MAHAMUDRA – Samsara’s Seven Flavors (4 of 4)

ece0e5efb7e69f25bae5daa7f08c1338Say you’re a crack software designer with your eye on a dream posting in California’s Bay Area. The job dangles before you like a luscious red apple and then you get a call from a pal in Human Resources—sorry, she says, but they’ve given it to Bipin Ghatge. I know, it sucks, but what to do? He’s our Chairman’s nephew—didn’t you know?”

Foiled again!  You want to eviscerate that smug toady Bipin and shriek with wicked laughter as his guts slither out of his belly, but you don’t relish the idea of spending the next fifty years in jail. How about getting rip-roaring drunk? But that road to oblivion will make it impossible for you to endure Ghatge’s snide looks tomorrow. Your mind ranges like a bandit over all your options. Then the thought pops into your head that perhaps it is time to try Mahamudra meditation. You  actually remember all those seven points, flavors, as Mira called them, as if she was selling ice-cream.

PRACTICING MAHAMUDRA 

You slink home and drink a mug of  green tea with honey before parking your butt below your Buddha batik. You allow yourself to feel terrible about the loss of the Bay Area job. Ouch! You apply the first step of Mahamudra: that all things are imperfect—and deliberately designed to be so—because if you and the world were both perfect, how would you grow? Weird how just accepting the inherently imperfect nature of this world makes you feel better.

Impermanence. How many other disappointments have you dealt with in your thirty-one years and where are they now? Do you spend a second aching for that snooty chick who dumped you like a stack of dirty dishes crash bang into the sink of despair? Two months later, you met the amazing Aparajita—and isn’t she a whole lot sweeter? As for this job, there are a thousand like it, some that even pay better. Perhaps now is the time to leave a company that blatantly practices nepotism.

No ownership. There it was, that seductive project right within your grasp, and then, whoosh, it was gone, without your permission. Who owned it? Certainly not you! Maybe there are invisible laws governing every little thing….

No accident. This one is tougher to accept. You’re a straight-up sort of guy and you don’t care for mystical bullshit. But hey, what to do, man, accept that there are no accidents and see what happens.

c945ed890f540a675b775ccb608893f3No fixed judgment. You look back and see the myriad times you judged something to be good or bad, and how that good turned into bad, and vice versa. What about that English writer who invented Harry Potter? Loses her job, is barely making it on welfare, then waves her wand and brings the boy magician to roaring life. Abracadabra, soon she’s raking in millions. And what about Stephen Jobs, your one-time hero, who had everything material a man could dream off…to die at his peak?

Transformation. Yes, you can quit this company and accept that job you were offered last week. This new company plays fair and is run by an ethical board who respect their employees. Maybe by this time next year you will be working in the Bay Area….

Past karma.  Did you actually set up this whole scenario in some past lifetime, just to learn a lesson? Sounds kinda corny, but you’re willing to give this  notion a shot. You continue to sit quietly, allowing these new views of the current crisis to percolate into your deeper self. It’s bizarre, but once again it feels like the sun is shining down on your precious head. Hey, this meditation really does work!

f92f7dea9f17b0dbcc31e5be036538d6Freedom From the Matrix

The goal of our practice is not to put up with crapbut to eradicate suffering in all its forms. These were the words of the guru who taught me Mahamudra and so much else. That said, analytical antidotes to human suffering only help us cope with the endless pains of relative reality. Using only these seven flavors as antidotes to our suffering of body and mind is like using band-aids on deep wounds—although I’ve heard it said that a complete acceptance of the final flavor of Mahamudra (that all we experience is the result of our own past thought, speech and action, or karma) is powerful enough to transform lower into higher consciousness.

Mahamudra practice alone cannot lead us all the way to enlightenment, nor does it remove problems, but it lightens the sting of our suffering by revealing the true nature of samsara. According to Ramana’s Direct Path, the only sure way to become free of desire and fear is to burn the vasanas (karmic imprints) that run our behavior and create our relative reality. Once we’ve begun to unmask samsara, we must simultaneously begin to uncover our true nature by learning to sink into the substratum of our being, which, according to the great ones, is sat-chit-ananda, pure existence-awareness and bliss. The real journey of the committed seeker is an inner one which intensifies when we use tools such as Mahamudra to splash great arcs of light on to our individual paths toward the spiritual heart.

