You can’t let the old biddy intimidate you like that, my friend said firmly in his gravelly voice. You have to stand up to her and you’re strong enough to do it. You feel weak after all your recent upheavals, I know, but if you lose this battle, you’ll regret it.
I put my cell phone into the pocket of my fleece jacket with a bitter sigh, knowing he was right. The “old biddy” was part-time leader of the incredibly lovely Zendo to which I had fled, many years ago, to escape the blistering heat of Tiruvannamalai. Aware that I did not care for their strict and ritualistic routine of meditation and wished to be left to my own devices to follow Ramana’s Direct Path of Self-Investigation, she had honed in on me like the battle axe that she was, determined to crush me into submission.
Panicking at her bizarre form of attack, which involved waiting until I was seated in the dining hall with friends before rushing forward to berate me in her heavily accented English, I had called my friend to let him know I was not enjoying my experience. But he was not ready to give in to my request that he immediately send a car to transport me all the way back to Tiruvannamalai, and so I had no other option but to fight this demented oppressor.
That afternoon I decided it was time to grapple with the Fear Monster who had plagued me so many times before. I locked myself into my lovely room and dived under the covers. The sky outside my window was overcast and the general atmosphere was one of doom and gloom. Okay then, I whispered as I closed my eyes and allowed myself to feel the clammy fingers of stress clutching at my heart. Let’s have it out, and right now, okay, you big bully?
I lay quiescent and allowed the ugly feelings to engulf me, determined to find out what was behind them. And sure enough, as the waves of fear did their weird thing, I sank below them and saw their source: ah, so the German woman represented the fear of authority that had been instilled in my right from childhood!
You see, my father was authoritarian to the extreme and his word was law. We were ordered to act in a certain way, and god forbid if we dared to question his orders—the consequences were so dire that all of us obeyed, at least on the surface. And then there were the teachers at school who demanded obedience or else, and all the other oppressors one tends to encounter along the byways of life, including those who disguise their nasty habits so well that one can be fooled for years.
At that instant of clear seeing, I actually felt the hold of the demon start to loosen; then, very slowly, those claws begin to fall away and to disappear. Later I was shocked to learn that the struggle had lasted for a couple of hours. The miracle was that right away I lost my fear of the German woman; she must have sensed that she no longer bothered me because she quickly found another newcomer to bully.
Until the vasanas (karmic trace impressions) that run the egoic system completely burn down, they can return to cause us trouble. And ever since, seven days ago to be precise, when a great big door slammed onto my right foot and crushed my toe, Fear and his sneering minions have been harassing me. There are many reasons for my tremulous feelings, but I won’t bore you with them. But I could not help wondering why this had happened in the first place.
This mini-disaster comes on the heels of other painful events. Just a couple of weeks ago, my dog Kali startled me in the middle of the night and I had slid off my huge bed and fallen to the floor with a heavy thud, hurting my left thigh quite badly. But I was soon back on my feet. This was followed by other mini-crises, and now I had almost broken my toe. What the hell was really going on? I confess I went through a medley of negative emotions including grief, anger and resentment. Why me? And this is the retort I would get: Why not you? You think you are special, eh? Well, get over it!
Yesterday afternoon I gazed upon the gray-green slopes of sacred Arunachala and tears sprang to my eyes. Why do you make me suffer like this? I whispered. The answer came as these words rang in my heart: Be Still And Know That I AM God.”
As all devotees of Ramana are aware, this Biblical line was a favorite with the great sage. What does it mean in the context of Advaita? It is certainly not encouragement to be a lazy bum and to wait for things to happen, no; instead we are meant to pour everything we have into stunning the wild mind into a perfect and brilliant stillness. When this miracle happens, the egoic self dissolves into the Self and one knows for sure that ones true nature is immortal bliss and infinite awareness. Be Still And Know That I AM God, yes, this is the highest goal we seekers of peace can hold before us as we make our way into the core of the Spiritual Heart.
I don’t deny that I’ve come a long way from the crazy child I was, but there are still miles to go before I burn down that mountain range of karmic predilections that still keep me subject to pleasure and pain, to desire and to fear. My current tendency is to create a comfort zone and to hide in there for as long as possible—which is why the powers that be make sure to crack that zone and shove me willy-nilly back into the world; the idea is, I am convinced, to force me to grow beyond all borders and boundaries.
Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who whips us forward despite our protestations, determined to fulfill his vow to destroy all that blocks us from knowing we are joy itself!