Monthly Archives: February 2018

Hurdles Galore

Hurdles Galore

Why it’s so Difficult

 

“In order to save myself, I must destroy first the me I was told to be- the Dreamer”

Whilst I was grimacing and looking morosely at my unsold books, (I made a very brave attempt to pen my experiences, a journal narrating the first 5 years of meditation and the metamorphosis that occurred within me) and wondered why I am so pathetic at marketing myself; my daughter made a very astute observation.

She picked up the books and said, “Ma, why are your books so thin? I mean, all the books I read are 3 to 4 volumes and each volume has about 500 to 1000 pages! Look at these books of yours; both the books put together maybe 250-270 pages only”. I smiled at her, picked a few more books I had read in the recent past and pointed out to her, “Most of the spiritual books I have read are between 125 to 200 pages only, betu. Most of the books published by Sahaj Marg, Ramkrishna Mission, Divine Life society are more like booklets, rather than books.”

“Ah! Right!”, she said, comparing the thickness of the few books I showed her, and the next doubt popped, “But why? Why are they so thin? Can’t they write a thicker more voluminous one?”

I could have laughed out aloud at her innocence. How could I explain to her that true philosophy is a study of the Self, the earnest interest to know oneself. When the singular question ‘Who Am I’ and probably ‘what is my goal?’ (which gets answered if one answers the first one though); sums up philosophy and spirituality put together, how much can one write volumes about knowing oneself? It is a unique journey to be experienced by the person concerned. As long as the experience continues, the journey is ongoing, and they are able to share their experiences. Unfortunately, spiritual journey is rife with pain and desolation; and the books make the reader emotional, and teary, which is what people shy away from, not willingly seek, to say the least. Who wants to know about someone else’s grief when there is enough sorrow in one’s own life? The bliss is when the person has reached the zenith, gets merged with the Creator. Now, the person ceases to exist, and so the narration too comes to a halt. It is like the dew drop merging with the vast endless sea. Then how does one differentiate the dew drop from the sea? And where is the dew-drop to tell its story?

That’s just one aspect of it, the more realistic fact is, the number of people who broach this question can be counted on our fingertips. The rest of us live ignorant about our true calling and purpose in life. So, with less than one percent being interested in the truth, how can thick books possibly be written?

So, why is spirituality or practicing spirituality so difficult? Why are most of us happy within the tenets of religion?

“Page xxix: Introduction by C.G.Andrews for In the woods of God realisation  by Swami Ram Teerth: ‘Dark is the world to these? Thy self art the reason why: For is He not all but that, which has the power to say ‘I am I’. …. the loss of personal identity or complete absorption, as the final end of the soul, is a conception from which the poets of the West shrink back with dread, rather than accept with satisfaction’.”

I think what Sir. C.G.Andrews opined about the people of West has an ubiquitous applicability today. The loss of personal identity is something which no one is able to fathom, and spirituality demands exactly that, the complete absorption of Self, and a comprehension of Nothingness.

This is just the beginning of problems if one intends to practice spirituality in totality. On the other hand, religion has so many advantages, especially our Hindu religion! Islam, Christianity, Sikhism all have one text and they close their eyes, and abide by the book, with absolute faith. They don’t question their texts nor do they have Mohammad, Jesus, or Guru Nanak amidst us today, to make changes or answer any contemporary doubts and questions.  Hinduism has happily relegated the Gods who took human form and lived amongst us to God status, we have temples for Gods, Godmen and Saints. Unquestioningly we worship them, one and all, if our prayers are answered, perfect; else we blame our fate, or in moments of desperation we can blame the Gods too! How unkind, unjust and cruel they are, so as not to heed the earnest prayers of the seeker! Everything depends on our caprice, you see!

That’s the disadvantage of spirituality; our prayers are answered only, and only if, we are deserving and we continuously question our own deservingness before asking for anything. So, in spirituality we have questions galore! That’s the first big hurdle to cross, the inner Self keeps raising its hood and asks us to look within. Prayer for change becomes imminent and the blame game stops too, we have only ourselves to blame for our own failings.

The other advantage of Religion is, in Religion we have no mirrors; how do I put it… like we look at the mirror to appreciate or alter our physical appearance, so does our heart need a mirror, to tell us how well we know the Self within, the creator’s true abode being the heart, we need a mirror for our heart, do we not?  In Religion we go to our place of worship, pay obeisance, offer our prayers, make an application (we always have something we want done) and seek blessings from the priest and we get on with our life. How many of us really bring the temple home? That mindset of inner reflection, do we carry it with us? The prayers offered are rushed and amalgamated with other household chores, wedged in just so that He is not offended. Sadly, that’s not the case with spirituality.

