COBRAS WRITHE ABOUT HIS BLUE THROAT


Ramana says, echoing the mystics of all time,

That the three states of waking, sleeping and dreaming

Are unreal, meaning that they are ephemeral, and come and go.

 

Oh, but last night I dreamed I was the Great God Shiva,

Draped in the furs of mighty beasts,

Cobras writhing around my blue throat,

Whipping a nine foot bully harassing

A lovely girl with shining face of gold—

And oh, how I wish that dream was real!

4c43e9597e348e32446dfe8c83a2d488And then I awoke at dawn to the wondrous sight

Of a sacred hill whose crown was wreathed with

Layers of creamy evanescent clouds,

Even as peacocks shrieked and ravens cawed

For their morning feast of rice and milk—

And oh, how I wish that too was real!

 

And what to say about those long afternoon naps

Following a morning of writing and meditating,

When my mind vanishes into a nebulous netherworld

And my cares dissolve into blissful nothingness?

Please, can that not be real?

kiri-16gb-sd-card-6025Amused, the Mountain whispers in my ear:

Only consider, my dear,

That if these states that are but a passing show

Are so pleasant in their aftertaste,

How nectar sweet is your true nature, which is nothing less

Than Mahaprana, Pure Life, Mahachit, Infinite Awareness,

And Ananda, a celestial fountain of bliss?

 

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YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN’T HIDE

a1bdebfedc1b5d7a87e7e2f16e9da363Consider for a moment the many ways you have tried to escape suffering—both the gigantic miseries of loss, grief and death, as well as the wee pains, frustrations and irritations that are part of the menu of being born as a human on this planet. Gautama Buddha nailed it when he gave us his First Noble Truth: that mundane life is suffering. Thank heavens he also went on to tell us that our own fears, desires and expectations lie at the root of our wretchedness, and that he then went on to clearly and lovingly proceeded to show us a way out.

I was stunned some time ago to hear that the anti-depressant industry is one of the biggest money-spinners in our world. And yet I was not really surprised, because I have seen from my own experience, and that of others, that most of us have no clue about reality and are therefore befogged with gloom and bewilderment. Our true nature, incredible as it may seem when we are depressed, lonely and sad, is nothing less that pure life, infinite awareness and radiant bliss. Millions of false coverings hide this radiance from us, especially since the ego is determined to live on at all costs, and because we stupidly and obstinately feed the wrong beast, rather than the shimmering angel who sits whispering sweetly on our shoulder. And so we continue to be in pain.

As Gautama said again, suffering is necessary (he meant the varied pains of old age, suffering and death), but misery (our persisting in increasing our sadness and confusion by wrong thought, speech and action) is an option.

2f4c71528deef4500603e274335bc7edAlcohol, drugs, sex, violence, workaholism, greed—all these are destructive and bottomless addictions that temporarily delude ourselves into thinking we are sitting on top of the dung heap of samsara and having a right blast…yes, that’s how many of us hide from the naked truth that, as humans, we are fragile and limited, and that our mind, no matter how honed, cannot even begin to comprehend the great mysteries of life and death.

What is the way out of this endless maze? Well, that depends on who we are, in terms of our karmic predilections and ability to understand subtle truths. For those who cannot grasp the simple but sophisticated teachings of jnana (eastern wisdom), there are a multitude of paths we can take, all of which, if sincerely followed, will, according to the great sage Ramana Maharshi, eventually lead us to investigate the nature of our own Self, which is blissful, immortal and aware.

Some of us are gripped so hard by the sharp claws of ego that we cannot see or think clearly. Think sociopath, psychopath, genocidal dictator, voracious entrepreneur, egomaniacal political leader, etcetera, ad nauseam. (As the Scottish poet Robert Burns said, God give us the gift to see ourselves as others see us). Yes, clear seeing is the beginning of the inner path. At some point we must admit, if only to ourselves, that nothing external has managed to give us the peace and joy we seek. It doesn’t take long to find examples of great beauties and materially commanding humans who, driven by relentless angst, took their own lives in despair. Why? Simply because they took the unreal for the real and failed to see that beneath their suffering was pure gold.

