Tag Archives: India

A Hard Traveling: A Path of Worship

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Sometimes I can’t tell if I’m walking thru some known past or walking into some unknown future. The people I meet along the way all appear to me as dear old friends rather than people I’m meeting for the first time. I become familiar fast, I tell people what I want and expect it with the same ease with which I give what is asked of me. The demands are not unreasonable or unexpected, just what the situation demands. We’re all just fulfilling our duties to the other; to humanity; to ourselves; or, if you like, to God.

I’ve faced some hard traveling in the past as I faced off against the scorching hot winds of the Indian plains, or the cold isolation of the Himalayan mountains, or perhaps even when I walked in my vain attempt at hitchhiking thru the nomadic lands and salt flats of western India. The Narmada valley kicked my ass and so did the Naga hills, but none of it so hard as Canada’s west coast.

Over the past few months, I’ve been from Edmonton to 180 miles out on the North Pacific, I’ve walked, trekked, hitch-hiked, bused, flew and boated uncountable miles; moving far too frequently, ready to give up time and time again but unable to stop due to some invisible hand of fate. The isolation, the untamed nature, and the magnitude of accidents and incidents has challenged me on every level stretching my emotions thin (sensitive as a champagne glass), sharpening my instincts so that they cut like a razor without hesitation, and, of course, breaking my body with frost bite on my fingers, cartilage torn in my ribcage, and infection setting into even the most insignificant cut. (I found out after writing this that I also crushed three vertebrae in a ladder fall a couple of days after I tore the cartilage in my ribs.)

The bear that was foraging on the beach where I camped in Winter Harbour came to give me a sniff at night. I know how these weak dogs feel when they decide to crossing thru another packs territory. At least I didn’t piss myself. I was camping/hitch-hiking on the edge of town for three days before someone came along who was heading back towards civilization (if you can call Port Hardy civilization, and it seems you can only call it that if you’re coming from Winter harbour, otherwise you still have a long way to go before you can make such a statement). It’s not a matter of cars driving past you and not stopping, everyone stops, but they’re all locals, nobody is going back to civilization. And when someone did finally come along they had to honk and call me up from the beach because the last thing I expected was a ride. Speaking with the locals I was expecting to be there for another three days.

I remember when I was going up to Nepal to trek the Langtang valley in January so many years ago. A Brazilian girl was in the jeep with me and she spoke of her fathers belief that Nepal was like going to the end old the world. The cold, she said, exacerbated this feeling for her. Dante, after all, portrayed the lowest levels of hell as a most frozen wasteland of demons. I’ve been out past Winter Harbour and I can say that it really is the end of the world. There is nothing beyond except wind, water and waves. The people of the town frozen in some time long in the past making it feel less like I’m traveling thru space and more like I’m traveling thru time. But perhaps this is the effect of a Ketu pratyardasha during a Mercury retrograde.

Ketu, the dragons tail or south node, is known as one of the shadow planets. He’s a mysterious mystical planet that brings our past life karmas to the fore. He is one of the great balancers of our karmic debts. He works in the most mysterious and unpredictable ways. In a flash he can raise one to the highest status or bring them crashing down to the lowest. Ketu usually shows us our most natural talents that we’ve brought with us from previous lives. These being areas of our lives that we’re already comfortable with, we rarely have have the sense of challenge it takes to stick with something until we master it. With Ketu, we’ll pick something up because it’s there and drop it completely when we’re finished with it. Mercury in retrograde also bring us back to our past, so that we find ourselves thinking about past lovers, past mistakes, or any other unfinished business. During the last Mercury retrograde in the early summer of 2016 I edited over 70 pages of past writing and wrote two unsent letters to girlfriends from far in my past. During the retrograde that occurred last fall I was saved by an ex-girlfriend who suddenly thought to repay a debt that I’d long since put behind me. I was hoping this current Mercury retrograde would allow me the time to finish my editing task. Unfortunately Ketu’s strength had me out on the seas pulling in tuna on hand lines and slicing their throats: brutal, blood soaked work. Ketu has long since suggested to me that my past life followed such a brutal blood soaked path. This is perhaps why I feel so blessed regardless of the Saturneous difficulties of my current life: no matter how hard things may seem, they could be a lot worse.

I started moving back in May when the heat of Varanasi started to rise well above 40 degrees. I headed north to the Himalayan Mountains, wandering villages for a couple of months until I found some nice place to rest. By then it was time to leave India and come back to Canada where I’ve been wandering for about 10 weeks.

