Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Remembering Mahantji - Hero of the Ganga

It was January, 1969. I had hitch-hiked most of the way to India, across Canada, and from Europe to reach the Afghanistan border on New Year's Eve. A week or so later I was in India on a train to Varanasi, to search out the name and address given to me by Ustad Allah Rakha and Pt. Ravi Shankar in California a year earlier. 
I had been told to go to the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple and ask for Mahant Amarnath Mishra, the head priest of this ancient temple founded by Goswami Tulsidas, author of the Hindi text of Ramayana (Ramcharitmanas). I entered the gates of the temple and approached an old baba with my inquiry. He said the Mahant had gone home and I should go to his house at Tulsi Ghat, about a mile away on the Ganga River. This is the house of descendants of Tulsidas, within which rests the original Ramcharitmanas wrapped in silk, as well as his 400-year-old wooden shoes. 
I found my way to the door of the imposing white 3-story house overlooking the banks of the Ganga and gave a knock. I heard voices from upstairs and waited a few minutes. Soon, a door opened and an incredibly shining Brahmin gentleman greeted me - Veer Bhadra Mishra. He welcomed me inside, sat me down and ordered tea, nasta, and sweets brought. I was a long-haired, bearded young hippie from America, and he inquired what brought me here. He then told me it was his uncle whom I was looking for, and that he would pass on my reference from Ravi Shankar and my request to learn pakhawaj drum from his uncle, and that I should come back tomorrow for the response. 

I did return the next morning, was introduced to the uncle, "Mahantji", sat with him as he coached his wrestling students in the adjacent 'akara', and answered his simple questions. Mahantji appeared as a Buddha-like, jolly, gentle mountain with a Sumo-wrestler body (100% vegetarian!). He told me to come later in the evening, and in the meantime Veer Bhadra arranged for a room nearby and a young vocal student to help me shop for supplies and learn to cook dahl and sabji. Within a few days a drum-maker brought me an instrument, had it approved by Mahantji, and the rest is history! 43 years of it. 

My guru, the Mahant, was soon to retire and Veer Bhadra was to take his place as mahant of the Hanuman Temple, but he was already a professor of Civil Engineering at the Benares Hindu University and was going to learn to balance those two occupations for next 40 years. My guru spoke very little English, but Veer Bhadra was fluent, so we began having evenings of intense conversation, both alone and with a room full of Brahmin cronies. They all wanted to know who the hell were we 'hippies' and why were we coming to India, why we were drawn to the music and the culture and the spirituality. Why were we running away from the West? What is it like in a materially abundant society, growing up? What is the nature of this 'revolution' going on over there? Who are we? I tried my best to answer, explaining that I was only following a personal decision to reject participation in the imperialistic Vietnam war and desired to experience what seemed like a true human civilization, with an intact spiritual foundation, before the insane psychopaths blew up the world. I wanted a taste of this music and dance and art, that resonated with my soul, though I knew not why. I know they all enjoyed these conversations as much as I did. I also begged them not to let their society go down the road that ours had. 

I have made five other subsequent trips to India, sometimes for 2 years at a stretch, often staying in Varanasi, sometimes even in the family house compound. I was told by Veer Bhadraji that I am considered part of the family and that I would always have a place for the rest of my life there. VB became the Mahant and we would often sit on the roof of the Hanuman temple and sing together or listen to the classical music programs through the night. He continued sponsorship of the annual Dhrupad Melas after my Guru's passing in late 70s. He became the strongest advocate of cleaning the Ganga in India, and met with many political and economic and scientific leaders. In this regard he founded the Sankat Mochan Foundation for research and development of clean technologies. He also hosted innumerable foreigners continually throughout the years, both scholars and artists, who came to his door and were greeted with the same generosity and hospitality I was shown. 

But the thing is, he was a real special, unique shining light to everyone who encountered him, a true human being. His demeanor and voice, his kindness, his intense love of Life and the Ganga, and all She represents, blew everyone away. I would return to Tulsi Ghat after many years' absence, and he would grin like a kid, and as if no time had passed, we would sit together in love. We marveled at all that had taken place in our lifetimes, the beauty we had seen, the beautiful people we had known, the struggles we engaged in, and the mystery of being incarnate here and now. 
Mahant Veer Bhadra Mishra passed from our world last Wednesday, just following Shivaratri 2013.

