Seeking God

Take my breath away

Winters are usually a big bother for me in terms of health — I’m sneezing, sniffing and wheezing most of the time. No doubt Delhi’s pollution + cold = bad time for asthmatics, but even without the asthma, I am generally down in the dumps all through.

Couple of weeks ago, I was grumbling to hubby that I’m sick of being sick all the time and just want to be able to breathe normally through my nose… was that too much to ask? In response, the March issue of Aurobindo Ashram’s newsletter landed up in my mail with the title, ‘Cure of Illness’. I learnt two important things from The Mother over the next couple of days of repeated reading:

1. Illness exists to call your attention to something. That is fine. But do not have a morbid obsession about your illness for then you only make it worse. Let it be there and do its job. In the meantime, you do yours.

2. Doing your job means following your mission and your passion. At all times, keep your focus on these. If you have to obsess about something, obsess about these, not your illness. The illness will take care of itself, and in most cases, it will become far more bearable or may just even come to an end.

I loved this advice so much, I put it to practice immediately. I have now stopped thinking about my blocked nose and asthma attacks. Instead, I focus on giving my best to my home and family (my missions), books and work (my passions). Whenever I do have a bout of breathlessness, I take it as a cue to sit down and chant Om. And I don’t know if it’s because of the better weather we’ve had in Delhi or my new mission-focused frame of mind, but my health issues are 90% better in just two weeks. (I threw out my nasal spray yesterday.) You MUST try this if you’re suffering from a chronic health issue.

***

My daughter gave her last board exam today, which means she’s done with school and is setting off on a new phase of life. I have mixed feelings — on one hand, we wait for our kids to grow up, and when they do, we want them to go back to being kids. Childhood looks simple once you’re done with it.

Tonight both the kids are out at end-of-term parties and I’m feeling the beginning of the empty-nest syndrome already (though there are some years left). But it’s not so bad. I have my man and my books and my dogs and my blog. I’ve made peace with the peace a long time ago. It’s familiar territory.

***

A beautiful, breathtaking quote by Sri Ramana Maharshi to sign off tonight:

“That in which all these worlds seem to exist steadily, that of which all these worlds are a possession, that from which all these worlds rise, that for which all these exist, that by which all these worlds come into existence, and that which is indeed all these — that alone is the existing reality. Let us cherish that Self, which is the reality, in the Heart.”

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Seeking God

Three lessons

Last weekend, I found myself in not one but three different spiritual study classes. Here are selected notes:

Divinity 24/7: The first one I attended was a satsang at an amazing place in the middle of nowhere called the Temple of Inspiration. Peopled by smiling, silent, everyday folks with halos around their heads, the prayers, meditation and study lecture by an awesome doctor there left me with much peace for the whole week. A lasting lesson that stayed with me was when, after her talk about Kriya Yoga, the doctor responded to a query by the lady sitting next to me, who happened to share my name. “How do we keep our divine connection alive 24/7 despite hectic, busy lives?” my namesake asked.

The doctor replied with a question, her eyes closed: “Do you have to make any effort to be the mother of your child?”

Silence.

She continued: “You know it in every cell of your body. It is a deep and all-encompassing knowing that you are the mother of your child. In the same way, when your connection to divinity becomes a deep and all-encompassing knowing in every cell of your body, you will be connected 24/7. There will be no effort required.”

Oh mother: The second talk I attended was at my local Buddhist group, where a group of women’s division members were talking about lessons from a book by Daisaku Ikeda. Just before I had left for this meeting, I’d mourned on the phone to my dad: “I’m so caught up in life’s daily grind, I fear I am not spending enough time on my spiritual growth.”

At this meeting, God answered me through the group’s senior, who suddenly diverted from the topic at hand to say: “As women, wives and mothers, we’re constantly running about fulfilling our various roles. We get caught in the whirlwind of daily activities and go round and round, faster and faster, till it becomes impossible to get out. But we must.”

I stared so hard at her, she intuitively looked me straight in the face and asked, “Would you like to say something?”

“Yes. That’s what I needed to hear. How do we break out of the whirlwind?” I wondered aloud.

“If the whirlwind is leading to growth, there is no problem. But most times for working moms like us, it isn’t. You need to make a special effort initially to invest in your spiritual growth. But soon you will notice that everything else becomes easier, life becomes vaster, fresh energy flows into all the different areas of your life. It is worth it,” she twinkled at me.

Through all of the following week, I noticed.

Non-violent battles: The third talk I attended was a Gita lecture at the Aurobindo Ashram. Our teacher talked about why it’s important to have our sattvic tendencies control our raajsic and taamsic tendencies. “You do not have to completely suppress your negative taamsic emotions or raajsic desires (for then they only lay low until the moment is right for them to exert themselves), but you must control them through your sattvic qualities. Sattvic values are those pertaining to peace, balance, love, compassion, harmony, santulan.”

Preoccupied with events from my life, I asked, “But if we must operate from our sattvic values alone, then how does one stand up to a bully, for example? Isn’t some kind of aggression required sometimes?”

Our teacher removed his glasses before replying, “The entire Gita is about Krishna urging Arjuna to fight a battle that goes against his peaceful tendencies. Operating from your sattvic state does not mean suffering injustice. On the contrary, you have to fight it, it is your duty, said Krishna to Arjuna. The key is to do it without attachment to the reward, to do it not out of malice but out of neutrality and non-attachment to ego. If you must fight, do not fight with your anger or pride. Fight with fearlessness, detachment.”

