Showing posts with label Book Excerpts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book Excerpts. Show all posts

Sunday, 16 June 2013


Tree on a Cliff

I am afraid of heights. I have been this way since I can remember. It’s a visceral thing; if I come near the edge of something which is very elevated, every cell in my body begins to scream and the familiar sensations of numbness and horror quickly flood every part of my mind and body and overwhelm me with a profound and irrational feeling of un-ease.

I suppose this affliction, if one can call it that, has accompanied me like a silent shadow since my earliest memories and yet that shadow has been more noticeable at certain times and almost unnoticed at others.

Fears are like this; they are the silent companions that walk with us through our lives. If we were to put all our fears together we would find we are not alone! We are not accompanied merely by one or two nameless fears, but by a host, a whole tribe of silent, unyielding, determined 'adherents'.

I have never overcome my fear of heights, it remains with me till this day, but I have learned how to cope with it and on a number of occasions, when it was necessary, I found one could look directly into the face of a fear and then continue on one's way.

We all feel fear at some time or other; we all know the taste of it. There are many, many different kinds. Fear of the unknown is such an integral part of our day to day lives that many of us don't even notice it consciously and yet its effects upon the way we live and the choices that we make are far reaching and pervasive.

We live with fear to some degree or other. It may be subliminal and unnoticed for most part and yet it is there. We could not survive without the instinctive emotion of fear being an integral part of our body, mind complex. Fear is natural and it is a necessary component of our ability to survive.

Read More in Masters, Mice and Men
Volume Three from the series Shades of Awareness

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Never Not Ever Here Now

Buddha Face

If there is one thing that we can all be absolutely sure about it would have to be the fact of our 'existence'.

Don't we wake up each morning and know that we are alive? Whether that feels good or not is another matter but we all know that we 'are'.

This is something we are so familiar with that we simply take it as a given.

We seldom if ever give the fact of our existence a second thought.

But stop right here!

There is a wonder and a mystery in this overlooked and all too evident fact.

Are we not always Ever Here Now?

Read on in Never Not Ever Here Now
Volume Four in the series; Shades of Awareness

Friday, 24 May 2013

The Way The Moments Pass

If we think of the way that we spend our days.

If we think of the way in which those days are made up of moments, so many moments...

Of the way in which those many moments turn into weeks, months and years. If we look back on our lives and all the things that we have ever thought of or done, what does all of that really add up to?

Some of us might feel fulfilled and satisfied, but many might question the whole purpose of their lives.

In looking back they might wonder, 'what was that all about'?

They would be right to do so, especially while still in the very midst of life.
Life offers us with such a unique opportunity to find out 'who and what we really are'.

Often it may take a crisis or some event which has involved us in a painful personal loss to shake us from our distractions, our routines and our fascination with the distractions of day to day living.

Read on in Never Not Ever Here Now
Volume Four in the series; Shades of Awareness

Monday, 6 May 2013

The Power of Simplicity

King Cobra
King Cobra

When Sri Ramana Maharshi was sitting on the Hill of Arunachala in the South of India one day, a cobra passed by, and, because the Maharshi was sitting right in its path, it slithered up onto His legs and over before passing on its way. The Maharshi sitting quietly and without showing the least concern or reaction observed its passage. 

People who were present at that time were shocked and afraid, but the Maharshi showed no fear or even surprise. When they asked Him how it felt He replied with the utmost simplicity, 'cool and soft.'

It is generally known that cobras are among the most dangerous of snakes in the world and the people of India are only too acutely aware this. If such a thing would have happened to one of us, well, you can imagine our reaction, our fear, our dismay...

Such reactions seem natural and normal, yet in actuality, they are nothing more than instinctual and borne out of habit.

We routinely invest so much emotional energy into the way that we react to 'life' and don't even know that this kind of living drains such a huge amount of our energy and time. It's little wonder that the world is in such a confused state.

Things happen, so what?

