Meditation - Journey into a silent land
by Aalif Surti
Before the beginning
Writing about meditation is like writing about love-if you haven‘t experienced it, it sounds strange, even downright delusory. But perhaps sometimes you trust your writer‘s judgement on mundane observations enough that you can give him a little leeway when he‘s struggling to write about the Wordless.
And then, every one of us has experienced the state called meditation knowingly or unknowingly. That‘s what gives me the courage to write about a journey that begins where words end.
There may be greater miracles than this: but today, walking happened… with no desire to go anywhere! No push within to go forward; no compulsion to keep moving; no fear of staying still.
In silence, in ease, in utter freedom, there it was-the glorious miracle of walking. With these baby steps began a journey into silence-a 21-day journey into the uncharted unknown.
In the morning Swamiji (Chaitanya Bharti) showered us with orange-yellow petals to wish us luck. As the sun peeped out of its blanket of palm trees, we covered ourselves in the quilt of silence and meditation, vowing to ourselves to live as if we were absolutely alone.
A bamboo hut on an isolated Goan beachfront was my landscape outside. And inside, is a whole universe waiting to be explored.
One can spend an entire lifetime—and many such lifetimes—without living this silence. Without ever partaking of food in a moment awash with the light of awareness. Or listening-really listening in a way that sound becomes one‘s being.
These days are but a gift-the grains of sand that never made it to the bottom of the hourglass; a brief blind spot in the momentary palace of illusion called Maya, an oasis in the desert of worldly life.
A soft silent murmur of gratitude illumines the days. Meditation comes easily-like a friend silently slipping his arm in yours. The sand envelopes your feet, the sea washes you clean, and as the thickets of thought are cleared, the sun shines ever so brightly. All is at ease, all is ease, all is…
The whole world is breezing outside my hut,
The breeze is breezing,
The trees are treeing,
The birds are flying leftside-rightside,
Even the sunlight is dancing on my doorstep
The whole world is breezing outside my hut.
I realized today that my mind was always looking for ‘‘tips, tricks, and techniques‘‘ of meditation. As if there was a short cut by which I could zoom ahead.
Today, the sobering truth hit home—meditation was simply attention moment to moment. No shortcut was possible as meditation is beyond the mind, and all the cunningness comes from the mind. ‘To stay put in the silence beyond the mind‘ is all there is to it.
‘‘Why is this being not in a state of being?‘‘
I was lying on the beach after meditation when this question innocently arose. The body was seemingly at rest, lying spread-eagled on the sand. But looking within, the mind was rushing at breakneck speed, busy with some extremely important business.
The constant noise of the mind can be silenced with force for a few moments, it can be silenced with focused attention for longer periods, but to truly put it at ease I see no way but to love it enough to understand its workings.
To calm its fears with compassionate presence. To finally help it to understand its biggest enemy… itself.
Haven‘t heard my voice for five days now. I wonder how it will be to begin talking again. Maybe, I sometimes smile to myself; I will have forgotten how to talk.
Swami Chaitanya Bharti seems to be an ordinary man. But mysterious synchronicities happen around him… miracles happen daily. Not the kinds that change ash into Swiss watches, but the kind that turn a human heart towards the divine.
He never accepts credit for any of it. He says he does not do anything, he simply allows things to happen. I feel thankful that it has taken me only ten years to realize this… because it could have taken more.
For me, this has been the biggest blessing of the camp-to see that the Master is the technique.
Gurur Devo Maheshwara
Guru Sakshat Parabrahman
Tasmai Shri Guruvai Namah
The Master is a mystery. Not the physical embodiment-though that too is beautiful. The form is a doorway to the vast unfathomable formless mystery.
Spiritual texts since time immemorial say that on this side of the door is the world we see, on the other side the mysterious unknown. In between is the patient, smiling, innocent Master.
Trust will take your step to the other side.
I say it because for a few moments, it happened to me: The final stage of the beach meditation given by Swamiji is to walk briskly or run with eyes closed. At first I could sense an almost-physical wall of fear in front of me, holding me back.
But I just kept running. At one point, a powerful new energy seized me. A primal energy. I was no more pushing against the fear, now I was being pulled forward faster than I could run.
An unknown energy picked me up in its arms and carried me along like a kite along the beach. Trust. I don‘t know how it works, but trust me, it does.
