O! Speak Almighty God!Oh, only one in a hundred thousand is in bliss.
There are tears in tens of millions of eyes.
I have counted and seen every fate for years,
Only one laughs while ten are in tears.
O! Speak Almighty God, what is this Illusion?
Your Divine Play is all confusion and delusion.
Kash's father (second from right) with group of close friends drinking toddy (coconut wine) at 6 1/2 Mile Kapar Road, Selangor, Malaysia. (From Left to Right are Harcharan Singh, Pagah, name unknown, Kash's father and Manjit Singh [deceased])
In 1988, when Kash was eight years old, his parents left Malaysia for Canada, the favored destination of international immigrants; a country with a history of openness and a reputation as friendly and welcoming of outsiders; a nation of incredible resources, vast geography, diverse peoples, abundant opportunities, excellent health and social services. Tolerance and social harmony are hallmarks of Canadian society, offering people the freedom to maintain and celebrate their ethnic and cultural heritage, while participating fully in Canada's economy. In this land of abundant natural wealth and beauty, generally free from racial and religious tensions, all dreams are within reach.
Then in 1990 Kash's parents received Self-Realization from a Sahaja Yogi friend, Bhupinder Singh. They had agreed to try it out of courtesy, not curiosity. The first meditation was brief and midway his father got up and left. There were better things to do like guzzling cold beer and hearing Bruce Springsteen lament about life rather than sitting cross-legged and shutting out the mind. As far as he was concerned it was another empty ritual conjectured by some obscure mataji.
Hundreds of false gurus who do not abide in higher consciousness
All fake gurus claim some sort of divinity to fleece the naive. They profit from the human impulse to explore ultimate reality and consciousness, an underlying spiritual hunger manifesting in the last few decades. It is something sacred. This sacred urge for seeking has been desecrated and violated by these cult leaders, false prophets and charlatans. There are hundreds of false gurus who do not abide in higher consciousness and who are not capable of transmitting it, nor of consolidating it within the devotee. And these men and women are usually unscrupulous as well. After all, this is Kali Yuga (Age of Darkness), “A time in our society when claimants to privileged spiritual status and multitudes of uncritical disciplines continue to proliferate, when self-proclaimed avatars and genuine gurus are being divinized by zealous disciples.”1
In India, especially, bogus gurus flourish by feeding on the gullibility of their victims. Every other person seems to know some Shanti, Indrani, or Meenakshi possessing some sort of spiritual powers, the barest minimum required by imposters for some measure of success. This bogus mataji nirmala devi was no different.
Then there was her funny-looking jumbo called Ganesha, a crossbreed between a human and an elephant. Ganesha might have been an ancient mammoth from the Ice Age that some primitive Dravidian tribe had somehow managed to communicate to obtain enlightenment. Kash's father was not interested in finding out if it was true. There was definitely no way he was even going to dabble in spiritual stuff for he had known strange sects that did weird rituals.
But Kash's mother continued meditating intermittently for a couple of days. She told her spouse that for some reason she felt very peaceful during meditation, something she had never experienced before. He told her to continue if it made her feel better, but he was not the least interested. But eventually work and prevailing social conditions doused her enthusiasm, especially her husband's heavy drinking, loud music, wild ways and decadent desires. Soon this mataji was history.
And who gives a hoot about the mysterious cool breeze he kept trying to explain?
This initial Self-Realization in 1990 took place only because the Sahaja Yogi had the presence of mind not to claim that Shri Mataji was the Adi Shakti (Primordial Power). Had he done so in the beginning there was no way he would have succeeded in giving anyone in the family Self-Realization (and definitely not to his children three years later in November 1993). He would have been told with a liberal dose of sarcasm that his preposterous belief of the Adi Shakti being on Earth was based on sheer insanity. And who gives a hoot about the mysterious cool breeze he kept trying to explain? What has it got to do with enlightenment anyway?
Hundreds of thousands of seekers must also have thought likewise and, after have received Self-Realization (Kundalini awakening) from Shri Mataji, just melted away again into the material wasteland. Just having some cool breeze issuing forth from their head or hands is no big deal. What type of proof was that on which to base faith on? It made so little sense. Fake gurus like Sai Baba routinely materialize diamonds and watches, remuneration more tangible and precious to ordinary humans than an invisible draft.
So what made this fake Shri Mataji dare claim that she is able to raise the Kundalinis of thousands effortlessly and instantly when all others for millennia maintain that it takes countless rebirths? Just some cool breeze?!!! So what? A cool wind?!!! What has a cool wind got to do with the Spirit anyway? Who is she trying to fool? What is she trying to prove? As far as he was concerned this wind flowing from the heads and hands was actually a neat, cheap trick. And who the hell cares or knows what it is all about?
within days Shri Mataji was discarded and completely forgotten, both Her photograph and Ganesha was trashed. The good life continued as usual.
There was no gold at the end of the rainbow
After a few years of materialistic pursuits and delicious indulgences in Canada, the initial euphoria wore off. There was no gold at the end of the rainbow. Kash's father had achieved his deepest desire and burning lifelong ambition to take his family to a safe haven on Earth where they could live in peace, harmony, equality and, of course, wealth. The joy of life in Canada, one of the most blessed nation on Earth, came in ever-diminishing returns.
It slowly began to dawn that genuine happiness was missing in one of the wealthiest country on Earth. Life began to lose its essence. There was an incomprehensible feeling of emptiness, of nothingness, of uselessness. The realization came that life, even if cherished to the fullest, was futile if it all ended with the parting of loved ones. Existence was useless if it all ended with death. It just made no sense.