About a month ago, I thought I was done and finished. I thought the highways and forests of the interior had finished my off. I though that I couldn’t possibly go on. And then I got the call to go Tuna fishing. It’s often like that, just when you think you can’t go on, just when you think that your heart and soul has given all that it has, just when you think you’ve lost everything, there comes some fresh spark from god only knows where. I’m amazed time and again how much spark, how much illumination is within me even when I think I’ve spent it all. Such will to live. Now, once again, I honestly don’t feel like I can continue any farther.

A few nights ago I was sleeping in my tent when the breath of a bear woke me up. I could smell him and hear him as he sniffed at the tent. I dreamt about him the night before and thru my dream I knew somehow that I was welcome to pass thru the territory. He left when I spoke to him. I’d seen him on the beach, I knew he was in the neighborhood.

“Life,” a wise man once said, “is mostly about wastin’ time, and I waste my share of mine.” Sometimes this seems like all I’m ever doing is wastin’ time. I’ve gathered up all kinds of knowledge that I could not have imagined, I’ve had experiences that are quickly fading from this planet, and I’ve loved and lost so many times that I don’t know the difference any more. But all of this I keep within me. When I start to put my experience and knowledge to paper and print it sounds like some stereotype that cannot possibly be real. How can one man do all of that? Perhaps I’ve taken my memory from books and movies or merely dreamt it.

On the other hand, few of my stories have the sparkle and shine or the outlandishness that people seem to associate with my kind of travel. This search for freedom has not been an exploration of the drug culture: I’ve managed to avoid the coke in Central America, the Ayuasca of the southern shamans, the ‘shrooms of the west coast, the acid of the cities and all the rest of that mind altering experimentation. I’ve done my best to maintain what I consider a certain level of legitimacy in my quest. Many people seem somewhat disappointed that I haven’t explored this drug fueled consciousness. It’s like my legitimacy is lost by not having gone thru this drug fueled route to higher consciousness.

I cannot say that good old fashioned meditation has brought me here alone, just like I cannot deny living in a world of altered consciousness. Experience has been just as important as meditation and fate has done most of the work for me. This path is written in the stars, this consciousness has been a gift of God. If any one little thing was changed then it would all be changed to such an extent that I would no longer be me, but someone else with a whole different set of knowledge, skill and experience.

Sometimes I wish I could view my life from the perspective of my friends and family who see me as a great adventurer, mystic and yogi. Of course my pride has elevated me to Baba with so many clients calling me doctor and guruji, but this very pride keeps me quite about my travels and these people who come across my path.

A wise man said that there’s no use trying to figure it all out, it takes the time that’s needed for talkin’ about the places you’ve been and the faces you’ve seen. Perhaps I waste too much time trying to figure it all out; trying to see how one piece fits onto the other and what piece will come next. So, perhaps it’s time I speak, or write a little more about the places I’ve been and the faces I’ve seen.

A truck driver picked me up somewhere around Mount Robson. He told me that he stopped because I was wearing a cowboy hat rather than a rag on my head. I felt lucky for a moment that I happened to be wearing that hat that was plunked on my head by a friend as he left me to seek my fortune on the side of the highway; it’s more common for me to have a rag on my head. By the time I shared this news with the trucker we had already established a friendship and he was no longer in the mood for insults.

I sometimes come across these big burly manly men who wrestle bears. Of course they don’t really wrestle bears so this little adventure that is my life seems to threaten them as though my meager existence somehow knocks them out of the alpha-male seat they are so accustomed to. Perhaps they could handle it if I was competitive and boastful about my adventures, but the truth is that I never seek out adventure, adventure just seems to grab a hold of me and drags me thru the mud or the sea and then spits me out in some strange place like Winter Harbour or Port Hardy. All I can do when I come out the other side is marvel at my surroundings and wonder just what it is I’m doing here. I ask this of the wind quite a lot: What am I doing here?

As a philosopher I’m used to asking questions of myself. I used to always ask and wonder, “who am I?’ but now that I seem to have that figured out to some degree, my question is more often: “what am I doing here?” It’s a fair question. I have no reason for being here, I’ve never even looked at this part of the world on the map, but yet here I am in Port Hardy putting off my bus ticket one more day over and over. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll go somewhere. I’m too far away from everything to get anywhere in a day.

I was in this situation a few months ago in India. There I was in the village Tatapani which had been mostly flooded out by a dam a few years earlier wondering to myself what I was doing there. As is often the case, I was just wastin’ time. There was nothing there to see or to do, and as usual it was the people who touched me in a way that the land out here touches me. Sometimes these touches burn a hole so deep that the mark will never go away. Sometimes it’s just a gesture; a sentiment.

