The Spider & The Blue-Throated God – 2/2

FB_IMG_1494089545295Did I go from being a neurotic worrier to a goddess radiating mega-rays of tranquility in a few short weeks? Sorry, but this ain’t no fairy tale. The sad truth is that I was born with a depressive gene: to see a glass as half-full instead of half-empty can still be a labor of Hercules. But by putting a positive spin on my life, my fears shrank, my vision cleared, and I could move forward with increasing confidence. Yet I still found myself embroiled in situations so dark I could not find a single reason to be grateful.

One such nightmare saw me trapped me in a guesthouse in Rishikesh during the Neelkanth Mahadev temple festival that annually draws close to half a million rambunctious rural devotees down from their villages to worship Lord Shiva. The temple is surrounded by dense forest and is adjacent to the Nar-Narayan mountain ranges. Hindu myth claims it was here that Lord Shiva consumed the poison Halahala that originated from the ocean when the Gods and the Demons churned the deep waters in order to obtain Amrita, the nectar of immortality. To save creation, Shiva swallowed this poison, which turned his throat blue—which is why he is known as Nilkanth, literally The Blue Throated One.\ Continue reading

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The Spider & The Blue-Throated God – 1/2

3b61d0f59f5d346dca653f1df20c1727I owe a colossal debt of gratitude to a woman I shall call Grace, whose kindly face, hennaed hair, hooked nose and elfin green eyes still come with great affection to mind. I met her over a decade ago, at a friend’s potluck dinner in Eugene, Oregon—a fairytale town where I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a hobbit or two frolicking down the road, yodeling a hey-ho-happy-to-be-alive kinda song.

Instead of enjoying this slice of paradise, however, my thoughts had begun to stray obsessively into the future—specifically on the looming prospect of having to leave Eugene for south India, where I’d set in motion the construction of a beautiful home for myself. Whew, was I mad at myself for taking this big step! My radical ways had taken me way out of the Indian mainstream…and when, for God’s sake, had I ever fit into my conservative community? But now it was too late—huge amounts of money had already been paid towards this dream dwelling, and this time I had no option but to suck it up and go with the flow. Continue reading

THOSE BORING OLD CLICHES

2b30a1fb8fc22baec67e64504e96cf11Clichés become clichés because they are true. For instance, how many times has some elder told you that you will know your true friends only when you are sick and suffering, penniless, shunned by society, etcetera? You might have smiled disbelievingly, but in time, you may learn that this is true.

Our planet teems with egomaniacs and narcissists who “love,” “worship” and “adore” you when you are riding high. Some are drawn to you because their egos are empowered by your neediness and it delights them to believe that you will come to rely on their largesse and be gushingly servile in your attitude. But just you wait until a hurricane blows you off your pedestal and reveals your frayed and dirty knickers! Worse still, when you grow strong and confident again and have the guts to speak your mind honestly and bravely, you will likely see that the few jewels who remain loyal and caring are those who loved you, not because you could enhance their life or their egos, but for your flawed but brilliant self. Continue reading

ENTICE THE GENIE BACK INTO THE BOTTLE, AND DON’T LET HIM OUT AGAIN!

48179abd0de32f220776e4e42302563f-1-1A wealthy trader decided to travel the world seeking out rare objects he could sell for a small fortune to private clients. One morning his ship landed on a beautiful beach. He saw a skinny wild-haired fellow racing up and down the shore, waving a beautiful gem-flecked glass bottle at passersby and begging them to buy it. Curious, the trader leapt on to shore and asked the madman what he was up to. The unkempt fellow pointed angrily to the bottle—there’s a genie in there, he said, and I finally managed to trick him back inside, but I’m terrified he’ll somehow manage to escape. Why are you so scared of the genie? The trader enquired. You won’t believe this, the man muttered, but not too long ago I was a handsome and charming fellow with oodles of money. Then I was stupid enough to buy this bottle from a chap who looked just as terrible as I do right now. He told me the genie trapped inside is so powerful he could do anything for me. Greedy fool that I was, I grabbed it from him. Oh yes, he was telling the truth, but just look at what this cursed genie has reduced me to!

Give it to me, the trader said eagerly. Here, the madman said, take it for nothing! But if you value your life, don’t open the bottle—just enjoy its beauty and you will be fine. If that fellow gets out, he’ll make your life hell. You can’t imagine what he’s put me through! Continue reading

YOU HAVE NO SHAME…

1c954a09bd5bbfdf785ff7e6ca4642c8…my mother would say to me sternly whenever I misbehaved, which admittedly was often. I was a curious child and did not believe in the maxim of children should be seen but not heard (a friend turned that around jokingly and said: children should be obscene but not heard, and I had a good laugh). And so I butted into adult conversations and asked outrageous questions, simply because I wanted to know what made this strange world tick. I also had the ‘bad’ habit of striking up conversations with anyone who took my fancy—total strangers, servants, the old, the young, the rich, the poor, beggars.