Bliss also provides a contrast against which the misery-filled workings of the mind become apparent. A truth which I picked up from an audio discourse of Osho, is that we analyse life instead of living it.
‘Passivity‘ is Swamiji‘s mantra for this camp. Whatever happens within-thoughts, emotions, energy movements-remain passive. Passivity, he says, is the only path out of our mess because it does not strengthen the ‘doer‘ illusion.
Ego is the deep-rooted source of the ‘negative‘ emotion in the first place! Passivity, as Swamiji puts it, is a fire which allows the emotion to simply burn itself out and finally burns even the ‘I‘ behind the emotion.
After a long day of struggling against a seemingly impossible emotional situation, came upon the following insight: The individual ‘I‘ cannot succeed, the universe cannot fail.
A vague collection of hopes. fears and desires born out of fear and survival by its very nature cannot succeed. But it does not fail either, it simply is as it is. Things are as they are, let it be.
(January 1, 2003)
Happy ‘Now Here‘ to me
Falling deeper and deeper in love with Swamiji. He is so beautiful-sometimes innocent like a little child, sometimes magnificent like a prophet.
He has been giving me a ‘hard time‘ (his words) in his talks, but he cannot hide the love in his eyes even when he‘s scolding. His fiery words feel like a shower of compassion and courage that washes clean the encrusted ego. At midnight as the New Year began, almost everyone was asleep.
I placed my forehead at Swamiji‘s doorstep to thank him for his blessings in my life so far and to pray for constant devotion. Felt so peaceful afterwards, I danced to the music of the faraway New Year parties out on the beach, a unique and unforgettable New Year‘s celebration… in silence.
Realized that I‘m suffering from a bad case of an inner disease called the ‘Spiritual Ego‘. Yes, friends, I have spotted within myself all the symptoms of this deadly disease. It has been subtly and silently growing within for many years, festering in the dark corners of my awareness.
Quietly, it has grown into a monster. Becoming aware of it and remaining non-serious, as Swamiji ensures that we do, is a step towards healing but there‘s only one real cure-the Master.
Only the Master can chip away at an ego patiently and precisely enough to rid one of this affliction. Whatsoever you do on your own in this regard only adds to it. (‘‘I‘m so evolved I‘m beyond even the spiritual ego!‘‘)
But not to fear. Regular injections of the Master‘s hit, the bitter pill of being temporarily ignored by him, along with his Healing Presence will get you healthy, happy and whole before you know it!
It is amazingly absurd, the day it strikes you, that the individual actually thinks he is smarter than the whole universe. It is hilarious that we cherish really tiny personal goals, which we must protect against the rest of the universe. It is stupid that we spend almost all our life fighting against life.
Here, with Swamiji, we learn to dissolve. To learn not to do, simply allow things to happen. It is not even a learning, more like relaxing our tight grip… as the clenched fist becomes an open palm, it is available to receive. In the evening discourse, Swamiji looked directly at me and put it beautifully: ‘‘You only are when you are not. When you are not, God is.‘‘
Went unusually deep within during the morning beach meditation. Was standing on an inner precipice and about to fall into the blank unknown below. Scary. Remained feverish afterwards throughout the day. The fever subsided whenever I thought about Swamiji.
Silence finds a new depth as the last week of the silence begins.
‘‘Even if you see me outside the meditation hall,‘‘ Swamiji says, ‘‘ignore me. Be completely with yourself.‘‘
At dusk the silence in the bamboo meditation hall is so transcendental it seems like there is no one here at all. Just a faraway hush-hush of waves. The tides of silence have washed everyone away; and this event remains a flimsy, faraway dream, which perhaps never happened…
Time to become more and more passive. Passive to sorrow, passive to joy. Passive to the field of experience.
‘‘Whatsoever you experience,‘‘ Swamiji reminds, ‘‘remember that it is separate from you, it cannot be you. You are beyond experience, you are the experiencer. Be as you are."
‘‘Don‘t fight with your emotions. If there is sorrow, don‘t even try to make it go away. Sit quietly and be with it. Refuse to take credit for it. Don‘t call it ‘my sorrow‘. It is as if someone has sent you a big parcel of sorrow by mail. You not only sign the postal receipt and accept it as your own, but also carry the heavy box on your head!"
"And then you complain that you are a big ball of bitterness. You have been piling parcel upon parcel from so many lives, what else do you expect?"
