A poem to the Guru, the eternal teacher who’s soul reincarnate who pervades all and guides the wandering seafarer home. Without fail. Everytime. Until the last one.
Winds are getting rough, The sea churns, Sharks jump unforeseen, Vultures circle for prey afloat, Path is dark, no stars above, My boat leaks, filling slowly, The three sandbags of gold, Hang anchoring me to churn, From far away land a twinkle, Catches my eye, amongst mist, Swirling and spray amidst the clash, Hope springs anew, there's land ahoy ! Desparate I turn and whirl the wheel, With all my might, to keep it in view, The dim yellow light , my pole star, Light gets brighter but my sandbags, Stall and fill my boat, tossing more, The final stretch alas, run aground, I hurl myself in shallow water, To swim to the sandy beach and race, Ahead to meet the light house that, Guided me home, standing tall, Unshaken, uncaring, unyielding, On the rocks, amidst crashing sea, I join my brethren on the beach before, Me as they welcome and we join chorus, Of praise to the lighthouse, as full moon, And stars are all there again.
My routine broke, as they hushed “Don’t !!”, Muffled voices echoing faintly across time, Didn’t care listen, in a hurry, who has time ? Am in hustle to put one upon my fellowmen, To Conquer .. the conquest and the victory, Surrender and subjugation, The Happiness …
But nature cares, for a mother can’t but, When she sees her child wandering thus, Her patience for the truants runs short, Her rebuke, a gentle slap of no avail as she, Unleashes pestilence, her stormtroopers, To sweep, clean the home; they do, ruthless,
It seems best is to stay put, clear off streets, Voice low, no splurge and abide in quiet self, Closetted with partners and one’s own clan, Coccooned in quiet contemplation on the ills, Waiting for her anger to wash over the kind, It’s message is to mend ; stark one too ..
Seems my teachers said, about this too, The material, evanescent like the wealth, It seems he said a time would come, when, The money is not worth the paper it’s in print, What to say of success, more than the King, Who’s mortal hand, as empty as a newborn, As his mortal was led down the street lined,
Seems they said much more ; now real too… It is time to hear those faint echoes of time, Ancients, strange habits seem so in tune, Let’s put our ears on the ground, let’s listen, To the faint voices of teachers across time, For we can hear it better as troopers near..
Childhood in Kerala growing up was a pleasant time. There were no mad rushes, lot of rain and then, Onam. Onam celebrated on the Thiruvonam (Shravana Nakshatram) star day is a festival that is steeped in Hindu Puranic lore. The story involves the great King Bali (sometimes referred to as Maha-Bali ) and Vamana ( an Avatar or Incarnation of Lord Vishnu ).
The Onam / Vamana Jayanti Story, What it was and what it has become …
The story as in many Puranic lores is of the classic clash of a devout, efficient, benevolent King who is an Asura ( literally, one is not-a-Deva ). The benevolent Asura King usually causes flutter in the Deva Kingdom ( It’s king being Indra ) forcing the Gods to incarnate, kill the Asura and rescue the Devas. The story of Onam here follows this same storyline; only as in the other stories the symbolism is hidden, deep and often missed when one keeps celebrating festivals superficially. In the case of Onam there has been a systematic over-simplification of festival. I remember in my childhood we use to keep Trikkaakarayappan (Vamana) and Mahabali (sometimes called Maveli) as little clay pyramids in midst of the flower arrangements (Pookkalam ) we used to do in our home portico. Over the decades, this has all but disappeared from the celebrations. There is hardly any mention of Vamana anymore, no clay pyramids, many do not know Thrikkakarayappan. Some years back there was even a needless political controversy when Vamana Jayanti (Birthday celebration of Lord Vamana)wishes were given on even of Onam. The simple fact is, Vamana Jayanti is celebrated in our households and many Vaishnava homes just as it was earlier. It is just that with increasing commercialisation, securalisation of Onam and making it a harvest festival Vamana Jayanti seems to have been forgotten. This is unfortunate as Vamana Jayanti is Onam itself. There is no Onam without Vamana as much as there is no Onam without Mahabali.
In all this pell-mell of making it more secular, more harvest and less Hinduism, more commercial and less spiritual, more literal (Rich Noble Asuric King subdued by Brahmin Vamana and rudely pushed underground ) a narrative that suits the more left-leaning, liberal-leaning of the political spectrum has been woven into this mixture.
