CELESTIAL SYNONYMS & COMMONALITIES. (For the seeker on the path of Jnana (Eastern wisdom))

FB_IMG_1463360088510I was born a wannabe jnani, incapable of the adoration/worship of gurus, temples and holy objects that many with a religious bent incline towards. Some may consider me supercilious, simply because I am not impressed by celebrities, nor the wealthy and gorgeous. But I am prone to immense love and admiration for those whose rare qualities catch my attention. Left to my own devices, I find a truth that sings to me and play with it until it begins to make sense to me. Then I carefully weave it into my worldview and use it as a tool to slice through all the mysteries life throws at us unwary humans.

Over the years, I have cobbled together a magnificent “view” for myself from the various Eastern traditions I have delved into. Buddhist teachers in particular consider a “view” essential to seeking freedom. Many seekers from non-Indian backgrounds are stumped by the sheer magnitude of Sanskrit words and terms they have to understand before they can create this Eastern “view” for themselves. Since, right from birth, I too was educated in English, I empathize. Both my parents were comfortable in the language of our oppressors and insisted we kids spoke English at home. My father was a raconteur; aware that fluency in English would help us to advance in the material world, he gave us Spelling Bees when we were teens, and turned us all into Scrabble fanatics (some of us can compete on the international level). So, although I did pick up a smattering of Eastern languages along the way, I shared the same problem as my foreign friends who were fascinated by the process of enlightenment or moksha but had to struggle to understand the initial concepts. 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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Speaking of Robes, Broken Vows and Imperfection…

efff95cfcaa8fcb1f0bf154027aaad71When I moved to Dharamsala (seat of the Tibetan Government- in-Exile located in the foothills of the Himalayas) on the eve of the new millennium, my life changed overnight. You see, I had just left the world’s craziest city (Manhattan) for a small mountain town in northern India and was almost totally unprepared for what I was to encounter.

As my eyes opened to a new world of seeing, my views began to transform. For instance, I had long harbored a multitude of unchallenged assumptions about those who consciously enter the spiritual path; one such assumption was that all those who wore monastic robes were blessed creatures emanating love and light. After all, I subconsciously reasoned, most had taken the Boddhisattva Vow in one form or the other—which is to become enlightened for the sake of all beings—and which therefore meant they had to be perfect, right? RIGHT?

So I was both flabbergasted SHIVA IN RED AND YELLOWand upset when I saw how some in robes—both Tibetans as well as western renunciates— misbehaved. Apart from the jewels that gleamed in their ranks, many were, I realized, just as flawed as I was—and some worse, because at least I was honest about my vices.

I spoke to a great lama about this. Geshe-la, I said, they’re wearing robes, and yet they act so petty, mean, vicious and jealous; they’re breaking their vows left, right and center. What’s going on here?

Smiling at me as if I were a bewildered child—which I was then and still can be—he said, Mira, those robes are a sign that these people know something is out of balance within themselves—and that they wish to right this inner wrongness. By putting on a robe, they indicate to the world that they have made a brave choice to evolve. The robe is their protection as they do their inner work. If you can see them this way, you will be much more happy and peaceful.

MAN IN MEDITATIONI thanked him deeply, for he had opened my eyes to something that had never struck me before. So the robe was protection while the inner being transformed itself! Like a vulnerable little grub or worm or caterpillar covering itself with spit or a cocoon to protect it from the burning sun and predators as it gradually metamorphoses into a gorgeous moth or butterfly! What a difference this simple teaching made to my view and my attitude! And not just towards others, but to my own self, given to constant criticism of my own relative imperfections.

Since then, I have heard so many say: oh, but how can so-and-so feel or think or act this way? It is terrible! He or she claims to be on a spiritual path! The fact is that just because many of us make the decision to evolve, does not mean that that work is instantly accomplished. According to eastern teachings, to become completely free of desire and fear and to manifest as our true nature—which is existence-consciousness and bliss itself—is the work of thousands of lifetimes, if not eons.