How often have I made it thru someplace that I’m sure has changed me forever only to run into some old friend who reminds me that I haven’t changed one bit. All the scars are internal. All the perception arises from within. We cannot even imagine what it must be like to see thru another’s eyes. How often the vision changes; that inner vibration seeking it’s harmonious match. Every note is beautiful on it’s own, but it takes a certain degree of magic for harmony to arise from a whole cluster of notes. We often forget this when we’re in conflict with others. We point our finger at the other person throwing blame upon them and challenging them to change their inner music to match our own.

But even in conflict there is some match between people. I’ve seen this in astrology charts when people clearly do not match with each other. Although their personalities may not match, their karma matches; their miserable time together matches. I’ve seen horrible relationships come in front of me and I’ve had to say that yes, there is an astrological match in the charts. Soul mates do not only come into being between butterflies and rainbows; everyone we encounter is a kind of soul mate fulfilling some need in our lives; fulfilling some vision we have of life. Sometimes we need the conflict to feel fulfilled; that duality of righteousness that bring some tension to life.

Some people say this about astrology: “I don’t want to know, I’d rather it comes as a surprise.” But even knowing what I know, life always comes as a surprise. Reading a future in a chart and experiencing that future are two very different things; two very different ways of knowing. When I see an accident coming in my chart it never occurs to me to try to avoid it. One always tries to be careful, but such is the nature of an accident that we never see it coming until it’s already upon us.

A wise man once said that: “We all got holes to fill, them holes are all that’s real. Some fall on you like a storm, sometimes you dig your own.” To this I could add that we usually know when we’re digging a hole for ourselves even without predictive astrology, but this does not keep us from digging the hole. Actually, I’ve written before that most people know their future without seeking out astrological advice. Just as something deep inside myself knew that I was facing the Saturn effect on my luck long before it became as apparent as it is today. People mostly know if they are going to be successful or miserable, rich or poor. Of course crazy things happen some people worry about everything while others worry about nothing and who can say what will come of them. Strange luck strikes from anywhere when the time comes.

I’ve always had high hopes for myself. I certainly never expected to be living on such an edge of existence; clinging to the edge of world wondering where my path will take me next. Venus will soon be giving influence where Ketu has been for the past month. I pray that she will be kind to me, and embrace me with the kind of love and luxury and creativity that she’s famous for. I’ve noticed in the past that her location in my third house with Saturn and Jupiter looking at her often influences this very traditional art of astrology that I’ve been practicing. I remember years ago asking my teacher about this combination as I wondered why I was not using my hands for art and design as I expected from Venus. One look at the charts covering almost every page of my notebook laid my questions to rest.

The difficulties of these past months has left me wondering if things can get any worse, though of course I know that they can. I have a not on my own astrology chart that Venus should bring both a relationship and some writing which sound quite pleasant, but of course I cannot ignore Venus’ rulership of my 12th house of loss and the 7th house of the loss of longevity; both of which are obviously quite ominous. Since she’s living in my third house of effort it makes perfect sense since I don’t feel like I have any effort left in me and if this continues it’s sure to be the death of me. But I don’t suppose death in in my cards just yet either as my previous figuring should give my at least another 15 years in union with this body. My teacher assures me that I have even longer than that.

Speaking of astrology, I’ve had some wonderful clients lately as well as some disastrous feedback. This great intimacy I feel with my clients, although wonderfully touching in a familiar way, occasionally gives me a kick in the ass since I share their pain as readily as I share their joy. And of course regardless of what I do, I cannot change anything for them (and lucky nobody expects me to do this), and still there exists suffering and confusion in this world. Patience and awareness seems to be the only remedy; but such remedies are only bestowed on those of us who are fated for such patience and awareness.

In any case, I’m merely writing for the sake of writing; singing for the sake of the song. I’ll continue to walk in this world between the past and the future, between heaven and hell and all the rest. Non-duality and non-difference between the poles. This fleeting stillness being the only real reality. It’s been said that when truth descends upon us, the only response in worship. So please accept this writing in the spirit of worship, just as I pray each step I take in this life continues to be taken in worship.

Materialism vs Tradition Cultures: An Optimistic Perspective

One of the richest men of India graced the evening aarti (ceremony) in Varanasi one evening. Not unlike Obamas visit to India, several private planes landed in the days before his arrival to ensure he would have all the comforts to which he’s accustomed, as well as the security preparations to keep him safe. Aarti time was even changed to fit his schedule. Of course, he was also giving some money to repair some damaged ghats and beautify the city.

