While a person is trying to breathe and live on, the relatives put the pillow of society on his face and try to kill him. No wonder such people end up in ashrams or taking sannyasa. The spiritual seeker finds himself lost in the vyavharic if he’s committed not to take on an ascetic’s role. Each moment is a struggle to survive… it’s a maddening crowd howling into your ears, hurling onto you. The peace of the deepest sleep seems to invite such a man; not even the dream would help him relax. But the day gets on the nerves again, with the sun lighting up the wrong world in front of him. “I belong nowhere here… within, I’m yelling at a deafening pitch, not wanting anything or anyone; leave me with my plain vanilla life, or give me death… as simple as that”, he seems to say!

The Second Aspect

Maya has two special powers: veiling and projecting. The former covers the reality that satchidAnanda brahmaN is and the latter projects the mithyA natured jagat as the truth. This is just as crazy as it sounds, but what it could be is felt on waking up from a dream that you vividly remember. For the first few moments when sleep still has its say, you feel completely lost about which is true: that jungle that you dreamt about where the lion was chasing you, waking you up sweating, or is it that cosy bed where you slept so deep, losing consciousness of this mithya world, and entered another such world? When you slept, the veiling power of Maya went on to hide the waking world and its projecting power showed the dream world which seemed so real that you lost touch with this waking world, in which you went to dream of the dream world, totally.
Similarly, the waking world itself is a projected world on to the underlying truth that has been veiled off from us. Now, the return journey to the source is to throw off the projectile first and dig through the veil. That second aspect is just not getting to me. I can now see how this world, with all its animality, humanity and divinity, is not real. At this juncture, I feel lost in this rabbit hole that goes both ways endlessly. Its like a blank level... not a dark screen but a plain white paper or cloth on which the painting was, but has been rubbed out now! Its like sitting on the brush, knowing well that the paper is being seen but not feeling the paper... I can't get across to that. The question that remains now is what is that that is hidden beneath? Do I see darkness? No. Do I see the light? No. What do I see? I do not know... its a dreamlike existence where I know well that I am dreaming... say a lion is chasing me and I know I will die here in falsehood and it sure will hurt if the lion gets to me. So I run in the dream helping it continue, but I do not know what its going to be like when I wake up, if I wake up. Where will I be then? What’s it going to be like? I do not see a bit of hope there... the veil is too bloody strong, I'm tired running and there's a good chance that the lion will get me anytime now!!!

tena tyaktena bhunjitA

om IshA vAsyam idam sarvam yatkincha jagatyAm jagat
tena tyaktena bhunjitA mA gr^dha kasyasvidhanam

I almost broke my head on the Ishopanishad while at Rishikesh. I'd to read over the entire upanishad over four times to understand a little of what was going on in there! At first, I thought its easy reading so I went over the first two mantras. On the third, earlier understanding contradicted itself and I thought I was crazy. Then I read Shankara's commentary over and over, but knowing each mantra well was a lot different from what all put together meant. Where would we all seekers be without Shankara walking us across? Another student was thoroughly confused and asked me to explain what was meant by "greater darkness" that comes later while explaining the fate of a person who just partakes of knowledge without the performance of the karmic rituals. I spent the night before the Upanishad exam almost entirely on the Isha and realized that I understood it really well, but tossed the exam aside. (Of course my marks agreed with that!) I was more than happy to see that this student liked what I understood and shared with him. I guess that is the real test of any understanding: facing questions, expressions, etc, of a student who himself, is willing to learn.

So what is it that makes a small Upanishad like Isha so difficult? Oh yes, the fashion in which the contents hold themselves just like any other Upanishad. But here, I think it comes off as not being connected well among the sequence of mantras either. At first, it goes on to say that Ishwara covers the entire universe and that we must not covet other's wealth. Later, it mentions fates of those who do karma alone and those who just try to gain knowledge. The results are mentioned to be best when the two are combined. It also has prayers to fire and Sun. In the end, one can't assimilate all of this on a platter. Each mantra seems a separate dish meant for different people at different times, but they're not. Once the meaning as a whole strikes you, its bliss without any doubt.

The Power of Now

(This title may well have been influenced by David Godman's The Power of the Presence)
“Now is the time” is something that I have valued less in practice. Why in practice is because I do know theoretically that time is utmost important and I am also among the crowd that goes cribbing "I don't get time to do blah blah blah". I'm also one of the laziest and biggest procrastinators that I've seen. Knowing that, one can clearly see how the short-of-time-fact comes to effect.

We always think of doing something, going "not now, maybe tomorrow onwards". That tomorrow never comes. If we were any bit smarter, we'd have known that whatever that is that makes us breathe can't afford to be one of us. If that also goes "I'll breathe tomorrow onwards", we'd not have the opportunity to procrastinate anything! But in its kindness it lets us breathe *now*. That is where the entire power lies, if we try to see. Things we see, or don't see for that matter, things that exist, exist in the now. They're here for us now. We are here to experience them now. Whenever it is, it is now. That is what time is. Its the moment of existence. All things get done in the now. Nothing is there in the past gone by us. We could spend our lifetime thinking of the past and gain nothing, possibly even lose everything. Even planning ahead of time takes a toll on the now. I remember having answered, to a question "Where are you?" in a yoga course, "I am where I think I am" meaning "I am where my mind is". (I was ridiculed, so to say, as a philosopher then!) So the mind takes you into the past reliving those moments, while at other times, going ahead and trying to live things that haven't happened (in this life)! In all that happening, only for an extremely small percentage of mind's existence, it lives in the now. If we can hold on to that moment called the now, every now and then, continuously, that is what makes up as meditation.

