Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The absent colours of Advaita

How hard can you be hit by Love?

Sometimes I forget the name of the beloved. Sometimes I forget that white has all colors in it. Sometimes I confuse white with black. Yesterday I forgot that my Guru has a teaching.

Everyone, including a pup, has a mind. Ok, some people may have a worn-torn bundle of thoughts which they drag along, but hardly ever is it empty.

We were sitting on the lawn of her home, seeking answers from each others bundles. We were trying to understand 'the individual's responsibility' in a world where God does everything.

'So Ramesh does not ask you to be mindful, to be aware?', she asked. (Read Ramesh Balsekar, advaita teacher in Mumbai.)

'Nope.' I replied.

'Then he must be a jerk.' she said.

'Well. You could call him that.' I said, half conscious.

'Then even you are a jerk.'

'I maybe.'

On my way home, the tube light lit. Ramesh does have a teaching. A method to understand the teaching. A spiritual practice. Just because I never questioned his basic, Fatoti theory, (short for Functioning of Totality), I never bothered to go through the doership inquiry method he prescribes. I always thought, Oh, thats for the intellectuals. I can chuck this class. I can happily go on with my life.

Being happy can lead you to being called a jerk. Which I don't mind, least of all from a friend. But my Guru, he ain't no jerk. He can talk the most head heavy seeker into silence. In hindi, bolti band karaa dena.

And the spiritual practice that he preaches, is not even compulsory. If you are used to a spiritual practice, and you want to know, 'Yes, Ramesh, I agree with you that there is no individual doer, but, till the time that this understanding reaches my gut, is there anything I can do, to ... pass the time?' (This is the politically correct approach. If you ask, can I do anything to speed up to the big E, he will say Nope. Can a particle of dust speed up to get out of the dust storm?)

Here is the doership inquiry : Take twenty minutes off, in the evening, or whenever you have the time during the day, sit in a comfortable position (not with a straight back, this is not a discipline). If you need a cup of tea, coffee to be comfortable, have it, if you like beer, you can have that too. Switch off your mobile, ensure that you are not disturbed, and go through the events, the deeds of the day. Single out a few actions that you feel proud / guilty of, that you are convinced that you have done, and find out if it was you who did them.

Well, I don't need twenty minutes. I get Fatoti out of my bundle in a second. Yes, it gets tossed and lost in the storm, but occasionally, we collide.

This is a Ramesh take on Ramana Maharishi's self-inquiry, 'Who am I ?' I am so and so because I do such and such. I am, because I do. So question what I do, and bit by bit, if you are lucky, if it is part of the Fatoti, the doer fades out and only 'I' remains.

The girl wiith black hair

This painting reminds me of a sketch I studied during the FTII days. It was a sketch of an old woman and young woman in one. A change in perspective, and the image transforms. I remember what the young woman looked like, also the older woman, but I cannot visualize them together.

This black hair girl is all cinema. Scroll down slowly and see how your perspective tracks back.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The aunties with a scooter-paster.

'Ai, can I have the scooter-paster?' asks my seven year old.

'The what?'

'The scooter - paster.' he repeats, rubbing his hands, smudged black.

'Oh, your cycle chain has come off again, right?'


'So you need the screw driver, honey, not scooter -paster.'

'Yes. Same thing. Give me fast, no. All my friends are upon my cycle. They will break the chain.'

So we go out, armed with the scooter- paster, no screw driver.

Its not the boys, but three aunties that are upon his upturned bi-cycle, pulling and pushing the chain, getting their manicured hands dirty.

Its an eerie sight, but I can stand it. These aunties look after my kid in the evenings when he cycles around the block, so I cant mess with them.

The boys, however, are distraught.

'Mummy, please. You will break the chain.'

'Auntie please. We will go to the cycle repair shop.'

'Don't pull so hard, auntie. You will break the chain.'

The mostly dormant feminist in me suddenly awakens.

'Don't worry boys. Let them do the job. Cycle chains don't break so easily. Move away.' I say.

Within two minutes the chain is back in its place. And boy, are we aunties proud of ourselves.

I invite the aunties home to wash their hands, but they decline. I suspect they want to show off the mehendi to their husbands.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

An intimate adventure

How would I feel, if I suddenly find myself all alone, deserted, and not know my way home?

Those carefree days, when I was hippying around near Dharamshala, in Himachal Pradesh. The rainbow camp, where we cooked our own food and slept in tents. I forget the name of the hot springs, but I remember the light colors of stones in the clear waters. The river flowing down from the not so distant Himalayas, the smell of fresh wild flowers. The chanting of the gayatri mantra with fellow devotees, while we were clearing up the mess, burning the waste.

'Om Bhu Bhuvaswaha. Tat savitur Varenyam. Bhargodevasya dhimahi. Diyo yonah Prachodayat.'

Somehow, the crowd dispersed, somehow I landed on a footpath in the late afternoon, my shoes wet from the river, the backpack heavy with the woolens. How could they go off without me? There were more than three groups, and each must have thought I am with the other.

I was all alone in the middle of God knows where, there was not a soul in sight, not even a stray dog. It was around four, which gave me a couple of hours to find civilization. I had two choices. To walk up the road or down. Down was the camp we had just vacated, up I could see the glorious Himalayan peaks.

