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.\

News of how rapidly devotees could turn spectacular Rishikesh into a virtual cesspool spread like wildfire. Friends I’d been hanging out with during the winter months fled, but I’d just bought a duplex apartment on the other side of the Ganga and had to stick around while it was being renovated. (I had long since sold my dream house in south India and moved up north).

Those of you who know Rishikesh will remember the two narrow bridges—Ram Jhula and Laxman Jhula—that separate the two halves of town. Swaying ribbons of wood, these old-fashioned bridges hang over the turquoise and emerald waters of Mother Ganga; during festival times, they are packed tight with tourists and virtually impossible to traverse.

FB_IMG_1490599852235The morning after the start of the great festival, I awoke to nagging body pains and found myself unable to move my neck. Exhausted, I lay in bed until afternoon. A local trekking guide dropped in for a chat. I showed him the swelling behind my ear. “Oh ho, Mira-ji, that’s a bad spider bite,” he said authoritatively. He pointed to a gigantic black spider crouched on the bottom of my window pane. “See? That must be the villain right there. Just rest for a few days and drink plenty of good water.”

Since I avoid Allopathy in general, preferring to let time and yogic remedies do their work, I decided to stick it out in my guest room. But the infection only got worse until my entire stomach area was a tender mass of screaming pain and I could barely summon up the energy to get out of bed. I begged a friend who lived in Rishikesh to arrange for a doctor to visit me. The pain in my intestines was impossible to describe, I whispered weakly; I could not eat or drink. The doctor arrived. When he heard me moaning in agony, he pushed some antibiotics on me, collected his fee, and rushed away before I could ask him to move me to a hospital. Later my trekking pal told me the good doctor had fled because he feared I’d die in that room; apparently he’d not wanted to get embroiled in a messy police case. So much for the Hippocratic Oath, in this case, the Hypocritical Oath.

My trekker friend arrived to check on me the next morning and saw I was on the verge of extinction. He carried me down the stairs, literally tied me to the back of his bike, and drove me along that crazily swaying bridge, through thousands of crazy revelers, and to the hospital in town. There the female doctor took one look at me and ordered me into Intensive Care. Terrified, I called a close friend who lived in Chandigarh, a seven hour drive away. “You check into that place, Mira, and that’ll be the end of you, she said bluntly. “Come to Chandigarh right now—I’ll take care of everything.” A man at the hospital found a taxi for me while the doctor gave me a pain shot she promised would last for seven hours. It did not work. The taxi driver must have cursed himself for taking me on, for I kept groaning as outrageous pains knifed through my intestines. That drive was beyond nightmarish; fortunately I blacked out from time to time.

We made it to Chandigarh, but my agony did not end there: not one of those renowned medical specialists had the guts or the common sense to have me cleaned out from the inside. Could they cure me, I cried? Glucose drip, they murmured, sophisticated scans, they suggested, a few months of bed rest, they advised, but I could feel Death’s cold breath on my neck. I begged God not to let me go this way. I had so much to do, I cried, please let me die with some dignity. Towards dawn I heard a voice whisper to me: get an enema, now! I woke my friend and coaxed her to send me a doctor and nurse immediately. I had the enema, which started the process of removing the poisons that had been clogging my intestine, and entered the tortuous road to recovery.

After the crisis was over, I was amazed to find so much I could be grateful for: higher power had ensured my survival against all odds; my trekking guide friend had cared enough to drive me to the hospital across that teeming city; the taxi driver had carried me safely from Rishikesh to Chandigarh; a friend had taken on the huge responsibility for my care; her friend had loaned me her gorgeous home to recover; the nurse who’d administered that healing enema…etcetera etcetera. As time passed and I regained my health, it also became clear to me that I’d chosen this brutal episode to burn some heavy-duty karma. Chosen, you ask? Yes, because I believe we souls choose the circumstances of our lives on earth in order to transcend duality and to return to the source of both manifest and unmanifest.

a9d35a4933b4412c59fa8ad3a43437afIn his book Enlightened Courage: An Explanation of the Seven-Point Mind Training, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, a powerful Tibetan Buddhist teacher, says:

No one knows when, or how, death will come. Bubbles form on the surface of the water, but the next instant they are gone; they do not stay. It is just the same with this precious human body that we have managed to find. We take all the time in the world before engaging in spiritual practice, but who knows when this life of ours will simply cease to be?

