Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Kandhamal-a symptom of a larger ill.

I was not aware of the atrocities of Kandhamal (Orissa, India) till my school friend mentioned she was on her way to a tribunal to speak about the plight of the women there. Being the voracious reader I am and being privileged enough to have the time and the resource available to surf the net I began reading about it. I sit here in my beautiful home ten thousand miles away and complain about the heat wave that raises my electricity bill while thousands of men, women and children are living amidst squalor and in fear because they have chosen to execute their right to follow a religion of their choice. They probably do not feel the heat or the cold because they fear for their very life and livelihood. We could blame the local politicians or law enforcement for their continued suffering over two years after the atrocities first took place but are we all not just as culpable?

A few unintelligent hoodlums carried out a horrible act on our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. We learned about it and shook our heads and let it pass us by. A handful of us who care enough took up the cause and went there to help rebuild; others sent money and other essentials and still others took up the fight to higher authorities but still the women who were widowed and raped, the children who were orphaned, the men who were beaten and maimed continue to suffer. The world is thousands thousands times bigger than this small community and because only a few hundred have chosen to help they have not been able to get back a semblance of their dignity.

The world needs to prosper for each of us to be successful in life. These pockets of atrocious events take away from us as a human community just as much as it takes away from each of us as individuals. If each of us was to give one cent of our wealth and one minute of our time each day towards the betterment of each other imagine the force of our endeavor to make our world a better place. The evil acts are succeeding because we are choosing to do nothing good to counter them. Fighting against is never the answer leading to solutions - we need to do more to positively affect change. As a world community not to have been able to build safe homes, rebuild their place of worship, provide education to the children, create work for the people of Kandhamal to get their livelihoods back is shameful. Instead the suffering people are being pressured to change their religion and are being further insulted by others. Our government is providing funds to our neighbors to help them recover from natural disasters while our own nationals are having to beg for their dignity. Where is the balance?

It is not that we do not care - it is that we are too far removed from each other. We have become absorbed in material wellbeing and have chosen to forget that we are all brothers and sisters from one Source. We stand on our golden pulpit and declare there is only one God and are proud to be monotheists but refuse to acknowledge 'your God' because you chose to give Him a different name. This is not about religion it is about humanity. It is about love and compassion and knowledge. It is about each of us looking within our very beings and then looking at the misery out there and taking ownership. We cannot cocoon ourselves and wait for others to stand beside the downtrodden. It is not for us to judge and take sides. This is the time for us to lend a hand so everyone of us can live with our heads held high. What use is knowledge that is not shared with others? What use is money if our parents go hungry? What use is life if my sister is being raped?

Let us open our hearts and look beyond the narrow realm of me, my home, my family, my friends, my work and share our wealth, our knowledge, our strength with our world family and help rebuild Kandhamal even more beautifully than it was before it was raped so future generations can look back and say that our brothers and sisters did not die and suffer in vain. Governments and other institutions can only help so much. It is eventually upto us individuals to turn things around. We cannot wait to see what institutions can and are doing. It is possible for individuals to raise money and give of their time to help rebuild schools, hospitals, wells, and places of worship so the people can get back their dignity and the will to continue living. The government is helping to rebuild their homes but that is only a small part of life. Without education and basic health care generations of people of Kandhamal will continue to be emotionally and intellectually raped.

Kandhamal is only a small portion of a much larger world of suffering. We have to take up these issues and start bringing about a change that affects us all. The yardstick cannot be how much the haves are donating to the have nots. Success must be measured by how many of the have nots are on their way to becoming haves. The need for help is clearly much greater than what is being currently done. Prosperity cannot be measured by individual success - it must be measured by the success of all. Using that criteria we are definitely a poor world. Dignity is the right of all beings and we must consider ourselves privileged when we can share that amongst all our brothers and sisters. When one of us is raped or maimed or killed for any reason we are all being insulted. Punishing the wrongdoers is clearly not the answer because when one is punished ten more seem to be raising their ugly heads. Instead let us concentrate our time and energy on raising the bar of life so each of our sisters everywhere knows that if one man intends to hurt her in anyway there will be ten brothers and sisters protecting her. The only way evil can continue to succeed is if we sit back and do nothing good. Let us give of ourself not because there is misery but because we love one another and want to be successful as the human race. Let us simply raise the bar of goodness and so of human life.

