The Unattainable One

Parvathy Baul – Wikimedia

If you want to attain 
the unattainable One,
Free yourself from all that is
Fragile and temporary.
Know yourself
.”
~ Rasika Dasa

 

In the deepest villages of Bengal, there remains today a community of vagrant singers, both mystical bards and wandering minstrels, the Bauls. For centuries they have been treading the dust of the roads, with a firm and aerial step, at the rhythm of their daily needs and highest aspirations. The term ‘baul’, derived from the Sanskrit ‘vatulā’, means ’he who is affected, or carried away by the wind’. It might also refer to the term ‘vyakula’, meaning ‘impatient eagerness for god’, or ’auliyā’, a word of Arabic origin meaning ‘holy’, ‘ascetic’. But the asceticism of the Bauls is not lost in penances and meditations, is not only about achieving the set goal. It is rather a kind of refinement in the expression of the moment, a healthy ‘madness’ expressing through dance, music, and songs, the love of the divine and the spontaneity of living. Coming from both Hindu and Muslim religions, the Bauls retain nevertheless a fierce freedom of spirit and are rebellious to any ideology, following no ritual, referring to no scriptures. They are ’outside’, offbeat, refreshing and unique. […]

Continue reading about the Bauls of Bengal… (READ MORE…)

 

Benares my Love

One day long ago, I was stopped on my way, redirected as it were. It was one morning, the time of a glorious encounter with the subtle ethers of a city. Nothing would ever be the same. But what did I know at the time?

In Benares I met the Ganges. But it wasn’t a river. It was something calm, placid, yet charged with a force and power that I had never met before. At night, the river was still not a river. It was an absence, an emptiness. It was dark. And the boats that were aligned on it were like suspended, resting, immobile, placed here by something I could never comprehend. And the waters met here secretly with silence, in the crystalline air where a bell breathed an occasional, happy tone.

In Benares I saw the sun rising. But it wasn’t a sun. It was a bath of golden light spread above the waters. It was giving and fresh like all illumination must be. It was a pointer reminding us tirelessly to turn our attention on ourselves. It was not taken for granted but received. You were being exposed, as all beliefs and limitations ought to be. And in the evening, its setting amongst the heartfelt notes of a devotional song would send shivers down your spine. Then you knew. You would come again tomorrow to be clothed by its golden light. And you couldn’t wait.

A secret meeting with the city of Varanasi or Benares… (READ MORE…)

 

The Departure

It’s that dream that we carry with us
that something wonderful will happen,
that it has to happen,
that time will open,
that the heart will open,
that doors will open,
that the mountains will open,
that wells will leap up,
that the dream will open,
that one morning we’ll slip in
to a harbor that we’ve never known
.”
~ Olav Hauge (translated by Robert Bly)

 

His two bags were lying at his feet in the bedroom, wonderfully clean, square, tied up. Slowly, he had dressed with the clothes he had carefully chosen for the trip, had slipped his black leather belt on, in which slept a few bundles of neat traveler’s cheques, had put on his brand new, too new sneakers. Already, he imagined them, old and wrinkled, worn out, tanned, alive with six months of wandering in the land of gods and poverty. He was afraid of this journey, afraid of having to face, one by one, patiently, the thousand problems, the thousand worries, but also the joys, the discoveries, the surprises that would inevitably mark his path. He had prepared as thoroughly as his character allowed him and, at the time of departure, he looked like a bourgeois and shy little son who was about to fight the battle of his life. Nothing will ever be the same now, the die was cast, he would tread the foothills of the Himalayas, the Ganges plain, the Rajasthan desert, he would get drunk on wondrous visions, he would taste the smell of spices, he would marvel at beautiful faces. …

Continue reading about Pierre’s departure to India (READ MORE…)

 

The Distant Lord

Obedience makes us submissive
to all persons on earth,
nor just to humankind
but to all animals
and wild beasts, too,
that they may do as they please with us
as far as God so permits them
.”
~ St Francis of Assisi

 

In 1990, I visited Corbett National Park, one of the largest and most famous wildlife sanctuaries in India. My dream: to see a wild tiger. When the bus that took me there had crossed the entrance of the park, and while I was already scanning the jungle in an irrational hope, a burst of flamboyant colors vanished into the canopy. It was a peacock! I had already seen hundreds of peacocks in India, on the outskirts of towns and villages, but this peacock was not one of them. He had vibrant colors, and a vitality that testified to the precariousness of his life. This bird could end up in the claws of a tiger, and that made all the difference. Starting my journey to Corbett with the sight of a beautiful wild peacock was auspicious. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better beginning. …

An insightful meeting in the depth of the Indian jungle (READ MORE…)

 