Today I make it a daily practice to be grateful for all the circumstances of my life. Via the ancient wisdom tool of Vichara, or Self-investigation, I choose to meditate on my true nature—which, according to eastern philosophy, is pure existence, awareness and bliss. As I do so, I feel the patch-work identity of egoic body and mind that has caused all my suffering begin to dissolve; a sweet joy arises with the knowledge that if I persevere in my inward quest, one day I shall merge fully into that exquisite peace surpassing all human understanding.

Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who vows to destroy the egoic system that is the cause of all our relative suffering!

NOTE: This post was originally published in 2013 and was perhaps my most popular piece of writing; here it has been condensed for inclusion in the first of my blog books.

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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.

The open-hearted folk of Eugene only intensified my reluctance to return to India. To de-stress, I regularly did yoga, meditated, hiked with friends and sang with my guitar. But at night, the demon of anxiety would fly in through the window in a flurry of dark wings and sit triumphantly on my chest, draining me of energy. Soon enough, the blues settled like a toxic mushroom cloud over my frazzled head. One night I wandered into the backyard of a friends’ place after dinner and I spied a woman called Grace sitting alone at a picnic table beneath a star-speckled night sky. I’d heard someone say she was a sort of urban healer, and that she worked for free.

Grace welcomed me with a big smile and said she’d once dreamed about visiting India with her husband, who’d been fascinated by our ancient rishis and Vedanta philosophy. But he’d died of a heart attack twenty years ago as he was biking along the Willamette River, and the bottom had dropped out of her world.

13e269e7dd2189555144fd97b22322e4“Cara said you’re some sort of healer,” I said on impulse. “My mind’s been driving me insane. Would you give me some herbs to help me sleep?” She placed a gentle hand on my arm. “What’s worrying you?” And suddenly I was spilling out the stream of paranoid thoughts that harassed me continuously.

“Well, honey,” she said. “I used to be the biggest worrywart…went to pieces after my husband died and could barely get out of bed.” Moonlight revealed the lines suffering had etched into her face. “Then a friend suggested I help out at the local hospice. I met a patient there, dying the most painful death, but still a magnet for the others. He told me his secret—that he’d trained himself to always look on the bright side. If I wanted to be happy again, he said, I should start my day by listing five things I was grateful for.” “And this worked?” I asked dubiously. “Sure it did, honey!” she cried. “Its white magic, this positive thinking.” She lowered her voice to a dramatic whisper. “Tell you what…I’ll be your gratitude sponsor. Call me every morning for the next month and give me a list of five things you’re happy about. Wanna give it a shot?”

I lay in bed next morning forcing myself to drum up those cursed five things for Grace. Then I heard someone talking on the street below my window. I poked my head out and saw the quadriplegic who lived down the street being pushed in his wheelchair by his long-suffering wife. Omigod! At least I had all my limbs and my faculties, a little the worse for wear, but still in pretty good shape. I struggled to come up with number 2. Hmmmm…unlike so many others who’d taken the road less travelled, I’d managed to save enough to retire in the East. Wasn’t that another huge reason to be grateful? Then I considered my passion for writing—hours would vanish into the ether as I poured my heart out in words. Which made three. And what about the organic broccoli and Lundberg short-grain brown rice I’d planned to cook for brunch? Seasoned with Japanese toasted sesame oil, cracked red pepper, olive oil and a dash of tamari, it was my favorite health food. Hey, that made a total of four things to be pleased about!

I jumped out of bed, showered and pulled out my yoga mat, anticipating the deep relaxation I’d soon feel. And that made five—that I had learned how to calm body and mind with yogic techniques and meditation. How many millions are condemned to seek comfort from a drink, a joint, shopping, sex or whatever when their minds are giving them hell?

FB_IMG_1456878290224Bizarro, but already I was feeling much lighter! I dialed Grace’s number and blurted out my five things. I could feel her smiling on the other end. “Good,” she said. “Enjoy your day and call me tomorrow. And, honey, jot down those five things you just rattled off to me, okay? Do this every day from here on—that’s an order!” (Continued in next post).

Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who gives us all the powerful tools we need to combat our dark side so we can realize our Self to be immortal light!