In 1993 Kash's father began a journey of self-introspection to search for the meaning of life. “Why was he on Earth? What was he born for? Why is there death? Is it the end of all existence? Why are humans in a constant state of struggle for power and possessions? Why is the vast majority under constant subjugation? Why are billions striving and suffering? Why so much hate, violence and unhappiness in lands of plenty? Why so many tears, anguish and sufferings in lands of less? Why all these ceaseless confusions, delusions and illusions? Why all these religions of division, differences and hate? Why all these different Allahs, Gods and Prabhus? What is the Truth? Who knows this Truth? Where is this Truth? How to reach this Truth?
No minor godlings of the religious regimes were to answer this call
After months of fruitless, frustrating searching he surrendered himself and begged the Divine to quench his ever-increasing thirst for Truth. Whoever, whatever or wherever the Supreme Creator was He, and He alone, should provide the answer. No minor godlings of the religious regimes were to answer this call.
The Almighty was not called upon in the belief or hope that He was actually going to respond. It was just an act of sheer desperation, an overwhelming helplessness arising from life's emptiness, religious deception, and the physical futility of struggling to survive, only to meet eventual death and nothingness.
There was never any expectation of an answer. God Almighty was believed to be a sort of a mysterious, aloof Supreme Being exclusively owned by some, all, or maybe none of these institutionalized religions. Anywhere, what expectations of an answer was there for a regular drunk and social outcast like him who had stopped entering His houses of worship a long time ago? Some notable feats of his colorful life are worth mentioning:The decades of decadence and delusion
2. The day he drank a pail of toddy (coconut wine) at Kapar Road, Klang, Malaysia, together with his four friends and then wallowed like a crazy pig in the mud as the monsoon rains fell in torrents.
Hours later he found himself walking into the Copper Kettle pub in Petaling Jaya, all caked-up with mud, dirt and slime - only in a pair of jeans, minus T-shirt and shoes. They started drinking again. Feeling famished he insisted with all sincerity on being cooked and served a whole goat to satisfy his hunger and that of his four alcohol-crazed filthy friends.
For some reason the remaining customers lost their appetites, and confidence, in the lone massive bouncer who meekly tried to strike a friendly conversation with these sub-human beings. It was probably the first time he came across such filthy, drunk, demented men . . . . and probably the last. (The shock of such a stunning sight must have subdued him into caution.)
Somehow they kept the peace and no incident took place. They were the only patrons in the pub.
After they had finally stumbled home his brother-in-law Harcharan Singh stole the limelight in this epic insanity. By just answering to the call of nature at night he won hands down because in the morning his parents found the sofas and carpet reeking of urine. His mother-in-law, who had come all the way from Seremban, was also there to witness such a crowning glory of her son-in-law. For that his brother-in-law truly deserved a standing ovation.
3. The day he left to see his best beer buddy, Manjit Singh, just a month after marriage. He started drinking and, without calling home, continued for another three days. On his return his fresh, beautiful bride - with all the innocence, love, peace, humility and compassion of a typical Indian bride - just told him that next time if he called back it would make her happy! For the next eighteen years this shakti of a woman kept absorbing all the social madness of her spouse with a serenity and detachment matched by few. (His insatiable thirst for alcohol could not be quenched until the Kundalini pierced his son's Sahasrara and the Divine Revelations shattered the Mirror of Delusion into a thousand pieces.)
4. The day he took his spouse, pregnant with Kash, to visit a relative. But before that he wanted to show her his favorite countryside toddy (coconut wine) spot in Kapar Road, Klang, Malaysia (see photo above). Under this convenient pretext he ended up guzzling a huge quantity of this cheap, sweet-sour fermentation. Hours later he decided to return home. As he started his motorcycle and came out of the cooling shade of the coconut estate, the hot tropical sun hit him into a senseless high. He never knew what happened until the next day.
5. That was when his spouse informed him that he had driven so recklessly that vehicles had to veer away onto the countryside road shoulders to avoid killing him. He denied having done so but found out the truth soon. He could not start his motorbike. The pistons were burnt from the sustained maximum-throttle, maximum-speed, death-defying drive!
The day he drank non-stop for nearly three days without sleep. His uncle, Sukhminder Singh, arrived from India on a Sunday afternoon. They went on a drinking binge, together with his unforgettable brother-in-law, Harcharan Singh. They shifted from restaurant to pub to girlie-bar to 24-hour convenience store to sundry shop in a non-stop merrymaking of beer, wine and liquor. When there were no places left they just sat by the roadside, bottles in hands, indifferent to traffic, pedestrians and their own self-esteem.
6. They drank through Monday and finally it was Tuesday night. Only Harcharan - with head resting the cluttered table, saliva oozing from the corner of the mouth and arms slumped on both sides - was too intoxicated to continue. Uncle and nephew continued but had to finally call it quits, not because of lack of capacity but cash. They had drunk non-stop for about 55 hours. No one was bothered about families or jobs.
The day he drank himself senseless in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and lost all sense of direction home. He stumbled, staggered, and groped around the area at night, completely disoriented and trying desperately to find his way home. He faintly remembered tripping and falling on something soft. After a number of furtive attempts to get up, he just collapsed and went into deep sleep.
Next day the morning sun greeted him. A woman was hanging laundry on a clothesline some distance away, her face reacting as he stirred groggily to his feet. He had slept in a long-jump sandpit of a nearby school.
All around humans were going about their business. The blare of horns reminded that morning rush hour was on.
7. The day he and his buddy brother-in-law drank themselves senseless at home in Jalan Aman, Kuala Lumpur. They had started before lunch on hard liquor, and by late evening were completely smashed. The highlight of this great day came when Mr. Harcharan, in a crazed stupor, fumbled for a place to empty his bloated bladder. He found a suitable spot nearby, right on his sister's dressing table. He then fell right backwards onto bed, without zipping his fly.