Bhagavan RamanaWhich leads me to the critical Advaitic definition of the words “real” and “unreal”: real is that which is permanent and lasting, the unreal is that which comes and goes and is ephemeral in nature. But once we begin to truly discriminate between that which gives us genuine and lasting pleasure, and that which provides momentary flashes of happiness, but ends us only giving us pain, willy-nilly we are led to the treasure that is our inner being. In truth, and I swear by this for I have had personal experiences that have convinced me, higher beings are always hovering around, waiting for us to become ready for the greatest task of all—which is to merge the finite egoic self that we believe we are, with the grand and immortal Self.

Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who took this form out of great compassion and solely in order to lead us from darkness to light!

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INTENSIVE CARE

65de284a09d3f427432db8daf3729bb9Ages ago, lunching with friends in a restaurant with a spectacular view of the Himalayas, a European woman began to boast about how close she was to her guru, and how integral her presence was to his inner circle of devotees. We listened politely, and this encouraged her to rave even more. Suddenly, a friend of mine, a cynical chap who had been around the block several times and appears to have no illusions about anything, interrupted her: ah, so you’re in Intensive Care, he said bluntly. Clearly you need the direct intervention and proximity of a guru, or your ego would completely destroy you.

I burst into giggles at her astounded expression, but while she may have thought he was trying to take her down a notch or two, I knew that as usual he was only speaking his mind and did not intend to deliberately hurt or insult her. Oddly enough, his words continued to resonate with me, because they certainly applied to my own condition.

A singer said this about Van Gogh—that this world was not made for men as beautiful as him. And there’s no denying that the goings-on of our planet can be hard to handle for anyone who is ultra-sensitive to suffering, simply because there are no barriers and empathy rules. Now I was born so sensitive that I would immediately burst into a storm of tears when I encountered a person or animal whose situation awakened my compassion. My mother referred to these mini-breakdowns as “crocodile tears,” not because she was unkind, far from it, but because she did not wish to encourage me in being ridiculously soft and therefore ill-equipped to cope with life’s hard realities.

83b2a51f4f6d5715320a27a71becac3aA few mornings ago, right out of the blue, a huge wooden door blew shut and almost broke my little toe. The pain was excruciating. I expected it to heal in a day or two, but I’ve been forced to stay home to nurse it, which is pure torture for someone as active as me, and whose threshold for both emotional and physical pain is abysmally low.

I put on my mystical thinking cap and studied my predicament. Why did this happen to me? One answer is that something majorly bad was supposed to happen to me, and instead (perhaps because these days I’m being such a “good girl”), the powers that be reduced that ominous would-be event to an almost-broken toe. (It’s an undeniable fact that I could be lying in a morgue right now, especially since I’m a bit of a speed freak on the highway and Indian truck, bus and lorry drivers are notoriously reckless.) I won’t bore you with the other thoughts that arose in this connection, but I will say that today I have such great faith in Arunachala in whose holy shadow I now reside, that I have no flicker of doubt that there is excellent reason for me to be held hostage at home.

I flashed back to soon after I got to Tiruvannamalai, some eight years ago, when I got drenched for hours while walking on the inner path that circles the mountain. I was in the company of a British friend who is a top-notch hiker. He quickly slipped into a rain jacket, but I was badly affected. There was nowhere to take shelter since we were on the inner path. By the time I got home, hours later, I was already shivering with fever. My friend left for England the next day and I developed a terrible flu and lay shivering in bed. Seventeen days later I was finally well enough to walk outside. I gazed up at Arunachala’s dawn glory and for the first time realized His power. I knew then that it was his fierce grace that had forced me to undergo that intense suffering—to burn away countless layers of ego that were preventing me from entering the Spiritual Heart. (Check out: ARUNACHALA, NOT ABRACADABRA )