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.

ac9a6ed443d206599b4d58f92afee35aClearly my mother and I were like oil and water; nevertheless she loved and admired not just me, but all her kids. She had been married off at sixteen, against her will, and was literally forced to have a large family, which was then the norm for affluent segments of society.  She and I definitely had our troubles, but today, as I deepen my own mystical journey into the Spiritual Heart via Ramana Maharshi’s Direct Path of Self-Investigation, I find myself utterly grateful to her for the system of values and ethics she passed on to me. When I asked her what she wanted as a birthday gift, she’d murmur that I’d make her very happy if was “a good girl.” I can’t tell you how mad I would get when she said that! Because, by no stretch of the imagination was I “good.” Yes, I lied (because both my parents were so strict with us that the only way we could explore the world was to deceive them so we could slip away from the house to partake of fresh adventures), stole money (they did not believe in giving their kids pocket-money, although most of my friends had liberal parents who kept up with the times) etcetera, but nevertheless her values still embedded themselves deep within me. If I borrowed a book or an article, for instance, she would insist that I return it in good shape and on time, and her heroes were the great men and women who had sacrificed personal gratification for others. She had no respect for the tinsel aspects of mundane life or for celebrities such as movie stars or the very rich, and strove to live a deep and prayerful life. So whoda thunk that this woman I rebelled against so strongly as a child and teenager would have so seriously impacted me as an adult?

This post is inspired because right now I am watching from the sidelines as a certain very wealthy family who has recently entered the political scene in America continues to abuse their position by taking as much from the over-taxed people as they can, while they can. I laughed softly to myself at the bizarre thought flashed that my mother (who has long since passed away) would consider them real low-lifes. You see,  she had no time for those who lied, cheated and stole, no matter whether they were kings or paupers. You have no shame, she would have told this man and his family, and she wouldn’t have cared a damn whether they liked her or not because she was speaking her truth.

FB_IMG_1490599852235Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who whips us into shape so we can enter the blissful Spiritual Heart and bask in our true nature!

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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.

Now, for as long as we are totally identified with samsara (relative reality, considered “unreal” in Advaitic terms since it is ephemeral and consists of beings, situations and things that come and go), we will continue to spin in the mad roaring vortex of primal confusion. But once we step out of the dream (and this dream includes the three states of waking, sleeping and dreaming) and enter Turiya (the fourth state of blissful non-duality), the Sakshi or Witness wakes up.

The process is quite fascinating—what used to drive us up the wall in the past, what we used to take with deadly gravity, now becomes mostly funny and interesting, for the Witness is an aspect of the eternal Self and nothing can negatively impact it. Imagine watching a fascinating movie—you enjoy it, and empathize with the trials and tribulations of the hero, but you do not take the plot personally, do you? You may even identify yourself with a character in the movie, but once you leave the theatre, it is easy to drop the role, right?

Kiri 16GB sd card 6243-1This is how it is for the advanced seeker on the path of moksha. At some point, the Self wakes up with an exultant roar and begins to watch, with amused curiosity, the Ego building sand castles on the shifting sands of samsara. You can think of the Self as an indulgent and wise grandfather watching his bright and mischievous grandson (Ego) having a blast on the beach: throwing a tantrum when a high wave rolls over his castle and reduces it once again to ordinary sand, or getting terribly excited because a passerby assures him his castle is the best in the whole world.

But the infant does not have to remain an infant—as she matures, she can become aware that her grandfather is really omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent, for she has noticed that, unlike her tumultuous self, he is totally unflustered by events.  Weary of meaningless and essentially dissatisfying play, she decides she wants to be like him—and so she stops building her endless sand castles, turns her back on the craziness of external experience, and begs the old man to teach her the real meaning of existence.

The job between them is done when the two merge into One; whether it is done quickly or slowly depends on how much effort, commitment and interest she can invest in her brilliant new Moksha Project. The final ingredient for fusion, of course, is grace, and that is ever-present, although it is up to each one of us to prepare ourselves to receive its blessing.

31bfa8c67297ecc9ab574db35cd84ca5Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva in the form of a hill of fire and light, who is said to watch a particular soul for eons as it wanders, lost and confused in the dazzling tinsel worlds of samsara, until, out of great compassion, He lassoes the soul and draws it into His fiery embrace!

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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.)

She and her ex never wanted kids, she said, which was a good thing or she might never have gotten interested in eastern philosophy (via hatha yoga), and never realized there was more to life than the superficial good times available to her as the wife of a wealthy entrepreneur. The radically new worldview she so acquired had such an impact on her psyche that she had finally left him. Although she did not ask for much, he was generous enough to insist on providing her with a lifelong settlement; and then, ha ha ha, she added dryly, he had promptly turned around and married another trophy.