Fare well, my dear beloved friend. You are in my heart forever. My tears are not for you.....I can't help myself. I knew you, and what an incredible grace to fall on me it has been. I still wish, as I always did, to make you proud of me.....like an older brother, for encouraging and supporting my strange passion that led me to your door. May we once again sing together in praise of Hanuman and bathe in the purified waters of Ganga Ma.  
Om Tat Sat   

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Gentle, Penetrating Wind

Quan Yin, Nelson Museum, Kansas City
Maha-atmas come in all forms and status. Two recently left us and we give thanks for their gracing our lives. Heartful poet Neil, and truth-speaker Hugo, champion of the people and land, we remember, mourn and celebrate their transition to the next level of our collective journey. 

Today is a day for random "notes to self". Any applicability to visitors/readers' situational moment is a bonus for what I would like to be a 365 virtual cyber give-away festival venue here on these pages. 

from John Trudell:
"We're not going to change Sexism until we address how we live with the Mother Entity, the Earth, and that's the reality of it. And we're not going to change and deal effectively with Racism until we change how we live with the Living Plants and Animals and World that is the Earth. And if we ignore these two things, then no matter what the people do and create for themselves, there will always be Madness and Chaos, because they're only Pretending to be connected."

Mark calendar now for 2015, when this legislation can next be introduced...WTF? WTF?  
A recent subject here was what was referred to as "The Book of the World", with a related quote of lyrics from Shankaracharya's Nirvan Shatakam, which was supposedly uttered by him at the tender age of 8 to a sage in the Himalayas. And as Shivaratri festival is soon come I have been tapping deeper into comparable core teachings as is usually the case around this time. It seems to be even more than ever important (though it should always be!) that we allow the ever-present daily shocks of the outer world to flow through our consciousnesses and pass into the Earth, the Cosmos, the Unknown...to be composted, as our concentration remains in a state of Trust in however we each view the 'higher power'. The author cited below likens the process to "free them mentally as we would let a bird out of a cage"...hmm, ok, that works for me. Since I cannot but give thanks and praise to the activists of the world, on behalf of the world, I must admit that I continue to find it difficult to always balance passions with the teachings of the masters regarding detachment, but it is necessary for maintaining our perseverance and longevity. 

I've said before that personally I have connected to 'that Book' mainly through the Vedic/Sanatan Dharma traditions and the words of the Taoist sages. My first journeys to India/South Asia were with only the Gita and I Ching in my backpack (but picked up the Mathnawai of Rumi on the way). A couple of decades ago I was given a volume that is an interesting merging of the two above traditions, called A Guide to the I Ching by Carol K. Anthony. What follows is primarily for the purpose of sharing some relevant (for me) quotes from that book, coming from the pages relating to the Hexagram 57 - "Sun/The Gentle (The Penetrating, Wind)". 
And, referring to a couple posts back, on the first page of the Guide it says, "Time is not of the essence, time is the essence". Synchronicity abounds (heh). 

"Only consistently firm, yet gentle, inner thoughts penetrate to others with good effect.
'The Gentle' refers to the way the Sage's thought penetrates to us, and to the way our thoughts penetrate to others. It describes an influence on others which is unconscious and automatic. This influence occurs through maintaining a ceaselessly correct inner attitude in which we are balanced, detached, innocent, and independent through all the changing events...
The self-correction most often needed is to cease striving to influence. Because striving is based on inner doubt, it negates any influence we might have. Our doubt further inhibits others' ability to find their way, and prevents the Higher Power from intervening in the situation...
Sometimes, on perceiving how events are marching toward an appropriate conclusion, we develop an enthusiasm to hurry things along....We should keep desire and fear, and the ambition they generate, at bay....keeping in mind that once we turn the matter over to the Sage/Cosmos, he has the means which are beyond our understanding. 
We should also cease reacting to shock. We need to bend like the bamboo...without becoming broken through rigid resistance to the situation...We need to ask why we keep reacting after the shock has passed. Do we like clinging to negative possibilities? Do we find solace in distrusting the Cosmos?...Who is the one demanding the reward? Who seeks the comfort imagined at the end of the journey? The root of impatience may be the fear that those we seek to influence will not find their way to the truth...
Our ego may also insinuate that, in the end, our efforts will come to nothing and we will be cheated of happiness, because history, or literature, or experience has proven time and again that 'the course of true love never did run smooth', or 'life is meant to be nothing but suffering', or is a paradox, or only a dream and doesn't exist at all, or some other idea that supports our negative mood. We sometimes listen to these ideas...forgetting the myriad miracles we have experienced regarding the power of truth. We also need to reassure our anxious [inner] inferiors that in the end everything will work out better than we could have expected."

