Monday, February 18, 2008

The face of Pradeep is everywhere

When I was interning at Auroville, the Mitra guest house where I stayed at had a guy named Raj* who would rent cycles, bikes and mopeds to the guests staying there, and his assistant/mechanic named Pradeep*. Pradeep is probably not more than 18 years old - dark, extremely thin, and always in a pair of dirty trousers and a hand-me-down t-shirt. Uneducated and innocent, he was always extremely faithful and dedicated to Raj as well as Mitra's warden, Sita* - doing little chores around the guest house whenever he was asked. He was quite polite to all the guests at Mitra, and even grew attached to anyone who showed a little affection towards him.
When you are in India, you become used to a host of people looking after you - servants, cooks, drivers, watchmen, and the odd kid who runs to the grocery store for you at the drop of a hat. We take this "servant" culture for granted. It was a hand-me down from the Brits who began the `aaya' system in India. Why haven't we learnt to let go of it and take care of our own chores? Labour is extremely cheap in India, and there are people who are willing to take little pay for such physically demanding work.
I wasn't able to be as friendly to Pradeep initially - even being a little wary of this boy - having been unconsciously conditioned to be wary of people from "lower classes". Then a German friend of mine asked - "why don't you teach him English in your spare time? the poor thing has probably never been to school, and it might do him some good?!". That suddenly changed everything for me. Bhaskar always called me `akka' (older sister) - may be I could be a real akka for him and take him under my wing to teach him a thing or two? I was actually capable of changing this boy's world, even if it only temporarily?
How many such Pradeeps exist in India?! Their backs toiling at an age when they should be playing with children of their own age and studying in school. Illiterate, abandoned, bastard children to call no one their own?! Why can't these children be considered our own children and taken care of in the right way? Why are they allowed to rot on the streets?! They could be subject to the worst treatment - verbal, physical, sexual abuse, child labour - this unfair life is something they were unwittingly born into for no faults of their own. They are in need of a word beginning with j and ending with an e: JUSTICE.
* Names changed to protect identity

Friday, February 15, 2008

Become The Sun

The self contains the all illuminating brilliance of The Sun. We have but to look within to find all the glory, all the bliss that we seek every second of our being. This is our search. Our search for completion, for the feeling of ultimate fulfillment; ultimate happiness and salvation. And our answer lies closer than the breath we take.
Human beings constantly seek this fulfillment outside of themselves. In television, in a career, in a relationship, in the ultimate makeover, in husbands and mistresses, in Oprah, in Islam, in the Orthodox Christian Church, in Barrack Obama, in government, in misery, in children, in friends...the list is endless. Here is a quote of Aldous Huxley's:
"One of the many reasons for the bewildering and tragic character of human existence is the fact that social organization is at once necessary and fatal. Men are forever creating such organizations for their own convenience and forever finding themselves the victims of their home-made monsters."
I don't intend to offend anyone's sincere quest for the truth here, but would merely like to quote once again a saying in Buddhism for those of you who still didn't get it: "if you see the Buddha, kill him!!!". What this merely means is that we cannot grow attached to anything in particular, however noble the path may be, because at a certain point we begin to identify more with this attachment than with the actual truth which resides within our being. As long as we use the tools of the outside world only as just that -
tools to make us more aware of our inner truth - we are not in danger of losing our selves to them.
Desirelessness does not necessarily mean less sensitivity to the outside world, but rather, more of it. The truth unites every being in the universe, and it is impossible to remain unaffected by the miseries of the world we live in. Once we have discovered the inner truth, we begin to see it every where around us (even if it lies hidden beneath several layers!). And the more we begin to see it every where, the more we begin to be the drivers of positive change in the world we reside in. Now, quoting from Huxley's "Doors of Perception" essay:
Istigkeit - wasn't that the word Meister Eckhart liked to use? "Is-ness." The Being of Platonic philosophy - except that Plato seems to have made the enormous, the grotesque mistake of separating Being from becoming and identifying it with the mathematical abstraction of the Idea. He could never, poor fellow, have seen a bunch of flowers shining with their own inner light and all but quivering under the pressure of the significance with which they were charged; could never have perceived that what rose and iris and carnation so intensely signified was nothing more, and nothing less, than what they were - a transience that was yet eternal life, a perpetual perishing that was at the same time pure Being, a bundle of minute, unique particulars in which, by some unspeakable and yet self-evident paradox, was to be seen the divine source of all existence.
The cultivation of truth - for our soul is like a farm that needs to be tended to regularly - can begin with living a more authentic life. The soul always flows in the right direction - see where it takes you - often the best plans are the higher Divine plans that our conditioned brains can sometimes never even conceive of. In Buddhism, sitting meditation is often said to be the most effective way to discover the inner truth - Vipassana is an excellent technique recommended by the wise. In Hinduism, a treasure trove of techniques are said to exist - anything from Sanskrit texts/mantras to yoga, or even the Bhakti (devotional) or Jnana margas (path of wisdom). Reading the Zohar (Kabbalah) or following the Sufi way (by expressing love for the Divine), are all said to be (tried and tested) paths to the great Truth which often lay hidden from undeserving eyes.
My friend, seek not to collect moons, which are mere reflectors of light - Seek to become the one and only Sun which radiates luminosity in every direction. The path may not be completely facile, but the reward is eternal light, and with it, eternal fulfillment.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A poem (V Day special)

