A walk to Sridharashram

This trip preceded the Ramanashram trip by two weeks, again on a weekend. All indecisive events for a week led me to conclude that the trip isn't going to work out due to various reasons, except that I'd been feeling a strong call from Varadahalli since a month. I tried tossing coins to decide, checking ticket availability in vain, amidst some bogged down state of mind. On Thursday night, I decided not to go, only to revoke it on Friday morning when Sriram called in asking me to accompany his drive back here on Sunday. Immediately, I called the travel agent and in minutes a one-way ticket was ready. All this to assert: thats how the Guru calls!

Cutting to the chase, I stepped out of the bus at Sagar bus stand at 0700 on Saturday. The weather was chill, but seemed pleasant. I took a walk in search of an auto rickshaw till the junction that cuts a left towards Honnavara. Although I did find an auto willing to take me on a ride (pun intended) I decided to walk on.

I started noticing that for being the biggest road around in Sagar, still its so quiet and calm in comparison to our so-called cities. This highway isn't all that busy and therefore, atleast for now, can afford to be thin. After having walked for a while, I started wondering how far it would be. The last I recalled walking was on our trip into the Himalayas, last August, while trekking to Yamnotri. I thought I'll know only when I reach the village road that forks towards Sridharashram. Passing by were some early birds who had stepped out for a stroll or a jog, prompting my memory to question my jogging plans that never hit reality! Not that I ever expected them to, but its always good to have a plan that will hardly come alive. It gives ya a lot of bandwidth to fool around. As I passed an old man, I asked him if the left road I was near to went to Varadahalli; he and another chap started telling me that it was the next one. Then the ajja told me that a bus leaves for there at 0815. "Well", I said, "till then... ". "Oh good, walk, walk", said he. I was glad to see that expression of selfless happiness that we hardly see these days among us. In these thoughts, I drifted on the highway further in search of my village road.

It didn't seem very soon that I saw a small sign that said the left branch led to Sridharashram in 6kms. So, I'd walked around 2kms by then and there I was, with a backpack and a sleeping bag buckled on, the latter shifting sides. The village road was calmer still, with vast lands thrown open in front of you, the sun shining on the mud that rose from the morning breeze. It was not only a good sight but it smelled equally fresh. I patted myself for not having taken the rick or the bus. But I judged that I wanted to reach earlier than the bus though I walk slow. Every sound of the vehicle used to fool me of the approaching bus, only for me to check my watch. "Ah, not even 0800", I used to utter to myself.

I saw some of these villagers stepping out of the bath or their daily rituals in their simple tiled-roof houses. I began thinking that someday soon, I'll be in their place and someone else standing on the road would watch me over so. The very thought felt good, easing the heavy breath a little. Every hundred yards or so, batches of school kids caught my attention. There's something about kids' expressions that I like so much that it topples any mood into a smile.

Save a few overspeeding motorbike causing momentary disturbance, all seemed slow moving and peaceful. If you have shifted from Bombay kind of hectic lifestyle to other cities, you'd know exactly what this feeling was! Its like feeling young and innocent again, or as if you're going to live longer at that pace of living!

After having walked much zipping up the jacket thus far, I was beginning to perspire. I got to know from a kid cycling to school that I was on the right path. Surprisingly, he also said that the bus passes by this route in a while. Did I look that exhausted or did he think that city folks don't walk, I'm not sure; but I was glad about the caring attitude of the villagers.

The scene had changed to less trees and more houses and schools around, but now the forest had begun to thicken again. I turned around a couple of times at vehicle sounds to make sure that its not the bus. I somehow thought again that I wanted to beat the bus and reach before it surfaces on the road! It seemed quite a foolish challenge; it was too. The road had begun to take a steep curve into the hills. I knew I was near my destination but wasn't sure how much. Soon, I saw a boy cycling with a girl on the pillion, both on their way to school. The kid in the back seat got down since the road was steepening for a cycle ride. While she was walking towards me, she gave this beautiful smile and asked where I was from. I'm always faced with difficulty to answer this question. At various times, I remember answering Bangalore, Bombay and Honnavara! I said Bangalore this time and asked her how far Sridharashram was. Both confirmed it to be around less than a km.

I suddenly felt energetic and blissful again, pacing up to reach earlier. I wasn't going any faster, I felt, since it was the hills I was walking in. Soon enough, the dharma-dhvaja rose up on one of the hillocks and in minutes I was at the entrance of the ashram. Marked to the left was a board that showed 2kms down the way to a devi temple. I recalled that this was the temple I couldn't make to last time and perhaps, I'll have to wait till another time to visit again. There was a little commotion at the ashram that indicated some upcoming festivity I didn't know of. I never know of any events anywhere, so thats not surprising! I signed in and went through the routine to end into a blissful stay till Sunday afternoon, followed by a good drive back to Bangalore. Needless to mention, when I checked in, there was still no sign of the suggested bus!

