Tag Archives: Varanasi

City of Light: (The Second Part) Still Very Reasonable

Dear Friends,

This is the second part of the city of light as I see it. You will notice that the main conflict that began the story comes to a very unceremonious end here. I’ll get to it. In the mean time, notice how much fresh conflict (competing dualities) have arisen because of what was really only a minor annoyance. By now, all shit is hitting the fan; that is to say that time and space have begun their reign of terror.

The third part will be out very soon. Thank you for reading.

City of Light: (The Second Part) Still Very Reasonable

They honeymooned in infinity and planned their new life together. Miss Mountain, as she became known, had insisted on moving off the mountaintop and finding someplace more civilized to raise their family. She certainly wasn’t going to allow her children to be raised by the cliff-hopping goats, and something still had to be done about the power monger who was making everyone’s life difficult. If they didn’t have a son everyone was going to leave and then even the timeless world would be void, and no one wanted that.

The problem was that Miss Mountain was just a simple village girl from the hills and the Destroyer was much friskier and much more experienced than she could handle. The sex was great, this goes without saying since the Destroyer was known far and wide as a master of Tantra and the destroyer had to be milked for many, too many hours before he could release his seed. This left Mrs. Mountain exhausted and fully satisfied, but still without a son.

It was rumoured that the Destroyer was holding back his seed because he believed Mrs. Mountain to be too frail for childbirth. Eventually, Miss Mountain had to tell the destroyer about the need for him to have a son to rid everyone of nuisance that had been making timelessness intolerable. He was annoyed at having been used for such a petty purpose, but he consented with several conditions. He knew when he opened his eyes and came down from the mountain that there would not only be many unintended consequences, but that the motivations for waking him could not have been a straight forward coincidence. He knew better than anyone that a long chain of invisible causes preceded everything that could ever happen. Some suspected that he say it all coming but preferred to play it dumb.

Now that the plan was out, the Destroyer set about at once to deposit his seed.

Some say he had an affair with the beautiful woman everyone knew as Miss River, and others say he merely brought his seed to her. The Destroyer stuck by his strange story that he’d thrown his seed in the fire (he was known to have done stranger things). Miss Mountain herself was never sure what exactly happened. In any case, a boy was born in the forest and everyone said it belonged to the Destroyer. For the first time that anyone could remember, it was the mothers identity that was in question, and no the father. Some people even suspected that Mrs. Mountain herself was the mother, but she seemed to be cultivating a strong jealousy for Miss River.

The boy was sent to be raised by six sisters. He grew quickly and fulfilled his destiny bringing a kind of peace to timelessness. (more on this coming soon)

But by now everything had changed. Ever since the Destroyer’s honeymoon strange things had begun to happen, the most notable of which was the beginning of time and the space that came with it.

No one knew how it happened. It almost seemed like it was always there. No one thought to blame the creator for the mess since he was still doing things on the sly. By the time anyone noticed anything, the Sustainer was usually looking after it, and he almost never started anything because he knew it would just mean more work for him. Besides, everyone liked the Sustainer and never gave him any grief. They liked that he never pulled any surprises and they knew exactly what to expect from him. He kinda kept things going.

There certainly would have been hell to pay if anyone from before time now found themselves subject to its ravages, but this wasn’t the case so no one really cared. Besides it was really neat that so many thing that had only been possibilities before were now becoming reality. And there were so many realities that no one could keep up, and sometimes people still got confused about the difference between a reality and a possibility. Some said you could tell the difference because reality shone much more radiantly than possibility; actual existence seemed to make everything more beautiful. None the less the possibilities for time and space seemed endless and that was in itself a thing of beauty.

Possibility itself now seemed to change its nature. Whereas before when there was just possibility, anything might be possible, but now possibility found itself confined by time-space* (see technical note below). The possibilities of any given moment were entirely dependent on the situation of time and space during the moment immediately preceding the moment of possibilities. The curious thing was that although this seemed to limit the possibilities, the possibilities remained endless none-the-less.

One particularly strange possibility became a reality. The City of Light, which had been around since even before timelessness, found itself a small plot of land on the earth. People said that it was on the earth, but not of the earth. It was here that the Destroyer decided to settle down with his new wife. They both loved their new home. The Destroyer still, however, preferred to be left alone so he took up residence at the place where all the people affected by time went to burn their dead bodies. It was a despicable place of fire and morning and only partially charred flesh that the dogs would over fight over. No one visited him much, but he was staying just a little to close to the River tramps abode for Miss Mountain’s comfort. To keep her own mind off this possibility of infidelity that loomed over her marriage and, hopefully, to keep the Destroyer in check, she busied herself to such a degree around the city that it seemed as though she was everywhere at once. After some time, people started to believe that she had become the city herself.