It was scary, to be lost in such a vast space. But I was also thrilled, this was a first in life moment. This is something every person must experience at least once in her life. To be lost in nature.

I started walking up. No sound, other than the breaking twigs under my feet. A silence throbbing with itself. A silence lovelier than music. The entire universe was so silent, so aware, so enlightened.

After a few minutes, the fear left as the awareness enveloped me. All the trees, the sunlight, the valley below, the mountains above, the very air, were showering on me something that felt very protective. I realized that I had never felt so free and so safe in my entire life.

After a couple of hours the landscape opened up, the road widened, the trees receded and as the sun turned crimson, the fear came back. Alone and lonely interchanged, as the angels went off duty, for a tea break.

Angels have a bird eye view, and must have seen the approaching Bus from the other side of the mountain. Can any other sound be as heartening to a woman lost on an unlit highway? And how beautiful to hear it's low grr at first, and slowly the volume goes up and two stars appear in the distance and become bigger like moons and then blazing suns.

The Bus stopped and I hopped on. A combination of emotions flooded me. One was relief, thank God, and a vague sense of regret for end of the intimate adventure with silence.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A dream flying away...

Was it not King Janaka who went nuts trying to answer this question : Am I the butterfly who is dreaming that I am a King?

In my dream last night I told myself that I must blog this. That this is as true as it gets.

I was flying, well, not exactly. There was a rope attached to the top of the building, and I was swinging, like spider man, all over the place, with grace, confidence, and, utter joy.

Then, within the dream, arose a memory, in the shape of another dream, of a past where I have flown over clouds, sans rope. All it took was intent, and up....I bounce, tree-tops tilting down.

Flying dreams are gifts, hugs from the dream angel. I wonder if I will ever meet him to say thank you.

I did meet his sister yesterday, when I was watering plants on a large plot of land in the university campus. Maybe he was also around, and heard my singing...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Gandhiji comes to the mountain

I dug out my copy of 'Living by the words of Bhagwan', by David Godman, a book where years ago I read about Gandhiji's visit to my favorite place, Tiruvannamalai.

Either it was some other book, or I missed looking at the very page that Gandhiji came to the mountain. The good part of any research activity, and that includes looking for your keys, is that you find many things you did not expect. And sometimes they are so interesting, so beautiful, so soothing, you forget what you were looking for.

'The Guru's grace,' says Ramana Maharashi, the sage of Tiruvannamali, 'befalls on him who, in his previous births, has gone to many holy places for long periods of time. By this virtue alone he develops faith in the Guru.'

Faith in the Guru happens when there is faith in the teaching. A teaching so simple, so straight, so quickly rejected by the intelligent, so quickly accepted by the devotees, so easily forgotten by the do-gooders, and so sadly misinterpreted by the fundamentalists.

Was it class three or four, that I had a subject called community living at school. In the book, there was one sentence that writ itself on my heart.

God is everywhere!

And so there was no arguing with Ramesh when he said,

All there is, is Consciousness

in other words,

Everything happens by the will of God.

Back to the book. An old man, about to die, scared to die, comes to Ramana .

Old man: I am a sinner! I am going to go to hell! Bhagwan, do something! I don't want to go to hell.

Ramana: I am there too.

Thus the leela goes on. God is everywhere but he (and she), seeks himself, over and over again, through the seekers.

Annamalai swami, on whom the book, 'Living by the words of Bhagwaan', is written, is a life long disciple of Ramana. Without any formal training in building, Annamalai built the Ramana ashram. Ramana designed the space, Annamalai swami gave shape to his dreams. His excuse to live in the proximity of his master, manifested itself in the making of a temple.

He remembers ( I remember), when Gandhiji visited Tiru. Ramanashram is situated on the outskirts of the town. So if there was any happening event in town, news would trickle to the ashram. Gandhiji is in town! He will be passing by the gate of the ashram in his jeep!

All the ashramites, accept Bhagawan, flock to the gate. Annnamalai swami crosses the road, to
get some breathing space, I guess. He sees Gandhiji sitting by the driver in the open jeep (probably doing his Pradakshina on four wheels).

Annamalai swami joins his hands in greeting. Gandhiji returns the gesture, his face breaking into that heart-winning smile of his. The jeep passes by. Annamalai feels an anticlimax.

'Why didn't Bapu come and meet you?' he later asks Ramana.

'Probably because God has other plans for him,' answers the wise one.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

An Afghan student is about to be killed

A young Afghan student, about 21 years of age has been sentenced to death for circulating an article that criticized fundamentalist's misrepresentation of Islam to justify women oppression.

The Afghan Senate has already declared a motion to confirm the death sentence and clerics are demanding his execution to be held as soon as possible. Please, there still is a possibility of overturning this sentence if the international community puts pressure on the Afghan government. If we collect enough signatures, we can compel the UK Foreign Office to intervene before it is too late.

It only takes a second. To sign the petition, CLICK HERE

You can read the story in the Independent: CLICK HERE

This was the forward that I forwarded to all my contacts. Since I have a secret blogging address (which I used when I used to blog from my work pace ), the mail got posted in my blog too.

What I would really like to know is that, do these forwards really work?

I mean, will this Afgan live?

And, how will I ever know of it?