Life in the Senses
The smell of the bakery surprised me today, the one I have never seen, hidden away just down the street from where I have lived for a few years, maybe it’s in a back lane, it fires up just in time so I can wander by and taste its goodies in my thoughts. The corner flower shop, it’s colors, bundles of heaven in soft fragile shapes making me think it’s spring in autumn, and there’s sun, yesterday the winds were distressing, almost a hundred miles an hour, if it wasn’t for my coffee non-addiction pleasure and a need to break out of cabin fever, I would have stayed in, hidden under my sheets. The beauty of the morning got me thinking, ‘why do we run?’
Death is Stalking
I grew up with death stalking me, it has taken years for me to settle into life. I don’t know if other people have this ‘running from death thing’ but my life has been shaped around it. India, seems to ‘do’ death better than anywhere else. I have had a deep love affair with India; when my plane landed in the far south at Trichy over thirty years ago, I wept.. I am not what you would call a Indiaphile, a traveler, a passport stamp collector; my experience is different. Oddly enough I have always been more Indian than western, my only genetic connection is one I heard about recently from my Irish American based second cousin, she informed me our DNA traces us to Pakistan. I saw a picture of India at about eight and as a child said to myself, ‘I must go there, my real fascination with the land of Bharat started at fifteen when I saw a newspaper cutout and the heading was ‘Jesus Lived in India’. Regardless what the facts may be, it was truth to me. This was a cue of how the future would be shaped. India, death and who I imagine myself to be, are intertwined.
India on Our Doorstep
It is a great tragedy to the world, in the West, historians, intellectuals and academics have written the story of the world according to certain criteria based on a particular set of values and opinions. Thank heavens for food and its secret hidden powers, fortunately Indian cuisine is desirable to many people. We have a lot to thank the global chefs for, they have brought the flavors into our mouths; they are ambassadors who unify humanity, they do what politicians and mainstream religions can’t. In the spaces where we go to eat these mouth-watering delicacies, on the walls hang pictures of Krishna, Elephants,people wrapped in cloth, the Moguls and while sitting knockin’ back a dosa or spiced tea, floating around the eating space is the sound of the sitar, the sarod, sarangi, tampura, tabla and musical notes that our ears have now become accustomed to; a scent of incense floating. India creeps up on us. In my case I dived in deep at a young age because death was chasing me, so I thought. Really death was my teacher tapping me on the shoulder and India was the classroom, its wisdom and very existence my textbooks.
Each moment we are faced with two entangled opposites, mortality and immortality, being present and detaching. When there is the ‘passing’ of a loved one, these two mysterious things knock loudly on our door and come in to sit for a while with us. It’s uncomfortable for us, the fragility of it all; often we just click back into to ‘normal’ with a BIG piece missing, sometimes broken, or maybe philosophical. We can, if we have enough personal power use this time to ‘see’, (‘personal power’ means a type of stability, to be able hold steady against all odds, something that has been developed throughout our lives through extracting the wisdom from experiences, and ‘seeing’ means to use the totality of ourselves to gaze into something without prejudice or a limited opinion). At the time of the passing of someone dear to us, we are at our most alert, on the edge of two worlds and if we can harness the waves of grief, use them as a type of fuel for transformation, a change will come about at a core level, even if we return to everyday life when the exterior is not much different; we will never be the same again.
The Beauty and Insanity of India
Death has been my teacher; India and death seem to be intertwined; the world of Gods beyond the human form, their visits to the world, the rushing Ganges, a symbol of the flow of life, the passing show, the billions born into human existence, rolling through space-time. The insanity of a country with so many paradoxes, where the Dharma is at its heart; the Dharma, the endless unfolding natural law that sustains all, with it’s innate tendency towards supporting virtue, and I don’t mean the morality of the small minded religious zealots. India with some of its hideous customs towards devaluing woman, and it’s not that it doesn’t happen elsewhere; where is the respect for Sita, isn’t she in every woman? India where the Ramayana was born, the epic tale of Rama, outlining the roles of all members of the community can play their roles to bring about a harmonious society. India she gave us the Bhagavad Gita, the Song of God expressed so potently, the arrival of the Avatar Krishna to save a bumbling humanity from itself, the prayers of the Saints and Sages heard, the Divine manifesting to its full potential in the world of the five elements. Krishna riding the chariot into battle with Arjuna standing on his shoulders, pulling on the reins of the five horses, helping those who support the Dharma in the battle of Kurukshetra, family members and friends against each other; reminding us it is our heart that is the battlefield, to overcome the part of ourselves that stands in the way of where we would be best to go.
The giant orange tennis ball in the sky, suspended in space over the western plains, ladies in saris in the fields, their backs bent, natural yogis, like phantoms on the stage of life. The sound of Bhajans, Kirtan, music for the Gods, little cymbals, drums and the drone of an harmonium moves across my thoughts. The words of Bhagavatam deeply ingrained in my thoughts. When I set out to write this a few days ago, I was thinking about an article about how all the things of India do not represent Spirituality, how they get in the way of the view of the formless absolute and how they are just passing forms in the show. I was thinking how anything that presents itself in the world of shadows and light is an obstacle to self-transformation…..and here I sit entangled; I solved death years ago, but India still enchants me; her mystery, her beauty…. I often wonder why I was born in the West, maybe it’s a love affair from a distance. the deepest longing that makes me appreciate her more, like the master musician who waits for the perfect note to emerge from the Silence.