(A small sample of life events in Kandhamal http://ww.telegraphindia.com/1100824/jsp/nation/story_12847233.jsp)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Finding God

If this world is an illusion - why then as reasonable intelligent beings can we not see beyond it? It is impossible to believe that there is 'nothing' where we can see, smell, hear, feel 'everything' around us. We have been provided with sense organs to experience the world as it is. If this were unreal and Consciousness was the only Reality we would have been provided with the tools to be able to experience the reality. If the purpose of life was to know God then we would have come into this world knowing that and living life accordingly. Something is not right here.

Last night I dreamt I was in a garden with many shrubs and trees. There were many strangers in this garden but as I got close to them they turned into people I have known for years. No one recognized me - they ignored me. Everytime I approached someone they deliberately walked away from me. How rude. It upset me and I felt saddened. I knew they should not be behaving this way but they did anyway. All of a sudden I was awake. Something was not right in my dream.

I went to the temple the other day and picked up a statue for a friend. I did not quite know how to get it to this friend - so I brought the statue home and decided it was upto the statue to get to where it wanted to be. Sure enough the friend called within the week for an unrelated reason that needed we see one another again soon. The arrangement was made by the 'statue.' Something is not right with this story.

I have had many illogical events in my life that have stumped me and made me think 'something is not right.' These may be pleasant or unpleasant. Many a times I think I may have been hallucinating and call these events illusory.

Then it struck me - illusion does not follow logic! The inherent nature of illusion must be that it follows no logical rule. I know for sure that the dream was an illusion. I also know that it was illogical to think that the 'statue' could prompt anything. So what can I make of God? Since the sages have said He is the Omnipresent and since experiencing Him is difficult to explain in words I am choosing to believe that they could be right. There is no logical path that will take me to Him but if I choose to stay true to my conscience and keep getting to understand my own motives and those of others better I can make better life choices. The same tools that help me experience the material manifestations of God will help me experience God too. I enjoy seeing beautiful things so I choose to create beauty through whatever I do. I enjoy hearing beautiful words and melodious music so I choose to bring melody and joy through my own speech. I choose to be compassionate, understanding, non-judgmental and kind simply because these choices bring joy to me. I do not search for God anymore - I choose to acknowledge Him at every moment in everything everywhere.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Illusion of Destiny

It is said that "Eventually we shape our own destiny." The statement places destiny somewhere in the future. Since time is a figment of my imagination destiny is not in the future. Destiny at most is what life is at this moment. Making the best use of this moment makes me true to my life purpose and so to myself. No one has made my life what it is - it is so, independent of anyone else. I make the conscious choice to be. What is happening around me, with me, to me, because of me is for those unconscious moments when I lose touch with myself. When I am one with myself then I simply am and it is a moment of immeasurable joy.

There can be no projected destiny. There are just present life experiences to enjoy. Any impact I may have had belongs to the world of illusion. I am untouched by it all. When I have let go of the illusion there remains the awareness of a Stillness. From that Stillness arises more experiences - the difference is that the experiences now take on a new meaning. It is as if I am playing a team sport where there are no winners or losers. No one is keeping count of points won. We are all back in our innocent childhood sitting in a large circle passing a colorful ball around and having fun. Having the ball in my hand or in yours has no impact on the fun of the moment. We all know this is just a game for everyone to laugh and applaud through and simply be. When none of us identify success or failure with having possession of the ball, it is a sphere of joy. The moment we bring some rules into the game and change it to a game of passing the parcel things change. The innocence is lost. Everyone is attempting to dispossess the ball. No one wants to be excluded from the fun of belonging in the circle. Then the sense of separateness comes into play. The participants are the same, the ball is the same only the rules changed. The rules do not care whether they are followed or not but we are now slaves to the rules. We cling to the circle and cause others to be flung out of it. We use the rules to differentiate and cause stress and strife. Then the game is over. The rules do not exist but the participants have changed from being innocent children to being winners and losers. We identified ourselves with the ball, the game, the rules and forgot who we really were. We held on to the illusion and let the innocence go. We cannot go back and change the rules of the game. All we can do is remove the veil of the illusion and recognize that the game was not real but we are. The identification, the separateness, the change in behavior was in the moment and then the moment passed. We have the liberty to start a new game with a new sphere of joy and start having fun again in the new moment.