It is important that ancient India, it’s traditions cannot be painted with same brush. It is also important that one goes in to the original Sanskrit texts to reference stories of Mahabali and Vamana and read for oneself the narrative.
The Onam / Vamana Jayanti Spiritual Symbolism
Now is the time to resurrect the Vamana Jayanti Tradition, It’s symbolism, the true stature of MahaBali the Noble King. My poetic attempt at is below…
Symbolism Note : The reference to “Wild Sugarcane tasting ripe and sweet” is a reference to a Saivite Saint from Tamil Nadu, Pattinathaar or Pattinathu Swamigal. He was told by the Lord that he will attain Samadhi when the wild sugarcane tastes sweet. He used to go to the grove and taste sugarcane everyday to see if the day of his Moksha had come.
The existential crisis, rudderless feeling one gets as one’s not sure what this body is, what’s to do with this and essentially how to map the world with this, or indeed whether to at all….. In the end one plays his/her part and vanishes but world exhumes the dead for post-truth – buries and burns it again. None is spared from this post-truth. Gods, Goddesses, great men and women are all queued up and exhumed for this ritual. What then one wonders what’s to do with this stiffling coat which one may never be sure is himself …
Stuffed in this fleeting fleeing coat, The full sleeve, this high collar, The thick leather, this stiffling overall, All buttoned up and locked out, Just enough vent to see, listen, eat, breath and act.
Ones thrust in as if in a play, unwilling, Nobody asks what one’s to wear, Thrust out on stage, ill prepared, Out into the glare, the light, heat and stare, Ill at ease, I want to change , run away, quit. I didn’t sign up…..No, no, no…… But this button won’t give, this zip too..
I try , I try and I play along to prompts, Teach myself to like this stuffling coat , Watch others playing on, I teach others too, Overcoats of many hues I wear o’er this, Many many attires, but this coat ever sticks, Sticks, sticks and I forget it. I Like it, I love it. Few stitches loose but looks like mine forever.
Yet, some people like it, some hug it, But many loathe it or shoo it away, Strange, strange as I myself just learned, To like it, to love it and even consider it me.
Why can’t they learn to like it just like me ? But alas I don’t know why hate thrives. It’s so deep they’d burn or bury this coat, When it’s worn out and hung up to dry.
Guru Poornima is an auspicious day in the #Hindu calendar. This is a full moon day where one pay obscience to the guiding , pervading unmanifest force who by his kindness manifested to guide people in the ocean of Samsaaram ( cyclical the bodily identity existence and it’s travails )
To he whose beam lights my path,
To he whose wisdom guides my plan,
To he whose prana moves this sod-born,
To he whose clay moulded this shroud,
To he whose kindness lifts this shroud,
To he this dissolves in, his kindness allowing,
To him this prostrates, ten thousand times
Free will versus Fate has been always a subject of debate between the believers and non-believers. They seem to conflict as free will would mean that fate is null and void and vice versa. On the one hand God is pictured as the all powerful fate controller and orchestrator of all things and on the other he seems to have given the beings a free will and a necessity of make an effort, an independent effort, towards doing whats good. These seem to be at odds with each other as the ‘independent’ would mean that its a realm where God doesn’t have control over. The conflict for the believer whether to put in hard work and free will to attain anything in this world if everything is already preordained by God. So whats’ it ? Free will, effort, or its all just fate ? Bhagawan Sri Ramana Maharishi on this topic when probed as said (words to this effect), “inquire as to to whom is the fate and who does the work. When this is inquired and found out then one will know that there is no fate and no willing“. Sad-Dharsanam of Sri. Kaavyakanta Ganapathi Muni alludes to this conflict of Fate versus Free will and asks us to enquire to whom this fate and free will is for . The answer would be the body which is different from the ‘self’. By this self-inquiry (Vichaara) on attains Self-realisation. Sad-Dharsanam is the Sanskrit translation of Bhagawan Sri Ramana Maharshi’s Tamil work UllathuNaarpathu. Sad Dharshanam by Sri. Kaavya Kanta Ganapati Muni My lines …. #Poetry #Poem #WillPower #Fate #MacbethOn Free Will or Fate : the spiritual conflict of the believer
An afternoon walk across my backyard where there is an old well inspired this. I had just strolled amongst the tall grass which grows and almost kicked the rusted neglected bucket `.