8. The countless times he sped on his Honda motorcycle through highways and by-ways, without headlights or through red lights, in a drunken craze of utter recklessness to life and limb. But somehow he always cheated death and lived to drink again, and again. And yet again.
9. The day he guzzled the best Swiss beer in Geneva, Switzerland and chased it down with 'speed,' till his brains went into an emergency shutdown. In the morning, he found himself freezing in some bushes in a beautiful park, without the slightest notion of how he ended there. Elegant swans glided on the weeping willow-lined lake. Well dressed Swiss, with an air of educated dignity, were strolling around. There was muted disgust at the sight of him emerging disheveled from the undergrowth and groggily struggling to just stand up.
10. The day he bought forty liters of cheap wine from a Montreal bootlegger for his 1993 birthday. He then went on an extended drinking binge at his younger brother-in-law's house in Park Extension.
The next night the ambulance had to be summoned when he began having serious breathing difficulties and was slowly losing consciousness after having inhaled a killer joint (marijuana). His body began feeling cold and clammy, respiration very slow, coming at intervals and in danger of becoming unconscious. He was also trying his best not to vomit for he might choke to death in the process. This was the most life-threatening and severe alcohol poisoning and drug overdose ever experienced. In all his life he had never come so close to death.
He somehow managed to mumble to his sister-in-law that she will find him dead soon if the ambulance is not summoned. (She had not done so earlier, afraid that the police might come and lay drug charges against them.) Sensing the gravity of the situation, she complied. When the ambulance arrived his brother-in-law Harjit was in the toilet, vomiting on the floor and himself. His spouse went to help remove his stinking clothes. This creature then stumbled out, stark naked and unaware of the ambulance staff observing him. (It must have been hard for them to breathe in the basement smelling of cigarettes, pungent weed, fermented wine, fresh vomit, rotten burps, and stale farts.)
.......(blackout - cannot recall)
.......(blackout - cannot recall) ....
.......(definitely censored) ...
The list goes on and on. 25 years make a very, very long list.
How could the Almighty Creator exist in these putrid pools of organized hypocrisy and institutionalized falsehood?
Despite all this infamy and shameless decadence, Kash's father still adamantly refused to seek Him in any of His Houses of Worship. How could the Almighty Creator exist in these putrid pools of organized hypocrisy and institutionalized falsehood? Can't He be found anywhere else? Why does He force humans to seek Him only in these religious regimes professing His exclusive Grace? Which particular one, then, does He preside? What proof do the high priests of these Evening Empires have to convince the religious herd that only by exclusively praying and prostrating inside their sprawling religious ranches will God Almighty save them? How is it possible that he favored any religious regime that deny his other Messengers?
No! this deity cannot be God Almighty! He has to be one of the lesser gods worshipped by existing religious tribes - a Hindu prabhu, a Jewish yahweh, a Christian god, an Islamic allah, a Buddhist buddha, a Sikh waheguru.
And Kash's father would have to again continue the search for the Absolute Truth that would destroy all doubts, discrepancies, delusions, and darkness.
In the end this spiritual song imploring the Almighty Creator to remove the veil of ignorance was sung again, and again, and again:
O! Speak Almighty God what is this Illusion?,
O ek suki yaha lakoh mein.
O, only one in a hundred thousand is in bliss.
Ansoo hai croroh ankhoh mein.
There are tears in tens of millions of eyes.
Hum neh gin gin har takdir dekhi.
I have counted and seen every fate for years,
Ek hasta hai dush rote hai
Only one laughs while ten are in tears.
Kuch bhol Prabhu yeh kya Maya?
O! Speak Almighty God what is this Illusion?,
Tera khel samaj meh nah aya
Your Divine Play is all confusion and delusion.
For weeks the Almighty Creator was implored, amid a profusion of tears, to reveal the Truth. Again and again, and yet again He was beseeched to answer the meaning of life, creation, and this useless empty human existence. Above all, He was begged for the Truth that would destroy the falsehood that the religious regimes had deluded him and the rest of humanity.
What was desired was the Absolute Truth of God Almighty, not the conflicting gods of various organized religions. Any god that could not explain and account for the other Messengers would not be God. Any yahweh that only cared for his kind would not be Yahweh. Any god that professed that salvation was available only in churches would not be God. Any allah that had only one messenger would not be Allah. Any prabhu that was found only in a single scripture would not be Prabhu. The plea for help was addressed directly to the one and only God Almighty and not to any gods of the organized religions.
Shri Rama: “If you consider that I am neither fit nor capable of understanding this, I shall fast unto death.”
King Dasaratha ordered an attendant to fetch prince Rama. This attendant returned and announced that Rama would follow in a minute, and added “The prince seems to be dejected and he shuns company.” Bewildered by this statement, Dasaratha turned to Rama's chamberlain and wished to know the facts concerning Rama's state of mind and health.
The chamberlain was visibly distressed and he said,
"Lord, since his return from the pilgrimage, a great change has come over the prince. He does not seem to be interested even in bathing and in the worship of the deity. He does not enjoy the company of the people in the inner apartments. He is not interested in jewels and precious stones. Even when offered charming and pleasing objects, he looks at them with sad eyes, uninterested. He spurns the palace dancers, regarding them as tormentors! He goes through the motions of eating, walking, resting, bathing and sitting like an automaton, like one who is deaf and dumb. Often he mutters to himself, 'What is the use of wealth and prosperity or of a house? What is the use of adversity? All this is unreal.' He relishes only solitude. He is all the time immersed in his own thought. We do not know what has come over our prince, what he contemplates in his mind, nor what he is after. Day by day he gets more emaciated.