This afternoon I gazed out of my living room window at the reassuring bulk of Arunachala. Don’t you think you’ve whipped me enough? I asked, as a wave of self-pity assailed me. Then I hastened to add that I had learned to trust Him, and that He had proven to me, time and time again, that when He heaped pain, disappointments and frustrations on my poor human head, enhanced peace, understanding and joy surely followed. Thank you for placing me in Intensive Care, I murmured gratefully; who knows what would have happened to maverick mini-me out there in the big bad world had you not drawn me into your protective embrace? We humans blindly put our faith in other humans, not realizing perhaps that they are just as limited than we are. Best to surrender to the cosmic powers that have genuine love and concern for our wellbeing.

303537_3128548673069_1069126392_nOne major difference between the mainstreamer and the genuine seeker of inner peace is the view/ attitude we choose to take. This too shall pass—powerful words I use on myself and on others when appropriate. Even this life, I remind myself, is just a tiny speck on an infinite lifeline. In truth we are pure existence, awareness and bliss and have had a million bodies and minds. When life aims yet another kick at our unprotected bottoms, and we go flying yet again into the mud and the slime of samsara, we must never ever give up ,for we live in duality and the tide will definitely turn, especiallly if we are patient and have faith. The trick is to turn our focus to Spirit and ask it humbly to heal all relative ills, and to never ever lose sight of our highest goal, which is permanent freedom from suffering.

Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who has no hesitation in whipping those he loves with his mighty psychic whip, but only to lead us to the blissful light of the Self!

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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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A THIRD EYE VIEW OF THE GREEN MONSTER

6cfa74207d9988dbbdc3a2b428999120Intense emotions such as low-self-esteem can lead to suicide. This is a fact. Which is why, being a deeply emotional person myself, I loved this model of the human psyche: first Spirit, then Intellect, then the Rational Mind, and finally Emotions. In this ladder of hierarchy, Spirit rules the roost, and all the other elements of the psyche must be made subordinate to the wisdom of the Spirit or Self, which is our true nature.

Why is Spirit our true nature? Because it alone survives physical death and is therefore considered “real”. Eastern sages claim that it is a blend of pure existence, awareness and bliss. The other three levels, which compose the egoic system, are composed of the five elements—earth, water, fire air and consciousness (when awareness connects with an object, it turns into consciousness; in its pure form, consciousness is awareness), and they run on the primal energy of what are known as the Three Gunas (Sattva (purity), Rajas (dynamic activity) and Tamas (inertia or sloth/passivity). When we die, these elements return to their various sources, leaving Spirit free to merge back with the One, or to take another form befitting its karma.

I can’t remember the first time I experienced jealousy, but it must have been early on. Of all the emotions, I decided, the green eyed monster was the worst. In its grip, one sank into lower consciousness and all higher intelligence fled. At its most intense level, all one wishes to do is to destroy the object that is causing us this writhing and ugly pain. In its lower manifestation, such as envy, jealousy makes us lose respect and love for our own self, for the object that evokes it seems to be so much better and finer and more deserving of love and appreciation than our own shoddy self. And this is a lie!!! For, in essence, and although forms vary greatly, we are the same blissful awareness.

Sometime in my teens I realized I could not control this strong emotion, but that I could certainly learn to avoid people and things that evoked it in me—and this led me to a policy of never associating with those who deliberately made me jealous by flaunting that which I did not possess.

1165311e076f9fab8a6e2f39ba6df8caBut my real victory over the dark side came when I began to understand Eastern philosophy and particularly the ancient teachings on karma. I realized that whether it was stunning good looks, intellectual brilliance, the mature love of another human, great wealth or whatever, all of these gifts, according to karmic theory, had been earned by the current recipient in this or other incarnations. And therefore, rather than wasting my time and energy being jealous, I myself could gain those gifts by thinking, speaking and acting in a higher way (the classical definition of karma is merely how we think, speak and act; the results come later, either in seconds, fifteen years later, or even in another lifetime, when the causes and conditions for the karmic seed to flower appear).

