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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THE OLD MAN AND THE MISCHIEVOUS CHILD

e86345da08c09d1879f0e7eda3a5e911Although the way up the Mountain of Oneness can involve some pretty rugged terrain, and one stumbles every now and again, and even gets lost in the thickets of strange new concepts and terms, eventually the journey becomes smooth, pleasurable and easy.

Bizarrely enough, all you have struggled to absorb and to practice is now spontaneously jettisoned or distilled into a living inner truth. Some call this cultivating the “view,” and I like this term since that is exactly what we do when we turn decisively into the interior and develop new ways of seeing and being.

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

Now, for as long as we are totally identified with samsara (relative reality, considered “unreal” in Advaitic terms since it is ephemeral), we will continue to spin in the mad roaring vortex of primal confusion. But once we step out of the dream (and this dream includes the three states of waking, sleeping and dreaming) and enter Turiya (the fourth state of blissful non-duality), the Sakshi or Witness wakes up.

The process is quite fascinating—what once used to drive us up the wall, what we once took with deadly gravity because it threatened our identity, now becomes mostly funny and interesting, for the Witness is an aspect of the eternal Self and nothing can negatively impact it.=

8b0491b2a715579b114da4fdb36d7daaImagine watching a fascinating movie—you enjoy it, and empathize with the trials and tribulations of the hero, but you do not take the plot personally, do you? You may even identify yourself with a character in the movie, but once you leave the theater, it is easy to drop the role, right?

This is how it is for the advanced seeker on the path of moksha. At some point, the Self wakes up with an exultant roar and begins to watch, with amused curiosity, the Ego building sand castles on the shifting sands of samsara. Think of the Self as an indulgent wise grandfather watching his mischievous grandson (Ego) having a blast on the beach: throwing a tantrum when a high wave rolls over his castle and reduces it to ordinary sand, or getting terribly excited and proud because a passerby assures him that his castle is the best in the whole world.

But the infant does not have to remain an infant—as she matures, she can become aware that her grandfather is really omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent, for she has noticed that, unlike her tumultuous self, he is totally unflustered by events. Weary of meaningless play, she decides she wants to be like him—and so she stops building her endless sand castles, turns her back on the craziness of external experience, and begs the old man to teach her the real meaning of existence.

The job between them is done when the two merge into One; whether it is done quickly or slowly depends on how much effort, commitment and interest she can invest in her brilliant new Moksha Project. The final ingredient for fusion, of course, is grace, and that is ever-present, although it is up to each one of us to prepare ourselves to receive its blessing.

a1bdebfedc1b5d7a87e7e2f16e9da363Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva in the form of a hill of fire and light, who is said to watch a particular soul for eons as it wanders, lost and confused in dazzling tinsel worlds, until, out of great compassion, He lassoes the soul and draws it into His fiery embrace!

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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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MELTDOWN BEFORE RAMANA

c04882f649c6e4d6bfe4fc61b45a5306Those who know me well are aware that I have an abysmally low threshold for pain of any kind. I feel terrible, not just when I suffer, but when I see other beings going through hell, whether human, animal, avian or insect. This makes mundane life extremely difficult to handle. Bad enough we are thrust into a baffling matrix without our permission, and then, if we make it through childhood and adolescence despite our ten thousand scars and wounds, we are confronted by the callous and relentless monsters of old age and death. Ghastly situation to be thrust into, eh?

Buddha’s first noble truth (life is suffering) persuades most seekers to enter the inner path. But there is a way out, the great sage went on to say, and if we cannot find it in the seeming pleasures of the external world, then the answer must lie within us. This is how it was for me—I tried everything to gain peace and joy via external means, but was finally whipped into making a sharp turnaround into my own heart. Finally I began to realize that everything the sages said about the true source of happiness being within is indeed a great truth—which does not mean all the blinders fall off our mortal eyes instantly and we float in an ocean of bliss. The process can be rapid at times, but one often hits sharp bumps in the road and learns to pick oneself off the ground and get a move on, even if we can only hobble forward.

