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The World of Tantra

 

 

It is a faithful presentation of personal experiences of a devoted man who has been throughout his life of 76 years searching for receiving an answer, an understandable logic behind those mystic events before which logic stands spell bound. These personal records-secret, mind boggling, enigmatic—none the less reserve for the reader an unfailing touch of reliance. Man stands here face to face with the mystery which takes the mind above matter, and wonderment gasps although the Hamlet like assurance comes in time to point out confidently to ‘more things between heaven and earth.’ Chapter by chapter, the author unfolds layer after layer the secrets of the tantra world, as he has found himself in, at times to satisfy his quest, at times as just a beam of blessing.

The personal note of these pages, together with the lessons in tantric practices. Some sweet and startling, some horrid and blood-curdling. Make this book an addition to the authentic report of this much maligned but equally intimate world. Those who want to profit and learn of and about what is and what could be held in store by tantra will find The World of Tantra a secret mind of relevant information at first hand.

B. Bhattacharya, born in 1910 in Varanasi, received his first education in traditional ‘toles’ in Sanskrit and further did M.A. (English) from Allahabad University. He spent the best period of his life as an educationist in Guyana and Trinidad (West Indies).

His other works, Saivism and the Phallic World, 2 vols. (1993) and Varanasi Rediscovered (1999), both published by us are well-known. The present work shows the range of his reach in the mystic sphere of tantra.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The World of Tantra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

B. Bhattacharya

 

 

 

 

 

Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ISBN 978-81-215-0968-8

Reprinted 2007, 2014 First published 1988

 

 

 

 

 @Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.

All rights reserved, including those of translation into other languages. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written permission of the publisher

 

 

 

PRINTED IN INDIA

Published by Vikram Jain for

Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.

PO Box 5715, 54 Rani Jhansi Road, New Delhi 110 055, INDIA

www.mrmlbooks.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To

Dr. Stella Abid

Dr. J.H. Maurice

Two adored friends of the Spirit

Lokenath-Sugrim-Madhu-Jeevan-Mohan

Devoted and Beloved ‘Seekers’

from the warm Island of Trinidad to

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contents

Foreword. 7

Preface. 10

1. 15

The Mystic Lady. 15

2. 27

Initiation. 27

3. 49

Areas of Sin. 49

4. 85

A Strange Nocturne. 85

5. 101

Flame Gatherings. 101

6. 128

The Female Factor. 128

7. 158

Voices from the Void. 158

8. 198

A Pack of Four. 198

9. 221

Illusion and Reality. 221

10. 248

The Alter Ego. 248

11. 288

The Virgin and the Holy Family. 288

12. 311

Moth for the Star. 311

Glossary. 362

List of Anecdotes. 366

 

 

 

 

 

Foreword

B. Bhattacharya is a distinguished and internationally renowned scholar of Saivism as well as allied subjects. He is a world-trodder and an adventurer in the areas of knowledge beyond mundane knowledge, the mystic experiences which are on the borderline of light and darkness. No wonder The World of Tantra explores the twilight-language (sandhya-bhasa) which has been so much misinterpreted and misrepresented in India and abroad by half-baked dealers in the exotic wares.

On Tantra, there were several questions asked by the students of philosophy as well as the laymen, which had remained like the proverbal Sphinx’s enigmatic smile or the hieroglyphs of Indus valley seals. They are not only raised and touched, but very sympathetically answered in this eminently readable personalized account of the quest for the Secret Path, very authentically explained. When time stands still and life extends itself to ‘before’ and ‘after’ the writer philosopher, the mindless meditator, the beloved of the gods, carve for themselves a niche for lighting a candle to the joy of the soul.

Mysticism is proverbially Janus-faced. The one looks into the dark regions of the unknown and the occultish, the other looks into the gleaming face of Truth. As the author rightly says: “Truth scaresEven Arjuna got scared.” Friendship, intimacy, love sacrifice, skin-toskin discovery of the natural and the ever-invigorating joy which never stales, nor is consumed like momentary physical passion-are some of the key-words which reduce thinking ‘down from hour to moments.’ Another gem of a quote from this work is “Friendship is a gem, like a gem it is vulgar to display it.” The Tantra uses the terms like MANI or PADMA, not without its hard and soft connotations, its solid and expanding meaningfulness, beyond Time and Space. The physical and the metaphysical do not remain two dichotomies. The sacred and the sensuous melt into one fusion. It is beyond reason and so there is no confusion. It is direct communion and atonement. Shelley’s ‘Love’s philosophy’ dances hand-in-hand with Jalaluddin Rumi’s wave and the ocean mingling. Tagore sang about form and fragrance:

Roop a-panare milaite chaye gandhe

Gandha se chahe roopere rahite jure

Earth is called gandhavati, the perfumed, and the breath and space are colourless. The celebration of five senses and elements conquers Death. Sensations are thus transcended. The pilgrims who are on the march through this difficult terrain, but who, tempted by the grand silver glow of the sunbathed peaks of the horizon, keep on marching

Through challenges, limitations and the risk of being misunderstood. In Tantras there is a special position given to the BHAIRAVI. In Dhanvantaritantra-shiksha she has been described as:

Udyadbhanu-sahasra-kantimaruṇam kshaumam-shiromālikām

“She is red like a thousand morning suns, she is having a red garment, she has a garland of skulls in her neck (the KĀLI in Bengal has 52 skulls as 52 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet-all literal knowledge is symbolically dead-head), whose breasts are blood-smeared, and who has a rosary and book in her hand. The author was fortunate to get his initiation in his young age in Varanasi, from the Lady in Saffron. All other characters in this autobiographical-cum-philosophical book of musings, like Narada, the Dutch girl or the many other female forms is a virtual galaxy of the possibilities of human infatuation and fascination for the wonder that is expressed by Goethe in the last lines of Faust (part II):

Das Ewig Weibliche Zieht uns hinan (the Eternal Female draws us upward)

The philosophy of Tantra practised and propounded properly can serve us thereby, better than western self-hypnosis, psycho-analytical big-feedback and Sheldrake’s ‘memory-pool.’ Human body has such morphogenetic fields of unwrapped energy, which can be released and aroused by the appropriate contact. Old Testament said in Proverbs ‘The way of a man with a maid’ is too wonderful and which one knows not, as one cannot predict the way of the eagle in the air, the way of a serpent upon a rock and the way of a ship in the sea. Thomas Moore wrote-“My only books were woman’s looks” and all they taught him was folly. Actually that impossible she is in Shakespeare’s word lent such grace by Heaven that for Scott, she was ‘a ministering angel’ to the man wreathing in pain and anguish. These yoginis and matrukas had very venerable place in Indian divine worship. Shri-puja in Tantra was a culmination of the same. According to Buddhist beliefs Kamarupa (Assam), Furnagiri (Nepal), Uddiyan (Orissa) and Jalandhar (Punjab) had important yogini-pithas. B. Bhattacharya has referred to his first-hand experiences in these religious sites, and many more.

Historical and archaeological research has brought in the Austric, Scythian and Mongolian strands and elements in the Tantric practices. But the author of this work does not load the book with unnecessary exhibition of erudition and footnotes. What the author attempts is to break through the prejudices and makes the hesitant stand for a while at the closed doors of the divine mystery. Life source (yoni) and culmination of life in Death are viewed with equal detachment and distance. Here fiction and fact, myth and materialism, mingle. Duality is dropped like a veil, and the real and ethereal embrace each other. The Indian science of eroticism (Kamasutra) had described eight kinds of physical embracing postures. But this work has proved that the erotic can be eerie, and the dreadful can be delightful, the elusive could be eternally enthralling and enchanting. Kato Vichitra tumichitrarupini!

The world of tantra has to be traversed step by step, incident by incident, region by region. Here the ordinary men and women assume extraordinary proportions, the innermost is externalised. Saints and angels brush skin with passion, horror and the uncanny. Flesh eating, wine drinking, gnome-like characters come along with mellifluous musicians, miraculous mendicants and magnetic maidens who are chadini (joy forever, the rook of Rådha). That woman-power is Shakti, as well as Nature’s prettiest flower dust. Goldsmith rightly said ‘Women and music could never be dated. The central figure of this work, the Lady in Saffron has such personal charm, grace, wisdom and spirituality that she is the guiding angel for the author. She has lent the author a sensibility which enables him to etch each incident with accuracy and aestheticism yet the intellectual atomsphere-aroma evokes admiration.

This work will be appreciated and read by the specialist and the common reader with equal enthusiasm and interest, as it is written in an intimate vibrant language. Another special feature of this work is that the author handles many incidents and situations in such a delicate manner that though they seem to shock one’s sensibilities and tear off one’s taboos, yet they arise in the reader empathy of a different kind, a mixed feeling of reverence, wonder, fascination, curiosity and sublime sadness all rolled in one flash of intuition. The author has humility, and nowhere does he pose as omniscient or superior, pontified or prejudiced. For the Western reader, particularly obsessed with

The original sin complex and the dictionary of body and mind, this work should come as a balance-setter. The so-called rationalist and radical West led the world into Auschwitz, Atom-Bomb and Aides. Let us now hear to the soft, serene but soothing story of the East which is slowly stretching and spreading (literal etymology of Tantra is ‘to spread’ ‘to weave’) through a new awareness of Tantra and Yoga, Zen and Samadhi.

Much research is needed to see the parallels between the search endocrinological center of gland-secretions and the Shatchakras of the Yoga-Sarra of Patanjali, between the auto-suggestion and practice of Pratyahara, between the cycle of sexual energy and the liberation of the libido on the hand and the kundalini’s slow rise and reaching the upper lobe of the cerebellum and cerebrum through the medulla oblongata. Our Dharana is the psychologist’s concentration. Mythology, the study of the form and structure of plants and animals in the first wholestic concept of science, as propounded in Bhúta Shuddhi in Tantras. Morphic resonance is an analogue to energic resonance inherited by all kinds of life. All living organisations contribute to a collective unconscious or ‘memory pool’ in this cosmos, which survives the death of an individual or decay of a species. Oriental wisdom concentrated on this timelessness in eternal love, the intense innermost moment of forgetfulness of the outer material enlivens “KAMASTADAGRE”... the Upanishad said about creation. Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle quotes Brhadaranayaka, and Carl Jung speaks of Patanjali-not without reason.

I for one, hail this noble work and the noble courage of the author who is a poet and novelist in Bengali and English, besides being a deep student of Indian and Western philosophies, religions and literatures. At such a ripe age of seventy-six he should command such energy to pen such a sustained spiritual study in spontaneous succinct style, speaks volumes about his equipment and erudition, enormous experience and easy expression. He is really blessed by some Tantric (magicmaking) Guru. Guru in Indian tradition can be male or female. Like Chaucer’s description “And gladly would he learn and gladly teach.” Plato had said “Those having torches, will pass on to others.” But the difficulty with the Tantra is that it is more practice than philosophising. It is more silent, than eloquent. More action than word. So let me stop.

11 November 1987                                                                                                                          Prabhakar Machwe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preface

Tantra is an intimate subject; tantra is an open and universal subject. Tantra cannot be narrated; neither described. Tantra is to be communicated, conveyed and shared. Tantra is not story, gossip, hearsay; tantra is history, tradition, primitive. Tantra is personal, practical, empirical; tantra is social, communal, tribal. Tantra is objectivesubjective. Tantra is materialistic idealism; realistic mysticism. Tantra is the Mother, Madonna, Gaea; Tantra is Camuṇḍā, Kāli, Circe, Erzulie.

Because it is extremely difficult to communicate tantric experiences, because an effective language for truthful communication of the mystic nuances of tantra has not yet been forged by man, I was more than reluctant in expressing myself in this complex field, specially in the first person. Accuracy, precision and clarity are always victims of autobiographical representation. In this case too, actual facts are destined to undergo some misrepresentations.

But friends had been insisting on my telling the tale, which, in their estimation, would be of immense benefit to serious students of tantra. I am completely unaware if such is the case; if anyone would indeed be benefited; but it was no longer possible to resist the pressure. Further keeping off seemed useless. Finally I decided to give way.

Remoteness of the events narrated, together with the gray age of the narrator, and the absence from life of some of the characters involved offer me some protective cover, so that I accept the challenge of the undertaking, and settle for the venture. The difficult task of presenting in the first person intimate autobiographical details of incidents and events, which involve others as well, makes the venture delicately embarrassing. But in this I depend entirely on the charity of the reader.

I only hope that the decision of revealing these treasured secrets stands justified by the gains of the seekers, who, I know, always look for assistance from every possible source for achieving success in the world of tantra.

Since the explosion of the atom bomb, particularly since the Vietnam fiasco, an era of nuclear competition has gripped the socalled affluent, aggressive and militant nations. An almost inexplicable pall of mistrust has been driving these self-styled dispensers of world peace to the dangerous borders of cynical desperation.

Queerly enough the inherent disregard reflected by this callousness of the affluent powerful has cast a gloom of utter pessimism over the bright and young minds of their society. Despite the claims of their affluence, power, progress and scientific advance, gradually the growing youth has been getting disenchanted by these tall claims, which they know are nothing more than the empty growls of old hounds bent upon tearing themselves apart.

This is not the place to dissect and analyse the causes of this deplorable malady, which has been engaging the thoughts of social thinkers and philosophers.

But our subject is concerned with this phase of the changing times. Simultaneously with the growth of this despondence and cynicism, a taste for the mystic and the occult has characterised the mental fascination, the spiritual quest and the physical degeneration of our growing stock. A mad craving for some kind of inner freedom (picturesquely expressed by the escapist howling word trip) has overwhelmed the beleagured youth.

He longs for coming into grips with an easy road to escape into the realms of the romantic mysterious, where to be, he hopes, is to forget the problems that stare him in the face.

Amongst other means of escape, he has turned his mind to that proverbial mysticism of the East, which, in times bygone had lured the Greek and Roman youth, until a Dark Age had wiped out the glory that was the Classical Age. Traditionally, with historic precision, whenever the West has looked for spiritual and cultural sustenance, it has looked to the East.

In tune with that historic tradition, the present post-atomic age too, having run into a crisis of spiritual vacuum, looks towards the East for an answer. Not the growth of science and commerce, nor the fantasies of the atomic age and its residual threat to human existence, nor the revolutionary ideas of neo-socialism has been able to contain this zealous search for an instant remedy to the crisis that is about to overwhelm man's mind and body.

Tricksters have tried to pass off as saints and magic men, who through their dubious devices promise quick, hand-to-hand remedies for all such mental and spiritual maladies. A readymade package tour to an escape to total freedom is generally held out by many 'experts' from the East; and history would have to record once again that of all the pretending rogues, the spiritual Tartuffes of society find their victims easy lambs for a senseless slaughter.

Almost all the Western capitals could boast of flourishing spiritual shops where the credulous youth burn in their search for an exclusive world of personal freedom.

This situation has encouraged a spiritual market to flourish unchecked, and flood the guileless minds of the seekers with books, charts, diagrams, tankas, besides the scores of instant gurus who go about trading peace and tranquillity. The more remote, the keener; the more occultish, the hotter; the more eerie, the merrier.

Minds genuinely in search of solace and strength rush towards the promised peaceful goal, where there is love for the world and fulfilment for life; where the elders do not set a double standard, and dupe their juniors, or trick them into going for global wars in the name of peace.

This crisis of the spirit of man has been fully exploited by cheap pedlars of spiritual calm. The spirit of man hits the lowest bottom when consummate tricksters make the agony of the soul a bargaining commodity for personal profit and power.

Tantra, unfortunately, has been one of those chosen commodities on the shelves of the spiritual traders. Books on this very serious and time-honoured mystic way deluge the market; and yet another addition to the heap could hardly be justified. On the face of it the attempt is suspect.

As these thoughts pass through my mind, I feel I have so far rigidly tried not to succumb to the persistent requests from friends to record these experiences. These, they feel, are treasures of a specific nature of data for aspirants who search for first-hand facts.

As I submit to this insistence, (and perhaps also to an author’s neurotic itch for public correspondence) I must sound immediately a note of warning.

Those who are looking for any theoretical guidance in or metaphysical explanations of tantra or tantric events, would find this book entirely disappointing. It does not propose to offer any messianic panacea to the souls in distress, or to the spirit in turmoil.

The World of Tantra does not pretend to reach anything; or preach any message. It does not offer any short-cut map to tranquillity. It entertains no presumptuous claims on the sophistry of the art of the masters, or the wisdom of the philosophers, or the secrets of the wizards and the mystics.

It records in the first person some complex personal experiences of a common seeker along the tantric way, the way of the deadly coil of the female serpent. This book claims for its merit no special kudos. In fact it has nothing to relate except to expose a genuine heart-toheart appreciation of a fellow traveller’s mood of sharing and comparing extraordinary happenings, in the sacred spirit of exchanging experiences with a sympathetic brotherhood met at a spiritual caravanserai.

As such, the reader is requested to lay his trust on the veracity of the narratives. Time and distance must have inevitably driven the details into an area of mist and fog.

Some of those objects, seen through the fog of a fading memory, must look, of course, larger, dimmer, out of proportion or perspective. Never would they appear in their own nascent purity. Some of the incidents have been passed over, some have worn thinner, some have cast longer shadows and deeper colours: but by and large the author has tried his best to keep close to the facts as watched then, and recollected now.

The incidents described are admittedly difficult to be ‘believed’. Indeed, taken at their face value they are likely to pose a challenge to human credulity. If the reader takes them to be nothing better than a yarn, I shall be the least surprised, or hurt. As the narrator, indeed, I feel the least bothered. Because I had watched these, incredible incidents with my own eyes, and because I have heard some of these things with my own ears, I felt obliged to narrate them. It is not for me to offer justifications, or formulate rationalisations for their credibility; neither do I possess the mental or intellectual capacity to do so. That kind of exercise falls within the court of the theosophists and the metaphysicians.

Since I do not attempt to hold a torch to credibility of the narratives, I owe it to my readers that 1 give them the option of discrediting the entire monograph, and declare the exercise as a piece of howling figment. I shall not, therefore, feel offended; neither shall I deem my efforts as casting seeds in a windless desert waste. In narrating them, in bringing these reports to the notice of the deserving, I shall be fulfilling a mission in my life, which is running through its last Jap. I am pretty sure that there are many who have need for such reports of first-hand experiences in a field of enquiry which remains until this day, amidst all this fadistic hullabaloo about ‘a scientific outlook’, an absorbing area of discovery, rediscovery and self-discovery. Tantra and the tantric truth still lies closetted within a mystery room, the keys of which are difficult to come by. The mystery of the unknown has yet some charms left. The most

Profound of the scientific enquiries, ancient and modern, (from Atisa Srijñāna and Nagarjuna to Thales and Empedocles; from Sankara and Abhinavagupta to Faust, Schopenhaur, Blake, Blavatsky, Oliver Lodge and Tagore) have been addressed to the courage of breaking into the closed doors of the world of tantra. To such kindred minds the book might not be entirely useless. Tantra, after all, has been handed down to us through this stream of traditional recordings of events experienced.

Whatever is said and done, in spite of the best attempts, time is bound to take its toll, and certain understatements, together with many overstatements, as also instances of wrong emphasis, rhetorical excess must have embarrassed the narration. A writer is a human being; in spite of his determination to stick to sheer objectivity, his subjective presence is bound to cast shades on the mirror of life’s moving events, specially when the subject itself offers so much details verging on the romantic and the eerie.

Apart from those blemishes in narration, and minus the literary flourishes, what has been stated, incident by incident, chapter by chapter, is nothing but fact, yet alas, not the whole fact. The whole fact shall always remain hidden inside the mystic darkness of the legendary ‘cave’ (nihitam guhāyām); and the charm of tantra would always continue to lure the aspirant towards it, and drive him mad for securing the proverbial ‘golden key’ to the ‘cave of mystery’.

Granted that one favour, viz., acceptance of the factual correctnessof the narration, the reader is assured of the relative truthfulness of the ‘things that happened’ before the eyes of a person who had been trained from his childhood to keep his eyes and ears alert for receiving the flitting messages from the wide extending shores of the mystic continents.

As I said, I attempt to ‘scientific’ or psychological explanations, and I offer none whatsoever, for the events, as they happened, phase by phase, one after the other. The explanations, if any, shall have to remain beyond the reach of those who find themselves in the need of explanations. Scepticism has a dearer price to pay in terms of tranquillity and peace of mind than credulity, specially in an area where faith and submission of ego provides the pass to entry.

Those who would not be convinced by the statements made, are, and I repeat, absolutely free to describe the entire exercise as a legend from the land of nowhere. Let the very serious subject of tantra and the tantric world remain for them and to them a world of fantasy. No star or dog would shed a mournful tear thereby.

The record is for the faithful, the diligent, the tenacious, the determined hunter on the track. It is a mission fulfilled, and does not have to open a chapter on advocacy. If even a single member of this brotherhood finds in these pages some food for further growth, some faint light that could, amidst the surrounding darkness, locate the final destination, the authors shall be generously rewarded.

The reader shall have observed through the pages that the locale of

these incidents have been primarily restricted to the city of Varanasi, and the river Ganges. This is so because most of the incidents recorded happened to have been staged in that city where the author was born, and where he grew into his manhood. Naturally that locale, and the particular period have received a closer attention.

Not that other regions have not been brought into the picture; but by and large the stage has been set around the time, stretched from the second to the end of the fourth decade of this century in the city of Varanasi.

Similar and much more varied incidents have cropped up in the life of the author in course of his travels through countries far-flung around the world: Japan and Mexico, Thailand and Haiti, Cambodia and Jamaica, Greece and Surinam, Trinidad and Peru. It is not yet sure if those strange tales shall ever be told, age being a handicap amongst many other types of hazards.

For the best part of the narrative I have tried to use the direct form of speech. Of course time and space must have often emerged as deterrents to a faithfully photographic reporting. One of the factors that has stood in the way of accurate narration is the language spoken by the correspondents. Most of them used only their native tongue. English has not been spoken even. As such the text has been severely handicapped. But as I try to re-live the time and the events, despite the handicap, I have tried to maintain the warmth of the speech of the actual dramatis personae, which I feel I recall even at this distance of time most vividly, and which sends sparks of intense power and spiritual vibration.

Depending on the actuality of those messages as I vivify them, I have tried my best to maintain the spirit of their talks, and preserve the substantial purity of their contents.

Thus the direct form of speech, wherever used, retain, I believe, their original tang and flavour as well as their verve, urgency, import and life, even if, I dare say, they had to lose in accuracy of vocabulary used, and in the inimitable native simplicity of the manner in which these were originally spoken. Native presentation of the ‘uneducated’ and the unsophisticated is a delight which no literary artifice or craftsmanship could ever dream to capture.

Wherever I have entertained serious doubts about accuracy of direct narration, whether in syntactical arrangements, or in the use of images and idioms, or about those untranslatable native phrases, I have, by keeping close to the contents, as well as to the spirit of presentation, used a reporter’s form, and used my own language and indirect reporting. To this extent some pardonable deviations, possible inaccuracies, and personal touches have inescapably cropped up.

In spite of those liberties taken, I believe, the taste of the brew remains loyal to the palate. Even as this might be so, it must be borne in mind that the book none the less has been a sad loser because the simple dignity, the direct penetration and the touching familiarity of the language of the Lady in Saffron, the biting and incisive humour of the language of Narada, the placid and quiet grandeur of the language of Saint Jiten have most certainly, in the course of narration, lost their genuineness, as does the description of God and God’s greatness by the descriptive language that man uses to contain the uncontainable. The author’s personal lack of a yogic restraint, and his limited knowledge of a foreign tongue must also have deprived the original of its due lustre.

Apart from the failings, some wrong emphasis, some dramatisation, some rhetorical colouring must have flowed into the wide and fast current. These personal shortcomings apart, the reports here presented remain to me facts of life. If the reader is still bent on rejecting the entire exercise as a dreamer’s soliloquy he is welcome to his adjudgement, and perfectly entitled to safeguard his credulity.

In preparing this book I was inspired by a dear friend who is not with me now, but whose name (Ramprasad Jadoonanan) will remain a by-word with every good soul in Trinidad. I am indebted to my friend Sri B.N. Chatterji, introducing me to Sri Devendra Jain. But for the combination of these two I would still be in search of a reliable and responsible publisher. I must acknowledge the labours which my daughter Shrimati Atreyee Cordiers has put graciously in preparing an index, a glossary and checking through the proofs.

B. BHATTACHARYA

New Delhi           2 November 1987

1

The Mystic Lady

A Brahmin Family

My involvement with tantra has not been either theoretical or academic. It could be described as radical. It had to be practical, and down-to-earth natural; to me it was as swimming is to a fish.

For a Brahmin boy born in 1910 in the ancient city of Varanasi, in a Brahminically Sanskritized family, tantrism was the very air he had to breathe. Sanskrit was almost my mother tongue; chants and hymns hummed like scores of pulsating lullabies; rituals and seances were almost periodic occurrences, which I accepted with as much grace and tenderness as is accorded in a Christian family to the mystic customs of Christmas. No questions were asked, no doubts harboured, no replies expected and no explanations appeared to be needed at all. Hunger for interpretation and explanation is more or less a fad of the rational world, which, historically, appears to be a growth of the eighteenth century.

Scepticism is an intellectual exercise indulged in by a world that seeks escape from any kind of authoritarian control. The Hindu world of mystical practice is grounded in the concept of the guru, who by his experience, his personal sincerity, his charm of manner, elicits absolute submission and unquestioning devotion from the initiates, and establishes over them a supremacy almost as absolute and inviolable as that of the Godhead.

The entire world of the boy was permeated with this spirit of complete submission. This was an inevitable growth from that inner hunger which seeks knowledge of the unseen depths indicated by life but not made clear. Life itself is taken to be only a stage in the race for reaching the ultimate truth. That small boy could not have divined the intricate process underlying the mysterious urgency of this kind of search; but the awareness of this mystery, of its reality, of the absolute possibility of some power of exotic nature became, as he grew, a part of his very personality. So it was not strange that he staked all to get to the heart of the thing, and to get to it through some unchartered process, if necessary. Besides, his insistent hunger for knowledge was pervaded also with the spirit of a holy and sanctified aura which was at once compelling and attracting, agreeably mysterious yet vibrant with an inner expectancy which had a language of its own. It was sublimely exclusive, and exclusively sublime. It was both

Personal and communal. Bathed in mystery, it was yet clear as crystal. It was bold as sunrise, awe-inspiring like the peaks of the Himalayas seen through the dream-swathed mantle of moonlight on the snows.

I can still visualize, still sense, still thrill at the recollection. Like John Stuart Mill, I had no childhood.

 

Feasts and Devotions

Probably it has something to do with our way of life. The family was dedicated to the deity, Kali, the Dark Mystic Lady, who is invoked every time there is a special family occasion. And Tara, the prototype of the Oriental Astarte, the Tibetan Sarasvati, the fierce Mother of benign grace, used to be worshipped as a community deity at our doorstep. This was an annual event, which demanded nocturnal dances intensified with rituals, lasting from midnight to sunrise.

The members of the family have their pretty little niches and respective shrines, with their individual asanas. Everyone, male or female, had to offer prayers to the Mother and to Siva, her alter ego “No prayers, no breakfast,” was a rigid rule, from which none was exempt save when severely incapacitated by sickness, or handicapped by menstrual cycles. In such cases, however, their shrines had to b ‘kept alive’ by substitute worshippers. The rules were strict, and were strictly followed without any question. Chants, japa, prāṇāyāma asana, mudra, were just orders of the day.

 

The Lady in Saffron

But I was different. I do not know why, but it was so; and everyone recognised and accepted this difference. Obstinate, said some, precocious remarked others; according to the more liberal, I was determined. I was a naturally misunderstood, wayward, on-his-own child but I sensed that I demanded notice, attention and regard from mo people than were ready to give me such compliments. Always covered by a mighty urge to discover more, seek more, know more, abso more, I could dare experimentations, misadventures, and even a touch of vagabond disregard of form and of tiresome routine. I enjoy being rejected as a hopelessly wayward child. Ah! For the joys protestant solitude and earned loneliness.

Soon this was rewarded.

It was rewarded by the motherly sympathy of a strangely silent lady in saffron who used to ply her bumble trade in the same lane we lived in. In fact, she was one of our closest neighbours. These lanes of Varanasi run parallel to the river Ganges, on which the ancient city is situated like a crescent moon. Varanasi is as old as history, more ancient than Athens or Troy, Peking or Cairo, Damascus or Nineveh. And these lanes still spread out as ancient arteries of an ancient city. History has been flowing down these arteries uninterruptedly for aeons. The thick walls, the narrow passages, the cut-stone monolithic flags that stretch across the lanes (and roof the most ancient underground sewage system in India), the roaming bulls and cows, the naked fakirs and singing minstrels, let loose a stream of life altogether fascinating and intriguing. Nowhere in the world could one set his eyes so casually upon the open pages of such a living encyclopaedia as lies open across these narrow lanes of Varanasi.

And here was situated her humble shop: a one-door tenement with a narrow receding inner passage which stored, besides the sticky, oozy, sooty darkness, a large heap of husky coconuts imported from Bengal.

Apparently, she was a coconut vendor. One could buy pieces of coconut for as little as a quarter-of-a-pennyworth. But she also sold the fibres and husks of the fruit, and strings twisted from the fibre. She herself did the arduous task of ginning and twisting the rough stuff; and I with my boyhood eyes of wonderment kept watching the nimble fingers deftly engaged at what looked to me the most complicated mode of producing something out of almost nothing.

The great wheel of the machine which she drove with her left hand went round and round with droning melody of its own, until gradually, very often, I rested my head in the hook of her ample thigh, and fell asleep. The picture of that very accommodating, plump and pliant body, tall and confident, afforded to my imagination a sense of fortified security..

This Lady in Saffron had been a fascinating mystery to all of us children of the locality. This mystery was in no way solved by the persistent whisperings, at times awesome, at times deferential, at times suspense fully sacrosanct or sanctimonious, whatever one would like to call it. She was head and shoulders above the common grist of humanity.

This distinctiveness was recognisable at every step by the way people discussed her; not always a gossipy way, but always with some amount of regard and wonderment. This indirect homage was accepted by her with supreme equanimity and unconcern. She appeared always to be sunk within her own interior; and her exterior was never within the reckoning of those who came near her, or of those who kept miles away.

She was a living legend of the locality: of Varanasi, I dare say. How else could I comprehend the stream of mothers (at times of fathers too) bringing on certain evenings their sick babies, children, and even their own suffering selves, in solemn disregard of the surroundings, for a few drops of water that she could sprinkle on them? Whenever she entered into such singular rites, she seemed to be transported to some unfathomable depths; and all those who were concerned also appeared to be influenced by the solemnity of her deep abstraction.

But I felt drawn towards her by her sheer charm.

 

Naked Innocence

In those halcyon days of childhood I used to tramp about with no more clothes on me than my birthday suit, which I so loved that I actually struggled with my mother to have ‘garments’ cast away. She, poor darling was naturally embarrassed at such heady freedom in a child of my age; and my playmates were often thrown into perplexity by such antics from a boy who otherwise seemed likeable to most of them.

I had a natural contempt for any cover. I delighted to receive the sun in its hottest glory over my bare skin. I thought that the skin was meant for the kisses of the sun. I liked the air to sweep over me, and I liked the bare earth to roll upon. The grass with its green must be nearest my skin, as, I thought, the roots of the body and those of the grass were kindred.

And water called me, particularly the mighty majestic water of the flowing Ganges. To swim in its sensuous liquidity, smooth and cool, to roll and roll again in its bosom, like the beams of morning on its waves, was sheer delight of ‘skin-music’ reaching the very roots of the nerves. Nothing was more soothing than the naked roll in the waters that were always there to receive me. How very kind was the river. The clothed cannot receive nature in the full. I loved myself as a close neighbour of the sun, the air, the earth and the water.

This kind of closeness to nature, an utter contempt for the standards of the clothed human norm, implanted and fostered in me a type of barefaced boldness that shaped my language, my character and my images. I was rather doubtful of the daredevil reputation my playmates often bestowed upon me; today, in retrospect, I can discover myself as a congenital introvert.

In any case the kind of supposed association with the devil made me, perhaps, interesting to Lady in Saffron. She began to draw me closer and closer. I found myself often closeted with her in that inner part of her humble abode which others could only imagine, but none had ever penetrated.

Through the acceptance of this 'distinguished' lady, I became the elect of the locality; much of that awe and wonder with which she was associated, shadowed me. It appeared as if from nowhere a holy mantle had suddenly fallen on me. In the eyes of the people in general I become the uncommon, the chosen. My companionship was sought by many, even by my elders. I was regarded as the alter ego of the impenetrable mystery that was personified by the Lady in Saffron, she who was known more by her seclusion than by her sociability. Her silence was more familiar to people than was her eloquence. Her eyes spoke more than her tongue. Her frowns were rare, but her smiles were rarer still. Her rejections were endured; but her acceptance surprised all. That inscrutable Lady in Saffron, when studiously avoided all fraternizing and kept herself aloof from all, accepted an unclad urchin of the lanes, who suddenly looked (to the surprised onlookers) much taller, and who felt overwhelmingly blessed.

 

My Tantrik Uncle

It was at this stage that the thing happened.

My uncle was respected as a tantrik. In the practical field of tantra he was regarded a master by all and sundry. He was well known for his extremely straight and decent conduct in personal life; and the meticulously Brahmanical forms that he preserved drew attention from those who knew tantra. One of the greatest scholars and tantra sädhakas of modern India was Mahämahopädhyāya Dr. Gopinath Kaviraj, an internationally recognised savant and tantrik. I have been a witness to his unabashed devotion to this uncle of mine. With his white bouncy curls descending well below the shoulders, and white silky beard to match, my uncle, satin-skinned and light-coloured, looked like an Oriental patriarch materialized from the spirit of the Vedas, or of the Zend Avesta.

My closeness to the Lady in Saffron did not escape his notice. Once he made a significant comment on this growing relationship, a relationship impermissible in those days in a really devout Brahmin family.

Why?

It was her shady past. She was supposed to have belonged to the sisterhood of the Scarlet Letter. But was it certain, or only an assumption built on hearsay? Who was she, really, socially, and speaking with the inescapable subject of caste in mind? What were her antecedents? The Lady in Saffron was not born as a lady in saffron. None is. All females of the Hindu fold are supposed to embrace the marriage sacraments, which are the only sacraments they are exposed to. And if there had been any reason for not falling in line, what could it have been?

Or was there something worse? Had she in fact been married, only to be abandoned and rejected, an outcast?

This, and reflections such as this, forced her to exist as an island in the sea of humanity. She was an extraordinary person with an extraordinary past, which was even more dark and murky than the apartment she lived in. In later life, I discovered, that she had indeed been a “fallen” girl (to me a fallen angel) who had run away from her widowed girlhood with a man of ‘very low caste’, and was later abandoned by him; to toss around for a while in the multitudinous waves of the streets, until she found her footing, and rediscovered herself in the light of her inner glory and grandeur. She had exiled herself in the remoteness and impersonality of the mighty Himalayas, significantly in the eastern frontier of that vastness, finding her last resort in the placid silence of Varanasi.

All this was discovered and reknitted by me from her confidences which she shared a few months before she got ready for her final departure. Surely some of the strands of this history must have been known to my uncle. Hence the pointedness of his comment.

This in itself stands as evidence of the absolute freedom of the tantric life, where there are no restrictions of any kind, but where success and realization is judged by the sheer standard of true achievement. The tantrik has no bars; he admits of none; and he defies all that human society has forged to clamp on man’s essential recognition of his purest identity.

She is not of Us

“It is lucky”, my uncle said, "that you are the favoured one,

Young man; but do not waste either your time, or her love for you. Utilise it. Be grateful to her. Absorb her.”

While I was wondering what could I do to ‘utilise’ my time, he continued, “Her voice is angelic. She sings great hymns. Learn them, and you will learn a divine way of reaching the sublime. Further, you should bear in mind that besides the spiritual poise which everyone notices in her, her expertise in tantric rites and mystic sacraments

Could lead you far. Above all, remember that she is a great scholar in Sanskrit, a fact which very few suspect.” He paused. After a while he resumed, “And if the gods favour, what is started in music could end in treasures that all yogis seek, but few gain.”

“What treasure?”, I at once asked, alert like a wild dog suddenly sensing his quarry.

For a while my uncle did not find words. His eyes searched for something in the sky. Then in a deep and sonorous voice he said, “She is not of us. She belongs to the evermore. She is one with Space and Time. Does that make any sense to you? With her as a pilot across the ocean of strange silences, out in the sphere of heavenly sounds, you two could be riding together, as only few hear or read in books. You have an opportunity. Do not allow it to go waste.”

“One with Space and Time!”

The words started buzzing within my brain. Strange rumblings of things to come disturbed the calm innocence of my years.

Soon it was dark. It was time for the evening prayers. But my mind was away, far away. I was quietly seated across the railings overlooking the majestic river which flowed out of nowhere, and coursed down to nowhere, across time and space.

I was lost within. I felt a touch.

It was my darling sister who always worried on account of my other-worldliness. My absence from the prayers had shocked her. 1 went with her to the shrine as one bemused, and joined the others. Soon the agony of the ritualistic prayers was over; and dinner was eaten.

Fervently I sought to be alone. I wanted to have all time to myself. I found myself again perched on my favourite spot on the railings, watching the dark moving flood, and watching for the inner meaning and significance of that strange phrase that had suddenly thrown me far away from my familiar world: "One with Space and Time!"

Who could tell me what that meant?

 

One with Space and Time

Soon my sister called me to bed.

But rest was not for me. In the seclusion of the dark bedroom where I shared a floor-spread with my sisters and brothers gradually I was getting warmer. The words “One with Space and Time” assumed strange dimensions, kept my eyes wide open, and my mind wide awake. “One with Space and Time!” Words of great import. “I must seek their meaning now,” so I thought, “and not a moment later. I must make a move. My move.” I waited.

Soon I became aware that the world around me, my folks and my room-mates all were asleep. I made sure that I was not watched. The bed bothered me, and I found myself slipping out of it like a cat in the dark.

Stealthily, cautiously, I opened the door, and stepped on the terrace, by then flooded with the liquid grace of the sliver moon.

The quiet Ganges looked a flood of mercury. A strange sensation whispered through my nerves. In the distant, atop the roof of the seven storeyed yellow house, Gopal, a half-crazed tobacconist, was celebrating the wondrous moon-bathed night by playing soft melodies on his reed flute. Deep within me I became aware of a stirring. I was almost on the verge of a discovery.

Who was this Lady in Saffron? She was so little spoken of. Yet the way my uncle had referred to her not only betrayed his deep reverence for her, but by recommending her to me had even rested his confidence in her. I recalled with some amount of concern that he had warned me against taking her for granted, and accepting her too lightly. She appeared to me like a secret mine. She kept covered somehow, within the folds of her soft skin, and those of the saffron cloth, ages and ages of secret knowledge, much as the caves had kept covered the secret treasures that Alladin had sought.

Open Sesame! The magic words. One with Space and Time! Magic words again. And she was my dear auntie, the coconut lady. The cast-away, the shunned, the living monument of hushed references.

Suddenly I became aware of a familiar touch.

My father.

He looked at me, and watched into my eyes. Tears could no longer be kept back. That touch had a special appeal. He would not ask questions. He just waited.

I held his comforting palm in my hands, and all I could do was to give a gentle pressure.

