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Archive for February, 2008

Relationships.

Who is the other? Or is it I forever relating with myself through others? Is there a purpose why we meet? Why the pull? What is unfinished karma? What is the clearing that takes place when there is someone with whom we are relating? There must be some reason why we have come together? And then we draw apart? What is completing a cycle? What is it that keeps us together? What is permanence? What is the alchemy of love?

I don’t know.

I am not visiting this lifetime to find answers. If there are questions, there will be answers to them. Often the question holds in itself the answer as well, like a seed holds in it the whole tree. My reason for this visit is clear to me – I have come to clear my Path. I need to be free of past baggage and so on hindsight I look at my life and know that I have been doing just that throughout. Sometimes with awareness, most times without. Only when I choose to look back I am aware of how I have been choosing every episode, person, circumstance to serve this purpose. I chose my parents. I am deeply proud of my mother for her spirit and my father for the art of renunciation. Together, the exact mix of being completely involved and being totally distanced at the same time came to me as genetic inheritance. I can’t be anything else.

So the road has been strewn with many lovers and many Masters. Unfinished karma from past lives. How can I see myself if I was not facing a mirror? Similarly, how can I see my own realities unless I am with lovers who reflect your own reality and Masters who put me on the Path again? This process gave rise to real aspirations. My Masters become my doorway. The relationships gave me reflections of myself but my Masters gave me the technique to look into myself, gradually distancing my Self from myself. As if the Self was separate from myself. It is the finest art I learnt to do in this lifetime. I had learnt from being a student of philosophy that the Self was different from myself. My Masters taught me how.

Distancing is such a wonderful art. It needs skills I could not have learnt in any classroom except the school of life. The first whiff came by, when I received a letter from my first love in school saying she was going to marry soon. But I thought ” She said she wanted to spend her entire life with me! What happened?” Days were spent in early college when I pondered over declarations without explanations. I sat for long periods of time at Marine Drive in Bombay just looking out at the sea. Something about water – it washes out everything. I could be like a boatman sitting on his anchored boat on the banks – just sitting there watching! Watching! Watching! The waves cleared my cobwebs and I had the first experience of sitting in a large meadow in my mind, so far in a little chair that I thought if I really had to see myself in my mind, perhaps I would have to use binoculars! The first love remains with you for life. So does the first rejection. How you handle it makes or breaks your life. I had already started my journey to my Self.

He had to be a different kind of man and if he did not know the concept of space how was he ever going to address where I was already. He had all these and he had more! He had traveled through rejection not looking at the Arabian Sea. He had a Master already. We were by then identifiably soul mates. Our values were the same. We spoke the same language. It was bound to happen. But what was shocking to me – I was converting to his Master. I had no religion I could say I had allegiance to. I could not bear temples, God-men and temple pundits. They made me feel nauseous. I did not have a strand of religiosity in my body. I still don’t but this Master took me on a different journey – from reading of Buddha as a student of philosophy, he taught me the art of meditation as taught by Buddha. I could bear this, even love it. Buddha was an agnostic. So He was acceptable to me. He had a method to go beyond, pleasure and pain establishing the transitoriness of everything and changing realities. Nothing was forever. Change was the only permanent thing. Just a simple formula – be watchful. Meeting with this Master, made all relationships after that like water down a duck’s back. However, as long as I am in the body, I do not know how my desires will drive my body but I can surely say that all relationships are a fresh look at myself and all Masters are a door to the divine.

Where I stand today, I have focus and a friend, philosopher and guide whose drive and search is deeper than mine and she has taken it on herself to make me walk the Path with her. That is her only concern. I have finally come home after travelling over many roads, my feet tired and my soles torn. Yet I have not dropped my mother’s spirit of absolute involvement and my fathers armour of worldly distance and renunciation. I am in the body and weary of my long stay at the Master’s House, the office romances and Yogi, even Kolkata are a must to my life. They all reflect my own reality and without their presence I would never know my truth, my inner Self. Without a mirror it is impossible to see my real face.

No water; no moon.