The God is within, and not outside the person, there is the hurdle, again. If we have to check or measure the level of water in a well, do we look inside the well, or outside? So, no temple or temple functionary can help us in spirituality. We have to help ourselves, hold the mirror to the heart! And a mirror which is constantly vigilant, probing and always questioning the Self! Such a headache. Who has the time to be questioned every waking moment, and in sleep too! Knowing oneself is an arduous task with no palpable, material benefit one can showcase. In this day and age of material gain, lure of name, fame and glory, the spiritual journey is least becoming! Troubles never cease, no respite for the spiritual seeker. Is it any wonder that people are unable to rise to the challenge and pursue the quest of the inner Self?

Ouie’! Au revoir- Paris

Ouie’! Au revoir- Paris

Ouie’! Au revoir- Paris

I have elucidated at great lengths about the hoity-toity developed countries and their arrogance, the crisp response or cold reception one receives when one steps into their arena, {especially towards a person who comes from a developing nation or a third world country like I do}. But my recent harrowing experience at the Paris airport has brought many more thoughts to the fore about developed countries and the convoluted reasoning they have for their behaviour just because they are a high and mighty developed nation. I assuredly don’t think Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport; alias Roissy Airport deserves to be called an airport at par with world standards.

Reports say that in 2017, the airport handled 69,471,442 passengers and 475,654 aircraft movements, thus making it the world’s tenth-busiest airport, Europe’s second-busiest airport (after London Heathrow) in terms of passenger numbers. It is also the world’s tenth-busiest and Europe’s busiest airport (ahead of London Heathrow) in aircraft movements. In terms of cargo traffic, the airport is the twelfth-busiest in the world and the second-busiest in Europe (after Frankfurt Airport), handling 2,150,950 metric tonnes of cargo in 2012. The incumbent director of the airport, Franck Goldnadel, was appointed to his position on 1 March 2011. 

What good is all that grandeur if the nescient transit passengers feel harrowed and dread buying a ticket which has this airport as its transit destination.  My first experience was so traumatizing that I have practically banned Paris itself as my tourist destination, I am happier not seeing the magnificent Eiffel Tower; such is my fear of having to set foot on that airport. First is the sheer size of the airport, the labyrinth terminals; and gates in each terminal are a 10,000-piece crossword puzzle.  I was travelling from Raipur (Chhattisgarh, India) to Mumbai (Maharashtra, India), from Mumbai to Paris (France) and from Paris to Dublin (Ireland); this was my whole sinuous travel itinerary. The first hurdle came when Raipur airport issued a boarding pass only till Paris! I had to collect the Paris to Dublin boarding pass from Paris airport. This was already extra work for me, a boarding pass in hand saves time and the headache of hunting for the booking counter (customer service desk) in international airports. I had already endured an unpleasant experience in the past, and I was not looking forward to another one.

I actually tried to haggle, beg, implore at the Mumbai airport customer service desk, to issue the boarding pass for my last sector; just to escape the torture at Paris.  International airports are ginormous; I have severe language problem (all is lost in translating my Inglish (Indian- English) and understanding their accented- Frenglish!), there are not many staff in sight, and even though people are all over the place, there is actually no one who you can approach and ask for help or assistance! Thus, I disembarked at Paris airport with an already heavy heart. I knew that my Paris to Dublin flight was from Terminal 2, and we landed at Terminal 1. The bus which took us to our next destination had a map indicating the stops and the very wise me disembarked at Gate 2L. But, I made the fundamental folly of thinking if I reached terminal 2, the gates starting with 2 will all be within the same premises.

Boy! was I wrong, the torture had just started!

My premonition came true, the customer desk (which I could locate on the third attempt!) was deserted. I waited patiently for 10 minutes then asked a uniformed officer passing by if someone would ever come! The lazy reply was, “Ouie’ Recepsion, (reception) mam!” (pointing in the opposite direction). So, I dragged my feet to the reception area where I could see a pleasant and pleasing persona (God’s small mercies) behind the desk. He issued my boarding pass and one look at that pass I knew my next headache was on its way.  My boarding gate was 2K and that gate was in another building!