Again and again he says to himself, 'Alas, we are dissipating our life in various ways, instead of striving to reach the supreme! People wail aloud that they are suffering and that they are destitute, but no one sincerely turns away from the sources of their suffering and destitution!' Seeing all this and hearing all this, we humble servants are extremely distressed. We do not know what to do. He is bereft of hope, he is bereft of desire, he is attached to nothing and he depends on nothing. He is not deluded or demented, and he is not enlightened either. At times, however, it looks as if he is overwhelmed by suicidal thoughts spurred by the feelings of despondency: 'What is the use of wealth or of mothers and relations, what is the use of the kingdom, and what is the use of ambition in this world?' Lord, only you can find the appropriate remedy for this condition of prince.”
VISVAMITRA: “If that be the case, may Rama be requested to come here. His condition is not the result of delusion but is full of wisdom and dispassion, and it points to enlightenment. Bring him here and we shall dispel his despondency.”
The king urged the chamberlain to invite Rama to the court. In the meantime Rama himself got ready to meet his father. Even from a distance he saw and saluted his father and the sages; and they saw that though young, his face shone with the peace of maturity. He bowed to the feet of the king, who embraced him, lifted him up and said, “What makes you so sad, my son? Dejection is an open invitation to a host of miseries.” The sages Vasistha and Visvamitra concurred with the king.
RAMA: “Holy sir, I shall duly answer you question. I grew up happily in my father's adobe; I was instructed by worthy teachers. Recently I went on a pilgrimage. During this period a trend of thought has taken hold of me, robbing me all hopes in this world. My heart beings to question: what do people call happiness and can it be had in the ever-changing objects of this world? All beings in this world take birth but to die, and they die to be born! I do not perceive any meaning in all these transient phenomena which are the roots of suffering and sin. Unrelated beings come together; and the mind conjures up a relationship between them. Everything in this world is dependent upon the mind, upon one's mental attitude. On examination, the mind itself appears to be unreal! But we are bewitched by it. We seem to be running after a mirage in the desert to shake our thirst!
Sir, surely we are not bond slaves sold to a master; yet we live a life of slavery, without any freedom whatsoever. Ignorant of truth, we have been aimlessly wandering in the dense forest called the world. What is this world? What comes into being, grows and dies? How does this suffering come to an end? My heart bleeds with sorrow, though I do not shed tears, in deference to the feelings of my friends.
Equally useless, O sage, is wealth, which deludes the ignorant. Unsteady and fleeting, this wealth gives birth to numerous worries and generates an insatiable craving for more. Wealth is no respecter of persons: both the good and the wicked can become wealthy. However, people are good, compassionate and friendly only till their hearts are hardened by the passionate pursuit of wealth. Wealth taints the heart even of the wise scholar, a hero, a man of gratitude and a dexterous and soft-spoken person. Wealth and happiness do not dwell together. Rare is that wealthy man who does not have rivals and enemies who scandalize him. To the lotus of right action, wealth is the night; to the white-lotus of sorrow, it is the moonlight; to the lamp of clear insight, it is the wind; to the wave of enmity, it is the flood; to the cloud of confusion, it is the favorable wind; to the poison of despondency, it is the aggravating agent. It is like the serpent of evil thoughts and it adds fear to one's distress. It is destructive snow-fall to the creeper of dispassion; it is the night-fall to the owl of evil desires; it is the eclipse of the moon of wisdom. In its presence a person's good nature shrivels. Indeed, wealth seeks him who has already been chosen by death.
Even so is the life-span, O sage. Its duration is like that of a water droplet on a leaf. The life-span is fruitful only to those who have self-knowledge. We may encompass the wind, we may break up space, we may string waves into a garland, but we cannot pin our faith on the life-span. Man vainly seeks to extend his life-span, and thereby he earns more sorrow and extends the period of suffering. Only he lives who strives to gain self-knowledge, which alone is worth gaining in this world, thereby putting an end to future births; others exist here like donkeys. To the unwise, knowledge of scriptures is a burden . To one who is full of desires, even wisdom is a burden. To one who is restless, his own mind is a burden; and to one who has no self-knowledge, the body (the life-span) is a burden.
The rat of time gnaws at the life-span without respite. The termite of disease eats (destroys) the very vitals of the living being. Just as a cat intent on catching a rat looks at it with great alertness and readiness, death is ever keeping a watch over this life-span.
Holy sir, I am bewildered and scared when I contemplate the coming into being of the dreadful enemy of wisdom known as egotism. It comes into being in the darkness of ignorance, and flourishes in ignorance. It generates endless sinful tendencies and sinful actions. All suffering surely revolves around egotism (it is the 'I' who suffers); and egotism is the sole cause of mental distress. I feel that egotism is my worst disease! Spreading the net of worldly objects of pleasure, it is this egotism that traps living beings. Indeed, all the terrible calamities in this world are born of egotism. Egotism eclipses self-control, destroys virtue and dissipates equanimity. Giving up the egotistic notion that “I am Rama” and giving up all desires, I wish to rest in the self. I realize that whatever I have done with an egotistic notion is vain: non-egotism alone is truth. When I am under the influence of egotism, I am unhappy; when I am free from egotism I am happy. Egotism promotes cravings; without it they perish. It is this egotism alone, without rhyme or reason, that has spread the net of family and social relationships, to catch the unwary soul. I think I am free from egotism; yet, I am miserable. Pray, enlighten me.
