Friday, January 22, 2010

Letter #2 from Goa, India

Dear Everyone:

Not much to report in terms of what we are doing. I could list out the daily menus, but I don’t think that would be of overwhelming interest. Although I will say, the staff here has been wonderfully attentive to Swamiji. They consider it an honor to serve him in any way they can.

Because Swamiji is accustomed to the marvelous, sattwic cooking of Lila, and his body is very sensitive to salt, sugar, and various other things that people commonly put into their food, finding a way for him to be nourished when he is away from home for a long time is always a challenge.

Over the years coming here we have made friends with the chefs and they have been willing to allow us to pre-order, usually from the small print, or completely off the menu. Being vegetarians we make our entrees from side dishes, which they are quite willing to do.

They have also added, since the last time we were here, a “high tea” in what is actually the bar, but being located in this resort, the second floor veranda outside the bar has a gorgeous view of the ocean, where the sun sets every day at tea time. So this has been our most-days routine—to sit watching the sun sink into the ocean.

The sun represents the Father, Master explained to Swamiji. It is harmful to the eyes to gaze into the sun, except in the 30 minutes when it is closest to the horizon, rising or setting.

Since this exactly coincides with teatime, we have enjoyed looking into the golden, then usually red-orange circle. It feels like the entryway into another reality.

At one point, Swamiji told us, Master made a practice of gazing into the sun when it was close to the horizon, and, Master said, he found a great increase of inner wisdom from doing so.

A specific practice for strengthening the eyes is to gaze for 9 minutes directly at the sun, during the 30 minutes when it is closest to the horizon. Then turn your back on the sun, close your eyes and cover them with your hands, the right hand over the left, and gaze into the after-image until it is gone. Then, with closed eyes, look up, to the right, down, then to the left—repeating this several times.

Of course, where we live, far from a straight horizon line, this is not so easy to do, since we usually can’t see the sun during that last half hour.

Still, interesting to know. There are so many subtle connections in this world that we are simply oblivious to.

Sitting at tea, gazing at the setting sun, Swamiji remarked how very “human” all of creation is, starting with the fact that the human body itself is modeled after the spiritual eye. When you stand with legs apart and arms outstretched the body forms the “five points” of the star.

Swamiji said even on other planets they have human-like bodies, i.e., modeled with these same five points.

God Himself, Swamiji was saying, is very human in His feelings. In fact, our feelings are His feelings. When we feel sorrow, God is not is not scornful or indifferent to the fact that we feel sorrow. He is not “condescending,” as Swamiji puts it. He feels sorrow with us, for our feelings are God’s feelings.

This is a beautiful thought to meditate on, for so often we are condescending to ourselves, thinking it is more spiritual to hold a kind of lofty disdain for our own feelings, rather than responding to ourselves with divine sympathy, as God does.

Nirmala repeated something Swamiji had said earlier: God makes us, God makes the pitfalls that besiege us, God is not surprised that we fall into those pitfalls!

Swamiji said also how very simple God is, how “childlike”.

What an interesting idea, to think of God as “childlike”. The intellect wants to make spirituality very complex. We naturally think of the Creator as complicated, because creation appears so complicated to us.

Speaking along these lines on another occasion, Swamiji explained that since creation is Spirit vibrating from a point of stillness at the center, the closer you get to the heart of creation, the less movement there is, until, of course, all vibration ceases in absolute stillness.

It is the movement that creates the impression of complexity. The less movement, the simpler everything becomes. God is that point of stillness, where everything is perfect simplicity.

Swamiji also said God is childlike because He is without “expectations.” This is an idea we often toss about—to have no expectations—but it is marvelous to contemplate in this context: as a “childlike” attribute of God. To be without expectations, to accept everything without any reference to what it should or could be, to live without being tied to past or future, but only in the now.

Quite wonderful teatime conversation!

Swamiji often looks intently around him at the people here, as if he were looking into their souls. He looks kindly, with compassion, but also with a rather far-away look in his eyes, as if he were seeing them from the perspective of eternity.

Strolling toward breakfast, a few days ago he pointed out the obvious, how everyone has a different body and a different face. And that face and body reflect the consciousness. So either the body creates consciousness, or consciousness creates everything.

Obviously, the latter is the true explanation.

Scientists are moving toward that thought, but, Swamiji said, they will never figure it out, because they don’t have the right method. To understand you have to go within, and science tries to understand from the outside.

For a few days there was a group of Iranian people visiting here, two couples and a single man. They happened to sit next to us in a restaurant. Swamiji heard them speaking a language he didn’t recognize and became curious. And it is his habit to greet everyone. So we stopped at their table to chat.

They made a very sweet impression. The next day we ran into the women and Swamiji asked them about an Iranian man he had met when he was a college student. Swamiji was curious to know whether that man had become well known in Iran, since he seemed to have that kind of magnetism.