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A soft tap on my shoulder pulled me out of the pages of the book I was reading at the Manny’s Book Store in Pune. It was late evening and I had returned to that city to take a longish break and complete a painting lying the in attic of a dear friend. I turned around and looked at the face staring down at me. Soft aquiline features of the face were framed in a cascade of salt and pepper hair falling from the head to below the shoulders, gently covering the well-formed breasts of a woman, not more than forty-eight years ofage. I searched my mind – she looked familiar, but….

She smiled. The laugh lines on either side of her mouth looked sad to me.

” Sagar….” she said. ” Remember we met at Prem’s a couple of years ago?”

How could I forget! ” Of course I remember you! How have you been?” I said looking at the book in her hand.

” Pretty good really” She said with another smile that could have melted the Book Store.

” So what are you reading” I asked.

” Inheritance Of Loss by Kiraaaan Desaaaay”

” You are not planning to buy it, are you?” I asked quickly.

” I thought I might….it’s won the Booker”.

I had to say my line –

” Oh, well! Man Booker has become a God of Small Things it seems. No literary genius this! Buy the last one, if you must, God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. That really was a literally genius”.

She bought Arundhati Roy. We moved out of the Book Shop. ” So what are you doing for the rest of the evening? Any plans?”

” Not really. I am here on a holiday to complete a painting. Just thought I would like to revisit the past….?

She looked questioningly at me and then said, ” Would you like to come home with me? I have some lovely tea from Darjeeling!”

Oof! The romance of tea! It’s something I can’t resist. ” Thank you! That will be lovely”.

Sagar’s room, on the top floor of a building in the small inner lanes, was tastefully done with a large French window opening out to a private terrace.

” I’ll just put the kettle on.” she said trying to make me comfortable on a large cushion. I picked up the blue crystal lying on a wad of cotton wool, on the shelve, with a light bulb over it, “May I, please?”

” At night, I put all the lights out and just that one over the crystal, and the room fills with blue waves. It’s so soothing.” She said putting her hands on her heart.

I could imagine.

She returned with the tea carefully placed on a tray made of bamboo. I recognized it as Made In Meghalaya – my part of the country.

” Where did you get that from”? I said in astonishment.

” Well from the shop outside the German Bakery. They sell some great cane stuff”.

She settled down and we both looked at each other for a long time.

” You look tired and withdrawn….not like I remember you from last time” She was very observant.

” I am coming off a relationship” . I said without much ado.

” Oh? Long one?”

” No! Actually a very short one. Only three months! Yet it has been so intense for me as if it was something I have experienced for over lifetimes. I feel tired.”

The aroma of tea had already filled the room She poured out a light liquor in a fine china cup – white with a light lace of gold around the rim. I took the first sip without being invited to. Lovely! The aroma and the warm tea filled my senses.

” So tell me ……” she was saying.

I did not feel like talking about it. It was too close for me to look at it with distance. I had come to paint the pain away. I knew that when words were hard for me to speak, the brush made up for the loss of words. Colourful strokes of on the canvas always changed the picture in my mind.

” Too close to it, still. Can’t talk,” I said simply.

She began to talk instead.

” Relationships come and go. They are like boats sailing. You climb on to some. You let go of others. And you just watch some happening to others. They are both real and unreal…real because they bring you very close to yourself and unreal because, when they pass you are still left with yourself, quite untouched by what has passed”

” But they do change you don’t they?” I was sure.

” You change yourself through them.” She said thoughtfully.

Something hit me like a bolt of light. There was truth in what she was saying. So why was I passing through this mental muck, before the “sky cleared” so to say?

Sagar continued, ” We change ourselves through them”, she repeated. ” We become aware of things we did not know we were capable of. Love changes us, transforms us and takes us to places we never thought we could visit ever. Like an onion peeling off, it exposes different layers in ourselves, we did not know even existed. But the question is, why do we jump on to some boats and not others? Why?”

Suddenly, my head began to clear and I knew –

” Past connections. We have known each other before. We have a word in India for it….”

” What? Sagar was curious.