Sudden inspiration followed and I composed this poem about neglect of what was once useful, now neglected, still owned, but not cared or sought after. Its rusted, unused, leaking but we still had not disposed it : much like our old and aged who worked their heart out but are now neglected in their own homes, un-listened to, if I may refer to it that way.
Happiness, as in the context of a Hindu (a cultural, subcontinental cultural expression, rather than a narrow religious term) is something that was thought about my the brightest minds.
Essays,Books, Schools, Religions have been built and nurtured on it’s name. Avatars created, Saints glorified.
Yet, for an average human in present day world with it’s plentiful amenities and material distractions, happiness seems as elusive as before; sometimes more so. The Hindu always felt its something that comes from within, our very nature, its always there, not something that’s got from outside. Our cravings, which trouble our mind and if obtained satisfy it merely gives us temporary mental satisfaction which subsides the waves of restlessness in our Chitta (A yogic term, mind-space would be a close translation) which allows the pre-existing happiness to shine through.
A Hindu, views all material happiness as temporary and bitter sweet since all material pursuits are attaching us with action and thoughts in the direction which opens us up for Karma.
So for a Hindu, happiness is our native state which we have muddled with our desires and pursuits.
It is a time of churn in India, as anywhere else in the world.
The old secular , leftist and liberal schools which was built learning upon the lessons of The World Wars, the Revolutions of Russia, France, the thoughts of Marx, Mao, Lenin and Stalin gradually had gone stale. What once helped the oppressed people solve their day to day issues had become in some cases initiator of violence or oppression themselves. The Right meanwhile is more appealing to people as it promises to take people back to the Good-Old-Days. It promises the glory days.
For almost 6 decades after independence of India the Left Parties, Leftist policies where popular. Over time, increasing conflicts between the once shunned Right and the ubiquitous Left are common place. Narratives are built with cases of return to old glory in the case of Right and of oppression or class struggle in the case of Left.
The society seems to swing between one form of violence and injustice to another, swinging past the midpoint of peace. While this seems to be a post World War phenomenon, in reality, the fight between thought schools are not new; at least to the South of India. Indian Civilization being so ancient, it has seen similar days in the past. It has lived and survived these to tell its tales.
Examples of how the Jains and Buddhists – The Heterodox systems- had frequent conflicts with Shaivas (Worshippers of Lord Shiva ) and Vaishnavas (Worshippers of Lord Vishnu ) – the Orthodox systems – are detailed in Tamil Scripture of Periya Puranam. There are even descriptions of impalement, immersion in lime, drowning a saint in ocean tied to rope, and several such mass attempts at conversion to a school of thought. Well, if one looks critically at these, convert-or-perish instances of those times, it was no different from the crimes committed by the IS terrorists now where they behead non-Islamists. Yet, these beliefs co-existed, albeit with friction, with royal patronage to a particular school of thought. The Royals were rarely ‘secular’ , to use today’s terminology. Yet, there seems to be times in past where the saints seem to come from all stratas of society and they were respected equally. In Periyapuranam and elsewhere in South Indian history, there are references to a number of saints who have come from humble social backgrounds ( which now belong to oppressed social classes ) and are equally respected – and in some cases more – by the peer saints and followers alike. This does seem strange when we consider that South India actually required a Temple Entry proclamation to allow the commoners from “lower castes” to enter the temples again in 19-20 century. This was about 500 years after the saints from the very same castes were actually venerated. So we really are not sure when the social degradation happened. One thing is certain. Depending on ones ideology – left or right, one can choose to go back to either a past where caste oppression and persecution existed or to one where they apparently did not . I use the word ‘apparent’ because here I have to go by the scriptural records and not actual rock edicts themselves.
Some terminologies I use in the poem I am translating here to stimulate further reading : 'Austere Potter' : Saint Thiru Neelakanta Kuyavanar, first saint listed by Saint Sundarar in his list of 63'Shepherd' : Saint Sri Thirumoolar, composer of Thirumanthiram'Toddy and fish loving incarnation' : Sri Mutthappan, Kannur, Kerala'Fearless tiger mounted battlegod of yore' : Sri Ayyappan of Sabarimala, Kerala'lowly ox' : Ochira Parabrahmam, Ochira, Kerala'first monist' : Adi Sankara , Kaladi , Kerala composer of Manisha Panchakam
Recent rise of right wing in India has witnessed renewed conflict between Left and Right at various levels ; political and otherwise. Some of these have been peaceful, but many especially in the district of Kannur, Kerala State has been especially bloody. The once popular Left movement in India is on the wane as it is losing state after another. The right on the other hand is on the rise. Probably the Left has moved away from the minds of people and Right is occupying the space.