Om is the bow
The soul is the arrow
Brahman is the arrow’s goal
At which one aims unflinchingly.

~Mundaka Upanishad

Ψ

If you’ve enjoyed reading my posts, please also check out my BOOKS and LINKS.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 8,174 other followers


Click the buttons below to SHARE if you liked this post.
Note: The REBLOG option is available only when viewing the post in full. Click on the post-title above if don’t see the REBLOG button below.
Advertisements

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!

If you’ve enjoyed reading my posts, please also check out my BOOKS and LINKS.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 8,174 other followers


Click the buttons below to SHARE if you liked this post.
Note: The REBLOG option is available only when viewing the post in full. Click on the post-title above if don’t see the REBLOG button below.

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!

If you’ve enjoyed reading my posts, please also check out my BOOKS and LINKS.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 8,174 other followers


Click the buttons below to SHARE if you liked this post.
Note: The REBLOG option is available only when viewing the post in full. Click on the post-title above if don’t see the REBLOG button below.

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!

If you’ve enjoyed reading my posts, please also check out my BOOKS and LINKS.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 8,174 other followers


Click the buttons below to SHARE if you liked this post.
Note: The REBLOG option is available only when viewing the post in full. Click on the post-title above if don’t see the REBLOG button below.

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.

If you’ve enjoyed reading my posts, please also check out my BOOKS and LINKS.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 8,174 other followers


Click the buttons below to SHARE if you liked this post.
Note: The REBLOG option is available only when viewing the post in full. Click on the post-title above if don’t see the REBLOG button below.

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!

If you’ve enjoyed reading my posts, please also check out my BOOKS and LINKS.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 8,174 other followers


Click the buttons below to SHARE if you liked this post.
Note: The REBLOG option is available only when viewing the post in full. Click on the post-title above if don’t see the REBLOG button below.

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!

If you’ve enjoyed reading my posts, please also check out my BOOKS and LINKS.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 8,174 other followers


Click the buttons below to SHARE if you liked this post.
Note: The REBLOG option is available only when viewing the post in full. Click on the post-title above if don’t see the REBLOG button below.

ANXIETY, BITCH GODDESS

FB_IMG_1494089545295I think that you might agree with me that it is rare to find a truly “good” human—a person you know instinctively is kind, compassionate, honest, transparent and loving—and not just to those who serve his or her interests, but to all beings. Well, I met a middle-aged man the other day and knew right off the bat that he was “good.” He owns a grocery store in town and sells tasty homemade snacks. Since I was hungry, after I shopped I ate something there, and he joined me at the small table in the back and freely told me his story. Lots of financial setbacks, he said, shaking his head sadly, and at one time a big position in a company in the Middle-East that he had lost—an underling who had coveted his job had made such big trouble for him that he had finally quit.

Other bad decisions followed that cost him his savings, and finally he had decided to open this small store in Tiru. It was limping along, he said, but somehow he was making ends meet. He had a sweet and supportive wife and two fine adult sons who were finding their way in the world. It was clear to me that he adored them all.

So why are you worried, I asked him, because he did look terribly strained. I have a heart problem, he confided softly, and my boys are not yet settled. I worry about them to the point I can’t sleep, and when I don’t sleep, the worry gets worse and my business is affected. What will happen to them if I die of a sudden heart attack?

And that is a definite possibility given that you worry so much, I said drily. Then I added, gently: You actually think you have been selected to suffer more than others on this earth? Don’t you realize that everyone goes through this sort of stuff? And that we will all die, like it or not? How does your constant worrying help the situation at all? It only makes things worse and prevents you from enjoying your great blessings. Have you never considered being grateful for all you have, rather than moaning about how awful things are?

