By Suma Varughese December 2004 For those who have the sensitivity to see the sublime, nature is an incomparable guru. an embodiment of the enlightened state, she silently waits for man to emulate her wisdom and serenity, her generosity and self-sacrifice. Nature is but a name for an effect whose cause is God… william cowper Nature never makes any fuss, and yet it does everything… lao-tzu The grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapour is ever rising john muir Ever since I first embarked on my quest in 1991, nature has conspired to place me in offices and homes with a fantastic view of the sky. The marvelous expanse of the Mumbai sky, with its serene spectacle of eagles wheeling in calm motionless circles, has been a visual metaphor of the goals that drive me. That limitless distant radiant blue dome set my sights on infinity, while the eagles symbolize the sense of confident repose and lofty overview I hope to reach one day. Could it be a coincidence that I was destined to always occupy the highest floor of any building I lived in, or have a room with a view? Oh, no. That sky, that all-encompassing, benevolent sky watching over me, has played as crucial a role in my growth as any other element of my spiritual practice. And the love and gratitude I feel for it, the kinship it kindles in me, is a response to the role nature plays in my life – and in my growth. Nature is the guru of gurus. Mother of mothers. God manifest. In every movement and manifestation of her myriad life forms and forces, she conveys a teaching – sometimes powerful and vibrant, sometimes subtle and silent, sometimes ruthless and terrifying. She shows us through her own unsurpassable integrity, beauty and being, the states of mind and attitude we must adopt if we wish to attain self-realisation. She is the enlightened state, pure and natural, and it is this that she coaxes us to recognize, in her infinitely patient, infinitely creative, way. Says dancer Mandakini Trivedi, who runs an ashram in the salubrious environs of Lonavla, a hill station two hours from Mumbai, “Whatever your problem, you only have to look at nature for a solution.” She adds, “I tell people at the ashram that we do modules on dance and mythology here, but the real teacher is nature. Nature embodies the inner principle. How completely in the moment she is, how still and free, holding on to nothing! There is no ego operating.” She rhapsodises, “Nature teaches through the smallest life experience. What really moves me is the sight of autumn leaves falling. They depart with no drama, so cheerfully. When they live, they do so with no sense of achievement or vanity. With equal grace, they exit.” She is in awe of the complete contentment manifest in nature. “It is this that makes you feel peaceful in her presence. We have abused our mind by using it beyond need. The more the mind, the less the intelligence. You can stand in wonderment and awe at nature’s intelligence. And we are part of that. When we recognize that, the ego crumbles.” Prem Nirmal, an electronics engineer, entrepreneur and workshop trainer, is equally responsive to nature’s teachings. He says, “I learned cybernetics from a German called Mewes, who had formulated fundamental laws learnt from nature on how to attain success. For instance, he pointed out that when fresh leaves grow from a stalk, it does not hinder the fall of sunlight on the other leaves. It fills in the space inbetween instead. Or look at flowers in a hedge. Each fresh flower will fill in a gap, instead of taking the place already occupied. They will never push and shove the way we do in the local train. There is great co-operation in nature. Look at the big trees in a jungle. During the monsoons they absorb a great amount of water in their roots, which they release later during the dry climes, thereby allowing plants and shrubs to thrive. Their harmony is fantastic!” He adds, “I learnt to use my intuition from nature. Every time I get stuck in a technological problem, I spend time alone with nature and look for signals. The logical mind cannot go beyond the dictates of reason. If you look at how creativity manifests in nature, you will first see an aura of what is to come and then the actual fruit or flower. It is the equivalent of the meditative mind.” Nirmal uses the wisdom manifest in nature to help him solve the most pragmatic of problems such as investment decisions. He says, “I had a sum for investment but I was unsure of how to invest it. When I looked for signals from nature, I kept seeing yellow flowers. So I invested in gold and made a lot of money soon after.” His brushes with nature have not always been quite so benign. He recalls riding a motorcycle one late night in the forest area adjoining his home, and coming across a panther about to cross the