Varanasi is famous for it’s discomforts, unappealing poverty, illness, garbage, shit, decomposition, and stench, to say nothing about the ease by which terrorism can be done here. Kings like this man have to worry about that kind of thing though it may be nothing to us. The filth of this city gets inside of all new comers, especially those most sure of themselves. Standing before the fires that consume over 10 000 bodies a year can have it’s effect. Doubt is sure to arise in the mind of the firmest ego. In this regard, I can understand why someone with the means would take all precaution: I’m sure he has no more time for doubt than he does for illness.

I asked one Varanasi man what he thought of this; being visited by such a king? “Go away man, we don’t need your money and show. They just come and disrupt our lives, demand special favours, just so they can show how great they are. Go away from here.” Time and again I hear this kind of attitude in Varanasi. Whenever there’s some initiative to clean the place up, or fix it or preserve it I’m usually just reminded that Varanasi people don’t want change. While the cities of India are surging ahead with change, most people in Varanasi are happy doing things like they’ve always done them. Let them fix things, let them push their initiative, as soon as they go things will go back to they way they’ve always been.

I can see the argument for such conservatisms in India much more clearly than I can in Canada. The family and community structures are much more intact here. Their lives are like iron, hard, but solid and dependable from birth to death. Family is their insurance, the community is their support.

The caste system is often spoken of in deplorable terms, but if you think in terms of structuring a community, you need all four castes to work together. An of course, the outcome of any cohesive group is that there will be people who don’t belong (outcastes and foreigners). A self-sustaining community needs a diversity of castes: labourers to build and maintain infrastructure, farmers and merchants to supply our goods, teachers and knowledge seekers to preserve and promote wisdom, as well as leaders and protectors to facilitate the smooth harmonious flow of people and goods. The outcastes forever challenge us. Those who think differently, act differently, have different norms, languages, gods. As much as their ways challenge us as individuals, they pose even greater challenge to the community.

What we’re seeing is a breaking down of the social structure in India. The west went thru this after World War II. By the time the 60’s rolled around everyone was freely completing their desires without fear of social recrimination. But of course there are still strong social taboos here that still make it necessary to underground to complete ones desires. The growth of urbanization along with massive need for itinerant works who leave their families and villages to find work where they can. To the western eye who sees them with their wife and children along with, a brother and his family it might seem as though family is still abundantly present, but from the Indian perspective this is the first stage of a broken family; broken home.

This is all old news in the west, but over the years of coming to India I’ve seen the changes that I have been a part of. As a foreigner, I’m an outcast here, if it was not for the weight of the currency from my home country, it’s likely I would be treated as more of an outcast than a king, but because of the weight of my western currency I am given the power of a king. As tourist outcasts we all arrive with this power. With this power we can change the society to suit our own needs just as the richest man in India did when he came to Varanasi. Of course, compared to him, you and I are poor people, our advantage is numbers and long durable work. In other words, our comforts were not flown in for us alone, but over the years of so many of us coming and bringing our own values with us we have gotten out way. We can have a croissant with jam for breakfast along with a cappuccino and a cigarette in any mildly touristic town in India, even if the locals have never found a taste for it.

We have created small unsustainable economies in the tourist sectors. The people, the real rulers of the land, are relying on us outcaste tourist for their prosperity. We’re nice enough rulers, we give good tips and are generally pleasant enough as people, but we’re still outcastes; we don’t belong as a part of their society. So whenever we bring our good ideas and insist that others adopt them, we are introducing foreign elements into the culture. We might not insist on the supremacy of our values without words or actions, but this supremacy shines with the power of our currency and the sophistication of our lifestyle.

Many people are of course overwhelmed buy the shine of modern sophistication and pride exuded by western people. Imagine yourself a villager, still no electricity or running water, never a day in school (learned from the land), some ox cart road for so many miles before there’s even a decent road, maybe watched TV a couple of times on the way thru the village to make trade. Then bring into the picture a shiny young American with a 300mm zoom lens and a million dollar smile.

“Oh maharaja, what can I ever do to get some of what you have?”

The funny thing is that for the passed 1000 years Hindustan (Hindu India) has had what would be considered outcaste rulers (the Persians followed by the Mughals). Perhaps this division between government and society helped to give Hindu society strength, because now that they’ve had over 50 years of self rule, traditional Hindu society is facing it’s most daunting challenge: materialism. They were fine so long as they were in opposition to the outcastes, but now that we’ve come back as friends offering the material comforts so long denied to the typical Hindustani they have no shame in dropping their traditions. But these traditions are what have held the people (the society) together through all the changes and upheavals of rulers and empires.

All ancient traditions are the same in this long-term view of things. It’s not a conservative resistance to change, it’s rather an understanding that the truth of a place (or a person) lies beyond all the changes. So let them come, they will go too. It will look like change has happened, but in the end everything will be just as it’s always been.