“What disturbs my son?” The gentle voice became one with the soft light around. The flute in the distance played on.

“I don’t know; I feel very disturbed.”

“So you are. So am I, though not very.”

There is something in a moon-washed flowing river, watched from an altitude of a hundred feet or more; some mysterious pull, some mesmeric spell. One watches the flowing glory of light, and gets bemused. This could be called poetry in Nature, the allure of profundity, a peaceful serenity of light reflected on the mind. Was it a summons from the Immense to the Immense?

“You do not care to retire to bed?,” asked the caressing voice. It sounded smooth, soothing, secure as milk.

“Bed?”, I cried. “Oh no. But perhaps you could tell me something.”

“To ease you?”

“To ease me, Dad.”

He watched me. The moon was shining on his silvery locks and the Messianic beard. The skinny frame, so familiar to me, to the touch of my eyes, shone in strange contours. He appeared to have emerged from other times, a patriarch of the lost tribes.

“What is it?”

“The Lady in Saffron; my aunite......” And I stopped. I do not know why..

“What of her?”, he asked, a little intrigued this time. And I could feel the sudden tension.

Even though he was my Dad, he looked and sounded different.

I was sure. He too knew her secret.

After what seemed to be ages I collected myself and said, “She belongs to Space and Time; in fact she is one with Space and Time. Isn’t she?”

That was a mouthful for me to say. And I could feel the old man tense, strung as a sitar-wire about to be played.

There was silence all around, until the gentle voice asked, “Who told you that?”

He knew that I could not have composed these words by myself.

Then there was a gentle hug, followed by a more eloquent and significant touch. Did his eyes too get moist? I was not sure. His looks were dewy with a strange liquid light. He became another father from another world.

Then flowed his familiar-unfamiliar voice, deep, sonorous and confiding.

The Inner Sense

“Your uncle loves you. He is a divine person. What he says is the word of God. There is no like of him in this house; in this world.... He is right. He is true. He has a special concern for you; hence he has. Confided in you. He would not reveal the identity of the Lady to any one else...

“But you are bursting with suspense. You want to know. Now listen. You see that river. Do you? Watch it well. Where from does. It come?”

“From the Himalayas,” I said.

“Have you seen this, or have you only heard of this? Do the Himalayas exist for you, as does this river; or have you just accepted in your imagination a land mass, hilly, huge, forested and snow-capped?” Or is it for you only a line on a map?”

“You mean if I could see the Himalayas as the Himalayas all at one time? Well, no. I was indeed once there with you, and saw the huge hills. But who could see the whole Himalayas all at one time?”

“Where and how then does it exist in your understanding?”

“Understand? Exist?” I murmured. But I did not give up, and continued, “Understanding is existence. Existence is a kind of under—standing...I am getting confused, Dad. I imagine, and it exists. I understand, and it exists.”

“Right. You are not confused. Remain truthful, and you will see everything. Truth is the eye infallible; the third eye. Remain steadily face to face with Truth, and you will capture understanding. You. Shall comprehend...

“Our eyes are not fit, not even competent, to see All. Allness is. An existence in comprehension. If it were not there, it would not be anywhere. Our senses are not equipped to detect All; to comprehend All. Senses are not really meant for undertaking such a task. Senses. Can only work superficially...”

“Superficially? I feel confused. Senses are all to me.”

“Now. Not for ever. With growth and maturity you will realise that what the senses comprehend is not real. Even the beauty of Nature and the world is but superficial. There is a Beauty over and above all this which lies beyond the senses. That is the Real. Understanding is existence. Real existence. That which comprehends is the basic and the most trustworthy sense; not what you regard as senses. When we want to see more we close our eyes... Senses are not enough. To try to comprehend with senses is to try ploughing the running waters of the Ganges with a needle...

"But do not become despondent. God is merciful. God has equipped man with all that life needs, and more; with all that even the supra-life needs and that we do not care for. There is a life within this life. When all life is satisfied, there remains something still unsatisfied. This is the problem with life. You are suffering from a want of satisfaction tonight; and yet you have all that life needs; food, shelter, sleep, company.

"Man is possessed of another and more enduring sense, the sense that awakens with an inner light. And with that Man could see All.. You do not know from where the Ganges comes; you do not know where does the Ganges go. All is 'information', ideas that get 'formed... in. Nothing is 'experience. You do not experience the total Gangesbecause of the limitations of your senses. Senses are a set of apparatus fitted for receiving little facts of our life. We call them information, not experiences. Experiences do not depend on these senses. Experience is something that you alone could receive, and receive beyond the senses. Absorb. It becomes a part of you. You are what you are in experience. If someone hates you, for instance, you feel pain. And in this communication no sense-organ has taken a part. You see? There is another sense antah-karana. You have heard about it. It means 'that which acts within'. Our language is so truthful and sensitive. It does not have to lie...

"This is the inner sense. The antah-karana. The sense that you could only sense, and not find anywhere to see or touch, as you could your eyes, tongue or ears. With sense you said that the Ganges comes from the Himalayas, and that the Ganges goes to the sea. You never see this; yet you are so sure of this. Aren't you? This is your other sense. Men call it reason. This is another apparatus of knowledge; but again like the senses this too is limited. We shall see..."

"Yes, reason; I know reason. But this too is limited...," I parroted.

"Not only reason, even our comprehension suffers from limitations. You know why? We ourselves are limited and incomplete. Man is naturally born incomplete. It is man's destiny to make himself a total man. To become a man in full is his birthright. To be a full man is to fulfil an urgent charge; to grow to a fullness."

I was never more confused. I understood every syllable uttered by that familiar presence, my father, and none else. Yet he appeared and sounded to me so very unfamiliar; and he had been using such strange diction. I did not realise where I lost the thread. But I went on, picked it up again; and got lost again. I was confused. He was another father; a stranger to me.

“I do not understand,” I managed to articulate.

“Yet your reason is there. Because you are open, innocent and outright, because you love and trust me, and because there is an urgent demand deeply disturbing you, you come out flat with the simple confession that you do not understand. There are many who are afraid to say that. Be that as it may, you know now that reason too fails, as eyes and ears do. Reason in children fails like eyes and ears in the old. Nevertheless, failure of these, at one or another time,

Only proves that these are unreliable, and limited in capacity.” “Yes, so they are. So what?”

He smiled, and through a gentle pressure on my shoulder reminded me of my sudden impatience. I could not hold the tension any more. I was hungry for more knowledge.

He continued.

“Never get impatient. Lack of patience is an enemy to realisation. Patience and practice are the two faces of the coin we have to pay for realising unlimited knowledge, or the knowledge of the unlimited...

“You see the Ganges?... You do. So you said a moment back. And then you also said that what you see is not the Ganges, but only a part of it seen at a time, which is also a part of all time. Both time and the Ganges are flitting, and are partially experienced, only one at a time, although both are moving simultaneously. You see how limited is the mechanics of comprehension? The real Ganges, as the real Time, is unlimited. What you call. Its limit is in your mind, or that which fits your reason. Good. But you also know that your mind, as well as your reason suffer from a limit. Both are incomplete and inadequate. Because you are incomplete; but not inadequate. You are quite adequate to develop into a complete being. You are a man. You have this right.”

I appeared to stir again. But he was too fast for me.

“Wait. Do not be impatient. I do not want to confuse you. Hold on, and listen carefully. Sam gacchadhvam...Sam vadadhvam... Sam no manāmsi jäyatām...(Together we proceed, together we speak, together may we develop our minds....The familiar chant from the Upanisad we recited every day at the Sanskrit lessons, assumed a new dimension at this moment, as he sang them under the silent sky.) You too are, as I am, incomplete, but with a difference. You are a Man. As Man you are destined to discover eventually this lost self, and become complete. There is a share of the same Self lying asleep within you. Asleep; not lost. Not absent. Not dead. You could retrieve this, by your efforts. So could I. This is, as I had mentioned before, your birthright. Do you follow? You could realise this Self. You could realise the Total, the ALL. You see the Ganges yonder; but there is a Ganges more real than this known stream of water. That is the source of all water; the Source from where all streams flow, and into which all flows disappear. Remember, and I will not misguide my own son, that you could see, swim, feel, drink and live in that water, that Source. This is a possibility; and you have to accept this. That is why you are a man.”

It had been a long harangue; and throughout I had held my breath, hardly able to move. I was stunned.

But did we not drift?

“I asked with a dogged insistence, “What about auntie?”

“Yes your auntie! Now I could speak about her. She is the one who could, whenever she chooses to do so, live in, swim in, and enjoy that Source. She is in touch with the Immense, that Unlimited in the limited. The hurrying current you call the Ganges is the timeless motion; it is one with Time; and she knows it. She lives in it. She is Time. For her there is no break in time.”

 

The Treasure

Entranced I could just repeat, “She is time!”

“And also Space. She is one with Time and Space! She is continuity. For her there is no death, no birth. She takes her body just as a body, and nothing more. She cares for it as we take care of our living room, our clothes. We enter a room and go out of it. So we enter the world, and go out of it. This has nothing to do with birth and death as we know birth and death. To put on a suit of clothes, or to step out of it has nothing to do with birth and death. She knows that Life is a force, and is never ending. She belongs to the never ending Time, the never ending Life; not to the waves. She belongs to the ocean that never changes. That is in Space and Time. She is it.

“Watch there, the moon. Look at the light she sheds. You could see and spot the moon; but could you spot the light? Yet these are the same. One is the source; and the other is a property, an active purpose, a fulfilment. You cannot pin-point the light. All this is lighted by the moon, reflected. But the light itself cannot be seen unless and until reflected from an object which is not light. Probably all objects are naturally dark, belonging to a world of darkness, to a world of limited ideas. The Unlimited alone is Light. Could you see the light which is not reflected from an object? Look at the space between here and the clouds? Do you see light? But just as you reach the obstruction of the floating clouds, you see the wonderful visions of moonlit clouds floating around.”

“I see; I comprehend; but somehow I get scared to think that all this is not what I see...”

“Scared?”, he smilingly asked. “Do not worry. Such is the scare of learning. Truth scares. Even Arjuna got scared. To understand truth and face it, scares not a few.” “I hate to think that I live in a world of darkness.”

“You do? But you also live in a world of light. In fact you belong to the world of light. We all are the children of Light. Indeed there is no darkness except when we choose to keep ourselves merged in this myth of darkness. That moonlight belongs to the Space. Wherever the Light spreads beyond the objects of the world, wherever the light exists....”

“But Daddy,” involuntarily I had interrupted.

“Yes.”

I shuddered to have disturbed the old man at that intense moment. Perhaps my voice betrayed the timidity at facing the awesome greatness of the revelation. None the less I persisted. “But that would be an immense space.”

“You said it!” This time I could hear his contented chuckle. He looked at me, and I looked at him. There dropped a moment of peace concealed like a drop of pearl from a world of pain. I held to his hand, this time in a firm and confident grip of utter friendship.

But he continued. “She is one with Time and Space. Your uncle was so correct. And you are so lucky that the Lady in Saffron has chosen you for a monopoly, and keeps you so near her.” “Why, Dad?”

“She knows best. Only do not lose that blessed affection she bestows. Deserve it, and preserve it.”

“Perchance I need her,” I sheepishly offered.

“Perchance she needs you. Watch and keep your peace. Personal secrecy is a bond of absolute honour in such friendly relations.”

“It is too much to keep.” I confessed with a voice that sounded like a warning.

“It is not. Friendship is a gem; and like a gem it is vulgar to display it. All precious objects, as all precious feelings, demand secrecy; real worth of such acquisitions is revealed in the joy that our behaviour and our conduct in public relations express. You will need this loyalty. And you shall keep this a secret.”

I kept up this loyalty, and the secret was mine, until she had herself one day released me from the bond. I loved her as a treasure, as a boy’s find.

Then came the day when she asked me to accompany her on a strange journey.

I hardly realised that by following her that day I was entering at the threshold of a world which even fancy finds hard to compose; or reason to decompose. We arrived at a strange temple where I had never been before, although it was so close to our neighbourhood.

And she asked me to be seated on her naked body.

But I am rushing the whole experience.

This should not be done. She was holy, and the experience was sublime.

So, at leisure, another time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

Initiation

 

Where Fires Consume Flesh

It was not the first time that I had gone out with the Lady in Saffron; I frequently had the pleasure of going out with her. In a holy place like Varanasi excuses for such excursions were numerous.

If we were not visiting a newly arrived saint, we could be attending a special musical function, or gone far away to attend a fair. Occasionally it could have been a boat journey to a remote shrine by the river.

One such was situated at the confluence of the Varuna and the Ganges. There stood Adikesava, an ancient place and a Jain temple with some secluded ruins of scattered temples here and there.

Long ago, even before the Greek invasion of India, Kāši, the reputed principality of the epics, had here its capital. The remains of a fort and the citadel walls are still traceable. No wonder that the gods have refused to die with the ruins. Many images still yield to the ploughshares, or to the archaeologist’s spikes.

The sombre and still wilderness is dominated by the ancient crematory grounds on the banks of the wide river. Though not in use now (in preference to the newly extolled Manikarnika) the grounds still become animated by a stray pyre burning by the sleepy stream. The flames reflect and dance on the quiet water as they did in the remote past.

Here lurked a dilapidated tiny shrine of the illustrious Bhairavasaint Dattatreya, the miracles of whose life have been sung over the subcontinent from the times of the epics. In Vama Tantra traditions the names of Vasistha, Parasurama, Dirghatamas etc., have left immortalised history. Speaking of both esoteric and occult doctrines, as well as of their siddhi, Dattatreya ranks with the very highest.

Often I have observed the Lady in Saffron sitting at an asana near the tiny Dattatreya temple. All on a sudden she would grow entirely remote. I would know very little of her. She, I discovered, was not always approachable.

In the evening haze the lonely shrine appeared lonelier, remoter, more sombre and sterile. The quarrelsome cacophony of birds fighting for a nightly perch added to the surrounding grimness a vertical depth. The quiet Varupa placidly submitted to the dominant Ganges; and the evening orange sky looked on. I, a mere boy at the time, would watch my Lady at asana; feebly imitate her posture, thus offering a poor spiritual parody of a serious event. This was indeed a boyish homage paid to the influence of the surroundings on a naturally brooding soul.

In these outings very often a strange and peaceful feeling of contentment dawned on me. Often did I feel what is popularly described as exultation, a sensuous form of supreme delight. Often my younger cousins, and elder sisters tittered mockingly, disbelieving that I could muster enough courage to sit by myself near a crematorium, with only a strange meditating old lady as my companion.

One thing must be made clear.

I never ‘meditated,’ not knowing what exactly it was all about.

Or, to be more precise, no idea of meditation ever came clear to me. Whatever I did at such times in those places could be best described in Cowper’s language: ‘to think down hours to moments.” I just imitated what (it seemed to me) she did. I hardly knew anything about the implications of meditation as I do now.

 

Yoga Shops

Nowadays, wherever I have been, in the West, in the East, I have found people extremely insistent on finding out how to meditate. Prospering in this craze for instant meditation, instant liberation, and instant joy, a caravan of seducers have opened ‘shops’ to put on sale their opportune commodities wrapped up in attractive silver foils of hope and success. Such shops are today as numerous as cinema houses and insurance agencies. These are specially located at those haunts in India where the touring westerners credulously throng, and look for the roadside taste of India on sale. These have also mushroomed in those Western cities which, like prehistoric monsters, suck out of life a people’s faith in joys of life, in dreams of freedom, and in the music of human values. Pressurised by modern conditions of living, they inevitably get frustrated, and fail to know anything about how to fight the situation. They are trapped in the vast prison-house of the mammoth cities of our times. These unfortunate victims seek in spiritual pursuits some form of

Escape from their suffocating existence in these commercial overcrowded dungeons. In our sick civilisation meditation has almost assumed a medical connotation. Meditation has become a fashion, a mania. A tonic? Perhaps.

 

Peace Descending

But I did not care. I did not even know if I did meditate. All I remember clearly is that I used to do what the Lady did, and I liked it to be done in the way she has taught me.

Often I got absorbed. The calm grandeur of a descending evening on the fevered brows of a great populous city gradually sucked me in; the feeling lulled me. If perchance any evening there happened to be a cremation on, the flames added further depth and colour to the evening sky. At times the dying embers, the leftovers from some unknown pyre, breathed with the wafting breeze. My wonderment at the grandeur of the spectacle of life got me involved in the embracing call of the place. Often I broke into melodies.

That peace descending from the Varanasi-sky by the confluence of the Varuna and the Ganges offered a blanket-feeling of contentment. Gradually, the world became totally obliterated; and a supreme sense of fullness kept consciousness at a zenith. Peace descended as it does, in the language of Masefield, 'in the Isle of Innisfree'; often I broke into the Rgvedic verse-"The winds are sweet; the waters are sweet; the green earth is sweet; sweet are the night and the dawn; sweet are the dusts; our father in heaven is sweet; sweet are the trees, the sun and the cattle."

 

Zero Point in Mind

Was this meditation? Judging by the results, it could not have been anything else. In the most ancient and authoritative treatise on Yoga (Yoga Sutra of Patanjali) as well as in the thoughts contained in the Vedanta and in the Upanisads, the one point lauded over others, endlessly, emphasises on the realisation of contentment. A kind of satisfying joy alone has been the hallmark of a successful meditative exercise.

But I wonder today what exactly did I meditate on. What did I think upon? What did I concentrate on? The Lady never taught me anything; I never bothered to ask. Yet no mind could ever be set on a zero point. Mind can never be entirely naturalised. It has something to adhere to; it has to keep itself engaged. The trick lies in compelling it to think of a single, specific, clearly defined item of thought: in other words it has to concentrate its operation on a central point, an idea. Without that, there could be no meditation.

 

What to Meditate on?

Then, what did I really meditate on? What was it? Often the bantering cackles of my cousins and sisters dug through my patience. Or, was it impatience? They mocked at my weakness for meditating. “What is it you think you do? You are a fraud,” they bantered. So I ventured to ask. I could only ask the one who, I supposed, would indulge me, and who appeared to me as the best equipped person to provide me with a satisfying answer. The Lady in Saffron would neither mock, nor deceive.

 

The Light from Other Spheres

My first attempt at this enquiry on meditation evoked from her the familiar smile. Apparently, she did not have the least idea about what I meditated on, nor what kept me engrossingly occupied. “But one thing I am certain about,” she said, “that in meditation the mind should be kept occupied, and that with a single clear thought. If it were more than one, then you could not have felt the completeness of joy, which not only you say that you get, but which you actually show by your exuberance.

“Everybody speaks of the remarkable beams of your eyes, your pleasant relaxed looks, your friendly smiles. Perfect joy is not something one could keep hidden. The darkest night would show the tiniest lamp. Fragrance announces itself to the world around without caring if it is noticed. I notice it; and I could assure you that others notice it too. They notice that you are a very happy child; you are absorbed within yourself. To attain even to this stage is by itself something remarkable in a boy at your age. It is difficult. It is a fact that ‘feeling inwards’ has become a natural life-style for you.”

A yogi’s demeanour is unique. ‘He glows with inner light,’ says the Gitä; ‘walks with inward glory crowned,’ says Wordsworth.

I was not convinced. I was not even elated. I was hungering. The hungry is difficult to be kept at bay. The hungry is difficult to be pleased on chaff. Was she avoiding a direct reply? She sensed my doubts. "You do not believe me. Do you?," She asked. I was glum and quiet.

"All right, you don't. If so, then tell me what do you think on? Could you pin-point it?"

This time I was busy searching for a correct reply.

You must be thinking of something; something total...something absorbing and liked...something once clung to, is difficult to get separated from. Recall what is it? It cannot be something casual. It cannot be something that changes from day to day. It has to be one, single, constant, loved and adored subject. Now, what is it in your case? What could it be? Recall; recall and you shall hit upon it.”

 

Love Plants New Meaning to Life

She was right. I had come to know what it was. It flashed through me. It could not be any other thing but the one it was.

“What is it?” came the insistent question. “I see that you have located it. Now, what is it? Tell me. Out. No hesitation.”

I had no immediate answer; but I knew what I needed to say.

I took all courage and declared, “You! I love you...I love to watch you absorbed in delight.”

“I love you too, dear one,” she said. And with a soft, deep, intimately confiding embrace she appeared to draw a curtain over the topic.

She did; I did not. “How could I get absorbed,” I enquired, “even in loving you without knowing meditation? My cousins tell me without a guru it is impossible to meditate.”

I hardly realised that I was inadvertently posing my ‘book learning.” i.e., my pickings from the gossips and the hearsay of Varanasi; but the Lady was quick to sense it.

“Is that so?” She wondered with her mock voice, her mockingly wide eyes becoming wider. (How I, even at this age, recollect and visualise the incidents that happened sixty-five years ago, or, was it yesterday?)

“Then how was it,” she continued, as was her wont, in the familiar manner of a myth narrator, “that the boy Dhruva, who had never seen a book, never learnt an alphabet, never met a guru, could still achieve perfect peace, and see God? And what about the boy Sukadeva?”

“And Kapila and Märkandeya...,” I added with a faith that inspired me to add. “You love me,” she continued,

"You watch me with love; and love gives a new eye to see, and you see in me what others see not. Love plants new meaning to life. Love makes you adhere to me as if you could not do otherwise. Love makes your attention sharp-pointed and keen; nothing else can or could interfere. You must realise the meaning of ‘a point in this context.

“A point is where there is no place for two. It is just one. As soon as it is two, not to speak of more, it is not a point. The thought of any ‘other’ in the field of love, as in the field of yogic concentration is a grievous trespass.”

As she continued, the voice was gaining in depth and strength. There was a change. A transformation was taking place. That voice always cast a spell over me; from those intensely articulated series of cadenced sentences, pouring like a cascade of love, flowing and covering me, she soon broke into one of those captivating songs:

How much I have been searching for you,

Here and there;

All the while you had been just here,

Within me...

These songs always intrigued me. As she sang, like an angel she appeared to float on the wings of her melody, away into regions unknown to me.

I shall forget all sorrow;

And bow in defeat;

Without complaint, without tears;

I shall gladly keep to the corner

Allotted to me in this life;

Only be kind,

And keep ajar just one door,

So that at the end of the journey

I could hopefully expect

A communion...

And soon I used to join her. And soon I used to forget myself. I ran to her for the coveted embrace at the end of the song. She held me close to her breasts.

 

 

Words, Words

Time and again she would remind me of this power of devotion culminating in submission, which is the supreme expression of Love.

There is nothing that love would not dare; nothing that love could not achieve; nothing that love would not abandon. In true love there is no feeling of sacrifice, sin, crime, or even of atonement. It is, she used to emphasise, a fulfilment of a divine sort. Such love causes no hunger; and seeks no result. It leaves no regret or sense of frustration behind. The more such love is given, the more a soul becomes liberated.

Gradually this kind of love overflows the person, and covers ultimately the whole known universe, nay even the unknown cosmos, even if we do not become aware of the change. Love makes a saint of a man. Love transforms flesh into a divine offering.

But all these, again, are words, words.

 

Samagram Pravi liyaté

To feel was different: I felt the vibrations,-her vibrations. She embraced me; and from one such embrace I could realise what she was trying to communicate. It was no mere communication, but a total transmission, a kind of pouring out to fill an empty vessel. That divine outpouring kept on ringing within me, and a voice kept urging, “Take! Take! Take all that I have. Multiply; justify; deify! Become liberated; liberate me. Let nothing hinder; let nothing bar. What is in me, is all yours!”

It is quite impossible to describe that insistent mute appeal; the eloquence of that all abandoning deep embrace. It was language without utterance; it was fire without movement. Not a hair stirred; not a glance flashed. With eyes closed, we felt submerged in a sea of tranquillity. A thrill of joy electrified the being. It was like writing a poem across a dream-laden sky with words not known to human tongue. “Samagram praviliyaté (there is a total oblivion in love)”, says the Gita,

I have tasted that kind of love. And having tasted that kind of love, nothing more is worthy of having. “Nothing could ever add more to that. And as the mind gets steadied at that state, no feeling of grief or sorrow, nay, not even of the severest kind, could ever penetrate into that supreme composure.”-(Upanisad) The language of ‘yoga’ and samadhi, of the apex of transcendental meditation (TM) describes this in a hundred similes, in a hundred poems, in a hundred ways. For language gets baffled to hand out a full and true description; the very mind is at standstill.

True it is that to the uninitiated these outbursts of description appear as mere words, words, words! What else?

One could not expect more from cynics, those pillars of wisdom who have been deprived of the simple joys of life. Those who live in the deserts of closed harems, have no alternative but to drive delight from geometrically drawn flowers and foliage. Those who seek the real delight must find it in the openness of Life. “If the deeps so fascinate you, tarry not, nor stumble; dive!” The seeming excess of words in itself turns the mind of the sceptic against its truth. It is a case of serving sweets to the spiritually diabetic. The initiated alone can appreciate the exulting spells of mystic delight.

 

Voyage to Innisfree

As I am on this topic, indulge me, dear reader, to recall here the entire philosophy of Love as expounded by her. I spent my entire growing youth in her company, and in a very close association. What I try to set forth here is what she had taught me carefully, diligently over those years.

Today I could unhesitatingly say that there is not and cannot be any tantra without this flame swept message of love. The Lover and the Beloved, the Two in One and the One in Two, the Object-Subject turned into a purely subjective realization, forms the very basis of tantra.

Only idiots and charlatans view such idolatrous love as a blind submission of the foolish to some brass, clay, stone or wooden image. They even dare view this as hysteria, and reject such relationship as the expression of an imbalanced sex life. The compact relationship that the devotee gradually builds up through his single-minded devotion when warmed with the insistence and irresistibility of a loving impulse, turns his love into a spiritual power. It transmutes his emotional being to a purified state of ecstasy without body, music without words. This alone leads to the famed and coveted road to liberation, of which the wise speak, and which the suffering crave for. It is that utter freedom which liberates the body and the agony of flesh from the slavery and servitude of the senses. That terrible agony of flesh, which burns without satiety, and corrodes without repair gets cooled, and reaches a point of satiation at the touch of true love.

If there is a bliss to be conquered through effort, the way lies through this basic truth in tantra. That way alone the long long voyage navigates through the open sea of mystic realization, and reaches ultimately the destined Isle of Innisfree. The paradise lost to man could also be ‘regained’ through this understanding of, what is glibly termed as, tantra, as well as of the practice which is often sneered at as tantrism!

 

 

Idols and Images

But to continue with this love for idols, and images... Images have often been derided by a section of ‘religion vendors’. Images have been destroyed over the centuries, and over the length and breadth of cultures all over the world: Egypt, Mexico, Arabia, Syria, Greece, Rome, India, Indo-China, Siam, Java, name it, and images have been eradicated (!) from the pagan world, from the ball of the infidels; but images have been broken in Christian worlds too, and by Christians. The atrocities perpetrated in Holland, Belgium, France, Germany, in Rome itself, in the name of a truer and purer religion have turned pages of history into records of human agony, misery, humiliation and degradation. And to what end? Images and idols get broken; and like the legendary Sphinx and salamander survive their ashes, and rise up again, and in multitudes, with added vitality.

It is not the place to go into details of the political economy and commercial motivations of these organised carnages against the emotional creations of the peoples of different lands and times. But it is a moot question to be considered: why have men been found to create their own gods, and bring at their feet the best of their lives? Not wealth and freedom alone, but objects held far more dear than any worldly possession or interest. Why? Because even prior to Moses sacrifices, even of one’s own children, were regarded as a normal way of expressing adoration and thanks.

Why? Why the obviously illogical, the blatantly superstitious, the openly material forms of the various gods and goddesses do not end their tenure? Why and how do they get revived? Why? There must surely be some psychological justification for such ‘senseless’ devotion. These gods made of stone and wood, clay and brass must be fulfilling some inner need of man, without filling which man appears to remain unfulfilled.

Let us not go into the oft-beaten logic of explaining what is a true god, and what constitutes a servile submission to a world of superstition mesmerised by the magic wands of the clever priests and their skilful conspiracy.

Arguments like that have been droning into the ears of history ever so long. No more of that, in this context. I have seen in the forests of Mexico aboriginal tribals stealing their footsteps to the secret water holes (Cenoté) where naked they perform their rites even now. True they have given up human sacrifice and cannibalism; but in the churches of Mexico, Guatemala (in the entire Amerindian world, known as Latin America) I have seen strings and strings of human limbs decorating the well lighted and well dressed waxen cadavers of a Christ lying in state, presumably before the burial. All these human limbs have been ‘offered’ to god! The devout have sacrificed, and the church has accepted. This has been going on till today. Yet there is a difference, and that saves grace! The difference is that these limbs are made by goldsmiths, and the offerings mean tons of gold and silver to the coffers of an intelligent church. So the old wine continues to be served in new gold cups, and the church flourishes.

It is useless to criticise the fraud and hypocrisy underlying this world of religion, and the minds of the prelates, who conduct religions. That is not what we have set out here for; we want to investigate that passion in man, which all over the world, from time immemorial, stakes and risks his utmost in order to create images, and bring the devout heart all out for paying to their creation their sincerest homage.

Granted this is mistaken; granted that this should be corrected. But could wrong have such a long lease of life? Could it outlive centuries of repression, torture, fire and brimstone? How and why we find this homage paid in every known human society? Is there some pocket of human misery which is assuaged by the creation of such gods who cannot stand the glare of logic? How could they have outlived the glare? It is a fact that they have. I have found priests singing the praises of saints after saints, taking the faithful down the dark corridors along the various lighted (and suitably decorated) niches that adorn the churches. Each of the saints is supposed to hold ‘very special powers’ for bringing a ‘special’ brand of relief to human ills.

Why this persistence against so much odds?

Images have been derided by the intelligent, the fashionable, the logical, the progressive. Sophistication blushes to admit them; and intellectuals sneer at them, and shout ‘primitive!’ Rarely the critics make a sympathetic study of the human element involved in this persistence. They themselves appear to be as much forced, regimented and/or brainwashed as those whom they brazenly criticise. This is the greatest injustice; the highest illogicality. Claims of intellectualism and progressiveness based on opinionated clichés alone inflict an insult on intellect’s admitted virtues of honesty and fairplay. These critics are themselves sordidly regimented in their mind, and thoroughly brainwashed; but they do not realise it, much less admit so. Understanding connotes sympathy.

 

Faith A Victim of Religion

Everyone knows that there cannot be any good in regimentation of ideas and thoughts. Man is different from other animals; but even animals pause to think, distinguish, select and remember. They are atavistically more sensitive, reflexively more alert than the human beings. Thinking in itself does not distinguish man as a superior product of nature in the animal world. It is intellection, rationality, and a strange combination of reason and emotion that makes man different from other animals.

To be regimented in mind is to lose the quality of the mind to think independently. In other words, this is the same as to be demented, at least partially; or ‘brainwashed’, if one prefers the current politically motivated phrase. The mind of such a man has been pressurised into a particular mould of thinking which was not of his choice. Such a mind has been given a specified shape, like a lump of steel passing through the torture from some hydraulic pressure. This inflicted shape denies man of his supreme right of thinking for himself. The fundamental difference between the processes of democracy and totalitarianism lies in this curse of regimentation. This phenomenon is not new to modern politics, or to the growing commercial economics. It is the religious institutions which really invented and applied it with success. Faith is a victim of religion; and mind is a victim of totalitarian politics

 

 

Call of Religion

Religion and religious systems have been exploited to enforce and dictate a type of divine regimentation which credulous devotees hardly ever suspect. All they are concerned with is to find refuge in some form of mental peace by submitting to a professed religious form.

Religion has wielded from time immemorial an influence in the formation of human society hardly excelled by any other single social inducement. Hunger is perhaps the most compelling form of inducement which acts as the most powerful drive in any animal society, not excluding the human. And next to that brute and primal compulsion is the tremendous drive coming from the calls of sex. Apart from these two animal impulses, there is no other factor

That has influenced the human society (exclusively), and generated as much sensitive emotionalism, creative dedication and pious fervour as the religious attitude of man. Religion has thus been called ‘the hunger of the soul.’ Men aware of this hunger seek to satisfy their souls by creating music, poetry and the divine arts. For the artists and for art, the divine and the secular are not held as different. Art is the religion of the artist; and a glow of aesthetic satisfaction appears to him as divine grace. Indeed the creative arts have often been described as ‘Gifts of the Divine.’ Art has been identified with the skill of creation itself; artists have been regarded as divinely inspired by a message of their own. God has often been imaged (as in the Veda as the supreme perfect artist.

Art would not have been thus extolled unless, like religion, it were a soul-filling involvement.

No animal except man creates art as art, with a voluptuary’s conscious satisfaction of perfect consummation. The subjective delight in producing a thing of art does not differ from the satisfaction of offering a filling touching prayer.

 

Organised Transgression of Conscience

As I am looking at the emotional and creative contents in religion, I am not unaware of the fact that the area of human spirit and conscience has also been vitiated by the poisonous greed of vested interest. Much fraudulent hypocrisy and intimidating superstition has tarnished the faith, tainted the conscience, and stained believers’ loyalty. Fire, blood and perverse cruelty all at a time have tested the faithful’s loyalty. An entire directory of humbug has been enforced on the simple minded with the aid of political systems abetted by military might. Laws enacted by vested interest have been applied to judge the conscience of the free thinker. Honest protestations against indecency, cries of inhumanity and tyranny inherent in the inhuman process have been suppressed with sadistic indifference, irreverence and finesse.

But all these demands on social patterns and individual liberty were caused, not by religion or spirituality, neither by any inherent defect, lack of logic, or any unethical content in religion; but because of vested self interest, regimented impositions, institutionalised authority, and unrestricted exploitation of the credulity of the masses.

In short, after realising the fact that religion’s comforting wing is an essentially needed factor in human growth, institutionalised dictatorships heartlessly monopolised this ultimate refuge that man, by his own suffering, had finally discovered for his protection against an insufferable emotional agony, and spiritual vacuum. The vicious grip of institutionalised authority held human conscience by its throat with the sole objective of exploitation and domination. Religiosity does not fail man.

Such forms of regimented and institutionalised religions, instead of inspiring man towards progress and liberation kept man clamped in abject spiritual fetters of penury in this life, and fear for the next.

Some great souls like the Buddha, Jesus, Confucius attempted to push the wheel on to the right track; but so powerful was the conspiracy of the system in power, that eventually their teachings got circumvented, and the institutions ‘undid’ the good the reforms did, and re-established with greater vigour their vicious trade.

 

Love for the Beyond

The sad and perverse chapter in the history of man’s conquest of the Rights of Conscience does in no way belittle the role of true religion in bringing the much wanted peace, and personal solace in the social order. Neither does it in any way deprive religion of the glorious role it has played through its excellent spiritual and emotional content. Besides the poetry of words, music and colour no other craving of man has evoked so much dedicated effusion of the charm of human feeling, of the intensity of human emotion as this love for the beyond, known as religion.

It must be admitted to the credit of human heart, and its spiritual determination that in spite of the threats and failures of institutionalised religions man has preserved the sanctity of individual freedom in responding to his inner spirit’s call, and registered his success in this struggle by exposing his emotional and imaginative feelings through religion of art, and art of religion.

 

True Religion Discovers Its God

True religion has proved to be a source of supreme subjective delight. It comforts and sustains man at times of distress and grief, loss and humiliation.

To barter away this tremendous right and powerful means of sublimating the clumsy business of living, by allowing our efforts to be dictated, is to act contrarily to the divine design. Like every other prized freedom, man also must cherish his freedom to accept a god of his choice, a god responding to the peculiar needs of his personal agony.

As such man is an exclusive individual in his pains, miseries, complaints, distresses, diseases and losses. Each man has to discover his own way of meeting the challenge he faces, and the situation that overwhelms him. In happiness the soul of man may become one with the seas and the sky; but in utter pain he is an island unto himself.

That which most answers his needs, that which responds by radiating intimate and confiding solace, is a man’s own distinctive religion. Thus he creates and finds his own god.

As the artist’s soul gradually discovers the medium through which he can best express himself, it would appear to be the height of foolish affrontary to command creative artists to accept an imposed canon or pattern of expression. Similarly, it would be unthinkable to impose a standard god on the famished broken soul of an individual, who is in search of his ‘answering’ god..

The body itself is a divine church; the soul, a shrine; realisation is the lamp, and what is retained there, in the sanctum sanctorum is his dearest God, his own Ideal. This is what tantra supports, believes, and preaches. This explains why in the tantra system there are so many deities, so many dhyanas and mudrás. Each aspirant under a threat of spiritual and emotional pressure creates his own deity, and prostrates before the ideal so crystallised. This is why the true tantric mind sings:

I watch Thee, and Thou watcheth me;

Let no other interfere between us.

This is the underlying concept of Hindu and tantric images. Intolerant iconoclasts could spare their outbursts by calmly understanding this point of view. As many individuals, as many individual ideas; as many ideas, as many ideals; as many ideals, as many dhyanas; as many dhyanas, as many murtis (images). Images are not idols. Deprived of their eternal values that are attributes of the divine presence, idols are mere lumps that man creates to raise up on a false pedestal.

We have heard of such idols: Alexander and Mardoch; Helen, Laila and Cleopatra; Caligula’s horse, the Swastika of Hitler and the signs of the Zodiac. Each for a time has fascinated. The world of fascination still holds within its compass many such idols. Images that give to religions of the soul ‘a local habitation and a name’ must rise above the spell of mere fascination, and become one with the Soul.

Tantric images differ from mood to mood; from urge to urge; need to need; even from occasion to occasion. From the fierce forms of Chamunda, Kali and Nila Sarasvati to the milder forms of Laksmi, Sarada and Prajna-Paramita; from Visnu, the sun-god, to Varuna, the water-god, and Siva, the quiet static material image of absolute neutrality, every image is imbued with a subjective ideal, which if imaged successfully, holds the devotee’s straying attention, and brings about the coveted concentration. This is just a method of setting the mind free of all inhibited pre-thoughts, and neutralising the world of the senses. The liberated alone are able to drive their consciousness inward. To them alone revelation becomes an achievement.

 

Images Bring Their Own Solace

This is the underlying secret of the many images of the tantriks, of the many ideals that aspirants nurse and adore. Each image represents an aspirant’s soul-hunger congealed into a tangible form, so that he can establish a personal and rational bond between the outer form and the inner hunger.

This relationship knowing no better description, he emotively terms a Father, a Mother, even a Wife or, better still, an alter ego.

Even the lover who wants to reach the divine liberation, identification of the absolute type, must determine the kind of love that appeals to him the most; responds to his inner personality the most. There need never be any hesitation in accepting that which fits, suits and answers an inner hunger.

In selecting his own deity an aspirant could be confused; but he could always seek his guidance from a master-mind, or wait, strive, and discover gradually by himself what he needs.

Obviously, the accessibility of the expertise of a master-mind is a blessing to the enquirer and the aspirant. Arranged marriages as a system is a social extension of this method of expertise-guidance in spiritual field, which accepts at every turn of life the importance of having a guru. Those who do not appreciate the presence of a guru, cannot appreciate the spirit of guidance in marriage ties.

Let us not get lost to the sight of the fact that what is being discussed here is an entirely subjective quest, involving a subjective response. The response could not be objective. Poetry cannot be judged by weightage, binding or illustrations of a book of poems. If there is poetry in it, it would be self-reflective without the outward trammels that the publisher, or the binder might have bestowed on its production as skilful stage-managers.