” Rinanubandh ” – when two people are ” tied ” to each other from past lives, it is called Rinanubandh. They meet because there is a thread of continuation from the past to the present and to the next if you like….”

” Interesting! So you are never out of the karmic cycle of things. You are never free of each other”.

” No, not exactly. The cycle runs itself out in time. You are attracted or call it attached to something or someone so long as the cycle of karma does not end. The moment it finishes, if you are to watch yourself, you might say to yourself – how surprising! I had a great delight for this person only sometime ago and now I am off it. The cycle has indeed completed itself.”

Sagar sat pensively looking out at the trees bending over to touch the floor of her private terrace.

” That is why I suppose, relationships are both real and unreal…real because they bring you very close to yourself and unreal because, when they pass you are still left with yourself quite untouched by what has passed.” She said finally.

” Not quite! The relationship has helped you evolve. You are not the same person, even to yourself are you?” I repeated what I had heard her say just a while ago.

” No! You are not the same person. You have changed and because you have changed, everything around you changes because your perception of things have changed”.

” In other words Sagar, the outside only reflects what is inside of us. Time is not the essence; it could take only three months to come to the same results…..”

” …..or nine years, as it did in mine!” Sagar concluded.

I looked at her again deeply, as I now knew why the laugh lines on either side of her mouth, looked sad to me. Sad because they had a history of tears behind them and yet they did not affect the serene beauty of her face. The feminine quality of sadness had in fact enhanced her already far away, distant looks of Enya’s country.

Growth, is such a beautiful thing to happen to you!

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If only I could love you less, I would not have waited a thousand years for you.

If you look at the map of Tibet or you search the net to find Laipei, you can’t. It is too insignificant a place, too small, to be placed on the map and yet, for both of us it has been so eventful. And we have held it in our hearts for all these years because there was a longing we could only touch, but not explore, a happening, we could not submit to totally and a desire, we could not fulfill. It was a veil cast over our souls that took us a thousand years to unveil, but we both know in our hearts that over each lifetime, we have been searching to find each other….and perhaps we did in one way or the other. But in this lifetime, we remember the spell we cast on each other, binding us over lifetimes….

If only.

The monastery with its thick high walls could not keep us from seeing each other every morning when we went for the prayers. The thick mist in the early morning, the nip in the air could not stop us from the instant warmth we felt when our eyes fell on each other, for that one brief moment, before we were inside the common hall for the early morning prayers. That one moment we held for the rest of the day and night, until again we saw each other the next day. One moment stretched to the length of sunrise to sunset – to sunrise again. Yes, I know the pain of longing. I know the attitude of quiet surrender in waiting ….I have known it for so many years. So I knew it when I saw your eyes, only for a brief moment; they held the quiet, yet restless hours of the night because they lay like deadpan in the crater of their sockets. These endless hours of the night were like eons for both of us.

Then one day as you passed, I saw you drop a piece of paper on the ground. I knew it was for me. That morning’s prayer for me was pitched on the paper lying outside the hall. I picked it up on my way back to my room. Inside, I opened it to find your name. You had written it out for me.

That was it! All my chanting changed words. But for one word, which was your name, my mind forgot all other words. Day and night, in prayer and in worship, walking or in work, in sleep or in wakefulness, only one word, your name. I was full of it. My body languished without food. I was not hungry. My belly was full – full of you. Every word escaped my thoughts, save your name. It was easier to listen to others, than to talk. What is my language, I often asked myself? What to say? From one dawn to the other and to the next, I saw only the vision of your face and I chanted the Word. Then again I saw the anguish in your eyes one day….I knew it then…I had traveled that path. Next day I dropped a piece of paper on the ground just as you had done and I knew, even as we sat in prayer, your mind would be outside the hall, just as was mine. When I left the hall that day, the paper was gone and from the look in your eyes the next dawn, I knew your mind was fixed on one word too, like mine – my name, which you had now read on the paper. I knew it was growing in you and somewhere in the depth of the night, as if concealed from the watchful eyes of the other monks, our chanting met each other – my name in your mind and yours in mine.