War and materialism will leave its mark on every society (every person even), but behind the marks of suffering and the cloaks of prosperity lies the same wisdom that cannot be lost for it’s preserved in every heart, in this way traditional culture, traditional society remains preserved and ready to support people thru the changes of war and materialism. The change is merely the appearance, the truth is that the same heart is beating now as has been beating since the beginning.

India: holding her own

I was asked to write a few words about India to help sooth some of the hearts that are missing Mother India’s expansive embrace. India is an impossible country that will easily defy anything I say about her. Those of you who have met Mother India know her more surely than my words, while those who have not had such a pleasure of meeting her may find my words hollow and empty. The best I can do is cobbling together a few popular prayers to help invoke her presence. Actually, I admit that it’s probably best to keep silent on the matter of India since my words can only lead you away from who is really India. I know that the moment I put my fingers to the keys I will miss the point. Even before that moment, the point is missed on the arising of the first syllable in my mind. Never the less, I will order those syllables and present them here to add a little spice to your memories and imaginings of India.

Om Sri Ganesha Namaha…. Remove the maya and the impurities from my mind so that I can know the truth of this matter. Om Namo Narmada…. Remove the maya and impurities from my senses so that I can see the truth of this matter. Om mataji… thank you for this maya and impurity, without which there could be no experience, no knowledge, no sight. Om Vishnu Om Vishnu Om Vishnu…. Thank you for your dedicated management of the 3 gunas. Om Namah Shivaya…. When all else fails we know Shiva will take care of things. 

AUM

 India is like this prayer of mine: she’s made of a bunch of parts that seem to fit together and then given her own meaning by everyone who comes along. But no one can understand her any more than they can understand this prayer; despite the confusion, she leaves you with a nice feeling. I recently watched a three hour video on “how to correctly recite Om” and it left me feeling much more confused about the topic, but somehow more confident to approach it. India is a little like this.

Everyone loves Ganesha. If India changed their tourist motto to “come meet Ganesha,” many more people would flock to the country. But perhaps this is why they don’t use this motto; with Ganesha’s blessing we might scurry in like the charming rats so often pictured with Ganesha to come knaw on a sweetened ball grain that is India, and then what would become of India?

Ganesha can be said to be the pleasure loving side of our minds. And the rat beside him, always knawing on something, just like the mind chewing on the sweetness of our mental impression. The pair of them only serves as distraction, and it’s said that you can plead, appease, or command the removal of their obstruction, as you wish. But before we move on, it’s advised we deal with this pleasure loving side of us that is attached to the sweet fruits of our senses.

Narmada pilgrimage can be said to be a remedy for such attachments. There are numerous remedies of course, but Narmada is a special pilgrimage lasting over three and a half years. Devotees begin with nothing but faith and a song. It sometimes seems as though this is all India has as well: faith and a song. It’s hard to even imagine the kinds of peace and compassion she has inspired though Gandhi and Teresa are testaments to this inspiration. The Narmada pilgrimage is followed by all kinds of people: the poor and landless, criminals in hiding or those seeking some gain, itinerants who are too lazy to get a job and enjoy the simple life by Narmada, and of course the many others singing with devotion the songs of love for their mother/sister/daughter/lover Narmada. Her devotees are Bhaktis spreading peace and love and the fruits of their action. The Sufis and Hare Krishnas follow a similar path sometimes become as wild and natural and loving as a fawn in the forest.

The common word for crazy in India is pagal. This word assumes a degree of satisfaction in ones own mental state. This is why they don’t generally disturb crazy people here, they might not be acting up to society standards but if they’re not hurting anyone, leave them, they’re pagal, and usually happier than the rest of us. And the rest of us could possibly learn something from such satisfaction. Although pagal is certainly distinct from enlightened, there is certainly some connection on an individual basis.

After a few trips to India, she will certainly make you pagal. You feel enlightenment fill your heart and you stop caring for anything else, though in the process you will such feel a great bursting of love as well as your personal boundaries. You become so open and loving and compassionate and so completely pagal friends and family will certainly recognize your pagalness when you get home. Armed with the words of Krishna Murtri or Osho you will expound on the insanities of your friends and families and societies. This is likely only the first sign that enlightenment is possible for you, you may have tapped into your source, but without any control you’re certainly only pagal.

For our madness of India we need Mataji. If there’s anyone we can rely on to keep things real, it’s Mataji. Ask and you shall receive comes from Mataji. Openness and vulnerability and leaving your lives in the hands of fate is one side of things; the other side of things is to complete our own desires. Open and vulnerable without any direction is wonderful place from where to discover your own direction, but it will lead also to a lot of following other peoples direction and being used to complete their own desires without concern for yours. I believe this is largely why most scriptures advise being in a spiritual community for doing practice: so that you will be in safe hands. But of course we know also that spiritual communities are just as likely to be corrupt as the rest of society (especially where sex, wealth, power, fame, or reputation are involved).

