Ramana says, echoing the mystics of all time,
That the three states of waking, sleeping and dreaming
Are unreal, meaning that they are ephemeral, and come and go.
Oh, but last night I dreamed I was the Great God Shiva,
Draped in the furs of mighty beasts,
Cobras writhing around my blue throat,
Whipping a nine foot bully harassing
A lovely girl with shining face of gold—
And oh, how I wish that dream was real!
And then I awoke at dawn to the wondrous sight
Of a sacred hill whose crown was wreathed with
Layers of creamy evanescent clouds,
Even as peacocks shrieked and ravens cawed
For their morning feast of rice and milk—
And oh, how I wish that too was real!
And what to say about those long afternoon naps
Following a morning of writing and meditating,
When my mind vanishes into a nebulous netherworld
And my cares dissolve into blissful nothingness?
Please, can that not be real?
Amused, the Mountain whispers in my ear:
Only consider, my dear,
That if these states that are but a passing show
Are so pleasant in their aftertaste,
How nectar sweet is your true nature, which is nothing less
Than Mahaprana, Pure Life, Mahachit, Infinite Awareness,
And Ananda, a celestial fountain of bliss?
Ramana calls his simple teaching on Moksha
The Direct Path, and for good reason.
As another powerful guru told me ages ago,
There are hundreds of fine roads you could take, sweetling,
But tell me, do you really have the time?
Say a wise friend whispers in your ear a sure shortcut to Nirvana,
Which will lead to the extinction of the ego, mini-me,
That illusory entity who gleefully designs all patterns of pleasure and pain—
Would you not be a crazy fool to refuse her clear directions?
I was spoiled by teachers who spent eons
Elaborating on the nature of karma, rebirth, samsara
And other inscrutabilities of the relative matrix;
So it irked me that, no matter what a person asked Ramana,
His answer was always the same:
First find out who you are, he would blandly say,
And then you won’t have any more questions.
Recently it came to me in a flash why the great sage did this—
Because, if you finally figure out that you yourself are Parabrahman—
That the Divine has, for some inexplicable reason, reduced itself to human flesh,
That your true nature is pure existence-awareness and bliss,
And that an infinite ocean of joy is accessible to you
Via an atomic diamond-bright portal hidden within your Spiritual Heart,
All answers do come gushing up to the surface to be effortlessly picked up;
So be like a wily frog, waiting quietly by the riverside,
Ever ready to swallow that sparkling dragonfly.
Why the Direct Path?
Because, just as you would go straight to the boss if you had a serious problem
Not wasting time or spinning your wheels
Begging petty favors from his underlings,
Here too, Ramana shows you a way to avoid all false gurus and teachings,
And to plunge directly into the blissful waters of the Self.
Once this is done, the Inner Guru wakes up with an ecstatic roar,
Fusion is achieved, and in one mind-blowing moment of spiritual orgasm,
All vexing questions dissolve into nothingness.
Now you are the equal of God Vishnu,
Smiling mysteriously as a radiant lotus springs up from your navel,
Enjoying a molten expanse of ecstatic peace
That surpasses all mundane understanding.
At 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.
Then 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.
On 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.
In the Manhattan winter of 1992, I dreamed about writing an epic set in a mythical civilization ruled by Rudra-Siva, the great god of paradox, and infused with the beauty of Tantra. Somehow, I intuited that the Wild God himself would spark my dream into roaring life; believe it or not, this is what happened twenty years later, under the shadow of Arunachala, the hill considered by millions to be the form taken by Shiva in order to help seekers dissolve back into the immortal and blissful Self.
While researching this novel, I came upon an ancient saying in the Tantras that goes something like this: When Shiva set his seal upon this world, he cleaved it into male and female; when male and female come together in sacred union, Shiva blesses them with the bliss of Oneness. Whether depicted as Ardhaniswara (half-man, half-woman), or in his contrasting roles of ascetic and hedonist, I knew this union referred to more than the conventional man-woman nexus. Shiva’s point is clear: in order to be whole, male and female must unite, and this can take place either in a celibate who seeks to unite these polarities in his or her own being, or in the matrix created by a spiritual couple.
As an Indian woman born into a multi-tiered society, I began to mull over why all male-dominated cultures had turned into raging gender battlefields. Since each of us is bound to have a unique take on the often subterranean gender wars that have ruined the fabric of our existence, I can speak only for myself and the way I learned to “see.” My home was dysfunctional, as most homes over the planet are, whether on the surface or deep in the bowels of core relationships; the tacit understanding that men ruled the roost permeated our domestic atmosphere. A brilliant and charismatic man who enthralled our guests with his easy raconteuring, his rage could incinerate, while his scathing tongue could eviscerate. Despite his liberal attitude towards educating all his children, my father was the undisputed patriarch and none of us, least of all my dutiful mother, dared challenge him.
Our society was studded with double-standards that applied to every aspect of our lives, and yet most women seemed to have accepted their lot. Some were born docile and did not rebel against playing second, third or nth fiddle; others were born under a lucky star—their men were sympathetic and pliable and life was good; still others toed the line because they had no option: since they were not encouraged to fend for themselves, existence could be pure hell if they incurred male ire.
The Indian patriarchy, like all virulent cancers, has a gazillion ways of perpetuating itself. One major trap: every married woman is urged to have children as soon as possible. The pressure is so enormous that many sink into depression when this does not happen. (Read: May You Be The Mother Of A Hundred Sons, by Elisabeth Bumiller). And once children come, so does slavery; burdened by hungry mouths to feed, at the mercy of menfolk who hold firmly on to the family purse-strings, women have even less time to challenge the patriarchy. And God forbid a wife should dare to complain about an abusive husband! If you are one such, you risk being called a “shrew”, a bitch, or even a “ghodi” (horse, a fast and therefore bad woman) or even ostracized.
While my father wanted his children to become doctors and diplomats, he firmly believed in the institution of arranged marriage. This was ahated prospect that hung over my mutinous head like a sword of Damocles, and I’d grumble to my mother that there was little point in educating us if we were going to be shoved into marriage and forced to have one kid after another. “How can you decide who I should live with, sleep with, cook for the rest of my life?” “Be a good girl,” she’d warn. “If you’re lucky, your husband will let you do what you want. Love comes after, not before marriage.” The word “good” was thrown at us so often that I cringed to hear it. What about being an original, excellent, humane, exciting, creative, and liberal human being? As for bad girls, they were warned that the entire family would suffer on their account—after all, which decent family would permit their children to marry into a family that harbored a single bad seed? And so emotional blackmail was thrown into the simmering witches’ cauldron of double standards. (To be continued in the next post).
Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who destroys all that blocks us from knowing we are the immortal and blissful Self!