 

Intellectual Disregard of Tantra

Often the so-called intellectuals view these images without the sympathising genius of that inspiration which a soul, struck with the inner hunger alone, could appreciate. Because these superfluous critics of tantra images and the tantric rites are more often than not regarded as ‘educated and skilful,’ what they opine on such forbidden mater (matter falling out of the orbit of their personal know-how) are easy to be misunderstood as valuable expert observations. These educated cynics, out of sheer frustration (traceable to bad health, shady upbringing, economic cramps, sex complexes etc.) parade their sophisticated writings under the cover of erudition, and make fun of the system, without ever attempting to go deeper into the subject. It often turns out to be a case of a dyspeptic person turned into a dietician.

Tantra, unfortunately, is not a subject that could be studied from books alone. It would be as dull an exercise in futility as the study of chemistry and physics without a laboratory, or a study of astronomy without ever looking at a star. To be knowledgeable in tantra is to get into it, and practise it with not only heart and soul, but with body too; for much of tantra is just rigour, much more than mere denial; but most of it is self-analysis, and a deep understanding of the self. Tantra educates a person how to fight and win in the battle of nerve, body and mind.

 

 

Tantra: A Negative Opinion

But the intellectual cynics, mostly unaccustomed to the real issues the place of subjective power of Love in achieving a total transcendence, find it a pleasant escapade to make run of this demanding subject. Tantra is for the vira, the strong-hearted person. The critics base their opinion on outward and superfluous observation, and what confirm their ill-based opinion are the numerous instances of the fake and fraudulent tantriks, who, like poetasters, by their total failure, only prove the importance and infallibility of real tantra. No empty claims could survive five thousand years of history. Generalisations based on disillusionments are bound to be negative in spirit, and inaccurate in fact.

Tantra is associated by these prophets of doom with charlatanism, debauchery, witchery, sorcerism and various forms of social crimes, (We shall describe some of these ‘crimes’ at a later stage.) From drug addicts to alchoholics, from perverts to maniacs all open their clubs under the undefined umbrella of yoga and tantra. Tantra has become an easy escape for the degenerate. But real tantra engages itself, heart and soul, with the submission of all sensuous emotions to the subjective cause of discovering the true identity of the Self.

Neutralisation of all selfish emotive excesses through the complete dedication of the ego-bound self to the unattached liberated Self has been the aim of tantra. All rites evolved by tantra are but graded exercises for achieving this end. Cultivation of the impersonal sublime Love is yet another and sweeter process applied to the same end. The self offers the self at the feet of sublime Love.

Because of this, tantric treatises use copiously the imagery of Love, sex, and even of erotic pleasure; that is, it uses the language most easily understandable by man in functioning a ‘union’; union of the mundane self with the unique sublime Self.*

By using sex-images in tantra expositions and hymnals two psychological purposes are served by tantra writers: (1) it dulls the erotic in unification, and wears out the effect of word-images through constant familiarity; (2) by imaging the erotically motivated pictures, tantra attempts to project a sublimated approach of the aspirant to the sex milieu. It is good to repeat here that tantra is meant only for the strong-minded positivist.

 

 

Adoration of the Human Body

Both body and senses are offered as items of sacrifice at the altar of aroused consciousness. The sublime voluptuaries alone could consummate the thrill of this pleasure. Under the spell of the power of this aroused consciousness (chaitanya or the chit power of kundalini) they delight in the magic of creation. They are able to display with power their respective creative expressions, and leave to posterity such things of art as have been left by person like Shakespeare and Tagore, Leonardo and Pythagoras, Michaelangelo and Rembrandt, Sappho and

“For further treatment of the use of Eros in producing spiritual transcendence please refer to my Saivism and the Phallic World.

Meera, Beethoven and Ravi Shankar, all of them master voluptuaries, and master-artists in their own fields.

The cynical and discouraging remarks and reviews of sophists, who never bothered to take a sip of the drink before attesting the brew, cannot rob the value of the sublime gifts of these, who had acquired all they did through a type of tantra yoga about which they themselves could have been least aware. Sadhana, or the skill of applica tion, could be cultivated in a variety of ways. Yoga is to acquire that skill.

Many of them have actually been engaged in mystic rites and practices. Many of them had been arch voluptuaries. They turned the adoration and consummation of the wonderful and lively medium of the body and its senses into a vibrant material. They reached sublime truths through using body as a medium, and their creations were transformed into immortal works of art and science. Goethe or Rodin, Ramakrishna or Bhartṛhari, Lao Tsze or Tsangyang Gyatso have given first-hand information about his experiences of the use of the human body as a means of transcendental liberation.

Says Tagore:

My love becomes my god

My god becomes my love;

Where else could I realise this?

I see my love in god, my god in my love.

Tsangyang Gyatso, the Tibetan mystic is more specific:

The cuckoo bird from the land of Mön

Brings rain,

It descends from the sky,

It brings blessing to the earth;

Life grows and blossoms.

When the cuckoo bird comes from Mön

My lover and I join as One,

In body, heart and mind.

 

 

Tantra Calls for Stout Hearts

Yet all this cannot be just book knowledge. Neither has this been mere book knowledge for me. The practices to which I got initiated by the Lady in Saffron in my growing boyhood days remained enshrined within me like everlasting springs of ecstatic delight. I had the blessed fortune of coming into close contact with other alter ego in the course of my life, through whose assistance, grace and selfabandonment I had reached the apex of this realisation.

This is neither the epicurean delight in physical consummation, nor the voluptuary’s glee at rolling in abundance. This is restrained, disciplined, extremely choosy and selective. It rejects opportunities and accepts only the relevant.

Today I know, and I could say that this could be achieved through the ‘hated-adored vama-tantra practices much more easily, and exquisitely, than through any other form of yoga. Those who feel too weak to face this, are at liberty to keep away from it. But to name this as blasphemous charlatantism is plain partisanism adopted in the negative interest of covering their own hesitation to face what is admittedly a difficult, demanding and testing situation. Tantra calls for stout hearts.

But of that later on.

 

Yoga-Vasistha in a Broken Temple

Now to continue with the fascinating episode in that obscure lane of Varanasi where the Lady in Saffron had carried me. I said ‘carried’ me, because it was nothing less. I was swept away; swept off my feet; I was carried off in another realm.

To recall that event and that day (more than sixty-five years back) sets even now a series of vibrations within me.

The noon was simmering in a north Indian June sky. The merciless rays of the sun had ‘got trapped by those tall buildings in stone on either side of a lane hardly eight to ten feet apart at its widest. Except during the noon the rays could not penetrate to the floors. The world seemed to be drowned in its post-lunch siesta. Only the stray dogs were at their unending rounds near the sweet vendors’ shops; and sundry stray unfortunate beggars were seen still in search of a mouthful from a kind householder; here and there a pilgrim or two, disturbed the reigning coma of the miserable locality by their pious

Murmurings of hymnal piety. The Lady in Saffron, a soft-spoken lady of few words, was walking at her easy placid pace of one engaged in some deep reflection (I was quite accustomed to this pace); and my boyish steps followed her close almost like a dachshund pup alert on a scent.

As usual, I had no clothes op; and as usual, her lustrous body was covered with only a single long, almost transparent, sheet in saffron, her various necklaces of beads and bones jingling softly now and then. In her hand she had a brass vessel filled with the water from the Ganges; and a basket containing odd things for lighting a ritual fire. In her other hand she had a volume of what turned out to be a copy of the venerated yogic treatise Yoga Vasistha, written in Sanskrit.

These lanes still are, as they were then, some of the most crowded lanes in the world. In fact they were so crowded, and hazarded with the stray roaming bulls of Varanasi, that none ever noticed what might one be passing by. But as the same lane takes a turn towards the east where the Ganges flowed, all was peace. The turn to the east passed through an ancient stone gate about twelve feet high; and next to the gate was a mystically silent long room overlooking a three feet high veranda running parallel to the narrow lane. Inside this room behind some iron bars stood an image of Kali.

For some reason or another even devotees did not tarry there long for offering prayers. All hurried through a ritual of bowing to the image, and if handy, throwing a few drops of water, seasoned at times by a few stray blossoms. There have been strange legends associated with this image, and stranger people have been seen moving inside when none was about.

Facing this rather mystifying image, which all were in a hurry to pass by, was a decorated royal gate. The occupants had at some distant past been related to Prince Pratapaditya of Jessore. We the urchins of the locality scrupulously avoided the inmates who, any way, could hardly be seen.

Passing these two rather grim landmarks we plodded on towards the Ganges. The right side of this secluded lane was bordered with a row of ancient dilapidated buildings occupied by a host of old and sick people. These assemble at Varanasi from all parts of Hindu India, each having rented his or her lodging in a single or double room tenement. Their one ambition was to breathe their last in holy Varanasi, so that they could be cremated in the famed Manikarnika. We viewed this row of houses rather grimly, as if we stood before the tenements of the dead.

 

 

Manikarnika, a Museum

The reputation of Manikarnika in the practice of tantra sädhanā, to the tantra sadhakas, is of supreme importance. To this day, any time during day or night, but specially through the nights, one could meet various types of tantric yogis engaged in their respective mystic pursuits with no holds barred. Manikarnika is a museum of a mixture of living saints and deadly frauds and charlatans.

It is here that I had observed one night a dark yogi with matted locks like so many reptiles flowing down his shoulders, and as naked as nature and sky, spooning with his cupped palms his own urine, which flowed down at ease, as he continued walking undisturbed, and drinking the fluid without stopping his progress even for a second.

It was here that I had a strange interview with a past master who was picking from the dirty water around, along with black pariah curs, charred pieces of bones. All these, man and dogs, were busy locating these bones amongst floating cinders, and chewing presumably whatever was left on them. A night long interview with that saint has been one of the most prized breaks in my spiritual life.

It was here again that I became fascinated with the devotional trance of an old yogini whom I used to watch in the dead of night, just sitting near and away from her. Night after night I kept a vigil, quite uncalled for, until one morning she happened to send for me through my father. That was a great experience again.

It was here that I met a later-day-famed yogi engaged in his penitential practice of crying aloud incessantly the repeated word, ‘Mother!’. ‘Mother!’ until I used to get entranced. Often I found myself crying with him in sheer sympathetic vibration. In later life I had the good luck of receiving from him a fragment of his skill and grace. But I shall not crowd this chapter with those encounters at all. Space permitting I would like to narrate those vibrant experiences later, one by one.

 

Miracles

But I must make an observation for those who care: we know only a part of this life. Much of it is mystery to us; and what we view as miracles are but realities; only the dimensions of our own area of knowledge get exploded after we discover that our day-to-day life has its extended fields of consciousness and things do happen and could happen which to our three-dimensional experience look inexplicable and unreal. The most unreal thing in our life, to my belief, is our faith and belief on what we accept as reality.

(It is indeed a question of differing sense of dimensions. What are miracles to some, are facts and actualities to others. Once we accept that what we call life, and field of consciousness, do not start and end with the body, although we could realise these while in body alone. But once we accept the fact that the beginning and end of the life-force, as well as of consciousness, overlap our immediate awareness, we could regard these ‘miracles’ as happenings in the extended area of the accepted scope of our conscious field. Let us not forget that all our findings and conclusions are based on the limited scope of our senses reacting in a world of three dimensions. At no time we could see all the sides of a solid, although we infer the unseen balance from what we see. Human senses functioning under such limitations are naturally conditioned by the three-dimensional world which we bold on to as the only dependable and acceptable reality. This is the reality. This is the reason why our rational apparatus has so much to rely on inference, hypothesis, and analogies.

But a correct and scientific development of the latent faculties of the human brain could, of course, expand the scope of our consciousness. In this area functions the fourth dimension, generally signified by such words as Infinity or Time (kala), the idea being represented by that single eye which the Tibetans use in their rituals, or the third eye which the Hindus put on their icons and images. To develop the faculty of the Third Eye is to acquire a passport to the realm of supra-consciousness. It is just an extension of the usually accepted field of consciousness. Viewing at the so-called ‘miracles’ from this field of extended consciousness, using the fourth dimension, one could realise that there is more substance in facts about these ‘miracles’ than in the facts we call substantial.)

This was the famed and mystic Manikarnika, the centre of tantric practices, and the Mecca for all the tantriks. To die in Varanasi and be cremated at Manikarnika is the one great ambition of each and every pious Hindu. Hence the phantom crowd in those ancient stone houses. They actually huddled there like so many bees in a hive; or were they like so many mummies on the move?

A little away from those houses, on the same side, is a strange shrine, one of the strangest, even in the shrine-infested Varanasi, This was the shrine of the Chatuhsasthi Yogin! (sixty-four yoginis). Let me explain.

 

Chatuhsasthi Yogini

Eight is an esoteric number for the tantric yogi. Krsna in the Gitä mentions the eight prakrtis. The Yoga-lotus is eight petalled. The development of the inner power depends on the gradual control, development and grace of these eight prakrtis in their eight facets. Each of these sixty-four facets, also known as the kalas, refer to

The conscious and subconscious tendencies which go to shape the personality of the whole man. Each of these also have their respective sources, or habitats, in the world of matter. To get a super control over the self, and over the world that covers the self (as if the world containing the self were a live-entity covered by the embryonic fluid of supra-consciousness), it is absolutely unavoidable to come to grips with these facts, and then like an extraordinary horse-man, control the sixty-four running horses tied to one harness. Hence these are called the sixty-four power-centres, the sixty-four yoginis, the sixtyfour facts of chaitanya. Naturally this shrine is considered to be extremely significant in the practice of tantra yoga.

The image itself is never to be seen. What is seen is but a golden mask of the great Mother, and the body is carefully covered with clothes and ornaments and garlands. The real image is one of Durga, the buffalo-killing, lion riding goddess whose powers were respected all over the Mediterranean and Oriental cultures, inclusive of the Egyptian. (I have recognised this goddess in distant Thailand and Cambodia which I could understand to be a cultural expansion of Hindu tantra; but I have also noticed the same figure and its characteristics in the forgotten temples of Mexico and Peru, a fact which so far appears to be beyond an ordinary explanation.)

Just in front of the sacred shrine, on the opposite side of the small yard, and facing the Mother, is another unapproachable shrine. One could see the image of Mother Käli in it; but few could reach near. For some mysterious reason devotees, at least the ordinary ones, avoid getting into the shrine. This is the shrine of Bhadrakali, a form of the tantric spirit calling for the offerings of the extreme type which includes both the dead and the living, both blood and blood-red flowers. A Bhadrakali altar is reputedly constructed over five cadavers of different animals, inclusive of a human cadaver. A saint has to perform the mystic rite of sava sadhana (penance performed with a dead body as a seat) before a Bhadrakali shrine could be consecrated.

 

Music at the Bhadrakali Shrine

It had been a pleasure and a privilege for me to follow my father in the dark, through the lanes, and reach this double shrine in the sombre silence of the evening, when no other ordinary person usually visited it. Father would chant mildly a melodius hymn in Sanskrit, every word of which I knew by heart, and every word of which I repeated with him, which made him very happy, as I could sense it even through the immense dark.

I would have liked to translate that great hymn. But the space forbids. Tantric hymns in classical Sanskrit, because of their images, import, and their rhythmic sonancy, influence both mind and imagi nation, and generate a sustaining power of sheer tenderness and contentment. The emotional exuberance latent in the words and the melody overwhelms the mind with a tenderness that makes living a joy. This is perhaps known as exhilaration.

The role that sonic rhythm plays in soothing the nerves is well known. Latin, Sanskrit, and in a way, the ancient Celtic chants are particularly rich in this sonic effect.

The darkness around the shrine gradually became solid; and the awareness of a vibrant presence elevated both mind and body to a sphere far away from the known world.

Nearly about this precise time my father used to get lost to me. Invariably he would withdraw himself to an unknown corner, leaving me also on a stone seat which lay just at the threshold of the main shrine. Despite his absence I felt assured that he would be with me in a moment; but in the meanwhile, I was left to my own thinking.

I always thought of the Mother. And I repeated chant after chant in a suppressed voice. An oil lamp burned inside the temple. No sound except the chirpings of crickets and cicadas kept company of the lonely lamp.

I had got so accustomed to this feeling that in later years I found it very difficult not to halt at the appointed spot on my own, and get lost in that inner world which was all my own. Nowhere else I realise the supreme reward of meditation so fully and so quickly as at this temple.

In those days I hardly knew anything at all about meditation; neither had I ever heard of it. But today I could clearly recall those evening sessions by myself, and feel that my father taught me most practically, although indirectly, the secrets of meditation which thus had come to me as easily and naturally as swimming comes to ducklings. Even now at this hour, or in the depths of a moonlit night, the influence of that hymn overwhelms me, and I get merged into that spirit, losing myself totally in the embraces of the Mother.

 

 

Experience at the Pieta

(Once in the Vatican at Rome, kneeling before the image of the superb Pieta, forgetting myself, I got lost in that hymn, which had inadvertently bubbled out of me, and the Vatican establishment was thrown into a series of chained reactions.) For the people of the neighbourhood, as for most of the rubble, these nocturnal exercises were as good or as bad as adventures into tantric mysteries of a forbidden sort. But first because of the involvement of my father, and secondly, because of the common knowledge about the eccentric behaviour of a notoriously precocious urchin, people held their tongue, and did not as much as let fly a whisper. I do suspect that the umbrella of that presence of the Lady in Saffron, under which I thrived, also cast its influence.

On the contrary, I used to draw a kind of reverence from the people. I remember an old milkmaid, who used to sell in tiny earthen cups home-made sweet condensed milk. As we returned home, we had to pass by her wares. And she invariably offered me a filled cup, for which she never accepted anything. I knew that my father gracefully indulged in this acceptance. For the really spiritual being, an act of acceptance assumes at times the importance of conferring a touch of grace. It is possible to oblige even by accepting, which could be more humble than declining a gift of love.

 

 

The Temple in Ruins

Through this mysterious lane we had been proceeding. But I was quite taken aback when the Lady in Saffron guided me to another imposing building, then in ruins. We always observed the equally imposing gate. It fell to our right. But because of its extremely dilapidated condition we always thought it wise to keep away from this notorious den of poisonous snakes. Even at that young age I was aware of two fatal cases of snakebites from that area.

To this ruined heap she drew her steps. I followed mesmerised, as always, assured of her all-absorbing protective and motherly guidance. The inner yard held a wide space flooded with the bright scorching sun of a north Indian June. At a distance, and I could, assume, quite near the banks of the Ganges, rose the tall spire of a Siva temple. She pushed open its broken doors. The ancient hook

Hinges gratingly groaned with a rusted protest. And there stood inside, the lingam, a black-stone chiselled shape, shining, glowing. Towering above us a good height of at least five feet and more. The Gaurl pattam pedestal of the imposing lingam spread out in a wide circumference. Someone had put at the feet of the pedestal flowers which had dried up. The inevitable betel leaves humbly marked the silent offering from some devotee.

 

 

The Strange Initiation

Here she drew out from a crevice in the wall a piece of square straw-mat; and spreading it on the stone flags that covered the floor became seated. I made myself comfortable on the bare stone. Presently she lit a fire, and threw some incense into the leaping flames. The familiar aroma at once made the atmosphere come alive with a revered introspecting fragrance.

Then she closed her eyes, and was immediately lost in meditation. A light from another world shone on her face. Time passed. I had closed my eyes too.

After what could be ages, I felt her touch. On opening my eyes I was astounded to see what I did. The blinding glare was too much. I could hardly comprehend. In utter disbelief I looked again. My Lady in Saffron! What could have happened to her?

She was totally naked, and stretched flat on her back on the floor. Her legs were locked in a double lotus posture; her head was on the floor; between the belly’s mound and the sloping valley, down to the bases of the feet and the heels there yawned a mysterious cavity where a moment back some flowers had been thrown. For the first time I knew that this area of the body too grew a patch of hair. Without minding my confusion she invited me to assume seat between her thighs, on the flowers, whilst she lay flat on her back with her eyes set up.

Her lap had always been my familiar sanctuary. But what amazed me was the strange fact that she had removed from her body her only garment. It lay folded into a bed-like arrangement over which her body lay. She appeared to me quite transfigured. Nothing was human about her. A gentle perspiration broke on my parched skin. The incense smoke was gradually covering the room. Her forehead as well as the grim hairy triangle were besmirched with ashes, and dabs of red and black.

The incense smoke was gradually invading the space. The atmosphere in the room grew eerie. The chirps from the insects increased. Somewhere a lizard called. Again and again. I shivered, despite the heat outside. My hair stood on ends unexpectedly, and my goose flesh surprised me. The bare skinned form of the familiar Lady made her appear as a new being from another world. (I am trying to recall every second of that Grand Initiation)

Her forehead smeared with the holy ash, with black and red marks between her brows, the heavy breasts hanging in fatty excess, the locks all spread about the saffron cloth, and that quite awesome space below the deep navel, sloping up to the hairy triangle, the mysterious darkness between the folded legs on which I was to assume my seat (1)-all rolled before my confused vision. I did not know how to respond to the situation.

(How many times I have undergone this exercise later at the subterranean Kali shrine at the Tailanga Samadhi at Panchaganga, where stands the mosque that Aurangzeb had erected in his imperial defiance over a sacked temple of Visnu Sakti.)

Another call came. This time heavy, unearthly, magnetic. “Tarry not, delay not dear one. This is your moment. Take what I alone give. Sit; and cover the yoni.

From the deep, sonorous, far-away nature of her voice I knew she was in trance. Her eyes were half closed. The little I could see of her eyes was all white.

I climbed over the sacred body, and sat over the dark space left by the folding of her legs. At the very first contact I was aware that her skin was burning. The heat was forbidding. But I knew it was not for me to question. I assumed the accustomed lotus posture. Her own legs were folded, as I said, into a double-lotus posture. Minutes passed; perhaps hours. Who cared? A stream of delight rippled through the 84,000 nadis (nerves?) of which she had always spoken. At the base of my spine I experienced a half-tickling, half-singing urge which ran up and down my spine. I closed my eyes.

 

 

One Who Came from the Other Times

“Never mind,” I heard her voice speaking to me, She did not, at that stage, appear as any tangible being. Just a solemn mystic voice. “I am here; I who am all yours to draw from as you need. What this piece of square (meaning the grass mat) is to me, is this body to you. You are a Brahmin child. A chosen child. One who came from other times. You are uncommon. You are all me; all me. In you persists the tradition of the Vedas. All you need is to open up what is closed You actually live what others only imagine to live. Be seated. Be at case.

“I am the Lotus; you are the Brahman. I am the dead body, you are the living flame. I am in time; you are Time eternal. I am the sky, you are the sun. I am the sound, you are the sense. Now take up the book. Open it. Open. Carefully, slowly, deliberately read from it word for word. Start chanting aloud. Spread the book on my bare chest. Hesitate not. Tarry not. Proceed and progress. Be in me. I shall read through your tongue, your voice, oh my darling. Read. I am the dead matter; you are the spirit. I am stone; you are the message. I am dirt, you are the stream. Now! Now!! Open the book. Start. Start. No stopping, until you find a hymn, the first hymn.” And suddenly she was quiet. Her dark collirium-painted eyes

Opened. They were red-shot. The pupils had grown larger, and emitted fire. I was about to say something. But she indicated that I should keep seated. I should not interrupt. I hesitated. She kept looking at me. I read her approval. Yet I said, “If I cannot find the hymn; if I fail to....”

“Fail you shall in nothing. You will not have to find the hymn. The hymn shall find you. Light the lamps at the base of the altar. Light them from the fire. Gather from the pit.”

I did what she said as if bemused.

“Place them on each of my outstretched palms”; I did. “These are no lamps. The Sun and the Moon are keeping a watch over you. You shall see all; you shall know all that you read. Now. Start. Time is flying.”

And entranced I started. Reciting Sanskrit verses was nothing new to me. The lines at the beginning were not so difficult; and I swept into the stream of verses as I loved to swim in the stream of the Ganges.... I continued with a power and vigour never known to me before. Time passed... I became aware of a new feeling of goldgarnered maturity. I felt as tall as the skies as it were. Time passed.. Gradually and gradually I lost all sense of her presence. I lost sense of my presence. Against the light from the lamps, the pages, the verses swam in a luminous clarity of import. Then, at last, came the hymn, and came a strange delightful, absorbing, self-contained darkness. Time passed.... As the hymn was about to finish, I felt several strokes of gushing heat-waves lashing my eyes, my head, and what seemed

To me very unbearable, deep within my bowels, my heart. The eighty-four thousand nerves were on fire. My heart seemed to jump out of me and float in the air, and mix with the smouldering smokes.... lost consciousness. I became a zero.

Something was happening to the mound around my penis. A vibrating, thrilling, hot deep throb hammered beat after beat. The more it came in waves the more I was pushing out my spinal base. I sat straight as straight could be. [No! What people talk of erection, sexurge, and reflexes, all, (even in a boy) as I had found, belong to a world which I had left long ago. I had shed my body; I was only a ‘being’.]

But what a sense of relief when I came to myself. The Lady in Saffron was holding to my lips a cup of water mixed with honey. I have no idea from where she had materialised this superb drink. I was not only revived; but a strange feeling of completeness, fulfilment and ecstasy settled on my nerves. It was a soothingly caressing moment of life. I was staring at her with a new look, and gradually I broke into, what must have been, a pale and tired smile. She smiled in response, and kissed my cheeks as tenderly as only she could. I felt rewarded.

“Shall we now proceed to the Ganges? It is evening. A full moon is about to rise. There on the bank we shall sing together. It is a happy day, and we must celebrate. Follow me. Let us move out of here.”

She was closing the broken doors. A couple of serpents wriggled past us.

But strange words fell out my lips. “When shall we come here again?”

She smiled again. Held me by the hand. “Yes again. And again, and again. A carpet also hungers for someone to sit on it. Another day.... To the bank now, and to music.”

3

 Areas of Sin

 

Conquest of Fear

The lessons on Yoga Vasistha continued. The asana described before became a regularity. I became even an addict to the experience.

Gradually a change came over me. It was perceptible even to the less trained eyes. The changes were both physical and mental. The physical changes were noticed first, but the mental changes too were appreciated by those intimate to me.

I became aware of an internal change. Something was happening to me. I was gaining in courage. Besides going off and on to the Coatu hṣasthi shrine, even at night, all by myself, and without any qualms, I used to visit the forbidden shrine of the terrible Bhadrakall too.

As others would view it, it must have been an act of serious daredevilry. Nothing at all posed any problem, specially of fear to me. I had no fear. I had no fear of the supernatural. I felt protected, secure. It was a novel feeling. A new life. I had no fear of the Ganges at night. I used to swim across the

River to the sand banks; and sat in an asana, and meditated long hours, with only the stars watching me. Under a mantle of silver moonlight the familiar surroundings would assume unfamiliar dimensions. The lamps from the fishing boats would dot the distances over the flowing stream.

There I sat for hours and meditating how the Lady in Saffron had taught me to meditate. I took to these meditations with a seriousness as if my very life depended on them.

At about this time a singular episode added colour to my otherwise drab course of life.

 

 

The Call

One of these days at the peak of the noon sun, when I was engaged in Sanskrit grammar, I became aware of a sudden pull at my consciousness, I was much moved, and almost felt drawn forcibly towards

A given point. The urge made me leave the security of home, and I found myself proceeding towards the shrine. The temple was empty, but for one or two stray devotees. ‘This is not it,’ said my restless mind, still under the influence of the pull. I stepped out, and proceed. Ed towards the bank of the river which was close by.

On the way to the river stood an ancient boa tree. The sprawling branches kept the approach to the river spookily shady, yet not too dark. What thickened the mystery of the place were those strangely patterning movements of light and shade that the gnarled branches weaved and weaved, keeping the cool and quiet place in a state of perpetual animation. A coloured piece of stone, already engulfed in its twirling barks was supposed to hold powers of bestowing and protecting children.

The second factor that made this place distinctly eerie was caused by the innumerable crows, ravens, kites and even vultures, who generation after generation peopled the resort, and kept it always filled with a noise which had become a part of the rituals. People even left food for these birds. They were part of the shrine. Now and then the screeching reacted on the nerves, and the mind cringed in apprehension of some kind of mishap. Although nothing ever happened, yet in the nature of all mysteries, people in general used to attach unreal and unearthly values to the tree and the deity.

I climbed over the crumbling platform which surrounded the trunk as its base for about sixty feet. The roots had already dug their greedy jaws into the stone structure which had cracked at several places, and was in the process of crumbling. I stepped to the back of this huge trunk. There I confronted the source of the pull.

 

 

A Yogin

I stood face to face with a tall imposing man of great spiritual appeal. In aspect he looked more a man demented than a peaceful yogin. His locks, not matted, but flowing in black clusters, for some reason, had swelled into a moving mass. His eyes were red-shot and rolling, yet they held within the gaze a definitive purpose. He was wearing a long sheet of cloth, the end of which was wrapped around his neck, and allowed to fall over the shoulders.

As soon as my eyes rested on him, I was held by the fiery gaze; and the excitement of that inner pull was gone. I felt merged in a tranquil calm. I felt I belonged there; and I stood still, and carefully observed

The charming apparition. Around us all was quiet. Not a leaf moved, no sound escaped, not even the breeze stirred, nor a squirrel flitted. Not a soul was in sight. Had some one strayed that way, we would still not be seen. I suddenly noticed the familiar hum of bees. Only then I noticed the huge hive hanging atop.

Not knowing what to do at this moment, and knowing that I must do something, nervously I broke into chanting a verse:

Although one sees you in many forms

The forms are but less than nothing;

You are the One in all.

The same in all.

My father, mother, friend,

Pride, wealth, and knowledge.

You are all in all.

The man in white was not quiet either. Agitated by some inner fire he kept swaying; he reminded me of a candle in a stormy night, or of a cobra standing with its hood spread. His fingers drew strange figures, and the open palm moved up and down the sides. All he was uttering in an emotion filled voice was, “Mã, Mã, Ma...” incessantly, infinitely. Swaying like a cobra I said? But a cobra would strike. That swing is sinister. But the saint’s swing was filled with submission, dedication, compassion. The fire and the flames would suggest burning heat. His voice was fervent, cool and consoling. As if a river of joy and cheer-rhythmic, regular, poised, and somehow remotely linked with some inner agitation-coursed from a distant mountain to a distant ocean of delight.

And while he was thus swaying from head to feet, his long hands which could reach to his knees, kept busy with fingers moving like petals of a lotus under a heavy breeze, bending on its long stalk. Ma... Ma... Ma.... The sound like a spell was reverberating in the moist atmosphere. Tears flowed openly down his bearded cheeks, and formed drops at the tips of the sandy brands. His body glistened in a light sweat. The pain and poignancy in his cry Ma-Mä reminded me of a deer struck with a hunter’s arrow. I could not help standing petrified by that phenomenon. With no more volition than that of a torn rock, with no will of my own, I just watched and watched. There was something magnetic in the presence. Was it simply an expression of overwhelming joy? Was it the expression of a soul deeply merged in consciousness? An erasement of ego, time, space or will? Nothing like that had ever crossed my experience before. The mystic triangle of the Lady had been unique; but this erect male standing like a fascinating palm was quite another kind of experience.

For the first time I became aware of the sonic nature of a profound sound. I became aware of the syllabic formation which as mantras evoke respect, crystallise concepts, and radiate consonance. In some unknown way my nerves responded to the strange mesmeric effect of that sound.

 

 

Sound-effect of Mantras

In the interplay of body, speech and mind some specially conceived sound bubbles become effectively vibrant. This truth I arrived at much later. Much later in my life I was able to analyse the actual effect of mantra-sound on consciousness, and at the same time within the space we live in. I learnt later that like the mudras (the positioning of the hands and the fingers to denote symbolically mental approach), like the various facets of rituals, (such as the mandalas, the bells, the conchs, the stoles, even the uses of fire, water and special flowers), mantras too symbolise, direct, and crystallise the conceptual attitudes of the conscious being. ‘Amen’ as a mantra amongst some other Asian religions, the recital value of the Lord’s prayer, the first sentence of the gospel of St. John have their mantrik effects. A mantra, by its effect, assists a mind to be totally dissolved; and then from the void’s effulgence conjures up the dynamic power with which the reciter intends to come into contact; and he does. We shall have to come back to this subject of effect of sounds of chants (japa) on consciousness. But on that day I was not aware of the dynamics of the philosophy of a mantra. That afternoon I was simply amazed, and carried away. The man stood over me several feet taller. Awed and overwhelmed I had to pay him a boy’s sincere homage. He must have been a unique personality. A genuine Man.

 

 

Under a Spell

Hours passed. Suddenly he stared at me full in the face, which by then was also bathed in tears. Tears must surely be the unbarred expression of deeply felt stirrings of the soul. With his large and bare hands he dried my face. Then he took out from his heap of tousled hair a brown bead. It was the familiar rudrak şa (Elaeocaripus ganitrus). And before I could say or feel anything he pressed the bead in between my brows as hard as he could. I could have cried for pain. But I lost my consciousness.

Somehow I was not much amazed at why this had to happen to me. I accepted the experience as one of the many adventures to which I had been exposed.

But the man haunted me. For years and years, at certain intervals, we used to meet. At times he even gave me valuable instructions. He spoke softly, and very little, if at all; but what he spoke was filled with intimate knowledge. With all this, however, I failed to establish a permanent rapport with him. Somewhere and somehow I could not fully communicate. But of that later on. But the saint for a long while continued to haunt my thought, and influence my life. Is he still with me? All memory is. Such is the nature of memory. But he is much more than a memory.

We might recall how my folks were rather surprised at the external changes in me. A change had been taking place indeed. But that was all a gift from the Lady in Saffron. Now, to what she had been giving, the man of the boa tree was adding. Soon we got closer, and he became a ‘needed’ factor in my life. I could not hide this from the Lady in Saffron. “Jiten is a saint,” she assured very gently. He has to go far. Very far indeed. If he accepts you, I shall feel relieved.” Nothing more; not a word again; but I came to understand that nothing in my life could happen, which the Lady in Saffron would not know.

My sisters giggled at the rapid growth of my size; my mother was satisfied that the blessings of the Lady in Saffron had been acting on me. My appetite pleased her immensely. She always remarked that my development was a standing example of what a regular course of pranayama could do to life. Yes, the great breathing exercise in itself is a friend to man, no doubt; but I wondered if every mother realised how happy I was with all that I learnt from the Lady in Saffron. I looked upon her, and loved her as my second mother, a spiritual mother.

 

 

Growing in Vold

Any way, the change was there, and everyone noticed it. What I myself noticed was something different. Gone were those boyhood pranks; gone were the young tricksters, who, as my companions, used to draw me into silly games; gone was my interest in the subject of the tabooed areas of human physiognomy and the interplays involved in such rude engagements. I played little; but chose such sports which did not call for much company: swimming, boating, wrestling, lifting weight. Quite unlike a boy of my age I became more and more sedentary, although outwardly I continued to enjoy my natural popularity.

Yet it was true that like a person in the prime of maturity I avoided useless company, personal questions; I loved to be left alone. Loneliness was the tonic of my spirit. The Ganges held for me the highest relief; my first resort, and my last resource. All games connected with the river animated my desire to be near it all the time. The Ganges flowed as it were through my veins. I swam through a stream of delight. I boated on the stream of consciousness.

My language sounded precociously daring. My dreams were too personal and sacred to be exposed to others. I held on to myself. I realised that man in his seclusion and at peace with himself could enjoy within himself more colourful experiences. I loved and adored my lone moments.

Besides this love for seclusion, another change was noticeable. I loved this exercise of holding the breath up, and remaining still while at it. It gradually created a mindless void to live in. I can see in retrospect how much I owed to the Lady in Saffron for these strange passions which, however, I eagerly and readily nursed.

Such a state has a singular advantage in realising the supreme benefits of joy unbounded. Bathing in joy as it is said. A mind in void alone could create its own world of peace. For, did not creation itself emerge out of void?

Mind is never a supposition. It is a state of flux, undetermined and unidentified. It is identified and determined only where it suffers from cycles of actions and reactions. In that state we call it mind, and it is recognisable as mind. In the blank state the flux remains at still; man is free to enjoy his peace undisturbed. A peaceful mind would clearly reflect an image; but a disturbed surface would not do so. When a plane flies much above the clouds in void, because of the peace around, even the speed of the carrier is not realised. Obstruction animates mind. Void becalms it.

I have mentioned how lessons on Yoga Vasistha continued undisturbed. The same asana which had once invoked so much surprise and enquiry, gradually became a matter of routined acceptance. I no longer felt 'naked,' as I used to do before. Nudity meant nothing more to me. The feeling was not there. It appeared to me as something in the nature of a special spiritual uniform, with the difference that while other uniforms are to be put ‘on,’ this one is donned by putting away all garments.

 

 

Why Asanas

But somehow I broke into the question one day. Why are asanas necessary? Why are ‘such’ asanas necessary?

The way she answered these questions has remained with me as striking examples of inductive teaching. She always referred me to the things I knew, and gradually brought me to the answers I wanted to know. In this our knowledge of the Hindu epics of the Mahabharata and the Rāmāyaṇa helped us much. Anyone who tries to understand the Hindu way of life without going through these two epics is trying to read Hamlet without knowing about the Prince of Denmark. I am still strongly of this belief for the best understanding of the Western culture and Western mind a reading of Homer and the Bible is essential.

Besides depicting a feud between two sets of cousins for the control of a throne, the Mahabharata itself is what it is, because of the classic grandeur and the Aryan nobility of the life pattern it describes. In fact, it stands today as an encyclopaedia of the social, ethical, aesthetic and the religious life of what we today term as the Hindu life. There are a thousand great episodes and narratives, with many thousands of characters. Every Hindu, some time or the other, refers to this book. Every writer of note in India must inevitably use this book as a source. The Mahabharata, reputed to be the longest verse written in human language, is one of the lungs of the Hindu India;

The other one, of course, is the Rāmāyaṇa. The famed Bhagavadgita is but an episode in the great epic Mahabharata, and is not a separate book.

The stately verses moved on. I enjoyed the reciting. Questions kept bobbing up. I stopped; looked at her, and asked. And many questions she tackled. The method was supreme. Quiet, smooth, methodi-. Cally graduated, enriched with motherly patience. I was encouraged to ask more and more by the very method of the approach.

One of these days the question arose around the yogic exercises of ascetics like Bhagiratha, lustful rogues like Jayadratha, or spiteful and cowardly avengers like Asvatthaman, Were they not yogis, one and all? How could yogis then be so good and self-denying, and also so sinister and spiteful? Why the yogic power was used to harm other people?

How collected was her case and mood as she expanded on the human views of good and bad, benefit and harm. As long as views rely on personal gain and loss, goodness in reality must always remain incomplete. Only the impersonal could be motiveless, selfless.

I came gradually to realise the fundamental difference between yogic blessings and grace, and the quest for occult, magic and the worlds of Origen and Delphos. I had come to acknowledge that a trance state could be a blessing as well as a sinister threat to peace. But we shall come back to this.

I particularly showed my interest in the profound mysteries in the human sacrifice of Asvatthäman who wanted to immolate himself. All these cases involved an ethical judgement of good and bad, of end and means. And in all these the Siva power was involved.

Magic, Voodoo or Obeah is something in which the actor, or actors are engaged in rituals that call for their concentration and expertise leading to induced trance. More or less these become partners in an elemental transposition of cause and effect. Metamorphic changes occur due to a combination of elemental forces induced by the studied practices of the leader. But in these cases the individuals had undergone severe rigours. At personal cost and extreme tribulation these individuals, otherwise great and high graded humans, had undertaken the path of tantra with a murderous resolution staking their individual lives. While Bhagiratha’s penance and tantra practices involved the good of mankind, and life in general, the acts of the other two had no motive other than a spiteful destruction of adversaries who had achieved victory over the military skill of their enemies.