Most of us have only one spiritual community to lean on for comfort and protection, she goes by various names, but she is known as the ground we walk on, the water we drink, the air we breath, the fire in our bellies, and the ground for all of these things. She is Mataji, the great mother who provides everything we could ever want or need. She is also known as Shakti because she provides the power for our senses, our action and our mind. There is no spiritual community greater than the one provided by Mataji.

Walking the streets of India is often an exercise in our faith in the spiritual community of Mataji. When you look at this country and put your mind to the things going on around here you will surely stumble into a less satisfied state of pagal; you’ll want to change everything. But if you just take a couple deep breaths, turn off the mind and start walking everything opens up and it becomes easy to navigate the crowds on the streets as well as the crowds of thoughts in the mind. This is trusts in Mataji, and I surely need her help to get through this article. Trust and write….. trust and walk…. Trust and move forward in life…. Just let time do its work.

Om Vishnu Om Vishnu Om Vishnu…. Vishnu is the sustainer and the preserver of things. Those nice thoughts that rise up, to form nice sentences and ideas that find their way to action shaping the whole world as well as your own inner world are sustained beyond the original moment of inner vibration by Vishnu. Vishnu is the humble labourer taking the three qualities of nature, the purity, the impurity and the action that is always mixing the two, and reshaping the world moment to moment according to the natural laws of Mataji.

When we walk the streets of India, we cannot forget these three qualities of Mataji, which are so expertly operated by Vishnu. The quality of purity (sattwik), which gets the whites white in the Ganges and does not leave dead pilgrims strewn along her banks after drinking the nectar from her flow. What is it about purity that allows us to look past the garbage and the feces and the smells of all of this and tell all our friends how beautiful and uplifting India can be? It’s a tricky one this purity. The quality of impurity, on the other hand, is simple, lazy and inert. We know garbage is nothing like this, but rocks are, which, by simple logic, could make garbage more pure than rocks. But of course simple logic doesn’t work in a country that insists on the reality of even the most wildly imagined thoughts. And since no one around here seems to be keeping it real except the poorest of the poor it can be nice know that Vishnu is always doing his part to keep things in some kind of strange balance.

But for all the comfort and security offered by the likes of Mataji and Vishnu there’s only one man we can always turn to for peace, and that’s Shiva. Some call him the Destroyer, but that’s such a crass name for someone who reabsorbs our every thought into his cooling waters. He’s the one taking all the thoughts, ideas, actions and even sensations away from our conscious experience. He lets us look from one thing to another while completely forgetting about the other thing. So when you’re done reading this article and move on with your day forgetting all about this experience, you can thank Shiva for his graceful way of bringing everything to some end.

And with that said, I pray that this shabby prayer of mine coupled with the shabby explanation will complete my duty to write about this shabby country. On the one hand India seems to be just hanging on by some small corner of a brick, while on the other hand it feels as though it will persist long after the shinny buildings of the west have crumbled, and just by one small corner of a brick holding everything up. You can’t even imagine it could do that, but here it is before you, the impossible, incredible India…. starring Ganesha. 🙂

Humble blessing from Shiva City Varanasi

Om Namah Shivaya

My humble blessings from Shiva City Varanasi.

Om Namah Shivaya

Price of Defeat

What is it that causes so many people in their thirties to suddenly contract unhappiness. They look back on the whole of their life: their achievements, their relationships, their careers and their training and suddenly they decide that none of it is enough. Something vital is still missing. While they were building a life they somehow missed out on life, and at Some point in our thirties we decide that we must go looking for it.

This desire to go searching for that something more is often powerful enough for people to uproot their lives: careers that many only dream of get left behind, marriages come to an end, and many possessions get sold, given away or thrown in the trash-heaps they are for.

We usually don’t know what it is that is missing or to where we must go or what we must do to find it, but suddenly we discover that we must begin listening to our intuition. Or perhaps all the years of repressing our intuition causes it to begin asserting itself through life changes.

YOU ARE THAT! NOT THIS NOT THAT!

Knowledge has bounds, intuition does not. We are much more than the sum of our experiences. We are like a vessel which contains all manifest possibility; infinite potential; a mass of energy conscious of being a mass of energy.

Who we think we are is not who we are. We are beyond our own comprehension.

If this is the case than what is this popular idea of true self? Authentic self? The real?

