradoxically also comforting and familiar. This man’s sister, for instance, hoped for decades that her husband would change, against all evidence to the contrary, and lost her youth and vitality in the process. Who knows what she might have been able to do in that quarter century had she been bubbling with joy and vitally alive?

We live in a dualistic world where everything has at least two faces. The bright side of hope is uplifting and constructive; its dark side is when we hurt ourselves by remaining in unhealthy situations or relationships, all the while hopeful that things will change, despite knowing deep down they won’t. What is it that keeps us in the stew of passivity? Fear, in one word, for a known devil, as the old saw goes, is better than an unknown angel.

On the path to moksha, liberation from all desire and fear, it is critical that we face reality head-on. True, we might mess up from time to time, but we can always make amends. But the one thing we can never get back is the precious time we fritter away hoping things will be different, that our partner or whoever will eventually see the light. Instead, once we are certain we are being played by a callous trickster who cares nothing for our happiness and everything for his, we could put the lid on the situation, no matter what we have to go through in order to do this, and invest our energy in forging a happy and constructive life for ourselves. To rely on others for something as precious as our happiness is nothing less than foolish and cowardly. (And this of course works both ways: some women do the same to their men).

Dwell, Guatama Buddha said more than two thousand years ago, you are the light itself. Do not depend on others; the Dharma (your highest calling) is the light; do not depend on anything other than the Dharma. Advaita assures us that our essence is One, but in relative reality, we are made differently and must therefore find our own way to grow into spiritual warriors.

Featured Image -- 9732Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who helps us to get rid of all unnecessary baggage, so we can walk free and confident into the blazing Spiritual Heart!

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DYING MAN ON A MISSION

c04882f649c6e4d6bfe4fc61b45a5306A friend asked me to drive with her to the palatial home of a very old and sick man who lived alone in a prosperous north Indian town. She was an enthusiastic social worker who took care of orphaned children in her spare time. Her husband was wealthy, and this was her way of doing some good. I agreed, and on the way, asked her why she needed to talk to him. She told me his wife had died a long time ago and that both his daughters were doctors, married to doctors, and well settled in Europe. He lived in this great big house alone, and a housekeeper came in every day to clean and wash and cook for him. His daughters had both invited him to live with him, but he wanted to be alone, claiming he needed solitude to finish a book about his spiritual experiences. He knew he had very little time left and did not wish to be distracted. She was going to see him, she confessed, because his daughters, whom she had spoken to at length, had no interest in coming back to live in India. Neither had an interest in their inheritance, and so she was hoping to persuade him to leave his house to her organization.

I was stunned by her revelation, and, frankly, rather repelled. There was something ugly about this scenario, for it reminded me of a host of vultures hovering greedily over a dying creature, in anticipation of the coming feast. I said nothing, because she was very different from me, single-minded and ruthless when she wanted her way. To her, the end justified the means, whereas for me it was important to show gentleness and refinement in getting what one wanted, no matter the nobility of one’s motive.

We stopped outside this huge mansion on a beautiful tree-lined street and she marched ahead of me and boldly rang the bell. The old man who opened the door for us was frail and unkempt. He did not look friendly, but still he invited us to come in and called out to his housekeeper to make us tea. Over tea, my friend blurted out that she’d already spoken to his daughters and they were agreeable to him making over his property to her organization. He was quiet for long moments, then, brusquely, he said no. I have other plans for it, he added coldly, and I am not going to die until I finish my book anyway. Please go now—I have lots of work to do.

Of course you must finish your book, my friend said quickly. But don’t you think it’s a beautiful idea to leave your property to compassionate people who could do so much good with it?

cc56cbb87382e2c7f74faf1c64cc03f7As he appraised her carefully, I got the sense that he did not trust her, for she was dressed like the socialite she was, in a gorgeous sari silk sari, long silky hair streaming down her back and face superbly made-up. No, she would not appear to be a humble social worker in his eyes, but just another wealthy and bored matron, longing to get her name into the local papers. What can I say? He was a sharp guy!

He cleared his throat and gathered his thoughts. I can see you think I am a foolish old man, he said slowly. But I am well aware that few would be interested in what I have to say. That does not matter to me. I’ve lived an intensely interior life and it is vital to me that I put down everything that I have learned via meditation, study and practice before I pass on. This book is my legacy to the world, whether it cares or not. Besides, it gives me peace and satisfaction to write it. As for this house, I am leaving it to my nephew who plans to turn it into an ashram. My daughters do not know about this. Please go now, and leave me in peace.

I was so embarrassed I could not say a word on the drive back. Charming and persuasive as she was, and spoiled by always getting her way, I hoped she knew better than to approach that sharp old man again.

This strange encounter flashed through my mind this morning perhaps because, in certain ways, I am like that old man. After living a tempestuous life out in the world, I have now settled down to a quiet life of deep contemplation. I too am aware that what I write appeals only to a tiny segment of the world population, the majority of whom are still chasing dreams in samsara (the relative world) and can’t be bothered delving deeply into the heart of reality. There is always one more deal to be struck, the stock market and bank balances to be monitored, parties to attend, movies to see, children and spouses to care for, and new relationships to be forged. How many really care about mystical realms?

Like the old man, I write for myself—which is not to say that I don’t relish praise. Also, long ago I took the Boddhisattva Vow, a wish to become enlightened, not just for oneself, but for all beings. If even one person wakes up to the deeper reason to why we incarnate by reading my work, all the effort and care I invest in it is gift enough for me.

1165311e076f9fab8a6e2f39ba6df8caGreetings from Arunachala, Shiva in the form of a hill of fire and light, who makes us see that the most important task we are born to achieve is to know that we ourselves are immortal bliss!

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