10-point ism

1. That one is not the body, mind and/or intellect is clear even to a fool, owing to the dream and sleep states.

2. That all crave for happiness in one form or the other, and that in itself is a passing state into its backrest of impermanence, is also everyone's experience.

3. Not knowing one's true nature and holding on to what one is not, the craving for happiness, and struggle for mine & thine, continues endlessly.

4. Thus born desires, grow and feed on desire, resulting in karma spreading over multiple lives.

5. Being in the kArmic circle and stepping out is extremely difficult, akin to alighting from a running train.

6. Submissal to the divine is the only way until one reaches the edge of the kArmic circle, making stepping out easier.

7. At each step, mAyA harks back vAsana-s to hijack the mind; as such, no amount of alertness should be considered as sufficient, ever.

8. When the only desire left is the one to liberate, that in itself causes desirelessness and qualifies (as) sannyaasa.

9. Tracking progress could pose as an ego-trap.

10. Spiritual uphill is infinitely steep, so the fall is sudden in comparison to the crawl upwards.

Thoughts 16

16. Hate neither the sin nor the sinner; love not the virtue or the virtuous; be indifferent to even the indifference!

A Ramanashram ride - part I

/* The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself.
--Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance */

I started this weekend a day earlier to ride to Tiruvannamalai. Its been long since my first long ride and perhaps I was waiting for my bike to shape up from some unintentional evil doings to it by others! The back wheel had a Bullet tube *folded* into the tyre instead of the Suzuki Fiero sized! I got to know it to be the reason for uneven balance only last month, that too due to a puncture. I've never been thankful for a flat tyre till then and hope never to ever be again.

Dep: Fri, 0725 hrs
Arr: Fri, 1145 hrs
Average speed: 70-90 kmph
Top speed: 105 kmph
Mistakes: Hit 3 potholes, started late for the Electronic City traffic, had a late breakfast (tea, to be precise!)

Dep: Sun 1240 hrs
Arr: Sun, 1555 hrs
Average speed: 70-100 kmph
Top speed: 110 kmph
Mistakes: None known

The 4-6 lane highway past Hosur is a thrill. Ofcourse, many cars do not understand the meaning of *lane* still; trucks and buses, especially tankers, know these things better. Passersby do not care whether its their village mud road or a 6-lane highway; they cross roads as if they're shifting body weights! Animals understand flashes and honks better than these people. Okay, enough negatives, now for the better part of the journey.

Till Krishnagiri, the ride was just that: formula speed. Except for the sun torturing me due to my dressed-for-ill-health attire (and headache due to an extremely late tea), all went well. The bike seemed to find its increasing consistency in speed after learning little lessons at crossroads. There's not much of anything to look around on the NH-4, except some hills immediately after Hosur and just before hitting Krishnagiri. I had it in my mind that before cutting a left into NH-66 past Krishnagiri, there's a big flyover. Somehow, I lost that and stopped before taking it and checked up with a bullock-cart driver. I'm quite certain that he wouldn't have taken a flyover much so he asked me to make a left at the next signal. That missing the flyover cost me a signal and traffic that you're supposed to miss, but atleast I didn't lose my way :)

A couple more questions to localites put me on NH-66 which begins as a rather thin road in comparison to the golden lanes you leave behind. There seemed to be enough tar since my last bus visit to Tiruvannamalai in the rains erring my judgement that tar has been laid anew. Soon I corrected myself after maneuvering between some not-so-bad potholes and hitting a couple bad ones instead! I reasoned that I carried the speed from NH4 into 66 a little too far. But what I didn't guess was it was not to be low speeds at bad patches only, the road was full of potholes at many places, most of them where you least expect them to be. I'm reminded of Murphy's quote on this: When the govt errs, it errs in triplicate. Perhaps, thats why I was bound to fall for three bad spots! :)

I think I'm still stuck with negatives! The skyline improved with a good mix of sideline trees and hillocks. The uneventful highway by now had turned into all sorts of people and animals walking by: kids screaming at times, monkeys crossing across to catch on with their families, flocks of goats kept at their side of the road, etc. Even the boring straights had curved on this road, but not as much as I'd have liked... perhaps a ghat section would have helped! :) Apart from a few diversions on account of contractors playing on the road, there's only one thing worth mentioning: the first view of Arunachala! Just after entering Tiruvannamalai, there's an advt hoarding at a curvature in the road and once you cross it, behind rises Arunachala, waiting and watching over you with its broad fatherly shoudlers welcoming to hug you! If there was any discomfort in the journey, it was washed away at the first sight of Arunachala Shiva.

Then on, I was overcome with bliss from Ramanashram where peacocks were cooing even near noon. I parked and checked-in post darshan since it was lunch hour already. I'd a square meal at neighboring Seshadri Swami's ashram and slept for a few hours with a dose of medication for my full-blown headache. I was ready again after tea to catch on more blessings in the Samadhi Hall until dinnertime and sleep befell me.

