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Saturday, May 19, 2007

AUM and its Meaning (2)

( I met a wise man years ago, namely Prof / Pandit Saraswati Prasad Ghimire. He had this to tell me. Sri Ghimire is no longer with us. )

AUM is made up of three syllables A, U, and M. Ancient sages used this division profoundly in their practice. Dwelling on meaning of AUM has been an important aspect of teachings. It is because as you practice, you will find out that syllable, meaning and their origin have been merged, i.e. at highest level. Direct and spontaneous. As things really are or as they are not.

How can this realization be direct and spontaneous?

For this, wise seers devised an unique way one can relate to intimately. A of AUM was corresponded with our waking state, U with dream state and M with deep sleep state. Thus, our body and mind were made laboratory in enquiry to Truth. This way, one does not need to go far. One does not need to rely on external objects. Body and mind are universally accessible, close to us and can have direct effect.

In Waking state, we are conscious of the world around us. With our five senses, we perceive. Nobody has to teach us nor we need to learn to perceive. ‘A’ represents this.

In Dream state, we are unconscious of the outer world and form a mental world, just as we have an outer world while awake. Except, this mental world is internal. We don’t need to learn nor be taught to dream. ‘U’ represents this.

In Deep Sleep state, we don’t form any world neither physical nor mental. All our actions and thoughts cease to be.

But, here, one thing is amazing. In deep sleep, all our physical and mental activities are absent. Yet in the morning we know we had a sound sleep. How come? What is responsible? This is not mere theory or logic. In practice also, we are aware of this.

Wise seers of Vedanta have termed that conscious entity or essence as ever present and omniscient, thus real. It is AUM, the whole. They called it ‘Turiya’ or the fourth state but also present in all three, conscious of all three.

Meditate on the meaning of AUM. This is the starting point, the seed. Just keep going as it bears fruit. Amazing things will be on your way. Don’t be attached to any experience, pleasant or unpleasant. Don’t try to jump to the fourth at once. Generally, it is difficult working from the fourth state. Remember, this is not the usual inhaling/exhaling AUM exercise . This is practice of understanding. Or rather non-practice.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Avadhuta Gita

'Avadhuta' refers to 'Ever Free' and 'Gita' to song. Hence Avadhuta Gita is, in short, 'Song of the Ever Free.'

Why do we have songs or Gitas as in Bhagavad Gita, Rama Gita, Uddhava Gita, Ashtavakra Gita and so on? Simply because they are very effective form of transferring knowledge ----- knowledge of the Absolute. Absolute that is beyond our vocabulary and comprehension but is directable and thus pointed out. Besides, Gita or Song is also abstract which nullifies our above mentioned limitations. It is generally composed as a duet rather than a chorus highlighting the foundation of guru-disciple tradition. Mind you, knowledge of Absolute is highly personal.

Avadhuta Gita is ascribed to Vedanta school of Hindu teachings. However this is not your mainstream Vedanta prevalent today. It does not indulge in debates to prove the non-dual nor tells you to control your senses for there is no distinction between sense perception and spiritual perfection in the highest level of realization. What it does is make amazing statements and fill you with utmost wonder. You just have to be ready to imbibe.

Dattatreya (literally, son of Atri) is said to be author of this treatise. Sage Atri and his wife Anasuya were his parents. But there is very little written about him in scriptures. Markandeya Purana gives some references to him. This is also very little and legendary. But Dattatreya is considered knower of the Absolute, and hence Avadhuta. The duet is about his teachings to his unnamed disciple.

Dattatreya Gita does not salute absolute reality. This is not to inflate your ego but to know the reality of egolessness.

yenedam puritam sarvam atmanaivaatmanatmani
nirakaram katham vande hy-abhinnam sivam avyayam

( How shall I salute the formless Being, indivisible, auspicious and immutable, who fills all this with its self and also fills the self with its self ?)

I am myself filled by that self and all this also by that self. I and the Self are no different. I and the Self is (right grammar) one/same. Self that is without any form, is not divisible, is good, compassionate and changeless. There is no need to salute because there is no one to perform salutation or to be saluted. There are no-two for salutation to happen.

One of the most famous verses of Avadhuta Gita is :

mano vai gaganaakaram mano vai sarvato mukham
mano atitam manah sarva na manah paramarthatah

( The mind indeed is of the form of space. The mind indeed is omnifaced. The mind is the past. The mind is present and future and all phenomena. But in absolute reality, there is no mind. )

The mind is the form of space and is vast. It has faces everywhere. It is the past. Along with present and future, it is all we perceive, including all time and space. Everything is mind- made. The mind precedes all phenomena.

Here comes the most amazing part, antidote to all this. In absolute reality, there is no mind. From the perspective of Avadhuta, the mind does not really exist anymore. It has ceased to be. Only our deep common ignorance feeds the mind with substance, essence, significance and entity and we think the mind is Truth. And Avadhuta Gita burns this ignorance with the fire of the very knowledge ----- there is no mind whatsoever.

Here, everything is discovered as dependent of the mind. Then true nature of the mind which is its own absence is known experientially. Once the mind is absent, things depending on it are non-existent. The first Shankaracharya pointed out this state as “scenes becoming unseen.”

Avadhuta Gita is saturated with this wisdom. Let's take one more into account before closing.

( naiva bodho na chabodho na bodhaabodha eva cha
yasyedrisah sada bodhah sa bodho naanyathaa bhavet )

( There is neither knowledge nor ignorance nor knowledge combined with ignorance. He who has always such knowledge is himself Knowledge. It is never otherwise.)

In absolute reality, there is no knowledge, no ignorance. Both are equal opposites of each other. There is no distinction of knowledge and ignorance. Neither is there combination of the two. Synthesis is also not possible since it implies distinction. He who has this realization, understands this deeply in his heart, always, in all conditions ----- is himself Knowledge, Truth and its embodiment . One who knows Truth is Truth himself. Mundaka Upanishad also says, "The knower of Brahman becomes Brahman." (3.2.9)

"It is never otherwise" means any statement opposite to above observation is not true. Truth is said firmly, categorically, without least element of doubt. This knowledge itself is real knowledge, knowledge of the absolute. Know this knowledge. Nothing otherwise. Eliminate doubts, distractions and dualities. There is nothing to know after this knowledge.

Be Avadhuta Dattatreya yourself. Because you are yourself that. That's the importance of Avadhuta Gita. From the onset, it sets out to make you an Avadhuta. This is what Dattatreya is saying to unnamed disciple and us. Know it firmly, freely, independently. And maintain it at all times, all conditions. That is all. This is the gist of wonderful, amazing Avadhuta Gita.

RamaKrishna Paramhansa

A perfect example of self effort. An embodiment of devotion. Grace personified. Mystic par excellence. Some even thought his teachings whimsical. They considered the master eccentric. He didn’t care. He remained in the glory of his true identity, immersed in ever joy of existence revealed.

It is believed he became engrossed in divine seizures for realising various aspects of Reality as revealed in different scriptures. Perhaps this inspired him to taste the truth in various ways. Every experience he underwent was divine variation, rejoicing in playfulness. He made it look like it was his hobby to experiment. Like a child playing with toys, making a house, dismantling and building again with different designs.

In 1861, he first took the path of Tantric Sadhana at Dakshineswar Temple Garden from Yogeswari Bhairavi Brahmani. In a short period of time, he passed thru fairy ordeals described in sixty-four principal Tantra books. Truth of Tantra was verified yet again by Sri Ramakrishna.