He had become well known; the woman knew of him. She told Swamiji he died more than a decade ago.

Swamiji asked, “Was he a good man?”

The woman replied, “The people know him to be a good man, so the government thinks of him as a bad man.”

This naturally led to some discussion about the government in Iran.

Swamiji told her, “I had the opportunity to visit Germany before World War II, and I met many good Germans.” Swamiji writes in The New Path of how painful that time was for him, to have people he knew to be good people suddenly declared enemies. When he spoke of it now, his voice choked with emotion, and he had to pause for a moment. Then he said, “When good people have a bad government.... there is little we can do.”

The next day, Swamiji left the breakfast table, and went upstairs alone. He came back carrying a small package and went inside to where the Iranians were sitting having breakfast. He sat with them for a few minutes then came back to our table without commenting about his conversation with them.

We were walking back to the room and I noticed he didn’t have the package. “You left your package,” I said, and started back to the table to get it.

“Don’t bother,” Swamiji said, “it was a present for the Iranians. I said to them, ‘Since our countries have defined themselves as enemies, there isn’t much a private citizen can do. At least I can give you this gift as a gesture of friendship between us.’”

Again, his voice choked with emotion. In fact, all of us found we had tears in our eyes.

Recently Swamiji conferred a Sanskrit name that means “tender.” Obviously, he didn’t mean simply weak, or soft, or vulnerable. Nor did he mean, as he explained, merely sentimental. “Tender feelings” is what he wanted to inspire.

It is not a concept that is immediately understood. But thinking of the earlier conversation about how God is our feelings, and how tenderly Divine Mother loves and comforts us, one begins to see what a divine quality this is.

Certainly, Swamiji’s feelings, about these people, about the ego-created misery so often present in this world, are so tender, that we were all immediately touched by the sweetness and depth of those feelings.

Master spoke in the 40s about the interrelationship of seemingly unrelated events: the influenza epidemic after World War I being caused by the suffering in that war; floods and earthquakes caused by war in Ethiopia; and other such examples.

In the same way, even though as individuals we may feel powerless, in this interwoven web of a world, no act of kindness or love or spiritual awareness goes unnoticed by the Universe. In fact, of course, there is no power of darkness as such; there is only the absence of light.

Even in his poem Samadhi, Master says in the first line, “Vanished the veils of light and shade....” He refers to “shade” not “darkness.” Shade comes when something blocks the flow of light. No matter how profound the shade created, the light is not changed. As soon as the block is removed the light shines on as before.

Blessings from David and Asha

Monday, January 18, 2010

From Goa, India

Dear Everyone:

As most of you know, David and I are with Swamiji in Goa, India. For the last several years, Swamiji has taken a holiday at a beautiful beach resort here, to get away from the foggy cold of January in Delhi, or, this year, to give those building his house at the new Ananda community in Pune an extra few weeks to get it ready so he can move in. A most auspicious event, as you can well imagine.

As always, Swamiji arrived here after a period of intense work. We jokingly said to him, when he mentioned how hard he has been working, “Why are we not surprised?”

There has never been a time in the 40 years I’ve know Swamiji when he wasn’t in a “period of intense work.” The projects have varied, but never the level of energy.

When he became a disciple, more than 60 years ago, Swamiji accepted, with that initiation, the disciple’s divine duty to be an emissary for his Guru’s work in the world, further strengthened by Master’s words to him, “You have a great work to do.” And, well, the rest is history!

Dharmadas and Nirmala came with Swamiji from Pune (via Delhi) and we from America, so it is a small group.

Even though Swamiji is in need of rest, and taking lots of it, he is well. The cottages where we have our rooms are a (very) leisurely 10-minute walk from the dining room, and Swamiji makes the trip at least twice a day, sometimes more.

In previous years, we always had to walk around to the elevator, to get to the upper story of the lobby. Now Swamiji often takes the steps, a formidable multi-flight affair, that, on the rare occasions when he braved them in past years, left him gasping for breath, collapsing in a chair as soon we reached the top.

Now he strides upstairs, without assistance, usually not even using the banister, and continues on through the lobby without a pause. We still hover around him, less he have a misstep, but he rarely does—a dramatic change from the past few years.

Swamiji often refers to his “miracle healing” of last June, and the proof is right before us. Jai Guru.

His mood is light and blissful. One morning at breakfast (a huge buffet), Swamiji sampled several different dishes not liking any of them. Finally he said, “Nothing tastes as I think it should. It is all like a dream to me.” We understood him to mean that everything around him seemed like a dream and it was hard to “enjoy” within that any specific thing, like a cup of tea or a piece of toast. He ate a few bits of this and that, and then gave up trying.

We have breakfast in an outdoor dining area, bordering on a huge expanse of green lawn that leads to a cliff with steps down to the beach. Many other guests were coming and going around us.