 

 

Grace and Occult

I have no space here to explain further the knotty problems attached to these mystic narratives. Suffice it to say that from her lucid explanations I was convinced that most of these acts were connected to tantra yoga. The effect may look like magic. But it is not magic at all.

There is no scope in these tantra practices for any spell as is commonly believed. Any individual by his practices and dourness could establish a communion with elemental or supra-natural powers. Once the rapport is established, and a steady stream of communication is laid out, the individual will be able to enact what the universal elements could. This is possible. Were this not possible the fraud in tantra would have been exposed long before this. It could not have outlived the oppressions and repressions of ages. After all, tantra and tantric methods are as old as the hills, skies and the elements. There is no religion worth the name which does not make use of ‘miracles,’ and which does not pay homage to the tantriks. Did not Jesus get into trances and bless the sick to health?

If these individuals had taken recourse to tantric powers, in order to achieve their ends, how is it that tantra does not distinguish between assisting the evil forces, and put them against the good ones. This might appear to be confusing.

I did not delay to place this question before her. The answer came in the usual quiet and easy rhythm. Even Krsna was steeped with tantra powers. His powers were responsible for protecting the Pandavas at every crisis.

Evil and good are not different forces. All force is linked with a central power. But all concepts, or all objects grown out of the concepts have contrary sides. The sun, the moon, the universal movements of plants, climates, seasons, all have contrary sides, contrary pulls, this side and that side. It is in the nature of things that these have two sides. But once the sides are seen as proceeding from the same source, good and bad become but the reflections of passion and greed. Balance must be kept. This was what Krsna was attempting to bring about.

The power of tantra, like any other power, could proceed forward, or reverse. The forces of progress must then stop the reverses. Tantra against tantra. This was matched in the battle of Kurukşetra. There is no reverse; no bad. That which obstructs a balanced vision, a balanced life, a balanced ethics has to be brought to books. Balanced is that which makes room for better living, better understanding, better relationship in love. ‘Better than we know, that is. That is peace.

***

 

Asana is Holding the Breath

Her answers were revealing. She was accustomed to spinning thread out of cotton fluffs on a hand driven wheel. On that afternoon she had been engaged in her routine exercise of spinning. She at once drew my attention to herself. “Watch me,” she said, “I spin for hours at a time. It is a very delicate job demanding balance of touch and pull. The mind must be concentrated. The material must be well chosen for the very best results. Investments must be kept at a perfect condition. Efficiency depends on mind, material and instrument, Then come discipline and practice. All these combined, helps spin a thread of smooth consistency and extra-perfect refinement. A good thread has to be smooth, delicate and strong. It takes time to spin a quantity. No relaxation while the mind is on the job.

“Hence, it is absolutely necessary to select the very best posture for undertaking an arduous task. Selection of asana is very important to a yogi. Some keep standing for years, as Gomatesvara Bahuball did. Some sit for years, as Sakyamuni did. Some keep their hands stretched out above for years and years, while standing, as Bhagiratha did. For certain types of mantras certain types of asanas are enjoined. I assume the spinning position after taking many things into consideration.

“Contrarily, when I sell at my shop, I do not have to assume the same poise and posture. My mind changes; attitude changes; so changes my posture too. When I cook, I make certain of my seat and my posture to suit the needs of cooking.

“When I sing I watch carefully what would assist my lungs and my breathing system. Even walking has its posture, and this changes too with the motive of the walk. Why are you walking, where are your going, what is the point of achievement, all these shall determine what posture shall one assume at walking. Do you agree?

“I hear that in the world of the white most people have forgotten to walk. I don’t know. They must be paying for it in the end. They run and race, but do not walk. Funny. Isn’t it? Perhaps they feel this to be the way of the wealthy. They feel that speed alone brings success. Thus they race and race. How to beat the front man at the back, and jump the rails first. They must pay the toll of having to live under such a pressure of having to jump the fellow man.

“They hardly walk. They pay for it later on, by jogging in the park, ‘taking’ a walk in and around the yard. Even motion has a posture, a rhythm. The rhythm for the static is asana, the correct asana; the asana for motion is known as rhythm, chhanda for the gati, as we say in our language. But sthiti must assume a sthana, or asana. Asana blesses the nerves with that essential pause which the nerves need for a ong long journey.

 

 

The Sex Asana

“But you are concerned with the particular asana in which we sit. You are more at a loss why this kind of total freedom from contions. This question intrigues you because you have been taught to regard certain areas of the body as taboo, areas that are held as dirty, bad and sinful.

“You have heard the legend about two of God’s children, who were thrown out of God’s garden-house. Why were they thrown? Was it because they just ate a fruit of one of the trees against God’s wishes? Which of us has not done this at some stage of our life? Is God so cruel? I do not think so. It is not what they had eaten that declare them unsuitable for a heavenly abode; they wanted to hide, lie and deceive. If they had come to God and told that they had eaten the fruit, and they had enjoyed it, perhaps God would have smiled on them indulgently. Hiding is sin. Falsehood is sin. Living a double life is hell. Considering a thing as worthy of hiding is the first sin which corrupts the mind. Sin is what gives complex to the mind; what creates tension. The result is untold suffering: loss of happiness! Destruction of all joy. This is living in hell. This is to be driven out of the innocent joy-world.

“Our mind has three very determined enemies. These come in the shape of joy; but what they leave behind is suffering. These three are anger, passion for sex union, and greed. None of these comes with any age; and therefore, none of these goes with age. Age has nothing to do with these contrary forces. And the cure for all these three is a clear understanding of things and values. Keep understanding at the driver’s seat, and the car of life would never jump the path and go astray. When you keep these three, or any ony of these on the driver’s seat, you are helplessly bound to be moved along paths ‘they’ would choose for you. You remain enslaved, imprisoned, deprived of your freedom for the rest of your life. To be in the full control of your own destiny you must get rid of these,

“But these are very powerful enemies. More powerful than you might think. They are not seen. They are not realised, until they are actually at action. They are carried as seeds from other times along with the seed of life. They determine the categories of the quality of personality that a life would develop into. More of their influence restricts your will.

Freedom is freeing the will force entirely from their influence. The unfreed belong to the lowest categories. These categories are known as the gunas. That which is free is sattva; that which keeps you totally bonded is ramas. Rajas is the state where these two are at conflict, and when tamás is at a lower ebb, and sattva is forcefully drawing the spirit up. Man’s ideals are reached in sattva. An ideal is sas, the real.

“I was telling you that these are prenatal qualities, prenatal passions. Sex too is a prenatal passion. You conquer an enemy by know. Ing it well; by coming close to it; and then by weakening it gradually by tiring it out, or taking out of it its prenatal advantage of hidden power. Greed gets saturated, and is won by sacrifice, or learning to give things away, by sharing. Anger is the result of conflict and tension. Of the many reasons for anger sex is a very important reason.

 

 

Sex as Power

“Sex is a power that inspires man to become many through new creations. Create joy, create happiness, create art, literature, friendship. Create life. Enjoy sex. Joy is the power that guides and drives creatively. Sex is the Ihadini power; that which radiates joy and enjoys itself.

“But this power is restricted to certain areas of the body. So are the powers of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling etc. All these refer to certain parts of the body. We do not hide them. We should. When I say we should, I mean a free unrestricted display of these powers, indulgence that is to say, shows the ugliness in man. A man without any control over his senses is an undependable creature. It shows his true ugliness. More than that an unrestricted indulgence of the senses leads to sorrow for others, and unhappiness to the self and to the body (in the long run). So, if we feel that we are civilised we should hide displaying the limbs that indulge in unrestricted excess.

These senses are body-located. The joy these senses give to the mind is restricted to an organ. But there are joys and sorrows which are mind-located; sex, anger and greed are the mind-located feelings. They drive the life of man to indulge, until man loses his grip over his control. It acts like a cycle without brakes descending a slope. Sure accident; even disaster; death.

“Of these three indulgences (greed, passion and sex) the last one, sex, is wrongly supposed to be located only to certain areas of the body, and equally wrongly we hide them. By feeling to hide them we give them reverse importance, and make of them a social taboo. This is utterly wrong. Let me explain.

“Why do we hide them? We want to keep them secure, because we regard them as extremely important to life. Two very important functions of life depend on these limbs. (This is besides their uses as drains of the body-abode.)

“One of these functions fulfills one of life’s most important roles. This is to make life spread out of life, like lamps being lit from one lamp. One becomes, and helps to become, many.

“But this function is general to all lives, not specially to the human. The human is a special form of life. No other life is like it. Why? It is because the human alone, besides multiplying human life, also adds to the joy of life. Through creations of art, music, poetry, literature,

Painting, architecture, and through many other forms, the human joy of creativeness expresses itself. When would the Rāmāyaṇa and the Mahabharata be without the human urge and effort to create joy. “Like creation of a life from a life, creation of joy also owes its urge, power, inspiration to the power of sex. When you stop to consider this, you will see that to the human world, human need, for culture, society and posterity, this power is much more significant and

Important than making a man from a man, like any other animal does.

“You could now see that the physical role of sex in man becomes less significant than his brain or intellectual, perceptual, Imaginative role.

“In the physical role the act starts at a point of the life: it also finishes at another point of life. But the intellectual expression of sex keeps the entire life involved. Giving birth to life is confined to an area of the body; but creating a work of art involves the entire man: his sensation, perception, memory, imagination. He, like a prophet, creates not only for the present, but more so for the future. He creates the coming age.

“You see, how important sex is to the human world. Without sex, without the dvdhana (invocation), abhyasa (discipline), prayoga (application) and bhoga (consummation) of hidini (that is the sex, or the kundalini power) man’s life has no purpose. Enjoy life in the given way; invoke the grace of kundalini. Spread joy to wipe away sadness of man.

“Since greed draws man to food, and distracts his attention from the value of food; since anger or passion draws man to revenge, or upsets man’s balance of mind, and distracts his attention from the value of standing up against evil-these, greed and passion, are the greatest enemies for the development of man.

Why Hide?

“Similarly, sex could become one of the three greatest enemies of man unless man realises its real role in life. Instead of acknowledging the power of sex, Ihadini, as the fountainhead of all creative urge, prerand (inspiration), ulläsa (exhilaration), anandam (ecstasy), they foolishly localise it to certain organs of the body, and get stuck to them, and in doing so feel excessively guilty. They want to hide this ill conceived and misused joy.

“Joy is not for hiding. Joy is for expression. Joy is for sharing. Joy increases by sharing, and continues to radiate joy from generation to generation. But like food-value giving way to greed and sickness, selfpreservation giving way to anger, fight and pain-this wonder of sex has also been drawn deep into the lust for limbs and physically localised indulgences. It is totally disconnected with love, which of course is not a feeling to hide. It is totally disconnected with creative urge which claims a total dedication of all the senses.

“This is the reason why man wants to disown his responsibility for this misuse by drawing a curtain on it, and keeping everything in hiding, under cover. The acquired hypocrisy of hiding this so-called sex is a standing evidence of the evil in man. Man by his own misdoing has got himself driven out of the paradise which the tree of life, kundalini, had made him heir to.

“Creation of life is a very painful process, specially for the mother. It is so painful that man would not willingly venture to procreate at all unless some intensely tempting reward and incentive were added to it. Hence sex is a power that gives to man the highest pleasure that man in body could experience. For experiencing this joy man goes to sex, although ultimately it adds to pain. Life is a poem of rhythmic pain and joy.

“Because there is joy in creation, man dares pain in life. In spite of the threat of pain we still seek this joy; so intense is this joy. It is the source of anger; it is the source of greed; it is the source of all our sufferings. Hence, it is absolutely essential to be in control of this power. No power is bad. Power is suddham apapaviddam (immaculately pure). It is the source of all will. Will is power. But infected by selfishness, greed, we misuse and overuse, like a child misusing sugarcandy. It causes illness.

"Unrestricted use of this sex power makes the being feel sick. Whatever he does in the sick state becomes sickening. Will becomes loaded, and becomes wish; dynamism becomes domination; love becomes lust; ultimately joy becomes pain. It is most tragic that corrupted by misuse the very creative essence and the joy that creation is supposed to give, become overwhelmed by anger, sorrow, pain, enmity, conflict and tension.

“So I said that we must educate and train this power. We must be familiar with these areas. As we are instructed to keep away from higher voltage, we are also instructed to keep away from these areas. Only with the utmost preparation, and with the best of training we could expect to get from it the reward that it is supposed to bring to life.

“This is why we must, under strict supervision, be made to get familiar with these areas. These are the pure and sublime zones known as the erotic zones. We regard these zones as the seat of the Mother Power. These become to us the zones of special pilgrimage to the shrines of joy and sublimity. We do not at all feel dirty, sinful or guilty at approaching these areas, and using them for our full education, and for sublimation of joy.

“Many consider these areas as areas of sin. Sin is greed; sin is passion, anger, tension. Sin is lust, lousiness, cruelty, and above all disregard for the feelings of others. All these are the results of misunderstood, mishandled sex power.

“This is the reason my son, why I make you grow familiar with these areas; why I sit and make you sit skin to skin; why these zones on my body, and on your body come into the closest touch.

“We just make nothing of it, and yet concentrate. It is like acquiring resistance to heat by making the hand come into close contact with heat, as all cooks would tell you. A man from the northern polar regions, or from the heights of the Himalayas could stay bare skin even in December in Varanasi; we cannot. We could take the heat wave of June going up to 118 degrees, but that Himalayan man would die of heat stroke. Like the body, mind too could be acclimatised to the zones in the body which are the most vulnerable in breaking down your spiritual defences.

“Observe the very terms by which we in yoga describe these parts of the body. The triangular part with the slit we call yoni-pitha (the shrine of life-spring); the most sensitive flesh button within, we call mani (the jewel), and we recite the most significant mantra in the Mahayana and Vajrayana calendar with this word mani as a seed word. Mani Padme Hum. Our final cremation takes place in Manikernika (the clitoric-jewel). The special flowers we reserve for tantra rites are distinguished by this clitorical (mani) reference to physical affinity so that we never forget to develop our solemn attitude to this part of the life machine: vasak (Adhatoda vasica), punnaga (Alphousia speciosa), nagadamani (Artemesia vulgaris), Aparajita (Clitoria ternatia), nagakesara (Messna feria) and java (Hibiscus). The male part is known as lingam (the sign, the index); the output is known as bijam (seed), a word which the guru pours into the devout’s ear most solemnly. Virgin, we worship. The menstrual female is known as puspavati or rtula (the female in blossoms or the one in season).

“You would observe from these terms the Hindu and the tantra attitude towards sex. In our books the act itself has been fully described as a sacrifice to the fire of the life-force, and the female body has been described as the altar and the pit. I find no kind of evil or lustful suggestion in this rite. And tantra feels not only clean about it, but divine. This body is the divine’s own instrument for the fulfilment of the divine purpose.

 

 

The Nerve World

“Then there is another and more serious aspect of this kind of interlocked asanas. I was explaining what related to the mind, and education of mental attitudes. I am about to tell you now something deeper. We call it esoteric. It relates to the spiritual personality alone.

“In course of time, and with experience and practice you will learn gradually, more and more, deeper and deeper, about this secret. This is the mysterious in sadhana. This bears not too much explanation. This must be experienced. You will learn of it later. Directly! This knowledge is pratyakşavagamam (per-tya-k-sa-ava-gamam through personal experience). Yet I shall touch upon it, lest you = realisable might think-and such easy acceptance in thinking is dangerous and misleading-that this kind of preparation is all mental. It is not so.

“Yoga relates to the realisation of the purity of self by eliminating the mental world. Concentration alone makes consciousness free from the mind. The faculty of concentration depends upon the draw. Ing in of all resources of the nervous being. The nerves, and the nerve centres play a very great role in concentrating our ago at one spot, and then burning it out of existence. Ego is the supreme sacrifice that could be offered in achieving the

Pure spiritual state. “The nerve-body has special centres of operation. These are called grant his (glands). Some glands are known, and recognised; some have not yet been known. In China there is confounding system of curing the body ailments, the mind ailments by needling certain precise spots on the skin. Even consciousness and awareness could be put to sleep and inaction by driving needles into some spots of the skin. Major surgical operations have been conducted with the help of such skin punctures.

“This shows that our yogic system was aware of these centres of the nerves. Nerves are the least detected systems of the body. The nerve-personality has yet to be understood by the Western methods of medical science. There have been ancient peoples living on this earth who had been practising brain surgery in ancient times without anaesthesia. Read the surgical treatises of Suśruta (Indian surgical treatise). In South America and Central America this incredible secret was known to the ancient cultures.

“There are the ‘burning’ spots, spots of awareness, zones of the sleeping power which have to be aroused, and put to action. It is in a way switching ‘on’ the power stream. Through these asanas these power points are aroused. This much is sufficient to be known now.

“In course of time you will know of this more and more. There is nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to be excited about. You have the advantage learning this before your age of innocence has left you back. Others, who start to know this secret after their maturity, particularly after they have already mistreated and mishandled the sex zones, find the going forward an uphill task. Pictures are best drawn on a clean canvas. Minds already blotched over by bizarre images, psychic hallucinations, self-projected wishful conclusions find it very hard to keep to its proper course.

 

 

The Guru

“So you see that the problem of assuming the most convenient posture for the success of an undertaking is very important. In fact success in an undertaking that largely depends on assuming the most suitable posture. A wrong posture could deny success. This is true. It even could cause serious deformities, and ailments.

“But it is difficult to choose and select the right posture. It is not impossible; but it is difficult. Indeed very difficult. Life is too short. For discovering everything that has to be known, by personal efforts alone. We have to depend on the experiences of others; and on certain guidelines they have left us. “There are people who give you guidelines from reading books, but without having any personal experience. These are very dangerous second-hand sources, and make one waste valuable time for nothing. But there are some who speak direct from experience. These alone could be the gurus. Many of them might not have come across with a single printed line; yet they remain the maestros. Why? Because they have the experience.

“... People mistakenly think that a guru is a spiritual preceptor who keeps the monopoly of ‘guiding’ others to heaven or to hell. This is a wrong view of the guru. A guru is more intimate than the most intimate; more belonging to the inner being than any being you love or adore; more precious than all the wealth you have, could imagine to have. His power, so far as the disciple is concerned is the most telling, most concerning and the most dynamic.

“Consider what and what he has to contribute to you. Things, treasures, experiences that are yours, and could become yours, through his guidance. And these experiences are realised through a sight without the eye, a sound without the ears, taste without the tongue, understanding and owning without mind. No words could talk about it; no limits could contain it. Death does not demolish it; time does not wear it; nothing to measure it; nothing to evaluate it.

“I am speaking this of all gurus. Only you have to accept the importance of the lessons accepted. The disciple could achieve far more than what the guru had achieved. Many students achieve far more in life than their teachers. But the guru remains a guru. You ‘think’ of the gods: the creative god, sustaining god, the assimilating god; but you have’ the guru with you. He is all these. A guru might suffer a fall of the spirit; but what he has given to you does not fall down, unless you let it go down. A millionaire who has lent you a sum at a time of crisis may go bankrupt, and fall; but what he had done for you at your crisis has to be gratefully remembered; and the value of the sum lent does not fall because he has fallen. In fact you might well have raised it. You might have become a ‘millionaire’ due to timely help of the guru.

“Muni Dattatreya had many gurus. So had the Buddha Šakyamuni. Do you know that your mother has been my guru in cooking, in house management and public relations? She has the expertise, and is ready to part with her knowledge. Similarly your father, the great man with his nobility of soul, has been my inner guru in so many respects. Did you yourself ever realise the actual nature of the spirituality of your father? He is too near you. Yasoda, the mother, was never convinced of the divinity of Krsna, and even physically chastised him, as a mother would, for training her child. It is natural for people to lose perspective of greatness when they are too close to it.

“You know, when the people of a country named Judea became restless about the promised coming of a leader from heaven, a youngman, born and grown amongst them in very common circumstances used to tell them of many good things. But because he had been too near them they did not take him on, and ignored him and ridiculed him. He did not have much formal education of books. The book-people were held in great respect. His teachings, were thus resented by the elders, who took him for an upstart. In their eyes he remained uneducated,’ since he was not one of those ‘doctors of religion. They took him for granted. They opposed him. A time came when infuriated at his methods of exposure of the frauds of the learned, their follies and superstitions, they decided to punish him. Do you know what these learned men did to this innocent young man who did what he did in all fearlessness out of his love for them? They got him involved in a false allegation; got a judgement from the government; and pinned him alive on a pair of crossed wooden beams, until they were satisfied that they had killed and buried him.

“But his lessons could not be buried. His voice rose out of the dusts and spread all over time and space. The message reached the millions, and millions sang of his tremendous sacrifice. Greatness found too near is often neglected as nothing.

“This was so because he kept no external fads. He was so simple that none expected him to be a spiritual man, much less a man blessed by God. Your father too is equally simple; equally filled with no personal motive in life; and ready to come to the assistance of the distressed. He is too approachable; he loves the crowd, and moves amongst them. Hence he is taken for granted. A man with no fads.

“When you read the Gita you come to learn from Sri Kṛṣṇa that a divine man is often like this. But as and when such a man rubs his shoulders too close, too near, we still ignore and neglect him. You and I, and all the others around, make nothing of the divine charms of your father. Who would suspect this unassuming frail man for a yogi? Do you? Such a man is adorable to God. He is indeed a great yogin. He has all the attributes of a yogin. He has the most fascinating and the most difficult of the spiritual powers at his fingertips. He loves men without any distinction of class, age, sex or occupation. The greatest spectacular power in life is demonstrated by the simple act of loving without discrimination. Love without effort, or self. Interest. Ego-less love. Such a love is the greatest miracle that could happen to man. But we are not able to love without some motive, Motive to love is what fire is to a waxen doll. It destroys the very essence.

“Thus by observing your father from a distance I have learnt many virtues. This has left me much better equipped to suffer this miserable world, and yet discover and enjoy its fullness. It is the greatest amongst the yogis alone who could be singing with this misery around. A yogi feels free amidst thousand coils. He rolls on the high seas of passion of ecstatic enjoyment without ever being possessed by the spells of life’s mesmeric glooms; without ever feeling ‘trapped’.

“You must have heard how in the forests of Ceylon and Mysore they trap the wild elephants. They master the huge brutes not by snares, nets or drugs; but just by sending amidst them a trained cow elephant who trades love, and has them slaving for the rest of their life. Ask a horse trainer. He would tell you that for the sake of the gallantry of following a mare even hot blooded stallions would fall back in any race. The most effective trap in life is the charm of passions; the most trapping passion is the charm of sex. Of all agonies in flesh, sex is the most telling one.

“Man is bought and sold by money, power, wealth and this infinite draw for sex. Not the yogin. He, like Krsna, enjoys the fullness of life, lives in the fullnes of life, yet remains sufficiently withdrawn to be constantly keeping in touch with his inner consciousness. Passionless love; heatless flame. The sense of duty of a yogi is too keen and real to admit of the least deviation. But living his life in its fullness he charges, as it were, an inner dynamo, a battery, so that he could effectively transform that power for the good of all. It demands a course of great discipline, astute and strict self-control; but that is expected of a yogin. No yogin seeks joy or heaven for himself. All his power is for the service of the suffering multitude. His self is not his. He discovers his self as a phenomenon found in each and every life, even in every object. This makes him actively non-violent, and non-violently active. In him violence and non-violence have become one.

“It is a great lesson my son; and before you could absorb it, I am sure, I shall have to repeat it to you many more times. This explains why we sing hymns, go for pilgrimages, visit shrines, recite the epics of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Recite and recite. To be selfabnegating is not enough. It is indeed less than enough. A yogin’s life and conduct should be a fully involved one. Negation in involvement, and involvement in negation. ‘Stand-offishness’ is not his; a holy(?) negation is not his.

“In this tantra your father has been my silent guru, a burning yet a living example. He would never preach; he would read very little; but watch his enthusiasm for spreading learning.

 

The Bhairavas

“I have yet other gurus. I watch them from respectable distances. But I accept them, and learn from them. Govinda Pandit your uncle, for example. Everyone is afraid of him. He is the man of magic, the Aghori Bhairava, the fierce tantrik. No doubt he looks fierce, and talks fierce; but he is the greatest, and the kindliest doctor, specially when doctors are not available. Plague, cholera, smallpox, those ravag ing epidemics devastate the town, and death-cries rend the air. You find this old man moving from home to home, bed to bed, fearlessly, tirelessly, uninvited, and reaching the stricken with his medicines, little globules of his own preparation, derived out of herbs, animal poisons and chemical ingredients. When he refuses to administer his medicine, people come to realise that nothing more could be done to the poor life. Of course, he is a man of miracle; but his demeanour is so forbidding that none dare approach him, and waste his time. He detests wastefulnes; he shuns sweet talks. The perfect yogin shuns crowd.

“I could list out a hundred gurus. There is no guru as a special guru, as the ‘only’ guru. Once you have chosen one for you, he remains yours for life. When you feel to bring problems, bring them to him. He himself would guide you to the specialists, if and when the specialists shall be needed. He would know it. Depend on him. You cannot love many loves.”

She would have gone on; but she stopped as she noticed something in my eyes. And she broke into a tender smile. “But one could, as I said, love someone. You love me. I love you too. Such absolute love plants a trust in the soul. It is a mutual trust. Love purifies, chastens, teaches one to suffer, tolerates, adjusts, dares and shares. One could love only a guru like that. Such love is unbodied. It is love of, and for, another world. This love is not for this world.

“But all this does not mean that the great lessons of life cannot be learnt from several sources. That type of rigidity is contrary to a yogin. A real yogin is a relaxed being: he is a spirit of charity, com passion and humble acceptance of good from any source. A genuine yogin blooms like a lotus to receive the drink of light and life; and he withdraws his sense receptions like the limbs of a tortoise when he chooses. Keep the senses always open and alert. Receive as much of the gifts of God as possible. Who knows when, and in what form the divine essence would descend? Yoga sharpens the faculties of the senses. It is more rewarding to know how to care for them, deserve them; accept them and utilise them. Yoga is not dulling the senses. Do not waste power and skill chasing false pursuits.

“Remember to keep the senses awake. You hear the ‘mad man of the morning’ howling through the dawn ‘Chet! Chet! Chet!” (Awake, awake, awake). Keep the senses awake, but get not involved. This way you see, and meet many gurus. You remember Guru Dattatreya, the Mahabhairava. Don’t you?” (Bhairava is an astute yogin feared for his unconventional ways or ritual ensemble.)

“Yes,” I said the one at the crematory grounds on the Varunā. I know the shrine. You had taken me there.”

“Then you must have noticed the various animal forms drawn on the walls of his shrine. He learnt from all animals, plants and even from the elements in nature. This is the way of the perfect Bhairava, of the vama-margis (left-path-followers). This is the way of Mahayana. Tantra adores this way. These are also known as the Aghoras, who keep contact with the abstract spirits in nature and supernature. Govinda Pandit is one such.” “And you...,” I added with caution.

The benign smile beamed again. The chubby palm rested on my head, and brushed along my spine. “Who? Me? An Aghora? No, not yet. Better by far is your auntie of the Manikarnika. A powerful lady. It takes a long long practice to rise up to that state. A time would come in your life, when you too shall have to realise this. Never despise an Aghora, only because his ways are not your ways. Judge them not by your habits, your forms, your tastes, norms and standards. You are nothing yet in the region of the spirit. You are just like one standing at the gates of a show house without having a ticket. What opinion would you have of the show that goes inside? Obtain the ticket first.

“The Aghoras (an extreme sect of Bhairavas) are neither despicable, nor perverse unless you put up a front, already made up by you.. To be a yogin is to break up all fronts, and break through all fronts to perfect freedom. When through your uncontrolled anger you call a man a dog, a woman a whore, a beggar a vermin and a leech, you are much more perverse than you would accept. You are perverse when you have enough, yet fight for yet more; and you already have more than you need. You are worse than perverse when you sit over heaps and heaps of things which you do not need, but which keeps others deprived of the essential instruments for survival. You gloat and dote on women and men only for rolling on certain parts of the body, and act like living fungus, eczema. You are perverse in your thinking when you do not hesitate to plan mass killings of the innocents in the name of nation and patriotism. Political science is perverse; economy and commerce are perverse. What could be more perverse than to watch people die of hunger, children die without nourishment and medical care, souls die without education; and all this, my son, has been done under the silver cover of duty, religion, brotherhood, friendship and nationalism. No aid is aid if motivated as investments for future collection. No love is love when motivated by selfish designs.

“No my son, no! The Bhairavas are not perverse. They preserve within them some of the most impersonal blessings for the benefit of those who deserve them. A day would come when you would understand the Aghora way; you yourself would become Aghora. The unknown Aghora is more telling than the known Aghora.

“Such Aghories have their gurus everywhere. Only the correct disciple and the initiate could recognise their merits. Many of Magdala, the prostitute, knew who Jesus, the Christ was; Sujätä, the tribal maiden knew who Gautama, the Buddha was; Radha knew what Kṛṣṇa was; the little Sarada knew what Ramakrishna was. It is very misleading and unjust to form opinion of a person from watching outward behaviour, specially if one were to judge his or her spiritual life.

(I remembered that in our locality most people abstained from coming close to the Lady in Saffron for her whispered past life.)

“The gurus teach; they instruct. They attribute and confide a heritage of immortal knowledge, but always to the right person at the right time. This is the practical knowledge of reality gained through experience. Having this, there is not else,to be had.

"This is the Ultimate. Sivam; Anandam; the ecstasy of feeling free. It is a tonic; a power that lifts, raises, transcends. Once this power is experienced, and stored within, man can love man without reckoning the fallen ones’ sins, misdeeds and failings. Evil ceases to be an evil at the touch of a Bhairava, an arhat, a muskil-ásán. Were it not so, all this effort for attaining transcendental power and liberation would have been reduced to a selfish pursuit after personal ecstasy. That would become the hunt of a voluptuary for objects of personal enjoyment. No; Bhairavas are almost elemental in their generosity and sacrifice-but they are also elemental in their fury. Power that brings about cosmos from chaos could also send cosmos to chaos, when the

Time comes. “Ecstasy is divine because joy goes out of the one to the many. It radiates. Consummation of the self, for the self, in the self is worse than being demonic. It is evil itself. It degenerates the will of man.

“But to reach up to this kind of impersonal power one has to exercise and practise; go through fire; hold the cobra by the hand, and swallow poison without the least hesitation. Laws that control objects and matter do not apply to spirit and soul. “This is not often realised. One ‘IS’, because one’s senses respond

In a special individualised way to the world outside. This relation is established through the sense organs. But this is not all. The sense organs do not completely form our individuality. There ‘is’ also the other one; the other me, within me. The individuality and being of this other one does not depend on the responses of his outer senses. The presence and realisation of this other one depends on the feeler’s supersenses, the senses beyond and deeper than the outer sense organs. There must be, therefore, some other set of apparatus which feels to respond to this inner being, the being that feels and responds in our dream, for example. Yes there is another being within us, more intimate, more vital, more concerned with our well being. That ‘being” being imbalanced, we are severely imbalanced. That ‘being’ being becalmed we are completely at peace with ourselves.

“The obvious relates to the obvious; the intimate relates to the intimate set of senses. Man is a complete being; is a composite unit formed of these two sets of senses. But we fail to realise that, due to our blind fascination for the world. Hence it should not be difficult to understand why we fail so miserably to reach man in his acutest distress and agony; why we suffer, why we worry and why we break down under the pressure of tensions. We are not in touch with the inner being in us; with the ‘T’ within. We are not in control of the supra-senses within us.

“Those who have no senses cannot feel through their organs a and instruments; those who do not have supersense cannot feel or measure the Reality. With instruments fit for measuring first, second and third dimensions one cannot measure the fourth, fifth, sixth and the seventh dimensions. One must cultivate humility for obtaining true knowledge. Ego of knowledge is the greatest enemy to knowledge.

 

 

Asanas Again

“And for such exercise and rigours these asanas were put up. These Aghori asanas have not come from one person, or one system. These did not come from even one people, or at one time. You see that the most treatises on this ancient knowledge have been recorded later, and in the most cryptic and mysterious language. These are known as tantras, the ‘strands,’ and are recorded in sutras, the ‘strands’, again. Formed strands (sutras) emerge out of a mass of silk or cotton, as truths come out of a mass of tradition, and to be carried over to other times. Long and unbroken is this strand; mysterious and pragmatic are these sutras. “Thread’ of thinking, ‘thread’ of the spider’s web. So is the web of tantra woven out of these strands of sutras. Strand by strand a whole texture has been woven for expounding the efficacy of postures. One must assume a good and effective posture before one could sit for a long session on meditation. But the variety of asanas that people find described with illustrations in commercial books are exclusively meant for a health therapy, or for those pompous minds which are engaged in the vain search for an easy way to concentration and meditation. There is no easy way.

“Besides, such book-knowledge which encourages the sprouting of the spiritual clubs, meditation centres etc. Could become a further source of tension, unless conducted by the real experts, and attended by the serious and actual seekers. There is no such thing as a packet deal in spiritual involvement, or a portable spiritual experience. This could prove to be extremely arduous for an inner peace, because such superfluous participation might inflate the already inflated ego.

“In fact one or two asanas should suffice to give a start to the novice. This asana has to be selected by the guru with the complete diagnosis of the subject involved, and to his most comfortable acceptance. Hazardous ardour and forced compulsion are detrimental to the attainment of peace.

 “Watch a typist. Because she has to sit for long hours at the machine, she adjusts her seat with great care. If she does not do so, besides affecting her performance adversely she would injure her sight, cause pain to her spine, ultimately becoming a victim to nervous discord and arthritis. You should by now realise how important it is to select....”

I stopped her at this point, and broke out-“Did you select the asana and the posture for me with that amount of deliberation? Was our nakedness and the complex seating posture something that you had intended for me?” I needed courage to ask; but I was determined. Her eyes suddenly got stilled. Having kept quiet for a while she ultimately spoke. Her voice underwent a change. She spoke with a heavy depth, the voice rolling from afar.

“Why do you ask?”

“I must,” I was forcefully dynamic.

“Why?” The same impersonal voice spoke again..

“Who else shall ask, if not I? Who else shall answer, if not you? I want to know for certain that this Aghora way, this vama way is the only way for me. If I could be something else; if any other way would have done.”

“What have you so much against the Aghories? Did I not explain? Aghories are the Buddhas, I told you. They have found out the secrets of asanas. Gorakhnath, Matsyendra, Aştavakra, Gheranda, Nakulisa. Time will make you know.

“But the male-female circle of contact achieves a completeness of spiritual freedom which no man in body would achieve singlehanded. This is the vajra way. This is the sahaja (easy) way, the way of feeling easy. The keen ascetic way remains incomplete; as it is a negative way.

“Why? Have I not been explaining to you the mystiques of the vama? It appears that the complex has not yet been removed. Let us then try to understand it in a different way. You know that the complete life cycle for a Hindu has been divided into four sections.”

Brahmachari Learner novice, practising the way to emancipation; (ii) grhastha householder (who now accepts life as a testing ground of what he has been learning); (iii) vanaprasthi = the man retired and secluded in search for the Real (when he gives a further account of his basic preparation for enjoyment without attachment); and lastly, (iv) sanyasī the recluse (who now wants to discover himself, and thereby charge the human world with dynamism). The first stage is meant for application in the second; without this vital second stage there is neither the third, nor the fourth stage.

 

Why a Woman

“Then, must one marry? Must one have a woman?”, I asked quite besides myself.

I was remembering the very many saints I had known. One of these was quite dear to me. He had been keeping the vow of silence for twelve years. Often did I see him in the Chatuhṣaşthi shrine, almost waiting for me, and always smiling through his looks at me. But for a piece of loin-cloth he literally wore the shining robes of his wonderful health, the shine and glow of his skin and a divine glamour surrounding his tall form. I continued, “Without this man-woman tie could nothing be achieved? Are you telling me this?”

“Yes, I am telling you this,” she repeated solemnly the words I had inadvertently let slip out. I was excited. “I am telling you this,” she went on saying, “because I love you, and would not mislead you; nor set you on a path which would prove so much more difficult for a common person. Because I want to give you my all, I must never hide anything from you. Why are you so much surprised at this? The natural way is the ordained way. Nature is correct. The natural way; the sajaha way. The way of life. From life to Super-life. Rama, Krsna, Buddha-why, Ramakrishna, Sri Aurobindo, Sri Chaitanya,well I could name so many. Which of the Vedic sages remained single? Those who did were the Bhairavas: Parasurama, Durväsä, Dirghatamas, Märkandeya, Dattatreya. This is the trend. The Great Mother desires this.... What happened to Jaratkaru, Astävakra, Chyavana? You forgot?” (Hindu epic characters)..

“Nò auntie. They had to get married at an old age to correct themselves, and then....”

“...and then achieve the goal. The female power actually assists the male power. The female is a special reservoir of power. This power they need to nurse and bear life. The seek life and motherhood. They feel incomplete without this motherhood. Because of this they have more power, inner power, emotional power. It is a forceful power, tamas. The Female power of tamas. The Mother is tamasi. Females are moved by a greater urge; they suffer from greater cravings, greater upsets. Tamas is such. Power is power. To take power from power, and assist to get more light is a wise way. Through the help of this power the summit of spiritual realisation is attained within a shorter space. This is the mahayana, the sahaja, the natural way. This is the path of innocence. Those who achieve innocence in the male and female find in the asanas (mahasana) the peace of the ultimate.

“But in this age of greed and indiscipline many take to this path only to delade themselves. Their mind is corrupt. They are fraudulent and perverse of mind. They are cankers to the Great Spirit of Life, They sow the seeds of suffering.

“Hence we need caution. Hence the need for well tried directions, Directions from well tried gurus. Hence the need of dead secrecy between the guru and the disciple. Hence the need for a total dedicated control of the sensuous in life.

“Personality is a construction of the senses imaged by ego. Impersonality and total innocence is achieved when the ego is eroded through the discovery of joy freed from the sense organs. Who cares for the swim aids after the swimmer has achieved? Aids, become encumbrances to the man perfected. Who cares for health tip, once the body functions tip top? What a man alone could give totally is but a half of ‘Life’. What he must achieve must take a double time if he aims at completing it by himself. What man owes to woman must be recognised, respected and adored. What woman could bestow on man could cut his efforts by a half, or by more than half. Mahadeva needed Uma; Vişņu needed Laksmi. You and I need our opposites to complete the circle.

.“This was the reason the great and sublime Bhairavas, age by age, discovered the asanas. In the monasteries of Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, in the books of secret tantra, one could still find elaborate descriptions of the asanas. The Tibetan tankas are records of these Asanas, sometimes drawn geometrically through mandalas. But books are poor substitutes for gurus. Gurus give you directly what you need. The Aghories are direct teachers who make nothing of the body, nothing of the body functions, nothing of fear, shame, scorn etc. They look like the rejects of life and senses; but they reject nothing.”

I was merged. I was merged in on ocean of consciousness. Like the rains from the monsoon sky after the scorching months of summer the words poured, poured and poured. I was not only drinking, but also storing energy for future prospects, prospects for the future harvests. “Why then so many asanas?,” I asked.