Yesterday was Day 6 following my close encounter with a nasty wooden door that almost killed my little toe. I actually did a little hatha yoga and drove into town thinking happily that, from here on, recovery would be quick. Not so. I felt drained and sluggish, and when I dragged myself to sit before Ramana’s gorgeous portrait in the Old Hall, I was an emotional mess. Physical suffering had weakened me greatly and I had a great flash of empathy for all those on the planet who grapple with chronic pain. I wondered again why we have to suffer at all. What is the point? I cried silently out to Ramana.

13e269e7dd2189555144fd97b22322e4Tears came in a rush and I was grateful that I had found a corner where I was shielded from curious eyes. I cried silently until the emotional storm passed and Ramana watched me, as he always does, with an inscrutable smile. Once again I marveled at how he had borne with the agony of cancer for two years before his emaciated body finally passed away. Then I thought of the brilliant comet that streaked upward from his room at the exact moment of his passing to unite with Arunachala. Many had witnessed this celestial occurrence.

And what about Nisargadatta? He was more voluble about his pain, but nevertheless, he taught until the very end and was his spectacular self all the way through. And then there is me, whining about being held hostage in the house and bemoaning the loss of my usual vibrant energy. Oh well, comparisons are odious, and as my old friend Subramania (I call him my Taoist sage) said to me today as we crossed paths in the Ashram, the emotional component of pain is the worst of all. Only rarely is a Ramana or a Nisargadatta born—the rest of us must muddle through.

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All that crying must have done me a world of good because later I felt amazingly light and bright. One day, as I used to sing to myself as I danced across the wooden floor of my Manhattan apartment, I will understand the cosmic mystery and exist in pure bliss. Until then, I allow myself to feel all my feelings even as I sink deeper into the substratum that is common to all beings and which is what unites all beings into Oneness. Advaita, it is true, is not two!

Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva in the form of a hill of fire and light, who whips us when we least expect it, because he’s the omniscient master of the cosmos and knows exactly what will get us racing towards the light!

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BLIND TURTLE

093d6129aef69cc93b9491ff2145c593
It took eons for mini-me to put her baggage down
On this speeding Moksha Train Bound for Bliss;
Impossible to express this tidal wave of gratitude
Surging up from my Spiritual Heart now that I AM
In your fiery embrace, O Arunachala!
 
Namaste for teaching me how to burn this false notion of separation!
Oh yes, I am aware of how tenderly and carefully
You sent situations and humans to me
With orders to shoot a special message into my heart;
Only because I was porous with the pain,
Your celestial arrows lodged firmly in that sacred space.
 
You taught me gratitude for every little thing, “good” and “bad;”
As if I were your own precious child,
Most of all for the astonishing gift of life.
As shining beings freely shared with me their timeless wisdom,
I learned about a Blind Turtle who rests on
The bed of an ocean the size of this cosmos,
The poor creature being allowed to rise to the surface
Only once in a hundred years.
 
0d272b3f771e00afeabb9300dbfbc969
What chance of her wattled neck sliding up through
A wooden ring bobbing on the vast expanse of those choppy waters?
Slim, perhaps impossible; and yet, this great miracle has happened to all those committed
To freeing ourselves from Maya’s web of illusion.
 
You keep us moving bravely through
The often dense and terrifying darkness of samsara
By your divine assurance that once the fetters of the unreal fall off,
All that is left is the incandescent Self:
Blissful, immortal, loving, wise, fearless, connected to all beings.
 
Bhagavan RamanaHow can I thank you for loving me so intensely, O Holy Hill,
That you feel no compunction in shattering my final defenses,
Just so I can finally come to rest in the pure sunlight of Spirit?
 