It was only when she started deepening her knowledge of the limited egoic self that she realized that her decades-long marriage had been convenient only for her ego, and not for her Self (the Divine or Absolute, our true nature according to the eastern mystics). It sickened her, she confessed, that, for instance, that despite being crazy busy with his work, her ex would insist on being present when she met with her bankers every month, but would refuse to spend any quality time alone with her. He had no interest in her as a woman or as a person, but genuinely wanted to protect her financial interests. This one thing clearly revealed to her that all he cared about was money, while he didn’t give a damn for her soul.

2b30a1fb8fc22baec67e64504e96cf11I told her how blessed she was to have had such a realization. You see, I had encountered many other women, some also married to rich and powerful men, who had no clue that there was more to life than indulging themselves and their children in excessive materialism. One of these women spent all of her time going from one plastic surgeon to another, getting face and body lifts, because she was terrified the man would dump her for a new model! What a way to live, I had thought, I would rather be dead than invest all my energy in trying to please a superficial mate.

Now I had met this friend at a spiritual meeting in Manhattan and we were instantly attracted to each other, probably because we had each gone through so much and were both fascinated by eastern philosophy. She was in her early fifties then and lived simply but well in a beautiful area in upstate New York, besides a sparkling stream and surrounded by woodland. She enjoyed her solitude and spent her time reading, painting, meditating, and focusing on inner work. “I’ve never been happier,” she said at some point during that weekend that I later spent with her. “And it was all because I was so intensely miserable that I was literally forced to find a reason to live. Thank god I decided to do my teacher training in yoga. My guru was a deep man who sensed I needed real help, and he made it a point to guide me. We’ve become close friends over the years, and through him, I’m drawing closer to that immortal Spirit you Indians speak about so casually.” She smiled. Now I know the Divine is not a sweet fiction; come to think of it, what feels terribly unreal is all that time I invested in the transient.”

Thinking over this distant encounter, I realized how fortunate the modern West is (apart from religious fundamentalists!) to not be stigmatized for seeking freedom from an unfulfilling marriage. Here, in India, a society so complex and multi-layered that it boggles the mind, divorce is still a very dirty word. Women who seek their freedom even from the worst mates are hounded, harassed and even ostracized; one can well empathize with their willingness to stay put, no matter what, and suck up their misery. And what about the men? Not surprisingly, it is usually the wealthy who stray: Money has opened up many new portals for them and they are exposed to an international world where they can often make their own rules and get away with moral murder. However, I’m sorry to say, despite the surface sophistication of many, inside they are often mama’s boys, terrified to break free of their matrix lest they bring the hammer of community disapproval down on their heads.

You might be stunned if you knew how many there are of this ilk all over India: men who want to have their cake and eat it too. They proposition particularly women who are Westernized, believing that such females are bohemian and free and have no scruples in relationship. Because they worship money, they wrongly assume this is the case with everyone. Some flit from one sad relationship to another, hoping to distract themselves from the emptiness of their fake lives, and so never ever grow up. I asked one such rich fellow who had complained to me about his wife, why he did not just leave her. Oh, my mother would die of shock, he said, and what about the children? (You see? He didn’t give a damn for the wife, only for his old dominatrix of a mother and his kids). His mother had arranged the marriage, he ran on miserably, and his wife was perfect as a home-maker and as a mother, although she was so boring and limited in her range of interests that he could not even talk to her beyond domestic matters.

I shook my head, and told him that if I, a woman also brought up in a traditional and conservative family, with no support from anyone but my guru and a few Western friends, could have had the courage to walk out of my marriage, knowing full well I was about to lose everything material (since my husband was so sneaky in that area), then certainly he could. No, he said, that is not possible in my case, and I realized that the walls of the ego in some cases are built of concrete reinforced with steel, and that most humans simply lack the integrity and guts to break away and seek true joy. In truth, after the initial brouhaha of a “scandal” has died down, no one cares any more, and you can then restructure your life to seek the only peace worth having—that which comes from the depths of the Spiritual Heart.

Kiri 16GB sd card 4418Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva in the form of a hill of fire and light, who powerfully aids us as we shed all that blocks us from knowing we are the blissful and immortal Self!

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THE PARADOX OF ADDICTION

fb_img_1486103868695Right before the millennium, at a birthday celebration held in a spacious loft in downtown Manhattan, I fell into deep conversation with an eccentric artist who was rapidly rising in a city where the competition is known to be beyond fierce. He’d always been intrigued by Indian art, culture and philosophy, he told me, and his art reflected this interest. He then proceeded to ask me searching questions about my life in south India, including how and why I had made my way to the Big Apple, and I found him to be highly intelligent and perceptive—no, this was not superficial party talk, but a true meeting of souls.