Bereft of the grace earned thought the service of the holy ones, the impure mind-stuff remains restless as the wind. It is dissatisfied with whatever it gets and grows more and more restless by the day. The sieve can never be filled with water; nor can the mind ever reach the state of fulfillment however many worldly objects one acquires. The mind flits in all directions all the time, but is unable to find happiness anywhere. Unmindful of the possibility of reaping great suffering in hell, the mind seeks pleasure here, but even that it does not get. Like the lion in a cage, the mind is ever restless, having lost its freedom, yet not happy with its present state.
Alas, O holy one, I am bound by the knots of craving to the net that has been spread by the mind. Even as the rushing waters of a river uproot a tree on its bank, the restless mind has uprooted my whole being. I am being wafted like a dry leaf in the wind by the mind. It does not let me rest anywhere. It is this mind alone which is the cause of all objects in the world; the three worlds exist because of the mind-stuff. When the mind vanishes, the worlds vanish, too.
It is really when the mind-stuff is enveloped by craving that innumerable errors arise in the darkness of ignorance thus caused. This craving dries up the good and noble qualities of the mind and heart, like sweetness and gentleness of disposition, and makes me hard and cruel. In that darkness, craving in its different forms dances like a goblin.
Thought I adopt various methods to restrain this craving, the latter overpowers me in a moment and helplessly drives me astray, even as a gale carries a straw away. Whatever hope I entertain of developing dispassion and such other qualities, craving cuts that hope away even as a rat snaps a thread. And I helplessly revolve, caught in the wheel of craving. Like birds caught in a net, we are unable, though we have the wings for it, to fly to our goal or adobe of self-knowledge. Nor can this craving be ever appeased, even I were to quaff nectar. The characteristic of this craving is that it has no direction: it drives me in one direction now, and the very next moment it takes me away in another direction, like a mad horse. It spreads in front of us a very wide net of son, friend, wife and other relations.
Though I am a hero, this craving makes me a frightened coward; though I have eyes to see, it makes me blind; though I am full of joy, it makes me miserable; it is like a dreadful goblin. It is this dreadful goblin craving that is responsible for bondage and misfortune; it breaks the heart of a man and creates delusion in him. Caught by this goblin, man is unable to enjoy even the pleasures that are within his reach. Though it appears as if the craving is for happiness, this craving leads neither to happiness nor to fruitfulness in this life; on the contrary, it involves vain effort and leads to every kind of inauspiciousness. Even when it occupies the stage called life on which several happy and unhappy situations play, this craving, like an aged actress, is incapable of performing anything good and noble and suffers defeat and discomfiture at every turn. Yet, it does not give up dancing on the stage!
Craving now ascends to the skies, now dives into the depths of the nether world; it is ever restless. For it is based on the emptiness of the mind. In the mind the light of wisdom momentarily shines, but there is delusion the next moment. It is a wonder that sages are able to cut this with the sword of self-knowledge.
This pitiable body composed of veins, arteries and nerves is also a source of pain. Inert, it appears to intelligent: one does not know if it sentient or insentient, and it engenders only delusion. Delighted with a little gratification and distressed by the least adversity, this body is indeed highly despicable.
I can only compare a tree to a body: with branches for arms, trunk for torso, holes for eyes, fruits for head, leaves for numerous illnesses — it is the resting place for living beings. Who can say that it is one's own? Hope or despair in relation to it is futile. It is but a boat given to one for crossing this ocean of birth-and-death; but one should not regard it as one's true self.
his tree which is the body is born in the forest known as samsara (repetitive existence). The restless monkey (mind) plays on it, it is the adobe of crickets (worries), it is constantly eaten by the insects (of endless suffering), it shelters the venomous serpent (of craving) and the wild crow (of anger) dwells on it. On it are the flowers (of laughter), its fruits are good and evil, it appears to be animated by wind (of life-force), it supports the birds (of senses). It is resorted to be the traveler (lust or desire), for it provides the shade of pleasure. The formidable vulture (egotism) is seated on it, and it is hollow and empty. It is certainly not meant to promote happiness. Whether it lives for long or falls in a short time, it is still useless. It is composed of flesh and blood, it is subject to old age and death. I am not enamored by it. It is completely filled with impure substances and afflicted with ignorance. How can it fulfill my hopes?
This body is the home of illness, the field of mental distress and changing emotions and mental states. I am not enamored by it. What is wealth, what is kingdom, what is the body? All these are mercilessly cut down by time (death). At death this ungrateful body abandons the soul that dwelt in it and protected it: what hope shall I repose in it? Shamelessly it indulges again and again in the same actions! Its only certain purpose seems to be to burn in the end. Unmindful of old age and death that are common to the rich and the poor, it seeks wealth and power. Shame, shame upon those who are bound to this body, deluded by the wine of ignorance! Shame on those who are bound to this world!
Even childhood, the part of life which people ignorantly regard as enjoyable and happy, is full of sorrow, O sage. Helplessness, mishaps, carvings, inability to express oneself, utter foolishness, playfulness, instability, weakness — all these characterize childhood. The child is easily offended, easily roused to anger, easily bursts into tears. In fact, one may say boldly that the child's anguish is more terrible than that of a dying person, a sick man or of any other adult. For in childhood one's state is comparable truly to that of an animal living at the mercy of others.
The child is exposed to countless happenings around it; they puzzle the child, confuse the child, and arouse in it various fantasies and fears. The child is impressionable and is easily influenced by the wicked: in consequence, the child is subjected to control and punishment by its parents. Childhood seems to be a period of subjection and nothing else!
Though the child may appear to be innocent, the truth is that all sorts of defects, sinful tendencies, and neurotic behavior lie hidden and dormant in it, even as an owl lies hidden in a dark hole during daytime. O Sage, I pity those people who foolishly imagine that childhood is a happy period.