How can I express the depth
I find in our eyes

How can I express the meaning

in our distance
How can I express the bliss

in our convergence
How can I express

everything I know
about every moment
when a circle comes into being

Image courtesy:

Friday, February 08, 2008

A confused Country and a conditioned Soul; the state of affairs in India today

India has been at the helm of spiritual discovery for over five thousand years, long before many civilisations were yet to be born. And yet, today, the average Indian is not aware of even a single verse of The Upanisads. He/She is so occupied with the daily toil and trouble, and is blissfully unaware of the diamonds that lie beneath the physical surface of this great country. Our economists and policy makers are the most confused lot - unaware as to how they would be able to transform this heaving giant - leaking at her sides from unfixed sewers and the beads of sweat from the brows of labouring children. What kind of a curse is this, you may ask, that has put an entire country under a spell of ignorance?

All we are left with is the legacy of the old, the symbols of a glorious past - `Om's freely adorn our houses and tikas adorn our foreheads (said to be the doors of illumination), beautiful sacred geometric patterns decorate our courtyards, and Krsna is found to make his appearance more popularly on saris and as home furnishings than in the Bhagavad Gita. Daily existence is fueled by the need to survive, based on systems that barely coordinate. A typical life looks like this: baby -> gruelling school -> wasted college -> pointless I.T. job -> marriage and kids -> diabetes or high cholesterol related disease -> pointless death -> cycle continues through progeny. What makes the average Indian so bloody ignorant??!

My appearance in this country is not any less of a mystery, and makes for a fascinating story. A country liberated from a western army is now in the throngs of hollywood films and is draped in denim fabric rather than khadi - our education has gone beyond `Convent' to the all exclusive `English-medium', as long as it delivers the necessary results. I myself was educated in an all English-speaking school. I would have to thank the stars that at least in my school we did not have a rule against speaking in our native language of Tamil (as some other schools did). Tamil is one of the oldest languages in the world, and is beginning to die in the hands of the present young generation, in the very state/province it first originated in. Middle and upper class Tamilians these days cannot talk Tamil without sprinkling a few English words in between!!
I grew up on a steady diet of classical English literature and American poetry at school, and Archie comics, Nancy Drews, Enid Blytons, and (later) Hollywood movies and music from the Backstreet Boys, at home. Here was a girl, who had heard of the bravery of our `freedom fighters' more like a fantasy tale...patriotism was put into our heads more like an obligation, than as an understanding, waiting for the time when a generation grows older and does not find the need for it any longer (today Gandhi makes his appearance in Indian pop culture). My idealism stems more from literature I read written by American poets with liberal tendencies, than by the Indian freedom movement!
We now are moved by Bollywood films and cricket more than by Bhakti movement poetry. This is the same land that was once home to Sufi saints and Hindu mystics alike. So many thousands embarked on the journey of their inner soul. So many awakened on the banks of the great Ganges that is now so polluted and choked with the toxic wastes of the present civilisation.
Our solutions lie closer to the heart than we can ever imagine. Spirituality has to be brought into the Parliaments, and talked about with an ever increasing urgency and as the need of the hour. The solution for India does not lie in the western concepts of economic development. We have to seek higher solutions. Solutions that originate from a Divine mind, a Divine soul that is this country. We cannot expect to lay more roads and extinguish poverty. We need smaller communities, education within these communities, and an education that finds its foundations in spirituality and self-enquiry rather than on useless historical facts that are forgotten right after the students exit the exam halls. Solutions lay sprinkled in our past. The gurukula system, the smaller townships that were governed on a basis of Dharma, these are the symbols we need to adopt for today.

As for the individual...we cannot stop the influx of western materialism and idealogies, but we can instil in our young minds, the greater spiritual secrets that have been opened up and laid bare in the recent centuries. When a solid foundation is in place, it is difficult to shake it, in spite of any kind of external disturbances. We have to teach our children to follow their hearts and Divine guidance, rather than listen to people who talk from their selfish egos. We have to cultivate in them an independent attitude and the thirst for truth, rather than a conformist attitude and dependency on conventional thinking. This is the solution for the `modern' Indian society and today's `modern' Indian individual. Old is indeed Gold, but can be flexed to be adapted to provide solutions for the New.

Me, my path

I feel so far away from unity consciousness. One of the marks of an enlightened being is to feel one with the Universe, and feel love and compassion for every one and every thing. I think I've only covered about 10 steps on this ladder.

However, altruism no longer feels like an alien concept to me. I really have begun to feel real responsibility for a lot of issues in this world - poverty and ignorance being a huge one, beginning with my own country.

Money still seems to pose a bit of a challenge for me - me being afraid as to how I would survive in this world, if I do not have the proper devices to earn money.

I find much comfort in anonymity, often afraid to approach people and to ask them even for small favours. I do not know why I am this way. I have to admit that I am more introverted than extroverted, although when the situation calls for it, I can be very extroverted. So I swing between extremes sometimes. I can be extremely melancholic - but people can make me very happy. I wonder why am I this way?

In any case, I at least have a 1 year plan as to what I want to do with my life, beginning with travelling and then teaching - clearly not money-making ventures...but let us see what surprises this Universe could bring us!