***

Last weekend I took three steps towards God. And God sent three thousand love notes to guide me.

Seeking God

Clarity despite the white noise

So it’s been ongoing, this discussion with the Voice in my head.

***

“Things have been really great around here,” I said. “All’s really quiet and calm and peaceful. Life is good.”

The best of all monopoly profits is a quiet life, the Voice replied. The economist JR Hicks said that, not me. So enjoy yourself.

“But is this the purpose of life? To quietly enjoy oneself as time goes by? To sit here reading all day, writing all day, doing a bit of laid-back work and being paid for it?” I probed.

And why not?

“Because it’s too easy,” I said. “I thought life is a struggle, that we have to fight for our happiness.”

But you’re happy, so what do you need to fight for?

“Precisely. Aren’t I supposed to be fighting for something?”

Who says so? Who made up these rules?

“I don’t know. I just thought that’s how things worked. That we are supposed to do our samsaric (worldly) karma and all that. Fulfil our social obligations, get a gruelling job, make a lot of money, take our kids on foreign holidays, all that. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?”

Think of the Gita class you attended today at the Aurobindo ashram. What did Krishna say to you in that? About your Swadharma?

“Our Swadharma (supreme duty) is to follow our Swabhava (inner calling),” I recalled. “Our purpose in being alive is to follow our nature, our calling, our inner voice. Even if it comes at a cost to our social obligations or our ‘shoulds’ and ‘supposed tos’.”‘

So what does that tell you? Are you following your Swadharma based on your Swabhava?

“I am tranquil by Swabhava. This quiet life suits me wonderfully. I can spend time with my loved ones, I can sit and read books all day, this is nirvana. But is this my real Swabhava or is this an escape? Is this my real Swabhava or sheer laziness?”

What else did Krishna say? What do you do if you don’t know your real Swabhava?

“He said that then there is only one Swadharma and that is to find our real Swabhava and thus Him,” I said, with wonder as realisation dawned on me. “The entire purpose of my life is to find my real Swabhava, to find Krishna within me. And then to dedicate the rest of my life to that.”

Will getting back in the corporate rat race or fighting for someone else’s definition of happiness take you closer or further from that mission?

“I don’t know yet. I suspect not. But I am too happy and comfortable right now to bother to find out.”

So do then what comes most naturally to your Swabhava. Don’t fight for the sake of it. Don’t expend energy for the obligation of it. Seek your Krishna, your real calling. That’s all Life wants from you. Everything else is white noise.

***

So it’s been ongoing, this discussion with the Voice in my head. I noticed today, though, that it all happens in silence.

Finding God

Beginner’s luck

Yesterday I spent the better half of the morning at the passport office, in line to get my daughter’s passport renewed.

Having been through my own passport renewal process late last year, I was familiar with the long wait and had taken along a book — my new copy of the ‘Mother’ Mirra Alfassa’s life, which I had bought only the day previously from the Aurobindo Ashram in Delhi.

I’ve always wanted to visit the Ashram but of course there was never enough time in everyday life for such frivolities. Being jobless woke me up to the craving for a guru, and gave me the luxury of being able to drive to wherever I wanted in the middle of the day. Since I couldn’t drive to Auroville in Pondicherry (my soul’s calling), I drove to the next best thing — Pondicherry in Delhi.

Besides jotting down the timings of the various discources and lectures, which I plan to regularly attend starting with today’s class on the Gita, I also bought a few books to acquaint myself with the Aurobindo philosophy.

So anyway, after we got past the first couple of stages of passport-processing, my daughter and I had a long wait for stage three. Uncomfortable in the crowded, stuffy waiting room, we walked back downstairs to the main hall and found good seats. I dug this book out from my bag, she busied herself on her iPhone.

After about two hours, we went back upstairs, and were surprised to see our number flashing next to the stage four counter. “That’s funny,” I said to my daughter, “don’t we need to go through the verification stage? They’ve sent us straight to ‘granting’.”

At the final counter, the lady officer initially mulled over my custody papers, but her colleague from two cubicles away called out insistently to her, “Let’s go! Come fast!” In her hurry, she shrugged and signed off our application without much more ado. As we proceeded to the exit, the reason for her rush became evident as the security guard announced: “All officials will now leave for lunch. Applicants are requested to wait 40 minutes.”

The poor applicant just after us was left holding her papers woefully in her hand.

I shot a look of surprise at my daughter: “My God! How lucky we were! Not only did we miss one stage entirely, we also just got out in the nick of time. We saved more than an hour of waiting.”

In the next breath, I added instinctively: “It’s the Mother’s protection! Just having her book in my bag and reading it halfway gave us this kind of beginner’s benefit!” My daughter rolled her eyes and smiled indulgently.

As we walked down the stairs and out the exit, I continued marvelling in an awed voice, and resolved to continue on my new path in faith. I confess I have dabbled in many, gone up a little or a long distance on various spiritual journeys. This may be just another one of my experiments, or this may be something more lasting. Whatever it is, it will leave me changed and for the better.

I believe in miracles. The big ones are usually evident only in retrospect, and the little ones are a guaranteed indication of being on the right track. All recent experiences — the good and bad — have led me to exactly this point. Who knows where this path will lead?