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

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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

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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Two Great Truths of Absolute and Relative Reality

SHIVA AND SHAKTI TANTRA

In my volatile teens, I was struck by the poignant beauty of an ancient metaphor (contained within the Mundaka Upanishad) that speaks of two birds perched on the branch of a tree: one bird eats the fruit of the tree while the other watches.

The first bird represents the individual self/soul; distracted by the fruits (signifying sensual pleasures), she forgets her lord and lover and tries to enjoy the fruit independent of him. (This separating amnesia is known in Sanskrit as maha-maya or enthrallment; it results in the plunge of the individual into the ephemeral realm of birth and death.) As for the second bird, it is an aspect of the Divine/Self that rests in every heart—and which remains forever constant even as the individual soul is bedazzled by the material world.

This teaching implies that it is ignorance of our true nature that creates a vicious cycle: the individual, being blinded by the illusion of existing as a separate entity, has no option but to act—and therefore fresh misery is piled on the old. But the Absolute is whole and free of illusion; performing no actions it is not bound by karma.  Continue reading

Dying Every Single Day for Months in Manhattan…

IMG_9929_statueA brilliant monk held a motley crew of us dharma students in thrall for many years in the Big Apple. All right, he’d drawl as his eyes lazily scanned the room. So you’re all so cool with your stylish black wardrobes and your sophisticated friends. You live in the hippest city in the world and you think you’re doing great. And in the eyes of the material world, that’s true—fat paychecks, nice apartments, great social life, lookin’ good, lookin’ good.

He’d pause for effect then continue into rapt silence. But tell me: what’s the one thing your bosses can never recompense you for? Ah! You got it, smart people—it’s precious human time! Some of you are doing wonderful things for the sake of humanity. Yes, there are literally thousands of good things you can do with your lives—but, if you listen to the great mystics, the highest goal of human life is permanent liberation from suffering—which is why everyone in this room has chosen to take the Bodhisattva Vow: to seek enlightenment for the sake of all beings.

To enter the Spiritual Olympics you need not just a clear mind but a strong body and perfect commitment—and if you believe that before you begin this inner journey you must first amass money and tie up all your relationships and assets into neat packages that look oh so pretty, there’s a good chance you won’t have those assets when you’re free to discover who you really are—which also means that day of liberation might never come. So, folks, if you really do want to start the greatest journey of all, start it NOW! Continue reading