FB_IMG_1463360088510He smiled sadly but had no response. And I realized that no matter how “good” we are, it is necessary to study the nature of reality and to contemplate its great truths, or we will drive ourselves and others mad, by dwelling on the millions of dire possibilities that could further overturn our fragile lives. I felt I could advise him only because, in my early life, although I was bright and funny and intelligent on the surface, had you known me well, you might have pegged me as the planet’s number one worry wart, always drowning in misery. In fact I worried so much that I was forced to find ways to escape my own sick thinking. These methods worked for a while, but the anxiety was at best suppressed and inevitably came back to vicious roaring life.

Over two thousand years ago, Gautama Buddha gave us his Noble Truths—the first one being that life is suffering. Now suffering in this context includes, but is not limited to, the great agonies of hanging bleeding on a cross, with callous soldiers laughing at our pain and sticking us in the side with sharp swords, or the usual boring pains of old age, sickness and death. Here is an example of suffering from the classical Buddhist texts: you are on the road and terribly hungry. You are an hour away from a dear friend’s home who always happens to be a great cook. You call her and beg her to make your favorite meal. “I’ll be there soon,” you say, and she is thrilled.

She loads up a big plate with delicacies as you sit impatiently at her dining table. You finish every delicious speck and rub your tummy with satisfaction. But she is already piling more onto your plate and insisting you eat—she has cooked too much, she explains, and doesn’t like leftovers. To please her, you force yourself to eat a second serving, but she won’t stop loading more on your plate and finally you protest violently: if I eat another spoonful, you warn her, my tummy will burst! You lean back against the comfortable chair, swollen, lethargic and nauseous—and you realize, to your amazement, that your greedy anticipation of just an hour ago has already turned into the suffering of acute indigestion!

So suffering is a host of things. It is being forced to wait for a friend on a busy street, it is impatience, it is anger, it is jealousy, it is getting what you don’t want, and not getting what you want. It is frustration because as hard as you work, you can never have more than your neighbor, or win the beautiful man or woman you adore, or realizing that you will never be gorgeous and talented enough to succeed as the big screen actor you long to be. Oh yes, suffering covers the gamut of unsatisfactory conditions, and no one but no one escapes its slimy tentacles.

Fortunately Gautama does not stop here—he goes on to speak of the other truths, the cause of suffering and finally the end of suffering. Yes, there is a way out—but how is this wonderful man, who worries all the time, and is so steeped in personal misery that the entire screen of his life is covered up with his seemingly insurmountable problems, to ever know that such a highway to happiness and peace exists?

1165311e076f9fab8a6e2f39ba6df8caFor me, the road to peace and happiness was long and tortuous and involved sitting humbly at the feet of many great eastern teachers, and studying and practicing as if my butt was on fire. But once I digested the teachings on karma and reincarnation, life actually began to make some sort of sense to me. And once I accepted that some form of mystical logic does rule our lives, I was free to delve even further into the treasure chest of ancient wisdom and to accumulate sharp and shining tools to slice through all my seeming problems. And this is how I cut to the underbelly of being, which mystics and seers claims is no less than pure existence-awareness and bliss.

This subject is so vast and exciting that it is impossible to cover it in a few posts or essays, which is why I write spiritual fiction. I endeavor to make my novels read like fascinating parables; the reader does not have to struggle to learn anything—the teachings are embedded in these sagas, and so are painlessly digested. In this way, I give back what I was so generously given to me. I am well aware that most of our world is not interested in what I have to say, perhaps simply because thriving materially is the major task on their agenda. Still, I recognize this as my dharma, one reason why I incarnated, and so am content to keep doing what I do.

Back to this man, who has made an appointment with me for this afternoon, claiming he wants to learn a few simple truths he can apply to his situation and so find relief from his intense anxiety. Mahamudra, I think, would serve him well; this is an ancient teaching on the nature of relative reality, easy to understand and hard to refute, for each one of the seven steps deals with relative life as it is, beginning with the inherent imperfection and impermanence of all created things. I have taught this simple analytical meditation to friends and small groups of genuine seekers all over the world, and I hope he will “get” it, because he is certainly worth my time. I like him instinctively and know his heart is good. Besides, unwilling as he appears to be to formally read or study, he may well die never knowing that there is a golden way out.