In our world, things never cease to happen. Motion and change are an integral part of our reality.
But stop for a moment.
What would it be like to let the world 'happen' around us and yet remain quietly centred in our awareness of being? Not in a zombie-like way but as an intensely aware point of focus. How would that change our perspective on the things that happen in and around and to us every day of our lives?

How much energy would we free up within ourselves by this simple change of perspective? If we are not perpetually caught up in the goings on of our lives we might begin to notice everything with much greater clarity and in a far more vital way.

People often had the impression that the Maharshi was not aware of what was going on around Him, they thought that He was in samadhi and their ideas and projections about what that state might be like led them to believe that He was in some way separate from the world, no longer a part of it and yet exactly the opposite was true, no one was more observant, aware and dynamically present than the Maharshi. He missed nothing.

From the tremendous power of His inner stillness and outer simplicity, He was far more present and vitally alive than most could ever imagine.

It is 'natural' for us to want to right wrongs, to change things, to feel that we are in charge, that we have some control over what happens to us. This is human nature, the great illusion of self-identity,' of 'ownership' of 'doer-ship.'

And yet there is another reality and even if one does not understand it, one should at least know that it exists.  Within the utter simplicity of who and what we really are, the inmost central core from which our world actually arises, there exists, not just the promise, but the fact of peace and happiness. This is not something which is outside us, it is not something which is far away. It is near, so very near that it is usually completely overlooked.

The incident of the snake gives us an example of a very different way to react to our world.  Whether we are aware of it or not there is an innate fullness in every moment, and if we do not project onto that moment our supposed thoughts and emotional reactions, then we allow ourselves the possibility of the unfolding of simplicity.

There could well have been a very different outcome to the 'incident' of the cobra and the Maharshi. However, because the Maharshi moved from an inner core of complete awareness, instead of reacting from instincts of panic and fear which in turn would most likely have ended in a fatality, it so happened that a cobra received the blessing of direct contact with a Jnani and went peacefully on its way and the Jnani came to know the cool and soft feel of a cobra on a hot summers day... 

Volume Four in the series Shades of Awareness

Sunday, 21 April 2013

And We Do Not Fear...

And We Do Not Fear, Nicholas Roerich.

In times of crisis.
In times of suffering.
In times of uncertainty.
We can turn our gaze inwardly to the changeless,
to the timeless, to the silence from which all of this 'display' arises...

Our greatest friend is always right here with us.
There is no need of searching, no need of weeping, of pleading or of protestations.

There is no greater assurance than this. 
But one must know it, taste it and recognize it for oneself.

The simplest and most attainable truth is right in the palm of our hand.

"And we do not fear.." because we know that in our true nature, our inmost being, we are untouched by the transient 'happenings' of this world...

Read on in Never Not Ever Here Now
Volume Four in the series; Shades of Awareness

Friday, 12 April 2013

When All That Glitters Is Not Gold

There are happenings, events, incidents, call them what we will, that can arise very suddenly and unexpectedly in our day-to-day lives, but which prove to be defining moments that have the potential to change the way we view life and the world in which we live, forever...

These events can be subtle or startling but they have one thing in common, they give us such a jolt that they momentarily stop the mind and therefore subsequently, our world. Those moments in which mind is not, are very special. They hold the potential for recognizing what always is. Normally we move through life without any awareness of what or who we really are. But then awareness comes knocking or in some cases, crashing in on our cozy little preconceived world, turning it upside down and inside out.  Forcing us to re-evaluate what is and what is not.

No matter where we are on this planet and no matter how well educated or how little educated we may be, we are all, nevertheless, conditioned by our minds. Most of what we do throughout our lives, is preconditioned in some way by the habitual tendencies of mind and yet we are given opportunities to take stock. Some crumble under the challenge, others rise to it and are enriched thereby.

The incident that follows happened in the village where a friend of mine grew up in Andhra Pradesh.
When he was young, Akash was living in a small rural hamlet in which some forty other families were staying nearby. Every one knew everyone else and their business too. In such a close knit community, it was difficult to keep anything a secret.