And a bit more that came up today, which may or may not have relevance to our collective and the readers' individual 'changes' and evolutionary journey, or whatever we might call this crazy time of deep unknown and uncertainty, even as we are witnessing, on a regular basis, the light of truth shining into many severely dark places
"Kuei / Breakthrough (Resoluteness)"
"When our situation improves, a new sort of resoluteness must be undertaken...When success comes we should not allow ourself to be hard or proud, nor should we congratulate ourself for being in the right. We neither rest on our virtue, nor measure our progress. Resoluteness means that we continue humbly forward, determined to stay balanced and on course. 
In dealing with weeds, firm resolution is necessary. Walking in the middle remains free of blame. We must be resolute  against losing inner independence and balance, and against allowing others to cause us to want, worry, or wonder. We must keep our sincerity. It is necessary to let people who wish to err go on their way, while we remain firmly resolved not to give them up as hopeless. We should not give up on ourselves, either - on our ability to persevere and endure others, and to endure the general situation. 
"Ta Chuang / The Power of the Great"
"Our true self is always objective, reticent and reserved...
We often fail to realize that our inner thoughts communicate to others without any intention or effort on our part; we feel their inner attitudes as well. These are non-verbal perceptions which we are trained in childhood to distrust. 
Persevering in the use of power means that we wait for the right time to speak or act...Everything we say or do proceeds from a sense of what is fair, just, and essential, and we rely on the power of good in others, trusting that their sense of truth (however suppressed) will emerge to support what is right."      - Carol K. Anthony, A Guide to the I Ching

I do not overlook the fact that the above refers, in my view, to the normal true human beings among us, and does not apply to the terminally Wetiko-infested substantial percentage of our human population who seem to direct, manage, and social-engineer the anti-Life processes which facilitate the continuance of the death-culture shocks which assault our multi-dimensional selves daily throughout this time. There is also the problem/situation that true human beings lack ability to even access face-to-face the Wetiko kings, popes, politicians, CEOs, and generals, and their minions, in this time of ('endless') boundary-less 'theater of war' and universal 'enemies'. Here in this new world we desire to create, we are in unknown country without maps, guidebooks, or even trail-blazers, and have to weigh individually how we walk the good road. Every day, an unprecedented challenge, but truly new and full of potency. 
Giving support to those who share the middle of the stream with us, and when necessary, a helping and healing hand. 
>om namah shivaya<
>bom shankar bholenath<                 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Tourist Mind/Pilgrimage

"Song Sung Blue" - Daily Coyote
Had enough of "the shift"/"ascension"/"awakening", all the omniscient gurus of false humility, the prognostications of "the (fill-in-blank) cosmic calendar was off by 'x' days" so-called teachers/enlightenment-facilitators, the time-wasting absorption in morbid vicarious living through the infantile leelas/dramas of "rising stars of modern spirituality" (eg: promoted by silly new-age networks like "Shift", which somehow came to "own" the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers [WTF?])? We were talking about 'time' here some days ago, and others have noticed perceptual changes.  Since then I've been tracking evidence of "change" (or lack thereof) in temporal and human-collective terms, and current perceptions of same, as appears on the web world and in other places, and that has prompted me to look up the term "narcissistic supply". Interesting. And, yes, there are roots and early-childhood causes for this and related disorders, and there should be some level of compassion in our response to it's presence, but 'idiot compassion'? I don't believe so. Wow, the levels of both denial and of unfamiliarity with the concept are astonishing. I guess we should take to heart what the I Ching counsels: "It is important above all to possess enough greatness of soul to bear with imperfect people". Obviously, because of their complexity and vastness, many things are impossible to track and come to any absolute conclusions. But that doesn't seem to stop the many voices of personal certainty, and even the passing on of 'information' directly transmitted from "God". Oh well. Enough said. Each to his/her own. 