I hear many stories about lovely successful people who I always thought had it together suddenly breaking down and realizing that they do not at all have it together. Their happiness was a sham, their smiles and laughter masks to cover all that they did not know. Their days, organized for completeness were days of mental chaos, felling success only when triumphing over others and being left forlorn when they must cede success to someone else. We’ve heard it in the movies countless times: “My whole life is a sham.”

But what is a person to do?

I’ve heard the same refrain over and over: “We can’t all just go off to travel India for half the year like you do.”

India has been my path, kindly find your own! I’m not saying that India is not also your path; it is the path of millions of western people (and over a billion Indians). But once here we all have our own paths. None of it would work if we all followed the same path, we’d get in each others way.

And this is much of the problem, we’re all trying to conform to the same path and we’re all getting in each other way. And all this getting in each others way is starting to cause tension and anger. And by the time we hit our thirties we’re completely pissed off, frustrated, and exhausted by life; and now we are ready to listen to our intuition.

An old man once told me that disappointment was a better starting point for the journey within than dreams.

So here we sit in our thirties feeling completely disappointed by life and wanting more. This can’t be it, can it?

A very close friend once confided to me that no matter how much she planned and prepared for the future, she could not feel secure; she always imagined the worst. Above every mutual fund, every dead-bolt, every alarm system and every insurance policy hung a black cloud of “what ifs?” that left her feeling as vulnerable to the future as though she’d done nothing. She knew that the fear was her own burden, but she didn’t know how to drop it.

And then one day it happened! She left her car door unlocked and she came back to find many of her possessions had been stolen. She dropped her guard for a moment and paid the price. But she also realized that she could not be vigilant 24 hours a day; she could not guard against everything. Her fears just dropped away. She didn’t even get angry over having her things stolen; instead she felt only the peace that comes with complete defeat.

Varanasi, India. 2009.

November 2009
Varanasi, India

In a cold guest house room beside the Ganges. Me and Joseph the Swede are wrapped in blankets, playing chess, smoking charas.

“I can’t keep going on like this. broken heart after broken heart. it’s not fair to me or to them or to anyone that has to listen to me.” I said with a smile. “I figure there are only three choices for me when it comes to love and relationships: I could become a monk and lock myself away somewhere, hide front the women of the world; or I could just get married. Make a pact with some woman to make it work. Maybe some simple Indian girl to make a life with, I could marry that girl in Delhi I told you about. Or, I can just keep on keeping on repeating other maddening waves of love and heartbreak. This is not what I want, but becoming a monk and suppressing all that passion isn’t the way either, and first I have to find a woman to marry me; which is kinda what the whole cycle is about…..

“…… Maybe that’s why I get so upset about it all: because I realize I have no control over it. All this love and loss is out of my hands. But there has to be something I can do. Some way to make it all flow easier……” I was exhausting myself with my monologue.

Joseph was staring at the chess board.

He’d been all over the world loving and leaving women. He doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing. Trying one thing and another and going back. His girlfriend had just left India to go back to work, he was staying on for a couple months. All was good between them, but the future of course was not at all clear.

He was (still is) into meditation. Silent retreats, morning routine…… Cursing himself always as he tries to get something more from meditation; always rating the meditation abilities of the meditator: himself and the others in the groups he partakes in silence with.

All these comparisons are the hardest things to drop. Imagining the inner life of another person and longing to have an inner life comparable.

Most of us just want the kind of house or car or job or lifestyle or friends or lovers or wives that other people have.

Others want the peace and tranquility they see in others, or the assertiveness that they admire, or the creativity that allows some to shine.

We are rarely good enough as we are.

Joseph stayed on for about a month and our conversations and chess playing continued. I had kind of isolated myself aside from him and the the guest house and a couple restaurants. I was just keeping to my practice, studying the Gita, and beginning to strike upon a deeper understanding of duty and sacrifice. After a couple months I was like an old man sitting at my desk studying, reading, writing for most of the hours of a day. Shawls wrapped around me to protect me from the cold damp fog of Ganga in the winter. I was as focused and monkish as I’ve ever been. I was even practicing postures to promote celibacy and restraint.

And then Claire arrived at the guest house….

She arrived and took me away from everything I was doing. It was about three days later before I noticed. It was festival season in Varanasi. It’s always festival season. We were running around town like children: taking pictures of Muslims butchering buffalo for Id, watching as midnight pashmina deals turned into opium deals. I remember the bells ringing that never seemed to stop, everyone celebrating and praying and coming together to fill Kashi beyond its holy domain.