Then in 1864, he was into Vaishnava Path, courtesy of Jatadhari, the revered exponent. After practising all different phases of devotion viz. Shanta, Dasya, Sakya, Vatsalya and Madhura (all deities correspond with various human emotions), he found out the same truth.

Also, he embraced the non-dualistic path, initiated into by Totapury, the Advaya master. In one day, he was in the state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi ( Highest form of Realization where meditator, meditated and meditation is revealed as one)

Talking about the teaching he received from Kali, Divine mother, Ramakrishna says: First there is ignorance. Then there dawns knowledge. When supreme knowledge (Awareness) manifests, it takes you beyond ignorance and knowledge. He gives an example. When a thorn gets inside your body another thorn is used to take out the first one. Later, both are thrown away.

Indeed Ramakrishna is a Paramhansa, a supreme swan. Swan is a metaphor for sublime discernment. It easily separates milk and water apart in a mixture of milk-water. A man with the quality of a swan also easily separates real and imaginary, Sound and Echoes.

Gurdjieff: Northern Star in the Sky

Osho Rajneesh called him 'Buddha of our time.' Disciples such as Ouspensky, Walker and Nicoll made this master's esoteric teachings known to outside world. George Ivanovich Gurdjieff was a very uniqe mystic.

Born in 1873 in Alexandropol, Russia, his teachings focussed mainly on 'Self- Remembering'. This involved awareness of now. Now was the only real time for him. Past is gone, Future is not yet, only now is. Time is a succession of nows strung like pearls on a string. Present, the only reality, is one infinite moment to be enjoyed and savoured. Be joyous and always remain so.

Nowness or awareness of now, would eventually bring freedom from time factor altogether. And this is remembering (or realising) real nature of oneself and things or the world around us.

To remember or realise this state, however, Gurdjieff taught to see the futility of linear thinking. It is done by the jolt method or shock therapy. Break the habits of mind by an element of surprise or even jolt or shock to attain thoughtfree state. Jolt but don't give a heart attack. Otherwise, whom would you jolt. This 'Out of the blue' jolt method was somewhat similar to Zen Koan. Purpose of both are same --------- Remember your own true nature suddenly and stabilize in it.

Gurdjieff jolted disciples out of their habbits of brooding incessantly on their worries, ills and resentments and at times, on their excitements, pleasures and aspirations which were ephemeral too. He was a man of strict discipline when it came to practising the methods. He termed them "Work." As a result, most of the disciples couldn't stand the strain and quit. Those remained went on to master the technique as per the wish of the Master, like Ouspensky.

Coming back to Gurdjieff's theme, Remember Yourself. Don't forget to remember yourself. Be alert and try in all circumstances to remember yourself.

How to do this? Simply by keeping attention. Gradually, your mind will be more open and expand. You will experience it. You will be able to tell this from mere self-hypnosis. By jolt method, breaking old habits of mind and not building new. By understanding paradoxes, parables. Don't worry even if you forget sometimes to keep attention.

Gurdjieff passed away in 1949 AD.

Another World of Bahai

Bahais are followers of Bahaullah, founder of Bahai faith. In Arabic, Bahaullah means light of god.` Bahais believe it is this light (knowledge) which is the final destination of human progression. In other words, we as human beings are continually progressing towards the Absolute through various spiritual realms. Accordingly, man is unable to grasp the essence of god and through this evident world, only few qualities of divine are manifested. Here the role of realized comes to play who reflect divine qualities as a mirror does. He can be a medium through whom/which man is able to understand the Absolute.

"Pass beyond the baser stages of doubt and rise to the exalted heights of certainty. Open the eye of truth, that thou mayest behold the veilless beauty and exclaim: Hallowed be the Lord, the most excellent of all creators," says Bahaullah.

Bahaullah started this faith in 1863 A.D. He taught about peace: world peace and inner peace. Several of his teachings can be found in his writings such as following:

The Hidden Words
Seven Valleys and Four Valleys
Book of Firm Conviction
Letter to the Son of Wolf
Prayer and Meditation

However, his teachings were too revolutionary for prevailing times and the regime. As a result, he was exiled. After his demise, in 1892, his son and later grandson and thousand of followers contributed in making Bahai faith what it is now, a non-sectarian order. Today it has expanded to 233 nations and islands. Bahai teachings have been translated into more than 800 languages. People from all walks of life and religion have embraced this faith. They have respect for other religions and other realized teachers like Buddha, Mahabir, Krishna, Abraham, Christ, Mohammed Zoroaster and so on. Bahaullah is considered to be the latest of great teachers. However, there is no room for priests and other hierarchy. There are no formal methods, rituals, oratories and initiations. Prayer and meditation are their only practice.

The teachings of Bahaullah has placed utmost importance on individual self-reliance. Every human being has the potential to be light of god. He/she is responsible for what he/she is. To a Bahai, freedom or realization is a single act where one is devoid of self-ego, retaining his identity.

"Free thyself from the fetters of this world and
loose thy soul from the prison of the self
seize thy chance for it will come to thee no more."

----- .Bahaullah

Prayer and meditation for the Bahais means contemplating and reflecting on the words of the teacher, Bahaullah. The regular practice of single-mindedness of our true identity which is manifested by kind words of the teacher gets a Bahai going. Progressively, that glimpse of realization is strengthened and stabilized. As Bahaullah says:

The temple of being is my throne
Cleanse it of all things
That there I may be established
And there I may abide.

Enhance Your SQ

First it was IQ, Intelligence Quotient. People with higher IQs were thought to be smarter. But that all changed in the Nineties. They were considered to have lacked the emotional factor ---- very much like a machine. Hence came EQ, Emotional Quotient. People with higher EQs were thought to be smarter + empathetic, discovering empathy that was missing earlier. It gradually became evident that was not enough either. There were so many smart and empathetic people who were dissatisfied and felt something was missing in their lives. Thus the advent of SQ or the Spiritual-Intelligence Quotient. It is also termed Spiritual Quotient sometimes. Not an invention or discovery but an uncovery, it had been there but we were too busy or unaware. SQ is the basis for effective functioning of both IQ and EQ. It is our ultimate intelligence. In other words, back to basics ----- towards the traditional wisdom which we had forgotten or failed to understand in modern context. Let’s take a look in the form of some guidelines.


· Have an open mind. Make yourself free from any fixed, rigid pre-conceptions.

· Don't judge. Once you stop judging people or judging as a whole, you will feel so light and burdenless that life becomes full of joy.

· Be clever not cunning.

· Learn to say NO. Your life will be a lot easier and less tense. You will make people dislike you or make them angry but it is worth it. Remember, you can't please all the people. In your quest to please all people, you will end up with pleasing none.

· Mind is a chatterbox. With a little help, with your effort, it can be silenced. That silencer is Meditation.

· Happiness is not about destination, it is how you live the journey. NOW is your most important time, not past nor future. So, be happy now and always remain so.

· Expectations bring unhappiness. Things wont change whether you expect or not. So don't expect as much as possible. Or expect as less as possible.

·To prevent backlash in the form of repression or suppression, give neither value nor substance to expectations. Don't worry if you sometimes expect unknowingly.

·Don't take things too seriously. Indigestion, physical or mental, is the cause of all ills.

· It is better to be a protozoa in sea than be a frog in well.

· Ego-power is nothing as compared to ego-less power.

· I read somewhere recently:

We are not human beings having spiritual experiences but spiritual beings having human experiences.

· Paradox is a very important way in meditation. It enables us to notice the limits of language and pierce the words, getting inside real essence.

