MESMERIZING LILA

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I am beginning to understand

Lila, the Cosmic Enchantress,

In a new way.

I now see her as the I AM, the base of the egoic edifice,

So brilliant, conniving, creative and spellbinding

That I have fallen for her tricks, lifetime after lifetime,

Unaware that I’ve been snared, like a fluttering brainless fly,

In her intricate and sticky cosmic web.

A miracle occurred and I began to see, for the first time in eons,

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SEX, DEATH AND SIGMUND FREUD

d234450d3d62a8926e9c9bca1ac39318Freud opened the minds of millions of Westerners to the hidden codes that determine our behavior. I read his work from time to time as a young woman, and one particular novel I plunged into as a teenager particularly fascinated me since it reduced his teachings to the primal urges of sex and death.

Now, in the Eastern view, these powerful drives stem from the lowest chakra in the human system, known as the root chakra or mooladhara. Yes, it is critically important to understand the root chakra, because our mooladhara drives us to create a life based solely on surviving and thriving in the relative world. If we do not realize this, we are condemned to spin senselessly around in the vicious cycle of samsara for eons, never realizing we are far more than our material body, mind, emotions or possessions.

Eastern mystics and sages authoritatively inform us that our true and immortal nature is existence-awareness and bliss (sat-chit-ananda). The way to knowing this can be beyond arduous and can encompass striving for eons. But once this sinks in, then we are definitely on the inner road to peace and bliss. Continue reading

A SOUPED-UP FERRARI WITH THE BRAKES ON!!!

14876327_10155479883214199_334843953_o-768x575“You know what?” he said as he studied my astrological chart. “You’re like a souped-up Ferrari with the brakes on.” He laughed at my puzzled expression. “Well, I say that because you’ve got some great planets on your side, but equally tough ones countering their beneficial effects. The trick to beating all of this negativity is to accept that your suffering emanates from your own past karma. YOU have created this scenario—so don’t waste precious time blaming others. Instead focus on melting down all that blocks you from evolving into the powerful woman you were meant to be.”

“What are these brakes?” I asked nervously.

“You know what they are,” he said. “You’ve even admitted them to me. But don’t worry, I rarely see such potential for transformation. You’re going to make it.” I took his words seriously—because a friend had assured me that this man was the best vedic astrologer then working in America. This brilliant man told me other stuff that blew me away too—and a couple of years later, one of his predictions literally saved my life. Continue reading

KILL YOUR DARLINGS

609df17e7afd69d496563edfe63c57a7This is serious advice for serious writers—to kill our darlings. Sounds brutal, no? Well, actually, what it means is that sometimes we come up with great material, but, in the context of the whole piece of work, say a short story or novel, this terrific piece of writing does not work to create a vivid continuous dream that the reader can resonate with. It hurts to do this, yes, that particular piece may have been celestially inspired, but sorry, it ruins the whole and therefore, once we have stepped from our opus and decided that it sticks out like a sore thumb or ruins the thread of the plot, we must be willing to commit word murder. A sacrifice of the brilliant part to the cosmic whole.

Fortunately today we have computers—I often marvel at what great writers in the past did. Imagine writing War & Peace with ink and paper and then trying to kill or rework sections of it—my god, how lucky we are today! We can cut our darling out of the current piece and store it safely in another file so we can use her later, in a place where she does work. And it strikes me that this advice is valuable anywhere, even as we begin the intense and often lonesome journey into the spiritual heart. We must kill our darlings, all those ideas, habits, dreams, concepts and conditioning that no longer mesh with our present map of reality. And we must make sure they stay dead, by burning their very roots, so that they do not rise up again with a vengeance to ruin our perfect plan for blissful liberation. Continue reading

DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?

cda434014b3bb07e8d7db7d167fa00a2My father taught me a powerful lesson growing up; I watched many a time as he out-intimidated the legion of official and governmental bullies that routinely harass all Indians and make millions of lives miserable. “Do you know who I am” he would roar, and the would-be bully would literally quake with fear and trepidation. And he did this with genuine anger, because this kind of official misbehavior personally offended him. He stood up not just for himself—in his prime, he was a wealthy, powerful, articulate and educated man with immense influence—but for those with lesser resources, and even for the illiterate poor who had no option but to bow down to these horrible apologies for man so that they could get their work done. Since survival was a burning issue for many of these people, and the bullies knew they held the winning card, most often there was no competition.

