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.)

She and her ex never wanted kids, she said, which was a good thing or she might never have gotten interested in eastern philosophy (via hatha yoga), and never realized there was more to life than the superficial good times available to her as the wife of a wealthy entrepreneur. The radically new worldview she so acquired had such an impact on her psyche that she had finally left him. Although she did not ask for much, he was generous enough to insist on providing her with a lifelong settlement; and then, ha ha ha, she added dryly, he had promptly turned around and married another trophy.

It was only when she started deepening her knowledge of the limited egoic self that she realized that her decades-long marriage had been convenient only for her ego, and not for her Self (the Divine or Absolute, our true nature according to the eastern mystics). It sickened her, she confessed, that, for instance, that despite being crazy busy with his work, her ex would insist on being present when she met with her bankers every month, but would refuse to spend any quality time alone with her. He had no interest in her as a woman or as a person, but genuinely wanted to protect her financial interests. This one thing clearly revealed to her that all he cared about was money, while he didn’t give a damn for her soul.

2b30a1fb8fc22baec67e64504e96cf11I told her how blessed she was to have had such a realization. You see, I had encountered many other women, some also married to rich and powerful men, who had no clue that there was more to life than indulging themselves and their children in excessive materialism. One of these women spent all of her time going from one plastic surgeon to another, getting face and body lifts, because she was terrified the man would dump her for a new model! What a way to live, I had thought, I would rather be dead than invest all my energy in trying to please a superficial mate.

Now I had met this friend at a spiritual meeting in Manhattan and we were instantly attracted to each other, probably because we had each gone through so much and were both fascinated by eastern philosophy. She was in her early fifties then and lived simply but well in a beautiful area in upstate New York, besides a sparkling stream and surrounded by woodland. She enjoyed her solitude and spent her time reading, painting, meditating, and focusing on inner work. “I’ve never been happier,” she said at some point during that weekend that I later spent with her. “And it was all because I was so intensely miserable that I was literally forced to find a reason to live. Thank god I decided to do my teacher training in yoga. My guru was a deep man who sensed I needed real help, and he made it a point to guide me. We’ve become close friends over the years, and through him, I’m drawing closer to that immortal Spirit you Indians speak about so casually.” She smiled. Now I know the Divine is not a sweet fiction; come to think of it, what feels terribly unreal is all that time I invested in the transient.”

Thinking over this distant encounter, I realized how fortunate the modern West is (apart from religious fundamentalists!) to not be stigmatized for seeking freedom from an unfulfilling marriage. Here, in India, a society so complex and multi-layered that it boggles the mind, divorce is still a very dirty word. Women who seek their freedom even from the worst mates are hounded, harassed and even ostracized; one can well empathize with their willingness to stay put, no matter what, and suck up their misery. And what about the men? Not surprisingly, it is usually the wealthy who stray: Money has opened up many new portals for them and they are exposed to an international world where they can often make their own rules and get away with moral murder. However, I’m sorry to say, despite the surface sophistication of many, inside they are often mama’s boys, terrified to break free of their matrix lest they bring the hammer of community disapproval down on their heads.

You might be stunned if you knew how many there are of this ilk all over India: men who want to have their cake and eat it too. They proposition particularly women who are Westernized, believing that such females are bohemian and free and have no scruples in relationship. Because they worship money, they wrongly assume this is the case with everyone. Some flit from one sad relationship to another, hoping to distract themselves from the emptiness of their fake lives, and so never ever grow up. I asked one such rich fellow who had complained to me about his wife, why he did not just leave her. Oh, my mother would die of shock, he said, and what about the children? (You see? He didn’t give a damn for the wife, only for his old dominatrix of a mother and his kids). His mother had arranged the marriage, he ran on miserably, and his wife was perfect as a home-maker and as a mother, although she was so boring and limited in her range of interests that he could not even talk to her beyond domestic matters.

I shook my head, and told him that if I, a woman also brought up in a traditional and conservative family, with no support from anyone but my guru and a few Western friends, could have had the courage to walk out of my marriage, knowing full well I was about to lose everything material (since my husband was so sneaky in that area), then certainly he could. No, he said, that is not possible in my case, and I realized that the walls of the ego in some cases are built of concrete reinforced with steel, and that most humans simply lack the integrity and guts to break away and seek true joy. In truth, after the initial brouhaha of a “scandal” has died down, no one cares any more, and you can then restructure your life to seek the only peace worth having—that which comes from the depths of the Spiritual Heart.

