THE OLD MAN & THE MISCHIEVOUS CHILD

8c3b451325db273f2b072ce821f5d310Although the way up the Mountain of Oneness can involve some pretty rugged terrain, and one stumbles every now and again, and even gets lost in the thickets of strange new concepts and terms, eventually the journey becomes smooth, pleasurable and easy. Bizarrely enough, all you have struggled to absorb and to practice over lifetimes is now spontaneously jettisoned or distilled into a living inner truth. Some call this cultivating the “view,” and I like this term since that is exactly what we do when we turn decisively into the interior and develop new ways of seeing and being.

For me, comprehending the beauty of Advaita essentially involves understanding the nature of two things: the Self (the Absolute, blissful, immortal, aware and including both manifest and unmanifest) and the Egoic machinery (current body, mind, track record, emotions, etcetera). The goal is to dissolve the building blocks of the ego (known as vasanas or karmic trace impressions accumulated over countless lifetimes) into the vast peaceful ocean of the Self. Continue reading

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A MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE

4c43e9597e348e32446dfe8c83a2d488Ages ago in America, a friend I was visiting over the long Thanksgiving weekend, told me that she had her ex-husband had never really gotten along. She had married him on the proverbial rebound several years after her fiancé, whom she had loved, had died in a surfing accident, and simply because her avaricious insecure social-climbing mother had coaxed her to hang on to him for all he could offer her in material terms.

He was a cold and distant man who had done very well for himself financially. He did not love her, nor did he claim to, but because she was glamorous and charming, he did value her highly as a social asset. While their love life was non-existent, he appeared to be content to squire her to social events as his trophy bride. Early on she had longed to escape him and to pursue a different lifestyle, but when she turned to her mother for support, she was sternly reminded that she had struck gold and should be content. (Why she’d listened to a mother as crass as this, I still can’t figure out, but I do know the woman was a widow and my friend an only child, and that this had brought them close.) Continue reading

4 AM ON THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE

b14516b6b40561bfe96c12b674d70118After the initial intense discomfort of leaving a marriage that was throttling me emotionally, and blocking my spiritual and creative progress, I was once again enjoying the richness of life. Soon I began to feel an exhilarating sense of freedom.

Now Manhattan is the perfect place for a single person to taste every flavor of liberation—a fabulous city that never sleeps and has something for everybody. (This was before the World Trade Center bombing). Brimming with exciting things to do, not just in the way of entertainment, Manhattan catered to the spiritual seeker as well as to the artist and could be a whole lot of fun.

Folks I knew at work were mostly workaholics; they put in long hours, but from Friday evening through Sunday, they generally partied a lot. There were many times, I confess, that the constant pressure got a bit too much and I felt like a monkey pedaling furiously on a wheel just to stay upright. But still, I relished my new life and would not have exchanged it for another. Continue reading

JNANA IS A JEALOUS GOD

2b30a1fb8fc22baec67e64504e96cf11Every serious seeker enters the inner path in a unique way, which is why we are fortunate if we find friends who resonate with our views and feelings. My own trajectory began when I was a troubled teenager looking for a permanent antidote to my angst. I began my quest with an intense study of the basics of classical hatha yoga philosophy; as the years flowed by, still looking for answers, I moved into Japanese Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, to the Path of the Mystics (Santh Math), played around with the fascinating fields of Sufism and allied mystical paths, and finally was guided back to the ancient cradle of Advaita-Vedanta, and specifically to Ramana’s Direct Path of Atma-Vichara. I am so grateful that I did not dump anything that was valuable; no, I extracted the essence of all these fabulous paths and meshed them into my “view,” so that they are now a living truth, a treasure chest of tools I can dip into at will.

This is just to say that I can empathize with those who do not resonate with the expression of my particular views; nor do I count on them for validation, for the work of convincing myself that I am on the right path (for me) has been done well. Nevertheless, I share portions of my journey, perhaps because long ago I took the Boddisattva Vow (to seek enlightenment not just for oneself (how utterly boring!) but for all beings), and so I have a compulsion to offer others the results of my questing, knowing full well that too many are too busy or unwilling to do what I have done and still do. Also, one never knows what will strike a note with another, and it is a magnificently liberating feeling to express the delicate truths revealed as one persists in delving into the cosmic Self. If even one person’s load is lightened as a result of our openness and willingness to give, then that is a great blessing, for me, anyway. Continue reading

BIZARRE & CLUELESS

279dbfcf2cba52b1ecbc23c53cf96b95A long while ago, I read a Trump tweet stating that the Pope was a modest man, just like Trump himself.  Well, we’ve all heard such unbelievable stuff gushing forth from Trump’s heedless and juvenile mouth, but this particular tweet really got my goat. I couldn’t stop laughing incredulously at the thought of D comparing himself with the Pope in this area, despite mountainous evidence to the contrary and his outrageous habit of braggadocio. Is it possible, I wondered, that he really does not see himself clearly? What else could explain his blind idiocy?