It would be nice if there is no violence and lasting peace. My wish.
India’s tryst with Yoga is deep rooted in symbolism and runs deep into its spiritual classics, poetry, theory, ritualistic practice, grand-mother story telling and visual art forms. The pervasive, repetitive and at times outwardly silly, unreal, mythical symbolism is probably one of the factors that has prevented the pillages, marauders and missionaries from destroying what India now offers to the world. They probably thought its too silly to be having anything worth annihilating.
Breath, the Monkey mind are common symbolisms in the epic written by sage Valmiki – The Ramayana. Hanuman, the ‘monkey God’, is literally Hanu (kill) and Man (mind). He is the symbol of Yoga and since he is the son of Wind ( Vaayu-Putra) . He is also the symbolism for halting the mind, going beyond it by practicing breathing techniques and meditation which enables the union of estranged devotee ( the Sita, literally born of earth) and eternal soul (Rama, The God, literally one who charms) held apart in an Island by the forces of darkness ( habits of body, mind and the Ego )
All observing non-changing soul bound is thus dipped into the erroneous identity with the body by the chord of breath. This identity can be reclaimed by tracing its origins back via the breath, the Hanuman, and killing the mind enables the realization that one is nothing but the never changing, unborn, undying unary eternal soul.
This is union we seek. This is the union that brings peace.
To the Monkey Mind and quietening breath which kills it then ,
It has been a tough month for the home state of Kerala, which is grappling with the worst flood in a century. It has been a testing time for humanitarian work, for beliefs, for politics … for everything. Theories abound as to what caused the floods ranging from human disruption of natural ecosystem, divine wrath, Solar Minimum year, weak El-Nino/a effect, a mix of these and several other variations of these theories.
I distinctly remembered on morning in #Palakkad as it rained. This was before the floods. The first day of several that were to follow that first drenched and then drowned the state. As I drove from Coimbatore, a border city of Tamil Nadu to Palakkad, Kerala for work at about 8 am. As I drove past the western ghats I saw that the rain clouds hung so low and it was an eerie drive to say the least. Never in my memory have I seen clouds so low. I knew something was amiss. I called my wife and told her something was not right. Nothing however prepared me or my state for what was to come.
The rains started barely minutes after I drove into Palakkad. It had been drizzling the night before, but it just got heavier and heavier. Pounding continued for 2 days and flooded north Kerala first. Then it subsided for a day over Palakkad on Saturday leaving it in floods, something that the natives bragged they’d never seen.
But still nothing prepared Kerala for the destruction they were about to witness in the coming week. Rain pounded Kerala (especially middle Kerala) in coming days and left it battling floods, death and destruction.
In midst of the destruction speculation emerged that this maybe a divine wrath (specifically of Sabarimala deity Ayyapan) and other exhorting people to ‘pray for Kerala’. Needless to say, the non-believers camp rejected these with their own rebuttals and even some going to the extent to labelling prayer as useless. Their argument being that prayer at this hour of crisis is useless. What is required is working hands at ground zero.
Of course, these arguments represent a variant of the believer non-believer clash that has been there since time immemorial. At times of crisis like this where any argument of a merciful divine force does not appeal with rampant, apparently unreasonable destruction all-around, it is a time to reflect on ones belief.
These lines were penned before the flood, on the day of heavy rains in Palakkad that preceded the flood. Even just seeing the rains it was amply clear that something was grossly wrong. These rains were not normal. I knew it as going to be trouble. The lines was also partly meditative, as I prayed for rain to ease.
These lines are a tribute to the constant tug of war in nature and in spirit that tests our beliefs : whether it be theistic or atheistic. Man constantly asks God, but…
This was also penned before, this a tribute to the my home state.
It was late in the day, i was standing at driveway gate turning off the lights to my clinic. I just glanced across the road where the indoor stadia is. This is where young college kids are working round the clock , selflessly for the flood victims. They receive relief materials sent across the border and sort it. Authorities are scant, but I’m told the work is supervised.
I was struck how a fracturing society had gelled by a near cataclysm.