One day,  one of the village men was on his way home from his fields and following the dusty path on an embankment above the river canal that passed through and watered all the farmlands of this region. It was almost sunset and the huge orange ball of the sun cast a fiery long shadow over the green and verdant fields. White egrets flew in flocks above his head, eager to find their roosts for the night and small groups of cattle and goats could be heard making their way back to the safety of their stalls, the calls of their owners echoing in the fading light. For the farmer, it was an ordinary evening in every respect. The village sounds, the golden hues of sunset, the scenes; all were deeply familiar to him.

There was a certain spot just before entering the village where he was accustomed to go down to the canal and wash before heading to his house which was nearby amid a grove of coconut trees. Following his usual habit he climbed down the steep embankment and began his daily ablutions, standing on the shallow step at the edge of the canal and while this was going on he suddenly looked up. Something had caught his attention.  It was the form of something floating down the river.

The waters in this canal were fast-flowing and anything that was caught in the current tended to move along with considerable speed.  It was not uncommon to see a corpse every now and then, as in these village areas, accidents and suicides were rather frequent. Most of the peasants could not swim. Those who slipped or who were pushed or who themselves jumped into the fast flowing waters, seldom ever survived to tell their tales, and, unless snagged along the way by someone or something, their bodies were swiftly carried out and lost to the open sea.

This particular evening, the man in question could just make out, in the fading light, that the corpse heading towards him, was that of a woman.  He caught the flash of golden ornaments amidst the folds of her sari and the strands of her long black hair.
He could see that she would pass quite near him. Just near enough that he could snag her sari with his long bamboo pole with its hooked knife attached to the end. He used this knife during the day to clip branches high up in the trees and these shavings would feed his goats. But now he put it to a very different kind of use and managed to snag the fabric of her sari at the precise moment that she was passing.  Quickly scanning the banks left and right, he saw that no one was in sight, so he drew her in. He recognized the victim, a middle-aged woman from a wealthy family that lived further upstream in the next village.

Suppressing his surprise, he remained as focused as he could determined not to miss this 'golden' opportunity, but nevertheless his hands were trembling. Quickly he began to remove all her golden ornaments. Firstly the earrings, then the bangles, then the nose ring.  She was wearing a lot of gold. Finally he tugged at the chain around her neck at which precise moment a loud and peculiar guttural sound issued from the pallid, lifeless corpse. 'How dare you take my gold', it seemed to utter in strange muffled, gasping tones. The farmer froze and almost passed out with terror. He nearly lost his balance and could have fallen into the turbid waters, but in the next instant he let go of the body and with it all of her gold which fell and tumbled into the torrid brown waters. He scrambled like a mad man crazed with fear, up the side of the embankment and ran, screaming and howling to his house.

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

Thursday, 4 April 2013


There is a saying; 'the world in a grain of sand.'

Yet the profound and simple truth of those words is understood by few.

If only we knew how near and how unspeakably simple the greatest truths of life really are. How much more joyful our lives would be. How quickly we would un complicate things to give ourselves and others ease.

Meditation is a tool which we can use to connect with who and what we really are. In its purest form meditation is effortless, formless and completely un-contrived.

However, in this day and age where form is greatly emphasized, meditation is often turned into something which is entrenched in ideas and expectations, something marketable and branded. There are so many different kinds of meditation in the marketplace now, that it has become more difficult and tiresome than ever before just to get started.

In our times of super, super markets, where one can enter a department store and find fifty varieties of one item and feel quite overwhelmed by the number of choices, so too can it be with the beginnings of our spiritual journey into meditation.

Volume Four in the series; Shades of Awareness

Monday, 11 March 2013

Small Things with Unexpected Consequences

I recently read a quote of H.H. Dalai Lama that made me smile.

'If you think small things don't matter, try spending the night with a mosquito in your room...'

Well I have spent lots of nights with mosquitoes in my rooms so i am very much moved by this simple truth.
However recently i had a different sort of small 'visitor'.