· Knowing the absolute is just understanding, not much, not less. Remember the middle path. Buddha used to say that one's approach should be like that of a tigress when she is carrying her cub by her teeth. Cub is neither hurt nor dropped.

· The line between effort and spontaneity is erased in Meditation.

· Primary function of practice is to stabilize the real meaning without becoming mechanical.

· Practice is increasing the frequency of 'self remembrance.'

· A true Guru moulds the seeker towards the goal which he/she has reached.

· A real Guru is unpredictable because unlike us, he/she lives moment to moment without any legacy of past and any aspiration for future.

· Don’t mix various practices together without proper guidance.

· Don’t misunderstand Krishnamurti and don’t inflate your ego when he says you don’t need a Guru. What he means is ---- refrain from the personality of Guru, not from his essence which is not distinct from yours.

· In the time of quasi and pseudo Gurus, real Gurus have often been misunderstood. Interestingly, Frenchman Rennin once remarked when fate couldn't destroy a great man, it sent him disciples.

· Since there is dearth of real Gurus, one has to filter the teachings, scriptures and the like in order to have a foundation on which to practice and embark on the path. Check once in a while ( not frequently ) whether you are actually ready to dismantle that foundation too. As you will find out, Truth has nothing to do with any sort of reliance.

· Why should one practice before going to bed?
Because even when one falls asleep, practice will continue itself all night. Again, practising in the morning makes your day, resonating in you like echoes. It is working inside you even while you work in office.

· Remember 'Unity in diversity.' Contemplate on 'Diversity in unity' too.

Ashtavakra Gita

The indian subcontinent from time immemorial has had no dearth of wise men whose wisdom radiated from their analytical and/or experiential studies. Ashtavakra as an experiential yogi is a fine example in this regard. His studies and experiences focus on man and universe, inner and outer world, being and knowing. As the legend goes, he learned and realised the Vedas while still in his mother's womb. When father Kagola recited scriptures, at times incorrectly, as a result he used to twist his body in pain and when he was born, his body was crooked in eight parts. Thus the name Ashtavakra, meaning Eight Crooks. (another version is that the faulty father cursed his son out of rage for objecting in his recitals.) During that time in court of King Janaka of Mithila, there was one pundit, Vandi whose hobby was to drown people who lost to him in polemical contest. The ill fated Kagola also went to challenge and lost.

When he grows up, Ashtavakra, a master of scriptures in a very young age, also goes on to challenge the pundit. Inside the palace, courtiers poke fun at his crookedness. They become even more severe as they find out he has come to challenge Vandi. A calm Ashtavakra responses, " I didn't know this place had ignorant cobblers.” Janaka asks, " Why do you say so? "Because" replies he, " all they see is skin and flesh-bones beneath it; unaware of the inner" Consequently, he proceeds on to beat Vandi. Janaka is impressed and later asks Ashtavakra to be his teacher, his guide. Ashtavakra Gita is a dialogue in Sanskrit verse, a duet which is an effective form of sharing knowledge and wisdom. Rather than going, with futility, into whether Ashtavakra and Janaka were historical figures who actually lived or were just fictional characters composed by mature minds, it would be fruitful to concentrate on teachings.

As all great teachings of the world, Ashtavakra Gita also underlines grace and dignity of human life. It considers everyone equally qualified to be on a road to Bliss-pur provided one has an aptitude, attitude. That way one can board the vehicle called mind. A simple trick is not to look forward or backward but inward. And you will be swept along without any effort. Spontaneous. When you are aware of this spontaneousness, you have already parked and left the vehicle aside.

According to the treatise, mind is a vehicle as is body, words, language, teacher or even the treatise itself. At best, it can generate a sense of direction toward the absolute. Hence, Ashtavakra takes aid of symbols, images, paradoxes, examples to convey the incomprehensible, the inexpressible that is only to be understood, realised, experienced. Then a different mind, an equanimous, aware mind emerges and produces compassion and practical sensibility in our lives rather than blindly following the texts without discernment. However, there is a risk. To talk about it is to invite trouble, to describe it is to fall in the trap. But as a great sage he is, he takes calculated risk as he has to guide his pupil in a medium accessible.

As a great sage he is, he is an embodiment of compassion and in the very beginning introduces Janaka to the essence. This permanent and independent essence, he remarks, is not body nor mind but something that watches both --- the witness. It does not do or indulge and it is not suffering or feeling joy. It is not in the domain of the senses. It is what it is, self-existent, without beginning or end, luminous knowledge. This ancient wisdom proceeds on. Sometimes the student understands, sometimes he doubts. The teacher clears doubts and checks the student. Sometimes Janaka tells about his experiences. Ashtavakra keeps on clarifying. At last, a stage is reached when he is convinced that the king has perfected the teachings and there is no more need to continue. This is when all dualities and antidotes are gotten rid of. But before that, elaborating, the sage instructs that ego prevents us from seeing things as they really are. We see things in their apparent reality and consider them to be real. This apparent is compared to the lion of the dream. In the dream, we are scared of the lion thinking it to be real and find it unreal in waking up. Or when there is this classical illusion of rope imagined as serpent. When visible knowledge dawns, rope is not seen anymore as a serpent.

This applies to all things we see, hear, taste, smell, feel and cognize. Hence name of the game is perspective and surpassing it. Ashtavakra uses examples of inseparateness of gold and its ornaments, ocean and waves, space and jars and so on to demonstrate the non- dual and to bring clarity to Janaka. Every verse in Ashtavakra Gita is a gem in the treasure and its contemplation leads one to path of realization. Take the one about waked, dream and deep sleep states. As for waked, it is the state when and where we are awake and conscious of world around us. The dream one wherein we are not conscious of the world and there is another world, a subtle one. Deep sleep is the one when we are neither conscious nor dreaming, a state in which mind and body are relaxed and asleep. After waking up in the morning, we do know we had a sound sleep previous night. So if mind and body were asleep, how did we know we had a sound sleep? According to ancient wisdom, this knower is the essence ------ the eternal witness always present in us and beyond space and time. This knower which knows above three states and is also beyond them is the fourth state or turia (fourth). Our memory derives information off it and next morning we say we had a very good night sleep.

As Janaka is enlightened, he generates a sense of direction toward enlightenment. He implies that he is devoid of conflict and antidote. Since he resides in the ownness, seeing himself and the world in exactness, no longer to him it makes sense to say what is waked state, dream state and deep sleep state. When you completely get rid of something or non-something, conflicts or antidotes, there is neither conflict nor non-conflict, neither duality nor non-duality, neither space nor void, neither time nor timeless, neither atman nor non-atman, and so on. Aware of the spontaneous, you have left the vehicle aside. Do you carry the boat even after crossing the river?

This is when and where Ashtavakra Gita stops. The sage is convinced that the king has perfected the teaching. Janaka has pierced the words and gone beyond. Reading between the lines or rather `Hearing between the lines` may be the right expression.

(This write-up of mine was published in The Kathmandu Post )

The One and Only: Osho Rajneesh


Never born

Never died

Only visited

Planet Earth


Dec.11,1931 --- Jan.19,1990

(His samadhi epitaph)

We talk about Buddha, Shiva, Rama, Krishna, Mahavira and other sages, saints and masters of the past. Similarly, we talk about Maitreya, Kalki of the future. But we tend to ignore or at best, underestimate the present masters of our time. A habit has formed rejecting masters at present simply because we have our own image of an enlightened master; our own model that refuses to accept a master just because of our notion, 'if I cant be enlightened, no one else can.' This deep rooted refusal is one of the primary reasons for chaos and pessimism in the world today.