Swamiji sat back. Gazing around him he said, “I see everyone in terms of their consciousness. They are all like hermit crabs, dragging their consciousness behind them.” An amusing and profound image.

Seeing a thin woman walking by with her obese husband and a young, already pudgy child, Swamiji remarked with compassion, “She is overwhelmed by the situation she finds herself in.”

He then began to speak across several tables to a refined looking British man sitting nearby, “You look so familiar,” Swamiji said, “do I know you?” They had never met, but Swamiji chatted with him for a few minutes.

“What do you do?” Swamiji asked. “I am an engineer,” the man replied. “You look like you should be a professor,” Swamiji said. The man seemed surprised then responded, “I do like to teach.”

A woman from Australia sat down a few tables away. Seeing her for the first time, Swamiji remarked to us, “Now there is a fine person.”

To another nearby diner on a different morning, after a simple greeting, Swamiji said, “You look like you should be an actor.” The man looked surprised, said he was not an actor, but then looked thoughtful and made no further reply.

Of course, no one can say whether these chance encounters will have any lasting impact, but it is impressive to see the way Swamiji relates to everyone as a friend. Recently he wrote that often waves of bliss sweep over him and everyone around seems a manifestation of that bliss, or at least seeking that bliss, and of course profoundly lovable.

“Even in a crowd of people I’ve never met,” Swamiji says, “everyone seems to me like an old friend.”

Buddha made the amazing statement, “The reason we should be kind to everyone we meet is because at one time or another, we have been close to every single person.” An impossible concept for the ordinary mind to grasp! But in Swamiji’s company, the practical implications of it are expressed: All the world is my friend—so behave accordingly!

Some of you may remember a story I tell in my book about Swamiji meeting a jeweler here in Goa and how impressed the jeweler was by Swamiji’s spiritual consciousness. A few days ago I stopped in to visit that man.

Immediately he began to speak of Swamiji and the great spiritual energy he felt from him. The jeweler himself seemed calmer and more centered than he was when last we met. Impossible to say, of course, what part meeting Swamiji played in that change. Still, it is inspiring to see how, step by step, the divine draws us back to the truth within.

Yesterday for dinner we ventured out to another beautiful hotel about 20 minutes away. They have a fine Indian restaurant and it is worth the taxi ride to enjoy a dinner there.

Swamiji also stopped in to visit the various shopkeepers he got to know well in previous years when he stayed in that hotel. One jeweler shared with us two extraordinary stones that he had recently acquired.

One was a 2.5-carat emerald. It was apparently an old stone (in a new setting) from a mine, the jeweler told us, long-since exhausted, on the India-Pakistan border. Most emeralds, the jeweler said, are treated in various ways to enhance their color. This one was just as God made it.

Swamiji wears a beautiful emerald, a gift from a friend in Rishikesh. I also have a lovely emerald ring. Swamiji and I sometimes have a friendly competition as to which one of us has the most beautiful emerald. Both our stones are indeed impressive.

Both, however, were “put in the shade,” so to speak, by the presence of this emerald being. The intensity of the color, the way the light shone from it was like nothing we have seen before.

Master said he remembers back to the stage of being a diamond. You could feel in that emerald that whoever inhabits that stone is going to be a great soul!

The jeweler then brought out a unique blue sapphire. This was 10 carats, set in a ring with small diamonds to set off the extraordinary blue color.

This, too, the jeweler said, was a rare untreated stone, not heated, as most sapphires are, but just as God made. He showed us how, even in shadow, the stone still sparkles with blue light.

Nirmala put one ring on each hand and we sat for some time just drinking in the refined emanations of sapphire and emerald. Even from across the room (only a small shop, but still 8 feet away) you could see the flecks of light and color in each stone.

At one point, Nirmala jokingly said to the jeweler, “What if I just leave now with these rings?” He replied without missing a beat, “Are you wearing running shoes?”

Although we would happily have walked away (perhaps not run away!) with both of those gems, eventually Nirmala gave them back and we went to dinner. All evening, we felt the “presence” of those stones and were grateful to have “met” them.

FYI: the emerald was $30,000, the blue sapphire, $100,000.

We commented that we hope whoever buys them has the right horoscope for such powerful stones.

Nirmala remarked that she read an article by an Indian astrologer who said that Princess Diana had a passion for blue sapphires but they were astrologically wrong for her. Just before she died her friend had gifted her with a necklace of large blue sapphires and, the astrologer said, the stones “overwhelmed her” and contributed to (caused?) her death.

“Death by Sapphires” sounds more like a crime novel than a philosophical treatise. Still, who can fathom the mystery of karma? Everything in this universe is interrelated, and only a Master can see how the threads weave together.

So, as you can see, no great adventures to report but we wanted to greet you all.

Swamiji is well. We are, of course, delighted to be in this beautiful place in his blissful company.

Blessings and love to all,
Nayaswamis David and Asha