In fact, even genuine but deluded seekers—brainwashed at times by so-called “gurus”—believe they have to suppress natural feelings that arise in response to the cruelty and injustice that rages, and has raged, all around us. They are conditioned to believe that turning inwards means they have to instantly become saccharine sweet creatures who unconditionally love all beings—including the serial rapist/murderer, the cold-blooded assassin, the pedophile and the brutal imperialist.

Based on decades of study and practice, I say NO! Along this fascinating journey to the blazing center of reality, as we absorb the great truths, we must first process our instinctive feelings…and then allow them to be burned in the fire of wisdom—the wisdom that everything is actually perfect, though it looks terrible, and that a higher power is indeed running the show; it is good to know, however, that this higher power (call it what you will) is not subject to the pressure of human time and does its work at a divine pace and in a mysterious manner we humans cannot even begin to grok.

COLORS 3Why is this? Because, in our human form, we manifest both Relative and Absolute. While the Absolute is our true nature, it is our relative nature that needs cleansing and purifying—and on this often tumultuous path there is much each of us needs to process. In doing so, we often stumble and make mistakes—but it is very much a necessary journey.

Today, on the highest levels of consciousness, I do see that the whole is perfect—for I accept that the laws that run the cosmos are unerring: today’s perpetrator is perhaps yesterday’s victim and so on and of forth in a vicious chain  known as samsara. Invisible laws rule this realm, and when we judge things on the surface as we most often do, we miss out on the roots.

And yet, especially on social media threads, it is impossible to adequately express my own convoluted journey to finding peace within this disturbingly violent planet. While intellectually and in terms of spiritual context I am serene, old emotions still occasionally erupt and demand release; only when I have the courage to process them am I free to return to a state of peace. But to suppress this churning negativity…to deny that relative evil happens, also arrests spiritual evolution: for the process of change involves first becoming aware that something is wrong, then to accept it by whatever means necessary, and finally to trust that purificatory/cleansing action will spontaneously occur due to the loving intervention of higher forces (which is no less than our own Self, and the essence of the cosmos itself).

So the next time you consider pointing a finger at a person who has turned away from the mainstream and decided to refine their insides—because that person appears to be angry or depressed or is harboring a grudge against the seeming villains of the world—remember that robe! It is protection while we do our inner work—and believe me, that work is going on, whether we can see it in others or not.

images-snakeThat said, I feel strongly that an intelligent person—armed with the resources to change, but who still chooses to hide behind the apparent sanctity of a robe in order to perpetrate evil— does not merit my compassion. (If, say, a pedophile lurks behind the benevolent facade of a priest, then I strongly condemn the action—for while it is no secret that most sexual predators are themselves the victims of predators, there is no excuse for educated adults not to seek appropriate help).

ARUNACHALA WITH PURPLE SKYIt is a gorgeous windy morning here and I am about to take the doggies out for their morning walk on the mountain path; for this simple pleasure, I am immensely grateful. Greetings from Arunachala, manifestation of the Wild God who promises to annihilate our ego so we can experience ourselves as pure consciousness and bliss!

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Absolute & Relative Reality – Samsara’s Seven Flavors #2/12

buddhist-teacherAngelica and I rode the subway into downtown Manhattan, then walked to a packed hall near 8th street in the simmering east village to hear this lama speak. And she was right — he was brilliant and magnetic. In hindsight, it is easy to see how his unique methods of teaching eastern wisdom gave my own life rich meaning, and forever changed its course.

The next few years flashed by as I studied with him, absorbing every nugget he dropped. I saw his ego grow monstrous as his flock swelled, but I stayed on, convinced that his teachings were authentic, culled directly as they were from the ancient scriptures. In fact I was so enraptured by his efforts to spread the dharma among the lost tribes of Manhattan that I offered to transcribe his teachings on Mahamudra — a word that has many connotations in the Buddhist world, but which he introduced to us as an ancient teaching on the nature of samsara, or relative reality. Continue reading