“Why so many medicines? As many cases, as many diagnoses. As many ailments, as many drugs, as many methods. Asanas are many. Aghories are many, Necessities are many. Methods are many. Each and every one of these has been well described by the adepts after full-measured experimentations.”

 

 

You Are I

As if let loose from some height suddenly she climbed down to the level of life, and broke into a continued laughter without sounds. The atmosphere around became charged with a delightful vivification. She threw her hands around me, and gave me a gentle hug. “Dear one,” she said, “come to me. Be fearless. You are mine. Very much mine. More than you could own or imagine. Why are you still at the crossroads? Ask me further questions if you have any.”

“I understand what you say. But still I feel that I cannot reveal or own such asanas to others. I cannot speak of this to any.”

“Why must you?,” she looked surprised. “Every question need not be encouraged; every question need not be answered. It would not be worthwhile. You are you; more than you. You are me. You are I. All of you need not be for the showcase, or for the microscope. You have things essentially belonging to your inner self, and none needs know them; none could know them. Could they?”

“I follow you. I agree. But when I am hungry, sleepy, when I experience something exciting, or hear something interesting, I share my thoughts with others. Do I not? And in doing so do I not many times increase my joy in the things I receive and experience?”

“Yes there are things you do mention. But are there not some other things which you do not? This one is one such that you do not. You shall not. Secrecy is the key demand.”

“Why?,” again I insisted.

“Could you tell me how much do you love me?”

After considering the question for a while I said, “No!”

“How would you like to report to others about your love for me. And if you did, how far would you succeed in doing it accurately?”

This made me pause. I thought about it, and saw the futility of it all. I realised slowly that the most intimate experiences are bound to be lonely. These could not be reported, shared. Joy shared through reporting is like the reflected light from the moon. All descriptions must necessarily be tinged with colour. These are lies, and yet not lies. The effort being real and truthful, the effects are ‘taken’ to be honest. All art, all literature, all expressions must necessarily be a limited expression of the unlimited truth. Truth cannot be expressed. Reality is silent. Experience is entirely personal.

 

 

Experience is Lonely

She had been watching me carefully.

Then she gradually said, “My son, there are never two in the world of experience. Experience is always indivisible. Two might participate in an experience, but because the two are participating, it is not sure that the impacts of those experiences shall be identical for the two. Experience is individual. Sharing joy is always a vain attempt. Real joy is self-revealing in the self. Real friends do not have to be told. Friendship makes one transparent. A friend sees through the joy of a friend, like sunlight shining from behind the clouds. Men are at their best relations with the world of joy as long as they are not asked to speak of it; and what is more, as long as it is understood that a personal realisation cannot be spoken of. Consider the infants, the speechless infants. They speak with their radiance; and the mother understands. We are just like the little babies in the eyes of the Great Mother. And she alone understands whether we are famished or satisfied. There is no need to talk. Only communicate. Silent communication is the supreme bliss of love. The unspoken is always much sweeter than the spoken; and certainly more accurate. Hence in japa of mantra silence must be observed. Not even the tongue should move. In fact the tongue should be stuck to the area lying between the tonsils. Love is both blind, and dumo of tongue. Feel, and experience.”

“Love also likes to express. To demonstrate. Is it not so?”

“Demonstrative love? That must be too thin. Spectacular and conventional. Better to avoid such love.”

 

 

Why Rituals!

“Then why all these rituals? All these flowers, garlands, bells and singing of chants? Is the Great Mother deaf? Is she as weak as to need flattering praises?”

“Men often use demonstration for their own benefit rather than for the benefit of the worshipped. Such demonstrative practices assist the efforts, as the stick does assist the old and the cripple. Accept these as the necessary encumbrances; aides to achievement. Do not make a fetish of the aides, forgetting the aim and the objective. When one wants to speak the most in the least, one takes to poetical expressions. Hymns and mantras speak the most in the least. Only the writers and the poets know that having said all, much remains yet unsaid. There has never been a complete poet. Literature is a still born child.”

I too used to try on versifications and short stories. I watched her remarks wide-eyed. The desire to talk and refute was rushing through my mind like a flood of sunlight overwhelming a closed room where a window has been suddenly opened.

But she continued. “We sing Her praises aloud. This is true. We bring Her homage in leaves and flowers, fire and water. This is also true. These are the methods through which we try to attach values and meanings to things we ourselves hold as valuable and meaningful. We would not have paid homage if we ourselves did not look forward to it. Ask the political leaders. They too receive the garlands. Ask the worshippers of birthdays, and those who observe anniversaries of Christmas and Valentines. Men glory and romance over these presentations, and feel that they could please their gods the same way. These are not entirely superficial. As I said, these are necessary as aids. These gifts offered through music, words, flowers, flames, candles, water, cards, food, even money have their psychological uses. Not superficial uses; real; almost medical and clinical. These expressions, made through the gifts, often iron out the crumpled complexes of the mind, and bring upon a disturbed mind the blessings of peace. They provide support of the cripple, as glasses do to the myopic. No, rituals are very much in place. Those who invented them were the wise of the earth. Never undervalue rituals; but also bear it in mind not to overvalue them.”

 

 

Sex is a Sacrifice

“Is clothing too a convention, and unclothing a ritual?” “No. More than that. Not clothing or unclothing, but the very sex.

This is to be understood that the powers of sex, hunger and greed too, coming from the Mother, provide incentives to a purpose. But only when this is fully understood it is so; when misunderstood the incentive tempts indulgence, and becomes a source of serious danger. We have discussed that aspect already.

“The gift of anger is a great gift; the gift of greed is a supreme gift; the gift of sex is the most important of gifts. Unclothing is absolutely necessary when one practises rightfully the gift of sex. Let me explain.

“You make gifts of water and flower; of sweets and other food. And then you partake of the same flower, garland, food, drink. You claim that these are blessed. In Christianity they make gifts of bread and wine. And then partake of the gift. In this way we develop a rapport of veneration to the things we physically need, and mentally covete. This imposes on our sensuousness a kind of restriction through veneration and regard. When we offer our sex ritually to the divine, consider the sex as a divine gift, and then participate in it, automatically our attitude towards sex changes. Control over sex is the most difficult of controls. The more one preserves this control, the more one gains in accumulation of will power.

“This skin to skin asanas close all the sex areas together; a state of intimate participation develops. Then this great offering leads to a consummate bliss of ecstatic realisation. After this, the attitude towards sex as well as to woman in general becomes so sublimated that in using this power we become divinely disposed. Power then is conserved. Do not flitter away the power. Do not waste the seed, This is tantra.

“Those who have prescribed these rituals knew very well what they were doing. Gunpowder was discovered for fun. Dynamite was discovered for the use of power for human service. Sources of more concentrated power shall be yet discovered. If these are used or misused for destruction and waste would you not call that an act of rascality? Vandalism? Barbarism? Sex too is a source of power. Only a very little of this power is needed for reproduction. But it is mostly wasted. If well preserved, this power could easily reach man to his ultimate goal of finding peace (to let others live in peace); it reaches the sublime heights without much difficulty. His actions would be inspired; his speech would be eloquent; his will would become dynamic; his love would become effective.

“But the wonder of wonder is that at the āsana or out of it, with woman or without her, amidst sex, gluttony, avarice, wealth and other sources of egotistic swell, man finally seeks loneliness. He wants to be secluded, alone. To be by his own Self. This is why we sleep. Nature has provided life with sleep to remain alone for a while. Without this resort in loneliness man would break down to pieces. Those who are not lonely even in sleep are subject to nerve-shattering dreams. They live in hell. They are the condemned of the earth.

 

 

Secrecy in Tantra

“Worry not about what others say about your intimate exercise. Where do those talkers and probers of your behaviour disappear when you are alone with me? Do they bother you then my child? During the sessions?

“When the world goes to sleep, the stars wake. When the stars go  to sleep, the world wakes. That is why we find that the silence of the night appears to be more profound than the bustle of the lighted day. People regard saints and yogis, even me, as unrelated to the world. Yet these are most concerned with the life and beyond. A yogi is the one who though concerned, does not show it. He like the sunless silent night keeps a vigil of protection over a world that sleeps. He is silent. Silence could be very eloquent my son, as a crowd could be very lonely.”

I recalled that the neighbourhood wondered at the vigilant silence of the Lady in Saffron.

Suddenly, I felt extremely ashamed that I had made her talk so much, and at length. I had asked her, what now appeared to me, a silly question about silence, secrets and hiding. Why must we always be fighting within for explaining ourselves?

But something else had still been bothering me.

She became aware of my disturbance.

“Do not stop now my son,” she said. “I am about to lead you out to deeper seas. Ask now. What next? When we in tantra demand criminal secrecy, we do not mean secrecy in the sense of the criminal gangs. Secrecy like that cringes the soul; it makes the mind burrow deeper and deeper where light is denied. There is another kind of secrecy. It is the secrecy of the womb, where underneath deep covers, unseen and untended, the fruit of love grows. The time for revelation comes, and the fruit comes out to light and life. Some secrets are nursed for later revelation in their fullness; some secrets are preserved for the darkness alone.

“Look around, and watch. The world of nature secretly, under the earth, under the soil, conspires with wind and light and water for years and years, and going back far and farther back, eons and eons of time backward, until we fail even to measure the time and the cause, in total hush, prepares to spring out a bloom on a plant, and the fruit comes. We know that from the bloom the fruit comes. Do we know now the seed came? How the bloom came? What transmutations had to be gone through, before a grain of rice, or a cedar tree came to be what it is now? This is another kind of secret. The birth of a star is merged in another kind, and yet another deeper secret.

“The gaudy flower shows itself off; the juicy fruit tempts us. We stretch our hands to seize the one for its beauty and perfume; and the other for its juice and life giving properties. Watch the seed. The silent, insignificant, almost negligible seed. None imagines that, like the genii emerging from the insignificant little bottle that Aladin had picked up from the vast sea shore, from that little seed a whole generation of mangoes, and many more generations beyond, trees and mangoes would continue to emerge. The seed of the giant banyan tree is hard to be seen. Life is held in silence within the casket of an unseen seed. The life of mantra lies within a ‘seed’ sound. Hatch it; power would spring out of it. Who knows the source of life?

“Silence is a great virtue. Tantra believes in the ‘vitality’ (prana sakti) of the seed. All its mantras are known as seed sounds. Great spiritual prospects are held within these insignificant syllabic sounds. Tantra has again enjoined on the great virtue of holding the tongue. The fraudulent beats his drums, makes a lot of noise, and attracts a crowd. Often sensation promoters get around a yogi, a miracle man, and keep up a big noise. For them noise is money. For others silence is a blessing; source of real wealth. The lion preys in utter silence, but the jackal that lives on the lefovers keeps on a lot of noise; and the crows and vultures attract the entire woodland of the kill that was made in silence. Promoters are like keen vultures. In no time at all the crowds flock around. The peace of silence gets eroded; its profundity gets deluged; and ultimately what had been an abode of peace ends up with the crescendo of a stage-managed variety performance.

“Tantra warns against such pitfalls. ‘Secrecy has to be maintained,” says tantra, “as the secret areas of one’s own personal body.”

That brought me to my real enquiry. My anxious reaction was visible. It appeared that the Lady in Saffron suddenly had grown larger in dimension. She had anticipated me, and beamed into a smile.

“You find the contradiction. Personal areas of sex, contrary to common acceptance, are not kept covered because there is any secrecy in them. There is no secrecy in milk; but we keep it secure from the cat. There is no secrecy in what we eat. But we keep them covered from flies and germs. Why then must you confuse between secrecy that has to be maintained in spiritual undertakings, and the physical nudity of the body? Those who make the body an object for exhibition and claim admiration, track, tempt and trap the onlookers. The motive behind makes an action vicious. By itself an action is not vicious.

“Take a good look at the world around you. Which other form of life, besides the human beings, makes a fetish of their nudity, or of the coverings? What brought about in the life of man the complex of shame? Lust for the surface of bodily joys motivates undeserved grabs; and such thievings, when caught up, brings about the shame complex. The fear of public denouncement as a thief, or a grabber intensifies this shame which indeed is a guilt complex.

 

 

The Light Within

“Complexes, my son, result from problems. Problems are the products from misunderstandings and malhandlings of situations. Often we try to sweep out these situations, by keeping the facade smooth and clean, only by pushing the dirt under the bright carpet. The dirt however, corrupts and fowls the air. Purity of breathing is interfered with; and a complex is allowed to grow. Complex disturbs the mental health. Complex obstructs the light from heaven. This ‘light from heaven’ is not a legend. Heaven may be; but not the light from heaven. This light is a fact. It is within you. Call it intelligence, call it intellect. Without this unaccountable light, life would be dumb.

“This light is within you. This light is without you. Through this light you participate beyond your own limit. The light within enlightens you; the light without delights you. In the heavens and beyond it, on this earth, and what exists between the two this divine glory and light envelopes all life. Life is this light. This light enlightens your thinking as intelligence; in your eyes, it is sight; in your ears, sound (light is sound and vice versa); on your skin, touch and grace. This light becomes blessings coming through wishes; this light descends as joy in your smiles and popularity. Understanding is aglow with this light; darkness of mind and of soul is removed by this light. No secrecy could endure this light. The want of it brings out the beast in man; and one must secure life from the ravages of these beasts. God is jyoti, go, bharga-light.

“For further evidence of this ‘light from heaven’ one has to consider the secret springs of the faculty of clear thinking. Clear, direct, revealing reactions of the mind is described as ‘coming to light. One name of light (jyoti) is expression (prakāśa). Jīvatām jyotih (Let light prevail).”

 

 

Pain

“The mind that functions without pain or fear, specially fear, does not cause the self any pain and suffering. Pain and suffering are reactions of the mind. Even physical pain is a feeling. And feeling is the mind’s only identity. Physical pain is the result of muscular sensitiveness and nervous intolerance. It is mind’s failure to bear the unbearable. Emotional pain could be neutralised by inner discipline. A disciplined mind regards all changes as casual and temporary. The balanced does not fluctuate, and does not suffer pain.

“Your Surendada admits members to his underground guerrilla club by putting them to physical tests against acute and severe tortures. He asks young boys and girls to hold out their fingers on candle flames until the skin begins to roast and peel. He drives sharp blades of knives through the flesh, and needles through the roots of nails as tests for dumb endurance. That is the passport for entering the club. How could they suffer the pain, and why? If one could suffer it, of course another could, or should. It is the pull of the objective that influences the nerves to gain in fortitude. With proper training understanding and subtle analysis, the cause of pain, as well as of suffering itself could be negatived. Do nor suffer.

 

 

Yogic Control Over Mind

“Knowledge, understanding, analysis and training are steps pres cribed in yoga. Discipline, regulations, postures, control, decontrol, clear conception, absorption of the conceived ideal gradually step up the mind to gain the heights of impersonal concentration.

“Mental concentration first releases the mind free. The mind’s place is then taken over by pure consciousness. Then the ‘Fountain of Power’ is released. Power is the greatest possession in human life. Else man would be only a glorified animal; a biological fact; a psychological chaos. The fountain of power must be discovered. It is within you. Love is within you: the love that does not get entangled, but is involved.

“Once the mind is free from the bonds of conditioned expectations, prejudiced conclusions, that is, from rooted superstitions, it is able to act as a subjective function. Thinking is a function that needs not be encumbered with mind. You know that mind does not do the thinking. It is illusory to suppose that the mind even remembers, retains or forgets. Those functions belong to memory. Mind only carries false impressions, and by doing so keeps clear thinking in a state of perpetual confusion. All mental conditions must be complex; because mind is a conditioned state of the personality. Consciousness alone is pure.

 

 

Clear Thinking

“... But you are wondering... Well, I am not surprised. Are you following?”

Indeed this was going partly over my head. The speed was too much for my tracing. I was on the verge of a breakdown. I hated to find myself in a position when she would be explaining, and I would be gasping for breath for survival. Following logical discourses was habitual with me. My birth in a classical Sanskrit school, environment had given me a training in following up the abstruse discourses. Our academy was a common meeting place in Varanasi of known logicians and grammarians.

But at her sudden halt, and query I felt a sort of relief, and I cried, “No? I don’t”.

“Yes, you do!,” she asserted; and at the same time held my hand in hers, and gave me a gentle pull. Her right palm was on my eyes, which I closed. She rested her palm for a while on the eyes, and repeated, “Yes you do, you do....”

In a flick, the tight feeling was gone. She continued as before “You do your arithmetic. Do you? Then you do think for arriving at the result step by step. Likewise you do your geometry. Don’t you? Then again you are led to think, step by step until you are at the end of the solved problem. When you are asked to form a word from its roots, or construct a sentence, you have to go along the steps of grammar. This type of thinking is known as clear thinking, or mindless thinking. This is objective thinking. “When the same brain is engaged in thinking about how to find

Food and shelter, how to escape punishment, or form lies, it is not engaged in clear thinking. This second kind of thinking is linked with self-interest, and is therefore prejudiced. It is, as it were, loaded with preconcieved conclusions, and wishes. Wish slaps a bond on free will. The thinker projects his wish through his thinking. He is walking under his own shadow. The thinker’s conclusions are being foreshadowed by his thinking. The thinker himself, and not the problem, becomes the central commanding figure. The thinker gets himself emotionally involved. This severely stands against the course of free thinking.

“The aim of yogic concentration is achieving the freedom of mind; or if you prefer, achieving liberation from the world of mind. When the mechanism of thinking is thus liberated then, and not till then, one could realise what one really is. Once one realises the SELF in its fullness of glory, one is worthy of being called the liberated, the Buddha, the Paramahamsa. Else he remains a bonded slave to his emotional being and personality.

 

 

Power Ultimate

This is the ultimate in manhood. Getting at the flush of this Fountain of Power. This is the aim of life. The ultimate in manhood is to drink directly from this final source; to bathe in this light from heaven. I have been talking to you of this. It is not difficult to understand this for those practised to keep their mind on the track of correct thinking. I hope you understand it now. It is inescapable.” “... And when I get this power, what shall I do with it?”

“Why are you so anxious to “do” something at all? Why? Does the river ever think; ‘Why must I flow? Or, the sky, ‘Why must I home the clouds? Or, the cloud; ‘Why must I float and melt? Or, the trees, ‘Why must we stand and grow and supply?’ You will or you could say, that they have no mind, that they are parts of nature, and act under natural laws. Who says they have no minds? Is there any firm proof? How do we know? Are we not under the same natural laws? If the natural laws make us think of ‘doing’, the other lives and other aspects and other forms in nature might be thinking too. You know about the existence of mind by the disturbances it creates in you. The undisturbed feels no mind. It is like a glass-door. Because it is transparent, because its purity is not disturbed by contrary substances, you do not realise that a door is there. And in your unconcerned attempt to pass through, you are obstructed; you bounce against it; you get vexed, as Duryodhana did. The unthinking cannot put up with obstructions, because he assumes too much. That which is itself, and no other but itself, must be free from all kinds of obstructions; so naturally, it has to be transparent in understanding. What is that thing which we might call as totally transparent? It is consciousness. You are not definite about the fact that there is no consciousness in

Nature. Are you? “No action in nature waits for ‘why.’ Whys belong to us, men, who are doomed to reason out. Nature ‘is’; there is very little of why in nature. It creates with perfect freedom, and open choice. Everything in nature fulfills a purpose and plays a definite role in the scheme of things. The universe is knit together into a unit in spite of its manyness; and each part of this well-knit unit fulfills a purpose in a welllaid out pattern. Nature sets its own pattern.

“If so, a man’s life too must have a purpose; and if there is one, man must fulfil it. If man did not, imbalance would result. Imbalance in nature would bring disaster. The human world has brought down on its head disaster after disaster. The process is continuing, and would continue, as long as it accepts its own mind as the ultimate power, and considers it to be the last judge. It brings down disasters sometimes collectively, sometimes individually. But at its root lies some kind of an individual mind. Such a mind has to be a selfish mind chasing its preconceived conclusions.

“I see you have not got it. We know that Rävana was an individual who brought about an imbalance, and disaster followed. True. But Dasaratha too had acted under the influence of an imbalance. Disaster had started from that act. He made vows in order to win the favours of a girl much younger to his age. Even Sitä was the victim of an imbalance mind when she had foolishly insisted on having the golden deer, Rāma knew well that the golden deer was a fake, a mental trap. He even tried to bring sense to Sitā. But she, with a woman’s infatuation, was insistent. So carried away was she by her imbalance that she did not much worry to drive the loyal and godly Lakşmaņa away from his duty by stinging him with lashes of unmentionable accusations. These individual imbalances ultimately led armies of human beings to march in bloodshed, which could have been avoided. That process has not stopped yet. We have never known a year in the world without armies marching against armies due to the wrong thinking of individual; and armies would continue to march against armies. Mouthful names of justice and fairplay are always trumpeted. As long as man’s thinking does not get clear, that is to say, does not get impersonally inspired, this disaster will continue to distress man. Man must learn to think about good through getting involved without personal interest, or personal gain. No gain is gain if it is only immediate. That which does not bear the stamp of the everlasting is a bad commodity.

““What are those functious for which man as a part of the universe exists? If purpose is not known, of course it could not be fulfilled. There is a fundmental difference between living and existing. A life that drags on and on, without a clear purpose ahead, only drags its steps to death. Living must be a joy in the fullness of life.

“Heaven’s light obstructed, darkness and confusion must follow. This is an inescapable inference deduced from clear thinking. And through objective thinking alone the source of Power could be reached. There is no other way. This is tantra, the traditional way, that has been coming down from wise men to wise men like a continuous thread from a flux of experimental thinking. Call it Hindu, Aryan, Saiva, Vaisnava, Christian, Buddhist, Islamic, Judaic, Samman, Vāma, Aghora, Vajra, Zen, Tao, or whatever you choose; it is tantra. Alj ways are tantra ways. These historical names or local names do not interfere with the basic contents of the search for the fountainhead of the Power of kundalini, the peace of the thousand petalled lotus. Tantra, the name, signifies methodology and means ‘method’, tradi tional way’, ‘strain of continuity’ and ‘thread’.

 

 

Love does not Reason

“Now perhaps you would appreciate why it is vital for man to develop this power; how the acquisition of this power depends on guidance, special methods and special mechanics. We have lost that method, faith, and regard for guidance for, and control of patience. All we are engaged in this age is questioning, arguing, Why? Why and Why? As if man’s ultimate peace is attainable through reasoning. As if reasoning would establish love between man and man. Love, funny to think of it, functions free of reason.

“The quest after the answers to reasoning led the heavenly pair of the legend to be driven permanently out of their beautiful and secured habitat, and miss God’s own protection. They had to leave that protection because the anti-god taught them how to get at peace through enquiry and argument. Only after the two individuals lost the paradise, they realised that they were misled.

“The fact was that they naturally loved as two matured persons. They had not committed sin by loving. The sin was that they forgot to express innocently; they forgot to reveal; they did not take their most loving friend into confidence.

“Love felt hurt. Hurt at the trickery. Else how love could be wrong? All lives at their respective maturity have a mission to fulfill. Love ennobles this mission. Lives born in love find it easier to love. Lives born under duress, compulsion, haste, hatred or horror find it hard to generate love. There is so much lack of love in the world. Hence all this turmoil. The world has become a place of suffering. Love begets love. A mature life’s mission is to multiply life; but it must be done with plan, preparation and love. There are seasons for flowers, fruits, animals, birds. Only the human beings do not have care or regard for the seasons.

“Love blossoms when the seasons are respected. Love is the finest blossom, and the cleanest to spread the perfume of understanding.

“This natural love of life for life, this urge for expression in joy, has acquired the special name of sex. I have spoken of the Power of thadini. This sex-joy, too, like all other forms of joy-food-joy, rest-joy, sleep-joy, creative-joy, is lifesome, healthy and natural. Through this joy the spirit of joy descends to the body level; there, out of the body it derives a limited joy which has unlimited potential. It springs out lives and more lives, and keeps the world drama supplied with actors. Joy is the sublimest and the most effective ingredient to make many come into one. Two become one in joy.

 

 

Life is Born

"Love-joy inspires, and sets the bodies into a hot heat of excitement. It churns the depths of the very beings. The egg of life then springs of the female, who receives the seed. The male costs the seed into the ovum-egg supplied by the female. A live seed is fondly put to sleep into the mother-soil almost as if an infant were put to sleep for nine months into a specially constructed cradle. This is so because in the male alone the seed forms. And all seeds need soil to germinate and grow. Seeds require soil, and soil calls for seed, and planting. The soil is provided by the female. Such is the arrangement in nature that the process could not be reversed. For the continuity of life the male and the female are interdependent. The male casts the seed, and the female, as soil, receives it. There it germinates, grows, and in time shows itself. A life is then born. This life, after the period of incubation, is cast into this world through a passage which we have chosen to call private. It is a wrong name given to a right fact. The parts of the body engaged in this process of generation of life are not so private as personal.

"It takes a period of nine months for the life-seed to germinate, and get strong enough to grow without the warming shelter of the mother's personal body heat. The constant watchfulness of men for the springing of a seed into a human life in nine months made the number nine assume a particularly meaningful esoteric importance in rites. In mystic calculations number nine thus became a mysterious number.

"By functioning as they did, the pair of human beings had acted in a natural function. So far this appeared to be all in form. Nothing had gone wrong. But the envious force which disturbed this innocent and noble fact did a mischief. Anti-god asked the pair to keep their joy and their subsequent love-making a secret from God, who actually would have been too pleased to find them in joy. Instead they presented to him a picture of criminal depression. They were led to believe that God did not want them reach the highest pinnacle of love, and create. “This was not true, but only an assumption. They thought that they had gone against God. No one goes against God by loving. As they tried to keep their joy a secret from God, they had allowed themselves to be tormented by a guilty complex, and this made them lose the most important boon of life, the boon of innocence and universal joy of openness. Although they themselves had enjoyed, they did not want to include God’s participation to their joy. Love can never be exclusive.

“It was a sad beginning for man. Man was born with a guilty complex, and was forced to find delight in the dark chambers of secrecy. Love and light were kept separated through a pervert scheme.

“But by definition God is a power that knows all, sees all and hears all. There was no question of ‘keeping’ a secret from him. Besides being foolish in feeling that they could keep a secret from him, they had acted also cruelly, because they had schemed to keep God out of their feast of joy. Real joy must be shared. In sharing it radiates and discharges streams of power.

“Thus the divine covenant was broken, and man forever lost the natural capacity to realise the absolute love of God. The spell of Eden had been broken. Man asked for his own misery. Since then men have been living in a world of mutual secrets, doubts and hidings. Animals do not have these secrets, neither do the babies. And they are the beloveds of God. They are without sin.”

I was much moved by the contents of the legend which I had heard before. But the manner in which it was related, has brought the inner implications so vivdly that I could hardly resist my tears. It was indeed a tragic legend.

 

 

The Kancukas

The pigeons in the courtyard of the silent temple were busy in their own ways. In the Chatuhşaşthi shrine bells were ringing. The shadows had started lengthening. The Lady in Saffron appeared to have halted for breath. She had been talking now for about an hour and a half. I looked at her, and she knew that I wanted to hug her. She stretched her arms, and I was immediately lost in her motherly embrace.

“No, do not despair. God is kind. All was lost, but love was not lost. Love and hope. Love was still their. This love has to be liberated from its prison of many walls. We call them kancukas, or sheaths, These sheaths refer to vital stages which obstruct our growth, obstruct us from getting completely independent of the world outside. We have a material personality which depends on food and drink; then we have an inner personality which depends on the environmental breathing; then we have our emotional being which depends on the actions and reactions of the people around us; then we have our personality of knowledge acquired from our own perception, and from informations left by others. And lastly we arrive at our own being, our real personality which depends entirely on our realisation. Unless we ourselves have realised, how the realisations of others could satisfy us?

“The walls of this prison-house keep growing around us because of our guilty complex, that makes us keep so much in hiding, and prevents us from living in the openness of life. Although man belongs to the family of the sun and the air, the water and the fire, he has forgotten the art of belonging to them. The links have broken. He dares not declare that like he, his other cousins in nature have the right to live in the openness of contact.

“The fun of life for the human animal so much depends on living a covered life that he almost worships this habit of taking cover, and living under a cover. God lives in the open. For God there is not, and there cannot be any cover. Our joys too, have been covered; our laughters are not free; neither our cries. To express one’s emotions openly has been tabooed as contrary to form and culture. A free expression of the joys and sorrows of life is under a special licence. And this very damaging attitude has caused more problems in life than we would readily own; more complexes than we had bargained for have been brought about by blindly maintaining our wrongful attitudes to life.

“”The only way to get over this is to try to get nearer God, get nearer nature. We are animals; and we must not feel small to own this. God is paśupati, the Lord over the animals. He loves the animals. All our gods and goddesses are represented as controllers of some kind of animal passion, and ‘lords’ of utilising the special powers of these animals for our own benefit. Look at the dog, the horse. How friendly these wild creatures have become to men. This is all due to our ability to control these animals. We could control all animalism of all the animals, inclusive of the animalism which we cover and nurse within us. To bring these to the open, and master them for our benefit, as we have mastered the bull for the plough, the elephant for carrying big loads across mountains and forests, the camels as ships of the desert, is the special gift of the human beings. “Why must we not, then, take courage, and master the serpent, and many other animals, besides, which lie dormant and. Hidden within us? Let us recognise them, bring them to books, before they destroy all our joy in life. That would do so much good for our living, and dying, which is another way to living eternally at peace.

 

 

The Curse of Secrecy

 “Men would still function in secret. Every one is aware of the functions of life and the relation of sex to life. Yet they would prefer driving these functions under the hypocritical pretence of secrets.

“Privacy? Yes, of course. Every individual, every person is a sacred entity to himself. This sanctity enjoins the right to privacy. Most animals too, like to unite in privacy, although their love-life is for all to see. Most emotional demonstrations call for a special private expression. To exhibit emotions is a mark of crude taste. But, secrecy? Why? No. Never refuse light, either within, or without. Light is life. Life is God. Men do not see this. Very unfortunate; but this is the Truth.

“Moreover, they would consider this attitude to be a better attitude, a more decent and natural attitude. Living openness, in loving fidelity, loyalty and friendliness washes out all complexes, or most of them.

“The highest wrong men do to their peace of mind is to help create an area of imbalance, crime, guilt, darkness by accommodating and compromising with these complexes.

“Men delight and take pride in nursing these complexes. It is difficult to believe it; but this is so. They must live under a mask of secretiveness. It is as it were a curse. They must create their own hell by refusing the penetration of light. Sex has remained with them an area of forbidden fruits. It ought to have been welcomed by them as an area of the highest joy that love and body could achieve through friendship, confidence, loyalty and togetherness. These are the sources of the highest spiritual joy in life.

“Forbidden fruits are taken to be, wrongfully though, sweeter than the openly distributed ones. It adds to excitement and to the perverse joy of living in danger. Thus the joy of sex too is often driven under the darkness of secret cover, and hurried secretiveness adds to the pep of this joy.

“As a result this joy is squeezed for joy alone. Man acts as a robber of his own rights. What a curse! It is never controlled; never accepted as normally healthy; its legitimacy in the world of spirit is corrupted by the complexes of guilt and fear; and the original motive of joy, namely, the joy of multiplying life, the joy of procreation is driven into a dark corner. Love gets depraved, degenerated. The greedy run after more food than could be digested. Similarly men run after more sex than the wonders and charms of life could even countenance. Continuity of life is a sacred duty enjoined on life. We have reduced that sacrament into a filthy sensation of a forbidden act.

“The Hindu mode of avowing a male and a female as man and wife is an extremely sublime and sacred sacrament. Their sex becomes veritably, an actual offering, a sacrifice, to the holiness of the lifepurpose. The will of God is expressed through the continuity of life; and sex is a sacrifice to fulfil that will of God. One could go to sex only with that ideal in view, and no other. The hymn of the nuptials solemnly prays: ‘Let us never seek a union aimlessly, frigidly, mechanically. Let our union remain a solemn offering from Love to Love. This all is for Love.’ Ask your father. He would recite for you the whole hymn from the Rgveda.

“Men do not live by these laws and these ideals. They do not even follow the laws of nature. Instead they indulge in excesses, indiscretions and lust. Because they feel guilty, they want to cover up. Because they want to cover up, therefore they call for the covers. They cover and notify certain areas of the sacred human body as out of bounds, private parts, secret parts. What is in nature private, and what public? Secret to god? Secret to mind? How frustrating.

“Every yard of cloth on our body is an arrogant rejection of what God and nature had designed us to become. One day when you yourself shall be processed enough, educated enough, steeled enough, and when we shall call you fully matured, you shall personally realise the full and bountiful gifts of tantra. You shall be then convinced that all power implanted within our body and soul is for a cause. It is a greater cause than we, because of our lack of foresight and inner vision, could hardly visualise. One day you shall feel cleansed. You shall feel anointed. You shall come to me. You shall come to many like me. From much to more, from more to the most. One day this distinction of sex shall become non-existent to you. Your confusions regarding shame, secrecy, privacy, embarrassment all, all shall melt away at the powerful white-hot touch of tantric openness, and allness. This is true. Remember, tantra teaches the way to conduct life in a cleaner manner by respecting and following the laws of God and mature. Tantra is a regeneration, a resurrection, a revival. It admits of a mode of living with a positive purpose. It rules out the negative way. There is no negative in nature. It admits of no mysteries. Nothing is obscure in tantra, Obscurantism is the very antithesis of tantra “I am the Light. You all do not accept the Light. They remain fooled by their false involvements imprisoned within their prison of darkness. Run through it all unseen as does the thread run unseen to keep all the beads in the necklace held together.’ Remember the lines.” Of course, I did. The Gita.

 

 

How Tantra Functions?

She continued: “This education comes gradually, because this knowledge is precious and vital, it has to be guarded with utmost care. Care, not secret. The indiscreet would misuse, because he would lack inevitably in proper care. When you have poison in the lab, or gasoline in stock, you take special care. That is nothing to be secreted. Just the training for the necessary care. Many researches are guarded by secrecy at the stage when it could not be made public without spelling danger to the public. The more precious a knowledge is, the more imperative becomes the need for keeping it under a strict supervision. The guru is the supervisory power.

“Tantra is not obscure. Were it so, the commonest of the tribals would not have been its custodians. You shall gradually realise that the more natural, uninhibited and simple a society is, the more reliant it becomes on tantric rites. The man of the soil and the man of nature are the closest adherents to tantra. Tantra and tantric rites reject too much learning and sophistry. It relies on the practical instructions from the guru. If one wants to accept this path after feeding his personal reasoning satisfactorily, one would find it much more profitable to reject this path completely. Reliance on the guru, and guru alone is the first, second and the third steps to this mystery door of ultimate ecstasy.

“The training you are undergoing could be described as the tempering of steel, or the purification of gold. Unless you develop the right and proper attitude towards the body of man, you need not bother with tantra. What is the use of entering a church without having faith for the church? The sightseer’s attitude is not for tantra, neither is the academician’s. Unless man stands face to face with the body’s function, and the designs of the life process, he cannot be liberated from the body, and specially from the mind. Obscurity of the mysteries does not stand in the way of the liberated.

“Man must reach the source of Power. You must reach this source of Power. You see now why you must develop the correct attitude to man and woman, manhood and womanhood, to the joy and bliss of life. You must have a very clear-cut concept about what is clean and what is unclean; what is private and what is public; what is essentially yours, and what belongs to all.

“The science of coming close to the bodies has to be learnt by you with as much zeal and care as the science of coming close to a blast furnace, a boiler, a raging fire-house ablaze. Else you would be burnt before the fire is extinguished. Expose, and the exposures shall not burn you. Sit long, and time would not bother you. Love the ideal with allness of heart, and concentrate on it, and temptation would not bother you. Learn it; master it. Only then you shall be fearlessly strong; expertly skilful; courageously valiant, and frank without complex, or any other keep-back. A perversion always has a correct version. Find that out. Follow that.

 

 

The Earth is a Maiden

“This is why the asanas have been started. The body has to be trained along with the mind. Make āsanas of the body, and automatically the mind shall be subdued and controlled. The body would cease to bother you too much. This earth is the primal and the ultimate āsana. We are very close to it. We know it so much that we do not realise that we are the closest to it.

“The earth is a maiden that delivers life without getting corrupted. She absorbs corruption for the growth of life. This earth draws heat and moisture at the same time. How? Is it not amazing? How does she do the trick? As power draws power, body draws body. The ultimate in āsana depends on the body, in which the disturbance known as the mind sleeps or roars. In all cases mind is a deterrent to spiritual joy. Mind has to be kept under strict control. For controlling the mind the art of closeness of a body to a body has to be cultivated. The cultivation of aloofness, loneliness negates life. That is both impossible and unnecessary. Their is a surfeit of unnoticed power-current passing through the phenomena of the body, air, water, earth, heat and the atmosphere. Besides these, there are the three abstract phenomena of mind, intelligence and ego. The asanas assist us to capture and store the powers from these phenomena, and re-circuit that power for the benefit of mankind.

“You are now being introduced only to one of the asanas, and that coming close to one body. Soon you shall find other bodies, that is living bodies, as well as those bodies from which the prana (life breath) has flown away. The living wood which we call a tree is as much wood as the dead wood. Both retain the power that wood has to retain. In time other asanas shall come before you. Remember all asanas are not for spiritual use. Some appeal to health; some to the removal of ailments; some to self-control; some are purely psychiatri. Cally inspired. The mystic āsana in latā sādhana is a spiritual āsana of the ultimate type. A yogi needs them all.

I shall like to beware you at this stage, however, of the dangers of keeping these asanas for the benefit of your physical needs alone.”

 

Where Good is No Good

The warning surprised me. What dangers could there be in keeping the body in shape, or free from ailments?

She had observed my consternation, and she smiled again. Sundown was close at hand. The hot sun was no longer hot. Her quietly inspiring smile reminded me of the approaching evening. Was I not tired? Was I not eager to reach the river bank? I was not really restless, but it would be best to keep the discussion, no, the lesson, for another day.

She broke in. “Good health could be a threat to concentration, as good dress, good food and good feeling of well being also could be. I say good in the sense of indulgence and excess. Too much good is tempting. I say good in the sense of the accepted social behaviour. The Bhairava and the tantrik maintain other standards of good and bad. You must realise that by now. I shall educate you on that. Also I have to instruct you that in tantra we worship the body, adore the so-called unadorable; emphasise the obscure and extol the abhorring. Things terrible are our neighbours; souls without body are our consultants; the very phenomenal nature is our power house. We keep nothing behind the curtains. Pull at the cupboard hard my son. Let the dirty and smutty fly out. Let fly all that smell of moulds and fungi. Only then the freshness in air should vitalise your prāna. Only then we could sort out, and have our picks for the keeps.... “... but you are now thinking of the session on the river bank, and of the songs? Well, let us proceed. The sunset today shall look very beautiful indeed.”

She held me by the hand; and we began to walk towards the river bank.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

A Strange Nocturne

 

The Boy Sceptic

The training continued. New āsanas came to light. I could now feel that these asanas were no common acrobatics, as are generally viewed on the hot banks of Varanasi, or in such cold prints.

And the songs and the hymns! After a considerable period of more than half a century, in retrospect, I feel so much indebted to those sheaves of songs and hymnals.

