NAGARJUNA’S KILLER TIME GAP

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1ce24b49ef2c97c59535c8ba9b69f382I am no scholar and frankly admit that my long years of immersion in Eastern Philosophy were driven solely by an obsession to destroy my own darkness. In my teens, I dived into esoteric teachings in an attempt to understand my angst, and while much I learned took me a little further down the road to peace, it was a Buddhist Geshe I met in Manhattan many years ago who finally helped me sort out the confusion I felt about the nature of reality; it was through him that I came upon the luminous Indian scholar Nāgārjuna, considered second only to Gautama Siddhartha in the context of his critical contributions to eastern thought.

Nagarjuna’s life is a bit of a mystery to us moderns since surviving accounts of his life were written, in Chinese and Tibetan, centuries after his death. Most likely he was born into a Brahmin family in South India and later became a Buddhist. Some say he was an advisor to Yajna Sri Satakarni, a king of the Satavahana dynasty who ruled between 167 and 196 CE, which places him around 150–250 CE. Nagarjuna is considered the founder of the Madhyamaka School; due to his efforts, the concept of ‘emptiness’ (shunyata)—which he focused on in order to refute the metaphysics of some of his contemporaries—became the central ontological concept in Mahayana Buddhism. Continue reading

Do Not Be Serious About Anything!

9a777a0771ebcfae58de22014c1fa031-1During my stay at a beautiful Ashram in America long years ago, I was consumed with worry about my future. You see, I had jumped out of the mainstream by quitting a great  job in Manhattan, sold my lovely apartment, left good friends behind, and landed in the Himalayas without a parachute in the middle of a grueling winter. From there, still restless and seeking, I had moved around in both East and West, on a quest for that perfect refuge where I could focus on my creative and spiritual goals. But nothing seemed to work out and by now I was truly sunk in misery.

A friend saw my sad face; impulsively, she tore a page out of the book she was reading and handed it to me. The title said: Do Not Be Serious About Anything: it was a message from the guru of that Ashram, who advised his students not to take mundane life too seriously, but instead to dive beneath the surface and find the constant peace and joy that is our true nature.

The message begins like this: “We cannot really save the world. We cannot even destroy the world. It is not in our hands. If that Supreme Power wanted to save the world, it wouldn’t even take a second. All of us could be saints and sages overnight. Instead the Divine is allowing us to be a little ignorant. That is His fun. But we forget this and take life too seriously.” Continue reading

Serpent Ring And The Magic of Acceptance

Kiri 16GB sd card 5294I met a wild looking sadhu on the way up to Skand Ashram many moons ago, and noticed that he wore incredible jewelry, all in the shape of serpents, and fashioned of copper and gold.

He told me a jeweler in a town far away had made it for him. I asked if he could make me a ring, and he agreed. I gave him an advance and the ring came as promised—a golden serpent coiled like the kundalini with a small ruby for an eye.

I have grown to love this ring for it represents my passion for the serpent fire (Kundalini)—which is nothing less than the energy of primal mind that fuels the process of enlightenment. Nothing but this fiery energy can halt the power of my chaotic mind, and I use a kundalini practice as a base for Atma-Vichara, Self-Investigation or the Direct Path, as taught by Ramana Maharshi. Continue reading

THE DIRTY LITTLE SECRET

‘The Secret’—a ‘spiritual’ self-help documentary launched in Australia in 2006—hit the Western world with incredible impact, generating millions for its producers. I wrote the following article a year or so later but never published it. Today, although a thousand other scams have rushed in to take its place, the reasons why I reacted so negatively to it are still pertinent. The plethora of gross misinformation spreading across our planet has inspired me to write spiritual fiction, and all three of my novels in the MOKSHA TRILOGY (Whip of the Wild God, Krishna’s Counsel and Copper Moon Over Pataliputra—Whip is out and the other two novels are soon to be published) deal with the great eastern truths that helped me come to grips with reality.) So here goes….

9159ab7fd715aa61603466cadef10395In the summer of 2008, I lived in a delightful suburb located a twenty-minute drive from the White House in Washington D.C. A string of disappointments had driven me into a chasm of despair. Despite the spiritual tools I’d acquired over the decades, my state of consciousness had sunk into such a quicksand of self-doubt that I expected the bathroom mirror to crack every time I peered cautiously into it. At night, as breezes ruffled the branches of the majestic old trees surrounding that beautiful home, I would hear the fat lady screech, and know I was trapped within another dark night of the soul.