Such passions cannot go unnoticed. They found out and the monastery was full of gossip. Wherever I went I was looked at with disapproval. I had broken the law. I had not. We were not to blame. Our hearts knew no rules and they lived without a boundary. They were free. They would have met anyway.

The day of the last judgement was not too far.

Both of us were out. The cold morning air outside the prayer hall could not penetrate our bodies thrown close together about a hundred feet away from the gates of the monastery. Two humans who had been cast inside the walled monastery at Laipei were now outcast from the inner safety of a monks’ life and thrown to the ways of the world. We did not know what it entailed but no sooner we were faced with ourselves, all hell broke lose.

Entangled in each other’s arms, our bodies tout with passion, we became one and inside each other. Our boundaries were lost forever. Our fingers intertwined; our energies locked as one….the shivering cold of Laipei’s winter and the frosty floor of the earth on which we lay burnt with fire emitting out of our bodies and the whole cosmic journey was made in these single moments, stretching and intermingling and dissolving into each other. I heard you cry, ” Just once call out my name….Speak! I want to hear you call my name….” My mouth opened to voice the Word…my breath came to my aid and I uttered only the first syllable ” Mi..” and your mouth was on mine, inhaling my breath with your name on it… our bodies now breaking into a throbbing presence, our minds, finally, finally leaving each other in the outbreak of convulsions that brought us back to ourselves only….together, yet so far inside our own selves, jointly meeting the cosmic throb inside and around us.

And in that moment, a sharp pain pierced our hearts…. a stabbing pain of a sword driven through us. We have been stabbed. And although, our bodies are now loosening out, our mouths still hold each other. We are still throbbing inside each other. And slowly…….ever so slowly, our breath still holding us as one, we ebb out like the receding waters of a sea, when the tide goes down.

*************************

” …lereppa”, I say, like a person coming out of a coma, completing your name where I first left off, that fatal morning when we died in each other’s arms. ” Milereppa.” I whisper to you as my friend, unaware of the past we have held together, introduces us to each other.

It is not a coincidence. Nor a chance happening that I have met you again after all these years, here at the IIC. With every passing day, we have been drawing closer to each other, one step at a time, one day at a time, our hearts knowing that there is that one person we are looking for, very close to us. We have known, even before we came to Kumkum’s birthday party today, that tonight we will be giving birth to a new day in our lives. That is why no matter what it took of us to be here, we have both arrived.

” How do you know his name? Have you met before? Do you know each other?” I heard my friend ask in amazement.

Neither of us said anything.

Sometimes the best answers are silent.

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Smriti lay tossing and turning in her bed. She was not awake but she was not in deep sleep either. In fact she was dreaming. She was having a dream within a dream. In her dream she had woken up with a shock, finding herself in a public area, right in the middle of a market place, completely naked. She was aghast. People were jeering at her. She looked here and there, but nowhere could she see any of her clothing. She tried to hide her body placing her hands over sensitive parts but to no avail. If she hid this part, she was exposed there. And in this struggle, she woke up with very anxious over her state. Awake, she searched her body and was relieved to find herself fully clad.

On her journey to Badrinath, by a path less traveled on foot from Rishikesh, Mokshaprana Mataji decided to do it alone as others she had invited to join her on this pilgrimage dropped out at the last moment. It was in fact a difficult trip and the ladies had all decided to dress as men. Mokshaprana Mataji was biologically a woman, but could cover up as male as she had a shaven head and smaller breasts. The decision to travel in the garb of a man was to keep away from danger of other male pilgrims or bandits if any on the way. She decided to keep a Vow of Silence all the way to Badrinath in order to conceal her true identity further. She began one early morning on her month long journey. On the route she shared the resting space with many pilgrims, men at large, in the night. No one knew or ever suspected her real sexual identity. After travelling many days, ultimately, she came upon one single small room which could be locked from inside. She decided that she was going to spend the night alone. But at about 8 p.m., there were a few knocks on the door. She did not respond. Then there were more. Ultimately there was banging – ” Open the door! We need to also come in and rest” screamed the men outside. Mataji was scared. What was she going to do now? If she opened the door they would certainly inspect her body with their roving eyes, all the more, and perhaps her sexual identity would be revealed. She resorted to the only protection she knew; she began to pray for the mercy of her Guru. After sometime, she heard a voice of a man – ” Why are all of you shouting. Maybe the sadhu inside is in meditation. There is a big hall in at the top of the hill just a few metres away. Come there”. The noise subsided. The men had gone.