Illusion is the ultimate deception. It makes the non-existent real. The illusion is created by our mind. The mind gives it birth and the mind has the power to annihilate it too. Like a mother though, the mind cannot kill its own creation. The mind will not accept that the illusion is not real. If and when the mind begins to question the validity of its illusions the journey into spirituality begins. The acknowledgment that there is a God may come much earlier. Usually this God is a personal one who exists out there somewhere in the world of illusions. This takes us towards organized religion - we go to places of worship, create spaces like altars in our home, have religious celebrations, follow rituals and convince ourselves that there is a power that is beyond our capacity to fathom. We follow prophets, we read holy books, we acknowledge saints and sages. We explain the unpredictable nature of life and coincidences as the doing of the power who we may or may not call God. We differentiate life events, behavior patterns, even people into categories of good and bad. This is all part of the same illusion. As long as we cannot see beyond this world into the Real we are living an illusory life. We may find joy here but know for sure that misery will follow - the cycle is inevitable. For the illusion to exist there must be two sides to everything. Without a point of reference the world cannot exist. Without silence there can be no sound, without darkness there can be no light, without breathing out we cannot breathe in, without sleep we cannot be awake, without death there can be no birth, without an end there can be no beginning. That is the nature of illusion.

The ancient sages gave the example of a coiled rope that in insufficient light appears to be a snake. Once this illusion takes hold we cannot overcome it without seeing the rope in proper light. The rope here is the Spirit, the snake is the world and the light is enlightenment. Illusion must have a base. It must begin somewhere. What is the base? How did it begin? Where will it end? For end it must. Just as the wave begins and ends in the ocean so also the illusion must end in the Infinite Eternal Spirit. This Spirit or God or Super Power or Universe or Soul is the observer of this illusory world and we all can tap into it and become one with it. In the realm of the spirit there is no duality, no right and wrong, no good and bad, no real and unreal. The spirit simply is. For our senses and our mind that has dwelled in the realm of illusion it is difficult to fathom. As long as we can 'see' the snake in the rope we cannot see the rope. Once we see the rope for what it is though, it cannot cause any disturbance. We can associate with the rope and even laugh at ourselves for thinking it was a snake and move on. The illusion is a manifestation of Spirit. It deserves to be acknowledged and enjoyed keeping in mind that it is transient and a moving target. The manifestation thrives and grows but is limited and so cannot satisfy. The infinite, limitless spirit that we and this world are manifestations of is available for us to know and enjoy limitlessly.

Just as a seeing man cannot fathom the 'light' that the blind man or the 'sound' that a deaf man functions by the worldly man cannot fathom the light or the silence of the Spirit. Simply because ones mind and the senses cannot fathom it does not prove its non-existence. There are many who have experienced it and acknowledge it but cannot describe it because it is an experience at a level that cannot be put into words. The best way to let it be known is through silence, through stillness, through awareness and consciousness. These are elements that defy illusion. How can silence 'say' anything? It cannot - silence can only be just as God can only be.

It is believed that meditation can guide us into the experience of God. In the world of illusions meditation is often difficult. The mind must attain silence to experience God. The illusion of time is the greatest hurdle to meditation. The mind is either wandering away into the past or hurling ahead into the future. It is worrying about things that need to be done after this moment or it is dwelling in memories of times gone by. To stop this process is not easy. We have conditioned our mind to be thinking all the time. We now need to recondition it - not to stop thinking but to think only of the moment at hand. While I am writing if I focus on writing alone I find that the words flow. If instead I start writing a story that I have already thought out, the flow of words seem inhibited. I may have a story in my mind but I must write only in this moment for that story to be told with ease. It is the same with any activity. Being in the moment. So also meditation. Do not stop the mind from thinking just focus your mind on this moment. If I am sitting with my eyes shut then all I am doing is breathing so I bring myself to notice my breath - I may count the breath or just feel it as it passes in or out of me. Over time even this becomes unnecessary.

Meditation is not a moment with eyes shut tight trying to stop the wandering mind from achieving silence. Life is meditation, every thought is meditation, every moment is meditation. The world is a multicolored boundless paradise. Being in the moment is being acutely aware of not being just this body, this mind, this ego-centered person that relates to the rest of the world in a self absorbed way. Being conscious that the physical realm is a manifestation of something that is not tangible but which can be experienced at a much deeper level is what being is about. I have permission to enjoy everything around me without identifying myself with any of it. It is as if I am standing at the edge of the water on a beach. The soft tide brings in a small wave which plays over my bare feet and then it recedes. This tide of possessions, relationships, achievements and experiences are no different. They are here now and then they are gone. Just as the water has been left in the ocean everything will be left behind as I move on.

Who cares what the future holds for me? I did not know a year back what I would be doing today and I do not know now what I will be doing a year later. Let things fall as they will. All I do is live in this moment playing my role as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, woman, person to the best that I am capable of. I accept every moment as it is for I know that this moment with everything in it will pass whether I think about it or not. Destiny is illusory only this moment is real and I am in this moment.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Friends - Updated (originally posted in October 2009)

I have been blessed with some wonderful and true friends over the years. There is a depth to our friendship that goes beyond time and space. They are always there for me and everytime we connect it is as if no time has passed and no physical distance was ever there.