This now has the power to create and destroy universes; its verily the brahman that we all must reach. Even in the vyavhAric, living in the now gets a huge amount of things done in a short amount of time. The human life is wasted in the non-now, otherwise.

ॐ तत् सत्

Religious Consciousness

Swami Krishnananda coined a phrase called Religious Consciousness. Its quite a tricky set of words and so he thought of explaining it in his own unique way so: its that feeling of lack of completion that a human being feels knowingly or unknowingly. This is, to me, a factual picture of the entire life cycle of a person. Every being is searching for something missing. We do not know what that is. At each stage of life, that something seems different, something that we do not have, need badly and in extreme cases, so badly that we are willing to do anything and everything to achieve it. Having achieved it, we know it to be not what we were looking for and the missing factor to make us complete, remains!

This is not only for grown-ups alone, its also true for children. In fact, children are designed to use all the available resources around them to struggle for them and get them what they want. This is how God felt one's journey into life must start: craving for big and small things alike! Parents, relatives, etc. feel bad about what the child wants and they fulfill its desire. Having gotten used to such a fulfillment, the child grows up into this "being of wants". This is not entirely true though, since children who do not get their desires fulfilled are also seen to have a similar behavior later on. Whatever may be the reason for it, its clear that, "if only such and such thing happens to me, I'll be happy", is a lifelong experience of all. We fail to understand that this lack of something, *always*, cannot be fulfilled because its not outside us. Its like the camel that chews on the thorny shrubs in the desert and loves the taste of it thinking that the taste is from the shrub, not knowing that the blood oozing out from the thorns' pricking is what it likes; the taste being within.

If only we could understand that the true completion lies in one's stillness that Krishna explains of as stitha prajna, whether or not our desire is fulfilled, we would not go hankering till life's end and devote enough time to our journey within.

The crazy range

The craziest behaviorial range is seen in sadhana. Sridhara Swami's saying that a saint's heart is softer than the softest butter in that it melts at the sight of a troubled makes one end of this range. At the other, rests the shocking event of Ramakrishna's killing the mother Goddess (seen in his meditation) with the sword in order to get into advaitic meditation. This may or may not seem to be there in the same individual.

Emotions, though very much present in the sadhaka must not become a hurdle to the spiritual progress. Getting stuck in emotions is also a trap posed by maya that tries to bring back the sadhaka into her glorious creation. At such a juncture, the sadhaka needs to do what Ramakrishna did! In jnana marga, when the ego rises, one should melt the butter by submitting the submitter too unto the Lord. That balance between jnana and bhakti must continue till it does by individual effort, after which it drops on its own. Then on, the merging does what it deems fit. What an individual cares to do then is no saying since there's no individuality left.

Live and let live!

The principle of "live and let live" cannot be overstated. Under the garb of helping others, we not only take away the privacy of the person but also eat into his peace. In this regard, I respect the bubble of the west, where social norms expect one to keep good distance when it comes to personal matters. I do not say that concerns about another are bad. Its really nice if I go on enquiring other's health once in a while, but to give him medication without consulting a doctor is something bad. Similarly, if I concern myself how a person is doing overall in life is a nice question to ask; however, giving him suggestions, telling him what he is doing is bad, or relating the present to his past and feeding him a future that hasn't begun, is simply not done! More than helping, it is clearly *intrusion*. People usually talk of things that they do not understand, have no experience of, and feel free to use-up your precious time!

Today, I clocked three months from leaving my job. If I look back, I've spent two months in the lap of Himalayas while being stuck at the course, bound by the rules, without anyone to judge whether right or wrong. I've spent the remaining one month between family, relatives and friends, also recovering from a health problem. The last is keeping me off my spiritual feet, forcing me to postpone my unplanned plans; I foresee the same continuing for a while before I pace up in order to relive lost time!

Back at Rishikesh, I met up with Sw. Atmananda who's setting up a unique ashram. He specifically adviced me to keep off the one month that I spent so. He meant to say that I face a risk of falling back into earlier (way of) life, but I'm unsure if he knew whether I'll have to face enforced frustration, making me wonder if keeping all my belongings itself was a good decision. That has made me look back on places I wanted to avoid, stay longer than ever in a seeming unending zone. I'm still bound by pressure. There's only one way to slacken all this: silence.

Unanswered questions

Consider two scenarios. In one, a person has killed a snake because it wandered into his compound. In another example, suppose that a person is being given a capital punishment for a crime that he's committed. I'm trying to follow ahimsa in as much capacity as possible, but I still hold that the law must be followed for the eradication of social evil. That is, although I'm against the killing of the snake in the first case, I support the second cause, since its said that the capital punishment for the murderer not only helps the society but also the criminal's karmic progress (Manu)!

Now lets analyse the situations further. How would I react if the snake had bitten my own kith and kin? I may say that I wouldn't kill the snake still, but I may actually do so. Such a moment may carry me to an act that I can't judge with a hypothetical analysis! Even so, I'm sure that even *if* I kill the snake, I'm going to regret it later after the *fit* of anger has gone. So what I feel sorry about right now is not (only) that the snake has been killed by the person in the first case, but that he's happy about it later on.

In the other example, if one from my family or closest friends is to be hanged as a criminal, will I still support the cause? I may, and if I do so, will I still support it with the same fervour in saying that its good for the society and the criminal? Will I not even shed a tear?

Anyhow, I shouldn't be mixing spirituality and social order or politics. Its just a thought...