That night, Mataji struggled with her feminine identity even though she had planned to cover it with a male one.

In both the cases above, there is a fear of the body being structured in a certain way, female, and therefore preempted as being either shameful of something that must be protected from being abused by men. In the dream, Smriti is full of shame as she sees herself completely naked in front of people in the middle of the market place. And in the case of Mokshaprana Mataji, it is preempted that should her female identity be revealed to the male pilgrims, she might have to face harm, abuse from the fellow travelers.

In both cases here is an attachment to the female body as it appears biologically and a need to hide it or protect it from harm.

Freudian Interpretation of dream:

Smriti’s ” clothings” are symbolic. They are clothing she has put on as a member of society. These are norms and rules that have been put on her by society – How she must dress, what she must wear, how she must present herself in public and so on and so forth. These rules have been constructed by society in order to keep her under their control ( See the endless list on
http://blanknoiseproject.blogspot.com/2006/03/spill.html ) In order to be acceptable in society, she must conform. In fact, she has begun to believe all these things about herself. She may not even feel complete unless she has all these clothing on. If she fails, she will be an outcast and she will have to shrink from public eyes, because she would be ashamed to face it without these clothing. She will be the point of ridicule. People will laugh at her. She shares in common with society at large, her attachment to these norms. They have become her identity, her social self. Her individuality is lost. In the dream, the shame and the fear caused in her is reflective of a breakdown of what is expected of her by society at large.

The Spirit is Sexless. It is neither man nor woman. It has no biological features that can distinguish it as man or woman. Gender is a social construct. It is a set of norms, do’s and don’t that society has created both for men and women. Only when we conform, we are acceptable to society. The first fear that society instills upon women, is fear and shame over their bodies. Therefore even a Brahmachari like Mokshaprana Mataji, who has in fact cast away all her belongings and left behind the materialist world to join the order of women pravrajikas is still carrying within her the fear and the shame of her body. First by dressing as a man to avoid harassment from men and second actually experiencing the fears around her safety (read body) at that room along the journey to Badrinath. It has been cemented into the minds in such a way, right from birth, that it has become the first nature.

The real nature, the real truth, the real existence of that, which lives beyond our lives and our deaths, is truly never born, never dies. It has no gender, no sexuality. It was always there and no matter whether we are here to agree or disagree, accept or reject, it goes on forever. It is a given. Always there. It is never born and therefore cannot die. It cannot be constructed nor deconstructed. It is beyond all these petty considerations.

The Spirit, the Self, the Essence of our existence is sexless, neither man nor woman. Nor any other emerging sexual identity.

Never. Ever.

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Rows of drawers, intersected by tables and chairs, fill my dream screen. I open one and taking off my diamond earrings from my ears, place them inside one of these drawers, taking care that it is at the bottom of the drawer, underneath some papers. When I come to look for it later, I am unable to locate the exact drawer in which I have placed it. I look all over the place, even take help of my colleague, but I cannot find the ring. I give up knowing it will be impossible for me to find it, in these rows upon rows of drawers, since I cannot tell in exactly which one I have placed the earring. I am also aware that even if someone else has found it quite by mistake, they will have taken it. In other words, I have lost my diamond earrings to someone else. I touch my ear lobes and yes, it is not there.