Ramana Maharshi, the great sage of Tiruvannamalai, has been a great light in my life. One of the many things he taught me (nothing new here, these truths have been the bedrock of eastern philosophy for thousands of years) is that our true nature is peace and happiness. I listened to him only because I knew he was a sage and could not lie. Just as in the mundane world it is hard to find an essentially good human, so too it is hard to find a guru who is a blazing jewel, who will never ever lead you astray, and who is willing to share the wisdom that will surely take you all the way up the mountain. After a lot of work and effort, I know today that Raman only speaks the naked truth. Why am I convinced of this? Simply because the worry wart I was, who chased ephemeral pleasures to hide from angst (not just about my concerns, but about the world in general) has transformed into a woman who lives more or less in peace, and who is, despite occasional eruptions of anger and frustration, deeply happy.

Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who works with us as we shed our delusions and leads us to the immortal bliss of our true nature!
These are posts you might enjoy:

Two Great Truths of Absolute and Relative Reality – Posted on September 4, 2015

Dying Every Single Day for Months in Manhattan… (May 1, 2015) 

Mahamudra, The Great Seal – Samsara’s Seven Flavors #3/12 (Oct 14, 2013)

If you’ve enjoyed reading my posts, please also check out my BOOKS and LINKS.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 8,174 other followers


Click the buttons below to SHARE if you liked this post.
Note: The REBLOG option is available only when viewing the post in full. Click on the post-title above if don’t see the REBLOG button below.

Genesis: Whip of the Wild God: A Novel of Tantra in Ancient India: 4/4

WWG-Small-TrilogyAs a child in south India, I saw a man douse himself with kerosene, set himself on fire and walk past the gate of our home. I still don’t know why he did what he did; servants were buzzing about it for weeks afterward, but I could not bear to hear the details. What could be so terrible that a man would set his own body ablaze? That Burning Man never left my consciousness, for he had staggered past our home defiantly and I don’t recall hearing him scream.

Pain comes in a range of gross and subtle flavors. Some are cursed with having to endure physical pain. My own suffering has mostly been emotional; to escape from the sometimes relentless inner torment of my earlier days, I confess I would do almost anything. Unfortunately, no sage manifested to warn me that no one succeeds in escaping suffering; like an ominous shadow, the pain demon haunts you, growing obese as it squeezes all the joy out of existence. The only remedy is to turn around and confront the bully head-on—and keep watching until it slinks away in shame.

Today I have come to accept that all fear is essentially an illusion. In fact, folks in the Twelve Step program have an acronym for fear–False Evidence Appearing Real. And indeed, that is what our fears are—insubstantial and petty tyrants who drain us of the one thing they do not have: prana, or vital energy. While my threshold for pain continues to be abysmally low, I now have a variety of constructive tools to dissolve it—mainly, yoga, meditation and the wisdom of the ancients. The Wild God continues to whip me, because I have set my personal goal high. The difference is that now I know why I, and all beings, must suffer—before gold can shine, it must go through trials by fire.

8c3b451325db273f2b072ce821f5d310Another reason I wrote Whip was to deal with a subject more or less taboo in my community of origin: sex. I grew up with a mother who flushed at the mere mention of the “s” word and talk of bodily functions evoked in her an intense discomfort. Her father had died when she was five, and she’d been brought up by her mother, a young widow who, by our custom, was neither allowed to remarry, nor work outside of home. While my little mother was given the best of material things, she lacked a close bond with her own grieving mother. So she reached out to the nuns at her school who warned her that men in general spelled trouble. Beautiful and melancholy, she was forcibly married off as a teenager and proceeded to bear many children. She did an astounding job of nurturing us, but I could always see the bewildered little girl whose life had drastically changed the day she lost her father.