No one is exempt from the dark side. Spiritual work is basically the transmutation of this innate darkness into the brilliant light of our true nature, and in acknowledging deeply that we One. And it is not just children and teenagers who experience jealousy. Adults who have not done their interior cleansing experience it too, and in them, I believe, jealousy is at its most nauseating.

Jealousy, like all negative states, thrives on denial. When we deny what we are really thinking, feeling and acting, the ego is in the corner, smiling with triumph and doing push-ups. I have known men who when the object of their affection revealed a side they did not like, such as openly expressing their views and perceptions, turned on them, sometimes openly, sometimes with a blend of tactics including passive-aggression (the worst in my opinion) and proceeded to block and hurt them, whether by breaking their word in all ways from the trivial to the sublime, or by abruptly withdrawing their support. What is really behind this behavior? The miffed little kid furious that his love has been rejected, and who does not know, or wish to experience the nature of real love, which is to help “the other” to grow into the light.

cda434014b3bb07e8d7db7d167fa00a2I knew a rich, attractive and talented woman who was subject to ghastly fits of jealousy that would come upon her without warning and stun us all. She was definitely on an inner path and sincere about her practice, but her blind spot was that she could not see how intensely she was prone to jealousy, to not wanting others to have what she had. (I met her aunt once, a lovely and fascinating woman, and she told me that she had been this way right from childhood; now I realize this means that she had nursed this ugliness over lifetimes so that it had become a strong vasana (karmic trace impression) that would need actual burning down in order for it to disappear.) And then a dark veil would fall over her and, right in front of us, she would regress to the state of an angry and envious child. She did not seem to care that we were watching; indeed, I believe she was not even aware of the demon who had usurped her Spirit. For me, it was actually quite frightening to watch her in one of these states, like seeing someone possessed by a grinning and evil invisible entity.

Everyone who knew her spoke of her insane attacks of jealousy behind her back, but, as far as I know, I was the only one to speak to her about it, although I was very careful because I had seen her get viciously aggressive in self-defense. What baffled me is that this woman considered herself a strong inner practitioner and clear seeing is integral to this path. I realized that when jealousy grows in the dark for decades (or lifetimes), it becomes so powerful that it can hide its presence from the host; I honestly believe that had she seen herself as others saw her, she would have been terribly ashamed and sought transformation. The bizarre thing is that in many other respects she was a generous and loving friend.

History is replete with instances of intensely jealous people killing their lovers etcetera. Think Medea, who killed her own beloved children to teach her straying husband a lesson. (I hope I got that right—it’s been a long time since I delved into Greek mythology.) Jealousy is often the driving force behind conquest, murder and genocide, although cunning propagandists will provide a million reasons for the harm they inflict, and never ever mention the barrage of negative emotions behind the whole sickening enterprise. Summing it up, jealousy (and its vile attendant emotions) is an insidious emotion with a billion masks that should be uprooted and permanently destroyed if one genuinely seeks peace. I am so relieved I do not experience it anymore, and most certainly owe this great blessing to the relentless deepening my inner work.

d234450d3d62a8926e9c9bca1ac39318Recently a woman who makes her living helping others with some sort of therapy jumped up out of the past like an evil jack-in-the-box and started attacking me in her usual sly and manipulative way. Unlike children and animals, who experience a blast of jealousy and are so transparent in how it affects them that often watching them can even be amusing, adults use a variety of ways to mask their toxic emotions. This woman’s tactic is to praise you to the skies and then, when you are lulled into a false feeling of security, and believe, with a sigh of relief, that she has gotten over her earlier resentment of you (for god knows what reason!), she sticks her rusty knives in and hopes you die. I made the mistake of responding to her, courteously as I always try to do, but my response only infuriated her and I realized I had to block her. Especially when jealousy and other strong negative emotions are combined with a sharp intelligence (which is the case with this woman), there is no point in hanging around to take more abuse. Only grace can break through the concrete walls they have built around themselves and dissolve the blind spot that does not allow them to see how petty and vindictive they have become, despite claiming to be oh so spiritual.