I called my friend Meredith who had moved to Taos, New Mexico. “I’ve got the perfect remedy for you, hon!” she cried when I mumbled the shameful details of my depression. “Watch The Secret! It will change everything for you!” Continue reading

BRAHMA’S DREAM & KRISHNA’S COUNSEL

NOTE: The Kindle Scout campaign for Krishna’s Counsel is over. No further nominations shall be accepted. A Big ‘Thank You’ to everyone who nominated.

FB_IMG_1459874344775I grew up in a traditional south Indian world whose cruel inequities I struggled to make sense of. Nothing quenched my hunger for truth until I stumbled upon the teachings on karma, reincarnation and suchlike. Gradually I taught myself to see with new eyes and began to experience the glimmerings on inner peace.

I was obsessed with unraveling the answer to one striking paradox: how could India, a country so rich in the philosophy of Oneness, also support a caste system that militated against this knowing? This is a BIG question and it took immense effort to find answers that satisfied me. A major turning point was learning about what eastern sages refer to as the Two Great Truths. (Here’s a post you might enjoy: https://miraprabhu.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/two-great-truths-absolute-and-relative-reality-real-and-unreal/).   

It was the answers to my ten thousand questions combined with intriguing myths and stories that led me to write Krishna’s Counsel, the second novel in my Moksha Trilogy. Pia, my protagonist, is a rebellious and hypersensitive girl who grows up in 60s south India and is just as confused by her environment as I was. Continue reading

TRUE CONFESSION & KRISHNA’S COUNSEL

NOTE: The Kindle Scout campaign for Krishna’s Counsel is over. No further nominations shall be accepted. A Big ‘Thank You’ to everyone who nominated.

994912da914e1e24f959f1934c116265True confession—I LOATHE self-promo with a passion! I don’t enjoy nagging and equally shy away from those who badger others to get what they want. If you too were born with a thin skin, I bet you would empathize. Being hypersensitive and hyper-empathetic is not always an asset in a world where external success often hinges on chest-thumping and being pushy.

Anyway, years ago I decided to write in order to channel my turbulent energies. You see, as I studied the nature of both absolute and relative reality, millions of thoughts kept bubbling up from the seething cauldron of my unconscious into my conscious mind, and yet I feared no one person would have the patience to really listen to me. So I melded my love for verbal self-expression with my passion for mysticism and decided to write a series of novels whose theme is enlightenment—and The Moksha Trilogy was born. (https://miraprabhu.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/a-trilogy-of-light-mishi-bellamy-artiste-extraordinaire/) Continue reading

My friend Joe And The Karma of a Drowning Man…

YOGI GRAPHICJoe was my oldest friend in Manhattan; he died recently, in his nineties. A professor of economics who’d taught at Ivy League Colleges, Joe confessed to me when we first met way back in the 1990’s that in his days of youthful rebellion, he had come under the influence of a Russian Communist and been indoctrinated into that philosophy.

My own interest in mysticism baffled Joe. How can you follow such a heartless path, Mira? He asked me once, when I mentioned I was heading out of town for a meditation retreat. Surprised, I asked what he meant. Oh, Joe said, this friend of mine told me a story—a true story, mind you!—about two Buddhist monks who were walking past a river. A man was drowning in the river and screaming for help. One monk said to the other: “Hey, jump in and save him! I can’t swim.” The other shrugged. “It’s his karma,” he said nonchalantly. “Let him drown.” And they both walked on. “You see?” Joe said righteously. “Don’t tell me it’s not a selfish path!” Continue reading

The Magic of Being Alone

GRAPHIC OF WOMAN1992 for me was a time of great personal darkness—sparkly on the outside, rotten on the inside. Stuck in a difficult marriage, I asked a friend at work if I could unload my troubles on her.

Karen was an opera singer at the start of her career; like me, she supported herself by freelancing in Manhattan law firms and on Wall Street. I admired her creativity, courage and higher values. Often  after work we’d walk across Manhattan to my apartment and chat while I cooked us dinner.

“Let’s go to Central Park tomorrow,” she suggested. “We can talk freely there.” So next day we strolled through that gorgeous park and I told her, tears streaming down my face, that the husband I once believed I’d love and respect to my dying day had turned into a materialistic stranger.

“Why are you so scared to leave him then?” she asked in her direct fashion. “Sounds like you have good reason.”  Continue reading

Dattatreya’s 24 Gurus and His Brilliant View

SHIVA IN BLACK AND WHITE 2Dattatreya blows my mind with the daring way he lived his life and the transcendent wisdom that emerged as a result. The word Datta means “given”—for it is said the Divine Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) “gave” one aspect of themselves in the form of a son to the sages Atri and Anasuya; Atreya was added on to his name, to indicate he was the son of Atri.

