Monday 24 October 2011

One Moonlit Night

The Hill in South India called Arunachala
Arunachala, the Hill of Fire

"Arunachala is the place ( that which deserves to be called the holy place)!  
Of all places it is the greatest!  
Know that it is the heart (center) of the earth.  
It is Siva Himself.  
It is a secret place representing the Heart.  
Lord Siva always abides there as a glorious hill called Arunachala!"
Arunachala Mahatmyam

In the year 2000, i visited the ancient and holy pilgrimage site of Arunachala. This is an old temple town which is built at the foot of a Hill that is sacred to Saivite or Siva worshippers. A hugh temple complex is built at the foot of the Hill and is said to represent the element of fire and is one of India's five sacred lingams.

The first few months of my visit were spent mostly sitting in meditation at Ramana Ashram or else walking around the Hill. Arunachala is lauded in India's most ancient texts the Vedas, the Upanishads, and the Puranas.  There is an indefinable mystery about this Hill...

When i wasn't sitting in the old hall at Ramanashram or circumambulating the Hill, i could be found in the musty and well stocked library of the Ashram fingering through books on the Hill and its most prominent saint, Sri Ramana Maharshi. 

 It was high summer and frighteningly hot. Such intensity of heat, i had never known before in my life! The appearance of the Hill, made up as it is of  red rock, only served to heighten this sense of 'burning'. It was not possible to sleep soundly and only the stone floor seemed remotely cool enough to lie on, that is, after it had been doused with several buckets of cold water!

One day, i decided, come what may, that i would walk up to the top of the Hill on the day of the May full moon and spend the entire night there, alone... 

It was still several weeks before that day would arrive, so i made my plans and awaited the coming adventure with some trepidation.  I had this uncomfortable knack of pushing myself into doing things that i was not always entirely sure that i should.  Yet once the challenge had been 'taken up' so to speak, there was a sense that i would have to see it through, come what may...

Read more in Tibetan Tales and other True Stories

Saturday 22 October 2011

The Fact Of Our Existence

Mountain in the evening light, shining through the prayers flags
Mt Kangchendzong

Almost all the actions, reactions and thoughts that govern our day to day lives arise from a feeling that we exist.  This is so obvious and it probably seems absurd even to mention it and yet its the very obviousness of this fact that leads us to overlook it.  To simply take it for granted and in so doing to miss something of the utmost importance to each and every one of us.

If all of our troubles stem from the mistaken belief that we exist as individual, separate characters in the little human drama called life, then the resolution of these same troubles also lies within this same sense of existing.

We feel ourselves to be so and so or such and such,  and we play out the life of this or that character believing unquestioningly in its reality.  How can we peel back the layers of conditioned thinking that constantly clamour for our attention?  How can we shift the focus of our attention away from the little self?  All of our time and energy are consumed by the preoccupations, hopes and fears of this 'self', the true source of which, we know almost nothing about...

Read more in Never Not Ever Here Now
Books by the Writer

Saturday 15 October 2011

The Lama From Lahaul

Canvas Painting by Nicholas Roerich
Pearls of Wisdom
A day after arriving in the village of Keylong, i took a back pack
with a few provisions and some water and headed on up the slopes
above the town to a small temple i could see, nestled in the crest of
some gigantic cliffs way up on the mountain side.

It took several hours to reach this remote location and was tough
climbing in the thin, high altitude air, but the scenery along the way
was stunning. The tiny trail crossed small, bubbling, crystal clear
streams. The hill sides were verdant with wild flowers of every shade
and variety and all of this was enclosed by glistening snow capped
mountains that stretched up into an azure blue sky.

Nestled at the base of soaring cliff were a small cluster of mud and stone dwellings. It was inhabited by a number of monks and nuns, all of whom formed part of a closely knit community of Buddhist Yoga Practitioners.

During the short summers there was a lot of activity going on in these
tiny communities.  Houses need to be re-coated and sealed with a new layer of mud mixed with cow dung in order to help protect them from the harsh winter months. Supplies of fire wood needed to be collected
and all manner of preparations made for the long months when it would
be neither possible nor practical to move around.  During  winter the
monks and nuns stay in their houses and practised in retreat, but
during the summer months they moved about freely, visiting one another
in various communities, attending ceremonies, receiving teachings and
collecting stores of food, firewood and other necessities.

Therefore i was rather fortunate to find the head Lama at home.
Normally during this time he would be away visiting somewhere or
teaching his students at other retreat locations.  I was in luck, not
only because he was at his home, but when he heard that my teacher was Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, he immediately and without the least hesitation invited me to stay in his house.