All of us attract jealousy and even the greatest of sages are no exception. Gautama Buddha had to deal with a lot of malice too, even from his own ex-brother-in-law Devadatta, who resented him mightily for what he considered the abandonment of his beloved sister Yashodhara and their son Rahula. Now I cannot imagine any open-hearted human not being simply blown away by the naked brilliance of the Buddha and completely understanding why he did what he did, which is run away from his luxurious dwelling in the dead of night, in order to pursue his goal of permanent liberation from suffering. Besides, he did this not just for himself, but for all beings! Clearly jealousy had blinded Devadatta too, to the point he could not see as others saw. As for Ramana, one old “sadhu” was so jealous of him that he tried to kill the young sage by throwing a boulder down on him as he passed below!

I have finally learned my lesson, I hope, and it came through this final unpleasant encounter with this privileged woman who is blind to her own sickness. Never place your head in the mouth of a tiger, especially it if is a rabid beast. And that is what jealousy rapidly turns us into, rabid beasts on a reckless mission to destroy all that is good and sweet. Dwell, the Buddha said so long ago, for you are the light itself, do not rely on others. Does this mean we cannot benefit from the help and support of those who love us and wish us well? Not at all! It just means that we must be careful when we engage with those who do not have our highest interests at heart, for one such encounter with the spiteful demon of jealousy can throw us off course for too long.

303537_3128548673069_1069126392_nGreetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of hill of fire and light, who helps us to shed all our toxic baggage so we can walk freely towards the light!

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FIRST FIGURE OUT WHO YOU ARE….

FB_IMG_1463360088510I confess that I am (or used to be) an impatient and demanding creature. The only problem with instant gratification in your case, as a friend laughingly told me a long time ago, was that it took too long! Anyway, so when I first got to Tiru eight years ago, determined to understand the simple but powerful teachings of Ramana Maharshi (who, by the way, never wanted to be a guru, but was forced into the role by his great compassion for those who begged him for answers to their perennial problems), I used to get mighty annoyed with his answer to almost everyone. No matter their particular issue, he would invariably say: first find out who you are, and then you won’t have this question anymore.

It literally took me years to understand his brilliance in repeating the same damned thing over and over again: yes, he was a sage and had found the golden key to transcending duality. A simple but critical key we would miss if left to our own devices, for the mind doesn’t like to be bored or held down by a single piece of work, and insists on wandering into all the nooks and crevices of mundane reality, simply to distract it from its real chore of penetrating through the dream states of waking, sleeping and dreaming, and awakening to our true nature, which is pure existence-awareness and bliss.

FB_IMG_1460704987387I was used to teachers who explained the wisdom teachings at great length. Naturally I didn’t, at least at the time, comprehend Ramana’s simple style in driving the nail in. Then one day it struck me like a bolt of lightning what he was really saying; that all our problems pertain to the relative world, to samsara, which is ephemeral, “unreal” by Advaitic definition, composed of people, events and things that come and go. Which leads to the particular definition of “real” and “unreal” in the context of Advaita: the “real” is that which is permanent and lasting, and only pure awareness, which is the substratum of being, meets that requirement; the “unreal,” on the contrary, is everything, people, places and objects, that comes and go out of our lives, in a word, the ephemeral.