In turn he spoke about his own life, and I was stunned by his revelations, particularly because he appeared to be the product of a loving background. He told me that his mother had fled her vicious alcoholic husband when he was only three and that his father had then turned his rage on him, abusing him sexually and beating him viciously, and no one had been around to protect him. Continue reading

MELTDOWN BEFORE RAMANA

c04882f649c6e4d6bfe4fc61b45a5306Those who know me well are aware that I have an abysmally low threshold for pain of any kind. I feel terrible, not just when I suffer, but when I see other beings going through hell, whether human, animal, avian or insect. This makes mundane life extremely difficult to handle. Bad enough we are thrust into a baffling matrix without our permission, and then, if we make it through childhood and adolescence despite our ten thousand scars and wounds, we are confronted by the callous and relentless monsters of old age and death. Ghastly situation to be thrust into, eh?

Buddha’s first noble truth (life is suffering) persuades most seekers to enter the inner path. But there is a way out, the great sage went on to say, and if we cannot find it in the seeming pleasures of the external world, then the answer must lie within us. This is how it was for me—I tried everything to gain peace and joy via external means, but was finally whipped into making a sharp turnaround into my own heart. Finally I began to realize that everything the sages said about the true source of happiness being within is indeed a great truth—which does not mean all the blinders fall off our mortal eyes instantly and we float in an ocean of bliss. The process can be rapid at times, but one often hits sharp bumps in the road and learns to pick oneself off the ground and get a move on, even if we can only hobble forward.

Yesterday was Day 6 following my close encounter with a nasty wooden door that almost killed my little toe. I actually did a little hatha yoga and drove into town thinking happily that, from here on, recovery would be quick. Not so. I felt drained and sluggish, and when I dragged myself to sit before Ramana’s gorgeous portrait in the Old Hall, I was an emotional mess. Physical suffering had weakened me greatly and I had a great flash of empathy for all those on the planet who grapple with chronic pain. I wondered again why we have to suffer at all. What is the point? I cried silently out to Ramana.

13e269e7dd2189555144fd97b22322e4Tears came in a rush and I was grateful that I had found a corner where I was shielded from curious eyes. I cried silently until the emotional storm passed and Ramana watched me, as he always does, with an inscrutable smile. Once again I marveled at how he had borne with the agony of cancer for two years before his emaciated body finally passed away. Then I thought of the brilliant comet that streaked upward from his room at the exact moment of his passing to unite with Arunachala. Many had witnessed this celestial occurrence.

And what about Nisargadatta? He was more voluble about his pain, but nevertheless, he taught until the very end and was his spectacular self all the way through. And then there is me, whining about being held hostage in the house and bemoaning the loss of my usual vibrant energy. Oh well, comparisons are odious, and as my old friend Subramania (I call him my Taoist sage) said to me today as we crossed paths in the Ashram, the emotional component of pain is the worst of all. Only rarely is a Ramana or a Nisargadatta born—the rest of us must muddle through.

cdb1d3d61dee7f3fdb9f663b1af551b2
All that crying must have done me a world of good because later I felt amazingly light and bright. One day, as I used to sing to myself as I danced across the wooden floor of my Manhattan apartment, I will understand the cosmic mystery and exist in pure bliss. Until then, I allow myself to feel all my feelings even as I sink deeper into the substratum that is common to all beings and which is what unites all beings into Oneness. Advaita, it is true, is not two!

Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva in the form of a hill of fire and light, who whips us when we least expect it, because he’s the omniscient master of the cosmos and knows exactly what will get us racing towards the light!

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COBRAS WRITHE ABOUT HIS BLUE THROAT


Ramana says, echoing the mystics of all time,

That the three states of waking, sleeping and dreaming

Are unreal, meaning that they are ephemeral, and come and go.

 

Oh, but last night I dreamed I was the Great God Shiva,

Draped in the furs of mighty beasts,

Cobras writhing around my blue throat,

Whipping a nine foot bully harassing

A lovely girl with shining face of gold—

And oh, how I wish that dream was real!

4c43e9597e348e32446dfe8c83a2d488And then I awoke at dawn to the wondrous sight

Of a sacred hill whose crown was wreathed with

Layers of creamy evanescent clouds,

Even as peacocks shrieked and ravens cawed

For their morning feast of rice and milk—

And oh, how I wish that too was real!