road. He says, “There was no fear, we were both creatures of nature with no intention of harming each other. The panther went its way and I went mine. I understood the meaning of the term ‘kinship with nature’ for the first time.” Nirmal also conducts nature camps where he invites corporates to unwind and sit at the lotus feet of Mother Nature. Vijaya Venkat is one of Mumbai’s leading advocates of natural hygiene, a philosophy akin to naturopathy. She advocates a diet based largely on raw vegetables and fruits and the complete avoidance of synthetic or refined products such as sugar, maida or refined oil. Healing through natural means is an important maxim of the philosophy. Her advocacy of nature’s ways and wisdom is total and radical. She says, “Nature is God and God is nature. Nature has unconditionally taken responsibility to nurture, protect, uplift, share with and care for us. I don’t look for anything other than nature.” She adds, “Very often, a child does not take his medicine when ailing, but heals nevertheless. Nature heals. The tree does not cry when it sheds leaves. It just grows some more in due season. I have seen extreme suffering in the case of some of my clients. But they heal when exposed to nature. I tell depressed people to sit on the beach for six weeks. They cannot but heal in the presence of nature. Nature is consciousness.” Like Nirmal, Vijaya claims that alignment to nature’s wisdom has awakened her intuitive powers. She recalls a time of frustration and stasis in her own life when she was repeatedly woken for three to four days at a stretch at 4 a.m., by a voice which proclaimed oracularly, “Take one step for the solution you already have.” When she ignored the advice, it came before her in writing. “That was the turning point in my life, “ she recalls, “after that, no matter what the problem, the solution just comes.” Nature touches all who come within sniffing distance. Mahesh Rao, banker, is a trekking enthusiast and member of the Explorers and Adventurers group, Mumbai. Says he, “Being with nature humbles you. When you stand in front of a huge mountain, you see how much more there is to life than just you. You also learn never to take nature for granted. There are certain aspects of ecology that are fragile and need to be protected. You also see the interconnection. For instance, the indiscriminate felling of trees has created climatic extremities, which makes trekking more difficult.” A classical singer, he adds, “When I am with nature I feel like singing. Anything to do with art has to do with nature.” There are some, who, though born in the urban zone, continue to resonate with the rhythms of nature. Roozbeh Gazdar, an animal and nature lover who works with a travel agency, says, “I’ve always loved animals, plants and hills. I feel more at home with them than in the human world. Nature is the greatest evidence of God, or a kind and benevolent force. There is no form in which I see that as much as in Nature. Nature gives so many free joys, like air and water and its sheer beauty. I also find there is no wastage in nature. Animals and plants survive, just as humans do, but they do not display negative excesses. There is no greed and jealousy. I think there is a lesson of hope here. In spite of all the abuse, it continues to endure.” Another nature enthusiast is writer-academic, Amodini, whose spiritual practice has included living in caves and in the bosom of nature. She says, “There is so much magic in nature. I would love to live like a dewdrop dancing on a blade of grass. My goal is to make my mind like the sky, which reflects the electric storms and returns to serenity. I wish to allow life to pass through me without clinging.” Such awe and reverence is rare among urban dwellers, but standard practice for those who live in natural surroundings. In the book, Earthmind, written by Paul Devereux, John Steele and David Kubrin, the authors give evidence of the extraordinary kinship which existed between man and nature, so much so ordinary levels of perception were enhanced and the interconnection of all was clearly experienced. Here, for instance, is an old Eskimo song, called Magic Words: In the earliest timewhen both people and animals lived on eartha person could become an animal if he wanted to and an animal could become a human being.…all spoke the same language.That was the time when words were like magicthe human mind had mysterious powersa word spoken by chancemight have strange consequencesit would suddenly come alive. Strange evocative words that recall the fairy tales and Panchatantras of childhood with their oddly probable interaction between man and nature. In our own country, there is the signal example of our rishis, forest dwellers, patiently trawl
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