Born roughly 4000 years ago in an age when Veda and Tantra had once again fused, Dattatreya left home early, in search of the Absolute, roaming naked in the areas in and around Mysore, Maharashtra and Gujarat. Usually depicted with three heads, symbolizing Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva; past, present, and future; and the three states of consciousness: waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep, he is shown sitting in meditation beside his shakti (mate) beneath the wish-fulfilling tree; in front of him is a fire pit, and around him are four dogs—symbolizing the four Vedas. The Nath yogis view Dattatreya as an Avatar of Shiva and as their Adi-Guru (First Teacher); they see him as a Siddha (realized being with magical powers) living in the woods with animals, and sometimes even as a frightening (demonic) being.

SHIVA MODERN PICDattatreya had no formal human guru, but in the Bhagavata Purana he lists 24 gurus: earth, air, sky/ether, water, fire, sun, moon, python, pigeons, sea, moth, bee, bull elephant, bear, deer, fish, osprey, a child, a maiden, a courtesan, a blacksmith, serpent, spider, and wasp.

Legend has it that Dattatreya once dove into a lake where he stayed for years in order to free himself of attachment, as well as to evade an assembly of Munis (sages) awaiting his return. Datta finally emerged from the water—naked, and in the company of a beautiful woman (his shakti). The Markandeya Purana reports that he made love with her (maithuna), drank liquor, and enjoyed music—and yet the Munis did not abandon him. Accompanied by his shakti, Dattatreya continued to engage in these practices and was meditated upon by those yearning for liberation or moksha.

If destiny had not sent Dattatreya unusually intelligent disciples (three were Kings), his manner of living might have been all we now have to know him. However his teachings are also contained in several Upanishads, a Tantrik text known as Haritayana Samhita, and two Gitas (the Jivanmukta Gita and the Avadhuta Gita).

SHIVA AS YOGITypical of most spiritual rebels of the ancient eastern world, Dattatreya lived completely naked, and although he was the son of a Brahmin couple, he claimed caste distinctions had no value in spiritual life. Concepts of the brotherhood of man, non-killing, or love for one another he dismissed as being for people who enjoyed worldly pleasures; instead he taught the timeless wisdom which alone can free us from the coils of suffering born of primal delusion.

Dattatreya relied on three Sanskrit words (Pratibha, Sahaja and  Samarasa) to deliver his message; each provides a springboard to Absolute Reality.

Pratibha means vision, insight, intuition, wisdom, awakening (like satori and not to be confused with enlightenment.) It is what enables one to distinguish Real from Unreal and is a bridge between egoic-mind and the Self. Pratibha cannot thrive in the material world and is cultivated best by meditation or contemplation, independent of religious strictures. Spontaneous in manifestation, it is a stage in which one requires no further guidance from a guru. Pratibha is the real Third Eye: a transcendent knowledge capable of culling diamonds of wisdom.

Sahaja. What is it that distinguishes the throng of rebels who illuminate eastern history? The answer is Sahaja or naturalness. Sahaja is not confined to physical and spiritual levels but also applies to mystical knowing. It is that easy state minus design, manipulation, wanting, striving or intention where events flow naturally: Nobody, for instance, has to instruct a seed on how to grow into a towering tree. Sahaja brings us into harmony with the Cosmos, for it is a balanced reality between the pairs of opposites.

Samarasa is the third of these three intertwined words and is considered the most interesting for it encapsulates the Absolute, the Cosmos, and the World. Tantriks used it to suggest higher truth—as in the ecstasy of sexual orgasm. It also means the primal unity of all things—an aesthetically balanced unity. To Dattatreya, Samarasa meant a stage of Absolute realization free of distinctions between felt, seen or experienced, or between the seeker and the goal.

SHIVA IN BROWN AND YELLOWAncient India gave birth to liberating spiritual concepts; however genuine seekers were, and still are, rare—not because liberation is reserved for a minority, but because it is a process which continues over eons. One sure indication of genuine seeking is one’s own sincerity and intensity. The penalty for neglecting higher truth is not the wrath of God, but countless future lives of misery, pain and frustration; the reward for the diligent is relief from a tedious succession of rebirths and lasting bliss.

