To travel is to go in circles, to visit and revisit and to return home, thankful and malcontened. To circumscribe the self on any number of spheres, to cross and recross the same battlefield of the spirit, interminably.
I am. Here. My fourth visit to Kerala in as many years, my second visit to Wayanad and to lives of Chandrabose and Baby, Suhara's family, Uni's. This morning Baby, who one would describe in the West as "super stressed", "neurotic", or "heavy", woke me up at 5 am to meditate. A major triumph, which life is full of. I've been meditating with CBose every night since I got here, generally for 20-30 minutes after a big rice meal and half an hour of television. Small steps / Major triumphs. Television strikes me as the gods stoner antidote to meditation. I'm sure there's some science out there about alpha waves in the brain that can prove that (or that they have the exact function). Like LSD is the universal antidote to the atom bomb.
There's really no need for doubt. And plenty of room.
Two sits and some inverted postures later it's the tongue-tip of sunrise and I'm trying to commicunicate retrograde motion within the context of the general orbit, so as not to sound like failure. A week ago today I was with Sri Mukeshji at Nadiad, sitting at the feet of the master and learning the wisdom of Ramana Maharshi. Meditating six hours a day at least and playing the flute for another two or three. I could feel the heart, two fingers below the hirsute right nipple (yes, right), pulse. I could feel it open like Laxmi's lotus. Feel myself abandon the floatable plastic seat cushion and sink into the ocean of light. Praying in portuguese to the Om and to the Daime -- "teach us how to live".
And today it's a mess of pigeons and clocks I only could wish were surreal replicas of their omniclicking selves. It's thoughts of writing this email and picking up Pooja in Bathery and the fullness of the stomach and desire for dosa and yes, ad nauseum. A week ago I felt I had made this decision that I was "over what is called thinking", ready to give it up and enter the palace of devotion on bended knees. Om guru. Om guru. But there's always the cosmic laughter in your tea.
Luckily. And there's dusty trails and human tragedy and death all around us. To keep it real, as it were. But oh those three days.
I found Mukeshji the smiling same after six months of incommunication. I had met him early on in the pilgrimage and it struck me immediately that this was a monk I'd come back to. The Santaram Mandir is a holy ashram in Nadiad, the seat of some chain of enlightened sages who work miracles. Now it feeds 1000 people a day and runs a public hospital, giving allopathic medicines to the sick and spiritual advice to the quaking. I saw a pressure cooking machine in the kitchen than prepares lentils for 800 people in 15 minutes. There is a local saint (the Maharaj or Maharaj Sri) who sits on a chair all day with his feet up so people can touch it, lift their infant sons to prostrate themselves and be petted, offered sugar candy ("chocolate") and smiled at by the holy. Those who contribute get a bundle of prasad, holy sweets that have been offered to the gods.
I came last year looking for Gandhi -- he had stayed there and given a speech the same day, 76 years earlier. And one brother said, yes, I could stay, and assigned brother Mukesh (who has been living there for 15 years) to show me around. He gave me the tour and gave me a room and we talked about Gandhi and meditation. We meditated together a few times in Mukesh's style -- "no work, no thinking, no effort, just love".
Pretty appealing. I recorded him giving talks (satsung) on happiness, stress, englightenment and meditation. I lost the dingdong. So I had to comeback. It was overdetermined, perhaps. Except that I hardly ever go back -- I collected forty addresses and a handful of crying aunties in that trek and had no intention ever to go back to most of them. Maybe send a solar oven and some cookbooks here or there. Maybe not. So I can only assume that Mukesh exhibited some will in the matter.
The brother is Brahamachariya -- has taken vows of chastity, and checked in here before the age of 20 after a life filled with desire for God. Never felt comfortable in the outside world with his family. Always understood his place and has been peaceful and happy, by his own admittance, ever since. He is meditative communion with the Dive over 20 hours a day, and sleeps 2-3 hours a night. He works managing the housing and elite dining sections of the ashram, cleaning the samadhi shrine of the previous saint, and sitting with the current honcho. He is a portrait of gentle, unobtrusive, divine love. And he has these magic powers.
"You just sit and listen to your heart". He shows me where it is -- the spiritual heart, not the biological one. I've learned through force of experience to give up skepticism. I will do the work with your mind. And so we sit and he silences my thoughts and I focus on my heart. It takes a few hours to find it, to feel it pulsing. But once I have it, I have it. It's there. And from then on I can feel it expand and contract, listen to it's vibrations and messages. Feel it open to the vast plains of experience, bloom like a flower, shake with laughter. I can feel when it's soft and when it's hard, and so can he.
After the first sit he says, "your mind is very wild. work for me". By the second day it's calmed down and he barely has to do any work he says. But the heart, "ankur, your heart is hard". And maybe somewhere I knew that and was dreading he would too because it's the opposite of the publicity stunts but hell I know my heart is hard. I know how many times I've felt like crying and didn't, I know how much I've smilingly left, only because I've built some nasty-ass barbed wire to keep the grim humanity of it all from getting to me. I know it's part of what's made me who I am -- in a way maybe I could only have learned what I did from El Salvador and Chatila and Calcutta by keeping that heart just a little bit hard, allowing me to get it through the night. And those crystals of calcium have only hardened and grown with time.
So we work on that and he can feel it soften but I'm still struck by the astuteness of the observation and the fact I barely know this brother and he's in my mind and in my heart and if that's not a magic power then what pray tell is?
So that's Nadiad and Mukesh and I just went into all that because it's important that y'all know he exists. Because he's not a busy guy and wants to share his wisdom and love and language isn't a problem because there's not much philosophy to be had -- it's all observation and he takes care of the hard part with his magic powers. So if you're serious you can come and stay there and be wellfed and blessed (see previous post deliria) and look out at neem trees and feel the lives of the saints all around you and learn the art of the heart. But be warned that even if you practice for hours each day during and after your stay and the heartmake hotel, it's going to fade the further you go from the fountain of the master -- the peace you've found there is a Trip to the future, a foretaste of what can be experienced. Like those moments of non-dual consciousness with the mushroom -- mere foretastes of the future young man -- if you can work hard and, well, not at all.
The girls have woken up. It's another trip now. Walking in the arms of a six year old native, we wandered the back forest paths of Karakandi amidst coffee, rice, bananas, and cows. It's my new favorite way to travel.