What can be worse suffering that a restless mind? And, the child's mind is extremely restless. Unless the child gets something new everyday, it is unhappy. Crying and weeping seem to be the child's foremost activity. When the child does not get what it wants, it looks as if its heart is broken.
When a child goes to school, it receives punishment at the hands of its teachers; and all this adds to its unhappiness.
When the child cries, its parents, in order to pacify it, promise to give it the world; and from then on the child begins to value the world, to desire the worldly objects. The parents say, “I shall give you the moon for a toy,” and the child, believing their words, thinks that it can hold the moon in its hands. Thus are the seeds of delusion sown in the little heart.
Thought the child feels heat and cold, it is unable to avoid it — how is it better than a tree, then? Like the animals and birds the child vainly reaches out to get what it wants; and it is fearful of every elder in the house.
Leaving this period of childhood behind, the human being goes on to the stage of youth, but he is unable to leave the unhappiness behind! There he is subjected to numerous mental modifications and progresses from misery to greater misery, for he abandons wisdom and embraces the terrible goblin known as lust, that resides in his heart. His life is full of desire and anxiety. They who have not been robbed of their wisdom in their youth can withstand any onslaught.
I am not enamored by this transient youth in which short lived pleasure is quickly followed by long-lasting suffering, and deluded by which man regards the changing to be the changeless. What is worse still, it is during youth that one indulges in such actions that bring unhappiness to many others.
Even as a tree is consumed by a forest fire, the youth's heart is consumed by the fire of lust when his beloved leaves him. However much he may strive to develop purity of heart, the youth's heart is stained with impurity. Even when his beloved is not present near him, he is distracted by the thoughts of her beauty. Such a person who is full of cravings is naturally not held in high esteem by good men.
Youth is the adobe of diseases and mental distress. It can be compared to a bird whose wings are good and evil acts. Youth is like a sandstorm that disperses and dissipates one's good qualities. Youth arouses all sorts of evils in the heart and suppresses the good qualities that may exist there; it is thus the promoter of evil. It gives rise to delusion and attachment. Though youthfulness appears to be very desirable to the body, it is destructive to the mind. In youth, the man is tempted by the mirage of happiness and in its pursuit he falls into the well of sorrow. Hence I am not enamored by youth.
Alas, even when youth is about to leave the body, the passion that had been aroused by youth burn all the more fiercely and bring about one's quick destruction. He who delights in this youth is surely not a man, but an animal in human garb.
They are adorable, they are great souls and they alone are men who are not overcome by the evils of youth and who survive that stage of life without succumbing to its temptations. For it is easy to cross a great ocean; but to reach the other shore of youth without being overcome by its likes and dislikes is indeed difficult.
In his youth, man is a slave of sexual attraction. In the body which is no more than the aggregate of flesh, blood, bone, hair and skin, he perceives beauty and charm. If this 'beauty' is permanent, there is some justification to the imagination; alas, it does not last very long. On the contrary, very soon the very flesh that contributed to the attractiveness, the charm and the beauty of the beloved is transformed first into the shrivelled ugliness of old age, and later consumed by fire, or by worms, or by vultures. Yet, while it lasts, this sexual attraction consumes the heart and the wisdom of the man. By this is the creation maintained; when this attraction ceases, this samsara (birth-death cycle) also ceases.
When the child is dissatisfied with its childhood, youth takes over; when youth is plagued by dissatisfaction and frustration, old age overpowers it — how cruel is life. Even as wind tosses a dew-drop from a leaf, old age destroys the body. Even as a drop of poison when it enters the system soon pervades it, senility soon pervades the entire body, breaks it down and makes it the laughing stock of other people.
Though the old man is unable to satisfy his desires physically, the desires themselves flourish and grow. He beings to ask himself, “Who am I? What should I do?” etc., when it is too late for him to change his life's course, alter his life-style, or make his life more meaningful. With the onset of senility, all the distressing symptoms of a physical break-down, like cough, white hairs, hard breathing, dyspepsia and emaciation, manifest themselves.
Perhaps the deity presiding over death sees the white roofed head of the old man as salted melon and rushes to take it. As a flood cuts away the roots of trees standing on the river bank, senility vigorously cuts the roots of life. Death follows and carries it away. Senility is like the royal attendant who precedes the king, death.
Ah, how mysterious and how astounding it is! They who have not been overcome by enemies and who have taken their adobes in inaccessible mountain-peaks — even they have been afflicted by the demons known as senility and degeneracy.
All enjoyments in this world are delusion, like the lunatic's enjoyment of the taste of fruits reflected in a mirror. All the hopes of man in this world are consistently destroyed by Time. Time alone, O sage, wears everything out in this world; there is nothing in creation which is beyond its reach. Time alone creates innumerable universes and in a very short time Time destroys everything.
Time allows a glimpse of itself through its partial manifestation as the year, the age, the epoch; but its essential nature is hidden. This Time overpowers everything. Time is merciless, inexorable, cruel, greedy, and insatiable. Time is the greatest magician, full of deceptive tricks. This Time cannot be analyzed; for however much it is divided it still survives indestructible. It has an insatiable appetite for everything — it consumes the smallest insects, the biggest mountains, and even the king of heaven! Even as a young boy plays with a ball for his pastime, Time uses the two balls know as the sun and moon for his pastime. It is indeed Time alone that appears as the destroyer of the universe (Rudra), the creator of the world (Brahma), the king of heaven (Indra), the lord of wealth (Kubera), and the nothingness of cosmic dissolution. It is indeed this Time that successively creates and dissolves the universe again and again. Just as even the great and mighty mountain is rooted in earth, the mighty Time is also established in the Absolute Being (Brahman).
Even though Time creates endless universes, it is not wearied, nor does it rejoice. It does not come, nor does it go; it does not rise, nor does it set.