I've had an interest in following the Kumbha Mela, currently winding up in India (some good friends are there, along with 40 million other pilgrims; some of us are always on pilgrimage). Somehow I came upon the website of Baba Rampuri, a long-time American initiate of a major Naga Baba sect, a gentleman only slightly younger than myself who went to India first time a year after my ('69) initial trip. He doesn't strike me as a "guru" as such, but is considerably articulate regarding Sanatan Dharma, especially the history of the Naga Babas and their perennial oral-tradition "Book of the World". 42 years living as a Naga dude. Respects. Worth checking out some of his lecture vids. His words definitely triggered some potent memories of my early days in India and what was transmitted from a Baba at that time. It is absurdedly sad how so much bullshit is constantly and currently being propagated regarding what precious gifts and life-transforming/healing experiences are always and still readily available to the truly open and receptive individual willing to suspend the western-programmed mind, shut the fuck up, listen to the Devic spirits of the natural world and the subtle voices of the sacred 'tirths' (power-places/otherworldly-portals), and truly humble oneself before the hoary traditions of human and non-human masters. It also doesn't hurt to (easily) avail oneself of the company of the infinitude of living masters of arts and craftsmanship, as they often possess far more life-knowledge and spiritual insight than the self-styled gurus, priests, and charlatan 'babas'. Sheesh, ya might as well hang out in Goa with all the Euro-trash and Israeli assholes (become a 'star'!). All this can be done even now in the midst of the completely fucked-up 'modern' materialistic society that has taken over much of the land. Sadly, what we always called "tourist mind" preoccupies most present-day travelers, and even so-called "seekers", many journeying merely to advance their own spiritual egos, following the old-paradigm 'business model' and adding to their vocabulary of salesmanship. 

How can one describe in literary terms the teachings of the Book of the World? Pretty much impossible. It existed before any and all 'religions'. It can only be accessed by extreme perseverance in emptying the mind via focused 'ritual' practices, though the 'rituals' may or may not come from a lineage or other outside source, may or may not appear simple-minded and pointless, may or may not require one's removal from 'normal' society. Aspects of the Book may even be unexpectedly and suddenly downloaded through divine grace depending on one's karma and humble 'ruinedness'. However the means, it does exist, and in my experience, is the only valuable transmission worth seeking as a sentient being incarnate on this Planetary Animal Mother. And the seeker may discover, as part of the transmission, the incontrovertible truth that ultimately he/she is responsible for everything. Yeah, tough to swallow. Sure takes the wind outta the sails of 'religions'. Aw shit, sometimes I just want to shout "it's the monotheism, stupid!" from the rooftops, but of course the consequences would be my responsibility (heh). 

What hasn't "changed", of course, is the war on innocence, beauty, and just about everything else of the beloved divine creation, while the minds of the masses of humanity are driven scientifically to total terminal disfunction. And, maddeningly, the seeming increase in perception of the details of the beauty in living things beheld continues. 
Examples of local insanities abound, of which this is only one: [warning - disturbing image and crude language]
So, I'm wondering: if I have a small dick and I go out and kill a lot of 'varmints', will it grow longer and thicker? What does it mean that 5,500 'liked' the above?
Viewing the overall history of humans, Pashupati is really pissed, btw. 