Kiri 16GB sd card 4418Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva in the form of a hill of fire and light, who powerfully aids us as we shed all that blocks us from knowing we are the blissful and immortal Self!

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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.

Among my personal friends were writers and artists, photographers, painters, even the odd sculptor. One cool couple used to throw regular parties at their trendy loft in lower Manhattan. Their round dining table was spread with goodies, cheeses, pastries and whatnot. A motley crew of guests brought stuff too, bottles of French wine, key lime pies, and bags of crunchy chips. Not to forget that the conversations that sprung up all over that vast room were interesting.

It must have been about 3 am on a Saturday morning when a guy I barely knew asked me how I, as an Indian woman who had rebelled against my societal mores, dealt with fear. I said that when I had first begun to live alone, I was so terrified of being alone in the darkness that a friend had strung tiny lights all the way from my bedroom to the bathroom, just in case.

8411f515e5521a945a35e8d138ae0d27Another friend had given me two of his cats, and Lisa and Sweetie, my sweet feline protectors whom I will never forget, flanked me at night. But then, I added, I’d begun to dive into Eastern philosophy and to meditate seriously again, and the fear that lived inside of me—a grisly phantom that often had my knees knocking together—had fled due to my growing awareness of the constant presence of invisible beings of light and love.

So you’re tough now, eh? He demanded truculently. (What was his problem? I think an Asian woman must have given him hell.)

I guess so, I said, wary of where he was going.

Well then, I challenge you to walk all the way home from here, right now. Let’s see how brave you really are, ha ha ha.

I considered his proposal for a moment: I was a strong walker, as most Manhattanites are, and the walk home could be done in about an hour.

I’ll give you a hundred dollars if you do, he said. I saw he was anticipating a timid refusal, whereupon a devil got into me. Of course I can, I said, shocking him, but I don’t want your money. Before my hostess (she would have tried to stop me) could object, I said a quick goodbye and left.

Swiftly I made my way further downtown, and soon I saw the fantastic outline of the Brooklyn Bridge. That’s when Fear gripped me. All the way down here, there had been the occasional passerby, but now I could see no one. Tales I’d heard of homeless drunken or stoned drifters sleeping under the Bridge flashed through my head. It was a long walk over the Bridge, I realized, and I was utterly alone. Taking a deep breath, I started down the wooden length of it, chanting my mantra of protection nonstop.

My imagination was going wild, and I thought I heard someone stealthily following me. I didn’t turn around, just continued with the mantra. The footsteps became more distinct and my heart began to flutter with panic.

FB_IMG_1491232471157Then a cyclist, believe it or not, flew past me: Black ensemble with glittering lights circling the wheels of a superb racing bike. Another cyclist whizzed past me, dressed in exactly the same way, and then another, and another, until a long line of these beauties were riding silently down the bridge. I realized that they were probably a foreign group of pro cyclists on tour in Manhattan. I almost ran beside them on the other side of the walkway, and finally reached the end of the Bridge. I stopped to heave a huge sigh of relief, for my apartment was not that far, dawn was breaking, and there were already signs of life in lovely Brooklyn Heights. No one would dare to attack me now. I watched the last cyclist glide into the distance and walked rapidly home, thinking I’d been right all along—great beings were indeed watching over me.

I’ve told many friends this story over the years and all have been baffled that I’d take such a risk. You could have been raped and murdered, one said sternly, and he was right. So what made me do such a stupid thing? I could have laughed at the guy and told him to buzz off. The fact is that I did not. The answer probably is that I wanted to be Superwoman in the eyes of my friends, and a cut above the usual nervous woman from the East.

Today I’d laugh at anyone who asked me to risk my precious life in such a way, because wisdom and caution are essential to living on to accomplish my goals. But that night I was both a rebel and an idiot; still, looking back, perhaps because of the rare beauty of those cyclists flying over that gorgeous Bridge, I don’t regret my madness.

ece0e5efb7e69f25bae5daa7f08c1338Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who helps us realize that there is really nothing to fear, not even physical death, but only because our true nature is immortal and blissful!

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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.