 

And what to say about those long afternoon naps

Following a morning of writing and meditating,

When my mind vanishes into a nebulous netherworld

And my cares dissolve into blissful nothingness?

Please, can that not be real?

kiri-16gb-sd-card-6025Amused, the Mountain whispers in my ear:

Only consider, my dear,

That if these states that are but a passing show

Are so pleasant in their aftertaste,

How nectar sweet is your true nature, which is nothing less

Than Mahaprana, Pure Life, Mahachit, Infinite Awareness,

And Ananda, a celestial fountain of bliss?

 

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ON THE CURVED HORNS OF A DILEMMA

615d07728be5f75d5dd066fd9849c5f3A few years ago I met a man who had been born in a Communist regime. He loved to talk and freely shared his story with me: As a boy, he had loved and admired his jovial father who was devoted to his wife and kids. Although those were hard times for millions of others, this man made sure that no expense and care was spared to ensure the comfort of his loved ones. As far as this lad knew, daddy held a high position in government and was the beneficiary of many perks, which would account for their privileged lifestyle.

Then, out of the blue, at his eighteenth birthday party, his uncle (who had drunk a bit too much vodka) spilled the beans that his father headed a KGB unit that specialized in the torture and brainwashing of political prisoners. Shocked, for instinctively he knew this to be true, the teenager turned irrevocably against his father; although young and sheltered, he knew more than enough about what went on in the dreaded secret prisons and gulags to be appalled. The mere thought that he had sprung from a monster who, backed by a cruel state machine, had probably broken the bodies, minds and spirits of hundreds of dissenters in return for a luxurious lifestyle and power was too dreadful for him to digest. He also intuited that to confront his father would be a desperate and futile act.

Unable to continue living in the family dacha, he slipped away soon after, not just from his native land but right across the ocean, knowing he would never be safe in the Communist world as long as his father was alive. His wanderings eventually brought him to India, and here he lived for many decades, teaching yoga for his living. He also discovered a genius for mystical artwork, and this brought him a certain amount of fame as well as the income he needed to establish himself in quiet comfort.

I thought of him this morning as I read yet another report on how a certain politician (who is currently engaged in selfish and cruel machinations to enrich himself and his cohorts) is being staunchly supported by his own children. The man who confided in me that he fled Communist Russia because he could not come to terms with a sadistic father (who was probably both a schizophrenic and a psychopath) was incredibly brave to follow his heart. But these American kids appear to have no independent thoughts or a moral backbone, are nauseatingly arrogant and exude an annoying air of entitlement. They have been spoiled all their lives, and it is daddy’s money that has enabled them to strut about the world like royalty. But what if overnight daddy went bankrupt? How then would they react to his heartless shenanigans?

kiri-16gb-sd-card-6025This train of thought led me to recall yet another friend whose brilliant father became notorious for embezzling his upscale firm of millions of dollars. Despite mounting evidence proving his guilt, and many law suits filed against him for corruption, my friend adamantly refused to admit that his father had done anything wrong. His denial shocked me, because for me it is a relentless investigation into relative truth that frees us up to follow a higher path to lasting peace and bliss. True love enables us to confront close ones; if the bond is real, then everyone can evolve from the interaction.

Besides, Eastern teachings inform us we have incarnated a million times if not more; if this is true, then we have had millions of families and intimate relationships—so why cling to the toxic relationships of this current life as if they are all we have?

So what do we do when someone close to us reveals a relentlessly dark, perhaps even a demonic side? Since we are all fashioned differently, the answer will naturally vary. For me, it is a matter of principle above all mundane considerations. While I was blessed to have ethical parents (which does not mean they were perfect), I feel sure that had I a corrupt parent, sibling, lover or friend, I would first do all I could to help them transform; if that does not work (it rarely does), then only would I decide to disconnect, and with love.

Bhagavan RamanaIf we are so scared of the consequences of breaking free that we continue to proclaim the innocence of a close one against all evidence to the contrary, then drop by drop we ourselves turn evil, for energy is invisible and it spreads. If, on the other hand, we follow the guidance of our heart and cut poisonous ties despite the hassles and the terrific pain that generally follows such abrupt partings, then we have a shot at experiencing our true nature, which is nothing less than blazing light. As always, the choice is ours.

Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who forces us to grow through all the dilemmas and vicissitudes He hurls at us!

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Post-millennium, I moved permanently from America to India. Here, in the shadow of the sacred hill Arunachala, two decades from the day I conceived the idea and following seven major rewrites, I finished my first novel in the Moksha Trilogy: … Continue reading