I needed to make my way back to the bus stop, go to the other building marked Gate 2K. So, again I ask for directions and the crisp response is, “Ouie’ Follow allow (arrow)! directions” (with a grand wave of the hand). Those arrows were leading me nowhere and I was getting frustrated with these French and their weird accents! They spoke English like French and flayed their arms way too much, gesticulating wildly for everything and vociferously too, if I may add. Again, God’s kindness, a passenger who knew French was next to me and could fathom that gibberish and asked me to race behind him.

Huffing and puffing we reached the gate, boarded the bus and made our way to Terminal 2, Gate K, phew! I finally breathed a sigh of relief. I still had time to kill, and I was totally ravenous from all that running around. Like I usually do, I parked my suitcase on a chair and started to head towards the rest rooms to freshen up, when I heard the announcement, “Please do not leave your bags unattended, it will be treated as a bomb scare and disposed immediately!”

Okay, can’t risk that, so with the bag I drag myself to the rest room; when I receive this message from my husband, “Take care of your purse and belongings! People get robbed in Paris!” Oh! Wow, I thought. It does not end here though; I loitered into a Michael Kors store, picked up a wallet and immediately sensed the saleswoman breath down my neck. I was a little disturbed by her look and proximity; yet managed to ask if she could show some more wallets, different colours, maybe. The response I received was the weirdest ever; this lady asks me which country I am from! Now, I was totally taken aback, what was the connection, I wondered, my nationality and the wallet?

I said, ‘Indian’

Believe it or not; she shows me the prize of the wallet! I cannot tell you how huge the explosion in my head sounded! For the gall and nerve of that woman, I thought! How dare she show me the price! I wanted to stomp out of her stupid shop, but my better senses prevailed. I smiled with poise and equanimity and said, “It can be higher than this, please show me a bigger size and some other colors too!” It was fun and gratifying; her dumbfounded expression, and change in her demeanor. I did buy a wallet, just to prove a point.

Finally, it was time to board leave the dreadful place (the welcome note again totally lost in Frenglish) and head for Dublin (the Irish are the most charming, welcoming people). I happily stood by the said conveyor belt waiting for my suitcase; 10, then 20 minutes passed, and I get the sinking feeling again, the French were continuing to take their revenge. I went to the customer service desk and the lady was profusely apologetic (big difference); my suitcase was still in Paris, it will be loaded in the evening flight.

So, the most advanced airport in the world; and not one single thing happens in an orderly way, from boarding to getting home with my luggage; all went awry! Need I say more?

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_de_Gaulle_Airport

 

Choose Wisely

Choose Wisely

Choose Wisely

With so many spirituals paths, yoga centres and double the number of religious organizations it is understandable if a novice is confused about who is the right seer and which would be the right path to follow, for one’s spiritual/ personal growth. The plethora of options available trap the unaware fledgling and before he/ she can be any wiser about the path, purpose and goal, the journey would have already reached a stage where the person may feel like there is no turning back, or is afraid to restart elsewhere, or thinks they are all the same anyway, how different can the other paths be, let me continue where I am. This is not the case at all, because every path or any path one chooses to walk upon has to answer only one crucial question, which is: ‘what is it that you are seeking?’

Every path, spiritual or religious, offers only, and I reiterate, only what we ask for. So, I repeat, what is it that you want? For example: if it is purely physical fitness, the obvious choices will be, Ramdev Baba, of Pathanjali Yoga institute, or Guru B.K.S. Iyengar of Iyengar Yoga, from Mysore. I am mentioning only yoga with the surmise that we are going to get interested in the inner self too, someday in the future. Else, the world is over burdened with Gyms, Aerobics, Pilates, and many other only physical fitness centric institutions which I have deliberately refrained from mentioning. Yoga within itself has 8 steps (Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi) and somewhere at the top comes meditation, which is the first step towards self- awareness. Hence, only two renowned names are mentioned above, with the hope of veering in the direction of meditation.

Now, like I already said, the key question we should always ask ourselves and pretty much, reiteratively is, ‘what do I seek?’ ‘what is it that I am searching for or wanting to get out of any path or practice that I intend to follow or am currently practicing?’ The second question as per me would be, ‘Has the path/practice brought about any change in me?’

