Dec 3, 2009 #1
Coming here was an unexpectedly pleasant journey, driving into the midst of the hills around. So many idyllic village scenes on the way.
Vibhuti, as our camp was called, was larger than I had thought and driving up to where they were receiving the visitors, it struck me like a college campus -- and that too a very good one. I still think it is so like a large part of some high-end college campus in some developed nation.
Swamiji was standing and talking in a group with some people when we got there. He seemed very ordinary, although dressed in orange robes. Others prostrated or touched his feet; I did neither. If anything, to me he was at best like a professor in this place. I caught up with him again after we had deposited our luggage. He was checking out the lecture room and greeted me quite easily.
I wanted to establish a basis of how I would be comfortable communicating with him - and so I asked him directly, " What is the right attitude to have for someone who has more exposure to the Western mode of learning and study?" He asked me a little about myself and then said " Be patient! Patience is the right attitude."
That evening was the orientation and everyone was gathered facing the stage, where on five chairs, four swamis and a swamini were sitting. All were in orange attire and each had the look of a person quite learned in their subject. I felt glad this was not going to be some shallow program.
During what followed that evening, as well as the next day, I had the attitude only of understanding the meanings of the texts, as they were explained; hoping that somehow these were at the same level as my own understanding of Vedantic philosophy. Maybe, I would even be able to go beyond the understanding I had.
I felt a major shift in my idea about the Chinmaya Mission after a visit to Jeevan Darshan - a museum on swami Chinmaya's life. Here, I understood how the swamis at the mission, and those teaching us, are in fact, working at reviving the deeper aspects of Indian culture. That is, the spiritual message; and trying to tie together the numerous writings.
Quite as though they form the scaffolding holding in place the particular panorama, that we as students may experience the scene, and in the experiencing, more easily learn the things they hold out for us.
Though they want us to have an impression of the naturalness of the things they are teaching, they have in fact to struggle, firstly as any teacher does to help the student grasp the subject, but also to have an air that these things they are teaching are equally natural as the subjects we have become used to studying in colleges these days.
As we enter the third day of our camp - the routine is becoming easier. Getting up, getting ready, then coming out. The morning is only a little cold, but so pleasant. The colors in the sky and the freshness of the breeze, even the lingering darkness, invigorating.
I am beginning to understand that it is wrong to focus on understanding only in a scholarly way. It has to be more like following, as you are led, and you find you have no reason not to trust, wherever you are being led. The experience is not an unpleasant one, and actually you may not even be sure, if the questions which were first in your mind and you were seeking answers to in the discourses, were even the right ones, exactly the right ones.
Because you can tell this much, that you are somehow moving along even if it is only in a greater imperviousness you feel to your anxieties
Yesterday, I wanted to describe everything here as some kind of a theater. People just come together to enjoy something they 'wished' was true, and the teachers playing the bigger role in this make-believe drama of re-existing as if, in the ancient past, and all this, their version of it.
You can tell the command that each person who takes a class has over it, and the preparation they have done for it. At this time most of what they say seems hardly as one might read in the text itself. Yesterday, I felt in class that swamiji took every opportunity to say something in praise of swami Chinmaya, to the extent one begins to wonder what benefit is that to the listeners.
Today he was more clearly on some idea - though again, every word in the book, as though would trigger an anecdote from swami Chinmaya's life and his prowess. One side of the text we are reading, is the unquestioning acceptance of the Guru's qualities, and therefore, such praise may serve to exemplify the teacher's own attitude to his guru.
But harking back to the point of view of the real world, and it is not chaos as sometimes the suggestion seems to be. The real world works by real laws, if there are any of such, and anyone would benefit most from knowing more of those. This is why the listener may have some restraint in accepting ideas as they are told to us.
This is the message one begins to hear at all these talks -- a more and more elaborate description of life, our experience, and finally one experiencer within.
Ok - you want to say, almost in exasperation - do you, or do you not know how to overcome this illusion, for yourself and for me?
When this question has come into your mind, everything you hear sounds like so much effort to take you away from ever asking it - or their ever having to answer it.
Why put away this enquiry as a question of western science? We have come away from our business in the regular lives we lead - because when we ask this question there, we were told to free our minds first.
What if, the world is not actually so -- and this is the delusion that we Indians live through our lives. That there is no after life, and the practices we do are in no way responsible for any consequences -- such as 'offerings', chanting by rote, and specially the high praise to the Guru who is no more.
Would we not find it easier to accept some manifest act of the Guru not present, were something to happen, that we ask for? Why not some such small revelations, either the result of our own Sadhana here in Vibhuti, or by the grace of the swamis present, or of those who are in the world not visible to us!