Recently I was reminded of how the Indian poor in particular are hounded, harassed and cheated when my maid came crying to me to inform me that the local police had extracted a huge bribe from her laborer brother. Her brother had beaten up his wife’s lover and brought her back home after a sensational elopement. I told my maid I would go with her to the Collector’s office and help her to make an official complaint against these men—something I would hate to do since I dislike offices in general, and the men who run them even more; but I felt so awful at the thought of this poor man being bullied and robbed that I felt I had to do my bit. And what did she say? Gave me a shrug and said it wouldn’t work, that everyone was corrupt and all the family could do in such a situation was to suck up this huge crime and carry on. I yelled at her and said it was because of this passive attitude of the voiceless masses that things have gotten to this ghastly state, but of course she did not understand where I was coming from and did not accept my offer. Continue reading

BLISS JUNKIE

9a98b5caac8b4a9fc6c46747c8fdfc73One result of discovering the amazing teachings of Eastern philosophy was that I began to closely study my own relative nature. Over time I came to the conclusion that it was composed of two almost equal but opposing sides: yes, I was half hedonist and half ascetic. Not surprising since we are enmeshed in a dualistic structure and are inclined to strong likes and dislikes. The stronger the personality, the more intense are these likes and dislikes, so, someone like me, for instance, would seek all sorts of sensory pleasure while suffering from an abysmally low tolerance for pain.

Now a wise human would gravitate to pleasures that are meaningful and that last, but the confused adolescent that I was sought enjoyment in fleeting things that left me dissatisfied and hungry for more. It was only when I heard the phrase: “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” that I woke up with a start and realized that I had been frittering away my precious life in repeating the same old nonsense and foolishly expecting the results to be gratifying. Continue reading

DID I TELL YOU NOT TO HISS?

8b0491b2a715579b114da4fdb36d7daaThe great sage Ramakrishna told this old tale to his disciples: an angry snake terrified the village boys so greatly that they dared not venture near his territory. One day a yogi was walking through the village when a boy warned him not to venture near the abode of the vicious serpent. The yogi told the boy not to worry, for he knew a mantra that would calm the serpent. He was speaking the truth: when the snake slithered forward to attack him, the yogi intoned the mantra and the snake became still and peaceful. Then the yogi gave the snake another mantra to chant and told him not to trouble the boys but instead to seek a higher peace. The snake obeyed. But when the village boys discovered the snake was now peaceful, they began to torment him. One bully even picked him up and slammed him repeatedly against a sharp rock until he was broken and bleeding, then left him for dead.

Somehow the snake survived. When the yogi returned some months later, he was shocked at his dismal state and demanded an explanation. The snake was surprised—but you told me to be peaceful! he said. So I did, said the sage in exasperation, I asked you not to bite, but did I tell you not to hiss? Continue reading

ADVAITA IS NOT TWO

tumblr_nmhwy2xupu1sjjdtyo1_540I am no scholar and tend to reduce the most sophisticated philosophy into easily digestible truths I can use in my daily life. Complication and complexity only keep me from going deep, I have discovered, and when ideas become simple, they also become fuel for the blissful enlightenment I seek.

If this ancient teaching is true, I often used to wonder, how then did such fierce individuality spring up, driven by insidious notions of ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine,’ along with the concomitant evils of competition, jealousy, demeaning others so we can shine as the sole jewels in any given scenario, etcetera? How are some humans capable of the worst crimes when they employ their special status or belief in their class, caste, intelligence or privilege as weapons of justification?

The usual answer, of course, is the ego. A friend in Manhattan once defined it as a nasty piece of work in its negative form, and even gave me an anagram for it: that which Eases God Out. But how does the ego itself get a chance to grow to such monstrous proportions, so that royal lineages spring into being from it, and dynasties flourish, billionaires are a dime a dozen, and we routinely rate people according to their physical and financial assets rather than on their open hearts, kindness, empathy and compassion for all beings? Continue reading

A DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW

9e4db9873c00799c674eaa9df76ed47aI just finished reading a beautifully crafted novel set in Greece where one of the protagonists is a billionaire who adores his only son. And so does his gorgeous mistress. It’s a bizarre situation, because the man’s wife knows he loves his mistress, who has free rein to enter and leave his home as she pleases, and even to openly entertain important guests in his house. This man is so wealthy that his wife has her own plush apartment attached to the main house, and so the two rivals never have to meet and be embarrassed.

Well, the boy enters the lavish room where his father and mistress are enjoying their martinis and chats with both of them in his charming way. When he leaves, the man says to his mistress: I know you love my son dearly, and I can see why, he is special, but I often wonder whether I’ve done right by him.

What do you mean? she asks, puzzled. Continue reading

EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL

b71a7289e9e20118cedd41eba5a47a6fAll through the night it had snowed heavily; when I awoke, in a beautiful Ashram in America with a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, I looked out to see my world blanketed in pure white. Usually I love the snow, but this time I was furious with myself—for all the mistakes that had led to this point in my tumultuous life.

As many had made it a point to inform me, I’d been blessed with more than most—and yet I’d continued to mess up my life, due to impulsiveness and bad judgment. My most recent crisis was the result of a decision to break away from a man I’d deluded myself into believing would make me a perfect spiritual mate; gradually I came to see him as superficial and ethically unreliable, and had forced myself to cut the cord.

I’d written to my first major spiritual teacher and he’d invited me to this Ashram in order to recover. And yet, despite precious links with this powerful place, I still found it hard to manage in a small cramped dorm space even as I dealt with yet another big life change; the demons of uncertainty threatened me with dire predictions of impending doom and life was, in a word, hellish. Continue reading