On the other hand, we are so weak to trust ourselves our mind fears to become independent.Thus we are vulnerable to being exploited in the name of enlightenment

General western mind is indulged in excessive rationalization, analysis and logic whereas general eastern mind is busy in over dependence, inferiority and blind faith. What we need is a third mind, free of any excess. No one else has epitomized it better than Osho Rajneesh. And no one else has been perhaps more misunderstood.

His vision of 'Zorba the Buddha' is the ultimate man. A man who is capable of enjoying life and its offerings like Zorba and also, a man who is capable of understanding the highest truth of existence like Buddha. Rich in both, Zorba the Buddha is in fact a complete and united man.

Rajneesh changed his name to Osho later in his life. After having read William James use the word 'Oceanic,' meaning 'becoming ocean', he felt it would be more appropriate if the emphasis was on the experiencer who was aware of becoming ocean. He thus changed his name to Osho, the eternal experiencer, the eternal witness.

Osho didn't propose a new teaching nor expounded a school. What he did was convey the teachings of past masters and modern like J. Krishnamurthi, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Ramana Maharshi etc. with his original, one-pointed commentaries. Original because he was a rebel ------ a spiritual rebel who broke the barriers of traditional commentary. One-pointed because whatever he said, he did, it was a pointer towards one goal: Know your true nature, be aware of yourself, just recognise.

For this, he used teachings of Buddha, Krishna, Gorakh, Patanjali, Mahavira, Shiva, Nanak, Tilopa, Kabir, and so on. In new light, he explained Vedanta, Tantra, Sutra, Yoga, Meditation and so forth. He narrated stories, fables, parables, songs, poetry, humor and many more. No one else has embraced and imbibed truth via so many diverse practices. To add, he was blessed with remarkable oratory gift, extraordinary way with words and exceptional ability to organise thoughts. He read voraciously except for the last twenty years of his life. In short, he was a spiritual museum.

While talking and practising Osho, one cant exclude the contradictions, inconsistencies, and complexities. On the surface, they seem like his incompetence but at the deeper level, all was deliberate, consciously done. Those inconsistencies and contradictions were there to demonstrate weakness of human language to describe the ultimate and its paths. He used to say that we look for the organized, readymade, rational, clarity, directness, consistency and simplicity whereas the Absolute is also about disoriented, unexpected irrational, vague, non-evident, disordered and complex. Why care for all this? Just be yourself, conscious of yourself with nothing else at least for a while. Once you get the taste of this pure consciousness, everything will fall into place. Why do you need to ascribe things, label them and tag them, according to the interests of your mind? Let things be themselves. Let you be yourself, just pure yourself, untainted with anything else. Osho is a paradox. As paradoxes are means to conve exact meaning, Osho is paradox supreme.

Another outstanding quality of Osho is his total submission or acceptance of a theme. In his spiritual practices, he refers to it by "Let Go." 'Letting Go' means keeping nothing, hundred percent emptying of mind, at least for a few moments, to start with. This is probably the Everest of his Himalayan spiritual journeys. This trait can be seen when he is dwelling on teachings of various masters. When he talks about Buddha, he is totally immersed in Buddha and his teachings. He says Shakyamuni is the best amongst the masters. It is the same with Krishna, Shiva, Nanak, Zaroaster, Mahavira, Jesus, Patanjali, Tilopa, Sarahapa, Bodhidharma, Gurdjieff, Gorakh, Kabir, Meera, Shankaracharya, Ashtavakra, Abraham, Moses, Nagarjuna, Milarepa, Laotze, and the list just goes on. You just choose one as per your temperament and proceed.

This is also to enable listeners to have hundred percent loyalty and faith towards their masters and teachings. Besides, Osho experiences and understands that essence of teachings of above mentioned masters is same, after all.

Finally, I would like to quote a verse from Ashtavakra Gita which Osho considered a MahaGita (Great Gita). This verse perhaps sums up his personality and teachings.

prakasho me nijamrupam naatiriktoasmyaham tatah
yadaprakashate viswam tadaaham bhasayeva hi

chapter2, verse 8

Light is my very own nature. I am not apart from it. Thus, the world experienced by me is myself in essence.

Spiritual Story

In Japan, there once lived a great zen master, Bokozu, fully realised. He had thousands of disciples. His monastery was peerless in terms of wealth and fame . One fine day he decided to retire from day-to-day affairs and hand over charge to someone in the monastery. Someone who was fully realised too. He put a notice on the board. The disciple who could answer his question would be his successor. Question was : Why is it that we suffer? How come we go thru cycles of birth and death? Answers were to be written on the board bellow the question.

Everyone came and read the question. What an ordinary question, they were thinking. Anyone could answer that. That was what they were studying. One disciple, considered favorite of the master, came forward. What has become of the master, had he gone too old, he thought. To become head of such a big monastery one had to answer a simple question. Being calculative, he wrote the answer at night and left the monastery hiding behind a hill. He also wrote where he could be found. Calculating that if the answer was right he would be called back and be welcomed by the master. If he was wrong, master would send disciples to track him and thrash him. And he, hiding behind hill, could see disciples coming to get him in time and could escape.

Next morning crowd of disciples converged on the notice board and read the answer. He had written: Our mind is like a mirror. Our actions and reactions form layers of dust around the mirror. Ignorant of this, we keep on adding layers instead of getting rid of them. Mind is busy , unaware in the transaction of take and give. And we die, unfinished in our transactions and are born again and continue the process. So, stop the transaction. Cleanse the layers of dust.

The master also read it. Shaking his head he ordered disciples to get hold of the favorite disciple and thrash him. Seeing the mob of disciples coming after him, the knowledgeable disciple fled away from the hill and monastery.

Other disciples were confused and scared. What could be the answer? Even the brightest amongst them had failed. How could he be wrong? That was what the teachings said. What the scriptures said. That your mind is the cause of all suffering. That it is like a mirror. Layers of dust gather on it and we are in illusion. This was the correct answer, they thought. If this is not right, then what is? Has the master gone senile? Even he would not be able to give a better answer.

Nearby a man heard their conversation. He was beating rice to get rid of husks. That was his job at the monastery, to prepare rice before it is cooked. Ten years ago he had come to the monastery asking for master's refuge. Master had told him to beat rice for the monastery and do nothing else, think nothing else. Make his mind unoccupied and just beat rice. When time comes, the master would come to him.

So the man would wake up in the morning, beat rice whole day. When night came, he would have supper and retire to sleep due to exhaustion from day's work. For the last ten years that was his daily routine. Gradually he had less communication with others. Others thought he was dumb, unable to speak. He had become non-important, non-entity.

As he heard disciples conversing about the master's question, he just laughed. Disciples who thought him to be deaf and dumb were surprised and annoyed. Why are you laughing, you ignorant man? What do you know except rice beating, they insulted.

Undisturbed, he said : the answer is simple.

They retorted: If you know the answer, why don't you write it on the board? If you are right, you will become master's heir. You will head over the hierarchy and all the wealth of monastery.

He said: If you want to know the answer, I can tell you right here. I am not interested in writing that on the board.

One of them said: okay, tell us.

He replied : Where is the mind? What mind are you talking about? I don't see any mind whatsoever. No mind, no mirror. There are no layers of dust forming? And why the need to cleanse? Then he walked away.

One clever disciple went and wrote this answer on the board. When the master read it, he promptly knew it could only be the rice-beater's answer. So he made him his successor.