On his parikrama of the Narmada, Swami Buddhananda comes across a poor couple living in a thatched house. As all people are, all along the route, they are very keen to feed the yatris, the pilgrims. On a parikrama of the Narmada, no food, or money, no extra clothings are allowed to be taken along. One has to live in total surrender to NarmadeMata to provide whatever is needed. The poor couple are unsure weather the Swami will finally eat food prepared by them. The Swami agrees to accept their offer. A meal is prepared and with great shraddha, Swami ji is fed. After he has partaken of the food, he gets to know that the poor couple are Muslims. Swami Buddhananda, born to a very religious Brahmin family from Karnataka, gave up his worldly ego-centered life to pursue a God-centered life while still in his youth and from being a bramacharya, he was ordained into sanyassa after many years under the vigilant eyes of his Guru. For a second, just for a few moments, Swami ji is a bit shaken. Has he now polluted his superior birth as a Brahmin by eating food cooked by a Muslim, that too on a holy mission like, NarmadaParikrama? But he is in a fix only for those moments; it quickly dawns to him, he is a Sannyasi and a sannyasi has no caste; no creed, he is beyond it all. He drops the idea and moves on with gratitude in his heart for the poor couple who so lovingly fed him with a meal.
In both the cases above, there is a holding on to something forever. In my dream, the diamonds which is associated with “forever” and in the case of the Swami, his caste, Brahmin, something he is born as and dies with and is forever a part of his life. However, in both cases, that which is “forever, is left behind.

Freudian Interpretation of dream:

The rows of drawers are the different compartments of my mind. In some part of my mind I have stored, even hidden “something” – a feeling, incident, whatever. It is a precious gem of a memory , a something I associate with forever. However, for whatever reason, I have now lost it. I am unable to find it. It is something that has been dropped from my mind – that something, someone – I associated with the concept of forever, I have lost and most probably it has been found by someone else. I do not know the new owners, nor am I concerned. I drop the idea of trying to find what I thought to be forever mine.

Whether it a diamond or our caste, anything we hold to be permanent in our lives is only transitory. There is no way to hold on to things, they come, on a visit, they pass as they will. This is the river of life, this is the journey, the parikrama, people come, people go, things belong to us for a few moments, then we lose them or they change hand; this is ourjourney, the parikrama, with many people and things. But all are only visitors and just as surely as they came, they will also go. So are we to hold on to that which has passed. Even if we try, we cannot. It is not with us anymore. It has already gone.

A often quoted story in Buddhist circles is about these two monks who are on their way from one village to another and come across a river. They have to cross the river. It is getting late in the day, and they see that an old lady is also standing on the banks waiting to cross and she needs to be helped. The monks are in a fix. As monks they are forbidden from even look at a woman of any age, leave alone touch her. But one of the monks decides that he is not going to leave the aged woman on this bank and cross himself. He carries the woman on his shoulder and crosses the river. On arriving on the other side, he puts her down and continues on his way to the hermitage with the other monk. On arrival, the first monk relates to the others how the second monk had carried a woman on his shoulder thereby breaking his monastic vow.

The second monk listened to the first relating the story. Then he turns to him and says, ” I have left the woman on the bank long ago, but you are still carrying her in your head.”
The story is the same about everything in life; when something has completed it’s purpose in our lives it either drops out, or we drop it from our minds. There is no need to look back again. What has been left behind has ceased to be ours.

Forever.

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We are on the Ganga, mid-stream, sitting in a boat that is full of people. It is dusk. The air is heavy with sounds from the temples around. Conches, bells fill the air. In front of us the entire ghat is covered with people, waiting for the Ganga aarti. Behind us, as the golden sun is gradually receding behind the horizon, the two burning ghats on either side of the river, Manikarnika and Harishchandra throw orange flames into the sky. At the same time, the pujaris begin the Ganga aarti. Huge lamps burn and deafening sound of bhajans fill the air. We watch spell bound can there ever be such a beautiful sight on earth which at one and the same time portrays the entire gamut of human life on earth? On the one hand, the rising diya, a symbol of life and on the other, the receding sun and then the burning ghats. I sit transfixed in the moment. My grandmother died in Benaras. My surrogate father died in Benaras. I too will die in Benaras..Suddenly the scene changes and I see my partner at a Police Station. I am lost. She is looking for me. The policeman says, why are you looking for her? It is so good that she has got lost in BenarasI wake up from my dream, a little dazed.