We came together in strange way. After being inseparable for a few days. The youngest brother of the guest house came to me and said that they’d overbooked and asked if Claire and I could share a room for a couple days. It was a crazy thing to request. I asked Sanjay about it and he didn’t want any part of the request, but he admitted the were over booked.

This was the strange sort of ‘set-up’ that brought us together. A few days later we were heading west on the train.

She had energy this girl. She wanted to see everything, explore. We would wander thru neighborhoods and the people would be out of their homes laughing like crazy at the way she played with the children and her camera. Her smile and joie de vivre was infectious. I was certainly infected with it. I’d almost completely forgotten who I was. I was following under her spell. It was wonderful.

But it was also too much for me. My energy was sapped. We got to Bhundi she fell ill first and spent an couple days in bed and I followed right behind her, sinking into the large comfortable room we’d found. And then, as if all of a sudden we were going to the door together and I was giving her a passionate kiss good bye. She returned the kiss, but none of the passion, ran down the stairs to the rickshaw the was waiting and flew back to France.

Three weeks had passed since I met her, I found myself completely at a loss. Heartbroken. More than all of that, all my focus had been kindof geared towards knowing better than to allow this to happen to myself. A three week affair ending in my broken heart couldn’t have been a starker reminder that all this talk and thought and suffering I did about my fate with women was just talk….. Bullshit. I wasn’t going to do anything about anything.

Kutch: The Wild West of India

I made it to Bhuj in one piece. The bus trip wasn’t so bad: I slept. It was the ten hour train ride to go 250km that took my steam away. I’ve just come back to Bhuj after a week of hitching rides around this restricted border area (with a permit). I’ve walked too many miles down deserted desert roads praying to god that something would drive by to offer me hope of a ride. Motor bikes and buses and jeeps and coal trucks have all picked me up and taken me so far — sometimes depositing me at border intelligence to have my documentation scrutinized. Nikiforuk, it seems, is a Muslim name; I’m sure Indian intelligence is having a closer look at them as well as every other person who’s business card I happened to have on me (sorry y’all).

For lodging I have found Gurudwaras and Dharmassalas most hospitable; sleeping on thin mats laid out on concrete floors, stuffing much needed blankets in the holes of the walls to keep out the rats, and waiting for cows to be milked so I could be served chai. Walking down one particularly deserted road I came across a goat-herder with a great smile who offered me chai and then quickly rounded up his herd for grazing. The boy with him went off to milk a few goats while we collected a few scraps of wood to make a fire in a dry creek bed. He made chai for me while we made small talk as best we could (no one speaks English in these parts) and then I set off back down the road. I walked about 15km that day before I finally got a ride, that bit of chai was my only lunch.

And for two days I had a guide, a self appointed 78 year old Rajput man who sang and danced ever chance he got. He would yell at passing tractors to turn up their music which was already blaring, dance as they passed and then curse them when the music went out of reach. He cost me a small fortune (about 12 dollars) and I’ve cursed him a few times, but the friendship and the colour that he lent to the trip was invaluable.

There’s more, so much more I could say, but for now I have to go. In a few days I should be standing in front of the oldest sign-board that the world knows about (about 5000 years old). No one knows what it says, but why should that be important. Soon after, I’ll be going through caves with paintings that are over 12000 years old. But first I’m going to relax for a few days at the beach.

Varanasi: First Impression 2008

I just spent five days inhaling the smoke from the fires of dead people. Less than 100 paces from where I was staying is the burning ghat along the Ganges river. Over three hundred people a day are turned to ash there. I saw as many as 12 fires going at once. I rented a boat for an hour and the boatman explained that babies, pregnant women, and holy men are never burnt, their bodies are tied to a rock and they’re dumped in the river. It’s not uncommon for then to break free of their rock and find their way back to shore where, as I soon found out, the dogs and the birds have a feast until the next morning when a dalit (an untouchable) comes along and dumps them back in the middle of the river. The alleyways of the old city that hug the ghats which hug the river are narrow and filled with market stalls, cows, goats, many people, and processions of chanting funeral goers with bodies on their shoulders.

Varanasi is the holiest city in India. It’s also most likely the drug capital of India. Everything is available here: opium, hashish, and bhang (pot) are the most popular, though I was told that the man I nearly punched-out was most likely high on heroin.

Varanasi is like a resort town. Tourists everywhere, merchants happily trying to sell their wares, and helpful english speaking locals everywhere to ensure us tourists don’t get too lost in the alleyways of the old city. You can lie under an unbrella and get an aruvedic massage for Rs400, sit on the steps and enjoy a “special lassi” (keeping in mind that I said it was the drug capital), or just stroll around enjoying the many mini-festivals and the beautiful, unpretentious women.

Varanasi was indeed a lovely resort town of death.