And what a strange city it was. Streams ran in every direction with water so pure and fresh that people began to believe it was enchanted (although it wasn’t yet as enchanted as it would soon become).

[Technical note: To those who were here before time, time and space appeared at the same time so they often consider them to be one thing; like two heads of the same creature. It was only to those who came after time that the two seem to be different. And even today this distinction will cause to people to raise their voice. For the remainder of the story the author will attempt to appease those who came before by referring to time-space rather than time & space.]

City of Light: The Reasonable Explanation (first part)

Dear Friends,

I started writing this story a couple years ago as I plunged into the myths and stories of India. The basis of this story comes to me from the ancient stories of India via Diana Eck’s book of the same name: Kashi: City of Light. At times I’ve wondered if I was merely plagiarising the ancient stories of this land, but then I realised that every story is a retelling. Woven thru this story is the mythical history as well as the actual history, the philosophy, and the pervading culture of the land.

This is an early draft of the first part. Another 3 or 4 parts similarly summarily edited. I still have many side stories to fit into this part which, inshalla, will be coming soon. But for now I offer you this fort your reading pleasure.

The City of Light: the reasonable explanation

Before the beginning, and before the days of time and existence, when there were only possibilities which had not yet been realised, a kind of potential energy, one man sat at the highest point of possibility and looked out over it all. He sat in perfect peace.

Some say he was born before time and will live long after time has come to an end. Many don’t believe that he lived at all, but even these people now know him as the Destroyer. They say he was given this name because he did not arrive at his peace peacefully, and he was certainly a good one for settling matters once and for all.

But his peaceful state was soon to be broken by a plot concocted by the man who became known as the Creator; a foolish sort of man who was always resentful of the destroyer. In all fairness, the creator set things in motion before he really knew what was happening, and then things just started taking on a life of their own. Even before time and space there was passion and intrigue.

What happened was that the creator created some guy and didn’t tell the Sustainer. Since everyone generally saw all the possibilities, they assumed this guy was just another possibility and didn’t pay it much attention. Then all of a sudden the guy started causing trouble with his rude manners. When they tried to stop him, they couldn’t, he’d gained all kinds of strange powers thru possibility, and quite frankly, he was getting on everyone’s nerves.

They knew the destroyer could probably do something about it, but he was on the mountaintop doing…. well, nobody really knew what he was doing. Some said he was just sitting there barely breathing, other swore that he wasn’t breathing at all. Some said just sitting by him brought peace; others said that going near him was frightening and that terrifying dreams persist. In any case, everyone knew that he didn’t give a hoot about any of the others; he was perfectly happy. Most thought it best he stay that way for whenever he woke up, everything seemed to change.

Many didn’t think the Destroyer was the right guy for the job, besides, he was so chilled out that it was unlikely even a beautiful woman would rouse him from his slumber, after all it was the death of his last wife that brought him to the solitude of the mountain top. And even if some woman did rouse him, then he’d be off honeymooning and building a family that he just wouldn’t have what it takes to take care of the ill mannered miscreant. Besides, he probably wouldn’t do it anyways. It was the Creator who came upon the idea of getting Sivas son to take care of the guy. He would have all the destroyer’s power, and at a young age he would want to prove himself.

The problem was, the destroyer didn’t have a son, and no one could imagine that any woman in her right mind would want to freeze her butt off on a mountaintop wooing him into making one with her.

But in times of possibility, everything is possible and one such woman just happened to come along.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They called her Miss Mountain. Many thought that just by the name alone she was destined for the job. Her family was horrified, to say the least, when she offered herself. She came from a good family after all and the Destroyer was know to have kiinda let himself go over the years, to say the least once again (I’m not here to ruin anyone’s reputation after all). Time was still immaterial so no one knew how long it had been since he washed his hair. And when he wasn’t up on the mountain giving everyone the silent treatment he was hanging around the worst kind of people (dead or alive)

Anyways, after she signed up for the project it was like everything happened all at once. The Destroyer soon opened his eyes and saw the new girl. She didn’t react at first. She just ignored him in her way. She wanted to build up his sense of wonder before she stoked the fires of his desire. She didn’t want him to think her being there had anything to do with him. It’s a girls right to wander; or rather putter around a mountaintop if the inclination so suits her.  She just hung about like Mother Nature herself, doing nothing to make herself conspicuous. All would be lost if he knew her ulterior motive.

Wonder did began to arise in him. He watched her for some clue as to who she was and where she came from; a nature so different from his own, yet she too was attracted to this same mountaintop. And there was something familiar about her. She seemed to be at once a reflection of himself, while there was also something about her that reminded him of his past wife.

She didn’t let on that she noticed any of this, but of course she could sense his growing interest, but interest was merely the next step beyond wonder. She left him wondering with growing interest. She knew how a wondering imagining mind could inflate anything and if she was going to make babies with this guy his wonder would have to grow to the next step. And sure enough, desire soon began to arise in him.