... Part II: Arunachala pradakshina and return

The thirteen

Thirteen has been a hinting (not haunting) number all my life so far! I spent around 25 years in our flat no. 13 in Bombay. When I shifted to Bangalore over 5 years back, in six months time, I checked into a house that I still stay in. Yes, the number's 13 too! Before shifting out of the no. 13 in Bombay, we bought a flat.. well not a 13, but it reads 103. None of this was intentional and has come as a surprise now. I joined this job of mine on the 13th!

Best of all, my taaraka mantra is also 13 syllables. Thats how I link it now.

Dig deeper

"Go further" said the monk, in passing, to a forest-dweller in search of hidden treasure. The story continues as the latter finds more valuable treasure after scaling the depths of the forests. At each pitstop, the value of the treasure unleashed increases. It occurs to the dweller, after finding the trove of the most material value that the monk must've meant something more than this since he hadn't specified where to stop!

Many a different version of the story exists after this commonality that conclude the story to some moral or the other. However, what interests me in this is the fact that each set of valuables found are identified to be of more worth than the earlier set due to our knowhow of it. Things unknown to us are chucked away, aren't they? On the spiritual path too, no one can tell us the end and one needs to dig deeper till the end finds us. There's no point in saying I'm satisfied with this much and break there. As long as one is in a position to judge that there's more or assess the value of what one has achieved, the subjective behaviour remains and that can't be it all. Its a journey where the end itself, not the wayfarer, brings an end to the path.

Forest fires

During some seasons, brushing of trees against each other results in forest fires. These, once lit, are too difficult to control. Not only that, no one can see the trees and the fruits they bear once the entire forest is burning. All that one can believe there is, is fire, smoke and nothing else. Very similar to this, the brushing of the senses against the sense objects creates an image of a subject separate from an object and this multiplies much beyond control.

This multiplicity as a result of such brushing gives rise to ego that blocks the view of reality the way smoke blurs the view. In truth, there's nothing like smoke; its an illusion of the fire thats lit due to the trees. If the trees don't brush there's no fire. The ego is an illusion produced by the outgoing mind. If the mind remains home, still, unmoved, there'll be no fire, no smoke, no ego, no multiplicity, dissolving the forest and merging into that single oneness thats ekameva advitiya brahmaN.

Neutral gear

When you operate gears in a car, any shifting between gears passes through neutral. The neutral gear doesn't care if you have come from reverse, fifth or first. Nor does it have anything to do with which gear you will choose next. So far, so good.

Similarly, the self-abiding person has nothing to do with his surroundings or what the surrounding people see in him. The karma that seemingly applies to his body is mistaken as his intentional behaviour. That state is similar to shifting to neutral gear while the car is in motion. The car continues to move, but its not *because of* the neutral gear! Its *inspite of* the neutral gear. Thats what the bystander sees, not even knowing that the car is in neutral.

Thoughts 15

15. A thought is a thought is a thought... (that this is a thought is also a thought)

Technically speaking...

Additive primary colors of RGB (red-green-blue) in television systems or subtractive primary colors of red-yellow-blue in printing could be equated to the three guNa-s of sattva, rajas and tamas. How so? As anybody who has painted-- all must've at some point or the other-- knows that apart from the basic colors available at hand, one can mix them in different proportions and get variants, shades or even an entirely different color. Similarly, TV systems mix the RGBs in order to get all the colors possible. Also, 30%R, 59%G and 11%B amounts to brightness of the signal for B&W transmission.

This is easily understood, but for some reason, we find it difficult to digest that the three guNa-s could gel together to form a mAyic vision that our senses experience, nay, our senses also are a result of these guNa-s! They even create time and space. This also hints that the pentad of ether, air, fire, water, earth are due to the guNa-s.

Someone who doesn't know that red and blue put together gives out a magenta would never accept it so, the way we refuse that the world is mithyA from the prakritic guNa-s. Some might suggest that one can mix up the colors and prove it, so that the subject accepts following the demonstration, but that can't be done with the guNa-s! Fair, but the argument loses ground when we say that, here, we're talking of proving this to subject from "within the picture painted" so!

Thoughts 14

14. Neither a guide nor a follower be; neither a friend nor an enemy be. (Inspiration: Neither a borrower nor a lender be --Shakespeare)

Running questions

More than one person has asked me why I was running away from life?! Having never thought I was or even wanted to, do I now wish I could? But is it really possible to run away from life? What would it even mean to run away from life? Mine or someone else's? Is it running away from people around me? Family, relatives, friends,... er, society? What for? What would I seek then? If getting physically away was the solution, would I even have stayed here? Finally, am I in denial?

(I'm reminded of a game from "Whose line is it anyway?" that had participants communicate only in questions. I reckoned at the end of this entry that it turned out so! :)

Maya, again

(I say again, because I wrote a prayer to Her once)

The mirage in the distance
Reappears at many turns

Still, disbelief from before
Won't aid till I feel the lore

Every moment left to earn
Is waiting for me to burn

So, whatever is now sought
Is only as good as a thought

Thoughts 11-13

11. Pleasure is pain, only gift-wrapped.

12. The fire that warms up also burns.

13. The rules have exceptions because exceptions are the rules.