One result of never being properly mothered herself was that my mother did not know how to deal with her growing daughters; we were forbidden to speak of natural things, and censored in almost every way. One day at school a friend mentioned to me that she’d asked her Oxford-educated mother how babies were made. Her mother had casually picked up a sketch pad, sketched the male and female organs, and explained the nature of conception and birth to her nine-year old daughter. Listening, I had grown rigid with envy; my mother’s prudishness, I felt sure, had installed shame and embarrassment in all her children about this most natural of functions.

I wrote Whip to remedy this great flaw in my own psyche—and hopefully to shed some light on the blocks and neuroses of others. As I continued to research Tantric and eastern philosophy in general, I began to appreciate its exalted teachings on sacred union. How wrong the world has gone in cheapening this most important root energy! However, yogis, shamans and other seekers appear to have redressed the balance, for at least they acknowledge sexual energy as critical to spiritual growth, whether one is celibate or not. And while Tantra is still often regarded as a hedonistic practice, the truth is that many celebrated Tantrics (such as the Dalai Lama) are highly disciplined, ethical, and celibate.

Sadly enough, in India, where energy teachings once flourished—I speak of Kundalini, or the serpent fire, which sages claim lies coiled three-and-a-half times at the base of the human spine—investigating primal energy as a tool for spiritual transformation is still not something one can speak frankly about. Tantra urges man and woman to view each other as divine and equal; by fusing their energies, they experience godhead. Where, I ask you, is the sin in this?

I am not talking about the tawdry manner in which sex is extolled, say, in Bollywood; nor the plethora of dirty jokes “sophisticated” Indian men and women bandy about; nor do I speak of the millions of modern Indians who, forced into unfulfilling arranged marriages, seek external consolation. I address instead the honor and respect one can give to one’s own true nature. In the ancient teachings, it is said that when Shiva set his seal on the world, he cleaved it into male and female; so when male and female re-unite in the most sacred of ways, they re-experience the state of Shiva, which is sat-chit-ananda, absolute existence-consciousness and bliss, or organic cosmic wholeness.

Bhagavan RamanaTo my critical eye, both Indian men and women—from the illiterate poor to the wealthy western-educated lot—have long lost their connection to this sacred wisdom. As a result, the balance between the sexes has gone radically awry and old female stereotypes of the sainted virgin versus the painted whore with nothing in-between persists. In general, there appears to be little room for pure friendship and respect between the sexes, the kind that can grow into a healthy, harmonious, symbiotic relationship. Perhaps this stream of consciousness ramble might explain why I nurtured Whip through many incarnations and personal ups and downs for close to twenty years. In the end, after going through hell and back, my protagonist finally awakens her own indwelling divinity; and that is what we all must do, at some point or the other in our infinite lives—for it is our birthright and our dharma. (To be continued in the next post).

Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who vows to help us clear up the wreckage of our relative lives, so we can rest in the peace and bliss of our immortal Self!

If you’ve enjoyed reading my posts, please also check out my BOOKS and LINKS.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 8,174 other followers


Click the buttons below to SHARE if you liked this post.
Note: The REBLOG option is available only when viewing the post in full. Click on the post-title above if don’t see the REBLOG button below.

Genesis: Whip of the Wild God: A Novel of Tantra in Ancient India: 3/4

WWG-Small-TrilogySometime in the mid 90s, I put together a collection of short stories. The protagonist of each tale is an Indian woman who faces a terrible dilemma and solves it with amazing panache. I titled the collection: Sacrifice to the Black Goddess, in honor of the Dark Goddess Kali. My literary agent at the time showed it to Manhattan publishers and the universal verdict was that I had promise, but that I should first write a novel. And so the idea of writing something big and important began to stir within me.

Then, in the winter of 1993, I met James Kelleher, a brilliant vedic astrologer based in Los Gatos, California. He saw a novel looming in my chart and said it was my dharma to bring it into the world. He gave me the exact year I would finish it and ended by warning me that, although I’d have endless problems trying to publish it, I should persevere. Now writing a short story or essay had always been easy for me, but giving birth to a novel is a different kettle of fish. Being cursed with an impatient nature, I had so far never been able to stick to a complex project. While I had excelled all through school and college, my pattern was to get bored and dance away to the next activity. I realized only one thing could sustain me through writing a full-length novel—a topic that consumed me. I found this in the radical philosophy of Tantra, which stunned me with its liberating, profound and authentic teachings.