It is said that under his guidance, a great number of people were enlightened later.

Intuition Story

I live in Kathmandu, capital of Nepal. One fine evening after a light supper, I went out for a stroll. It was summer time and the gentle breeze only enhanced the lightness. After a few minutes, I came to a nearby temple called Sankata. It is a shrine for both Buddhists and Hindus. I sat down on the stone-steps of the temple and started watching passer-bys, a favorite pastime. Some were returning home after a day's work and some were simply out for a walk. I noticed a man coming in my direction. He sat down on the steps near me. He was quite an old man with many deep lines on his face. Unable to hold back my curiosity, I asked how old he was. He was ninety. He told me he had been a linguistics professor for thirty five years. We talked for quite a while about a few topics ranging from fine weather to current political scene. He was a sound old man for his age. A fine observer of things and people. We moved to deeper topics and talked about linguistics and metaphysics. He knew about Nagarjuna and Dialectics, Krishnamurti and Intelligence, Upanishads and AUM. He also talked about Socrates and Descartes, Kant and Hegel, Emerson and William James. He was a fascinating wise person. Before parting, I asked him one last question: What was the most important thing in his life of 90 years? Calmly in a slow voice, he replied, "The most important thing for me is not my academics or such, neither my wealth nor other legacies. I trust nothing, absolutely nothing but my intuition. Intuition is my God. It is everything to me. The rest is non-existent, substanceless."

I have not heard more important words uttered since.

Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

More than 70 years old and still with an innocence of a child and a bright cheerful face; looks that do not stare but have familiarity as if you know the man from a long time; in midst of a gentle smile, light falling on skin and creating quintessence of serenity.

That was Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, one of the foremost Dzogchen masters to grace Kathmandu. An exponent par excellence of Vajrayana Buddhism, his exceptional talent as a teacher is missed by many a sangha, commune of disciples all over the world. The Pointing - Out instruction, a close encounter with the primordial state, was his forte, not to mention his overall understanding of man's suffering and its remedy.

Pointing – Out to the bull's eye of your mind, to the core of your existence which is the finale to self inquiry. How to? By inquiring inward. By directly understanding Emptiness. Tulku even used sanskrit equivalent of Emptiness ----- Shunyata. Shunyata is Shunya (empty) +Ta (awareness). Accordingly Emptiness (empty + awareness) is awareness of this empty. This is also Dzogchen, usually translated in english as 'The Great Perfection.'

Dzogchen is: The state of luminous wakefulness (Awareness), the recognition of the basic state (Empty) which is the nature of all our minds.

'Vajra Heart' and 'Repeating the Words of Buddha' are his widely known books. A man of simplicity, he would tell his admirers that he was not so learned and he didn't posses any psychic powers. Rightly so. Would you care for a piece of gold when you have the whole treasure with you ?

Considered to be a lineage holder of Guru Rinpoche Padmasamvaba, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was born in 1920 A.D. in eastern part of Tibet. Soon he was recognised as Tulku or incarnate of Guru Chowang Tulku who had revealed sacred scriptures in Nyingma School. He studied scriptures and practised meditation for many years. After leaving Tibet in the late fifties, he came to settle in Kathmandu, capital of Nepal in 1974 and continued his work. Two years later he built White Monastery in Bouddhanath. The monastery is also known as Ka-Nying Shedrup Ling because Kagui school is also accomodated here along with Nyingma. Tulku also built Nagi Monastery up Buddhanilkantha. As per his wish, stupa and vihar are being constructed inside the holy space of Lumbini, Nepal, birth place of Gautama Buddha.

He passed away in 1996.

Anecdote 1998: Moments with Chatrul Rinpoche

One fine day, an old compassionate friend and I decided to visit and seek blessings from Chatrul Rinpoche. It was not easy to do so since rinpoche was in Helambu, Northern Nepal much of the time. Seldom was he in the monastery in Farping, half an hour drive from Kathmandu. And he rarely saw visitors. Mainly because he was very old, in his eighties. He didn't like visitors flocking around either. The revered Dzogchen Master who spent most of his life meditating in retreats in the Himalayas always preferred to stay out of limelight.We, not knowing in advance whether rinpoche had come down to Farping from Helambu retreat, proceededwith our intention of meeting him. In half an hour, we reached the monastery in Farping. There, we were politely told to sit down on the exterior that had painted benches with comfortable seats. Looking down to Shesh Narayana (temple of Lord Vishnu), we relaxed for a while. People had come in groups and families carrying khatas and other offerings. Small children were playing around. We asked an attendant whether we could see rinpoche, expecting the person to tell us that he was in Helambu. To our astonishment and good luck, he told us that rinpoche was at home in Thasi Village, just above Dakshin Kali (Kali of the South) , fifteen minutes walk. We promptly left the monastery and walked towards Thasi.

At Thasi Village in rinpoche's house, a lad asked us about the purpose of our visit. A few others were studying scriptures. They offered us water, oranges and khatas too as we realized we had forgotten to bring them. In a few minutes, we were taken to the room upstairs. Rinpoche was sitting along with a few disciples. We prostrated, offered khatas and sat near him.

I started observing the master. Friends had told me that he had a presence of a lion. That was evident even at his old age. I also noticed frost bites on his hands and face. He probably got them in the snows of Himalayas during retreats.

We started talking about here and there. He talked in Nepali with a strong Tibetan accent. Then all of a sudden, out of the blue, he said, "You wont get it by searching. Have Bhakti (Devotion). Do Guru Yoga."

Few sentences are so resonant for me now.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Sufi Humor

( Nasrudin is a Sufi character. Some believe he actually lived.)

1. Nasrudin went to a bar regularly. Whenever he sat down to drink, he used to take out a frog from his pocket and put it on the table. It was his pet. He would start drinking and after a while, he would stop. He would then put back the frog in the pocket and leave. Everyone was astonished.

One day he went to drink again. The bartender came to him and murmured, "Drinks for you on the house, sir."

"Thank you" Nasrudin said, " What is the occasion?"

"Please tell me why do you always bring the frog with you. I am very curious."

Nasrudin paused for a while. Then he answered, "Look, it is very simple. When I begin to see more than one frog on the table, I remember it is time for me to leave. Otherwise, I might fall down on the way to home.

2. Nasrudin used to water his plants daily. He would bring the container near the plants and pour from it. But no water would come out. But he kept pouring. His close neighbor who was watching this for quite some days came to him and asked, "Excuse me, Nasrudin, may I ask you something?"
Nasrudin : sure

Neighbor: You are pouring water to these plants everyday but I don't see water coming out from the container. What is the matter?
Nasrudin: No need of water, my friend. What do you think these plants are? They are all plastic.
Neighbor (even more confused): For god's sake, tell me then, why is there any need of pretending to water these plastic plants ?
Nasrudin: So that people would not think these are plastic plants. It is just between you and me. If I don't pretend to water them regularly, they might find out these are not real, after all.

3. Once Nasrudin was standing by the road near his house. A car came by and stopped in front of him. The man inside the car rolled down the window and asked about directions.Nasrudin watched him for a while and gave directions."Thank you" said the man and left. After a while he came back to Nasrudin. Annoyingly he said, " What is all this? I followed all your directions properly and here I am at the same place where I began from."
Nasrudin coolly replied, " Fine, I was just checking whether you could follow the directions. Now I will give you proper directions."

Kalachakra Tantra Simplified

( I once participated in a Kalachakra initiation. Since it is a complex ritual, I hope this simplification will be beneficial to all. )

» Kalachakra, the secret tantra teaching, spread out from the snowy mystic land Shambala, the mountains forever hidden in mist.