On his parikrama of the Narmada, Swami Buddhananda passes through many jungles and has to rely on local help to sometimes find his way. Somehow, even before he asks for the help, someone comes along and helps. Swami ji is ever grateful to so many pilgrims he passes by and so many people who are poor villagers who come to his help, with food, medicine, and guidance. Throughout the parikrama, at no point are the pilgrims allowed to cross the river Narmada. They have to walk around the river if ever she comes on their way. Therefore, when Swami Buddhananda comes across three canals close to Baruch where Narmada meets the sea, he is confused as to which is Narmada. He waits for an answer. No one is around. Suddenly, from the blue, a young cowherd boy comes along and he tells Swami ji which out of these three canals is the Narmada. Swami ji goes around it and moves on in his journey.
Freudian Interpretation of dream:

In my dream, Ganga represents life and life after. I am sitting in the boat, the boat which is this earth. All the people in the boat are also fellow travelers on this journey. There is the vision of life in the burning diyas in front of me and there is the vision of a receding sun behind me. I see the burning ghats on either side. Death, here causes me no fear. It is the death of a part of me and the birth of another. The diyas are a spiritual symbol, it is the birth of a spiritual self, and the death of a ego-self I allow and see recede like the setting sun. The enquiry at the police station a symbol of authority confirms that I am lost to the life I have known, for the life I now embrace, a life I am lost in, the life of a spiritual traveler. Lost in Benaras, is only a symbol of waking up to a spiritual life, a life akin to my Higher Self.

Whether it is finding your way around the Narmada or losing your way in Benaras, the events of our lives will carry us to where we are supposed to go. Someone, somewhere, will facilitate that process and we will be lead, in spite of our selves into that path. Thus, it is better to surrender to the Will of the Higher Power within us, whether we call it God, existence, whatever. It is easier to flow with the stream than to swim against it. In that state, we are in a let go. We are not fighting with the laws on nature, our nature, and our swabhava.

A Sufi Master lived in his little hut by the river. One day, a woman he did not know or had ever seen came and left a baby at his door and then she went away. The Sufi Master, who had never ever had to look after children, was left with no choice but to look after this child left in his custody. He took on to doing that, thinking that the mother would come and take the child sometime later during the day. But the mother never came. Not today, not tomorrow, not day after. Years passed and the child grew into a lovely girl of thirteen. Now in the hut there were two people who lived the Sufi Master and this girl. One day a woman came, with tattered clothes and asked the Sufi Master for the girl she had left with him many years ago. The Sufi Master asked the young girl to come. Seeing the girl, the woman burst into bouts of loving adoration ” My child” she said, ” I have come to take you. Come with me”. And just as she had left the child with the Sufi Master without giving any explanations, she also took the child away without giving the Sufi Master any explanations. Not even a thank you. Nothing changed for the Master. Just as he had not had any child around him at the beginning; he had none now. So he just carried on with his life as he used to. Never a regret, never a question. He was in the flow of things if someone came and left something for him, it was with him; when they came and took it away, he just let it go.

The story is the same about everything in life; when we are ready to move into the next groove in our lives, we simply must go with the flow. There is no need to look back again. Just let go and go with the flow.

Always.