As I see it, there are two very different ways in which the program here can move forward.
One, the expected one. That is, after another three days, very similar to the ones we have experienced, we go back to our lives. Happy in just this fact that we had a good holiday and are a little refreshed for the experience.
But there in another equally likely direction we can take; led all the more by what we are being taught in the lectures
Let me paint that scenario -- at this point, the swamijis can conduct some form of a test to pull out those who have the more developed thinking in these matters. That is, like in any program, it would be like choosing those for an advanced level of the course.
These students can be put through an even more intensive routine - thereby refining those qualities in which they were already advanced. For example, it could be a few hours of guided meditation, along one of the techniques being taught to us in the mornings. The other facet of it could be a more elaborate and 'complete' yagna, something we can expect the acharyas to know better about.
Having prepared the chosen sadhakas in this fashion, and doing a specific yagna towards a specific and recognizable outcome, and finally, were they to attain that, how enriching an experience for all who witness it; strengthening their bonds to the teachings of our culture and the cause of the Chinmaya mission.
We all who are returning to our previous lives expect this, that had we given ourselves to a longer study and perhaps done more 'yagnas' we would have benefited more. And it is the reason for our returning the next time.
This idea can come to anyone of us at some time later, and will make us wonder why was it not done in this way. Any benefit that we may have had from the program as it is presently designed will be offset by the doubts which may come thereafter.
It is easier to decide how the group can be chosen, probably also in general terms, what exactly makes it a fast track. The point of interest is, that those on that track will reach a point much farther ahead than we who stay on the normal one. The question is how do we objectively determine that they have indeed gone on further than we are.
The idea I am trying to communicate is this. The end goal for us is to understand ourselves as one experiencer. Everything else is illusionary, that is, it has come together as a result of a complex interplay of the basic elements, the Maha Bhutas and the various limbs of the mind.
therefore, if this really be the case, Indian philosophy suggests using some techniques, like a gardener would use his shears, to cut ourselves out of this entire ensnaring thing, called Maya.
The more energetically we do this, naturally the results will be. In this same example of ourselves being trapped under vines, if someone could point to us which limbs we cut so that many others fall away on their own, the outcome will be more, in the sense of a freedom from the entrapment of the vines of Maya.
All of us here believe in the truth of this process, and we may think of our present time here, as a sort of a break, as when we meet with some 'master gardeners', who understand the growth of this plant well, and are trying to explain that to us.
Whatever charts, diagrams or replicas they use to explain the growth of this plant will only be a theoretical knowledge. They will also tell us how to better use the shears, what kinds of shears to use etc..
But this much seems certain that nothing we do here is itself going to 'sort out' the lives we regularly live.
And this is how we understand the picture. But that is because we are leaving out something crucial from it -- the very element whose existence has to be validated.
The metaphysics of Indian philosophy - Samkhya, says that one facet of whatever we consider as our problem in the real world, is actually in our own nature. So in that sense we have carried it to the camp. This is how the large scale structure of Maya works.
I think it very worth the while to check out if this really is the way they say. And I would be very willing to invest more effort to solving my real world problems in this way.
One may still think of this as only some learning, as a curing of our psychology, and we have yet to go and apply ourselves in the 'correct' way to solve our present difficulty.
But no! You do not have to do anything at all. The problem will dissolve and you will either get news of that even while you are here, or simply go back and find that it is so.
This is how I understand the teachings here.
Tomorrow is the last day of the camp. Like every other person here, and like it must happen when people get together for a period of time, a sadness comes on at the thought of parting.
I look closely at my own feelings and see there, not just a sadness but also discontent. I remember clearly I had come here with definite expectations of changes which might occur in me and my circumstances. Is it that everyone is going back with some disappointment? Of course everyone expects their lives to be miraculously rescued from whatever troubles they are in. As they immersed themselves in the camp here they must have hoped that their evolution will be speeded up -- that whoever they look up to as taking care of them, would pay more attention to their needs now, because they are so focused on him here.
Now as they turn to their own lives they cannot help but feel that their hopes were for more to have happened.
In being honest about my own thoughts, and it may seem as this to anyone else here as well - did we not go deep enough from a fear that we may be forced to conclude that the process does not work? That it is all in fact, not true?
We all immediately rebel at this suggestion. We have all had some small miracles in our lives which have gradually developed a strong foundation of faith over the years.
So why do we not feel ready to experience a similar miracle now? Because what will happen is exactly that, a miracle. And since we make it, we would be Yogis.