» The sacred doctrine of the Buddha laid hidden for over 1,500 years in Shambala from where the lineage spread out.

» The initiation is given by HH 14th Dalai Lama.

With body, speech and mind
I prostrate to the masters
Inseparably one with primordial Kalachakra
The glorious wheel of time.

» To enter the adamantine nature, one has to take permission by
paying homage to the Buddhas in the ten directions;
the Dharma which is the ultimate reality; and the Sangha which is a commune of enlightened minds.

» To receive Kalachakra initiation, aspirants have to undergo a process of Preparation which involves approximately forty steps. Gradual transformation into the deities helps students to convert their ordinary consciousness to that of Buddha mind. In this “Deity Yoga,” Vajra master instructs the students to purify their motivation.

» The common teaching of the Buddha is known as Sutra and the secret teaching as Tantra. Tantra enables one to attain enlightenment within a single life. Among the tantras, Kalachakra is the highest one. To practice this, one has to generate bodhi mind which is the union of Emptiness and Compassion. This practice is to convert the whole sentient beings into the Buddha nature. The next qualification is the experience of Emptiness.

You whose compassion grants even the sphere of Great bliss
The Supreme state of the three bodies in an instant
O guru, with a jeweled body, Vajradhara
At your lotus feet I prostrate.

» In this initiation, householders take vows of Pancha Sila, the five good actions. This leads to the visualization of the five Buddhas in the five aggregates: form, feeling, perception, mental construction and consciousness.

» Vajra master accepts the offerings, proceeding to lead the aspirants in the path of tantra. Similarly, monks take vows in order to generate Bodhi mind.

» Students receive two reeds of kusha grass because the Buddha was sitting on kusha grass when he became enlightened. The longer of the two reeds is to be placed under each student’s mattress to clear the mind of obscuring thoughts while the shorter one, to be placed under the pillow, aids in the generation of clear dreams.

» Protection cord, a red thread with three knots, is tied around the upper arm to increase love that removes harmful forces.

» During the Night yoga, students recite mantras and meditate on the deity to make their initiation fruitful. This practice enables them to know about their future sadhanas and at the same time, keeps them mindful of the deity and bodhi mind.

» HH Dalai Lama takes vows of Vajra master to help the bodhi minds enter the adamantine nature through the three aspects of Kalachakra: Outer, Inner and Alternative.

» Outer Kalachakra is comprised of the six elements and the world of Mount Meru; the inner is comprised of the three realms of living beings, worlds, vital energies and the eight drops; and the alternative is the union of the two.

» Kalachakra is taught in the fourth turning of the wheel of Dharma which turns twelve times or three revolutions for each of the Four Noble Truths. Eight spokes symbolise the Eightfold Path of salvation.

O Saviours, O Venerable Gurus, together with your entourage
I present you with Oceans of Clouds of various offerings
And I offer myself as a servant to please you
Pray keep me in your service as long as space endures

» Worshipping has seven stages ------ invocation, invitation to the deity, presentation of offerings, hymns. repetition of mantras, prayers and benediction.

» General offerings are sacred cakes, rice, water, flowers, incense lamps and music. Torma offerings are made of roasted barley flour and butter. Among the offerings,
incense symbolizes morality, flower represents concentration, lamp represents insight, and perfume symbolizes the mind of enlightenment.

» In general, there are two ways of achieving enlightenment, following this path of Highest Yoga-Tantra. To accomplish enlightenment from within the old body is according to the other tantric systems. Whereas to achieve it by way of exhausting the old aggregates by skillful means, like an alchemist skillfully using elixir to change iron into gold, accords with the system of Kalachakra. The specialty of the Kalachakra Tantra lies in this.

» Whatever be the ultimate realization of the human mind
May I realise for the welfare of all that lives.

» Since only the bodhi mind is capable of entering the vajra nature, students take Boddhisattva and Tantric vows. Since they are not spiritually ready to see the Mandala before receiving initiation, the Vajra master gives the students red blindfolds.

» Ordinary body is transformed into Vajra body, ordinary speech into Vajra speech, ordinary mind into Vajra mind through the practice of mantras. The mantras have enormous power of emanation and decomposition. The mantric body is needed to practice the highermost tantras.

» Tooth stick ritual is performed to determine the student’s spiritual tasks to be accomplished. This process purifies one’s body, speech and mind.

» During the Mandala construction, water vases are empowered by the Vajra master through mantra string. Three sips of scented water are taken to remove the subtle defilements.

» The entire Kalachakra initiation comprises of fifteen separate nitiations. This initiation is generally given over twelve days. The actual ritual takes place in the final two days. Others are preparatory activities.

» The initiation commences with the nine preliminary steps of invoking the earth spirits: consecrating the vase, the conch of great victory, the action lines, vajra, bell, enhancing the disciple, placing the spiritual aspirants within the six Tatha- gata families, invoking Vajrasattva and so forth, establishing the seat and analysis of the divinity.

» The actual initiation process consists of three phases. The seven initiations called “entering like a child,” the four higher Initiations and the four higher than higher initiations.

» The students envision the Vajra master as Kalachakra in union with his consort, Visvamata. Light rays radiating from the Vajra master’s heart draw the students into his body. They imagine themselves entering to Vajra master’s mouth and going into Visvamata’s womb where they are dissolved into Emptiness and finally reborn as Kalachakra.

» The seat of the Mount Meru is in the center of the four continent system of the realm of desire.

» Water empowerment is the first of the empowerments. It is equivalent to the bathing of a new born child. This enables the students to achieve the first Boddhisattwa level known as ‘the very joyous level’ as its fruit.

» The second empowerment is the empowerment of head- dress. This process is for the elevation of the mind that is represented in the head-dress of Lamas. It is represented in the stages of stupa as well.

» The mirror shows that all dharmas are ‘dependently- originated,’ It is incanted with an Ah.

» As mentioned before, the offerings have their own symbolizations.

» Through mantras, the deity is prayed to bless the consecration that generates the bodhi mind.

» Elevating gradually, one completes the grounds of bodhi mind through childlike empowerments and the empowerments of higher level.

» Third empowerment is that of the crown banner. This represents the five Buddha families and is likened to putting ornaments on the child.

» Fourth empowerment is the empowerment of the vajra and bell.

» Fifth is that of the thumb vajra. This is analogous to putting an ornament on the child’s thumb. The ornaments do have their meanings as well. Head ornament represents mirror like knowledge, ear ring represents discriminative knowledge, necklace represents the knowledge of equality, bracelet represents Dharmadhatu and belt represents the procedure of duty.

» The Sixth empowerment is the empowerment of the name. This is analogous to naming of infant.

» Holy seals give permission to enter the higher grounds. The book of Kalachakra is handed over to the students as a guide.

» Seventh empowerment is Initiation.

All dharmas are like reflected images
Clear and pure, without turbulence
Ungraspable, inexpressible, truly arisen
From cause and action ---- Hetu and Karma

» Bow and the five arrows are given as a seal that represents entering into Emptiness.

» Empowerment of the vase, Secret empowerment, Wisdom empowerment and Word empowerment are the higher empowerments.

» Prasada, the material of oblation to the deity, when eaten purifies one’s body, speech and mind.

» The material offered to the deities convert into elixir and ambrosia. It is performed as the conclusive function of holy rituals.

» Students offer holy symbols as their gratification to Vajrasattva. May the Vajra master and the students live long.