What is Tantra? Etymologically, it can be traced to the fusion of two Sanskrit words: tanoti and trayati, which roughly transliterate into the explosion of consciousness. The simplest definition I have found for it is “the transmutation of darkness into light.” But what is darkness, and what is light? Darkness pertains to operating on the level of beast: angry, jealous, greedy, lustful, and driven by fear; light refers to the highest point of evolution—as pure being, consciousness and bliss.

Kiri 16GB sd card 6243-1The ascent of consciousness is from muladhara, the root chakra—heavy with the fiery energy of the Kundalini—all the way up the invisible chakras to the sahasrara, or thousand-petaled lotus of higher consciousness, hovering slightly above the crown of the skull—when the individual ego dissolves back into cosmic intelligence. Simply put, when male and female reunite, two become one; this wholeness dissolves the individual ego that causes all our suffering and can lead to a permanent state of bliss. This can be accomplished either singly (for every human possesses both male and female energies) or as a committed couple. It can take decades before one is ready to take on a mate—a fact which flies in the face of contemporary thinking that Tantra encourages sexual license and excess. Without a strong grounding in ethics and yoga, seeking liberation as a couple simply cannot work.

By this time, I had also trained as a hatha yoga teacher. My guru blew my mind by teaching me the essence of the Bhagavad Gita. To think I’d grown up in India and never known I’d been parking my lazy bottom on a treasure trove of wisdom! And now an American sadhu was tossing me sparkling jewels from my own ancient culture! I’d wasted my time in south India belting out Janis Joplin, smoking ciggies, and trying to be oh so cool in the western way…oh, dear me, the many ironies of life!

The upshot of buying that little book at Ananda Ashram was that I now I had a title for my book: Whip of the Wild God: A Novel of Tantra in Ancient India. The Wild God was Rudra, who had metamorphosed into Shiva over the centuries. The theme would be the philosophy and practice of both celibate and Red Tantra, which entranced my mercurial mind. This being the pre-internet age, I began to make regular trips to the New York Public Library in order to research this vast subject. As I ploughed through their impressive stash of material, a plot began to coalesce. Ishvari—a teenage girl born in a village situated on the fringes of a city based on the Indus Valley Civilization—became my fiery protagonist. (The Indus Valley is important to me because some scholars say that my ancestors, the Saraswat Brahmins, were its original settlers and had practiced Tantra.)

d234450d3d62a8926e9c9bca1ac39318What becomes of fierce, beautiful and brilliant Ishvari? Guided by the advice of the royal astrologer, the Envoy of the Maharaja of Melukhha whisks her away to be trained for seven years by tantric monks. Despite her simmering anger against her mother, the lecherous priest and greedy landlord of her village, her ability to dazzle causes her to be elected to the role of High Tantrika. And so she is sent to serve as spiritual consort to Takshak, the corrupt and powerful monarch of Melukhha. But the stars in her almond eyes quickly dim when she realizes she is no more than a gorgeous bird trapped in the proverbial golden cage. Unable to deal with her emotions when her royal lover abandons her for an alien sorceress, she rebels in the worst of ways—and so brings down the wrath of the monarch on all who have cherished her. It is then that the teachings she has secretly spurned rise up again within her. The agony she experiences during her flight and the decades that follow awaken within her the great roaring kundalini fire….and she is set firmly again on the path to moksha or liberation. (To be continued in the next post).

Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who vows to help us clear up the wreckage of our relative lives, so we can rest in the peace and bliss of our immortal Self!

If you’ve enjoyed reading my posts, please also check out my BOOKS and LINKS.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 8,174 other followers


Click the buttons below to SHARE if you liked this post.
Note: The REBLOG option is available only when viewing the post in full. Click on the post-title above if don’t see the REBLOG button below.