About two years ago, an Indian friend of mine gave me a Christmas gift.
He had obviously taken considerable trouble to choose something that was extra special and when he delivered it i could see how excited and thrilled he was.
He turned the little gift giving ceremony into quite an occasion, turning up at my door at six in the morning! Fortunately i am usually an early riser, so i could take his unannounced arrival in my stride.

He placed a box on the counter with exaggerated care and turned to me with an expression not unlike that of an eager little puppy, all excited and fairly wriggling with anticipation, anxiously watching my every move and expression.

Getting into the mood of things i turned my attention to the brightly wrapped box
and with great care began to unwrap it. Inside i found a, well how to describe it?

A plastic lotus...

The sort of house ornament that one could perhaps only find the likes of in India!
It had two large silver outer petals and inside these were carefully arranged psychedelic pink and green petals in the centre of which were a series of tiny bulbs. In and around the petals were small plastic frogs, birds, bees and butterflies...

He urged me to press a switch on the bottom. Expecting something extra ordinary i was not unprepared for the sudden flashing of lights, however the sound that that little box produced was loud enough to wake the entire three story building. It was an electronic version of some little ditty and there was no volume button. It belted out it's tune while the light bulbs flashed and the insect life bobbed up and down in unison.

Astonishing stuff. I was quite taken aback.

My friend leapt into the air giving it a bit of a punch at the same time, as if to say,
YES and then dissolved into a fit of giggles.

That unforgettable gift had pride of place on my kitchen shelf for some years and then one day recently while i was spring cleaning, i decided it might be time for the 'gift' to grace some one else's home or shrine. My friend happened to be present and was helping me with my clean up, so i suggested he might take it to his Ashram where it could be prominently displayed and enjoyed by many. He agreed readily enough...

Read more in Masters, Mice and Men
Books by the Writer

Monday, 18 February 2013

At the End of Searching

Pearls of Searching

"Truth is not a reward for good behaviour,
nor a prize for passing some test.
It cannot be bought about. 

It is the primary, the unborn, the ancient
source of all that is.
You are eligible because you are,
You need not merit truth.
It is your own.
Just stop running away by running after.
Stand still.
Be quiet."
Nisargadatta Maharaj
We can circle the entire globe ten times over, yet in the end we must acknowledge that 'truth' is right here with us, in this very moment. 
There is no where to go in search of it. 
Not even anything to search for.
Everything that is ever needed, is already present.
There is nothing to be gained and there is nothing to loose.  
Truth is always with us, awaiting our recognition.
It is the simplest, the nearest and the most accessible of all. 

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

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Being Prepared for the Inevitable

Looking Death in the Face. Not with fear but with clarity, readiness, acceptance and joy.
Its not like any of us are going to get out of this alive! There fore we must be ready for the inevitable, whenever it may come...

"Even if death were to fall upon you today like lightning,
  you must be ready to die without sadness and regret,
   without any residue of clinging for what is left behind.
Remaining in the recognition of the absolute view, you
should leave this life like an eagle soaring up into the blue sky."

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

Living each day as if it were out last, gives this moment a freshness, an intensity and a special awareness of what is here and now...

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

Saturday, 2 February 2013


"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about."

Where the mind may hesitate and tremble to venture, the heart can stride towards fearlessly...

We like to think that we make all of our own choices in life, that we are in control and that we are in command.
Our life circumstances may vary greatly from one person to another, but human emotions; the whole gamut of them, can be clearly defined in all their multifarious shades and these, we have all tasted at different times throughout our lives.

Don't we all feel, at some point or another, love or hatred, hope and fear, jealousy, generosity, lust or disgust, anger or approval? Don't we all know the taste of emotions? Whether we were born in Japan or in Timbuktu, America or the North Pole, we all share the commonality of experiencing different moods and feelings.

The outer and inner circumstances of our mental environment govern most of our actions and reactions in life. Every single one of these is based upon the sense, "I am", "I exist". We take this as a given and seldom ever question the source of this inherent belief.
Instead we think of ourselves as 'such and such' from 'so and so' and we make our way through the days of our lives caught up in the dramas associated with our assumed 'identity'.