» Viewing of the Kalachakra sand mandala, considered the final act on part of the disciples, takes place with great enthusiasm and devotion.

» Mandala literally means center and surrounding environment. It represents the threefold teachings: on cosmology, on human body and on meditation. The six concentric circles surrounding the square place of Kalachakra represents the
elements earth, water, fire, wind, space and wisdom. ‘E’ and ‘Vam’ are the condensed aphorism of Kalachakra and Visvamata respectively. In the mandala, 70 deities are of light rays of the enlightened state of mind, 116 deities are of
enlightened speech and 536 deities are of enlightened body. The 722 deities have the nature of light rays and the great bliss of the enlightened state of mind.

Ten Days in Vipassana

Sri Goenka jee dharma wheel

After a thirty minutes ride toward north of Kathmandu, Nepal, we come to Budhanilkantha, a shrine situated on foothills of Shivapuri mountains. Taking further up north for another twenty minutes gets us near Muhan Pokhari. On right side of the road is a closed area called Dharmashringa, site of Vipassana meditation camp.

Vipassana is an age old practice of meditation said to be developed by Buddha more than 2500 years ago. It literally means "Looking into oneself in a special way." In Vipassana alone, there are various forms and methods according to different schools.
The one in this context is said to be practised in Myanmar (Burma) from about 2000 years in a 'Guru-disciple' tradition containing the pure form Buddha taught. From there in the seventies, Sri S.N.Goenka brought it to India and later on to Nepal after being taught by Sri U Ba Khin, an eminent Vipassana teacher. Sri Goenka has been teaching in many countries.

Inside the camp, I had my documents checked and was allotted a room. I unloaded my bag and placed it on the cold, cement floor where it relied attractively on one of the bedposts. Since I don't like to travel or camp heavy, the bag shrunk a bit once it got a reliance.

At six, I had a nice, light vegetarian dinner sitting our legs crossed. At the end of it, we were oriented about the coming ten days starting from next day. We weren't supposed to speak or gesture nor to have communication with each other and nor to leave camp area. Later we clustered around lush green gardens of various flowers, made more soothing by blend of fine aromas. Some of us talked as if it were our last day. A few were singing. One even cried out from the bottom of his lungs standing on a small hill which frightened moths of a lamp to yellow. I split from my group and came back to my room. On my way I saw the sky lit with the advent of a half moon.

In bed, in the absence of an alarm clock, it kept recurring to me that I had to wake up at four in the morning. I cant recall what time I gave in to sleep but was astonished to find myself awake at four.

Inside meditation hall made into two halves for men and women, we started under the primary guidance of Sri Goenka thru TV screen in presence of qualified instructors who were there to sort out our immediate problems in meditation. Beginning with our breath, our respiration, inhaling and exhaling, we were to close our lips and follow breath with our minds and become conscious of passing through our nostrils. Respiration is chosen in this practice because it is universal. All of us whatever the nationality, cast, creed, faith, sect or culture respire without exception. On top of that, respiration is close to us, within us and accessible to all, rich or poor, king or beggar, intellectual or layman, clever or dumb.

Whole day I observed breath and it was not easy. First, I experienced all kinds of pains and aches, particularly in joints. Second, focusing mind on only respiration was not easy because after a while you tend to forget and mind begins to travel, in the past full of memories and in the future full of aspirations compounded with fear and anxiety. Thoughts flowed along with breathing. Day ended in anguish and pain. In the evening, a glass of milk, some fruits and light snack and teachings from Guru (Sri Goenka) thru screen brought some consolation and comfort. At nine, proceedings ended and by ten, I was in bed fast asleep.

Physical pain continued for a few days especially during three one hour periods when one was not supposed to change posture nor move body parts. Gradually, pain diminished. May be my body was used to it and my mind didn't pay any attention. I didn't care. I preferred to `eat mangoes, not count trees.` Sitting relaxed, I found every breath I take in or out is different from previous one. I was aware of short gaps in between. During teachings in the evenings, analogy of a river where it is not the same water flowing made sense. I remembered a hot sunny day, sitting on the banks of a river watching water take its course but it never occurred to my mind then that water came, flowed and disappeared and another water was in the scene to follow. Later as I remembered that my mind was travelling back, it came to the present without much effort.

On the fourth day, we were to begin Vipassana. Upto now, it was preparation through Sila (precepts) and Samadhi (concentration) through anapana (respiration) . Sila was eliminating hindrances through five guidelines and Samadhi was sharpening mind faculty. But this was not enough. The target of Vipassana is eradicating defilements of mind. This is by `Looking into oneself in a special way` as mentioned in the beginning. Now we were to embark on Prajna or Panna in Pali language. We were first initiated, requesting our teacher Sri Goenka to grant us the essence of Vipassana.

It was during that stage I first felt the strength of mind in my life. We had moved from observing breath to observing sensations on our body. Starting from top of the head, I felt sensations in different parts of the body. Wherever in the body I put my mind in, I felt sensations similar to pulses one feels on wrists. I could take my mind along with, like an object. From head to toe, I was feeling those pulses. Sometimes there were blank and blind areas too. In some areas, pulses were gross and in some subtle and later in a continuity too, in a flux of sensations called `Dhara-pravaha.` We were told not to force on to feel sensations but just be aware of them and also not to worry whether a sensation is gross or subtle. The point was to be equanimous, not to have any craving for pleasant sensation, neither have aversion to unpleasant one nor have indifferent feeling. Same would apply in our lives in moments of craving for pleasure or aversion towards pain or feeling of indifference.

Observing sensations with a calm, balanced mind also made me think and feel more about suffering caused by `arising and passing` of them as in case of breaths or water in a river or anything. It gave a feeling of temporariness and constant change whether I was aware or not. And being aware helped in getting inside the heart of the matter and mind and their mechanism and intricacies, at times leading to their interchangeability and sometimes beyond.

Gradually, these thoughts and feelings helped to trigger other thoughts and feelings. Inevitability of change changed into a feeling of `lessness,` something abstract and open which tremored my concepts, foundations and ego. Days of light food and sitting ten hours a day in meditation with regular breaks made body and mind light too. In fact, I lost some kilos and some theories and views, dear and strong. I wasn't prescribed new theories and views in lieu either.

Relying on intuition and experience, faltering and realizing, forgetting and remembering, losing the `I`, as in a paradox, I moved on trying to cling to nothing.

( This write-up of mine was published in The Kathmandu Post )

Dharmashringa dharma wheel

Destination Puttaparthi and Sai Baba

Sometime back, I had to go to Bangalore, India, for official work. Unexpectedly, the work was completed before time and I got a few days to look around and sightsee. ‘Garden City,’ more famous today as an IT city world over, offered good spots to visit but I chose a destination four hours drive away -------- Puttaparthi. In this town is Prashanthi Nilayam or Abode of Supreme Peace ----- Abode of Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

In that sunny afternoon under a clear blue sky, raring to go, I board one of the daily tourist buses that leaves every hour to Puttaparthi. Thumped and sunken in a cosy seat, a calm voice greets me, ‘Sai Ram’ along with soothing cool air of AC. Reciprocating ‘Sai Ram’ to my co-boarder, I look in all directions and find the bus saturated with Sai devotees. We are all going to Prashanthi Nilayam. We are in the same bus.

