DYING MAN ON A MISSION

c04882f649c6e4d6bfe4fc61b45a5306A friend asked me to drive with her to the palatial home of a very old and sick man who lived alone in a prosperous north Indian town. She was an enthusiastic social worker who took care of orphaned children in her spare time. Her husband was wealthy, and this was her way of doing some good. I agreed, and on the way, asked her why she needed to talk to him. She told me his wife had died a long time ago and that both his daughters were doctors, married to doctors, and well settled in Europe. He lived in this great big house alone, and a housekeeper came in every day to clean and wash and cook for him. His daughters had both invited him to live with him, but he wanted to be alone, claiming he needed solitude to finish a book about his spiritual experiences. He knew he had very little time left and did not wish to be distracted. She was going to see him, she confessed, because his daughters, whom she had spoken to at length, had no interest in coming back to live in India. Neither had an interest in their inheritance, and so she was hoping to persuade him to leave his house to her organization.

I was stunned by her revelation, and, frankly, rather repelled. There was something ugly about this scenario, for it reminded me of a host of vultures hovering greedily over a dying creature, in anticipation of the coming feast. I said nothing, because she was very different from me, single-minded and ruthless when she wanted her way. To her, the end justified the means, whereas for me it was important to show gentleness and refinement in getting what one wanted, no matter the nobility of one’s motive.

We stopped outside this huge mansion on a beautiful tree-lined street and she marched ahead of me and boldly rang the bell. The old man who opened the door for us was frail and unkempt. He did not look friendly, but still he invited us to come in and called out to his housekeeper to make us tea. Over tea, my friend blurted out that she’d already spoken to his daughters and they were agreeable to him making over his property to her organization. He was quiet for long moments, then, brusquely, he said no. I have other plans for it, he added coldly, and I am not going to die until I finish my book anyway. Please go now—I have lots of work to do.

Of course you must finish your book, my friend said quickly. But don’t you think it’s a beautiful idea to leave your property to compassionate people who could do so much good with it?

cc56cbb87382e2c7f74faf1c64cc03f7As he appraised her carefully, I got the sense that he did not trust her, for she was dressed like the socialite she was, in a gorgeous sari silk sari, long silky hair streaming down her back and face superbly made-up. No, she would not appear to be a humble social worker in his eyes, but just another wealthy and bored matron, longing to get her name into the local papers. What can I say? He was a sharp guy!

He cleared his throat and gathered his thoughts. I can see you think I am a foolish old man, he said slowly. But I am well aware that few would be interested in what I have to say. That does not matter to me. I’ve lived an intensely interior life and it is vital to me that I put down everything that I have learned via meditation, study and practice before I pass on. This book is my legacy to the world, whether it cares or not. Besides, it gives me peace and satisfaction to write it. As for this house, I am leaving it to my nephew who plans to turn it into an ashram. My daughters do not know about this. Please go now, and leave me in peace.

I was so embarrassed I could not say a word on the drive back. Charming and persuasive as she was, and spoiled by always getting her way, I hoped she knew better than to approach that sharp old man again.

This strange encounter flashed through my mind this morning perhaps because, in certain ways, I am like that old man. After living a tempestuous life out in the world, I have now settled down to a quiet life of deep contemplation. I too am aware that what I write appeals only to a tiny segment of the world population, the majority of whom are still chasing dreams in samsara (the relative world) and can’t be bothered delving deeply into the heart of reality. There is always one more deal to be struck, the stock market and bank balances to be monitored, parties to attend, movies to see, children and spouses to care for, and new relationships to be forged. How many really care about mystical realms?

Like the old man, I write for myself—which is not to say that I don’t relish praise. Also, long ago I took the Boddhisattva Vow, a wish to become enlightened, not just for oneself, but for all beings. If even one person wakes up to the deeper reason to why we incarnate by reading my work, all the effort and care I invest in it is gift enough for me.

