Monday, 25 September 2017
Thursday, 21 September 2017
Who breathes us? Did we make our bodies? Our minds? As Kabir says, ‘In me, there is nothing of me. Everything is yours. When I surrender to you what is already yours, what remains of me?’
Easier said than done. “I, me, me, mine” rules the world. It is important to meditate on this thought and practice it if we want peace and happiness.
Monday, 18 September 2017
I observe myself carefully and know I do this. My fantasies are not only happy ones but also terrifying: scenarios of sickness, accidents, maiming, death. I live them out in all their detail. The brain doesn’t conserve or stint with energy when it comes to these details.
With age I have learnt to snap out of them as soon as I become aware of them. Earlier, I don’t think I was even aware of this tendency in me, and in mankind in general.
We may not be carrying eggs, but our casualty is life itself. Failure of presence is failure indeed. How few of us even realize that we move absently through our lives; that we create more suffering than we must inevitably get, multiplying it, as it were, like blind, dark math magicians conjuring up ghostly images made of smoke. This life is dreamlike as it is -- how much more unreal are the unending fantasies in our head?
Like Mark Twain said: I have known a lot of trouble in my life that never happened.
Like the Vedas say: don't mistake a rope for a snake, or a snake for a rope.
Like Rumi says, Abstain from distracting thoughts, abstain! RUMI
Sunday, 17 September 2017
Here it is again! We have to first become aware that we have an endless stream, perhaps river of thoughts flowing through our minds. We are rivers. But when we forget to keep clean the rivers that we are, we get polluted. Thoughts drag us this way and that, and we become their victims and slaves. Thought is a wonderful thing when it is channeled, like a irrigation canal, to feed our farms, orchards, gardens. And these have to be weeded, my friends, to make them more productive and beautiful.
What does this quote mean? It is self evident, but also very deep. We hurt our bodies in many ways: by not eating and drinking healthy, wholesome things, by not exercising it, by not listening to its silent voice. We hurt our bodies most by thinking thoughts that are hurtful to us. Yes, the brain and the mind are also housed in our bodies. Most of the time we are deaf to our body's reasoning. How often do we even think about them? They comprise a very large part of what we think of as 'I.' They are our greatest gifts, for they allow our consciousness to experience the multi facets of existence. How often are we grateful for it? Have you thanked your body today for all the wonderful things it does, sees, hears, touches, tastes, feels? We are not accustomed to thinking about them, or if we do, it is only to deck it out in clothes, jewelry, make-up. We do not think at all about that water which our bodies contain, the water that Rumi is reminding us of. There is an invisible conduit between our bodies and that Ocean from which we come and to which we return. The Guides never tire of remind us that we contain this Ocean. Yes.
Friday, 15 September 2017
Thursday, 14 September 2017
Because ultimately all our classics take us through the physical into the spiritual. These two, physical and spiritual, are not separate. Captain Ahab, a proud, imposing, deeply troubled thinking man ignores the messages sent to him over and over not to fight against that which is so much more powerful than man -- what is this but what people called God?
Melville does not shy away from this word -- and pursues Moby Dick, the white whale no one has overcome. Like the old woman who swallowed a fly, and then a bird, a cat, a dog, a horse -- Ahab died, of course.
I always return to the classics when I am in the reading mood. I don't read many contemporary authors, mainly dead ones because they have survived for centuries and I don't know, and don't want to bother spending time with live ones to find out if they are worthy of survival. So, I am reading one of my all time favorites, Herman Melville's Moby Dick. It is like sipping 200 year old vintage wine. Yes, I often skip chapters, for Melville took the freedom, as every writer wants to take the freedom, to ramble on and on about a subject that is dear to her: whales. One can't do it these days because Time in our times is so horribly squeezed.
Stories repeat themselves in constant permutations to shout out the truths over and over and over again. Stories are reminders, little stick-its on the mirror, to-do lists we would do well to reread, remember, and heed. Rumi’s stories brings us back on track when we are lost.
Jalammudin, a character in one of Rumi’s stories, lives in a prison of doubt, depression, and despair. His Mullah advises him to pray. When he does, his depression and despair is lessened, but then Iblis, the devil, says to him: “Stop this noisy babbling like the braying of an ass. Do you hear anyone responding to you when you say “Allah! Allah! Allah? Does your Allah ever say ‘here I am?”