The next thing any one knew, they were married. The great bachelor of possibility became the husband of a personification of Mother Nature herself. Together they would make possibilities become reality. And sure enough things started happening fast.

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.

India 2010-2011

Every year I get a little deeper into the country and come to understand the culture even more. This year I made huge strides in learning Hindi: reading, writing, grammar. My pronunciation still causes a great deal of confusion, but at least I can communicate with the locals a little bit beyond getting my necessities met.

Other than my requisite stay in Varanasi, this trip was all about Madhya Pradesh, the middle province where the Narmada river begins on the eastern border in the town of Amarkantak and gathers momentum as it heads west through the marble canyons near Jabalpur, before settling into a lazier pace as it goes through the Holy towns of Omkareshwar and Maheshwar. About 100km before it finds the Arabian Sea it enters the province of Gugarat.

From Varanasi I went straight south by bus to get to Amarkantak. There were a few small water falls nearby Varanasi, but as the bus climbed the mountains, natural beauty gave way to coal mining and power generation. In one particularly polluted town that tasted lie coal dust, I was told that there were ten coal power plants within 40km. My morning chai even had the undrinkable taste of coal. Several of the people I met here or on the buses near here were engineers enjoying the prosperous employment provided by all the smoldering black diamonds.

As the I continued south, the air began to clear and the people began to look healthier. Prosperity gave way to poverty. This is mostly tribal lands: jungle and farm. Huge, ranch-style mud houses with simple line work and dots painted on the outsides (tell-tale indications of tribal people); beautifully simple. I made my way thru Ambikapur, from the bus stand to the train station, surprising all the locals in this quiet city. I suspect that stopping for a night or two would have rewarded me richly, but Shiva Ratri was approaching quickly and I wanted to be in a suitable Shiva town (I was thinking I would get to Puri after a brief stop in Amarkantak). The driver of the shared auto who took me to the train station after I’d walked a few km refused my money and sped away singing what I think was a Bollywood love song.

Waiting for the train I encountered some rare racism: teasing and jokes that I could not understand but made me uncomfortable enough to move to the end of the platform. A couple boys who witnessed it cautiously approached me for conversation and quickly became close friends and guides for the next 14 hours. One boy was shy and from a low cast, and the other had just graduated from collage and was working as a pharmaceutical rep. Both were very cool. I got off the train one stop before they did and found myself a cozy place on the floor of the train station to sleep until morning and slept through until almost ten before catching one more bus to Amarkantak.

In Amarkantak I quickly learned the difference between asking for a “Sasta Hotel” (a cheap hotel) and a “sasta Kamra” (cheap room). Sasta Hotel is about Rs600/night ($15.00), and a sasta kamra is about Rs100/night ($2.50). The cheap room was a dung floor thoroughfare for rats with spiders in every corner and a thin mat on the floor for sleeping; perfect. The Phalhari Ashram was up the hill and had a beautiful view of the Ancient temples across the river (Sri Shankyacharyia, 1100AD) and the white spires of the new temples in the forground. All around me were huge Mango trees that were just starting to consider offering us (and the monkeys) fresh mangos.

The ashram in Amarkantak was nice and simple: a thin mat on a dirt floor, two meals a day and chai in the morning. The rooms all had rats passing through, but for Shivarthri someone apparently supplied them with poison and they began falling from the ceiling as if to beg for mercy. They were offered none. The foreign presence was small here, just myself; Mark, the Bhakti German fellow; and a hippy Alaskan guy with his daughter. Taj, the international gangster came later.

Taj had stories to tell, many stories about his upbringing in Kashmir, his immigration to Canada, his adventures around the world. He was in his early fifties and in the process of assessing his life. He was a doubter and a cynic when it came to religion and spirituality. He had no use for either and he enjoyed spouting his opinion in the ashram, to devotees and even to Babas. The Phalhari baba who ran the ashram wasn’t much different so the two of them became quick friends. Baba was a great manager and had completed 12 years of intense tapas eating only fruit while practicing yoga and tantra. He certainly didn’t recommend such a lifestyle, it was very hard on his body.

I stayed here for a few weeks listening to Taj’s stories and practicing intense yoga and meditation in my room. Baba spoke no (or very little English) so there was no instruction and he led no practices. As an ashram, it was merely a place to stay.

For Shivarathri I was given access to a private Puja in the main temple that went on for over three hours. It was he most intense puja I’ve ever witnessed. I’m certain that they recited an entire Purana with the speed of an auctioneer. When I left, my mind was swimming; I was high from the intensity of it all and I’d felt as though only a few minutes had passed. I wondered if I’d been lulled into some kind of trance. It was beautiful.

Taj and I left together catching buses and trains to haphazardly make our way to Maheshwar.