Songs and hymns are supposed to address themselves to the powers of the Infinite. To be in participation with these is to get involved in an act of religious solemnity. The bases of such reactions are so obvious that is does not take us much effort to realise how mantras could affect our subconscious and supraconscious beings, and bring about a change in us. These are automatically accepted by the spiritual aspirant. As an effective medium to get attuned to the cosmic, the value of mantra is immense, specially to the learner.

Even though a mere boyish youth, I used to feel quite a bit sceptic about the thin distinction between the religious and the spiritual. Because of the family traditions, and the almost continuous performance of a variety of rites and ceremonies at home, my idea of the religion was closely associated with the elaborate toss and tumble of the complicated and lengthy (often boring) Hindu rituals. The ensemble of various objects, sacrificial offerings, the layings of the mandalas, the perfections of the mudras, the difficult and laborious efforts of calculating the exactness of the time of the performance raised in my mind many awkward questions. Not that I always disliked them, but some of them imposed rigours on us, and made us work very hard indeed. We, the youngsters were kept on our run most of the time because of the demanding conditions of those rituals.

Today as I recall them I feel otherwise. I have come to experience, and learn from that experience, that these rituals by making demands on the devotees often chasten them, and condition them into a state of seriousness, self-control and reverence. Today, as I recall, I feel  the attention associated with these rituals tones up the body as well elevates the asuinterest kind satisfaction soothes the disturbed nerves. It adds interest to form and these forms, as well as the interest so formed, lead to sharpen of attention, concentration and even meditation. In those days, however, the only points we the boys enjoyed

Solemn devotion. Gongs, bells and chantings with the ever-present aura of drama and show, captivated the boyish imagination. And two, the generally sumptuous dinner that followed. It was great excitement packed within a single day.

In retrospect, I think that what I call today as solemnity and awe, was more or less conditioned also by the personal involvement of my parents, both of whom, we noticed, were much worked up by such events.

We believed and held on to the fact that nothing that they would hold on to as precious could be anything other than precious. This singular confidence cast a halo around these events. Automatically the rites assumed a solemn grandeur irrespective of any personal mental differences. Rituals always follow a spoken (or even unspoken) vow undertaken for the performance of an act. And a vow is the mother of determination.

But this feeling of solemnity, and the aesthetic pleasure evoked by the paeans of gorgeous music of the great classical hymns stirred something deep within. Call it soul (for which we did not care much then), or call it heart, or anything else, (the choice is yours), the pull at our inner being at these ceremonies was undeniable, and now, unforgettable. The entire pursuit rested on a theory, and well it could be. But the effect it had in the formation of our attitude towards our life and living had the unmistakable imprint of a faithful conviction.

 

 

Spiritual Tooth Brush

This was then our Religion at the time. This religion held little or no scope at all for the other-worldliness on which, probably, most secular religions survive. Heaven or hell, God or Devil, life before or after etc., sounded no more than mere vulgar formalities, at times even deliberate designs for dumping and deluding. Do we not use similar terms in other contexts without the least involvement? Malaria, inflation, pollution, or ecumenical gatherings for instance? Religion too appeared to be one of those juicy and insistent terms in life. Just a routine conformity to things in vogue; submission to conventions. A kind of spiritual tooth-brushing without which the inside does not get ready, as it were, for chewing conscience raw.

Such conformities grow out of acceptance of sanctions, and force of habit. Fundamentally there is very little difference between a pull for the Saturday horse race, and one for the church. Under the forces of these social pulls, we act more as mere ball-bearings in a groove, than as independent protestants. Mysticism has no appeal to the worldly; the ability of taking delight in the unseen, or using it as a source of fulfilment of expectation is a special gift possessed by the hungry of soul. There is a hunger in the soul that craves for the elevating pleasures of music, sung or unsung.

 

 

Hymnal Effects

The hymns had a permanent effect on my soul. They moulded my character. I have tried and practised hymns in other set-ups: school gatherings, assemblies, even demonstrative responses to special requests. But the sublime feeling that the same hymns invoked against religious settings had invariably been much more satisfying, poised and fulfilling.

Hymnal sonance, I believe, divides the line between religious and spiritual feelings. Why has a kind of worldly gains and worldly success found clear mention in unabashed words within pious hymns? Religious rituals are designed for, and appeal to whatever gods there may be; ritualists expect worldly dividends in return. But I felt elevated with some reward more abiding, permanent and deep. Hymnal music changed the texture of my inner personality. I became not only more sensitive and vibrant, but I was also able in a very remote way to establish a relationship between the being within and the world around me. In agitation or peace, in dreams or realisation, in conflicts or tranquillity, in appreciation of beauty and creativeness I felt a fuller being. I felt to be one with the sun and the stars, the trees and the rivers, the valleys and the mountains. Men became my soul’s neighbours. The world was my home. The sun was in my blood. The open sky and the sea my mental park. This was something more than religion. This was the gift of the spirit that runs between, and makes of individuals coefficients of Time and Energy.

This could be the possible border line between religion and spiritualism. This explains my natural attraction for hymns. I was getting more and more used to them.

The Lady in Saffron added to the stock from her own composition and collections. Every time I sang them, particularly in natural solitude along the lonely hide-outs of the river bank, a soothing nervous stimulation drove me onward, and that spot, where the saint had pressed the bead, simmered. Before my closed eyes sparks in a multicolour glory shot through a quiet space, while unaccountable tears bathed my cheeks. I felt animated and flushed with a hot heat,

Now I must make a point clear. This sweet agitation, which be came gradually a familiar experience, did not bear any deeper content It was emotionally consummating, but spiritually shortlived. Since later in life a deeper content became a treasured experience, I could speak of this difference. Yet it was not entirely superficial.

Is there no pleasure in swimming on the surface? Is there no glory shared with the waves which the swimmer cuts through, with the myriad sparkles of the sun hitting, crumbling, swaying, floating around the liquid mass where the swimmer is also afloat? The freedom, the lightness, the ebullience, the levitating feeling of a riddance from the world-mass is a kindred feeling to some spiritual fulfilment. Yet the fact is that swimming is an exercise relates to the surface.

There are other types of fulfilment in the depths. The diver’s excitement in coolness and coolness in excitement is of a nobler and sublimer texture than the surface joy of the swimmer. Deep down the deeps the known world gets blurred, and it recedes and recedes until it ceases to be. Memory alone remains in animated suspension-a faint link between the life and world that had been, and the world before and beyond. A life that was, has been transplanted by a life new, vital-and-at peace with itself.... The peace of the silences of the sun-clad snow-covered white Himalayan peaks could be described by silences alone. Silence is the only language of communication with the sublime and the ineffable. Dark mysterious figures jump out of sudden submarine rocks and bushes, caves and crevices. New lives flit about; new vegetations hold wonder in every quivering alga. Attention gets captivated, and keeps the mind focused to a perpetual quest for some strange and undefined revelation.

Yet in order to be an expert diver one has to be first an expert swimmer. So is the case with yogic liberation, sublime realisation and experience. Any experience to be deep must locate itself in the deep. Such is, then, the relation between the utility of rites, and the achieve ment of peace. Rites form the means, not the end of purpose.

The emotional content of these lonesome seances was in effect the combined result of well understood implication of the words, the sonic depth of the music itself and the peace in the atmosphere that always reigns supreme on the banks of the Ganges at Varanasi. Whatever that might have been, I must confess and record here that these songs assisted me much in leading me on to the spiritual experiences which again and again made me feel a tenant in the realm of the Infinite. It made me continue along the path of growth. The only difference, and this is a regrettable difference, between the feelings of a past master in yoga, a saint and my poor being was that I failed miserably in retaining those feelings over a long period.

Yet to this day, I owe an abiding indebtedness to those moments of thrill received through hymnal music and its emotive compositions. Often I myself burst into words couched in music, and sing them. If I compose songs  and sing them, I do not do so with the remotest desire of gaining anything mundane, or ego-tickling, like fame, name or gain. I know such songs come to me as the myriad messages the breeze brings to the hungering expectant leaves of the forest wild. Such are the messages from the light, the heat, the drought, the flood, the sylvan cries, the vernal blossoms, the laughter of lovers, the smiles of babes, the wailing of the bereaved and lamentations of the storm stricken deeps of the Himalayan forests. I am life. I belong to life. I am only the one end of a correspondence; and I correspond. Is that not something? Something to be satisfied with? What a joy to be able to sing out a feeling newly born in life-bubbling word-structures!

But when my āsanas and songs were being scrupulously guided by the Lady in Saffron, a memorable episode brought my life face to face with certain realities. I have referred to this episode in one of my novels, using it as a stance to the plot; but here I want to describe it in greater detail. It had a tremendous effect on my spiritual education. Moreover, this made me understand another aspect of the Lady in Saffron, which till that day had been completely ignored by all who knew her.

 

 

Kāli versus Nila-Sarasvati

Someone important in the locality had hit upon the idea of organising a common ritualistic prayer. The tantric deity to be invoked was the largely popular Spirit of Time, the Lady of the Dark, Kāli, the Mother. Such common prayers were held on the crossings of public streets, on a night of the new moon, when the moon rises with the break of the day.

Such a common prayer is known as barwari puja (community prayers) which is almost always a Kāli pūjā. It is a done with a great eclat, and with the concurrence of the community.

Now, Käll (although she is fierce-looking and dark) is a familiar deity and the householder’s favourite. Käli, the Mother, stands for the fullness of life, for dissolution as well as for creation. She symbolises the Spirit of Time that integrates and disintegrates; the spirit that life-mystery is. Her image denotes the naked truth that reveals.

In the tantra calendar there could not be a more demanding prayer. Kāli pūjā as we know calls for solemnity, and absolute guarantee against any mistake in the correctness of the retualistic forms. Forms are of the utmost importance in tantra rites. With gradual progress, the adept sets aside those trammels of form, and their place is taken over b) experiences of far significant importance. Stars fade into the background when the sun overwhelms the space.

If correct form succeeds in leading the adept forward, inaccurate or slighted forms could also lead to serious backfire.

 

 

Images and Models

Elaborate ritualistic prayers of this nature (tantra-vājrayana) expect images of equally complicated and perfect forms answering to the descriptions already laid down in the scriptures. Exactitude is the very essence. There are astute master-artists who carve out these images from stones, wood or clay. These last ones are destined to be caste away in river or sea or even lakes after the rites performed. Tantra enjoins on the adept that no aspirant might forever cling to images. The place of images is supposed to be occupied by the thought image, and gradually by the thought itself, and later by just the feeling, which then becomes the very essence of the being of the adept. As long as there is a sense of duality, the adept’s aim remains unfulfilled.

The modellers are adepts, and rarely make mistakes even in the minutest details demanded by the form of the deity. The precise details of the respective deities come down to the seekers from well preserved scriptural texts left by those ancient tantriks who had vivified the images through meditation. These are known as dhyanas; and each dhyana has got to be mastered by the presiding priest who gets himself engaged in performing the rites. These dhyānas record the esoteric experiences of power in esoteric descriptions, each detail whereof symbolises aspects of the power inherent in the deity

 

 

A Mistake or a Miracle?

The Barwari above referred to had been a particularly prestigious one, because of the involvement of some of the leading tantra experts of Varanasi. As the modelling progressed almost every day the image was being checked. The entire town became agitated over this rite, which had invited a top tantrik to perform the ceremony.

That afternoon father was casually visited by the Lady in Saffron, who amongst other humdrum enquiries and pleasantries let drop the question who would perform the proposed Tärä pūjā (rites to Tără).

Tără pűja! She could not have allowed so gruesome a slip of the tongue on such a subject. It could not be a mere slip. It must have been deliberate. But then why? Why she had spoken of Tära? Father looked hard at her. “No Tärä püja has been planned,” corrected he. “You of all persons should know what a Tārā pūjā involves, and what it means to a residential locality like ours. It is always meant for the crematory grounds; and is never offered in the open. Do you want the whole neighbourhood to turn into a graveyard? Do you? I hope not. Where should we find an adept in vajrayāna? Who would officiate in a pūjā like that? As it is we are still in search of an efficient adept for the proposed Kāli pūjā. No, you should not have let drop the suggestion of worshipping a Nila-Sarasvati Tärā! No!”

“Hum,” grumbled she, and left nodding her head in half disbelief. Imagine my surprise when after only a couple of days I found the whole locality, inclusive of the scholars of our popular academy, thrown into a state of excited disarray. The image had turned out to be that of a Tärä, and not of Kalı, as originally contemplated. Naturally, the unaccountable turn of events was a surprise to all. The mystery of the accidental change remained both gloomy and totally miraculous. There had been a vigilant check. The image was being modelled under the strictest supervision, and was in the hands of an astute and experienced modeller, who must have modelled a thousand Käll images. That he had to develop a mistake in this case, and end up with a terrible forbidden image of Tārā, Nila-Sarasvati of vajrayana had all the pundits astounded. The most significant, difference, and the most telling one was the placement of the feet. Tärä’s left foot always rests on the earth (the right one resting on Śiva’s lifeless body) as if in a state of startled commotion. The image was indeed not the familiar Kält. This could not be rectified without seriously damaging the image itself, which would be a sacrilege to do; and the modeller would never agree to do so.

And all this happened when the modeller had been working under the direct and almost daily supervision of learned experts. The old modeller was dumbfounded. “She wanted to appear in this form,” was all that he could say.

One day I was engaged taking a grammar lesson; and father was instructing some senior students, when the Lady in Saffron came again, and set close to him. His eyes wore a funny look, and all he could be heard to remark was, “So Tără came. Tärä the mischief maker! You, and your mouth!”

Ignoring the rebuke she asked, “Who is going to officiate?” Her original question nagged. I still remember, almost see her, how easily and indulgently she received with a pleasant but apparently indifferent nod of the head all that father had to tell her.

The sparkle in her eyes kept an inner smile locked. But she was always a charming doll at times of such a crisis. To see her was to be rid of tension. She was personified welcome, peace and ample roominess.

“You should know,” remonstrated father. “We are already hard in securing a qualified priest. And now for Tārā it would be a kingsize problem. You perhaps could assist.”

Without any further remark she took her leave. I left my grammar, and followed her to the temple. Yoga Vāśiştha was almost finishing. Meanwhile I had grown into a pronounced boyhood entering the threshold of my glorious youth. No longer could I be ignored, or taken for granted. I was accepted by all with a very special consideration.

 

 

The Tārā Pūjā

I know that this Tārā pūjā once started had to be carried through three consecutive years; and these years would remain as years of great suspense. A blood sacrifice was indispensable; and no substitute would be accepted by a true tantrik. The mystery gripped the householders almost by their throat. They were scared, but did not know how to avoid the catastrophe.

An able priest had to be found.

That was the initial year; the all important year.

I had no idea about the arrangements; all I did was to be waiting for the event. It was the new moon night of the last week of April From morning chants were being offered at every house. One hundred and eight priests were engaged on one hundred and eight separate

Asanas spread at one hundred and eight different places. The whole day was spent in fasting by most of the elders. The actual rites were to start by ten o’clock in the night, and was to be carried through until sunrise.

The head priest who actually made his appearance by eight o’clock in the evening was quite new to me.

I would have liked to describe him here. But I must check the temptation. He was easily the tallest and the broadest man I have seen. His age I cannot recall now; but the respect my uncle paid to him (and my uncle was the oldest man in the community) easily put him much above him in age, and of course, also in esoteric importance. But neither his voice, nor his gait, nor his frame, nor the light in his eyes, or the sheen of his skin showed any decay due to age. But for the usual heap of garland and beads of a variety, and a piece of scarlet loin-cloth he was otherwise naked. Clothed or unclothed his body exuded a special personalised odour.

The only persons with whom he spoke familiarly were my uncle, my father, and the Lady in Saffron, with whom he appeared to have quite a fluid rapport.

A number of assistants were making arrangements for the elaborate rites.

Here I shall pause a little to let my readers have a cursory glimpse of the traditions of the Tārā rites.

 

 

Tärä Rites

Tārā is not peculiar to Indian or even to the Hindus. She is a deity worshipped in the traditions of the mystic Lady of the East. The Cannanites, the Egyptians, the Philistines, the Israelites, the Moabites, the ancient Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Phoenicians, the Tibetans, the Japanese, the entire South-East Asians all at some time or another had been under the spell of this demanding deity although under different names. Today the names are traced to the same source (Astarte, Esther, Sitara) all phonetically linked. In the Eastern Mediterranean and Egyptian mystic rites her spell still plays a dominant role (although under other names, other pretexts and other interpretations).

The genesis of the goddess Tärä is attributed by Western scholars to nature worship with the attributes of fertility and reproduction. The slant of sex, and openness of sex adoration, considered immoral by those who do not practise the cult in depth (but who take advantage

Of the form, and exploit the opportunity afforded) has imposed hush-hush treatment of the subject which the rigid ardours of Christianity considers unmentionable. But the cults of Artemis, Aphrodite, Diana, Astarte, Juno and Venus, as of the traditional Cilestis and Urania are undying, because of their great hold on those who delight in mystic magic and spiritual liberation through associated rites.

Apart from the ancient cultures of Urania, the cult spreads through the mountainous veins of the Himalayas, and across the seas up to Fujiyama. The valleys of the Saluri, the Mekong, the Eastern Isles, observes to this day rites dedicated to the Spirit of the Mother, the universal or cosmic Śakti, symbolized by vajra (the flaming thunder) and the sound of hunkara (HUM).

As the female principle of creation as well as of destruction, blood is a common symbol. This is not really blood thirstyness, although the weak-minded think it to be so. Creation and destruction seen in togetherness cannot be held to be blood thirsty. Life is not blood ‘thirsty’. But it would be more than weakness, foolishness to consider this intimate association of life-force with blood, symbolized by blood sacrifice.

The rites have been under a shade in certain parts of the world; while in other parts a deliberately sentimental attitude has called them perversion and orgy. Most of these are viewed as opinions of the weak-minded, who prefer to nurse pervert hunger of the mind and body under a thick cover of foggy informations and unfounded observations. A moral facade offers the most convenient shelter to hide sham and pedantry.

 

 

An Electric Situation

The facts of the case are that outside of sheer magic and charlatantism, outside the grievous misuses of a wealth handed down by mystic traditions, there is some area, which inspires man to search, strive, persevere, suffer and achieve. Achieve what? That is a flat question, loaded with impatient sneer. For that matter, what does the poet achieve? What does the artist achieve? What does the appreciation and creation of music achieve? What does beauty achieve over utility, emotion over reason, architecture or mathematics? An answer must be provided; and the answer must be total and comprehensive. Those who strive to acquire the supreme through these media are not deluded fools, or licentious voluptuaries. They want to achieve liberation.

There is something in man that feels stifled, unfinished, crippled. Those who feel the torture of having to live within the folds of this limited existence, and those who are suddenly awakened and carried away by an unaccountable whiff from the Infinite, break through their prison walls, crave for this liberation, and even stake their life and safety for it. This is how the rites for the acquisition of this ethereal power have remained alive despite severe attempts to put them out. Tantra is not magic; and the rites are not magic rites.

As Kält has been regarded as the flowing active spirit of Time, the dark mystery that surrounds consciousness, so Târā has been regarded as the female spirit of compassion deified in the form of Avalokitesvara. Watchfulness over the sufferings of the world is the central theme contained in the name of Avalokiteśvara. His female alter ego Tärä has thus, besides the third eye on her forehead, eyes planted on the palms of both of her hands, which are held in the bestowing (varada) mudra and the abhaya mudra that guarantees protection. Tara’s motherly compassion is indicated by her shapely and full open breasts, which are never covered. Her motherly role of fecundity is emphasised by the rounded buttocks, heavy thighs and a rather rotund lower abdomen. In twenty-one different mantras she could be invoked, but the most adored mantra is OM TARE TUTARE TURE SWAHĀ. (The pronunciation of mantras has to be specially acquired from a person-to-person, adept-initiate device.)

This, however, is the Vajrayana Tārā. The tantriks of Bengal invoke Tārā in a far more repelling and dangerous form. This fact had triggered the terrors that the locality had been harbouring. This Bengal Tara has four hands. Her profuse matted hair is held by a serpent in one plaith (ekajata), and she wears a tiger skin. A dagger, and a skull cup form her two adornments. At her feet Siva lies inert, symbolising the state of matter bereft of energy. (In the Lamaie Vajrayana the male is the active element, and the female the passive, as the various union figures illustrate; not so in the Hindu concept, where the male, as matter, lies passive, and the female, as energy, remains violently active. These differing views have given rise to the organisation of different asanas formulated by adepts in either systems.) It is this latter form which has been causing so much disturbance in the Hindu minds of the neighbourhood. Not the Avalokiteśvara Tārā, spirit of compassion, but the Vama Aghort spirit of Natha Tara, the Naga Tärä, the Tärä of the crematory grounds hac forced herself on the people, who were intimidated to propitiate the deity in the best manner they could. It was an electric situation. So, when it was obvious that the rites of Tara would have to be

Observed, and blood, an unavoidable necessity for the rites, would have to be provided for, pundits, became busy. Blood-rites were unthinkable for a barwari pūja (community prayers).

There are compromises suggested indeed in the treaties. But these must have been the afterthoughts, as most compromises are. To modify Tăra was not something that could be accepted by the Lady in Saffron without some kind of protest. She was a total puritan in matters of rituals.

“Rituals,” she said, “do not actually force themselves on you. One is at liberty to choose, and cancel, if not found suitable. But to have chosen, and then painstakingly go in search of a bypassing compro. Mises is ridiculous. In fact, it is an insult on the very modes of the rituals. How could results be obtained by avoiding or going around the methods?”

 

 

The Puja

Night came. The imposing figure of the officiating priest in his red regalia appeared on the scene. Indeed his presence demanded respect, and much was expected of him.

In place of the usual water for the rites, the chalices were filled with neat alcohol brewed specially for the purpose and occasion. It was not the common drink. It was a special decoction collected from a person who knew. A heap of lotuses in half bloom attracted the notice of all. One thousand of these loutses, dipped in red (vermillion, sandal or blood) were to be offered with a special chant. Five assistants were supposed to be handing over things to the priest as he happened to stretch his palm. These assistants appeared to be fully aware of the rites, and their requirements. The rites proceeded with the precision of clock work amidst blowings of conches, cymbals, bells and drums. The twirlings smoke proceeding from the aromatic herbs and unguents burnt in metal urns spread a mystic haze over which hung a heavy perfume, almost intoxicating, yet exhilarating. The entire surrounding appeared to have come to life. Although the chants went on smoothly, a strange hush had solemnly descended on

The narrow lanes. All eyes were glued to the sublime image itself. The terrible Tara wore a bewitching smile, incandescent in its subtlety. The modeller was meekly seated on the floor, but away from the ritualistic platform, which remained out of bounds for all, except for the few assistants selected and specially anointed for the occasion.

The image itself stood there dominating all other details. I still could see it in all its grandeur, bedecked with carefully arranged garlands of fresh hibiscuses, lotuses and the blue Aparajita (Clitoria ternatia). The Latin name is vividly descriptive of the shape of the bloom. There are several flowers suggesting the same motif: Adhatoda vasica, Artemasia vulgaris, Cressa asiaticum, Cressa cretica, Dichoroa fabrigaga, Nerium, Ochrocarpus, Thevetia peruviana, Toddalia asiatica and cactii. All of these are specially favoured in the Tärä rites. (It is not difficult to read within the nomenclatures of these blooms their association with such names and places as Artemis, Asia, Crete, Peru, Dionysus and Thebes.) But none of these could supersede the simple hibiscus in importance. The involved physical similarities in the flowers with the symbol of Tärä are traceable to the cult and rites of Artemis (or is it the other way round?).

1 was speaking of the image and the decor. The marine blue of the skin shone through the heaps of garlands and necklaces. The brilliant third eye of the forehead attracted the gaze of the concerned. In place of the gold ensembles serpents entwined the matted locks, the wrists and the elbows; even the tiger pelt used as a loin-cloth was held by a serpent belt. A tuft of hair was held in a serpent-knot atop the head where shone a resplendent crescent (an emblem of the Moon cult). A red rolling tongue stuck out of the full-lipped blood stained mouth. Despite the fierceness of it all, there was something on the aspect of the mother; specially in her eye off the looks which radiated a benign grace of superb peace and confidence. Was there a trace of heaviness at the abdomen of the eternal mother? But the fullness of her rotund things and the heaviness of her posterior spoke of her fertility. And that third eye: O, what an influence; fantastically captivating it was.

At her feet lay the limp body of a white male form, clad in tiger skin too. This was supposed to be the image of Matter bereft entirely of Energy, the lifeless intertia, and worshipped as Šiva (quiet), kāla (time) or/and sava (corpse).

The image stuck to my mind as one conveying perfect poise; and to my boyish frame of mind I did not find in it the least semblance of either fierceness, or ugliness, or obscenity. She was the Great Mother, the Restless Equaliser, Assimilator, Bestower of Fortitude. I loved her.

Tärä: The Eternally Embraced With maturity I came to know more of Tara. She has undergone a complete transformation under Tibetan influences of the Mahayana, Here, in Hindu rites, she is the Power released from Matter. But in yet another version, Tibetans accept Tara as the binding force in creation. She is represented as eternally engaged with her alter ego (positive with the negative) in the divine embrace of consummation. The fiercely engaged seated union has been carved and painted in a thousand forms by a thousand artists. There are popular tankus (Tibetan scroll paintings) depicting the motif. How often on the streets of New Delhi have I seen foreign tourists paying through their nose for a copy of these ‘queer’ embracing pictures! These figures are avidly sought after by practising aspirants in tantra. It depicts all too vividly the message of Life, where the forces of creation and destrue tion are inseparably knitted in a cosmic togetherness. Speaking as pure abstract specimens of art and sculpture, this message of joy, fierceness, grace and passionate abandon, put together in one, is nowhere to be matched. It is abstract art a merveille.

She was known to India long before the Chinese scholars visited the lands (sixth century AD). Actually, there happens to be a form of Tärä known as Sitā Tārā. The sound reminds one of Sitāra (Astarte Esther). Anyone acquainted with the Tärä rites would appreciate why my Lady in Saffron had insisted on the performances of the rites in a proper manner, or not at all. In mystic rites the insisting exactness of the propriety of the way is of utmost importance. Success depends largely on a meticulous observance of the given injunctions. Any slipshod transgression could lead to disasters. No, Tārā rites could not be observed in a residential locality.

Today Tără is associated with Tibet and Mongolia, Indo-China and the Himalayan heights. In fact, the lady had a long established tradition of commanding devotion from the ancient world, eastern or western. Rome had conquered the east by forces of arms; but the east had finally conquered Rome by making it accept its gods and goddesses who, by and large, still command supremacy amongst the descendants of Rome. Actually no history of culture has yet been exposed to man where the spirits of the fierce and the benign, spirits of Emerson’s Great Eater, and Ramakrishna’s Great Mother, have not been energetically worshipped as aspects of the one and the same Power.

The image spread its charms over me. To my young eye it posed no ferocity at all. ‘Ferocious’, or ‘pleasant’ describes personal mood, or attitude. Tärä revealed to me her positive charms. All her negative aspects vanished. I had become her neighbour.

Several actions in the rites, however, which I observed very closely, intrigued me. I was seated closely secured by the side of my Lady in Saffron, away from the platform, almost unnoticed by the converging crown. I did notice, however, how all the people by themselves kept a respectful distance from her.

 

 

Mystic Details

a ) The Water Jar: I noticed that a big mass of wet clay had been brought from somewhere with much ceremony and fanfare. It was laid down ceremonially in front of the image, and patted into a round shape with a receptacle in the middle. In this were thrown several kinds of grains. On this was placed a large earthen jar filled with water from the Ganges. This water jar was painted with vermillion. The designs represented same yantras. Fresh foliaged twigs, mostly from trees known for mystic ceremonies, five different types in all, were now stuck into the mouth of the jar, the leaves fanning over the brim. In the middle of these leaves, and covering the mouth of the jar was placed a bowl filled with rice. On this bowl a green coconut with its stem attached was placed with the stem side showing. Finally the kalaśā (the jar) and the coconut were covered by a piece

Of red cloth, over which garlands were placed. The kalaśā had to be

‘guarded’ now. Four bamboo shoots stuck in four lumps of clay were

Placed around it with mango leaves flagging each of the shoots. Nine rounds of red thread were to go around the four posts; and this ‘guarded’ the magic circle of the kalasa which then represented the soul of the deity.

This made me inquisitive. Particularly the awe with which the clay was being handled, after having been brought with so much eclat, intrigued me beyond measure. What was that clay? From where had it been collected? Why people breathed a sigh of relief when it had been brought, and the ceremony of laying the water jar had been over?

I asked my mentor, the Lady in Saffron, just by looking at her. She replied through her silent looks. I knew I had to wait. Later. What she finally did explain gave creeps to my guts. A kind of emptiness overwhelmed me. The facts dwarfed my wildest imagination. It was not really so shocking; none the less it did shock.

(b) The Clay: It was clay collected from a dug-out, a special dugout where years back five types of carcases (human, canine, feline, foxen and ape) of animals naturally dead, or 'sacrificed' ritually, had been buried in. It must have been a sanctified and secreted spot where none could disturb the cadavers. In course of time the bodies would be turned into clay; and the clay collected from this reservior would be used for making the sacramental platform, as well as a rest for the kalasa, i.e.. the water jar. (In tantra, sadhana of a more serious and personal nature, a platform is constructed on the very bodies. Such an asana is called Pancamundi, 'the asana on the five heads').

Thus the water jar was of supreme interest and importance to the chief priest. The image attracted the attention of public emotion, and assisted the devotees to concentrate tangibly to an object of emotive dedication and delight. But the abstract relation of personal conscious ness of the priest with the cosmic was established through the kalasa where the five material elementary substances (water, earth, fire, air and ether) were invoked.

Beside the water jar there were two more things which attracted the attention of the sādhaka.

(c) Yantra: One of these was a yantra engraved on bronze, copper or silver with a particular design generally geometrical. In this case it was a silver yantra. I have seen it carved on gold plates. But the most captivating and intriguing yantra ever seen by me was a crystal one which a Mongoloid yogi had shown me at the foothills of the Himalayas. It was a massive (5"×5"×3") piece. The edges were unhewn. To this day as I close my eyes I see it staring at me. To this day I do not know how and by whom was that yantra carved within the mass, whilst the crystal piece remained a compact whole without any sigu of a joint anywhere. The yantra was embedded within the crystal. The yogi claimed that the yantra was naturally mined with the marks so carved; that no human hand did it. He also informed me that the yantra had been coming down from yogi to yogi for over a period of 1400 years of history known to him; and that he would not part with it for any treasure in the world. He mentioned some names amongst the previous owners, and many of them I recognised: Dattatreya Ajalkapādā, Sankarācārya and Abhinavagupta. On my drawing his attention to a possible incongruity in chronology, he looked at me smiled, and said, "All is fake and fraud; 1, the crystal, the dates and tantra itself."

(d) Mandala: But to return to our narration. Besides the image, the kalasa, the yantra another medium highly prized is the mandala, geometrical square form within which various designs are drawn in coloured powders of five different colours, derived from botanical sources.

In esoteric gradations the higher a stage the aspirant reaches, he leaves behind the Image, the kalaśā, the mandala and the mudra in that order, until he remains only with the self.

Now, to continue with the worship itself.

 

 

A Tense Situation

The great crowd thinned gradually as the night grew deeper, and the rites became more and more matured and involved. A sudden change of atmosphere became obvious. The air appeared to have been charged with, for the lack of any other expression, a presence; and unaccustomed vibrations put nerves in a tensioned state of ‘expectation’ as if something was going to ‘happen’. The place, the time, the assembly, the very air we breathed seemed to be ‘charged’. Do we call this ‘solemnity’? Do we call this the dawning of power? Was it the effect of a presence? The high priest was merged. He was translated into another being. There was no stopping him. He muttered chants that could not be heard any more. His entire torso undulated like the hood of a cobra about to strike. The flames and the lamps suddenly grew in intensity. A strange calm fell.

 

 

Collection of the Flames

In the meanwhile we were expected to go out for the collection of fire from the crematory grounds at Manikarnikā. For hundreds of centuries Manikarnikā had functioned as the crematory ground for the Hindu world. The name itself bears testimony to its Lamaic connections. Om Mani Padme Hum is a celebrated Lamaic mantra. The significance of the word mani has already been described.

The legend associated with this name is very significant for those who want to get into the secrets of these lores and these rites.

(1) Lord Siva had offered his appreciation of the austerity of the penance of Lord Vişnu. So carried away was He by the greatness of Vişņu sacrifice that he himself began to shake his head, and then from his ears the cosmic ‘jewels’ fell down in a tank which Vişnu had dug out with his discus for his daily ablutions. Since then the place is known as Manikarnikā.

(2) The same legend appears at another place in the opposite form, in which Śiva was the penitent and the yogi; and Vişnu was the appreciator. In this case the mani belonged to Vişnu.

There are other versions. Those who know how to read through these mystic legends would know that on these banks from times immemorial yogic, specially Tantra Yoga practices had been a trad tion. And here at Varanasi, and in the legends, the Tibetan, the Seven, and Manikarnika had been held in haloed esteem because the special tantric ‘power’ ascribed to the sub-normal environment of the special wearing a pair of ear-rings made of the horn of a rhino the plotute necessity for a yogi of the famed Natha community. In the legend of the Bhairava saint, Dattatreya (of whom we have already spoken) similar assimilation of several forms and rites has been

Anyway, a procession for “collection of the flames” winded its way suggested. Towards the dreaded Manikarnika. The funeral flames of Manikarniki burn perpetually and have been burning ever since. The chief of the place is an undertaker who is a part and parcel of the rites. His is and has been a hereditary responsibility to supply the flames to all those who come here to borrow flames for the final dedication of all flesh to the bowl of TIME. From flame to flame, from dust to dust, the flesh terminates; but the hungry soul wanders until freed from the past hang-ups, and until it becomes one with the Cosmic Soul.

Tärä is a deity of the funeral grounds. She was being invoked within a residential locality. So, if Tärä has been dislodged from her usual habitat, as compensation for her temporary loss of abode comforts, her favoured funeral flames had to travel up to her new site of invocation.

From the middle of a bamboo pole was hung a huge and well. Decorated brass urn. This urn was properly consecrated and covered with garlands and incense. With the sound of cymbals, drums, bells and conches the procession proceeded towards the funeral grounds. Loud chants rent the midnight sky. Inhabitants of the locality must have taken a turn or two in their beds. ‘There they go for the flames!” they must have cried and shuddered. The funeral flames were being brought right within the locality. What next?

The actual process was not a long drawn one. It appeared that the chief of the grounds had already been keyed up; and after an exchange of some hushed words (some cash must have changed hands), he threw into the urn a flaming torch, and flames leapt out of the urn with a ferocious glare. The devotees let loose a hurrah that should have rent the skies.

Now the procession had to turn back for its return journey. The joy of success at the picking of the flame-blossoms, electrified the dancing devotees. Conches and bells rang with renewed energy.

 

 

The New Path, the New Call

I had accompanied the din and uproar for about a hundred yards of the labyrinthian Varanasi. But then I was inexplicably overcome by a funny dazed feeling. I was not quite unaccustomed to this kind of sudden pulls. My hypersensitive mind, was receptive of the slightest massages peeping through the sonic field. I catch them almost imperceptibly, effortlessly, and then act involuntarily under the effect, till I reach the source of the disturbance. There was a call, and I had to answer. When one becomes a part of nature, one has to accept and fall in line with the logic of inevitability.

In the darkest of the dark nights, and on the ghats of the Gangetic Varanasi I got lost to my associates of the flames; I got lost to the rites that were being performed in my own neighbourhood; I got lost to surroundings and their bearings. Who was I? What was my errand? What was I supposed to do? I was a ‘minus mind’ existence, moving under a spell. My mind was in a state of void.

 

Victim in a Seance

As one dazed, under the influence of drugs, yet full of alertness in another sense, in another dimension, I continued tramping in another words. But I knew I had changed direction. I climbed down several flights of steps; then I climbed up what seemed to me an unending flight of stairs. Several stray bulls brushed my sides. Phantom clusters of men under the spell ganja and charas (Cannabis indica) were busy with their affairs in the lamps of dark among the ancient stone ruins by the river. Dogs barked for pieces of bones dragged from the cremation grounds. I continued climbing. And then a familiar smell made me further alert, impersonally alert. Aromatic unguents and frankincense were burning somewhere. The smell was too familiar. I could hear chants. Automatically a mantra began to tick within my consciousness. The Lady in Saffron always muttered it whilst guarding me on my āsana, as I sat on her.

A fire flickered somewhere. Towards this my feet now drew me. I stumbled against a stone thereshold, and badly split my toe. I felt the warm blood over my skin, and under the foot. But I did not stop, or as much as even touched my burning wound. Blood continued to flow.

I continued walking. I saw something extremely scaring. Not that I never had confronted such a seance. I was quite accustomed discussing such seances; but the realities of the situation made me lose heart, I continued the mantra as if it were my other self.

I recalled the place. It was the dreaded Nepali temple. This Vajra yana Lamaite shrine is almost a hide-out near the Manikarnikā fune. Ral grounds. Few notice it. Yet it had been always there standing as the citadel of Bhairava Tantra practices; and people whisper that human sacrifices were made there not too infrequently. The altar there was set on panchamundi, i.e., over the five corpses. The most compli. Cated asanas were practised there. The place haunts in the subconscious.

Today, amongst the many sights for the tourists, ‘Nepāli Khapra’ (the Kharpara temple of Nepal i.e., the Vajrayāna skull-temple), as the place is described, is a chief attraction for a type of curious and probably sick mind, not because of its fame as a seat of mystic seances, but because of the simple mithuna (copulating) figurines relieved on wood panels and red sandstones on the surrounding caves and walls. Similar popularity is attached to other seats of the same Bhairava rites, such as the Khandaria temple of Khajuraho, the Sun temple of Konark, the Parashurāma, Rājārāņi and Lingarāja temples of Bhubaneshwar. In fact, there are innumerable temples with such figurines scattered all over India.

Let the curious search for their type of food. The cockroaches and the vultures, the bats and the owls too have a right to search for the food of their respective choice. All are welcome to the skull-bowl. Time drinks off all the same; good is bad, bad is good. Vajrayana carries the adept beyond the world of duality by accepting the duality.

I had been to this temple before in accompaniment with the Lady in Saffron, who had performed on sundry occasions certain āsanas and rites with me as her alter ego and apprentice. I particularly recall two such seances in which I had taken an intimate role: one was on the occasion of a lunar eclipse, and the other one, more important, was on a solar eclipse. I was not new to it; neither was the place strange to me. On important days in the Hindu esoteric calendar, like on Śivaratri or Kärtiki new moon night, I had gone there to participate in seances.

But I was new to the old yogi whom I had not seen before. He was digvasah (having the space as his garment); besides his beads and the heap of matted locks, he wore nothing. He was sented on a human form, also naked, and appeared to be in a complete trance. This one was a woman.

 

At the Session of the Space Clad

Wide eyed I discovered gradually the figure lying naked under his seat. This was the favourite ‘aunt’ (previously spoken of) whose haunt had been the neighbouring funeral grounds. She had been widowed when a virgin, and because of her own prowess, as well as of her transcendental moods and preoccupations, she had been much in demand in similar seances. She has been known to be lying down in that state for over a fortnight, even from a new moon to a new moon. How many times she has fed me with her own hands. I still recall the fund of love this venerable lady bore for me,

Why was I called to this particular session? This would remain a secret to me. But I knew that I had missed a great opportunity offered to me kindly and gracefully. I kept quiet for a while. My mind was at a standstill. But in my subconscious i.e, the stratum of cons ciousness which responds despite the disturbances of the outer surface, suddenly got merged in the very essence of the mantra already known to me. The mantra itself became real to me, and sparks of lights of varied colours shot through the surrounding space, and settled between the brows, where the pressure of the bead had always remained as a red light warning spot. The spot perceptibly appeared to tingle and emit flames until I fell into a trance. Time stood still.