Well, we have prayer. It seems to come down to that, whatever form that might take in each person's heart/mind. Speaking of which, we are about 9 days away from the hoary festival of Maha Shivaratri (March 10th), a full night of ecstatic contemplation and celebration of the true deep Self beneath the root of all dualisms. Shiva is primarily represented as the phallic stone placed within the 'yoni' pedestal stone-bowl (it's OK for pagan-haters to freak out here...haha). As possibly mentioned before, the night is divided into 5 "watches" - white, red, yellow, black, and crystal - symbolizing different aspects: 1)self-arising out of the void; 2)Shiva-Shakti/male-female merged; 3)ascetic hermit maha yogi; 4)fierce devouring & ignorance-destroying & encompassing infinite timelessness; 5)unchanging unlimited absolute clear reality. Songs, dances, sacred fires, merriment, fasting and contemplation may ensue for 12 hours uninterrupted.
Something you might enjoy listening to on Shivaratri night:                          
Or this short Nirvana/Atma Shatakam of Adi Shankaracharya (788-820 CE) - words and translation follow: 
1) I am not mind, nor intellect, nor ego,
    nor the reflections of inner self (chitta).
I am not the five senses.
I am beyond that.
I am not the ether, nor the earth,
    nor the fire, nor the wind (the five elements).
I am indeed,
    That eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva,
    love and pure consciousness.
2) Neither can I be termed as energy (prana),
    nor five types of breath (vayus),
    nor the seven material essences,
    nor the five coverings (pancha-kosha).
Neither am I the five instruments of elimination,
    procreation, motion, grasping, or speaking.
I am indeed,
    That eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva,
    love and pure consciousness.
3) I have no hatred or dislike,
    nor affiliation or liking,
    nor greed,
    nor delusion,
    nor pride or haughtiness,
    nor feelings of envy or jealousy.
I have no duty (dharma),
    nor any money,
    nor any desire (kama),
    nor even liberation (moksha).
I am indeed,
    That eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva,
    love and pure consciousness.
4) I have neither merit (virtue),
    nor demerit (vice).
I do not commit sins or good deeds,
    nor have happiness or sorrow,
    pain or pleasure.
I do not need mantras, holy places,
    scriptures (Vedas), rituals or sacrifices (yagnas).
I am none of the triad of
    the observer or one who experiences,
    the process of observing or experiencing,
    or any object being observed or experienced.
I am indeed,
    That eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva,
    love and pure consciousness.
5) I do not have fear of death,
    as I do not have death.
I have no separation from my true self,
    no doubt about my existence,
    nor have I discrimination on the basis of birth.
I have no father or mother,
    nor did I have a birth.
I am not the relative,
    nor the friend,
    nor the guru,
    nor the disciple.
I am indeed,
    That eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva,
    love and pure consciousness.
6) I am all pervasive.
I am without any attributes,
    and without any form.
I have neither attachment to the world,
    nor to liberation (mukti).
I have no wishes for anything
    because I am everything,
    every time,
    always in equilibrium.
I am indeed,
    That eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva,
    love and pure consciousness.


Mano Buddhi Ahankara Chitta Ninaham
Nacha Shrotra Jihve Na Cha Ghrana Netre
Nacha Vyoma Bhoomir Na Tejo Na Vayu
Chidananda Rupa Shivoham Shivoham

Na Cha Prana Samjno Na Vai Pancha Vayu
Na Va Saptadhatur Na Va Pancha Koshah
Na Vak Pani Padau Na Chopastha Payu
Chidananda Rupa Shivoham Shivoham

Na Me Dvesha Ragau Na Me Lobha Mohau
Mado Naiva Me Naiva Matsarya Bhavah
Na Dharmo Na Chartho Na Kamo Na Mokshah
Chidananda Rupa Shivoham Shivoham

Na Punyam Na Papam Na Saukhyam Na Dukham
Na Mantro Na Teertham Na Vedo Na Yajnaha
Aham Bhojanam Naiva Bhojyam Na Bhokta
Chidananda Rupa Shivoham Shivoham

Na Me Mrityu Shanka Na Me Jati Bhedah
Pita Naiva Me Naiva Mata Na Janma
Na Bandhur Na Mitram Gurur Naiva Shishyah
Chidananda Rupa Shivoham Shivoham

Aham Nirvikalpo Nirakara Roopaha
Vibhur Vyapya Sarvatra Sarvendriyanam
Sada Me Samatvam Na Muktir Na Bandhah
Chidananda Rupa Shivoham Shivoham