This was indeed a good fortune that i could not turn down and very
soon i was installed in a bright, comfortable little room on the third
floor of his dwelling.  There were large windows on two sides from
which i had sweeping views of the mountains in the north and to the
west. The room also opened out onto a spacious rooftop which made a
perfect place to meditate or just sit and enjoy an evening sunset.

The next day i climbed back down to the town of Keylong to pick up my
things and buy a few provisions for a longer stay at the monastery.  I
was taking some lunch at the lodge where i had stored my bag, when the
owner came up to my table and asked me where i had disappeared to the
day before.  I related my adventures and told him i was intending to
stay longer.  He responded very positively and immediately added
something rather intriguing.  He said i was very privileged to stay at
that particular Lama's house and that he was known in these parts as the
'levitating Lama'.

Read more in Tibetan Buddhist Tales and other True Stories

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Learning To Let Go Of Hope And Fear

Clouds and play of light
Clouds from Das Mile Gompa

At the very root of our human condition, we find two emotional extremes. These are HOPE and FEAR.

If we do not know WHO and WHAT we are, then our lives are governed from beginning to end by the whole gamut of emotions that arise from these two.  Everything between these two extremes are but shades in the grey scale of hope and fear.

This is the supreme paradox of our existence!

We lurch through our lives  passing through a constant stream of changes, some of them good, some of them bad, many of them somewhere in between yet  all the while that which is experiencing all of it remains unnoticed...!

Read more in;  Never Not Ever Here Now

Sunday 9 October 2011

Going Beyond Religion

Pink Blooming Rose Bud

The times we live in challenge us to find out what is real.

There is so much information out there, so much 'noise', so many impressions crowding in on the senses.

There is so much competition for our 'attention' that it creates a sense of stress and hurry, confusion and  anxiety.

And yet who we really are is changeless.

It is peace itself.

And more importantly, it is always present.

Our true nature is beyond religion, in fact it is the single bridge that links all religions.  The one unifying factor which points beyond the temporary and ever changing circumstances of life, to the unchanging, ever present reality of what always is...

Read more in; Never Not Ever Here Now

Thursday 6 October 2011

He Who Dances In The Heart

Canvas Painting by Nicholas Roerich
Precepts of the Teacher, Nicholas Roerich
During the years spent near my Masters, i was able to observe many things about the way they lived their lives.  The opportunity to observe them, was of itself one of the most profound teachings.  The atmosphere of  truth in which a Master lives and moves and has his Being, radiates outwardly like the delicate fragrance of an exquisite flower.

Each look, each gesture, each movement, and word, carries a power that is unique and that moves like an arrow, instantly and always finding its mark.  This can happen because no ego is involved. The life of  a perfectly Enlightened Being is an expression of that, alone.

When our every thought and word and deed is saturated with a sense of ownership and ego, how much more striking it is to observe those who move from the place of ego-lessness.

In both the great and small things of day to day life in the presence of such a Master, nothing can be taken for-granted.  Nothing is irrelevant or unimportant and the joy of living in their presence gives rise to magical moments of unexpected spontaneity.

I remember one day when there were few people around and it was a beautifully still, golden evening.  Chadral Rinpoche was staying in a house that had been newly built by one of his Nepali students in Parping.

He and i were strolling about in the garden when Rinpoche noticed a stairway leading up to the roof. Already in his late eighties, he did not hesitate to propel me towards the steps.  He was always eager and curious.  Soon i found myself puffing up the stairway behind him.  When we emerged out onto the open roof a glorious sunset awaited us.  Brilliant clouds danced on the horizon, caught up by the golden and fiery red and orange hues of the westering sun.  It was a spectacular sight, with unimpeded views from horizon to horizon...

Read more in Tibetan Tales and other True Stories

Books by the Writer

Tuesday 4 October 2011

The Power Of The Mind

Canvas Painting by Nicholas Roerich
Nicholas Roerich, Running Lama
The mind is a powerful tool.  In fact the most powerful one we have.  I'd like to recount a tale told by the intrepid lady traveler Alexander David-Neel.   She heard it whilst on pilgrimage in Tibet.

I found a copy of this small volume of travellers tales in the Oxford Book Shop at Darjeeling's Chowrasta Mall way back in the 1980s and one story struck me very deeply.
I can only retell this tale from memory as i no longer have the booklet to hand, but in any case a gist of the story clearly portrays the point that is being made.

During the eighteenth century, when many caravans plied the ancient routes of the Silk Road, which passed through the Gobi Desert, travellers faced many troubles of which the extreme climatic conditions were not least.   During one journey a merchant had acquired a very handsome hat.  It was fur lined and had flaps that could be unfolded in cold weather to cover the ears.  However one day during a particularly strong wind, this hat was suddenly snatched from his head by the icy fingers of the Gobi desert winds...

Read more in Tibetan Tales and Other True Stories
Books by the Writer