Time, the gourmet, sees that the objects of this world have been ripened by the fire of the sun, and when he finds them fully ripe he consumes them! Each epoch of time is decked, as it were, by the lovely jewels of colorful beings for the pleasure of Time that wipes them out playfully.
To the lotus of youthfulness, Time is the nightfall; to the elephant of life-span, Time is the lion. In this world there is nothing, high or low, that Time does not destroy. Even when all these are destroyed, Time is not destroyed. Just as a man after a day's activity rests in sleep, as if in ignorance, even so Time after the cosmic dissolution sleeps or rests with the creation-potential hidden in it. No one really knows what this Time is.”
Besides the Time I have just described, there is another Time which is responsible for birth and death; people refer to it as the deity presiding over death.
Yet again there is another aspect of Time, known as krtanta — the end of action, its inevitable result or fruition. This krtanta is like a dancer with niyati (the law of nature) for his wife: the two together bestow on all beings the inevitable fruit of their action. During the course of the existence of the universe, they are indefatigable in their labor, unwinking in their vigilance and unflagging in their zeal.
When Time thus dances in this universe, creating and destroying everything, what hope can we entertain? Krtanta holds sway even over those whose faith is firm, and makes them restless. On account of this krtanta everything in this world is constantly undergoing change; there is no permanency here.
All beings in this world are tainted with evil; all relationships are bondage; all enjoyments are great diseases; and desire for happiness is only a mirage. One's own sense are one's enemies; the reality has becomes unreal (unknown); one's own mind has becomes one's worst enemy. Egotism is the foremost cause of evil; wisdom is weak; all actions lead to unpleasantness; and pleasure is sexually oriented. One's intelligence is governed by egotism, instead of being the other way around. Hence there is no peace nor happiness in one's mind. Youth is fading. Company of holy ones is rare. There is no way out of this suffering. The realization of truth is not to be seen in anyone. No one is happy at the prosperity and happiness of others; compassion is not found in anyone's heart. People are getting baser and baser by the day. Weakness has overcome strength, cowardice has overcome courage. Evil company is easily had, good company is hard to come by. I wonder where Time is driving humanity.
Holy one, this mysterious power that governs this creation destroys even powerful demons, robs whatever has been considered to be eternal of its permanency, kills even the immortals — is there then any hope for simple folk like me? This mysterious being seems to dwell in all, and its individualized aspect is regarded as egotism. There is nothing that is not destroyed by it. The entire universe is under its control; its will alone prevails here.
O sage, thus neither in childhood nor in youth nor in old age does one enjoy any happiness. None of the objects in this world is meant to give happiness to anyone. The mind vainly seeks to find such happiness in the objects of this world. Only he is happy who is free from egotism and who is not swayed by craving for sense-pleasure: but such a person is extremely rare in this world. Indeed, I do not regard him as a hero who is able to battle successfully against a mighty army; only him I consider a hero who is able to cross the ocean known as the mind and the senses.
I do not regard that as a "gain" which is soon lost: only that is a gain which is not lost — and there is no such gain available to man in this world, however hard he may struggle. On the other hand, both fleeting gains and temporary adversities come to a man even without his seeking. I am puzzled, holy sir, that a man roams here and there seemingly busy throughout the day, and is all the time engaged in selfish activity, and though he does not do one good turn during the day, he is still able to sleep at night!
Yet, even though the busy man overcomes all his earthly enemies and surrounds himself with wealth and luxury, and even when he boasts that he is happy, death creeps in upon him. How it finds him, only God knows.
In ignorance, man binds himself to wife, son and friends; he knows not that this world is like a large pilgrim center where countless people come together fortuitously — and they whom he calls his wife, son and friends are among them.
This world is like a potter's wheel: the wheel looks as if it stands still though it revolves at a terrific speed — even so to the deluded person this world appears to be stable even though in fact it is constantly changing. This world is like a poison tree: one who comes into contact with it is knocked unconscious and stupefied. All points of view in this world are tainted; all countries in this world are territories of evil; all the people of the world are subject to death; all actions are deceitful.
Many eons have come and gone; they are but moments in time — for there is essentially no difference between an epoch and a moment, both being measures of time. From the viewpoint of the gods even an epoch is but a moment. Even so the whole earth is but a modification of the earth-element! How futile to pin our faith and our hope on it!
O holy one! Whatever appears to be permanent or transient in this world is all like a dream. What is a crater today was a mountain before, what is a mountain today becomes a hole in the earth in a short while. What is a dense forest today is soon transformed into a big city; what is fertile soil now becomes arid desert. Similar is the change in one's body and in one's life-style and fortune.
This life-and-death cycle appears to be a skilful dancer whose skirt is made up of living souls, and her dancing gestures consist of lifting the souls up to heaven, hurling them down into hell, or bringing them back to this earth. All the mighty deeds, even the great religious rites that people perform here, are soon consigned to one's memory. Human beings are born as animals and vice versa. Gods lose their divinity — what is unchanging here? I see even the creator Brahma, the protector Vishnu, the redeemer Rudra and others inexorably going towards destruction. In this world sense-objects appear to be pleasant only till one remembers this inevitable destruction. Just as a child playing with earth makes different designs with a clod, the ordainer of the universe keeps creating new things and destroys them soon.
This perception of the defects of the world has destroyed the undesirable tendencies in my mind. Therefore, desire for sense-pleasure does not arise in my mind, even as a mirage does not appear on the surface of water. This world and its delights appear bitter to me. I am not fond of wandering in the pleasure-gardens, I don't relish the company of girls. I do not value the acquisition of wealth. I wish to remain at peace within myself. I am constantly enquiring, “How can I wean my heart completely away from even thinking of this ever-changing phantasm called the world?” I do not long for death, nor do I long to live; I remain as I am, free from the fever of lust. What shall I do with the kingdom, pleasure or wealth, all of which are the playthings of egotism which is absent in me?
