“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…)
“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
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)
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…)
“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)
enares – 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…)
We continue here our series of texts or essays on different subjects of spiritual interest. The question here is: ‘Why is India so often such a determining factor in our spiritual life?’ Let’s explore it…
“For our goal was not only the East, or rather
the East was not only a country and something geographical,
but it was the home and youth of the soul,
it was everywhere and nowhere,
it was the union of all times.”
~ Hermann Hesse, “The Journey to the East”
India. I visited her and fell under her spell and her charm. If I look back, my spiritual journey started as a big cliche: I went to India to find truth, and I found it. Well, I didn’t find a neatly arranged package of truth, ready made and understood to be lived for ever thereafter. No, I rather found a messy bundle of bewilderment and puzzling questions about the nature of truth. But it had a lasting impression on me. Mind you, it came in the form of a big, exotic, full-fledged, but short lived awakening experience. Nothing less for this little big man who knew nothing about spirituality, and woke up to his first Indian trip burdened with a memory and experience that would take him a lifetime to understand. So why? Why does India take such a large part in shaping not only my life, but the life of so many people, when it comes to spirituality? What lives there that is so potent? Let’s find out. Let us all embark on a journey in Bharata, which the Brahma-Purana describes in this way: “The continent situated north of the Ocean and south of the Snow Mountain is called Bhârata. There resides the descendants of the tribe of Bharata. Its width is seventy-two thousand times the distance traveled by a cart. A land where deeds are fruitful for those who seek deliverance.”
An essay on the discovery of India’s spiritual heart (READ MORE…)