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Subbamma was born to traditional Brahmin family in Tamil Nadu with a major problem. She had no hair on her head. And it never grew through out her life. After the passing away of her parents, Subbamma joined the order of the nuns. The terrible shame with which she had lived in her small village where they nick named her “mottai” the bald one, had come to an end. Here she was in the midst of men and women, all with shaven heads. Subbamma was at peace at last. However, the recurring dream she had from her early childhood never left her. In the dream, she always saw herself with long, jet-black hair being pursued by a nai a barber, who came menacingly, with a pair of scissors, to cut her hair off. Subbamma found herself running away from him as fast as her legs could carry, but invariably, he would catch up with her, and just at that moment, her heart racing, Subbamma would wake up. Her hand would go to her head and she would remember for the ” n” th time, that she had never had any hair on her head in the first place.
On the Narmada Parikrama, one has to pass through a place called Shulpaneshwar ki Jhari. The importance of this place dates back to the Mahabharata, when the Pandavas returning victoriously from Kurukshetra were interjected in Shulpanewswar by the Bhils, a tribe living there, lead by Eklavya *. They were ripped off all their belongings and all the loot. It is now a ritual that anyone going on a Narmada Parikrama has to pass through this place. Here, the pilgrims are again stripped of all their belongings, leaving them with the bare minimum to carry on till they receive the grace and dana from someone else. Unfortunately, today due to the Sardar Sarovar Dam, the entire area along with the Shulpaneshwar Temple has gone under water, forcing the pilgrims to take a circuitous route to continue on their journey.

Fortunately, when Swami Brahmananda did the Narmada Parikrama, Shulpaneshwar was very much there. Travelling with Swami ji was a man from Gujarat. On his neck, he wore a thick gold chain, which his son had presented him with. He was naturally very attached to it. This Gujrati man was aware that the tribes do not touch any of the puja samagri. Therefore, he put his gold chain in the kamandalu (small jug) containing water from the Narmada. When they were interjected, he told the Bhils not to touch his kamandalu. Of course, that caused suspicion among the Bhils, since any way the kamandalu is taken among the puja samagri and they would not have touched it normally. Instead, now, they grabbed it from him and there, at the bottom lay the gold chain. The man lost the gold chain to the Bhils. His kamandali was returned to him and he had to proceed on his journey.

In both the cases above, there is an effort to hold on to something that is not there in the first place, like Subbamma’s effort to hold on to hair on her head, which in fact she has only in her dream and never in reality. Or the Gujrati man holding on to the gold necklace, which has been acquired and is not something, that has always been there from the time of his birth.

Freudian Interpretation of Dreams:

Subbamma’s hair is akin to the social norm that women must have long black hair to be acceptable and feel beautiful. Therefore she craves social acceptance in her dream where she sees herself as a woman with long jet black her. The black in the hair is symbolic of something hidden, something concealed, a secret she guards. But since that secret is based on a false assumption,she battles with her conscience, to keep her desire to see herself as a woman with long hair. And fails. In her world of dreams, she at least has one of the important elements that give her recognition and approval of being in the body a woman, with long, jet-black hair. It is as if she is negotiating with two persons within herself. One, her social being, the other is the nai the barber, her own reality, which stands for Truth. Truth overrides falsity. She always wakes up to realize that, what she is afraid to lose, has never been hers in the first place.

We are what we think we are. We are what society wants us to believe is our identity. We are seekers of approval as long as we live in society. Even when we change our set of circumstances and follow another social group, like changing over to join a spiritual order, we are hounded by what was imposed upon us, norms from our lives, before sannyas. Additionally, in time, we also generate a different set of norms that we must follow in order to be acceptable in the new social group. And in both states we are forever, trying to hold on to things that are not essential to that life, because we have attached or society has taught us to attach value to some things. Whether, it is the non-existent hair on Subbamma’s head, or the thick gold chain on the Gujrati mans neck, all is superficial and redundant to life itself. Truth cannot be concealed.

The Self has no hair. It wears no clothes. It cannot be adorned with jewels. It is naked of all falsities, all lies and all belief systems. Self is Truth. And it cannot be labeled or structured to fit into our concepts of how things must look or be. It is colourless. Without odour. Without speech. It is – Our Original Face.

*
Eklavya was that poor boy who learnt archery all by himself. Dronacharya, the Great Teacher of the Pandavas, of the royal family to with Arjun belonged, was his student. Since Eklavya was a poor tribal boy, he was refused any teaching or training from Dronacharya. The story goes that Eklavya made an image of his Master, Dronacharya and leant the fine art of archery all by himself. He later went to Dronacharya and as Guru dakshina, Dronacharya asked for the thumb of his right hand, making it then impossible for Eklavya to ever fight a battle and win.

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