The Rich Vegetarian

An Examined Life

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Tag: spirituality (page 1 of 3)

The Guru and I

So this is the story of a cheerful seeker who didn’t know who/what she was seeking, until one day when she met an intelligent, lovable gentleman.

He gave her a little nudge. She was taken aback. But she was a compliant person, and so she gamely went along. Followed his lead, moving towards greater clarity about herself and the world around… until she hit a wall one day. Befuddled for a moment, she gingerly stepped forward, hand outstretched, only to realize that it was not really a wall she had encountered, but a gateway to a hidden path.

As she started on this new journey, she realized that she was somewhat alone. She had left behind nearly all her companions. But it didn’t feel lonesome at all.

She wondered, is it okay to have such a wonderful time, all by yourself?

I met Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in early 2005. I had recently taken the Art of Living Course, and begun practising the breathing techniques. Soon enough, I came to know about the creator of the program, Sri Sri. The opportunity to meet him arose within a few months, and I took it up. Went to Miami for a Silence Program, and ended up meeting Gurudev. He has a magical persona, what can I say! It is all joy and smiles around him, and you feel elevated. I have often thought that the love surrounding Gurudev is like a tangible object; you can feel its solid presence. He epitomizes love, joy and wisdom for millions around the world. It is a miracle to see people from Latin America, Europe and other places respond to his presence, as if they have known him all their lives. This phenomenon defies logic and explanation.

I was similarly charmed. Then I began listening to his talks/videos, and I was drawn to the simple elegance of his explanations. His words seemed to be filled with timeless meaning. I chewed on them for years on end, as my own intelligence matured, granting me newer perspectives of all that he said.

A wise woman recently remarked that I was currently in a period of “blossoming and blooming intelligence.” And so it happened that I began to view the world (inner and outer) somewhat differently from my cohort. And then I wondered, is this original thought? How can it be so? Surely, someone like Gurudev would have spoken about it?

It occurred to me that words lose the ability to convey meaning beyond a certain point. Gurudev had patiently led us, again and again and yet again, to that point. And he would probably continue doing so for a long time to come. What lies beyond that juncture is an individual, solo endeavor. Or so it seemed to me. But I felt so supported, so strengthened and ready and capable for that journey… it was as though he had prepared me for this moment. It was perfect.

To me, this is freedom.

It also freed me from him. For many years, I lived in deep adoration of Gurudev. I followed him around, too shy to even say a word. I hung on to his very presence, keeping it alive around me in every way possible. I treated the idea of Gurudev (yes, I do mean “the idea of Gurudev” because I believe that it is clearly separate from who he is) like a sacrament, a precious relic that I would sully or dirty if I wasn’t careful or aware enough. Yes, I certainly did my part in ensuring that this idea remained as far away from me as possible.

One day, it struck me, these very words – You don’t need to move an inch to meet the Guru.

And thus Gurudev freed me of himself too… Like every beautiful relationship in my life that gave me the gifts of time and space.

Gurudev gave me wings, taught me to fly, cut me loose.

Today

I turn 37.

We have a snow day in Atlanta, and that is as good a reason as any to celebrate. So long as you are comfortably ensconced indoors, warm and toasty, tea and biscuits and toast handy, socks and blanket on the ready, books to read, movies to watch, that is… Yes, I realize that that does make me a very privileged person.

Birthdays come, birthdays go. This one is no exception.

Any day is a good one to feel grateful. Not that one can really “feel” grateful, because that would amount to mood making. However, simply becoming aware of everything one has been given in this lifetime would suffice. If gratitude wells up, so be it. If not, that is okay too.

If I have learned anything in this last one year, it is the importance of being authentic. Being truthful to oneself is the starting point of leading an authentic life. I am also beginning to see that it takes a certain degree of courage to lead this kind of a life. Now, I don’t regard myself as a courageous person at all (but maybe I am one?) but I have taken some decisions (or waltzed blissfully unaware into situations?) that some would regard as requiring courage. I have quit decently well-paying jobs, joined school part-time, changed careers, walked away from projects and activities typically deemed “good” for you… all with scant regard to long-term plans or profit or happiness. I went along with what I knew, what felt right, and the rest is history.

Today, I am happy and at peace. And it may be my naivete, but I wonder: How difficult is it to experience such contentment? I have done nothing particularly notable or spectacular in this lifetime thus far. I don’t have a glamorous job or title. I have no accolades or achievements to my credit. In fact, at the age of 37, I feel like a semi-retiree. I have found bliss in a cup of tea, a good book, a quiet walk, birdsong. I have found utter joy in solitude and emptiness.

Questions, questions… There is an eager child within who used to question endlessly. Now she lives in a state of perennially wide-eyed curiosity. The answers keep coming. Some days, I can hardly believe my luck. It feels like a treasure chest has opened within me, and I am lifting out one jewel after another. Such is my wonder and amazement at all these riches I find… I am too joyful to grab anything more than I can hold. Yet I have the confidence that the stream of riches is endless. It will never run dry.

If all that sounded like some kind of psychobabble, I apologize. I couldn’t help rhapsodizing about the many gifts I have received, as I walk along the path of introspection and self-enquiry.

Ahh, gratitude. I meant to talk about Mummy and Daddy.

Mummy

Amma

In a recent Facebook post, I remarked that Mummy’s love is like Space. You cannot grasp at it. It is impossible to get a hold of it. But it envelops you whole without touching you anywhere. As a child, I tried in vain to grab it — touch it, feel it, hug it. But I couldn’t. As an adult, I understand the sheer expansiveness of a love like that that only gives and asks nothing in return. Freedom… Mummy’s love was/is freedom and space, and I marvel at her spirit. She walks lightly on this planet.

Daddy

Achchan

In contrast, Daddy’s love is Earth. It is tangible and real. It expresses itself so clearly. If I were to describe Daddy’s love as a taste sensation, it would be like eating a date. So sweet, rich and unmistakably satisfying. It grabs you in all the right places, at the right times. It fills you up entirely.

There you have it… I grew up between Earth and Space. Held by one, freed by the other. Grounded by love, space and freedom.

Didn’t I say I was privileged?

So, on this lovely snow day, as I look out the window at our winter garden (still green), I see snow lightly splattered across the greenhouse roof and the bushes. I see bare trees, shiny sunlight, rays glinting through the spiny branches, and endless space.

Life is beautiful. It is Guru.