If I do not get established in true wisdom now, when shall another opportunity arise? For, indulgence in sense-pleasure poisons the mind in such a way that its effects last several life-times. Only the man of self-knowledge is free from this. Therefore, O sage, I pray to thee: instruct me in such a way that I may forever be free from anguish, fear and distress. With the light of your instruction, destroy the darkness of ignorance in my heart.
By reflecting on the pitiable fate of living beings thus fallen into the dreadful pit of sorrow, I am filled with grief. My mind is confused, I shudder, and at every step I am afraid. I have given up everything, but I have not yet established myself in wisdom; hence, I am partly caught and partly freed. I am like a tree that has been cut but not severed from its root. I wish to restrain my mind but do not have the wisdom to do so.
Hence, pray tell me: what is that condition or state in which one does not experience any grief? How can one who is involved in the world and its activities, as I am, and reach the supreme state of peace and bliss? What is that attitude that enables one not to be influenced by various kinds of activities and experiences? Pray tell me: how do you people who are enlightened live in this world? How can the mind be freed from lust and made to view the world both as one's own self and also as no more valuable than a blade of grass? The biography of which great one shall we study in order to learn the path of wisdom? How should one live in this world? Holy sir, instruct me in that wisdom which will enable my otherwise restless mind to be steady like a mountain. You are an enlightened being: instruct me so that I may never again be sunk in grief.
Obviously this world is full of pain and death; how does it become a source of joy, without befuddling one's heart? The mind is obviously full of impurities: how can it be cleansed and with what cleanser prescribed by what great sage? How should one live here so as not to fall a victim to the twin currents of love and hate? Obviously there is a secret that enables one to remain unaffected by the grief and suffering in this world, even as mercury is not affected when it is thrown into the fire. What is that secret? What is the secret that counteracts the habit of the mind that is spread out in the form of this universe?
Who are those heroes who have freed themselves from delusion? And what methods did they adopt to free themselves? If you consider that I am neither fit nor capable of understanding this, I shall fast unto death.”
Having said so, Rama remained silent.
Swami Venkatesananda, The Concise Yoga Vasistha
State University of New York Press (October 1984), pp. 7-21
“Why do people become atheist?
I also became quite suspicious of organised religion in general. I would often hear preachers asking people to believe things that I knew were simply not true. I noticed that many people appeared to believe because they thought it was expected of them (If you ever watch TV Evangelist shows, you'll see this happen. Nobody ever jumps up and says “Hang on! That doesn't make any sense at all!" - everyone sits there, nodding and Amen-ing at everything the preacher has to say. Don't talk while the vicar is speaking, don't question, just listen and accept it. Peer pressure is a wonderful thing). I noticed the way that religions discouraged people from thinking too deeply about them, or from asking tricky questions. I noticed that Christians were not the only people who deeply and sincerely believed in a deity - these conflicting religions could not all be correct, so why should we believe one and not the other? All the religions claimed a monopoly on Truth, Love, Happiness, Justice, Morality. It slowly dawned on me that maybe they were all wrong.”
“I am atheist and agnostic. Agnostic means “Without knowledge", in this case, without knowledge of god/s. Since many definitions of gods include "unknowable", and separate from the phenomenal world, I cannot be said to know gods, but nor can the theist in that case. When someone tells me they know God is real, I ask for the evidence. What I am offered have run the gamut from biblical quotations to a flower to pity that I "know Him not" to tales of "miracles", but I am never given evidence. I have been told that those things ARE evidence, but I challenge the presenters that they themselves are unlikely to accept such shoddy evidences if the topic is different than God.”
AN ATHEIST ANSWERS
by JeanneE Hand-Boniakowski, RN
“When Americans pray, they best do it by retreating to their own rooms - whether a synagogue, a mosque, a temple, a church, or their own closet - and shutting the door. Religious cacophony isn't a pretty sound. Prayer in a pluralistic society is a religious tower of Babel - everyone praying to his or her own god in his or her own way. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. How can we hold hands and pray if we can't even agree on who we're talking to or on what terms?
Jesus wasn't keen on prayer in public. He taught His disciples, “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
I once ate in a restaurant next to a large table full of noisy Christians with their pastor. The pastor's prayer was so loud and long, I was certain they were about to pass the collection plate around the room and sing a hymn after the fruit salad. What would Jesus do? Probably not that.
Religions come in two varieties: inclusive and exclusive. Polytheistic religions like Buddhism tend to be inclusive. As my Buddhist dental hygienist once explained to me, “We all worship the same god, everyone in his or her own way.” Like your hamburgers, you can have it your way. Monotheistic religions such as Judaism and Islam are tenaciously exclusive. Islam militantly so. It's Allah's way or the highway.”
John Horgan, The End of Science,
Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1996, p. 261
“It has been the way of human beings that he wants to understand everything through reasoning. This is correct on his part because his awareness has not yet awakened. When his awareness is limited and when he is searching the proof of everything through his intellect, it is difficult for him to adopt some other means, which are outside the scope of reasoning... Man's intellect comes up with many doubts. The first doubt, which is very common, is “Who is Mataji?” This is the first question. I want to tell you that you cannot understand Me so long as the eyes of your Spirit are not open, and you should not even make efforts to understand. First you open the eye of your Spirit.”
Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi
Delhi, India — August 18, 1979
1. Robert McDermott, The Essential Aurobindo, Schocken Books, 1974, p. 15.
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