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

From “Consider the Source” to “Who Am I?”

opening-imageI flew from south India to Manhattan in the summer of 1986 as a young bride with great expectations. Almost none of these hopes were met; as the saying goes, the Great Goddess laughs when you tell her your plans.

For one thing, I had yearned to study creative writing for film at New York University. My husband (now ex) had assured me I could. It didn’t take long for this exciting plan to be shot down by my mother-in-law, who wielded a powerfully negative influence on our life. I was urged to find a job instead, so I could get used to a new culture and lifestyle—and assured this was all for my own good. Once I found my feet, they both promised earnestly, I would be in a better position to really study.

Gnashing my teeth, I learned how to wear a suit and pumps so I could interview. Soon I had a job I did not deserve: I had been an advertising copywriter in south India but now I was Director of Media and Public Relations of a small but prosperous trade advertising agency located on downtown Broadway. Apparently the confident demeanor I had projected along with my excellent speaking English had impressed my new employer. Shell-shocked by the prospect of what lay ahead, I could see no way out of this predicament other than to brazen things out. Continue reading

Me & Bobby McGee…Live!

That spooky stage....

That spooky stage….

This post fits bang into the “mundane” aspect of our blog title…but it also deals with the greatest foe we each must duel on the long and winding road to freedom — voila, Monsieur EGO! 

I made my debut as diva at the age of four. Garbed in virginal white, I stood brave as a soldier on the auditorium stage of our lovely school in Bangalore, run by British, Scottish and Indian nuns. I resisted the urge to flee backstage as the curtains rose and the spotlight focused on my terrified little face—and, according to my mother, burst into a faultless rendition of an old hymn known as Immaculate Mary.

Other kids followed my opening act with a variety of performances—for an audience comprising a vast throng of parents who clapped and cheered decorously at the end of each piece. This was Parents Day, and obedient kids that we were at the time (I changed radically), our chief desire was to impress our anxious elders.

10270747-high-jumpI was also the top athlete in my class: high jump, long jump and the hundred meters sprint. Never a team player, I did not succeed at playing basketball or any sport requiring cooperative effort; today I suspect my debut on that dark stage spoiled me—after that, nothing would do but to shine as the lone star in my own constellation. Continue reading

The Ego Is Not Your Amigo – Part 1 of 2

Arunachala

Arunachala

One twilit Sunday evening, a friend and I embarked on the 14-kilometre Giripradakshina trek. In  this specific case, Giripradakshina refers to the ancient practice of circumambulating the sacred hill Arunachala—which rises majestic from the center of the intriguing ancient temple town of Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu, south India.

Taking off from Ramana Ashram, we made our way through a segment of crazy busy highway until we reached the serpentine tree-shaded mountain path (Girivalam) road populated with varying types of sadhu—from the often belligerent itinerant hoping to escape a tricky mundane situation by donning the orange robe that bestows instant spiritual status and garners support from many quarters—to the true renunciate of radiant countenance. Continue reading

The Magic of Arunachala: Kali, Aghori & Unconditional Love #6/6

image-11What, in the first place, is unconditional love? Each of us is likely to have our own special definition of this phenomenon, while Google would likely manifest a gazillion definitions in about three seconds flat.

For me, as I write this post, it is that perfect love that flows freely minus the expectations of the ego (mini-me), love without strings, love that seeks nothing but the welfare of the recipient, love that surges effortlessly from the infinite abundance of our true nature—not the raucous, limited, limiting, clamoring, two-legged “love” that dies, shrinks or withdraws when its conditions are unmet—or even worse, the so-called “love” that turns into vicious hate when not reciprocated—as when a spurned lover throws acid on a pretty girl’s face, or a jealous husband stabs his cheating wife to death. As Will Shakespeare said so eloquently so many centuries ago, love is not love that alters when it alteration finds.

What about the love of a mother for a beloved only child? A grieving mother ready to trade her life for that of her daughters—as Chloe had claimed she’d been prepared to do, so long ago in Manhattan? A mother who makes endless sacrifices so her child may flourish? Through my particular lens, while this is most certainly a refined form of human love, it does not even begin to approach my ideal of unconditional love—for the love of a biological parent is, after all, a heightened form of egoic love. Think about it dispassionately for a moment—would Chloe have been willing to surrender her own life for Amelia had Amelia been born to other parents? Unlikely, huh? Continue reading

Psychotic or Saint? Who Killed Jasmine #4/4

karma_cafeEastern philosophy has convinced me that just one invisible factor separates the psychotic facing the electric chair from a great being like Mahatma Gandhi — and that is karma. In order to evolve, it is essential we improve ourselves on all levels — and that begins with changing the root of our egocentric thought patterns. Practicing gratitude is a great way to do this, for it diverts the channel of our thoughts from negative to positive, even as it expands our appreciation of this dazzling cosmos and our role in it.

It is our responsibility to discover that we are all far greater than our bodies, our minds, and our circumstances. My own deeper quest began when I came to grips with the stark realization that mainstream life would never ever satisfy me, that when I assessed my worth in terms of shifting relative factors — appearance, talents, wealth, power — I was fighting a losing battle. There was always someone wittier, more talented, prettier and richer hovering in the wings. And even if I believed I was God’s gift to humanity, there was a fair chance no one else would perceive me that way; some might even see me as a major pain in the batootie. Continue reading

EGO = Easing God Out. Who Killed Jasmine #3/4

egoLet’s face the bitter truth, Jasmine: it was not your circumstances that caused you (and those other celebrities) to snuff out their lives…the real assassin was and is the ego — the false self that seduces us into believing — despite all the misery and seeming unfairness of life — that we should be given all that our little hearts desire — in your specific case, a stellar celluloid career and the love of an honorable man.

There’s an acronym for the EGO that hits the nail squarely on the head: Easing God Out. When the untrammeled ego dominates one’s view of relative reality, sanity, love, compassion – all higher qualities – go right out the window. Who is “god” in this context? The noble part of your being, the Self which includes everyone and everything, manifest and unmanifest, and whose nature is, according to rishis and jnanis of the east, pure existence-consciousness and bliss. Continue reading

Demon of Eclipses & Illusions – Part 4/9

buddha_maraI got a report of their encounter with the tulku a couple of days later. Interestingly enough, Tai Situ Rinpoche had begun his interview by recounting how Mara — lord of death and sensual pleasure — had tempted Gautama Buddha on the eve of his enlightenment.

Being ultra quick on the mark, Mara was aware that this time Gautama was going to escape his oily clutches and permanently transcend samsara. What really messed with his wicked head was knowing that in so doing, Gautama would be throwing open the portals of enlightenment to countless others. In a terrible funk at the potential loss of his power over gazillions of lost and befuddled souls, Mara unleashed his army of demons on the brilliant meditator, seated calmly beneath the spreading bodhi tree.

Like Satan, Mara is a seasoned antagonist who has plumbed the essence of the human heart and devised an arsenal of lethal tactics to crumble the defenses of even the most committed spiritual warrior. Mara began his assault by promising Gautama prominence and pleasure if he gave up his quest for enlightenment. Mixed in with these enticements were dire warnings about the consequences of Gautama shying away from his duties as a prince. Continue reading