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

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The Wisdom of Pooh

 Winnie the Pooh
What is it that is always with us?  In this day, this hour, this moment...
The most overlooked and sadly neglected aspect of our existence.

If we did not 'exist' in this moment we could not know any of the moments of our lives.

Such a simple, constant and obvious truth and yet almost always taken completely for granted.

It is only in this moment, right now, that we can come near to 'knowing' who and what we are...

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

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Meaning of Life

"The Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything is....42!"                               
Douglas Adams,  Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

In the late 1970,s the BBC aired a radio program called Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. It was as wacky and eccentric as could be, but also sprinkled with little pearls of wisdom along with truths that were presented in often very humorous ways.

The search for an answer to the 'meaning of life' is a serious business, but if we take ourselves too seriously whilst engaged in it then we are likely to miss one of the central and most crucial points.

The joy and humour that often seems to accompany those who have 'recognized their true nature' is like a perfume that radiates from them.  It arises spontaneously with their realization. Those who have passed through such a crucial juncture in their experience are almost invariably faced with the profound humour inherent in the 'truth'.

Isn't it just so ironic that we can spend our entire life as 'such and such' doing 'so and so', deeply involved in the little life drama surrounding that 'person' we call ourself.  Yet at the end of the day, all of it is utterly meaningless!

There never was a time when we were 'somebody' and yet we have always 'existed'.

'42' is as perfectly apt as any other answer  to the eternal question as to the 'meaning of life'.

Life simply is, in and of itself.

This realization is the basis of peace and joy...

Read more in Masters, Mice and Men
Books by the Writer

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Smile When Your Heart is Breaking

Even in our darkest hours there is cause for hope. The difference between a smiling heart and a breaking one cannot be measured because both of these emotions are inextricably intertwined.

Of course to smile when our heart is breaking is the very last thing we might think of doing. Yet the difference between our smiles and our tears is not as great as it might seem.
In fact they are like the front and back of our  hands;  inseparable. Without one the other could not exist, just as light cannot manifest without the presence of darkness or vice versa...

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

Monday, 12 November 2012

Looking Beyond our Thoughts

Cartoon by Leunig
3 am Wake Up, Leunig

Did you ever wake up in the early hours of the morning and feel that the whole world was resting upon your shoulders. That, no matter which way you turned, everything looked dark and miserable. In those wee hours our minds can be so troubled and full of foreboding thoughts that no matter how we might try to look at it, all seems dark and there is a sense that nothing can ever turn out right.

We fall back into an uneasy slumber and when we waken again later that morning there is a lingering sensation that something awful 'happened' or is about to 'happen', but it is also mixed with a dawning sense of relief. As the sun begins to rise and we pull ourselves together for the coming days work, the premonitions and our previous sense of futility from the night before begin to fade into insignificance and before long these disappear like morning mist, swallowed up by the distractions and concerns of life.

For me, Leunig's wonderful cartoon encapsulates this little scenario most pithily. It is one instance of how we can take our thoughts very seriously in one moment and yet in another  feel very differently. What does this tell us about our minds and the nature of our thoughts?

If we can accustom ourselves to being mindful of our thoughts at least some of the time, we can soon begin to see just how illusory and baseless they actually are. Upon first observation this may not seem very significant but in fact realising this as a fact can completely change the way we react to thoughts and subsequently the way we live our lives...

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

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Footholds in Life

Tree clinging to a rock
Living on the Edge

It felt like a particularly long weekend. Not because of it being an extended one, but because he felt alone.

Alone, was something he understood only too well when  living in a big city. During the week he was working, his mind was preoccupied and busy, but when the weekend came... Where could he go? He felt 'unconnected'. What could he do, if the things that interested most people, just did not interest him?

What was it about being in a place, teeming with millions of other 'beings' and yet feeling utterly isolated, useless and alone?

This was a feeling that had visited him often when he was in that place.