*********
Also Check out – ARUNACHALA, NOT ABRACADABRA
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MY LITTLE TOE!

e86345da08c09d1879f0e7eda3a5e911Yesterday morning I was heading for my computer in a rush when I stubbed my right little toe very hard against a wooden door. The pain was excruciating. I staggered to a couch and put my feet up, stunned at how fast this “accident” had happened. I watched the poor little thing angrily swell up and turn fat and red and wondered whether I had sprained it or even broken something inside. The thought flashed that death too could come like this at any moment, swift and ruthless, sweeping me another realm without my permission.

I recalled something I had read a long time ago in the Buddhist teachings on karma: After eons of seeking, if one is blessed to finally fall into the hands of a high guru, invisible powers can transmute truly horrible karma into something much smaller and manageable. No ordinary force can erase prarabhdha karma (destiny, fate, that portion of karma projected at the moment of birth from the mountain ranges of past thought, speech and action of multitudinous past lives), but higher power can work some magic. The idea behind this great blessing is to allow us to give us the time we need to succeed in our noble goal of moksha or permanent liberation from suffering. And then I remembered one particular teaching that stated that if one was destined to hang on the gallows for committing a murder, one would merely stub one’s toe!!! How precise, I thought, with a rush of happiness; these were the exact words I needed to put my painful little crisis into perspective.

You see, I have been expecting something big to happen. In the past couple of months, two of my American friends have died suddenly and unexpectedly—one of rabies (she was bit by a puppy in northern India and didn’t think she needed rabies injections, and another of cancer—thank god the end was quick.) And hard times have visited some close friends, troubling me in the process, because it is especially difficult to see those we love suffer. And ever since I have had this lingering and creepy feeling that something “bad” was heading my way. Don’t take me now, I would plead with Arunachala, please let me finish my work, and then I promise I’ll go happily and without a fuss. (This is the result of doing a simple death meditation every day for months before I left Manhattan for the Himalayas.)

FB_IMG_1494089545295It was my guru at the time who suggested I practice this simple analytical meditation on death, because I confided my fear of leaving a comfortable home to him, and he wanted to wake me up. Death meditation, contrary to what many think, is not morbid and depressing, no. Actually it wakes us up the preciousness of life and evokes gratitude for our many blessings. I am so glad it is one of the many great foundation stones of a solid training in Eastern philosophy. (Check out: Dying Every Single Day for Months in Manhattan… (May 1, 2015))

As any serious meditator might tell you, an inner knowing comes to some of us when we commit to the highest path that we are being protected. In my case, it’s an eerie feeling, as if invisible eyes are constantly watching over me and making sure I am safe. Sure enough, I have come close to the end several times here—I am a bit of a reckless driver and like speed, while Indian drivers are notorious for their lack of courtesy on the roads. In fact, the big trucks and buses one encounters on the highway are no better than massive speeding bullies that seem not to give a damn whether they, or their passenger/victims, live or die. What’s more, a couple of years ago, I was the first “foreigner” to see girl dead on the highway that skirts my home, a young and beautiful German girl on her way to visit a friend. So of course instantaneous death is well within the bounds of probability. (Check out: Appointment with Shiva… (Aug 30, 2014) ).

Life is infinitely precious and it makes me sad to see so many extraordinarily gifted and intelligent people spinning their wheels, trying to be rich and famous or materially successfully in an ephemeral world, when it is strikingly clear to genuine seekers that we get to keep nothing when we depart for another existence. How long does it take to digest this basic truth, I often wonder?

My friend tells me some of us are lucky to be born with this seed of mystical knowing—that our true nature is Spirit, and to focus solely on mere flesh and blood is to dramatically miss the point of incarnation. Perhaps he is right, and it is only old souls who have already gone through the samsaric grind who acknowledge that the real reason we incarnate is to burn our karma and to return to the light.