1165311e076f9fab8a6e2f39ba6df8caGreetings from Arunachala, Shiva in the form of a hill of fire and light, who makes us see that the most important task we are born to achieve is to know that we ourselves are immortal bliss!

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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

The Blazing Skyscraper: An Archetypal Moksha Dream

FLYING WOMAN GRAPHICI loved my new apartment in Dharamsala: hardwood floors, a modern bathroom and kitchen, glass windows and a wraparound terrace from which I could contemplate the icy splendor of the ring of surrounding mountains. I’d just moved to this Himalayan town from the urban frenzy of Manhattan—minus a parachute as I often joked; this was my fourth home in just over a year and finally I felt comfortable, at least in physical terms.

It helped that my Himachali landlords were fond of me—possibly because I’d loaned them enough to finish the construction of their building. (Later I discovered via a German friend who sublet my place that they were cheating me blind on electricity etcetera—but at least they cared enough to provide me with the little comforts required to live in such an austere environment. “This is Kali Yuga, remember?” I’d remind myself when I felt cruelly buffeted by life. “It could always be worse!”) Continue reading

Rejection is God’s Protection…

image-1Years ago in Manhattan I enjoyed attending a spiritual meeting where people of varied ethnic backgrounds, professions and ages congregated to remind themselves of the power of the Divine running through their often thorny lives.

One guy—a talented young actor who’d made it big in a Broadway show, and who had then been fired unceremoniously when its sponsor went bankrupt, had been breaking my heart with his stark honesty about the frightening situation into which he’d been hurled: on the strength of the lucrative role he’d just lost, he’d bought an expensive east side condo and married his girlfriend—who, to top it all, was now heavily pregnant.

Success, he confessed miserably, had gone to his head like pink champagne used to: anticipating a large income for an indefinite period of time—Broadway shows can run forever—he and his wife had extravagantly remodeled their new home and taken a slew of expensive mini vacations. Now unemployment and other benefits were barely keeping them afloat; when the baby arrived, things would get worse: if he could not pay his mortgage, he would lose his condo.

The blues had not kept him cowering at home. He’d already begun to audition for other roles—and been rejected time after time, even when it was clear his rivals could not hold a candle to his own thespian skills. Terror would flash across his face at the thought of being forced to move back to his conservative family in the Midwest—just so his girlfriend could have their child minus the stress of living in penury in the Big Apple. Dear God, he begged out loud, give me a break! Continue reading

The Impermanence of All Things – Samsara’s Seven Flavors – #5/12

impermanence-cartoonFlavor #1: Impermanence. Great sutras teach us that all people and things inevitably vanish, like dewdrops evaporating in the radiant morning sun; however, while intellectually we may accept that all that is born must eventually die, in our daily lives we ignore the stark fact that not just our intimate relationships and material possessions, but also our bodies and minds, are hurtling inexorably towards destruction.

Let’s say my lover presents me with an exquisite magenta orchid in a delicate porcelain bowl. I are aware that all flowers die, and yet I simultaneously perceive this orchid as having permanence. When I wake up next morning, my precious orchid is wilting, and by evening, it’s dead — bursting the bubble in which I first saw it as solid and permanent. Continue reading

Diamond Sword – Samsara’s Seven Flavors #4/12

Check out these excerpts from the introduction I wrote on Mahamudra:

woman-swordImagine you own a sword fashioned of pure diamond which can slice through to the blazing heart of reality. This sword, however, is sheathed in layers of ignorance and is your own mind, your own consciousness. The poisons that dull its brilliance are delusions about the ultimate nature of reality, poisons that begin to form from our first moments of consciousness, when we begin to see all things as fixed in their nature — beautiful and ugly, cruel and kind, good and bad.

Feelings spring forth from this world-view. We learn to like and dislike, to desire and to push away, to crave and to seek escape. This gives rise to an uncontrollable stream of thoughts, often resulting in heedless words and actions. Continue reading