Not only had it visited him on every occasion when he had stayed there for a while, but there had been many times when he had tried to run away from it. He would force himself to stay a while and then dash off like a frightened rabbit back into the folds of mad, vibrant, chaotic life in old 'Mother India'.
That had become his place of refuge. A place where anything and everything seemed possible. A place where he felt constantly, the 'grit' of life in his teeth. The place where 'life' challenged him at every turn and where it was totally and without boundaries, 'in his face'.

There was something about 'getting his hands dirty' that made him feel like he was alive. He used to wonder, 'is there anyone else out there, who feels like this too?'

Read more in Masters, Mice and Men
Books by the Writer

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Ubuntu, 'I Am Because You Are'

"I Am Because of You"

How interdependent and inter connected are we all?
Can any of us exist in this world alone?

Our inter relationship with Everything and Everyone, 
is the very basis and fabric of our existence.
Not a single one of us can live in isolation.
From the air that we breath, to the food that we eat, 
our existence is woven into the whole tapestry of life as an integral and inter dependent fact.

'Ubuntu' is an African word, derived from the Zulu language. It has no direct translation into the English.  However, Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu came close to encapsulating the spirit of it with his words;  'My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in what is yours'...
'A person is a person, through other people'. This idea has its roots in African humanist philosophy which postulates that society is built upon 'common humanity, oneness, you and me both'...

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

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Bridge of the Heart

holding hands

Around the time of my eighteenth birthday i was living in a small hut in a tropical forest in the north of Queensland, Australia. At that time, i had taken it into my head that i needed to 'find myself'.  So i had retired to a small patch of forest just outside the country town of Kuranda, intent on leading a life of meditation and contemplation.

My partner had remained in the town of Cairns.  We generally only met when i came down from the tableland to do a little shopping and take care of some chores from time to time. However, when my birthday arrived he asked me to come down especially, so we could have a meal together and perhaps meet with a few friends to mark the occasion.

Calvin was always very outgoing and made friends easily, and although we had only moved to Queensland a few months previously, he had already gathered a fairly large circle of friends and acquaintances around himself.  I, on the other hand, was much more reticent and besides, my self imposed isolation, at that time, was not very conducive to making new friends.

Therefore, being in a somewhat subdued frame of mind, i was happy to meet with him and a few of his closer acquaintances, but not interested in any sort of large gathering.  However things did not quite turn out as i might have envisioned.

When ever Calvin planned anything, he would get caught up in the spirit of it and soon it would take on much larger proportions and when evening rolled in that day, word had got out that there would be a party on the beach and everyone should bring a little something to eat.  What ever i lacked for in terms of sociability in my younger years, he more than made up for and when he decided on something, it usually came together in a much grander way than i would have imagined.

That evening a large group of us gathered on the brilliant white sands of Half Moon Beach. It just happened to be a full moon and the whole landscape was transformed into a silvery white world. Evanescent waves, shimmering with moonlight, lapped the shores. It was a gorgeous evening. We all sat around sharing our food, talking and laughing.

There would have been about forty people present, of which i knew only a handful. However the atmosphere was light and relaxed and everyone seemed to be having a good time. After the dinner was over, Calvin decided to give a little speech in honor of my birthday and he cracked a few jokes and had everyone laughing and gathered around. Then he turned and asked me to make a wish, something that could be shared with everyone present. I will never know why, but i suddenly had the inspiration that we should all join hands and chant the sacred letter 'om'.

No one objected, so we all took the hand of whoever was next to us and soon we had linked ourselves into a circle and  begun to chant.  At first it was quite faltering and forty voices were all at different pitches, some even a bit dissonant, but as the moments passed, there came a natural adjustment and the tone of our combined chanting began to balance itself and become  harmonious and more and more powerful.

Then something quite extraordinary and unexpected happened.  It was as though our combined forty hearts and voices became completely attuned to one another, as though the people standing there in the circle had become a single, breathing unit. Everybody felt it. As if we were one voice we suddenly stopped singing without anyone having given a sign, and we all stood there enfolded in a most magical blanket of warmth and light. It was something quite tangible...