Jalammudin admits Allah doesn’t reply, and falls into a deep funk again.
Prayer, whatever the reason for it, is a hot line to the Being, Guide of guides, our own Highest Self that comes whenever we call, though it doesn’t always seem so. Sometime when we pray our suffering miraculously ends and sometimes we continue to suffer because we have not arrived at the softness and pliability needed for learning the lessons all suffering teaches us. If we understand this, and pledge to suffer consciously, humbly, trusting that our suffering is in fact a healing, we are given the courage to endure. For on the Way, endurance is everything.
Endurance is one of my favorite words. Its many Indo-European roots from the taproot, deru, from which comes deodar, tree of the gods, spread deep into the soil of our souls. Many of my other favorite words bloom from the same root: wisdom, trust, firm, steadfast, true, Truth, pledge. I especially like one European root from Old French, triste, waiting place: a “place where one waits trustingly,” even as one suffers.
To be utterly honest, left to myself, I am unable to endure. I falter, despair, panic. Though I speak about suffering as the guides
speak of it, I must admit I do not like to suffer. My not liking it does not keep it away from me, however. If anything, resisting it prolongs it. When I am suffering I am helpless to do anything but suffer. No prayer comes to my rescue. Though I often do not know the cause of my suffering, my most recent experience of it was due to too much busy-ness, too much being in the world. But a lifetime of observing my limits is teaching me to stop, pull back, say ‘no’ to my many tasks and obligations, to make space and time in which I can perform the most important of functions – turning my gaze inward, turning towards the divine in me, and sing songs, however well or badly, of humble prayer and praise.
Prayer and praise, through music and song especially, connects one to the Being in an immediate way. The Sufis delight in it as being the fastest shortcut on the Way. Singing is at the very heart of Sikhism. “No one and nothing stands between You and me,” Kabir sings. When we sing we tap into this connectedness, without any intermediaries, directly, heart to precious heart. When we pray through song we address the Godhood in the second person pronoun – not ‘he’ or ‘she,’ but You. Thou. In Sikh sacred songs this pronoun appears in the familiar ‘tu’ or ‘tum,’ not an excessively polite word, but with the intimacy one reserves for the closest of relationships.
When we sing, listen to, or recite prayers with an open heart, with faith and love, we turn to the very source, the giver and fulfiller of our desires, the inflictor and soother of our agitation and anxieties. Rumi knows that prayer moves and stirs, like a vivifying force, the stagnant waters of our souls.
How often, like Jalammudin, the character from Rumi’s tale, The Cup of Praise, who is imprisoned in his own doubt, I feel the shackles of a lock through my own lips! How often as I navigate my own depressions I am unable to pray! Even the mouth of my heart that so often communes silently, speaks to its Self, is sewn shut! Then I am reminded of something the Christian saint, Theresa of Avila said – prayers are like money in the bank; we pray when we can so that when we can’t, we have something to draw from. Sooner or later help is sent to remind us of what we must do, how we must think, as Al Khadir, guide to lost souls, the spirit of water, is sent to Jalammudin in his dream, materializing out of unseen air, to rescue him.
Al Khadir comes to make Jalmmudin a free man by the non-dual message that the two, our remembering and calling out God’s name and God’s response are instantaneous, simultaneous, one. That is why God’s name is so central to all the Eastern and Western religions. It is at the very heart of Sikhism. Name is remembrance; Name is connection; Name is evocation, bringing into presence the absent and forgotten; Name is help when we need it the most; Name, calling out to our Beloved, is prayer; Name itself is aid, food, sustenance in the highest. “Do not put musk on your body; rub it on your heart,” says Rumi. “What is musk? The holy name of the Glorious God.”
Prayer is the key to resurrection. As soon as Jalammudin whispers the name of his Beloved, the chains, shackle, lock fall away from him. He awakes. It is morning and the world is transformed. His senses, instruments and handmaidens of his soul, see beauty, color, feel and hear the breeze that, like water, flows everywhere. “Wings are restored to the bird whose plumes were torn away,” and Jalammudin is free.
Kamla K. Kapur
Rumi: Tales to Live By.
Walking the Way