Speaking of Shiva

When I didn’t know myself, 
where were you? 
Like the colour in the gold,
you were in me.
I saw in you, 
lord white as jasmine,  
the paradox of your being
in me
without showing a limb
.”
~ Akka Mahadevi

 

If you have been to India, you are likely to have met a beggar who came to you imploring, asking you to relieve him from his suffering, but also being a little rough, with something in his voice sounding like a reproach. You probably froze for a second, feeling guilty, not knowing what to do. You felt caught between giving or not giving, between an easy way out or a shameful flight. None of them satisfactory. Torn by this conflict, you may have missed the giving, salvific part of it all. You may have missed that in the profuse tradition of India, one of Shiva’s many forms is the ‘Supreme Beggar’. You may have missed that, in Krishnamurti’s words, “Conflict is the measure of the ‘I’.” Shiva came along to give you a chance, a beautiful opportunity to see that there is in you a way out of yourself, of your little ‘I’, in which you could both give and receive. I’d like to call this freezing, this second of conflict and confusion, the ‘knot of Shiva’. I had this knot undone once, long ago, and was allowed to sneak a peek at Shiva’s face. Evidently, he had some secrets to tell. Let’s walk the road from the egoistic, immature thoughts and images of Shiva, to the more understanding, universal realisation of his true identity. Let’s unravel Shiva’s mysteries…

An essay to explore the many aspects of India’s most famous god (READ MORE)

 

Rendezvous with Ramana, Part I

Paula Marvelly is my second invited guest here. She is the creator and Editor of the exquisite blog ‘The Culturium’, where she explores the interface between mystical spirituality and the cultural arts. I am happy she accepted to let me use her story extracted from her book ‘The Teachers of One’. This is the Part One of her three part ‘Rendezvous with Ramana’: “After interviewing Advaita teacher, Ramesh Balseker, in Mumbai, she is now ready to embark upon the last leg of her journey to the Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai, in a quest to finally discover the answer to the most fundamental question of all, ‘Who am I?’”

~

‘I exist’ is the only permanent self-evident experience of everyone. Nothing else is so self-evident as ‘I am’. What people call self-evident, that is, the experience they get through the senses, is far from self-evident. The Self alone is that. So to do Self-enquiry and be that ‘I am’ is the only thing to do. ‘I am’ is reality. I am this or that is unreal. ‘I am’ is truth, another name for Self.”
~ Ramana Maharshi

~

A quest for the Self

I HAVEN’T SLEPT A WINK. My body is weeping sweat and the pain in my gut has had me writhing on the bed all night, culminating in an acute upset stomach. I feel terrible. Once more, day breaks. The sounds of India seep into my consciousness as I lie in my alien room—strange noises fill the air but not so much the coughing of heating pipes, rather booming Indian television and the strains of toilet flushes.

The taxi arrives first thing in the morning to take me to Mumbai’s Santa Cruz domestic airport. I have booked a ticket with Jet Airways, India’s first commerical airline, to take me to Chennai. I am told the journey to the airport should take about an hour by cab but the driver thinks he is Stirling Moss; the road ahead subsequently turns into a racetrack—buses, rickshaws and fellow members of the human race all serving as chicanes, which he swerves around with terrifying speed. …

Follow Paula Marvelly’s journey to Arunachala (READ MORE…)

 

 

The Meeting

I come as an orphan to you, moist with love.
I come without refuge to you, giver of sacred rest.
I come a fallen man to you, uplifter of all.
I come undone by disease to you, the perfect physician.
I come, my heart dry with thirst, to you, ocean of sweet wine.
Do with me whatever you will
.”
~ Jagannātha (Ganga Lahari)

 

FDB86CAA-FA77-4C31-8866-289AB1AC3D00enares – a strange and beautiful city, the most religious city of all, so entrancing, so mysterious. Pierre had often heard of this town, and now he was already treading its soil. Many people had advised him that it’s not a place to linger in. “You will be assailed by the rickshaws, the hoteliers, the merchants…”, said the tourist guides. So he was on his guard that morning, on leaving the station, and was preparing to fight hard with the hawkers and profiteers of all kinds. It was six o’clock in the morning and a beautiful day beckoned.

His anxiety was soon dispelled. Everything seemed strangely calm and serene. There wasn’t here this traditional turmoil of Indian cities, nor the famous dust that envelops every city with a gray and dirty halo. An incredible clarity illumined the landscape. Oh! Of course! One had to endure, as everywhere else in this country, the innumerable calls of the rickshaw drivers, or the greedy shopkeepers. Gazes were as intense as everywhere else in India, students as curious, children as mischievous, cows as nonchalant, dogs wandering everywhere. Everything was so marvelously the same as the rest of India, and yet Benares was not a place like any other.

A short story, that tells of an unexpected meeting (READ MORE…)