Read more in Masters, Mice and Men

Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Ungainly Dance of Life

Mouse Frog

'Life is a tale, told by an idiot full of sound and fury, signifying nothing...' Shakespeare.

'Life is a theatre of the absurd.' Shakespeare.

'It used to be the 'theatre of the absurd', now it is so ridiculous
we don't even have a name for it." KVS

I had taken down these quotes one day during a breakfast with KVS at Arunachala, they rather appealed to me, so i filed them away for a rainy day...

I don't remember what bought them up, but i knew they would come in handy, and sure enough, here in the middle of a suburban wilderness of concrete, mortar and speeding motor cars, they reappear on my screen with a vibrancy all their own.

Life is indeed a 'theater of the absurd'...

Read More in Masters, Mice and Men
Books by the Writer

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Ransoming Lives

'Limit yourself to just a few activities and undertake them with all diligence.'

Chadral Rinpoche.

One of the 'activities' that Chadral Rinpoche
undertook with 'all diligence' was and remains the annual fish release in the sacred Indian river, the Ganges, at the point where it finally flows out into the Bay of Bengal and the wide open sea.

He began this project in the 1960,s with little more than an old wooden canoe, a few bucket loads of fish and a couple of helpers. Today, the work is carried on principally, by His wife, Sangyum Karmala and various sponsors and volunteers and is now a large operation involving many helpers, a number of boats and many truck loads of fish which are purchased from the fish farms in and around Kolkata and then released with prayers and auspicious mantras into the milky waters of the great 'Mother Ganga'.

During the 1990,s i used to wonder about the little black pouch that Rinpoche always wore around his waist, He guarded this pouch very carefully as it was stuffed full of various denominations of Indian and Nepal rupee notes which devotees had offered for the purchase and release of fish. He was thoroughly scrupulous about the offerings which came in. Each was assigned to its own purse which denoted a particular cause, but somehow the funds for the 'fish release' were always very abundant.

However this wasn't always the case. When Rinpoche began this project He was only newly arrived as a refugee from Tibet and extremely poor. In those days He was establishing the very first Buddhist Meditation Three Year Retreat Center in India, and as they could not afford to hire many workers, He rolled up his sleeves and took up a shovel, carrying and laboring on the repair work site with everyone else.

Funds were very scarce. One time the monastery caretaker walked into Rinpoche's room with tears in his eyes. He had just discovered that Rinpoche had sold a lovely piece of precious brocade, one of very few items that they had managed to bring with them from Tibet. With these funds He had bought a dial up phone so that He could call Kolkata and order fish and keep tabs on the process for the annual end of year release!

The caretaker was in a state of utter misery a good deal of the time in those days, wondering how on earth they would all be able to eat and carry on the general business of very simple living, but Rinpoche was never concerned and always waved him away with words of solace, telling him that all would be well.

I know that Rinpoche would have given the clothes off his own back in order to keep on releasing fish into the Ganges. In fact He ordered Lolu, the caretaker, to sell some of His scant possessions in order to do just this, on more than one occasion.

I used to watch Rinpoche's hand picked group leave from Salbari every year for this great event, with tears in my eyes, wondering if i would ever have enough merit to be allowed to go with them and help. They all stayed at the house of a Marwari Hindu who had taken a 'shine' to Rinpoche's 'project'.  And Rinpoche, ever mindful and sensitive of others, was always careful never to take more people with Him than was absolutely necessary for the task at hand. He did this so as not to over step or impose upon the of kindness of a generous donor.

One year, however, i decided to take matters into my own hands. I had been up in the Darjeeling hills and had come to know that Rinpoche had arrived in Salbari from Nepal and was already on His way to Kolkata. I did not want to ask for permission and risk being sent back to my hut, so i just packed a few things, went down the hill and caught the night train, turning up on the banks of the Ganges the following morning just as they were all arriving to begin the 'release'...

Read more in Masters, Mice and Men