This led me to ponder why some humans are so sharply aware of themselves, both in terms of virtues and peccadilloes, and others remain completely clueless? Speaking for myself, and for many close friends, so hypersensitive to our own dark side that we cannot wait to transform it into light, I am still mind-boggled by those who refuse to ever look in the mirror. Continue reading

GO STRAIGHT TO THE BOSS

Featured Image -- 9732Ramana 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.
 
303537_3128548673069_1069126392_nWhy 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.

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MYSTICAL FRUIT

cc56cbb87382e2c7f74faf1c64cc03f7At 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.

 

Kiri 16GB sd card 6243-1Then 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.

 

Kiri 16GB sd card 6886On 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.

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AMAZING GRACE

6cfa74207d9988dbbdc3a2b428999120One weekday night in Manhattan, after a grueling stint at a busy law firm, I came home and decided to relax with my gorgeous new Yamaha guitar. This was in the post-divorce days, when I was determined to enjoy the strange experience (for me) of being alone. Well, I was singing away when I heard a knock on the door. In Manhattan, friends don’t just drop by without calling in advance, so you won’t blame me for being alarmed. I peered through the viewing aperture and spied the slender white-haired lady who lived at the end of my corridor, cradling her delightful poodle in her arms. I opened the door and she told me shyly that the sounds of live music had attracted her attention. Hesitantly, she asked if she could come in for a while to hear me sing. Although so far we had only exchanged smiles in the elevator, I had always instinctively liked her, and so I said yes. She made herself comfortable on a couch and so did her pooch, and then she asked me to sing ‘Amazing Grace.’

Now there are some who weary of that beautiful hymn, but not me; I love it, especially after I heard that it was written by a slave-trader who had been saved from a terrible death at sea by the almighty hand of the Divine. As a monster storm threatened to sink his ship, this cold-hearted devil had felt a fierce blast of remorse for the suffering he had caused to so many. He had begged the Divine to save him so he could make lifelong amends; his prayer was answered, and the storm abated. Fortunately he kept his word and went on to live a life of service, determined to make amends.

Anyway, I sang this hymn for her, and when I finished, there were tears streaming down her cheeks. She looked at me with deep sorrow then and related an extraordinarily tragic tale: Years ago, her only daughter, a beautiful woman with two young sons and a loving husband, had been raped and murdered by the crazy nephew of her neighbor, a lad obsessed by her exotic beauty. That same afternoon, her son (the murdered woman’s older brother) died in a New York hospital of AIDS. And just months before these ghastly tragedies, her wild hippie son had overdosed on heroin in San Francisco! I simply couldn’t believe my ears—this woman had lost three children in hellish circumstances, all in the space of a year. How does any mother survive this magnitude of trauma?

fb_img_1483263162986I listened with rapt attention, realizing that she really needed to spill her grief. “Well, I totally collapsed,” she said. “In fact I was doing so badly that my mother, then in her early nineties and who lived alone on the family farm down south, invited me to stay with her until I felt strong enough to once again tackle life in New York.”
She smiled faintly. “What the old darling didn’t know, of course, is that I agreed only because I thought the farm was a great place to kill myself. I flew down south, and made plans to end it all with an overdose of sleeping pills. But the night I planned to die, something told me to sit outside for a while. After my mother went to bed, I went out on to the porch and listened to the wind singing in the trees and gazed up one final time at the stars.

Then a miracle happened—I heard a voice say firmly: You will not do this terrible thing, do you hear? Don’t for a moment forget that your grandchildren are waiting for you to return. Their father has gone insane with grief and these heart-broken kids are counting on your support. Are you going to let them down? Then I was struck with a blast of love that shook me to the core. I sat there for hours in the sweet darkness, trembling with joy, knowing I had been saved by amazing grace. And although life has had its hard moments since, I have never forgotten that voice. And now you know why I love that song.

