By Purnima Coontoor
When the author changed her pen name from Coontoor to Yogi, it triggered a storm in an inkpot
Is it only me, or is it a universal (or Indian?) phenomenon that people who are even remotely connected with spirituality are given a ‘special’ kind of treatment by the ‘normal’ ones? It seems that it is okay for people to flaunt their wealth, education, status, family names et al, but spirituality – no sir! It is something that is to be practised, if at all, behind closed doors, inside temples or ashrams or in the secret recesses of your mind. Flaunt it you may not – not unless you go all out like Osho sanyasins, with robes and malas and an attitude to match – but an ordinary person who just wants to be involved in spiritual activities full-time is still somewhat of an aberration, as I have discovered to my amusement in recent times.
In the past few years, I have increasingly moved away from ‘commercial’ professional writing and activity, and now take pleasure only in reading and writing about matters of the spirit – a fact most find difficult to digest. On hearing about this interest of mine, a friend dismissed my journalistic activity with, “No, I mean, what else do you write about?” She was shocked when I said nothing. “How can you?” she said, “Why are you wasting your time, talent, and effort in something so futile? Don’t you want to do something more with your life?” Well, that about sums up the general attitude towards spirituality – a futile, fruitless avocation not to be pursued in entirety, but to be indulged in addition with other professional, remunerative, regular activities, in one’s free time.
So when I recently adapted the pen name ‘Yogi’ in lieu of ‘Coontoor’, apart from the good-natured ribbing, the reactions from family and friends bordered on the hilarious to ridiculous. My husband also seemed a bit rattled at first – maybe he was wondering if the ‘yogi’ would continue to put his breakfast on the dining table every day or wander off into the yonder singing bhajans a la Meera Bai. When I did , he relaxed a bit – though I am sure, he would be extremely offended if I actually went the full distance and changed it with affidavits and stuff. “Now come on, behave,” he might say sternly, as if to an errant child, “I have allowed you to play around with spirituality, but enough is enough! You have no business to change the family name handed down through generations.” Radhika, another friend, advised me to go easy and not lose sight of ‘reality’. “You need to realise that you still have a duty towards your family, society, and yourself,” she told me in all sincerity. Oh?
Some sneered at me outright. “Oh, so you fancy yourself as some kind of enlightened soul?” “Hey, Yogi, we’re going out for a movie, but I guess you wouldn’t want to join us!” “Oh, leave Yogi out of this discussion – what would she know about worldly matters?” “Hey. You didn’t answer my call – you weren’t meditating or something, were you?”
Matters are worse (for want of a positive word) now, for I am associated with an ashram and am involved in activities like transcribing, writing, editing and promoting our spiritual mentor’s teachings through the web and other media, full time. Nothing short of blasphemous, a trained professional dropping a career and taking up this ‘faltu’ work with no apparent remuneration!
|Purnima is the follower of Guru Shri Shri Nimishananda of Bangalore firstname.lastname@example.org|
Well, to all those who think that spirituality is trivial business, I wish to submit the following:
Spirituality does not mean renouncing the world, but embracing it unconditionally in all its facets, with understanding, compassion, love, tolerance, and acceptance. It means partying and eating pizza or enjoying a movie, but with detachment, without being affected by the activity! It means looking at the world with fresh new eyes, with a different perspective – one that gives clarity, depth, and dimension to life. It is showing the courage and conviction required to look beyond the obvious and mundane, waking up to a higher reality and not the opposite. It means discharging one’s duty towards self, family, and society with more responsibility than before, elevating the immediate environment of the practitioner to a higher level of consciousness, leading to a healthier lifestyle. Even a single meditator in the family is enough to lift the vibrations of seven past and future generations of the dynasty, says Guru Shri Shri Nimishananda. Earning money (often through drudgery) and putting the bread on the table is not the only support a family or body needs. ‘Khana’, ‘peena’, and ‘mauj udaana’ has been the goal of far too many of us for far too many lifetimes – in the bargain we have forgotten that the soul needs nourishment too.
Instead of wasting yet another opportunity in the pursuit of the mundane, it is the duty of the individual to heed the call, and do everything in her power to take life to the next level. And it is the right of the individual to harness all possible energies and reiterate the purpose of her life in all ways possible, to associate her name with the original Father unhesitatingly, unashamedly, as readily as she adapts the name bestowed by the conventions of society.
And so it is that Coontoor becomes Yogi, hoping the vibrations of the new name will rub off on her some time, in some manner, in some dimension!
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