303537_3128548673069_1069126392_nEastern sages call this Maya, Lila, the game of the gods, because no finite human mind can figure out why higher powers would want to hurl us into this unholy mess of relative reality, often unarmed (lacking in wisdom), and therefore a danger to ourselves and others. There is little point seeking mental answers to this celestial issue. As I used to sing to myself long ago in Manhattan, don’t worry, darling, keep working at it and one day you will know everything.

Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who helps us move decisively away from the false pleasures and traps of a changing world into that perfect and brilliant stillness that is our true nature!

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THE THIEF OF TIME

e612cdd27c8e183c26c28ebf51a483b8A middle-aged woman, who has been visiting Tiruvannamalai for longer than I have lived here, called to ask if she could visit me. She had some important questions on Advaita she thought I could answer, she said, and I grimaced, because she has done this before, and every time I make the effort to meet her (never thought early retirement could get this busy!!!) she asks me the most ridiculous questions that have little or nothing to do with Ramana Maharshi’s Direct Path, and also peppers me with infuriating personal questions.

Despite my often deliberately hard façade, I am a softie, so I said yes, and lived to regret it. It was a case of déjà vu, for she vomited up the same stupid questions. One of her major themes is that men adore her and will not leave her alone. They ogle her and distract her from her inner work, she claimed yet again.

It’s your ego, I retorted. Male attention, especially of the lascivious kind, would have absolutely no effect on you if you really understood the basis of this practice; Eastern philosophy teaches us that our body-mind-emotional system is just a valuable vehicle to carry us forward, like a good car, and should not be your sole focus. So what if they stare at you? Ignore them.

Whereupon she proceeded to violently disagree that her reactions had anything to do with her ego, and claimed that being sexy and attractive has been a great burden to her, which only made me further wince.

I told her she was lucky that I was just another seeker on the path; had she spoken in this manner to the formidable Advaita master Nisargadatta Maharaj (known as the Hammer and for excellent reason), for instance, he would have summarily thrown her out of his humble home. Do your homework before you dare to waste everyone’s time, he might have said, as he decisively turned his back on her.

Long ago in Manhattan, my guru (a brilliant Buddhist scholar) said something I never forgot. He was addressing a bunch of students with enviable jobs in Manhattan. He said: oh, so you think you’re so cool, huh? You wear black, eat at the best restaurants and think you’re on top of the world because you work for big firms.
But really, you’ll are just slaves of the system. No matter how much money you’re making right now, your long work hours leave you with little time for serious inner practice. And the one thing no one can compensate you for is your precious time. Do your inner work now, while you are still vibrant and brimming with energy. Don’t wait until you are weary, old and gray, thinking that you have to tie samsara up in pretty little packets and ensure that your dependents are well on their way before you take the path to the heart. NOW is all that matters! Tomorrow you could be dead.

Kiri 16GB sd card 6243-1After this woman left, for some reason I ruminated on the long years of my own marriage: had I wasted my time with a mate who did not share my values or goals? The answer is a strange mix of yes and no. While I can’t know what might have happened had I had a harmonious marriage with a man who supported my spiritual and creative goals, marriage to this guy taught me that no human—however handsome, rich or charming—can make us happy. Nor can anything in the external world lead us to lasting peace and joy. How can you put a price on that kind of learning?

In fact, the end of that marriage was the beginning of the deepening of my inner path, and so it was definitely not a waste of time. But, if we are stuck in painful relationships that do not change no matter, how hard we try, then we are both fools and losers. Buddhas can only point the way; we ourselves must walk the path. And, as Gautama said, your mistake is that you think you have time.

Devouring my precious time under false pretenses is perhaps the worst crime you could commit against me. Steal my flowers or my fancy new flashlight or my money, these can be replaced, but time is a fleeting and priceless commodity that cannot be returned. Only a narcissistic egomaniac chooses to believe that only his or her time is precious. When we hold others to ransom with false promises, and trap those who trust us in a juvenile web of dishonesty, we are actually doing ourselves the greatest disservice. What goes around must comes around and eventually everyone wakes up – and then it is the waster of other people’s time who is ejected forcefully to deal with his or her own bad karma.