Had I really any time at my disposal? The rites at home were going on in full swing. The procession of flames must have reached its destination long back. The fire sacrifice, and the lotus sacrifice must have been finished. But who cared? Who to care indeed?

I was scared; I was anxious to get back; but all that on the surface. In my real depths I was at the centre of a tranquil quictitude. No kind of movement was possible at all. I belonged to there; I was of them; I had no will of my own. I was in the thick of the rites, consummating with relish every breath of the time. As many hairs there were on the body, stood alert on ends; thrill succeeding thrills sparked through the roots. I felt to cry, ‘Leave me alone!’, but actually, I stay put. I was gradually being sucked in towards the burning flame, which was roaring in the pit.

Auntie's open body lay before me like a corpse. I recalled the relevant scriptural lines. Was I not already quite familiar to this part of a seance where a woman offered the sacred seat?

As I watched, she had appeared as a distant neighbour of another planet to me. Her staring eyes with their burning looks fixed on me expressed both some sublime rapture and undisturbed stillness of peace. The animation in the looks compelled me to adore her. 1 would love to be sitting there myself. Gradually she turned into a ball of blazing light. I saw my body too becoming another ball of light, and the two balls were gradually coming together.

 

 

The Awakening and the Come-back

I do not know from where drizzles showered over me, and I shivered. Two beads fell in one mighty bounce before me, and a Hibiscus laden with ash. I collected them avidly, and hurried out of the temple. But before I turned my back on the temple, I bowed flat on the ground and closed my eyes. My mind wanted to go flat for poor auntie.

As soon as I had closed my eyes I was more than amazed to see my Lady in Saffron all in flames. From within the flames she smiled and called out, “Come, come at once I wait

Now I began to run. But where?

Where must I go? Down the steps, up the steps, along the western banks, direct south through sands and stones until I reached the familiar ruins of the temple near the Chatuhşaşthi Yogini temple on the far end of the river? To the sacred Boa tree? To the altar at our neighbourhood where Mother Tärä was being invoked? I was running, and saying within me, “I come, I come. I do not tarry.”

I returned to the Tără ceremony near our house, nay, just at the threshold of our home.

5

Flame Gatherings

 

Back to the Puja Rites

A solemn scene was in progress. My uncle, father and mother, and all my brothers were busy arranging the fringes of the ceremonies. A small crowd had gathered; curious, yet spellbound.

Many had been busy in self-inspired meditations according the Hindu way of offering personal worship. Quite contrary to superfluous knowledge regarding the much maligned Hindu milieu, many still hold on to this faith with a firm certainty about its final peaceful outcome. This reflects the tantric spirit proper. The otherworldliness involved in such tantric engagements with the self ascends astral heights on the two wings of mental discipline and ethical contents. Objective and idolatrous as this looks, its inner aim and achievements are directed to pure subjectivity.

The familiar surroundings of the otherwise busy lane at Varanasi had assumed an eerie heaviness. Things felt solemn and tense. Nothing looked relaxed. Intensely merged in personal efforts the throng had become unified, crystallised. Yet the total effect remained contained within a single purpose. It looked as if within a single embryo several lives were engaged in seeking individual growth and timely deliverance. The more this image tickled within, the more I felt amused.

The place was quiet and solemn,. Reserved and spiritualised to a degree that could be felt as sublime; the vulgar and dross had melted away; the curious were no more; the engaging drama of excitement had given way to divine solemnity; and that hullabaloo was gone. Night had taken over. Soul reached a perceptual depth just in being there.

From time to time the chants from those who assisted the headpriest came clear and loud, but the head-priest was only repeating them without even as much as moving his lips. He appeared to be quite in another space altogether.

Tall and straight on his seat, in the lotus asana, his eyes were fixed between his brows. He had been throwing butter-soaked bel-leaves (bel: vilva: Aegli mermelos or ash apple) in a flaming fire leaping from a huge pit made of sheet-copper. Other assistants were busy throwing other objects with rhythmic timings: franchincense, sesame seeds, sandal shavings and bits of unskinned flesh with the fur hanging on. Spoonfuls of the sanctified butter-fat helped the flames leap up and consume the offerings, marking the end of each chanted mantra.

A heavy aroma hung around the place. I could not detect the deterrent obnoxious smell one would expect reeking out of burnt flesh and hair. This indeed was very strange.

My excitement from the traumatic experience at the burning ghat and the Kharpara temple had not yet died down. The wounded toe had been singing. Blood continued oozing. But I could not mind less; the letting out of the blood felt better than nursing a throbbing bluespot. All I was eager for was to get near at my Lady in Saffron, my ultimate shelter.

I could think, and reconstruct the fast racing lurid events. What could have happened if I had not been struck out of my dazed condition and taken out of what I had been cast into.

True it is that tantric sacramentals do not sanction causing harm to Brahmins. Not to speak of the human sacrifice, where neither a Brahmin, nor a woman could be used; even in the very complex šava sādhanā (cadaver-rites for attaining cosmic powers) the dead body of Brahmins could not be used. But fear does not bid any logic; and I had been off my guard.

The very first effect of sudden fear is loss of rational faculties, which confuses all senses, and even wipes away all memory. Fear is the most handy, and the most effective dope which could derange the mind of a victim. The weak of mind, and a sensitive one, provides the most conducive medium for mesmerism, as for the spirit’s means of communication. A pronounced negative mind is as useless in these proceedings as a positive one; the best mind for a medium is either apathetic, or a tabula rasa; but never an opaque one. Sensitiveness is a must in these seances. By then I had overcome the grasp of the unbodied fear; but as I rested close to the reassuring shelter, my Lady in Saffron, I became myself.

 

 

The Body Melts Away

But where was she? Did she belong to this world? Was she approachable? She appeared to have thrown around her an impregnable fortification. Although she had been surrounded by devotees all around her, none dared get too near. I looked at her closely and recalled the special rites of tantra known as Bhūtāpasārana, along with nyāsas and dhyānas which are supposed to throw around the adept effective guards against ‘anti-spirits’, or spiritual obstructions. The most renowned examples of these are recorded in the Mahāyāna documents with reference to the ascension penances of Gautama Buddha; the Buddha sitting tranquil, quiet, still, safe and beaming with an inner light, against all forces of evil, all types of physical and mental temptations.

Here was the example of that supreme truth that this body melts into insignificance when the spirit takes over; that the spirit calls for no cover; that a person in spirit becomes an imperson as soon as the fleshly is transcended into the cosmic, indeed beyond approach. Time and again I had seen her in that very condition. Yet how novel and brilliant did she look, as she was seated within the circle of fire made out of eight fire bowls set around her, and fed by awe-struck hands, busy keeping the flames up.

There were other flame bowls too; three of them. Her hands were stretched out, the palms resting on her bare thighs, now covered with a film of glistening sweat. On these palms were set two raging bowls; and on her head rested a third one. My father was busy throwing some powdered ingredients into these three; and had been chanting mantras all the time. I wondered if her hands would get scorched, even roasted; or if her skull would split.

Trembling deep within, cautiously, I approached her, and quietly sat near her. No one objected; no one could, knowing fully well my relations with her. She was essentially mine; I hers. But the fiery circlel And I still get intense as I recall. Between two

Of the bowls there was space enough for me to slip in, and get nearer her body. I wanted to close on her, and touch her as she was there. The heat was forbidding; but what could have forbidden me when she had been seating so close? At the moment the temptation to be near her seemed to be more overpowering than the flames. Just as I attempted to stretch one of my hands to have a feel of the ground within the fire circle, something electrifying lashed me back. The terrible shock benumbed my nerves.

Gradually I became aware of other figures. They had crawled around the spot. All of them had been chanting a mantra; but I did not bother to leave my grounds despite the reactions. Suddenly I took courage, and got nearer to her. Now I was just by her side. In a moment I was on her lap (in the now-familiar and accustomed asana). The bowls on her palms kept blazing; but I was quite surprised to find that neither the flames, nor the heat from it made me scared. I did not feel them any more.

 

 

Fire Walking

As I am on this topic of fire and heat, I propose to digress here on this point. The digression relates to an incident when I actually was inspired to walk through fire. Because the incident also is connected with rites of a sort it seems relevant for a record here.

Today with the media and the press enjoying a field day, the miracle of fire walking enjoys much curious publicity in the west. The major habitats of this phenomenal exercise includes the islands of South Pacific, Fiji, Ceylon and the Tamil south of India. The fire. Walking rites are also found popular amongst some people inhabiting the eastern sea board of Africa. The more curious could go to the relevant reference books, and learn more about the fire-walkers.

Amongst the tantrik Siva worshippers of India there is a strong sect originated in Andhra Pradesh. This sect, known as the Jangamas, followers of Saint Vasava’s Vira Saivism, has a very strong hold on the masses spread all over the country. Varanasi is, naturally, an important centre of the sect. The Jangamas had during the Maratha supremacy over north India acquired power and property, and had established a series of charities for the benefit of poor students and aspirants. The Vira Saivas, also known as the Jangamas, have established monasteries, Sanskrit students in academies, yogic centres, as well as centres for training ritualistic practices. This area in the city where the Jangamas have their colony established, is known as Jangamwadi, where tantrik monks found shelter. These monks quite often held rites strange and fantastic, so that entry to them, even as witness, called for special sanctions.

The incident herein described should have taken place around the year 1923. In those days I was considered to be a specially gifted student of the Sanskrit academy, and a novice in the tantra cult. In order to indulge a young boy seeking spiritual pursuits, the elders included me within the invited guests from the academy.

It was a summer day. A summer dry in north India is not exactly an experience to write poems on. The barometer must have been reading 112°. I was elated to have been included in the group visiting the special rites. At about three p.m. with the sun still very high, I started for the place with three more senior students from the academy.

Soon we found ourselves amongst a swarm flocking around the Jangama monastery. There had assembled many strangers, not all of them speaking the same language. Soon I was lost in the crowd. And did this not suit me? I was on my own. I always preferred this; specially on such quests.

I was drawn by the human current. Courtyard after courtyard was crossed before I reached a wider yard (40×40 feet), where within a freshly dug out pit (10×10 feet) angrily sizzled a huge quantity of burning charcoal obviously prepared carefully over a number of days. A fire-rite was in progress. The heat was unbearable to me, although I had been standing several feet away from the edge of the pit. How the participants bore the scorching heat on their bare skin surprised me.

Soon arrived an orchestral group. The crowd formed a gap to allow the musicians pass through. This was followed by a team of shaven headed monks in wondrous regalia. Each member of the party held in his hand some venerable object appertaining to the ceremony about to be performed.

I saw a green coconut resting on a richly embroidered red velvet piece, which covered a silver platter beneath it. Another plate carried a golden mudra; on a silk cushion; and still another one carried an elaborate mandala pattern. Two monks guarded over the coconut from either side with bare swords in their hands. Soon the procession came to a halt. After about fifteen minutes of chants and prayers the head-priest reverentially held the coconut in his hand resting the fruit on his outstretched palm. And then snatching a sword from the hand of one of the guards he brought it down with such a mighty force that the green nut split in two. (Any one might give a try. It was no common feat of strength and accuracy, balance and boldness to split a green coconut by one single blow of a sword, when the fruit would be resting on the man’s own palm.)

From the split coconut water began to flow; and it was sprinkled over the fire. All this while the team had been bordering on the edge of the howling pit.

Immediately after the preliminary sprinkling the head-priest with the same sabre in hand entered the pit, and started walking through it as if the floor were covered with the softest of carpets. His entourage followed his steps. The entire team crossed the burning pit, one by one, bare-footed, with their saffron robes flying about.

As the monks had reached the other end of the pit, and stepped out of it one by one, a big shout went up, and a deafening recital of chants created strange vibrations, within which I was lost.

Then the multitude was invited to walk over the embers, still burn. Ing in hot heat. Many hesitated. But some did not. More jumped in. And crossed over. Later still when others followed, I too took the risk, and crossed. Then with steps deliberate, mind fixed, and the chants on my lips, I went round and round the fire, until one of the monks bid me step out.

To come back to the main stream of the narration about the firepenance of the Lady in Saffron. I was not feeling comfortable. My attention was again and again diverted to the pain in my injured toe. It continued to cause me pain. The toe was bathed in blood which still oozed, though some blood had clotted. Suddenly the cry “Hail nother!” rent the night sky. She clasped me tight against her breast (now I know how true are the Tibetan tankas.)

 

 

A Blood Sacrifice

The shout of joy was in praise of a successful completion of the arduous flame rite. The bowls of fire were to be removed from her hands. But before these could be removed a strange stillness fell on the assembly. The Lady took great care in tearing off a piece of the cotton from her loin-cloth. She tore the piece into several more pieces, and made balls of them, after each piece had been besmirched with the blood oozing from my toe.

These blood soaked balls were then thrown by her own hand into the blaze over her head. My back had been touching the liberal mass of her breasts. But my comfort was suddenly disturbed by a deep thorn driven sharply at the base of my neck; parallel to the spine, just where my hair line stopped. It was a thorn picked from the Bel twigs around her. So sudden was this attack that I could not even make a squeal; but of pain, again, I had none. She queitly collected a few drops of my blood. Gradually I lost consciousness. I felt her arms closing around me....I felt at home...Dawn!

The familiar touch of the bed with the soft cotton cover; the aroma pervading the room. I knew so well; the ceilings, the walls, and above all that benign face with the diffused smile began to materialise.

Her hands were across my neck; her cheek to my cheek. “Come. Time to get going. The sun is about to rise; and we must go for a splash in the river even before the great god finds us late. Come. Let

Me help you.” That bath was refreshing.

Before we came out of the stream, she held me before her and threw a handful of some stuff out in the stream; and only then did I notice the beads of rudrākșa and the ash-laden hibiscus.

She gave a gentle pressure on my shoulder; and then as we were climbing up the steps she remarked, “You are not ready yet... They were only hastening the process .. Never hasten... Everything in its time. Seasons have to be respected. (Here she held me closer to her, almost embracing me very deep. Her protective affection soothed my nerves)... You have to go far, very far. Remember the lessons in the Yoga Vāśiştha? It takes no time to miss the way, and suffer a fall. Enemies are all around. The counter-force always shadows the force, until the summit is gained Care, care and ever care.. Carefully prepare. Correct preparation is half the battle won. Find the correct guide. Then you shall have gained three quarters of the battle. The balance depends on your own efforts, determined efforts.

 

 

The Seed Word: OM

“Never get curious. Never get tempted. Peace, peace and tranquillity. You recall the value of pause. Do you? Pauses between words make sense more expressive. She, the Sense, resides in the pause between a word and a word. You know OM is a mantra so constructed that in its repetition one must pause between one OM and another. This is no guess. It has been so designed. Say O, the lips part; say M, and they close; and before you go to O again you have to take time for opening the lips and positioning them again. May be a very short time, almost imperceptible; yet there is that pause; and She, the ‘Sense’ (vāk) resides in that ardhamātra, the quiet half-pause. One would notice that almost all bija (seed) mantras end either with an M, or an NG, or an aspirant sound, such as UH or AH. In each case sound continuity would be impossible. A new effort is called upon to make a new start. This provides the aspirant with the golden means of silence, pause and stillness. The sign for this is org. These are, there fore, regarded as important esoteric sounds (as well as signs) wherever pronounced, adds peace to pronunciation, like the last M with the sign-end (4); buts denotes a breath ‘pause’.

Peace and pause are the two steps by which progress is gained gradually. Silences are the greatest of all achievements in the mantras Hurry not; haste not; suffer not; fall not back. “Why did you have to respond to the desultory, disengaging, delin

Quent call? Remember, guests arrive of themselves when the broth is ready. These are not class guests. Hungry, greedy, of no consequence. But good food, meant for special use, has to be kept carefully away from these interlopers. Forces of good are moving side by side along with the forces of the anti-gods; for they too are hungry. Don’t you know that all good rites (godrites) provide for the anti-gods also?” Slowly I began to recite the chant:

Nihanmi sarvam yad-amedhya-vad bhaved

-dhatāśca sarve-a-sura dānavāh mayā

rakşānsi yakşā-ś-ca piśāca sanghah

hatäh mayā yātudhānā-ś-ca sarve.

Apasarpantu te dhūtāh ye bhutäh bhūmi samsthitäh

ye bhūtāh vighna kartāra-ś-te gacchantu śivājnayā.

(Those who stand contrary to the forces I invoke are hereby destroyed by me. Thus are the demons and the anti-gods destroyed, as I destroy the raksasas, yakşas, piśācas and yātudhānas. Those physical elements who could cause disturbances, be warned by the orders of Siva).

“Yes. The first one is vedic; and the second one is tantric. So you see, in any rites the need for caution cannot be overemphasised. One must protect one’s interests against contrary forces. There is need for protecting the prepared food indeed before it is served and consumed. Else the anti-forces would gobble up the good. You had been drawn by contrary forces, who would have used you for their kind of power. They would have sucked all your preparations out. You had an escape. Thank the Mother.”

“And what do they do with such power,” I asked. “Never good,” she said. “Thieving is not good. Thieved power cannot be used for good. Electricity supplies us the power which we

Have to buy. Many thieve this power, and make do. They do not have to pay for this. This is evil use. This is unclean. They pose threat to peace and honesty.”

‘Power’ and Miracle Men

“Even the great yogis who are adepts in leaving their bodies, and travelling without a body by the air, take great precaution about the preservation of their bodies which tempt the spirits of the lower order....”

“What is that?” I interrupted.

“Of that later on,” she said; and continued, “Yogis who tamper with this business of power-getting seek power to impress and influence people for their own ends. These are the cheap everyday miracle men of whom everybody, looking for easy gains, speaks. They hail such a freak, and collect around the miracle man. But these so-called gains are not only short-lived, they are also often sources of disappointments in conventional life, and also a retardation in spiritual life. Let me repeat, there is no short-cut to spirit; and miracles for personal gains are to be shunned. Remember that the anti-god is a master miracle maker of the lower spirits. They mostly deal with the palliatives, the external cures and things like that.

“Fundamental happiness of man depends upon keeping up a spiritual balance; and this counteracts the evil powers, which are also active. Is it not a miracle that in spite of all these misdeeds, and sins of men we still like to love, to speak truth, to seek happiness, and we want to mould our society for a better living? Where do you find a greater miracle than a simple flower, a butterfly on wings? In time you will realise the great miracle of love for another person; the miracle of an infants hold on you; the miracle of nature’s provision for food in the breast of a mother. Nature is the greatest miracle spinner. This wonder of miracle is set at naught by the anti-force. That in itself is another miracle. Without the spiritual influence of the silent and unknown yogic power this world would have burst at the seams long long ago. The forces are always at loggerheads. Still the world and life hold on. What a miracle! Power, specially MotherPower cannot be used by thieves and gluttons of the spirit.

“Those who had called you for participation in their rites were out to rob you of the power which you have so far stored within you, which is not little. To preserve is your supreme duty from now. Had I not been about, and specially had I not been engaged in a rite at the time, I might not have reached you. The drizzle, the beads, the flowers were your warnings. You did well by getting away my son..”

“You did well too,” I remarked with a smile. Then I frowned, and asked. “But I had seen auntie there. Was she under the same evil spell?”

 

 

Evil is a Blind Alley

“Evil? What is evil? What is good? We are all a dull compost of good and bad. A strange amalgam. Unless we have experienced good, what are we? The vanity of all vanities is to float on the inflated idea of self-adulation and self-righteousness. Make that mistake, and you seal up the progress ress towards growth. In yoga the aim is to merge ego into self. The self and the ego are lying mixed up like gold is in the ore. Yoga is to gain skill in cleaning the self of ego.

“By keeping our heads bent down for achieving good, and good here means impersonal good, we remain on the path of good. This is correct preparation. Correct preparation, as I had said, is a battle half won. The safest thing about your auntie is that she has her head bent down for impersonal good.

“But it is not difficult to be misled. Remember how you had been carried away. That power in the Kharpara temple was a very strong power. But she would soon recover, and realise the loss she has suffered. By herself she is a very great yogini. But even the greatest suffer a fall. Ravana was a great yogi; so was Kansa, Aśvatthāmā, Jarasandha, Rasputin of Russia. They fell by the load of their imperfections, and passion for miracles.

Never hold back progress. Wheels should not be run backwards, watches should not be winded any other way but the right one. Follow the way. There is no short-cut, no compromise.

“Did you notice the position of your auntie in the group asana?,” she asked.

“The yogi was using her as his asana of course,” I said. “But that is also your position as my asara. Isn’t it? What is then strange about it?”

“This is true. But in the process I am the giver. In her case she was the victim, and was being sucked from. In wishful dedication There is the virtue of positive gain. One could gain by giving away. In forced extraction there is evil. This would leave her very weak. I would not like you to be in her position.”

Much later I had gone to the Manikarnikt and find for my self how auntie did, and was not very glad to have seen what I did. She had been at a continuous asana within that small temple for over three days without a moment’s break, so reported the undertakers who lived there.

“And where is that yogi? Would he get away with this?” I asked the Lady in Saffron.

“Sooner or later they meet their match, as Jarasandha or Aśvatthämä found in Krsna. Evil is a blind alley. One has to turn back; but 1 would like you to keep away from such yet.”

“Why?” I asked.

“You are essentially mine...You are good... You will do good. Many wait... You will have to work hard, and get what only a few could get. Love. Love from all and sundry. It is time to turn back. Come home. Come home. I shall prepare you a special drink for building you up. It is time we joined the morning prayers, and receive the final baptismal blessing of śānti (peace).”

Before I close this chapter of the experiences, I must record here a strange fact. This locality, where sixty years back the ritual was witnessed by the author, had been a flourishing place of business. The Tārā ritual as I have mentioned had to run through three consecutive years, and it did. But for mysterious reasons, miraculously, the place now stands deserted. The business is ruined entirely. The people still recall those fatal three years when Tärä, the spirit of the dead and of the funerary rites, had been invoked within the area of householders. The Tārā rites were discontinued thereafter. I recalled my father’s warning to the Lady in Saffron. “You should have known better....”

***

The Cobraman and the Flute

Let us also recall the warning of the Lady in Saffron about “Meeting the match.” I had the occasion of being a witness to this kind of ‘matching’ several times in my life. One such I propose to record here.

After long years of mysterious absence a young man whom we knew very closely, returned in the mantle of a yogi, with the usual ensemble of beads, and red marks on his forehead. Unlike the other yogis, he actually had returned to his widowed old mother, who was to have her wayward son back. She did not mind in the least that the erstwhile vagabond had become a very sobre-minded yogi.

What amazed the people about him was that he maintained an absolutely tight lip about himself, and was hardly seen engaged in any form of spiritual rites except that secretive silence. He never spoke to any body. Because of a secret understanding between the mother and the son, both of them plied their respective business of life smoothly in spite of the wall of silence. For his living the young yogi kept himself engaged in manufacturing with his own hands and nimble fingers a special kind of indigenous leaf (kendu)-wrapped cigarettes, which soon became quite popular. He was seen preparing them all day and up to late in the evening under a tree, seated quietly on a rather high platform. He used to keep them in neat piles of ten; and customers just put the exact price down, and collected the number of heaps they wanted. There was no exchange of words; for all knew that the man never spoke.

Only once was this rhythm broken.

A young mother frantically approached him once; and sought his help in a crisis. A cobra had entered her bedroom. Her baby was in the cot in the room; and the cobra had comfortably coiled itself right on the same cot.

Would he help? The agonised mother kept staring at the dry taut placid face. The stern face never smiled.

At this he was seen for the first time taking part in a world-drama after his mysterious return.

He quietly looked at the weeping and distressed woman; laid down his basket of tobacco, and left the place with her, without minding his wares, which were left unattended.

What he did was a miracle of the most astonishing variety, and he at once became the talk of the town. He had gone to the room; stood beside the cot; watched at the live cobra silently for a few minutes, and then lifted it up most tenderly by the neck of the brute, without any more care than it were a wet piece of rope. Soon he returned with his new found friend, and keeping him on his lap cosily coiled, started wrapping his cigarettes, with the same care as if he had returned from a cup of coffee, and nothing more.

People would have liked to know what became of the cobra; but none dared. And most felt that he would make no reply. This incident, understandably, had enhanced his esteem and reputation.

Soon the lane was swept back to its usual placidity, until in the quiet of a hot June month it stirred again with a new commotion. Of the yogis of India the Nathas as a sect are known for occult

Powers of some sort. They are known to have the power of leaving their bodies at will; roam aerially at will; and return to their bodies when willed. They could, reputedly, revive the dead through passing into their bodies; and offer people strange medicines for stranger diseases. How far these reputations were based on facts I have no direct knowledge, though from personal contacts with this sect I have found reasons to regard them with some authority and a great deal of occult power.

The Nathas generally are a roving type, although their quarters have been scattered all over the land conveniently placed at rather necessary and practical distances.

On this particular day one of the Nathas, by profession a snakecharmer, approached our hero, blowing merrily at his gourdflute, which forms an important ensemble of a snake-charmer. The cigarette man watched him warily. To the surprise of all he spoke to him with a loud voice, “Move along; move along. Don’t disturb.”

The Dumb has Spoken

The Natha man with an air of quiet defiance laid down his hanging bundles, made himself seated at a distance, and continued to play on his flute. Soon the cigarette man was seen pulling out from under his seat a brass flute which he began to play (or should I say counterplay).

I do not have the ability to describe what happened next; but the Nātha man with the flute thrown away from him, as if wrenched by a brutal force, groaned with a terrible pain, holding his belly with both the hands. He actually reeled in agony on the dust of the street.

The fight continued, a silent fight of forces, a combat of strange attrition, a meeting of arms in the field of some occult magnitude. A small crowd had gathered, but it kept an awesome distance. The place at once looked like an arena where two pythons were engaged at wars. Soon the cigarette man fell flat on his back with no power to move. His limbs appeared to have been glued to the stone surface. His bleeding mouth frothed and fumed; and he shivered. He looked most pitiable.

Meanwhile the Natha man was blowing his flute jauntily. With cry he leapt up a few feet, and fell down with a thud with the blow ing end of the flute driven deep down his throat.

His mouth started bleeding profusely. Try as he would, the flute would not be pulled out of his mouth. He choked, and was about to die; his face had turned blue. He appeared to have exerted a tremen dous power to pinch out a drop of dust from the street, which he shot at the cigarette man, and then on his flute.

Ah, the release came at once. But the cigarette man was jumping and dancing as if stung by a million bees. He had to throw off his clothes. The Natha man at once reached for the discarded clothe and tried to put them away.

But soon as he had touched the clothes out came a live cobra and spreading his vicious fangs stung him with a brutish vengeance. The Natha yogi fell flat, apparently dead or dying. The crowd, which was to have been amused at the events was strangely affected by the gruesomeness of the drama, and watched with their tongues tied to the roots of their palates.

The cigarette man now held out his hand to help him, and the dying man held on to this help, and sat down. In about another five or eight minutes he was gone with his mysterious bundle, but hi flute remained silent.

Our friend, the cigarette man, resumed his work, rolling on the eternal cigarettes. In the excitement we never noticed what ha become of the cobra.

I resist from narrating here a few more of my experiences with similar display of the occult power of yogis. But this was what the great Lady in Safforn had meant by ‘meeting the match.’ The Natha yogi had met his match.

The New Brahmaņa

In the meanwhile I had been fully initiated and admitted a la mod to the state of sacramental Brahmanhood. I got bound by the Vedi code of the seven vows.

I . Tell the Truth (satyam vada).

Do the duty, and keep to principles (dharmam cara). Do not get away from the exercise of what you learn (svādhyāyāt mā pramada).

II. Accept the Mother as divine (matr devo bhava). Accept the Father as divine (pitr devo bhava).

Accept a stranger-guest as divine (atithi devo bhava).

Accept the guru as divine (ācārya devo bhava).

Symbolising these two sets of vows, I bore from that day across my left shoulder a bunch of cotton threads.

Naturally I felt a stage advanced; and now I could claim entrance into the many forbidden areas of mystic performances so long denied to me.

One of these was the practice of the direct rites of the worship of the Mother. This was an area specially reserved for a tantra adept. And I was not adjudged yet as one. Although I had been encouraged by my associations with my Lady in Saffron, formally, no special tantric initiation had been administered to me.

This is a very sensitive situation. I had not yet found a special guru; and without the guidance from one, it was dangerous to dabble in tantra and tantra rites. Not that yogis have not been recorded to have reached their apex through unassisted efforts, yet, basically, such a course must be avoided. It means danger, as it did for Livingstone to penetrate into the unmapped African forests, or for Magillan to dare the unchartered ocean wilds.

A Daring Secret

In the world of tantra where deep thinking and concentration involves a complex mechanism, such as the yet unknown nervous system, any action, or mis-action that involves an injury is likely to remain permanent. I have seen people lose their brain-function, speech, suffer from breath trouble, even burst cerebral arteries and die. Tantra admits no adventure.

But one of the symptoms of a blessed yogi is, that his actions are tinged with the characteristics of daring fearlessness. There is an urge in him; and he must push from on to on. If the guru is there, all right; but if he is not there, then even without him; let his coming wait; let him be in coming. Meanwhile he travels from on to on, daring and ever daring.

Such a suicidal impulse is indeed wrong and ill-advised. But I was young, and too enthused to pause for cautions. Perhaps

The influence of the Lady in Saffron, her unseen hand of protection had emboldened my young heart. I ventured on the path which few would dare alone, and at that stage, I was totally unprepared for such daredevilry.

In retrospect, as I go back to those days, and to that inexplicable dogged determination, to that resolve to do what I had set myself to do, I find no reason at all for justifying why I had to act as I did. I was quite alone in a wordly sense. My secrets were my own. Yet I felt all the time I was not alone.

Outside the immediate municipal boundaries of Varanasi (of the days I am speaking of) there lies a haloed ground around a large stone-bordered tank. Because the place, then a wilderness, used to be secluded, a number of historically famous yogis, had made it their abode over centuries.

Even to this day the place bears such memorable and noble monuments as the marble mausoleum of the great Swami Bhaskarānanda, of Mātā Lokeśvati, of Goswami Tulsidās. Nearby on a boat we saw the much discussed and famed Harihar Bābā, a silent naked saint living within a ramshackle hut built on a frail craft. In the many books written by foreigners he has been referred to as Mauni Baba (silent saint).

There, hidden within a grove was located the famous temple of Mother Durga, where regular blood sacrifices are offered to this day.

Why I decided to offer a long penance at this place is still a mystery to me; but once the call came, I decided for it.

For nine days in the month of Aśvin (September-October) this temple comes to life, and throngs of devotees make a beeline to it. The unending stream of men and women keep the place warm, busy and interesting. The huge crowd actually did in no way disturb inner seclusion, if one wanted to reach it.

I decided to offer prayers for a cycle of nine days at this very tantric spot. The most ancient temple spot in the most ancient city of Varanasi lies just south to this temple almost sharing its borders. It is a Ganesa temple. I found the secluded platform of this abandoned temple to be the fitting spot for my exclusive āsana.

Today’s craze for money and the precious foreign exchange has inspired the city fathers to remould that haloed surrounding into a supposed tourist attraction. Some businessmen had to spend his sudden wealth in constructing in marble the tallest landmark on the Ganges, and call it Manas Mandir (temple of ‘Manas’, a Hindi Ramayana witten by Tulsidas and very popular in India as a scriptural wonder of the sixteenth century). The entire Manas is carved in black lead on white marble walls, complete with artistically moulded coloured depictions in Venetian-glass stains. Against the modernised ‘tourist’ motivated layout, and the vulgar opulence of an ill-conceived structure, the sanctity and quiet grandeure of the ancient temple stands totally violated now. But the age old Ganesa, the most ancient thing in Varanasi, appears to be quite content and indifferent to this modern look.

My problem was to keep myself away from the detection of my family. The Navurātri days, as these nine days were called, used to be a busy period for our household, too busy really, for anyone to bother about a missing boy.

But my mother would miss me. So I had to take her into confidence. She, of course, was not too surprised. Perhaps she did not see through it. She just expressed her approval for a proposed penance her son was about to undergo. I got her tied down to keep this as a secret. She, in her own way, always encouraged me in any spiritual pursuits.

The Hard Way to Yoga

The prayers involved strict discipline. Besides being careful about my daily intake of food, and restricting my sleep, I had to get organised to be seated cross-legged in the lotus āsana for the entire period. This involved hazards of sorts: ants, flies, sudden gusts of winds; even reptiles could make their appearances. The place itself was infested with probing and interfering monkeys. I had to get myself prepared to withstand all these external challenges with equanimity and grace. There could not be any deviation from the āsana once I had avowed to assume my seat on it. In his Yoga Sūtra Maharși Patañjali has strictly enjoined on the aspirant how and where to set the asana. So has the Gita. But I was fascinated by the haloed place. Yogis must have been sitting there. It was a siddhāsana, i.e., an asana already sanctified. I decided to bow to Patañjali, and side-track him respectfully, and rely on my faith and determination.

I had to recite my prayers from a book which I had to position in a way which would not need any special efforts for turning over the pages through the ceremony, or penance. On my left palm would burn a lamp filled with ghee, (melted butter), and which I would not set down, nor let go out until I finished my prayers.

It was a severe test for attention and concentration. But I myself had chosen to bring that upon me.

Everything went on smoothly. The first day was a very trying day. The wind was high. The place was full of flies. On my damp skin flies would land in myriads; and on the floor ants, ants....

But when I was returning home I was deeply satisfied with myself, The second day was much more calm and easy. The beginner’s tremors were no more; but the wind and the lamp maintained their confrontation.

I was totally left to myself on the third day. A strong wind blew; but the lamp kept calm; the flies and the ants were there; and the pestering inescapable monkeys. But somehow I felt that I had become their friend and even their brushings with my skin did not matter much. I was fully absorbed in my prayers...... sarvā vādhā vinir-muktah (freed from all obstructions, as the prayer itself assured).

But from time to time I became aware of a presence. At time a soft breeze, as from a fan, blew over my skin; and at times I could even hear some other voice keeping time with my recitations.

I knew enough by then to expect such disturbances from friendly or unfriendly phenomena. Such digressive preoccupations, whether friendly or unfriendly, under a penance, have to be recognised as digressions; points of disturbance. All externals must cease to be. A state of trance demands ‘I’ to be with ‘I'; self to be with self; awareness to be with awareness. It is not the inaction of the dead; it is so much of activity that it looks still, like the massive clouds sailing along a seemingly quiet sky. The higher they move the quieter they look. In fact these features in the space are nerve centres of excessive action.

A Sign: A Friend

The prayer was finished, and I felt exuberant.

Then I noticed a presence. Indeed someone had been keeping me company.

I must describe this delightful man.

Indian figures, are not known for Pathan-like builds, nor for those of the Highlanders of Scotland. Indian eyes are accustomed to watching insignificant figures of a short size, and of a light weight. This small man was almost covered with a puck-like spirit of an elfin cherubin, because around him light looked more edifying and identifying than the shadows. He had a shaven but well-shaped head with a tuft of jaunty hair knotted at the top. He was wearing simple cotton of a golden dye and his upper body was covered with a piece of the same material, tied across his armpits and gathered on his chest. He was looking very practical in that outfit. His forehead was covered with bright sandal paste; and around his neck he was wearing a fresh garland of fragrant champak (Mechelia champaca, a family of Magnolia), a very rare flower for that season. He also wore around his neck necklaces of the holy rudraksa and a mixture of corals and red crystals. He was seated on a piece of grass mat covered by a deer skin and a piece of silk; he had with him a water jar with a handle for carrying along, and a bamboo stick as tall as his own size.

This had to be a brahmacari mendicant, a roving yogi of the Vaisnava sect, and no other. I was surprised about his presence there.

He had been smiling at me; and greeted me. “How good is your reading,” he said. “Perfectly timed.... And how devotedly you were reciting. Obviously you do understand what you read.”

Confused by such compliments from a seemingly knowledgeable person I could only say, “Do I? This is Durga Saptasati. Not so easy a piece to understand.”

The conversation went on stallingly; as if one was having the feel of the other. But I could also feel the natural good grace. He was friendly and intending to assist me.. But who was he?

I would not ask him. I had learnt the art of waiting.

But he did not leave me all alone.

After I had collected myself, and my things, and started my treck back home, I found that he too was following me.

“Are you going my way?” I casually asked.

“Your way?” His puckish eyes flickered in amused mockery. “Have you found it already?” He was smiling.

Abashed I rejoined, “No. I am sorry. I was only asking....”

“Let us be friends. All right? Nothing more. For how long would the prayer last?”

“All the nine days. Mother willing.”

“That is very encouraging.... I never get to hear such recitations with so much feeling, specially from a new brahmacārī.”

“How do you know I am a new brahmacari?”

“Oh, there are signs. There are; your newly grown crop of hair for instance.”

 “Hair as a sign for a brahmacari! That’s a novel theory indeed.” I laughed. “You are a happy chumi. We are friends.”

“Are we? Now hold this.” What he handed me was a lump of sugar-candy, the homogeneous cottage type, an aromatic solid crystal. It is known as misri.

It was not yet time for me to break my fast, I had to report myself to my mother; finish my daily prayers to the family deity. So I was concentrating on how to store the candy crystal.

In a flick of the moment the gay brahmacārī was not there. I did not find it strange; but I found it funny. The lanes of Varanasi are such as one could easily have hidden anywhere, or give a quick slip.

But I was not a little surprised when in the evening I met my Lady in Saffron on one of the bastion pillars (a burz in local tongue) along the banks of the Ganges.

“So you had no difficulty today in your reading exercise,” was the sudden enquiry. But the accompanying funny smile in her eyes was most intriguing.

“So,” I exclaimed, “you had been at the back of it all....”

“What do you mean I was at the back of it all, little brahmacārī?,” she remarked provokingly. “I am here. I sell coconut shells. At times I sing. But you are a budding yogi, engaged in penance.”

I got peeved in no time. “But you are mocking at my efforts.” I protested. Her carefree banter had brought tears to my eyes. I really had never meant to offend her.

“I thought you would be pleased. Do you feel otherwise?”

“You ask me, and I stop.”

“On the contrary I am pleased,” she embraced me with that; and all was forgotten.

Why Yoga?

The next day unconsciously I kept looking out for him. When he did not come, I started my recitation. But again in the middle of the exercise, the effects of the same presence, the same aroma, the same breeze attracted my notice; but I remained unmoved, and continued with my reading, not moving a hair, not batting a lid.

On our way back I asked him if it was at all possible to have an experience of that supreme delight of perfect freedom which is the sole objective of all the yogis.

“Are you sure,” he asked, “that it is the sole objective of all the yogis? Do not be too sure. It is necessary for you to know that objectives amongst the yogis differ much.