So why do I view Jnana, the ancient tradition of Eastern wisdom, as a jealous god? Well, from what I see within even the small world of committed seekers, only a minute segment can appreciate the subtle wisdom of the sages to the point that their lives transform; and this is the true litmus test—personal transformation, or what the hell is the point??? Worshipping deities, visiting temples, churches of mosques, relying on external gurus, etcetera is their way of evolving, and there is nothing fundamentally wrong with this; if one is sincere, eventually these paths too can also lead to the gold of realization. But there is a short-cut for folks like me, and that is the undiluted teaching of Atma-Vichara, as informally transmitted by the great Advaita sage of south India, Ramana Maharshi.

Atma-Vichara relies on no external supports. There is the Self (the substratum of our being, pure existence-awareness and bliss; call it Shunyata (the fecund void, both the emptiness and the plenum of existence), Parabrahman (the Impersonal Supreme Divine) or the Absolute; it does not matter what label you stick on it, for here we are entering the wordless nameless realm of immortal bliss and peace. And then there is the Egoic self, mini-me, the body-mind-emotional system caged in a particular matrix that it takes for reality. By using the timeless principles of Jnana, we can break down the prison walls that keep us caged in delusion/illusion. Yes, by directly challenging the power of Maya, the Cosmic Enchantress whose divine game is Lila, Jnana can lead us rapidly through the thickets of samsara (relative reality) and to our eternal home of eternal happiness. In essence, if we have taken the trouble to really understand this invisible path, the ego burns down into the infinite ocean of Self.

But, as Ramana Maharshi often said, very few have the courage or the rapier-like impersonal intellect that coaxes one to let go of all relative props in order to follow the narrow tortuous path that wends its way into the core of the Spiritual Heart. If we start now, however, by acquiring a foundation and following simple ethical prescriptions, we can prepare ourselves to bask in the bliss and peace that is our true nature.

Many intellectuals are fascinated by the brilliant teachings of the jnanis and can spout all sorts of impressive stuff; but sorry, this alone, while critical in its own way, is not enough. The teachings must go deep, seeping in through multitudinous layers of the egoic self until they penetrate the heart. Success is evident when you note a distinct transformation in views, behavior and state of mind. Thought, speech and action begin to mesh harmoniously and personal ethics spontaneously guide ones behavior. What used to hassle and vex no longer has much of an impact, and if it does, the trouble is brief, for one has tasted the peace that surpasses all mundane understanding. Yes, entering the substratum by stopping the mind in its tracks, however briefly, is proof enough of our eternal existence, and this gradually becomes our platinum insurance against all the ups and downs of samsara.

Now, if we are sitting on the fence, and still spending most of our time and energy in buttressing our financial standing, work or social status—if the basic groundwork of understanding the Two Truths (Absolute and Relative reality) has been ignored, and if you don’t realize a basic mystical truth, which is that as soon as you try to fix a hole in samsara, a hundred other holes will open (so that you are kept perennially busy trying to plug them); if you naïvely believe that you can sort out all your relative affairs and tie them up in neat pretty parcels so you can finally focus on your inner work when you are old and relaxed (don’t forget Death could claim you at any time and there are no guarantees in this department); if the concept of Advaita (Not Two) is still only a sweet fiction, and so blood relatives and those who can materially benefit you are the only beneficiaries of your love and concern—then don’t be surprised if you fail to experience that first flicker of inner bliss (Aham Sphurana, in Sanksrit), which grows into a roaring torrent and heralds the advent of Samadhi (the transcendent state).

Jnana can only make sense if you are sick and tired of the endlessly mesmerizing games (both beautiful, horrific and everything in between) that Queen Maya has been playing with you for eons, and if you can now see through the tinsel veils of mundane gratification. Once this work is done, not with bitterness but with overwhelming gratitude that one’s inner eye has finally opened, then the road to wisdom can become a radiant highway to permanent bliss. If not, perhaps its best to stay where you are, and to get samsara out of your system before you come back, for Jnana is a jealous god and will not tolerate half-hearted fragmented love and shoddy commitments from its proponents.

cc56cbb87382e2c7f74faf1c64cc03f7Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who aids us in the Herculean task of dropping the unreal for the Real!

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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.

Rigorous self-investigation of our relative self (the egoic body-mind system), followed by a deliberate transformation of all that does not serve our journey to the light,  is particularly critical for those of us on the inner path. Without it, any foray into realizing the Absolute sense is a futile exercise. The mirror is our friend, not our enemy, and any human friend who also serves as an honest mirror is our kalyanamitra (spiritual buddy); all of us have blind spots we cannot see, but these are often visible to those who deeply care about us. Not to accept their insights is to stab ourselves in the spiritual heart.