But once we understand that in truth we are the cosmos itself in human form, pure existence, awareness and bliss, the relative bubble bursts and we understand the impermanence of every single one of our problems, from the most trivial to the sublime—that they are just the result of past karma, spun at an incredible speed by the collusion of the powerful forces of Lila and Maya, the Divine Sorceresses, fueled by their mighty sister, Queen Kundalini (for without Her energizing fire, nothing happens.)

Reality is simply loss of ego - RamanaGreetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who embraces us in his powerful arms and feeds us with the final antidote to samsara, even as He leads us into the peace and job 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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A DEMON CALLED HOPE

cc56cbb87382e2c7f74faf1c64cc03f7A long time ago in Manhattan, a wise friend caught my attention with this sad story—he claimed that hope too can be a demon, when used by the ego as a tool to keep us locked into demeaning situations. As an example, he explained that almost a quarter of a century ago, his beloved twin sister had married a charmer who had swept her off her feet. Everything was hunky-dory until their first child was born. Then the trouble began: he began to subject her to a mix of physical and emotional abuse, played around with other women on his business trips, and to top it all, told shameless lies about everything from the trivial to the profound.

Since they belonged to a fundamentalist Christian community down south that frowned on women standing up to their men, no matter their low caliber, his talented but quiet sister, who could have made something of herself in the art world, had stayed in the marriage. This despite my friend’s loving offers to support her if she left the creep. The guy was so wily, my friend added, that he could easily tell when his wife was getting to the end of her rope. Then he would turn on the magic and convince her that he had seen the error of his ways and was ready to transform. And so the years rolled on, and she lived on with him in the hope that TOMORROW he would change. Two more children were born, and by this time, she was too dispirited and beaten down to make a fresh start. If the guy had not died in a car collision a couple of years ago, my friend said dryly, she’d probably still be pandering to and defending him.

Until I heard this tale, I had not realized how the ego can co-opt a beautiful emotion like hope for its own sinister purposes. Besides, although the details were different, I had gone through a similar experience. Fortunately I had had the guts to cut loose when the discomfort of living with someone whose values were so divergent from mine outweighed my fear of being penniless and ostracized as a divorcee. And yes, in my case too, hope had played the role of demon—for I too had hoped for years and years that things would get better, and so I moved heaven and hell and did everything I could to make our life harmonious. Since I was an asset in many ways, and made life interesting for him, it served my partner to allow me to believe he was ready to change, when in fact he had no such intention. (Come to think of it, I don’t think he could have changed, because transformation involves possessing integrity, courage and a willingness to see that we are wrong and causing damage to others. The three steps of change: first awareness, then acceptance, and finally action). And so I too had remained trapped in a claustrophobic and demeaning situation for too long.

7293fc79f579a35ec9fc884aa6b3cadf-2In the end, words are only labels we slap on to experiences and events because we are unable to communicate effectively without them. (Only the true sage who has transcended duality can radiate wisdom in silence.) But it is not necessarily hope we have to guard against, but our own egoic fear of breaking free of a matrix that, while painful and disturbing, is paradoxically also comforting and familiar. This man’s sister, for instance, hoped for decades that her husband would change, against all evidence to the contrary, and lost her youth and vitality in the process. Who knows what she might have been able to do in that quarter century had she been bubbling with joy and vitally alive?

We live in a dualistic world where everything has at least two faces. The bright side of hope is uplifting and constructive; its dark side is when we hurt ourselves by remaining in unhealthy situations or relationships, all the while hopeful that things will change, despite knowing deep down they won’t. What is it that keeps us in the stew of passivity? Fear, in one word, for a known devil, as the old saw goes, is better than an unknown angel.

On the path to moksha, liberation from all desire and fear, it is critical that we face reality head-on. True, we might mess up from time to time, but we can always make amends. But the one thing we can never get back is the precious time we fritter away hoping things will be different, that our partner or whoever will eventually see the light. Instead, once we are certain we are being played by a callous trickster who cares nothing for our happiness and everything for his, we could put the lid on the situation, no matter what we have to go through in order to do this, and invest our energy in forging a happy and constructive life for ourselves. To rely on others for something as precious as our happiness is nothing less than foolish and cowardly. (And this of course works both ways: some women do the same to their men).