“You have no shame,” my puritanical and sheltered mother would scold again, and I grew so used to hearing her criticism that soon it no longer had an effect on me. I knew, you see, that I meant no harm but was merely trying to comprehend my world. Also, unlike many of my friends with progressive parents who had studied and lived abroad, my mother was a small-town girl who honestly believed we should remain securely within our birth matrix lest the wicked world ruin us. Though I found her constant attempts to shield us from the world extremely irritating, I also knew for sure that she was only trying to protect us in her pure and simple way. Continue reading

THE OLD MAN & THE MISCHIEVOUS CHILD

8c3b451325db273f2b072ce821f5d310Although the way up the Mountain of Oneness can involve some pretty rugged terrain, and one stumbles every now and again, and even gets lost in the thickets of strange new concepts and terms, eventually the journey becomes smooth, pleasurable and easy. Bizarrely enough, all you have struggled to absorb and to practice over lifetimes is now spontaneously jettisoned or distilled into a living inner truth. Some call this cultivating the “view,” and I like this term since that is exactly what we do when we turn decisively into the interior and develop new ways of seeing and being.

For me, comprehending the beauty of Advaita essentially involves understanding the nature of two things: the Self (the Absolute, blissful, immortal, aware and including both manifest and unmanifest) and the Egoic machinery (current body, mind, track record, emotions, etcetera). The goal is to dissolve the building blocks of the ego (known as vasanas or karmic trace impressions accumulated over countless lifetimes) into the vast peaceful ocean of the Self. Continue reading

A MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE

4c43e9597e348e32446dfe8c83a2d488Ages ago in America, a friend I was visiting over the long Thanksgiving weekend, told me that she had her ex-husband had never really gotten along. She had married him on the proverbial rebound several years after her fiancé, whom she had loved, had died in a surfing accident, and simply because her avaricious insecure social-climbing mother had coaxed her to hang on to him for all he could offer her in material terms.

He was a cold and distant man who had done very well for himself financially. He did not love her, nor did he claim to, but because she was glamorous and charming, he did value her highly as a social asset. While their love life was non-existent, he appeared to be content to squire her to social events as his trophy bride. Early on she had longed to escape him and to pursue a different lifestyle, but when she turned to her mother for support, she was sternly reminded that she had struck gold and should be content. (Why she’d listened to a mother as crass as this, I still can’t figure out, but I do know the woman was a widow and my friend an only child, and that this had brought them close.) Continue reading

4 AM ON THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE

b14516b6b40561bfe96c12b674d70118After the initial intense discomfort of leaving a marriage that was throttling me emotionally, and blocking my spiritual and creative progress, I was once again enjoying the richness of life. Soon I began to feel an exhilarating sense of freedom.

Now Manhattan is the perfect place for a single person to taste every flavor of liberation—a fabulous city that never sleeps and has something for everybody. (This was before the World Trade Center bombing). Brimming with exciting things to do, not just in the way of entertainment, Manhattan catered to the spiritual seeker as well as to the artist and could be a whole lot of fun.

Folks I knew at work were mostly workaholics; they put in long hours, but from Friday evening through Sunday, they generally partied a lot. There were many times, I confess, that the constant pressure got a bit too much and I felt like a monkey pedaling furiously on a wheel just to stay upright. But still, I relished my new life and would not have exchanged it for another. Continue reading

THE OLD MAN AND THE MISCHIEVOUS CHILD

e86345da08c09d1879f0e7eda3a5e911Although the way up the Mountain of Oneness can involve some pretty rugged terrain, and one stumbles every now and again, and even gets lost in the thickets of strange new concepts and terms, eventually the journey becomes smooth, pleasurable and easy.

Bizarrely enough, all you have struggled to absorb and to practice is now spontaneously jettisoned or distilled into a living inner truth. Some call this cultivating the “view,” and I like this term since that is exactly what we do when we turn decisively into the interior and develop new ways of seeing and being.

For me, comprehending the beauty of Advaita essentially involves understanding the nature of two things: the Self (the Absolute, blissful, immortal, aware and including both manifest and unmanifest) and the Egoic machinery (current body, mind, track record, emotions, etcetera). The goal is to dissolve the building blocks of the ego (known as vasanas (karmic trace impressions, accumulated over countless lifetimes)) into the vast peaceful blissful ocean of the Self. Continue reading

JNANA IS A JEALOUS GOD

2b30a1fb8fc22baec67e64504e96cf11Every serious seeker enters the inner path in a unique way, which is why we are fortunate if we find friends who resonate with our views and feelings. My own trajectory began when I was a troubled teenager looking for a permanent antidote to my angst. I began my quest with an intense study of the basics of classical hatha yoga philosophy; as the years flowed by, still looking for answers, I moved into Japanese Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, to the Path of the Mystics (Santh Math), played around with the fascinating fields of Sufism and allied mystical paths, and finally was guided back to the ancient cradle of Advaita-Vedanta, and specifically to Ramana’s Direct Path of Atma-Vichara. I am so grateful that I did not dump anything that was valuable; no, I extracted the essence of all these fabulous paths and meshed them into my “view,” so that they are now a living truth, a treasure chest of tools I can dip into at will.

This is just to say that I can empathize with those who do not resonate with the expression of my particular views; nor do I count on them for validation, for the work of convincing myself that I am on the right path (for me) has been done well. Nevertheless, I share portions of my journey, perhaps because long ago I took the Boddisattva Vow (to seek enlightenment not just for oneself (how utterly boring!) but for all beings), and so I have a compulsion to offer others the results of my questing, knowing full well that too many are too busy or unwilling to do what I have done and still do. Also, one never knows what will strike a note with another, and it is a magnificently liberating feeling to express the delicate truths revealed as one persists in delving into the cosmic Self. If even one person’s load is lightened as a result of our openness and willingness to give, then that is a great blessing, for me, anyway. Continue reading