To answer the question, ‘what do I seek’? I started with peace of mind, and anger management. Coming from a very religious family and having entered an even more ritualistically religious family, post marriage; religion is where my education commenced. My personal experience reveals that religion has benefitted me to the extent that I knew where I was going wrong, and that I was still missing something. Thus, peace of mind remained elusive. This augmented my sense of failure and thus I progressively became an irate person.  What I was seeking; none of my ritualistic, religious practices could answer nor appease my curiosity.  Swami Vivekananda rightly said; It is very good to be born in a church (Religion), but it is very bad to die in a church (Religion). It is very good to be born within the limits of certain forms that help the little plant of spirituality, but if a man dies within the bounds of these forms, it shows that he has not grown, that there has been no development of the soul. – The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda: Volume_2: Bhakti or Devotion

If the seeker is happy within the purview of religion and ritualistic practices, then perfect. I guess the journey for that person ends here, whatever else any seer might have said differently. So, if we are not seeking anything beyond a regular happy life, basic comforts, and we don’t mind coming back again and yet again to lead the same life, with a few variations; our journey of the Self remains stagnant or dormant. We have no need nor the desire for self-enquiry; hence religion is what we identify ourselves with.

But, for me; Swami Vivekanand’s words have a veracity and appeal. I seek more than just the rigmarole life.  And for seekers like me I guess the next step is to seek a path which is more than ‘only religion’, or beyond religion. This search naturally led me to meditation and through meditation I understood spirituality a little better. Meditation enables change through repeated introspection. In meditation too, the important question remains the same, ‘what do I seek?’

Meditation helped me manage my anger, be at ease and at peace with myself.  My journey did not end with these changes though, change is continuous and the nature of questions changes, the questions themselves do not come to a halt. Life for a spiritual seeker is one which is constantly uncomfortably comfortable, if I can put it that way. Restlessly at peace is the key feeling. Today, I strive to emulate my Master and be/ live like Him, and someday become one with Him.

Which path we choose to walk on is very seeker dependant. Between us siblings, all of us are on a different path and attached to a different organization. Understandably, we are asking different questions, questions individually unique, and we are getting the answers wherever we presently are. For me, I practice Heartfulness Meditation (Sahaj Marg Meditation) because this path has the answers to my questions. I am a better person today; and I am inspired to improve myself with each passing day. Heartfulness Meditation enables me to make possible both my aspirations; a. I do not choose to be a disciple all my life, I somewhere along the line, with practice, learning and meditation aspire to be self- realised, like my teacher, the role model of my life. b. Serving without the feeling of servitude, being a master of Self and a servant only to the One, the creator, is the final goal. The Master teacher on this path leads a householder’s life, and yet is a realised soul. He, his way of life is balanced, suited to the present times and fills me with hope that if He can achieve it all in one lifetime, so can I. This path has a guru who encourages the aspirants’ world over to imbibe the craving to become a master of Self. My persona should reflect my inner Self, as is, simple and devoid of duplicity. I should transcend every barrier of the mind; learn to introspect and be discerning enough to aspire for spiritual Oneness. God created one world; and meditation enables us to acknowledge this Oneness, and accepting the many disparities.

With the hope that the above helps the reader choose wisely, thank you.

 

Mixed Signals

Mixed Signals

Mixed Signals

The more I pay heed to the many spiritual gurus in our nation, the more befuddled I become with what they preach and proclaim! Not just the spiritual gurus, guides, philosophers and yoga experts too.

Are you aware that Shri Shri Ravi Shankar commenced His spiritual journey under the aegis of Maharishi Mahesh yogi, the proponent of Transcendental meditation? Much later, Ravi Shankar started His own spiritual organisation with Sudarshan Kriya, His key finding, as a tool offered to enable a life of self- awareness and the joy. Was a separate organisation imperative though, I wonder? Transcendental Meditation and Sudarshan Kriya could be merged and taught to the millions of followers, cheaper and probably be more beneficial too, is it not?

That’s not all, out of the blue, He is seen sharing the political dais with the demagogues’ and again, I am bit flummoxed. I don’t know what exactly is the Spiritual leader trying to convey with this move.Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has offered to mediate in the Ram Temple row for an out-of-court settlement, to which the Supreme Court is not averse.”

For a preacher of spirituality, the Shiva Ratri celebrations in His ashram remain unparalleled. A spiritual leader propagating ritualistic practice so elaborately, and on such a massive scale leave me muddled. If Spirituality is beyond religion, can celebrating one festival appease or work towards unifying the followers or believers of other religions and faiths?

Another household name today is, Jaggi Vasudev, spiritual leader with a difference, the modern-day yogi. But, many actions of this maverick mystic give rise to many questions within me. His voice is heard world over, millions follow Him and keenly hang on to every word He speaks. When so many are influenced, should not the speaker be more prudent, discerning in voicing his/her opinion and have an awareness of how his/her words may impact the lives of millions of followers?