Featured Image -- 9735Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who helps us wake up to the urgency of doing our work now, of striking while the hammer is hot, and of realizing that our true nature is immortal bliss!

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TINA & IKE TURNER

ac9a6ed443d206599b4d58f92afee35aAnna Mae Bullock was a country girl who escaped her quiet life for the big bad city in her teens and fell headlong in love with Ike Turner, a tall talented black musician with an eye for the girls—as well as an eye for pure talent. He heard Anna Mae sing and knew she was 24-carat gold. Dumping his current woman, he seduced the wide-eyed and laughing teenager, got her pregnant, gave her a new name, married her and made her a star. He also beat the hell out of her and abused her violently, for he’d started doing hard drugs and his rages were demonic and way out of control.

I watched Tina’s autobiographical movie with friends who came over to visit after my painful almost-broken toe accident. I can’t watch movies alone, so once or twice a year, I will get together with a friend/s and zone out before the screen. The first movie we watched depressed us all—a hard and gritty London-based crime movie that was violent beyond belief and ended horribly. And so, after everyone else had left, I coaxed my friend to watch the Tina movie.

Tina’s tumultuous tale brought up a lot of buried stuff within me, for things are not so different anywhere in the world. As long as ego rules, there will be hate and jealousy and violence. And if a man thinks he owns a woman, just because he gives her his name, some money or possessions, a child and a career, then there is no end to the pain and the trouble he can inflict on an innocent victim who often has nowhere else to turn.

What disturbs me is that this ugly cavalier attitude towards women is not confined to the poor and the illiterate. In fact, gender violence has little to do with money or education, although those who are in the public eye use different insidious methods to put their women down. I have seen poor (economically) men treat their wives like gold and rich men treat their spouses like offal, or even like redundant and replaceable pieces of furniture. Go figure.

8462d42e9a16bd29abeea860e3fadb6dWhat is the answer to this age-old problem? For me, it lies in the great truths of Eastern philosophy, and particularly in the wisdom that claims that what unites us into one vast and mysterious being is the common substratum of our nature (pure awareness, existence and bliss). To the one who realizes this, all relative appearances dissolve and one no longer views the world in terms of gender, status or anything else. Advaita is Not Two, and this is a mystical fact.

Back to Tina. What a hero! I said, after the movie ended (we used the forward button to move through the grisly bits when he almost kills her). Finally she left him, allowed him to keep all the money they had earned together, but fought to keep her professional name. And then she went on to become a solo star who the world loves even more today. Yes, what a hero, my friend echoed.

So many women weakly bow their heads and surrender to the bullies who make their lives hell. Even in corporate Manhattan, every now and again I would see a high-earning woman with bruises on her body and shame and pain in her eyes. Even worse, to me, is the man who hurts his wife or girlfriend in ways that are not visible: Lying, cheating, deceiving, passive-aggression, etc. All these leave deep scars on the emotional body and it is the rare woman who recognizes she is being used as a punching bag by someone with terribly low-esteem (who else would attack and harass a woman in his care but a man with no real self-respect or ethics?) and dumps him before he can crush her completely.

Bhagavan RamanaMany enjoy delving into the highest teachings of the East but don’t realize that, minus an ethical foundation and a transparent relative life, they cannot progress even an inch. The first thing we must do if we are genuine seekers is to truly learn to honor, love and respect our own selves; when this awesome work is done, or being done, we will automatically treat everyone else in the same holy and beautiful way. As Ramana said, at some point in our ascension to pure spirit, we will realize that there are no others.

Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva in the form of a hill of fire and light, who helps us destroy our darkness so that we can enjoy the infinite bliss of our true nature!

NOTE: I wrote this post ages ago: Shiva’s Spectacular Gender Divide – Part 1/6 (Jul 20, 2013)

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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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