‘‘First thing, stop signing the postal receipts for new parcels. And second, remain passive to whatsoever you have already accumulated. Be patient. It is arduous. But slowly, slowly, the miracle happens.‘‘
A few preliminary observations about passivity based on my personal field experience and minimal expertise:
· True passivity-passivity as a state of being, not as an attitude of the mind-seems to be a gift (uplabdhi). Remembering it is the beginning of the journey.
· In passivity, the body moves more gracefully, actions happen more precisely, intensely and silently.
· At its root, passivity seems to be more ‘gyan‘ than ‘dhyan‘. It arises from the understanding that by their very nature the mind, emotions and body sensations are outside the essential you.
Hence, no matter how hard you try, they can neither benefit you nor harm you. The best course, therefore, is to remain passive.
· In passivity the secrets of life unfold on their own. Miracles happen.
· And the best part is-you don‘t have to do a thing!
Dark clouds overhead. A person I love deeply, perhaps the most in my life, appears to be ignoring me for someone else. It hurts bitterly. It aches. I cry, sometimes for myself, sometimes for him. Every new little incident brings fresh pangs of sorrow. He seems to have love for everyone but me…
Another cloudy day. Rage, betrayal, sorrow, fear, hopelessness…. At times, remaining passive, they seemed to subside and there were lucid sunlit moments but still the dark clouds hung around the horizon threateningly.
‘‘Don‘t hate your anger and your fear,‘‘ Swamiji said in his afternoon talk, ‘‘because your desire to get rid of them will bind you to them even more strongly. Simply remain passive, unafraid. I don‘t even say watch them carefully because to remain passive in the waking state is to be aware. Neither for nor against. Not turning your back, not running to hug it…‘‘
As I watch the pathetic little flame of my consciousness being battered from all sides, I am astonished at the dark side of the ego within me… the murderous rage, the cold viciousness, the melodramatic despair, the mighty arrogance… I see why I am part of a world which glorifies love, peace and harmony yet kills over chunks of land. I am part of this world. I am responsible for my world.
Last night, as I watched the last wispy clouds dying away, the object of my affection came and kissed me on the forehead with a big chuckle. I smiled and continued watching within: nothing had really changed, yet the entire climate of my being had become positive.
What is that switch within us that changes position from sadness to happiness? Or is it simply acceptance-the way we interpret an event-that makes it so? Could the secret of happiness really be that simple?
The Wheel has turned. The circle is complete. From bliss to misery to bliss. Thanks to an insight Swamiji shared yesterday afternoon, was blissed out during the beach meditation. The universe felt like it was madly in love with me, everything was part of my singing, dancing silence.
A few ecstatic hours later the same insight seemed to have lost its juice-it no longer worked! The Wheel had turned once again. Never again will I claim ownership for a spiritual experience.
Tomorrow is the final day of the silence. Then back to smiling at people and saying good morning. Beneath the words though, I hope this silence will go on resonating.
Below the noise of my life back home, I pray this love affair will remain alive: ‘‘In the timeless Heart, may He remain in eternity. May He remain… the light inside the light. May He remain… the sound within the sound. May he remain… the Source of all creation. I bow down to Him, the Master who was never born and will never die. Thy Will Be Done.‘‘
I had planned to leave this final day‘s diary entry blank-to symbolise the silence that has descended here. The silence, which has almost become my identity. But there is more to Swamiji‘s silence…
The song for the final evening‘s celebration was Nusrat Ali‘s ‘‘Is karam ka karoon shukr kaise Adaa‘‘…
How can I repay this gift, he sang, this grace which my Master has showered upon me. And this was how we all felt. Some expressed it in the laughing ecstasy of dance, which happens when you dance around him, some in tears at his feet. It was raining love all evening.
As the song ended and we sat for meditation with tear-drenched faces, there it was again: that magical, crystal-clear silence. That‘s when I realized that there is more to Swamiji‘s silence than mere blankness.
No, it is a silence filled with laughter, glistening with tears and dancing with gratitude. It is a silence throbbing with a living Heart.
After the end: On the flight back home, I read the newspaper for the first time in 40 days. Another mishap in Gujarat, Sonia Gandhi preparing for polls… nothing had changed. I had missed nothing in silence. And gained priceless glimpses of eternity.
My office, which had been reluctant to grant me the long leave before the camp, had deposited a sizeable incentive in my bank account! I don‘t know how it works but trust me it does.
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