Dwell, Guatama Buddha said more than two thousand years ago, you are the light itself. Do not depend on others; the Dharma (your highest calling) is the light; do not depend on anything other than the Dharma. Advaita assures us that our essence is One, but in relative reality, we are made differently and must therefore find our own way to grow into spiritual warriors.

Featured Image -- 9732Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who helps us to get rid of all unnecessary baggage, so we can walk free and confident into the blazing Spiritual Heart!

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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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ANXIETY, BITCH GODDESS

FB_IMG_1494089545295I think that you might agree with me that it is rare to find a truly “good” human—a person you know instinctively is kind, compassionate, honest, transparent and loving—and not just to those who serve his or her interests, but to all beings. Well, I met a middle-aged man the other day and knew right off the bat that he was “good.” He owns a grocery store in town and sells tasty homemade snacks. Since I was hungry, after I shopped I ate something there, and he joined me at the small table in the back and freely told me his story. Lots of financial setbacks, he said, shaking his head sadly, and at one time a big position in a company in the Middle-East that he had lost—an underling who had coveted his job had made such big trouble for him that he had finally quit.

Other bad decisions followed that cost him his savings, and finally he had decided to open this small store in Tiru. It was limping along, he said, but somehow he was making ends meet. He had a sweet and supportive wife and two fine adult sons who were finding their way in the world. It was clear to me that he adored them all.

So why are you worried, I asked him, because he did look terribly strained. I have a heart problem, he confided softly, and my boys are not yet settled. I worry about them to the point I can’t sleep, and when I don’t sleep, the worry gets worse and my business is affected. What will happen to them if I die of a sudden heart attack?

And that is a definite possibility given that you worry so much, I said drily. Then I added, gently: You actually think you have been selected to suffer more than others on this earth? Don’t you realize that everyone goes through this sort of stuff? And that we will all die, like it or not? How does your constant worrying help the situation at all? It only makes things worse and prevents you from enjoying your great blessings. Have you never considered being grateful for all you have, rather than moaning about how awful things are?

FB_IMG_1463360088510He smiled sadly but had no response. And I realized that no matter how “good” we are, it is necessary to study the nature of reality and to contemplate its great truths, or we will drive ourselves and others mad, by dwelling on the millions of dire possibilities that could further overturn our fragile lives. I felt I could advise him only because, in my early life, although I was bright and funny and intelligent on the surface, had you known me well, you might have pegged me as the planet’s number one worry wart, always drowning in misery. In fact I worried so much that I was forced to find ways to escape my own sick thinking. These methods worked for a while, but the anxiety was at best suppressed and inevitably came back to vicious roaring life.

Over two thousand years ago, Gautama Buddha gave us his Noble Truths—the first one being that life is suffering. Now suffering in this context includes, but is not limited to, the great agonies of hanging bleeding on a cross, with callous soldiers laughing at our pain and sticking us in the side with sharp swords, or the usual boring pains of old age, sickness and death. Here is an example of suffering from the classical Buddhist texts: you are on the road and terribly hungry. You are an hour away from a dear friend’s home who always happens to be a great cook. You call her and beg her to make your favorite meal. “I’ll be there soon,” you say, and she is thrilled.

She loads up a big plate with delicacies as you sit impatiently at her dining table. You finish every delicious speck and rub your tummy with satisfaction. But she is already piling more onto your plate and insisting you eat—she has cooked too much, she explains, and doesn’t like leftovers. To please her, you force yourself to eat a second serving, but she won’t stop loading more on your plate and finally you protest violently: if I eat another spoonful, you warn her, my tummy will burst! You lean back against the comfortable chair, swollen, lethargic and nauseous—and you realize, to your amazement, that your greedy anticipation of just an hour ago has already turned into the suffering of acute indigestion!

