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

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

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. Continue reading

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