I have been pondering this state of affairs for ages, ever since I married a man just the opposite of me in crucial ways. One answer I’ve found lies in the Wheel of Life, an ancient teaching that depicts six realms of consciousness all within samsara (relative reality). When we die, our spirit moves into a realm suited to our newly projected karma. Say, for instance, a woman is born with great mental, physical, intellectual gifts; instead of using them in a noble way, she turns into a con woman, stealing and lying to better her material prospects. The impersonal laws of karma may decide she needs to indulge herself even more in this low behavior, but only so she can get it permanently out of her system. And so, when she dies, her spirit may take the form of an animal, intent on survival and nothing else, willing to snatch the bone out of another’s mouth with no trace of remorse, because that is her level of consciousness. Only then is she allowed to return to the human realm.

05f8991e40ffbeafe3339dd626f1b684Another answer for me lies in realizing that some humans really do have massive blocks to self-investigation. They often leave a trail of destruction and corruption but, when they look back, they are totally unmoved, and may even believe themselves to be innocent and wonderful heroes. Consider serial killers who go to their deaths guilt-free, believing they did what was right, and unwilling to accept (despite monstrous and glaring evidence) that they have caused a lot of suffering. What is their fate when the great wheel makes another turn?

It is pure grace to be born with a refined conscience that takes all others (animals, birds, insects and our own kind, male and female) into consideration when we think, speak and act. Seeing how many lack this moral compass makes me grateful for the ethical standards I was brought up with, and which I seemed to naturally appreciate. However, I too definitely had phases when I went totally off the rails. And yet, even in my worst times, I was always sharply aware that I was in error and could not wait to get back to a state of peace (which involved clearing up all messes and resolving to be a better human).

The power and beauty of the 12-step program for me lies in the 4th step, which insists we perform a fearless and searching investigation on our entire lives. When we realize we have done wrong, we make careful and loving amends. The greatest amend is to vow not to repeat bad and hurtful behavior, and so we ascend naturally to a higher level of consciousness. Think of it like cleaning up a dirty kitchen before preparing a feast; that feast, in mystical terms, is union with the Inner Beloved, for whom we must be sparking clean and fresh before we can seek permanent fusion.

4c43e9597e348e32446dfe8c83a2d488Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who vows to help us clear up all relative messes so we can realize ourselves as pure blazing light!

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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

A RADICAL POINT OF VIEW

fc5f42ebd9cde2880ecba45f83338027There’s a middle-aged sadhu here in Tiruvannamalai whom I often give a ride to on my way to and from the Ashram. He’s skinny, bespectacled and a speed walker; he foots it everywhere, from morning to night, getting his free food at the various Ashrams, and then finding a quiet place to do his meditation and study. He tells me he practices yoga everyday too, and most passionately. In his frayed shoulder bag he carries cheap packets of biscuits and feeds the stray dogs he encounters on his daily travels. I’ve known him now for close to eight years now and he tells me he prays for me every single day, which makes me inordinately happy.

Recently he mentioned that he felt enormously blessed to be able to do what he does. Penniless and dependent on the largesse of local Ashrams for his sustenance and clothes (he wears only an ochre lungi), he is always happy and grateful. Laughing like a child, he told me why: because he knows that eventually his road will lead him to moksha, while the rich folks who pass him by on the Girivalam Road in their fancy automobiles are still lost in the relative dream. Who knows how much suffering they will have to endure before it dawns upon them that their present way of living, with its focus on accumulating assets they cannot take with them when their body dies, finally takes root?

609df17e7afd69d496563edfe63c57a7He sighed at this point, with genuine compassion. Then they will have to turn back, he added sadly, and begin their journey on the path that leads to the Spiritual Heart. And this is why he smiles when these “rich” humans stop their cars and hand him a few rupees, believing they are being oh so generous to a homeless wanderer.

Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer, who vows to destroy the intricate web of illusion that Maya, Cosmic Enchantress, spins around us, – so that we may finally know that we are the blissful and immortal Self!

NEW!!! My latest book – COPPER MOON OVER PATALIPUTRA – just went live on Jun 30th. Read all about it and on how to get your own copy here.
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