ARUNACHALA AT NIGHT IN BLUE 3Greetings from Arunachala, the sacred mountain considered to be the embodiment of the great god Shiva, and whose promise is to destroy our egoic-mind so that we can experience ourselves as the blissful and immortal Self!

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No Better than Solzhenitsyn’s Village Dogs

Flying man“The moral duty of the free writer is to begin his work at home: to be a critic of his own community, his own country, his own government, his own culture. The more freedom the writer possesses the greater the moral obligation to play the role of the critic. If the writer is unwilling to fill this part then the writer should abandon pretense and find another line of work: become a repairman, a brain surgeon, a janitor, a cowboy, a nuclear physicist, a bus driver…

That’s all I ask of the author. To be a hero, appoint himself a moral leader, wanted or not. I believe words count, that writing matters, that poems , essays, novels – in the long run – make a difference. If they do not, then in the words of my exemplar Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, the writer’s work is of no more importance than the barking village dogs of the night. The hack writer, the temporizer, the toady, and the sycophant, the journalistic courtier (and what is a courtier but a male courtesan?), all of those in the word trade who simply go with the flow, who never oppose the rich and powerful, are no better in my view than Solzhenitsyn’s village dogs. The dogs bark; the caravan moves on.” Edward Abbey, The Writer’s Credo

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IMG_1802Abbey’s words transported me back to the early 90s in Manhattan, when I first decided to focus my energies on writing spiritual fiction.

I was seeing a talk therapist then, in an attempt to work through my general confusion. Simultaneously I dived into the liberating truths of eastern philosophy, trained as a teacher of Hatha Yoga, tackled my addictions head-on, and learned to cull out spiritual buddies from run-of-the-mill company whose negative energies were bringing me down.

This phase was far from easy or pleasant and my frustration grew intense. One Saturday morning I cracked up while cleaning my apartment: turning off the vacuum cleaner, I collapsed onto my wooden floor and wept for all my broken dreams. Then, with all the force of a hammer, it struck me that I had to make some solid decisions in order to dissolve this angst.

P1140240Grabbing a notepad, I jotted down all the things I was good at. Ah, I thought, as Joseph Campbell’s advice to ‘follow your bliss’ flashed across my mind—the problem stemmed from dispersing my energies in too many directions. To find sweet water, one must dig deep in one place; Jack-of-all-trades but master-of-none is a hard place to be for one who craves depth.

Two things in my list jumped out at me: music and writing. When I played music, or poured my heart out in words, relative time seemed to vanish; I entered a zone where nothing mattered but the soaring of my soul.

But music as a career I quickly dismissed: I had neither the training nor the thick skin I felt was needed to make it in the west as a singer/guitarist. Which brought it down to one: Writing. And it was on that oddly magical morning that I decided to focus on expressing my thoughts via the written word.

Encouraged by a friend, I began to write short stories. Each dealt with an Indian woman who battled terrible odds in order to resolve a difficult situation. My protagonists were of all ages, castes, incomes and educational levels; all they had in common was their courage in taking on a variety of goons. I titled the collection SACRIFICE TO THE BLACK GODDESS (the Black Goddess is Kali, the deity known to fight evil) and managed to get a good literary agent. Publishers liked the collection but all of them were unanimous that I should first write a novel.

THIRD EYEBut what to write a novel about?  The answer came years later when I stumbled onto the exciting philosophy of Tantra. Easy to see that folks in both east and west thought Tantra was all about free sex, but I was becoming convinced that Tantra was a highway to heaven for even the celibate. In fact, masters such as the Dalai Lama and other mystics practiced Tantra—minus a human mate.

And so Whip of the Wild God: A Novel of Tantra in Ancient India was born. I finally published it after twenty years, and after at least seven major rewrites! Only then did I turn my energies to a novel I’d been dreaming about since the millennium—Krishna’s Counsel, still a work-in-progress. And then will come my third, Copper Moon Over Pataliputra, which I hope to finish before my spirit leaves this planet.

wwg-book1-mishi

Edward Abbey spoke of the external battle that so many writers take on so brilliantly. But my battle (both as a person and as a writer) concerns the inner struggle against darkness. The subject of all three of my sagas concerns the fusion of finite self (mini-me/ego) with Infinite Self. And in this way I feel my creative work is in harmony with Abbey’s advice to the sincere writer—to be true to oneself, no matter what. 

Photo Credit: Bernd Kalidas Flory

Photo Credit: Bernd Kalidas Flory

Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva in the form of a sacred mountain, where the seeker of freedom is aided in the quest to be permanently free of desire and fear by the destruction of the ego!

 

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