What a tragic tale, I thought, barely able to believe her. Later she told me that, when the lad who had murdered her daughter (he was barely twenty) was facing the death sentence, she had pleaded with the judge that he be given life imprisonment instead. The murderer was her best friend’s nephew, she explained to me, and since she herself had experienced the agonies of grief, she did not want her friend, a kind and loving woman herself, to go through the experience of watching her nephew being killed by lethal injection.

I myself had lost many loved ones and the knife of grief had almost finished me too. In my case, it was not a voice that whispered to me in a remote farmhouse in the deep south of America, but the Eastern teachings, which convinced me that physical death cannot even touch the immortal and blissful Spirit. I like the Eastern metaphor of the string of pearls, each pearl signifying a lifetime, and the string itself representing the immortal thread that runs through all our incarnations. We humans are born into an ephemeral world and, before we know it, we are trapped by an illusion of reality so powerful that only a handful of us ever discover our true nature, which is bliss.

Only a tiny fragment of humanity chooses to travel beyond the mundane. While I empathize deeply with those for whom life is a constant material struggle, and who therefore lack time and energy for inner work, when I see someone blessed with what is referred to as a “precious human life”— where one has the higher intelligence, resources and time for deeper investigation—but who still chooses not to wake up, it is when I feel most sad.

As Ramana Maharshi, the luminous south Indian sage who resurrected a direct path to moksha or freedom from suffering says, grace is ever-present, but it is we who must prepare ourselves to receive it.

1165311e076f9fab8a6e2f39ba6df8caGreetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who promises the genuine seeker to aid in the destruction of all that blocks us from knowing that we ourselves are amazing grace!

Note: I change certain details to protect anonymity, but the story itself is true.

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FOX & DEMONS

4b2c8bc7f1869ccbf64a10955f1f61ddIn my teens, someone gave me a black hardcover book with many of its pages loose, as I recall, and I found that I simply could not put it down. The author was Emmet Fox, a New Thought spiritual leader of the early 20th century, famous for his large Divine Science church services held in New York City during the Great Depression. I realized I was reading pure mystical material that thrilled me in some primeval way. One fascinating subject that Fox spoke of was the protective sheaths that all humans are born with. He claimed that, when we stray from our true nature (which is love), we blast holes in these invisible sheaths through which discarnate entities can enter and make their homes within. Gradually, these entities (you can think of them as deadly viruses) cause unimaginable havoc. They do their work mainly by separating us from the knowing that our essence is the blissful and immortal Self.

Discarnate entities, you say? What are those? Well, let me answer you like this: Almost every evening when I travel to the Ashram, I pass one or more funeral processions making their way to some burning ground or the other. The locals celebrate these deaths in oddly primitive ways, by bursting crackers and dancing wildly in front of the slow heavily flower-garlanded vehicle that carries the corpse. Apparently this is to let the spirit know that it is not safe to return to this realm, and to speed it on its way to another realm of consciousness. Something like this anyway.

Now imagine for a moment who these dead people might be—for sure, not all of them have reached the end of their lives peacefully and are relieved to leave their bodies. Many are wrested away, without their permission, from full and busy lives, from wives, parents, children and work. When Death comes with a sure tread and the earth game is temporarily over, we may protest, but to no avail, for no one can deny the superior might of Lord Yama, the Grim Reaper, who throws his deadly noose over his victim and relentlessly drags the spirit away.

It is these restless spirits who hover around the earth plane, unwilling to leave before finishing their work, or simply lost, disoriented and confused. And if they find a weak and unprotected human, they immediately fly in and start to nest. Ah, now they have a way to continue to live on this plane of reality, and even better, the poor human has absolutely no clue that there has been a hostile takeover.

pw_ga_Ganga_200So how does one unknowingly blast holes in protective sheaths? Well, there are many explanations, but simply put, we do this when the egoic self, the relative and finite self, expands out of all proportion and forgets that it is merely a servant of Spirit. The sense of separation in these people is so strong and convincing that they appear to exist above and beyond all other beings, in a world of their own, their only driving urge being to feed and gratify this growing monster of mini-me, in one way or another. Often they have a bottomless hunger to acquire the ephemeral goodies of this world, but it is not just things they want to acquire, but other weak humans too, just to reassure themselves of their own worth, and no matter the harm done to others. In this quest to be superior, they will often do anything, and so leave a shocking wake of destruction. Only a few are exempt from their caustic effects, say those connected to them by blood, however, and yet in the long run even these beings are negatively impacted, for the discarnate entity can only survive on prana (the vital essence of a living human); when its original host is drained, it moves on to feed on those in the immediate vicinity.