Once on the outskirts of Bangalore, I recline to ease despite my maiden visit. A heavy south Indian lunch begins to show its dozing effect. Coupled with the smooth, straight ride as the bus moves on Bangalore- Hyderabad highway, I am at the threshold of sleep. There is a kannada movie playing on video to my uninterest. Soon it is replaced by a Sai video. Chanting of devotees of grace and glory of Sai Baba easily fits the visuals. A little later, devotional songs about Baba follows in unison. Regaining my waking state, I look out of the window and a hot sunny day beams outside.

The bus stops briefly for snacks and refreshments at about half way. Once on the road again, hymns, prayers and bhajans pour out of devotional hearts, their sights on screen face of Baba for a darshana. After turning right and leaving behind Hyderabad road, we head towards Puttaparthi. Apart from a small airport utilized for organisational works of Sai ashrama, Sai schools, colleges providing free education and a well equipped modern Sai Speciality hospital providing free treatment stand proud on the way, materialization of Baba’s ideas and ideals. He has said our service to humanity is more valuable than service to god since He doesn’t really need it.

Eventually the bus stops at a stone’s throw from main gates of Prashanthi Nilayam. I get out and immediately feel the hot weather. Bangalore was a lot cooler like Kathmandu. As I enter the ashrama of Supreme Peace, a small, beautiful Ganesha temple glitters in the softening daylight beside greenery of plants and trees with flowers and fruits in abundance along with insects, birds and small animals, not to speak of a sense of wonder on one’s part. On the right is the huge Kulwant Hall where Baba speaks and gives darshana. It is evening and swami, as he is affectionately called, would be here any minute. I hastily keep my bag in nearby cloak room and proceed toward the hall barefoot. Getting past security check, I sit on the smooth floor at a small corner of the packed hall from where I see Baba’s seat from the side, in profile, about ten meters away. When Baba would sit, I would see him in that view. Inside the hall could be seen people from all walks of life and all over the world converging to take a glimpse of swami. Nearby the seat, pundits recite veda mantras. Another group sing devotional songs in succession. We are all waiting for Baba.

I look around the durbar like hall to find its grand architecture studded with ornate pillars and ceilings, paintings, frescoes and idols of different deities. Within a few minutes, a reverberating sound of a conch shell and mantric chants fill the atmosphere indicating Baba’s arrival. Many in front rows through where Baba would pass are chanting and praying aloud. Suddenly, a small red car slowly enters the hall amidst celebrations. Baba, wearing a red robe and looking frail, appears on front seat smiling, waving and blessing. Since he is ill and old (he is 81), he no longer walks through rows of devotees. The vehicle stops close to his usual seat and attendants hold him out on a portable car-seat. Few moments elapse and a radiant Baba gazes around the audience from his seat. People are overwhelmed in tears and joy to see their beloved swami. I see him from side angle and prostrate. Next, he turns in our direction and I am able to see him in a clear, frontal view. My first impression is of a cute, little child like old man whose innocent baby face emerges like a full moon. I have darshana. An aarati song begins after a while and at the end of it, Baba proceeds to leave. We prostrate again and in the back of my mind, I am eager to have a morning darshana.

I collect my belongings from the cloak room and get a room inside Prashanthi Nilayam. Many have come to be cured of their ailments in Sai Hospitals for free. I myself meet a few from Nepal. Some have bypass surgery done successfully and others are being cured by medication.

It was Baba who transformed a once dry remote village of Puttaparthi, abundant with naked hills and inhabitating scorpions, lying on the bank of Chitravati river into a modern town equipped with basic facilities such as drinking water, sewage and irrigation. Charity works concentrate on health, food, education for the less privileged, weak and poor. Truth, love, service and peace are his messages to the world. The very name Sathya means truth, love is his essence, service is his nature and peace his abode.

Prashanti Nilayam or ashrama is spread over a large area. A few minutes hike up to one of the hills and a breathtaking view appears from vantage point. Within magnificent Puttaparthi, ashrama is a gem of a place, a jewel in the crown, like the Kohinoor in Queen’s crown. Inside, you find scores of buildings, temples, gardens and lawns reached via concrete passages and lanes where volunteers are on duty to help. There are also snacks and refreshment stores, shopping center, bookstore, audio video store and so on. In short, it is sort of a commune and Baba resides in a beautiful house close to Kulwant hall.

Cool breeze highlights the advent of a pleasant evening. One can roam around the incredible ashrama for hours or can sing evening bhajans and participate in aarati. Or you can worship god of your choice from amongst wonderful temples of Ganesha, Mahalaxmi, Gayatri, Narayana, Shiva, Durga, Hanuman and so forth. You can also attend Baba’s video screening, spiritual discourses by learned wise devotees from all over. I opt for a stroll around the ashrama.

It is a festive atmosphere. Greetings of Sai ram resonate the air. Volunteers are everywhere. In fact, they are backbone of the organization. They work in Kulwant hall, administration, cafeteria, and so on. Even institutions outside the ashrama such as schools, colleges, hospitals depend heavily on them. These are personification of Baba’s ideal of selfless service.

Later in the evening I visit library and book store. Sai is vast and so is his literature. It is translated into many languages all over the world. By eight o’clock, I have dinner and retire to my room. Water, incense and a match are there on a table to perform puja. Swami blesses from posters on walls. At one instance, he is shown together with an old, gray bearded Shirdi Sai Baba. The older Sai is regarded as Sathya Sai’s previous incarnation who brought godliness to Shirdi (Near Nasik, India), his abode and its people.

In bed, I ponder about the teaching of swami. His message is simple and clear both in form and content. According to him, every one of us though apparently limited, human is in fact unlimited, divine. Our real nature is not of a sorrowful, weak individual but of a joyful consciousness. The trinity of thought, speech and action should always be in harmony with one goal ------- Self-realisation.

With these thoughts, I go to sleep in anticipation of a morning darshana.

Early in the morning, I get ready and proceed toward the hall to participate in ‘Suprabhatam’ which is group singing at dawn in praise of Baba asking him to wake up, shower us his grace and compassion, guide us at all times, good or bad and free us from our suffering. Also, devotees in a procession sing, hail and play musical instruments inside the ashrama. This is called “Nagar Sankirtana.”

At seven, I have breakfast in the cafeteria, come back alongside a white sea of hustle bustle since devotees mostly wear white outfits and enter the hall. This time, I get to sit on front row. To my left are people with names of their respective nations written on their clothes while on my right, school children in uniform are sitting quietly with folded little hands in reverence. Beyond a demarcation, women devotees are also awaiting eagerly for a glimpse of their beloved Baba. Across from me straight, Baba’s seat is clearly visible. In minutes, his vehicle arrives and slowly moves in front of devotees at a snail’s pace. It stops once in a while and they get to prostrate, talk to Baba on the front seat and even hand in their letters to him thru the open window. Some are visibly in tears. Children chant baba! swami!! When the car comes within a few feet of my row, Baba is in my vision, in focus. I fold hands in Namaskaram ……………; is this darshana? A sense of wonder fills me.

Finally, the car comes to a halt so that Baba is helped to his seat. He sits gracefully, blessing profusely to all. Bhajans continue in full swing. Swami talks to school children who come to touch his feet in respect, in worship. He later gives audience to various people, listen to their problems. At nine thirty almost two hours after his entry, swami leaves the hall waving in his car toward residence.

In the afternoon after a light south Indian lunch, I check out. Spontaneously, I hum the last line of “Hotel California” by The Eagles ---------- you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave. The unplanned visit to Puttaparthi has been a pleasant and fulfilling one, nothing short of a pilgrimage. A visit that renews, recharges and revitalizes, for days to come.

Main Gate Entrance to Kulwant Hall

Sai Baba