I have found that there are some very distinct characteristics to a true friendship. Here they are:

1. There is never any misunderstanding between friends.
This quality comes from
2. A complete acceptance of one another the way each one is.

3. Friends are imperfect human beings who do not need to put on a false appearance between themselves. Imperfections are shown and are accepted. Age, nationality, language, color, interests are immaterial between friends.

4. Friends pick up where they left off as if they have been with each other in the interim. There is very little catching up to do in the realm of the spirit.

5. A friend can tell you what they think about you in any given situation and it is possible to accept the harshest criticism because you just know that your friend speaks from a space of deep connection. No pretenses needed, no secrets needed, never any hard feelings, never any doubts about intentions.

6. Friends love you more when you slip and fall. They laugh and cry with you. They tend to your wounds and hug and kiss you during your tough times. Their presence is felt even from across the oceans.

7. Friendships are made in heaven! I never chose my friends - they came to me as blessings of the Universe.

8. Loving a friend does not need outward expression. Friends love one another unconditionally.

9. A word between friends is sacred. That is the nature of friendship not of people. A friend knows what can and cannot be repeated.

10. A friend never dies. There is an attachment that is so much deeper than the physical presence. This connection cannot be set asunder. It is true friendship that proves the truth in Oneness.

I want to acknowledge my friends for giving me this insight into what relationships are truly about. I have quite a few acknowledgments but the one I must put on the top of my list is my dearest Baba. If not for his passing I would never have recognized the depth of true Oneness of the soul. We are together always. He is my dearest friend - he was in life and continues to be after his passing too.

Padu - you are my most cherished gift. You have shown me my strengths and my weaknesses with so much insight and so much love. We touch each other without ever touching one another! I love you dearly.

Rekha - you are my greatest cheer leader. Your humility, your honesty, your acceptance of me as I am is what I cherish so dearly.

Nina - In spite of your pain you give me so much support. I cannot imagine how you can be so much of a giver while claiming to have so little joy yourself. There is a connection between us that is inexplicable.

Swati - Acceptance - one must learn this from you. We hardly get a chance to talk, or be together or connect in any way - but when I reach out you are always there. Your emails and messages are always perfectly timed!

There are some others who are my great friends and have come into my life and given of themselves unconditionally. They have been instrumental in getting me to where I am today and on top of this list is my dear friend Linda. She is one person who always makes me feel special.

I am blessed with a family who have grown to become my best friends. My brother - our relationship is mostly a silent one. We are both lovers of silence, music and the written word. I learnt the value of writing from him. We spent very little time together even when we were growing up so his letters were my greatest connection to him. He is another cheer leader of mine - silently loud! I love you dearly.

The greatest love of my life - my husband - without whose unswerving support I do not know what kind of a person I would be. No matter what I do, say, or think his acceptance of me is unshakable. We disagree about many things and yet he is there dying to fight my battles and protecting me from the 'evil world.' I am probably his only friend. I love you more than life itself.

As for my two greatest joys - my sons and now my friends. Frank, open, mincing no words, loving me unconditionally. Their love for me is tangible - and not just because I am Mom and they should, but because they are who they are. I can talk to them about anything and I always come out having learnt something new! I have learnt more from my sons than I have from my parents - I take pride in saying so. I love you both very much. Your happiness is my joy. Be happy.

I am left wondering why I am unable to put my Maa on this list. Maybe because we have never really been friends. From her I learnt most of my values. For years she was on a pedestal and over the years her painful life has created a wall around her that is almost tangible. She never gives fully and receives even less. Seeing her as a friend is not possible for me. She is Maa and I love her dearly.

There are many I know with the potential to becoming true friends. As we get to know one another, our love, respect, acceptance will grow. In a few years my list may be longer.

I am also my own true friend. The one I am still discovering.

I end with my greatest friend - Writing.

I love you all dearly - unconditionally.

UPDATE: In the last couple of months I have had the good fortune of reconnecting with my classmates from elementary school and college. The bond between old friends is proof that Oneness is the only Real Truth. The connection is felt not just by the senses but by the depth of our very existence - the intangible yet ever present Soul.

I have also recognized that the friends who may not have been true to me and others to whom I may not have been true myself are just as closely connected to me as the true ones. I am one with them too - they have taught me valuable life lessons and helped me delve deeper into my own Spirit and find God. I will forever be grateful to them and wish them the very best in life.

May you, my friends, always have Love, Peace, Abundance, Wellbeing and Oneness as your constant companions.