So suffering is a host of things. It is being forced to wait for a friend on a busy street, it is impatience, it is anger, it is jealousy, it is getting what you don’t want, and not getting what you want. It is frustration because as hard as you work, you can never have more than your neighbor, or win the beautiful man or woman you adore, or realizing that you will never be gorgeous and talented enough to succeed as the big screen actor you long to be. Oh yes, suffering covers the gamut of unsatisfactory conditions, and no one but no one escapes its slimy tentacles.

Fortunately Gautama does not stop here—he goes on to speak of the other truths, the cause of suffering and finally the end of suffering. Yes, there is a way out—but how is this wonderful man, who worries all the time, and is so steeped in personal misery that the entire screen of his life is covered up with his seemingly insurmountable problems, to ever know that such a highway to happiness and peace exists?

1165311e076f9fab8a6e2f39ba6df8caFor me, the road to peace and happiness was long and tortuous and involved sitting humbly at the feet of many great eastern teachers, and studying and practicing as if my butt was on fire. But once I digested the teachings on karma and reincarnation, life actually began to make some sort of sense to me. And once I accepted that some form of mystical logic does rule our lives, I was free to delve even further into the treasure chest of ancient wisdom and to accumulate sharp and shining tools to slice through all my seeming problems. And this is how I cut to the underbelly of being, which mystics and seers claims is no less than pure existence-awareness and bliss.

This subject is so vast and exciting that it is impossible to cover it in a few posts or essays, which is why I write spiritual fiction. I endeavor to make my novels read like fascinating parables; the reader does not have to struggle to learn anything—the teachings are embedded in these sagas, and so are painlessly digested. In this way, I give back what I was so generously given to me. I am well aware that most of our world is not interested in what I have to say, perhaps simply because thriving materially is the major task on their agenda. Still, I recognize this as my dharma, one reason why I incarnated, and so am content to keep doing what I do.

Back to this man, who has made an appointment with me for this afternoon, claiming he wants to learn a few simple truths he can apply to his situation and so find relief from his intense anxiety. Mahamudra, I think, would serve him well; this is an ancient teaching on the nature of relative reality, easy to understand and hard to refute, for each one of the seven steps deals with relative life as it is, beginning with the inherent imperfection and impermanence of all created things. I have taught this simple analytical meditation to friends and small groups of genuine seekers all over the world, and I hope he will “get” it, because he is certainly worth my time. I like him instinctively and know his heart is good. Besides, unwilling as he appears to be to formally read or study, he may well die never knowing that there is a golden way out.

Ramana Maharshi, the great sage of Tiruvannamalai, has been a great light in my life. One of the many things he taught me (nothing new here, these truths have been the bedrock of eastern philosophy for thousands of years) is that our true nature is peace and happiness. I listened to him only because I knew he was a sage and could not lie. Just as in the mundane world it is hard to find an essentially good human, so too it is hard to find a guru who is a blazing jewel, who will never ever lead you astray, and who is willing to share the wisdom that will surely take you all the way up the mountain. After a lot of work and effort, I know today that Raman only speaks the naked truth. Why am I convinced of this? Simply because the worry wart I was, who chased ephemeral pleasures to hide from angst (not just about my concerns, but about the world in general) has transformed into a woman who lives more or less in peace, and who is, despite occasional eruptions of anger and frustration, deeply happy.

Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who works with us as we shed our delusions and leads us to the immortal bliss of our true nature!
These are posts you might enjoy:

Two Great Truths of Absolute and Relative Reality – Posted on September 4, 2015

Dying Every Single Day for Months in Manhattan… (May 1, 2015) 

Mahamudra, The Great Seal – Samsara’s Seven Flavors #3/12 (Oct 14, 2013)

If you’ve enjoyed reading my posts, please also check out my BOOKS and LINKS.

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