Is this woman completely mad? you might be thinking. Has she finally lost the plot? No, let me assure you I have not. I am merely opening up to you in a new way, revealing what I mostly keep hidden from the mundane world for obvious reasons. In fact, I write spiritual fiction, and have just completed the Moksha Trilogy (only the third of these three novels is yet to be published). The first deals with the demon invasion on an ancient civilization, the second deals with a psychopath (severe mental/emotional disease is the first result of being possessed) and the third too deals with demons, but in a different way, as when lower consciousness gets so strong that it turns essentially fine humans into monsters.

Now, if you look carefully at all the major religions, as well as old religions that are shamanistic in nature, you might see that the spirit world dominates. Right outside my home lives a shaman to whom the locals flock. Almost every day I see him chasing spirits away with herbs and smoke and incantations. Some things never change! I have also seen these entities myself, and witnessed their operation in others. (Most super-empaths have extraordinary senses and it is not difficult to spot when things are off.)

0d272b3f771e00afeabb9300dbfbc969A true story for you: one of my friends in Manhattan had a guru who was a beautiful woman from the Far East. He showed me a photo of her when she was young and I was blown away: classically lovely with a serene face and dressed in dazzling white. A few years later, I watched a video of her and couldn’t believe it was the same teacher. This woman was crazy, wild, loose in her sexual and financial morals (as I heard from reliable sources), and given to public fits and tantrums. Someone told me that her teacher had been a venerable Chan master, so I went to a monastery and spoke to an erudite Buddhist about her. He was reluctant to say a lot, but he did give me more than enough to chew on. He said the woman had begun her spiritual quest at a very young age and was clearly destined for greatness, as evidenced by the remarkable disciple and intelligence she showed in pursuit of her goal. One day years later she had had an experience that convinced her she was enlightened, but when she told her guru about it, he warned her to continue her practice until her ego was completely burned to ashes.

She got furious with him, and accused him of hating women and wanting to keep them down. She left the order and began to attract a large following, but soon her disciples started to get worried because she was changing before their eyes. Yes, this pure woman was turning into a rambunctious harridan; apart from other alarming signs of degeneration, she would burst into loud peals of laughter in the middle of a talk and had begun to worship money.

I don’t know what happened to her, but I do hope she sought the help of her old master and is now free. That would be ideal, of course, but in many cases, the victim dies in thrall. And then the nightmare continues into other lifetimes until the spirit once again resurrects itself and begins the real journey to light again.

Seekers are especially prone to demonic attack, simply because the inner light and the prana are strong, which is why we must take extraordinary measures to keep ourselves safe. How do we protect ourselves? It’s really quite simple. First, we find a teacher who is light itself and commit to him or her, heart and soul. We become intensely aware of how powerful our thoughts, words and actions are, and monitor them carefully. If we mess up, as humans generally do, we quickly make amends. We put our inner journey first and realize more and more deeply that nothing external can give us the peace and joy we seek. All of this increases our inner light. At some point we grow so strong and luminous that no demon or discarnate entity will dare to approach us, and now we can finish our awesome work, which is become the blazing light itself and a beacon to those still lost in Maya’s mesmerizing dream.

f8e343d61812b9ed788f57f46ce5d4c6Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who, Himself the Lord of all Demons (Ganas), can guide us through the most dangerous thickets and into the eternal sunlight of our Spirit!

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A LEGEND IN HER OWN MIND  

fb_img_1483263162986Last night I had one of my long dreams—often they are complete stories and quite fascinating in their twists and turns. The star of this one was a woman I know who, by dint of hard work and her husband’s ability to take enormous financial risks, has moved up from a lower economic status to become a multi-millionaire. Unfortunately, although she maintains a simple façade, she is blown away by her own rise; although she continues to be miserly and harsh in her treatment of the poor and the sick, she will not fail to let you know that she and her family have been specially favored by the material gods.

In this dream, she was a great dancer and the members of her family were her greatest fans. I too was mightily impressed by the performance she put on for us at her opulent home, simply because I did not see her as an artiste. After the show, I mentioned that I would have to practice hard for the show I was planning to give, whereupon her husband admonished me sternly, warning me that I should not aspire to greatness, since talent like his wife’s was rare. His children seconded his warning with somber nods. Continue reading