Jaggi Vasudev addresses and speaks in front of a very erudite audience, most of the interviews I have seen have the elite Indian segment or foreigners. The bourgeois India today is very tech-savvy, ambitious and competitive. To such an audience He says something like, ‘Don’t produce children if you cannot raise them, you go on producing children irresponsibly and you don’t know what to do with them…’  I think the people who listen to Him are NOT in the business of ‘producing children’ as He put it, contrarily, the emerging urban middle class is facing the quandary of not wanting to have children! He flippantly throws comments in the face of a wrong audience! The more I listen to Him the more irresponsible He sounds. To a single mother who wanted a method to juggle her many duties and responsibilities; he suggests community cooking, community living (don’t know how that answers the lady’s query). To ‘Why women cannot be Spiritual Leaders?’ His response is; ‘women today are getting all the wrong training; the focus is more on modelling and external beautification rather than on inner spiritual evolution’. He laughingly makes such odious comments and the audience continues to revere Him, enraptured by his words. Like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, this maverick Yogi too believes in ritualistic practices, and seems to revere only Lord Shiva, as the Adi -yogi.

“It is essential that the next generations of people on this planet are seekers, not believers. As philosophies, ideology, belief systems that don’t stand the test of logic and the scientific verification will naturally collapse in coming decades, you will see the longing for liberation will rise. When that longing rises, Adiyogi and the science of Yoga will become very important,” Sadhguru said .The Prime Minister also took stock of the sprawling precincts of the Isha Foundation’s ashram, as he visited the 22-feet underground water body at the Suryakund that aims at the physical cleansing and balancing of the human body.He participated in the Pancha Bhuta Aradhana by Sadhguru – a yogic process of cleansing the five elements of the human system – at the Dhyanalinga, a multi religious meditation shrine, followed by a visit to the Linga Bhairavi, a feminine shrine for physical, material and spiritual wellbeing.” “A 6.4-metre (21 ft) statue of Adiyogi was unveiled in Tennessee, USA, in October 2015 by the Isha Foundation. The abode called “Adiyogi: The Abode of Yoga” in Tennessee is spread over a 2,800 m2 (30,000 sq ft) area and the project cost over $8 million.”

“He has once said that 3 things should never be commercialized…education, health care and spirituality. He is commercializing all the three as – a) isha home school charges around 6 lakh per annum, b) isha arogya (medicine) products are sold through isha stores and c) inner engineering and all other programs (spirituality) are also being sold to the masses.”

Similarly, Baba Ramdev, a yogi, a household name for Patanjali Yoga, panache for every malady! He shot to fame for practicing yoga, teaching yoga and successfully exhorts the world to practice yoga! So far so good, and hats off to the magnanimous person. He too began his career with bold declarations like, “We don’t make products to sell or earn money, our end game is not profits! We can easily make millions if we advertise and market our products, but that is never our intention.” Mixed signals started to come when there was a mismatch between his proclamations and actions! When this goal altered or took a deviation is unknown. Baba Ramdev has created an empire with his consumer goods, and now is expanding further, branching off into textiles and probably plans to start a political party in the hope of ‘clean politics’. He is, today, the 8th richest man in my country. Doesn’t all this reek of contradiction and seem far away from truth?

The three names I mentioned above have a very contradictory practice. If one asks oneself, spirituality is everyone’s birth right and cannot be bought at any price! How can one put a price on spirituality? Ramdev Baba teaches Yoga for free! He should be charging for that, he does not. Whereas Ravi Shankar and Jaggi Vasudev have put a price on Sudarshan kriya and Isha Yoga classes!

The whole purport of a spiritual organisation, for me, is to enable the aspirants to become like the leader, and I do not see myself wanting to become like them. Moreover, I am unsure how following these leaders will enable the followers to become their leader.

Spirituality or meditation is all about knowing one Self or knowing the Divine within. How can one put a price on God- knowing? Secondly, God created this world free of cost; He never charged anything for His creation, how can we put a price on any knowledge or method, or path which proclaims to help us know Him, or know one Self? I can go on, but I think this is enough food for thought…

Disclaimer: These spiritual leaders are seers who are unselfishly, tirelessly working for the upliftment of the world, unifying the world. None of the above undermines their good work.  I am ignorant and merely pondering over their contradictory actions/words which leave me confused.

 

Sources:
//economictimes.indiatimes.com/

//https://www.deccanchronicle.com/

//http://truthnlight9.blogspot.ie/