“Some are like light. The wick in the lamp burns out itself, but gives light around. Its entire life and living is motivated by causing light and peace all around. Look at the grocer. His objective too is to distribute all around what he has stored. But in doing so he still nurses another deeper motive; a profit, which is not ‘bad in so far as he maintains his family in the process. But some want to rob, and rob too much; and hoard at the cost of the misery of others. See the cow. We give her straw, grass and most of the thing which we reject as the earth’s leftover, or our own leftover. Yet what she bestows is nectar, strength, vitality, the very milk of life. Look at the bee. With commendable patience, research, discipline and perseverence bees amass huge stores of honey. They never do so with the objective of distribution, as does the lamp, or the cow. Because the bee robs, so he is robbed in return. Because the bee only stores for its own use, and has no mind for others, the objectives are not associated with happiness.

“Bees are labourers; not workers. They are sold to their fate. They slave without enjoying their work.

“Causing gain for selfish ends alone, looking after one’s own interests alone is the surest means to stifle the real source of happiness.

“Look at the miser. He too has the objective of amassing wealth, or what he considers to be wealth. But he is morbidly afraid of having to spend it. The objectives must be very clear indeed. The more an objective pushes selfishness at the back in preference to the good of many, the more the action of man becomes a source of happiness. This is the nature of the sattva guna, the spiritual mind. This is the true nature of integral yoga.

“Perhaps now it would not be too difficult for you to imagine and accept that the objectives for men in pursuing their own motives cannot be the same. Yogis are also men. There are many yogis; but all of them are men, men who are bothered by the same enemies who bother all men. You must be knowing the enemies of men. Desire, passion, greed and unbridled temper. These confuse good for bad, and bad for good. Vanity and ego and jealousy, all are very forceful adversaries; but one day you shall realise that desire, lust for power, lust for things and acquisitions, lust for intimacy with men in general and with the opposite sex in particular are some of the most formidable enemies of joy in life.

Yoga is a Sacrifice

“Yogis too offer their life work for acquiring certain powers. Some like the lamp look out for the power of burning themselves for being good to others. They shed joy all around and guide people along the correct way. Some again want to acquire power to influence and impress the people around, and wield greater power over the mundare impress the common men, whom they victimise through their i interests of some again have the power, but has never eve and get involved to be of use to the public. Some are never even seen and yet these last to influence, by their very being, the good conduct of forces worthy of their attention. They assist good men, who under the influence of good and holy spirit, do a lot of good. The preservation of the essence of good qualities of all creation in spite of the overwhelming threat from evil forces, is the chief duty of those spiritual beings who work to this end, but who are rarely seen to be working. Make no mistake, whether you could see them or not, whether you ask of them or not, whether you are able to rationalise their involvement or not, they are there; they are there as the billions and trillions of planets beyond your immediate ken are there; yet these influence the solar system; don’t they?

“The billions of cosmic rays, sound waves, subtle vibrations in ether and even further subtler facts (which remain beyond the perception of the pragmatist, but which are visualised by those with keener perceptions), influence creation. Busy in the cosmic system, a power charges the subtle bodies of atoms. A busy fast field of action, with actions and reactions shooting at each other, finally emerges as the concrete creation we see. It appears as if even this has a mind of its own. All this is unnoticed, unnoticeable; and therefore the common man, as well as the confirmed hedonist would hardly care for this. They lack the necessary poise and patience.

“Yet this proposes the precise field for the spiritualists. They are the ones who are deeply involved in probing into this. Through their determined efforts they strive to establish a rapport, a concord amongst the contraries that blow around this abstract field. They worship ‘balance’ samatā, equilibrium, poise.

The Cosmic Concord

“Whilst metaphysicians and tarkikas (philosophers) argue this, and write many books, spiritualists alone ‘experience’ this and prove their point by ‘doing’ what they alone could ‘do’. They thoroughly dislike talking, or writing about this experience.... ‘Pray don’t ask me to explain that experience of mine, my friend, the more I explain, the more the feel of it renews itself ever and ever’... didn’t Vidyapati sing so?

“The wonder knot that keeps this universal milieu held together as a unit is this one truth, an universal truth. The seeker ultimately comes to discover and know. The one who thinks of knowing too much, has nothing to seek about. Experience illudes him. Truth keeps away from the grasp of the talker.

“The ultimate nature of matter (vastu, padārtha) baffles the ultimate physicists. Is matter gaseous, solid, liquid, mallible, collapsible or elastic? This is not known. It is not known what fills the pockets that are created between one atom and another in a field of atoms? Radiation? What radiates? How? This is the most baffling challenge in higher physics. Yet, our ancients, like the Buddha, Nagarjuna, the other jinas before them spoke of śūnyatā, or space as being self-animated, self-charged, self-illumined. Sakri’s field is the ultimate source from which all forms, action-reactions, primacy-ultimate, intelligence, destiny, and the like proceed. This truth experienced is called the bodhi. This is beyond logic. Truth is experience-sensed.

“The ultimate point is attainable by a climb-up; once there, all the world milieu spreads before the eyes as a toy museum, a play-house, a giant baby’s whimsical sport-effects.

“The ‘I’ in you is the only predominant truth-predominant and independent. It is indifferent to everything else outside that single focal point: ‘I’. ‘1’ alone prevails. Loneliness is its companion; and silence is its language.

“Do not look surprised. Have no doubts.

“I live in what I am describing. This is essentially and intimately my experience. It cannot be yours, or of anybody else. It cannot be translated, transmitted, even shared. It has to be one’s own attainment, achievement, conquest, fulfilment. This ultimate phase of consciousness acts like an igniting spark within a single element. Some recognise it as electron; we recognise this as Sakti within Siva, electron within atom. That paramatman-not God, but the Godhead, chaitanya, or supraconsciousness is the very essential heart-throb of the world milieu. It is the centre of all. In personal life it is Love; in cosmic concept it is Power. There is a cosmic concord that holds together the maniness into one-ness. I speak not in vain. No, I speak not in vain.... “We who see this, and feel this, remain silent and away, as the night sky does. We are unable to talk like the man who knows of things too logically, too much in detail, analytically and fragmentarily. But their knowledge is of a different vintage.

"Night' and 'Day'

"To them knowledge is daylight. They hardly realise that mere  knowledge is a still-born child; a blind lane. Claimed as daylight such knowledge without experience is indeed a blind and thick night. The bookman lives in darkness. Logicians could claim this to be day. Light but in fact and usage it is night, opaque. Seeing through visions, is beyond the pages of books. Experience is reality, and reality

Is experience. “Knowledge is an instrument that assists progress but is neither the progress, nor a realisation of the goal. Realisation is the consummation of an ideal feeling; and love is its final reaction.

“Remember that verse in the Gita? The one on the mystic night and day? When this yogic vision goes to sleep (as does Vişnu in his anantaśayanam), ‘night’ becomes ‘day’. It is yogi’s paradise; his exhilarated trance. The non-yogin shouts, I have seen; I have known; I have discovered’ etc. But he has consummated no experience. He is in the dark.

Citizen of the Cosmic

“And yet, as I was saying, there is a cosmic bond; a relation. Let me draw for you a picture to impress on you how deep, unfailing and inevitable is this cosmic bond. When a star in the space misses its orbit, and hurtles down and down until it disintegrates and vanishes in the wilderness of space, its agony is recorded by the remotest blade of grass on this earth. A dew drop listens to the music of the seas, as well as to the currents of cosmic rivers of moisture that proceeds from the solar hot heat. The shriek of a distressed child watching over the dead body of his mother pierces a nebula, and the firmament shivers in agony, and a star is born. Yes, there is an underlying link but unfailing between the events that disturb souls here, and the cosmic soul.

“We are all citizens of the cosmic. The tragedy is that we have not only lost our address, but we do not entertain the remotest worry about having lost it. We are vagrants on the sea of life; and still we bother very little about finding our true bearings. It is time we awake and see for ourselves what we have done to our divine heritage.”

As the frail, short, cherub-like stranger had been pouring himself out, I felt his mortal limitations almost transformed and transfigured. He appeared as an adept in the art of captivating his listeners. Oh! The vivid urgency of his fervent narration, and elevating them to his own plane of thinking. This personal style of his narration made all abstractions gradually unravel their mysteries. Understanding is a sympathetic response.”

I kept listening-rapt, mesmerised, thrilled.

Sources of Power

“The mighty forces of science, are too often recognised for their obvious uses in wordly life. Although this power is harnessed to man’s immediate uses, when we consider the immensity of this. Perennial source of power, the amount that is drawn from it for our use in mundane life fades into insignificance, compared to the amount. That could have been utilised.

“Do you realise that all this and beyond is filled with power? And. All this power is just being allowed to go waste? We are busy making toys out of this power. Gadgets and military equipments! Bah! Its real potential lies in assisting mental and spiritual developments that finally would redeem man from the two heinous enemies, ego and possessiveness.

“What man has achieved is to secure out of an ocean of power a mere spoonful; and we, in our supreme ignorance and enormous ego,. Claim that we have made science achieve great heights. What blindness; what futility. What we achieve, in the final analysis, proves to be but the assemblage of a number of fragmentary facts. The substances of achievement in terms of the ultimate good of man remains,. Alas, unachieved, even unattended.

“Fragments do make up a whole. That is a mathematical fact. But in the field of mind, life, energy this is not true. Once detached from the source, fragments remain fragments, even dead, useless, inert. Mass. By themselves they might multiply, but never could they make back the whole.

“The energy we have been tapping for our use is so superfluous, sophysical, that the real source of energy remains quite untapped. Why does such a situation arise? Why do we miss our link with the Source? It is because we get confused. It is a case of confusion created through greed, and desire for possessions and more possessions.. That is why a little while ago I had called them enemies to spiritual efforts. We must discipline ourselves. We must establish a rapport with the Source.

“There is a mightier force exercising its influence over the universal phenomenon, inclusive of the phenomenon of the mind, which indeed. Extends much farther than our field of experience. There is power acting and reacting unseen even beyond the worldly mental plane This is the mystic spiritual plane, which yogis, try to tap and cultivate. Cultivate this; and get into touch with this Power.

“Bear it in mind, that all science and logical knowledge refers to only a portion of the total brain-power. The major part of our intellectual thinking capacity is lying as a dead weight locked up in the chambers of the unknown; yogis are, as it were, trying to unravel this mystery by finding a key to this locked up chamber, so that it could be unlocked, and the vast untapped resources of total energy could be brought to the service of life, life beyond life, thus reorienting and revolutionising the very concept of function and purpose of life. Stretching beyond this obvious body-locked life, it extends life.

By the Ocean of Consciousness

“There is life beyond this life. Perhaps this could be better stated. This life is unending. It is a wave raised in an ocean. This wave has many more waves behind it, and many more waves ahead of it. Ultimately all is an ocean. An ocean of total existence. Ocean of consciousness.

“It exists within a given body. It is as much a fact as we could see with our naked eye. But to hold on to this as permanent and ultimate is as great a mistake as to ignore the other fact that all waves are but the swells from a vast ocean of consciousness, unending, undying. That ocean is basically more real. This is no mere idealism. Here idealism becomes the Real. One might, if one would, ignore the fact, but not without severely limiting the infinite scope of his understanding of the ocean of consciousness. An individual’s personal existence is but a pin prick on the surface of the Pacific Ocean. To rely on this too much is compromising with false pretensions.

“To view life in its entirety, to view life against this vast canvas, to view this intermediate interlude of play-acting between the cosmic displays of creation and dissolution is the subject of metaphysics and yoga. Yoga is a practical application of theories already arrived at by logical thinking. Yoga is never a blind man’s buff.

“In this effort the guru is the guide, and the only guide. Without his assistance yogic practices could be like the ludicrous effort of emptying the ocean with the help of a shell. “For trillions of years many more trillions of grass-shoots have burst out from the dusts of the earth and shared the drink of the sun.

Not of the sun alone; of the moon and the stars; of air and the dews;. Of the rains and the thrills of life. I feel the forces, as the tiniest grass blade or the unseen insect does. While I feel, as I do now, I realise that I am not merely a human, a limited worm in the cosmic layout; I am much more. I transcend my being, my dimensions, my time, my history, my potentials. I am nothing compared to what I could be, and what I am destined to be. Within me, deep within the recess of my antah-karana (the source of my inner power) I feel the call of this sublime region of totality.

“What am I? Only a pawn in this game of mazes, on the chequered. Board of seeing, tasting, hearing, smelling, mating, earning, competng, greeding, lusting? Am I a victim of these mechanical responses? Am I a prisoner of my wishes, or a pressured animal driven whimsically by wind-blown circumstances? All my organs are but the extensions of my body machine; and they function as my being submits to the call of those responses which actually are blown from the world. Outside. The antenna that receives these responses and submits to them is my mind, an imperceptible entity; an entity that has no limb (ananga).

“Imperceptible as it is, it perceives everything. The mind alone feels. It feels without any assistance except from consciousness. Like meets like. Breath merges in breath, water in water, fire in fire, smell in smell. Like light merging into light, consciousness merges into consciousness and becomes one. Each thing we find in the world, in man, in nature, is wrapped in consciousness, or if it makes you understand it better, is merged in the unseen ocean of consciousness. As moisture is inherent in water, or heat in fire, so is consciousness inherent in objects and lives, seen or unseen, small or big. According to their make-up, of course, some are more conscious than others.. The crucible, where personal consciousness merges with cosmic consciousness, is the mind. When I absorb the other world through my consciousness, I only let merge a stream of consciousness into a sea of consciousness. This process we call feeling; our feelings are the catalytic agents for the outer world to be absorbed in us, and become a part of our personality.

“How grateful we must be to god that in his infinite kindness he has filled the canvas of life, the stage of the world with trillions of minute things, small objects, which we, even with our limited perception, could feel as belonging to us, or at least meant for us. The cooing of a bulbul, the swift flash of colours reflecting from the wings of a butterfly, perfumes coming in the dark from unknown plants and bushes. This belongingness is the glue that keeps us sticking to them, as through them to the world. The world is as I feel, and I feel as my mind minds to feel.

“Are you feeling tired? Am F boring you?” He suddenly stopped, and looked at me. What reasons had he, I wondered, to ask me what were my feelings, or how were my responses functioning? Was he really in doubt, he the master mind, the super teacher?

I smiled, and said, “Please continue. Do not stop.”

“The Real is just an extension of this feeling,” he continued. “Feel the Real, the One, the bhuma (all-ness) through the smallest of the smaller expressions: birds flying, the grass sprouting, insects breathing blooms changing, into colour, the wink of the dawn, the blush of the eve, the morning of lovers, the cry of the new born. Even the agonies of the failures, the miseries of the famished and the frustrated are our own friends, guides, gurus inasmuch as they show us the path, and link us up with in the Great Real. They teach us how to extend our consciousness from the finite to the infinite, from here to the beyond of the Beyond, from now to ever. Our feeling for the Real becomes a fact through our feelings for the minutest expressions of life. Where, then, is any room for discrimination?

Transcendentalism

“When I used to sit alone in the wilderness near the sea shore I made friends with the sands. Yes, with the sands. Every grain was living to me; and I felt an unseen bond existing between the grains and my consciousness. By the vastness of the ocean, the silent sombre sands stretched and stretched to eternity. I visualised and felt that the world in her embryo looked like the wilderness of water washing the wilderness of sands. A grand sculpture was in the making. The conscious self sprang into life from such nativity. In that wilderness nothing grew but the cactii; the crabs and the snails, the stuck-up jelly fish and the scattered shells; the myriads of insects and the ever busy gulls each one fighting for a place, a foothold in the ever-growing tree of life. What a vision! The theatre of this drama kept me amazed and more amazed as the sublime story unfolded itself morning and evening. The beach itself lay like a sow watching over her numerous piglets at her teats; while the vastness lay silent, lazy, inert, the grains of the sand fed on the radiating sun. Energy charges all life and consciousness, and composes into forms the unending mystery of the world flux.

“I felt each grain drinking and absorbing and growing into dales and valleys, hills and mountains, trees, rivers vegetations, and the whole basketful of gifts known as ‘life’. I felt each grain drinking. Absorbing, helping grow, populating, shaping, colouring the world we admire. The entire beach was pulsating with solar energy. The feeling was ecstatic, thrilling.

“And something more. Each grain drinking of the sun became a reservoir of energy, and the long beach was agitated to a pitch until I could hear the cry, ‘Life! More life!’ I visualised the mythical Nara in the vastness of water, and Näräyaņa in the brilliant sun rays which had turned the surface of the sea into a sheet of molten mercury. Was not this drama of the world originally composed by these two master artists of a myth: Nara (water) and Narayana (the sun)?

“So you see, the small is not so small. Even the fragments are not to be neglected. We must see the immediate in the light of the eternal, and the tiny in the light of the massive. We must regard the small man, the poor man in the light of god who has for his abode your life, my life and the lives of all. By serving them we serve ourselves; by being kind to them we do justice to ourselves. To these small things we owe the higher things; the higher truth; the higher feeling, god. And by fully feeling this we become not only an extension of god, but we ourselves extend and surpass the mere feeling of the various church-stamped gods. That is real transcendentalism, if you understand. Knowing god is not enough. Becoming is the Goal.”

Suddenly the young yogi became quiet.

The sun was setting on the other side of the city. It was the time of natural calm. The blessing of silence cheered us.

But I had to ask. “How to find the guru?”

He smiled; pressed my hand and looked affectionately. “Gurus are looking out for disciples too. Do you not believe it? Look there. One is looking already for you, you lucky boy

A little away, on the baffle pillar, at our regular place, the Lady in Saffron had already been seated. Under the spell of the quiet light her silhoutte attracted me at once; and before I could take my eyes away from her, my friend was gone. So my strange discourse (was it a discourse?) with the strange

Vaisnava (I never found his name, but used to address him as Narada; the puckish Hindu mythical Vaisnava saint) continued day by day.

 There had never been an appointment. I could neither time, nl ocate his exits and entrances, He appeared and disappeared, but war always careful to select either a crowd, or one of my most engagith moments to make himself materialise. The picture never altered the same funny tuft of hair at the centre of a shaven head, the same sandal paste spread over a high forehead, the same champak garland and the beads, the same cotton clad light syraphim body of evanescent light-and the same enigmatic smile overflowing his eyes, lips, and the benign friendly face. Oh, I could see him!

The csana under his armpit, the sitar in hand and the brass water jug shining by his side, he jogged along with elusive steps.

“Where do you live?” I managed to ask him one day.

“That presupposes if I live at all. That is a vital question, isn’t it?” was the immediate and disarming rejoinder.

“Don’t you then live?” I sounded deliberately mocking. Beamed that unnerving smile. “Do you? Do men live day by day, or do they die day by day?”

Another one of those sphinx-like riddles. He would never come to the point.

“You always wriggle out of my enquiries.”

“Out of flimsy enquiries. Life is so short. And there is so much to learn and unlearn.”

No; I never came to learn about his whereabouts.

A Case of Materialising

None the less he was very real. His concern in me was very real. His love for me, like a burning hope within, made me look out for him.

Today, as I recollect, I find that contrary to the Lady in Saffron, Narada was very voluble. But I can also see that he had been giving

*Years have gone by since the strange interlude. I cannot capture the unadom ed simple way of his speech, half Hindi, half Sanskrit. His diction, his images, his syntax punctuated with fascinating gestures, illuminating expressions lowed on and on. It was charged with the conviction of experience together with the magic spell of a master’s love for a disciple. In retrospect all that fades into a confused twilight area stretching over years of barren trampled neglect. The rendering from a still vivid memory of the precious words into a foreign tongue has not simplified matters. Of course, under the circumstances, I would falter in correct verbatim reporting but I am pretty sure that I have remained true to the faith of what be had so patiently planted into my soul.

Lessons to a novice. Naturally he had to talk at length.

He showed my way in many of the basic querries.

He always spoke of fundamental things; but it was his earnestness, directness and that special way of talking which made everything easy.

We had been discussing this topic of ‘materialising into a presence.’ I of course, without knowing anything about the subject, yet depending entirely on my very limited empirical knowledge, pooh poohed the whole idea.

But he reminded me

“Once you had drowned in the flood. You were hardly a child of four. Do you recall?”

I was struck dumb at this reference. Very few knew about it. But the incident had been preserved as a treasured memory in the family; as long as my mother lived, every year on that day she went religiously to the Ganges and offered a mother’s prayer to some known god who had appeared and saved the life of her child. But how could on earth this little man come to know of that mystery-incident?

It was like this.

A turbulent monsoon had put all the rivers in north India in a spate. It was a record spate. The stone banks of Varanasi had almost been overflowing, and half the city was under water. Near to where we lived, the stone steps ride over a steep bank, a portion of which jutted out into the grey mass of the furious flow. This current coming unobstructed for the last eight miles met its first obstruction on the west bank, against the walls of the Darbhanga Palace. So struck and baffled, the current receded with doubled fury, only to back again after drawing a fast circle. The resulting whirlpool offered terrors to boatmen and swimmers alike. But the jutting stone burz itself provided a rather safe perch for daring devotees, who would snatch a few minutes of seclusion for offering prayers to the rising sun

My mother was one of the very few who sought this seclusion. That morning the lady was offering her prayers. Two feet behind her the angry current raged periodically, rhythm after rhythm, roll after roll, with a natural regularity. Every time the onrush dashed, the water swelled up, dashed against the stone jetty, over-shot it and jumped down, forming a terrific cascade, into the whirlpool below. The thunderous roar of the dashing currents and the falling cascade kept bathers ominously silent.

I was left alone on the bank, while my mother had been at the prayers in that most interesting of places, where the mighty walen jumped the jetty and came down on the other side with a roar.

I wanted to reach her. Before anyone could notice, my toddling feet were already in the water; and carefully I felt the stone Mp inder my feet. The feel of the sharp current sent through me feeling of strange exhilaration. I thrilled; and took another step and another; and another.

Oblivious of what was happening behind her, my mother was engrossed in her prayers, with eyes devoutly closed. The bathers did not expect any accident. Things were so well knit and familiar that accident seemed to be far away from all minds.

Then, oops, the little feet missed, and the little body toppled into the abyss below. Almost keeping up a timing, the huge mass of water rushing from the south, jumped the burz and down came the cascade, The tiny feet were lost under the angry deluge.

Came a sharp cry. My mother still deep in her meditation, was suddenly awakened by the stab of the cry. She looked back, but her child was not there. Before she could utter ‘help!’ my wet body was hanging head down, from a firm grip, and I was being steadied into the eager embrace of a frantic mother.

The helping hand belonged to a strange man clad in red silk. He stood taller than anyone around, and wore an awesome grimness. But a soft gleam radiating from the body could not be mistaken. How that stranger had materialised in that impossible place, how he had not been noticed before, and how a second after, (when the first consternation of a confused mother was got over, and when she was looking round for expressing her sincerest thanks)-the man was gone!! The presence had vanished! The only exit ran up a flight of about thirty narrow steps; and the time was too short even for a monkey to jump up the place unnoticed. But the man was not noticed; neither any

Trace of the man was left behind. The incident was at once being talked all over the place. My mother trembling out of the shock of such an advent returned home penitently, only to go back to the place next day for offering a very special prayer conducted by a very special priest.

And since then the anniversary of the event was always remembered by my mother, who religiously appeared on the banks on that fixed day, and offered her special prayers.

Närada, my Vaisnava mentor, had been referring to that event which almost all had forgotten, and very few at all knew.

“And you say that you do not believe in materialising. The fault with your type of empiricism is this my dear, that knowing fully well the limitations of so called experiences you still want to steady your beliefs and disbeliefs on the basis of these very limitations. This is good for nothing... You must awake. You belong to the other time. You have to get down to work. You are simply wasting your time by chasing your own tail and shadow.”

What to Do with Power

I remember once I had asked him what it was that a yogi really sought. It was he who explained to me the two ways and objectives of yoga. One was the objective of acquisition of power; the other was acquisition of peace.

I always believed that yogic power was of greater value. With this power under control, one would do so much good to the world. Oh, how he reacted to this suggestion of belonging to the tribe of dogooders. He did not hesitate to call most of them pitiable frauds, vain intruders in the comity of the saintly. The temptation of showing off power reduces the spiritual state of the person who indulges in it.

The pity of it all is that a power-weilder, even engaged in trying to do good to others, is finally a loser. Playing the role of a do-gooder a man enters deliberately into the dark realms of self-deception, and of self-pity. Service as a dharma has to be both detached and devoid of selfishness, even of ego. Real service belongs to the men of piety and modesty.

Other than that a conscious act of doing good is commonly vitiated by a secret craving for self-proclamation and self-adulation. It is extremely difficult to get rid of this weakness. Only the most disciplined could succeed in offering service to the damned and the destitute of life. Most of the so called do-gooders commit an act of hypocrisy against their own souls. Real service to the miserable on earth proceeds from a total submission of the last shreds of ego to the source of all good, i.e., God. Modesty, I believe is the mother of true service; the father being tolerance.

Everybody seeks power; more so mystic power. This, of course, is more than understandable. But everybody is not so sure about what to do with this power. Unless the objective is very clear, acquisition of power might act as a knife in the hands of a child; or bombs in the hands of selfish nations. If an indiscriminate tyrant enquires the secrets of atom, he might hold the peace of the world at ransom.

Big powers act as big gangs of blackmailers when they talk with military power to back their indiscipline. World is saved by power, and world is also destroyed by power.

Acquisition of liberal power comes from yogic discipline. And from yogic discipline, again, one has to learn the uses of power. This discipline has only one-aim total elimination of ego. Use of power, how. Ever, depends on another kind of yogic discipline: understanding and appreciation of social concord, social peace. The former call for self-discipline with self-education; the latter calls for impersonal appreciation of the good of all, where self, it at all, comes last.

As I narrate and explain this, an incident comes to my mind. This happened in one of the islands in the West Indies. This question of seeking power made me question, analyse and rehabilitate a young man who was keen on acquiring power.

Let me relate the episode. Illustrations from life are the most telling of teachers. It happened in 1969, in Trinidad. I was confronted by a young man who had approached me for seeking ‘power’. According to him, he had ‘tested’ me and found that I had power enough to transmit. This young man claimed to have visited Tibet, and knew something about the Tibetan occult. But after being with me for over 15 months or more, (he meant that he had been regularly attending my lectures) he became restless, and badly wanted to come nearer me, and ‘draw’ some power. So I asked him very frankly what would he do with such power if he had it. The young man did himself much credit by frankly stating before me that all he had been looking forward to was to acquire vigorous power for tremendous sexual ability. In his idea the females in creation suffer from an everlasting rut, and to wield a real hold over them a man needs nothing else but titanic

Vigour with sexual ability. Of course I did lend him power, but of another sort. I taught him the power of understanding love, mind, body, and womanhood. To day his home boasts of two pretty children; and his Spanish wife is an adorable lady proud of what she is and what she has.

His has not been the only case. I have met with a hundred cases of this type. I shall narrate for record only two more.

This other young man had come with a male companion. Both of them appeared to be under some traumatic tension. Their skin looked dry, famished and burning; their behaviour restless; even their fingertips twitched, cheeks trembled; and from time to time their tongues shot out with the hope of wetting a cracking pair of lips.

According to their own confessions they had been attending some of my lecture sessions which were always open and public. Obviously they had known me for long, but had been quite unknown to me. This happened in 1972.

They had been under some duress, some distress. It was a spiritual distress; according to them a dangerous occult distress.

I begged them to be more relevant.

They thought that some powerful source situated in another country (in their case Venezuela) had been in spiritual communication with one of them; and through that one, with other two. Now as they were falling to act his bidding, he had been sapping their strength away... and things of that sort. They had tried to penetrate into the seances of the visting Indian yogis, and found them to be too superfluous. In my case, so they claimed, they had failed to make any penetration at all. This is how they reported themselves. (I am only repeating their views and observations.) This had given them the daring urge to come to me for assistance. Etc. (World of tantra is filled with such lumber, and the air in the lower stratum is filled with poisonous impurities.)

I felt rather amused at their naive analysis of the situation, and tried to tell them that I had no idea whatsoever about the ‘seances’ they had been speaking of; and so far as this business of penetration etc. was concerned, I had always kept an open mind, and the idea of penetrating into my spiritual realm should not have occurred at all. I further explained to them that they should climb down to the level of the common human beings, and desist from considering themselves superhuman, with superhuman links. I narrated to them the great occult legend of Krşņa-Aśvatthāma and of the curse wielded by the evil powers of the latter. Challenged by the fury of an evil spell cast by Aśvatthāmā, Krsna advised all to stand clear of their mental obsessions, submit themselves entirely to the law of non-violence, and bear no kind of emotional reaction to what Asvatthämä wanted to do. The curse would certainly fail against the non-violent. The best way to remain at peace is to turn the mind into a zero. Stay at the common normal level, and the uncommon would not make a hit. Be modest. Peace is the fruit of a tree named modesty. The third was a very sad and tragic case.

She was a Dutch girl born in Borneo. Through the transfer of Dutch powers to local hands her family was flung to Amsterdam. The family soon got disintegrated, and she, a girl of barely seventeen, found herself swept away to distant Surinam, a state previously be longing to the Dutch, and known as Dutch Guyana.

I had the misfortune of meeting her there.

She came to me for assistance after she had heard me over the T.V. As usual I welcomed her, and listened to her dreary tale.

Then I questioned her about her sex life. The poor thing had not had even 22 years of life to her credit, and she could easily count at least twenty persons with whom she had actively experimented on a dream known as compatibility, with the distant hope of building a home. The home was still her focus of attention; just to have a father figure to attend to, and a place for her nestling in absolute peace.

I felt much moved towards her plea for rescue. She hated the life she was forced to live, and which she had not sought of her own choice; and unless she would find a way out she would either turn mad, or would be forced to eliminate herself. (She was a beauty. Her health and charm was ruined. She sang as well as she painted. But she lived in a ‘home’ filled with dancing phantoms.)

I succeeded in pointing out to her that she is more than three quarters demented already, and that suicide would not be so easy for her because she loved life intensely. The only way was to stick to the man she had been currently hanging on to. It was of no consequence if the man was not white; he was more; he was an artist; and he, as an artist, loved her, understood her mind, and above all he loved the home he shared, and their child. Did he know all her past? Yes, he did. (He later spoke to me.) And was that not an entire southwindow open for all the sea winds to blow in and sweep away the least speck of rubbish from her mind?

The urgency of my talk made her gasp; and she wondered how I knew so much information about her. Paramaribo was a completely new place for me; and it was quite impossible for me to be telling her so much details about her life in depth.

She ascribed my knowledge to my spiritual power, and I warned her, as usual, that the greatest spirit is the spirit of love; and one who has acquired this love power develops an insight into most of the troubled minds of the world, provided the troubles are genuine. She, as well as her husband (now they are married) still write to me.

I owe the knowledge of this source of power, namely, the power of love, to this Vaisnava saint. He taught me about two types of power. One power acts through miracles, and provides for easy cures of ailments etc. This power could buy friends, make enemies, set people mad, spell disaster, astound and mesmerise. Such power brings power, money, social adulation, special distinction; and heaps on its victims a crushing weight of vanity. They end in misery, and they find their own salvation (that is winning peace and happiness for their own soul) in a miserable jeopardy. (Lucifer, Ravana, Hiranyakasipu, Attila, Hitler etc. Etc.)

The other power is the power of love and peace. It tolerates, understands, befriends and shares. It goes out to the aggrieved, the isolated, the abandoned, the distressed; it considers a child as an adult, and an adult as a child. By its own power it turns tears into smiles, and raging passions into charming blooms. It is a power that mothers all, and provides all with a magnificent touch that reaches the very soul. With this power cementing a concord between two, all distinctions, -such as sex, age, social status vanish. The only reality that remains supreme is sympathy, fellow feeling, love without motive. It acts as a great power. I owed so much to my little comic Nārada.

6

The Female Factor

Fleeing Spirit

My Vaisnava friend, I called him Narada, had done me a great favour

On the eastern bank of the large tank attached to the Durga temple (where we had met each other for the first time) stood a wall. Ed garden described before. It was a garden attached to a magnificent marble mausoleum. Some forgotten Indian prince had offered this as a homage to his guru, Swami Bhāskarānanda. The saint’s ashes are buried here; but in a serene cottage within the garden a full-size statue of the saint is found seated in the yogic posture. In his life-time, when the surroundings were covered with a wood,

The saint had built his rattan hut exactly at the same spot. Here he had passed more than a hundred years; years of teaching and pray. Ing, but most times merged in deep samādhi (trance). He was considered, along with another great adept in yoga, the renowned Tailanga Swami, a divine personality. He subsisted on nothing except what fell to his lot naturally. (Ajagara-vrata, living on food effortlessly arrived.)

Irrespective of the changes in seasons Swami Bhāskarānanda never put on any kind of garments. He never went out in search of food or shelter. Soon his yogic fame brought about him some inquisitive followers, whom he formally taught from primary alphabets to the most astute subjects like metaphysics and yoga. His teachings are still available in print, and are quoted as authority.

Like Tailanga Swami (we shall speak of him in a different context), he too followed the haloed path of tantra yoga, or at least a form of it, and was an adept in the celebrated Śrīyantra (a mystical diagram which lays out the entire lesson and import of tantra sādhana). The statue of the naked skeletal Swami seated in his favourite āsana has been placed exactly where in that very posture he had given up his ghost in a deliberate ascension of life, about a hundred and forty years ago.

Peace dripped from the wooded trees surrounding this secluded spot. Even during the early twenties of the century, as and when I used to visit this place, I invariably became aware of the strange vibrations, usually associated with places sanctified by penances of great spiritual personalities.

What with the charms of the place, and what with the blossoming trees that hedged the walls, what with the well laid out gardens, and the fountain gurgling, the few anchorites moving around the place with a solemn grandeur of their own, this place had been a favourite haunt in my early boyhood days.

Whence I Came; Why?

All that is gone now. The purposeful enthusiastic powers of an organised municipality have turned it into a tourist attraction; they have modernised much of its pristine sylvan charm. Gone are the walls; and with the walls, the garden, the blossoming trees, the fountain, and of course, the anchorites.

I have a strong belief that like the people inhabiting a quiet place, and later shoved into the jaws of ‘development’, the spirit of a place is also disturbed. The quiet spirit that had charmed Job Charnok on the Bhagiratht, has been dislodged by a drastic urban growth. The haloed romantic poetry and spiritual vibrations of Sutanati, Govindpur, and particularly of the hemlet of Kalighat across the dark woods of Bhavanipur and Chowrangi Natha’s habitat, is today a far cry from the nerve racking milieu of ‘developed’ Calcutta. As men flee places of turmoil to seek quieter spots, the unseen spirits, the actual guardians of man’s spiritual contentment, also seek other places. Any one visiting such places as Tärakeswar, Dakșineswar, Täräpith, Brindavan, Badrinath etc. Would confirm that despite ‘development’ in facilities the places have lost their soul. The peace and contentment of the surrounding, the light-winged vibrations in the air felt fifty years back (when ‘tourists’-buses, motels etc. Were not there) are completely missed today.

The only exception is the age old Manikarnīkā of Varanasi. We have bartered the solemnity of pure spiritual delight for the cheap pleasures of travel lust and sight-seeing. This is true of Amarnath in Kashmir, Paśupatinath in Nepal, Rameswaram or Jagannath Puri. This, I have painfully discovered, is the case of St. Peter in Rome, The Stone henge in England, Nizamuddin Aulia’s tomb of Delhi, Ajmer Sharif, Our Lady Guedaloupe’s shrine in Mexico (what a sacrilege there!) or the renowned Alcazar in Toledo's shrine. In a short period of 35 years, the change experienced is deplorable. This spirit of the saintly, the vibration of virtue run away from noise, promotional gaudiness and lack of piety and reverence.

Here I used to await my friend Narada. In fact, it is through his encouragement that I had grown familiar to this place. Most times at noon, when I visited the place, I took my seat in the southern part of the mausoleum, and fell into a state of trance. For the joy of it, soon I became a frequent visitor.

And here the friendly Närada, a master, gave me so many of his instructions.

Once I had referred to the strange coolness and the embracing familiarity of the place. I remarked that the place seemed to me as familiar as if I belonged to it. But when was it? How? I did not know; neither could I remember, when could I have’ first’ come to the place. This sense of belonging to it was unaccountable; otherwise wh and how did the familiarity of the place so enrapture me? “I wider why this place should appear so familiar to me!”

“We all visit our dearest places again and again,” observed Närada in his usually mystič voice. There is nothing surprising; nothing to fear.”

More surprised than ever I looked at him. I must have frowned in disbelief. What could he mean?

Only that little provocation was enough. He started his explanation. (Oh, how much do I owe to these explanations from my chancebestowed friend!).

“No life is a first-time. The scholar’s insistent enquiry and dogged search for the ‘first-time,’ for the ‘beginnings of things,’ really appears to be so stupid. I wonder why people do not seem to stop and consider that searching for a point of time in history is a child’s funny adventure for finding the lost pant button after he has grown out of his garments. A real search should be made for why I came; not for when I came. For in a much deeper and truer sense all the ‘things’ around us are ‘first-time’ things.

“Oh, how stupid it is to view time as a flat slate of continuity from a dead point to a dead point. It fact, time is so alive, so vibrant, so dynamic, and perpetual. Perpetuity is time. In fact, time is life itself. In fact, time alone is alive. We borrow our little cup-fuls of life from the immense time stream. Father-time, kāla; Mother-time, kali-that mystic Lady of the Dark, who delights in her ‘life-play’: life coming, coming, coming and, going, going, going, from out of sight, to out of sight; from out of nowhere, to out to nowhere. Life as a living force delighting over life as inert, dead. That’s the image.”

My puzzled looks made him stop for a while.

“This is contradiction. Life alive. Life dead. I do not follow you.”

“I know. But contradictions speak of hard boiled truth. When they do, they are known as paradoxes, which contain the seed germs of crystal truths. Easy to remember. Dear to part.

“Time is a playful girl, busy playing on the sea shore of space, filling and emptying her colourful buckets. There buckets contain the sea in fractions; while the sea itself remains unmoved, unchanged. When the bucket is full, it comes alive. When it is emptied, life becomes dead. But this is only referring to the bucket. In relation to the sea, does the filling or the emptying affect it at all?”

With that hammering direct question he stopped. “No. Of course, it does not,” I replied. “But what are you now

Speaking of? What exactly you mean to say?” I became more demanding. More critical. But Narada was the very essence of patience. The smile never left

The face. “What am I speaking of?” “Look,” I protested. “The time was all right. Now you introduce space. Why space?,” I enquired.

“Yes, I have introduced strange concepts. But please bear with me for a while. Through these new concepts I propose to lead you to the knowledge of ‘whence’ you came, and ‘when’ you came, and to ‘what’ you came. The word when is time-motivated; correspondingly, the word where is place-motivated. Do you follow?”

“Yes; I do now; but what is space, as different from time? Are they two? How?”

I did not realise that I was betraying signs of irritation. Närada smiled again. And continued

“Remember for all times to come that there are no two, or more than two. There is only one. The one is the all-in-all truth, the satyam, the brahman, the bodhi.... The god, that we clumsily refer to, is only he last convenient resort our unending talks cling to as a sublime hypothesis.

Anirvacanīyam: Anucchiştam

There is no god except when realised as reality, satyam. When that realisation comes, it just comes; it dawns upon consciousness; it descends. Then, when it dawns, there is nothing else to be done but to be in it... yes, to be in, it! To be it! Not as a body in in air, heat in as water in water, breath fire. Water. No. Busively yours. Your experience. Beyond sharing, describing. All description of it is limited. Because word sense is limit ed, description has to be limited. But experience is unlimited..... What you

I felt intrigued. I was being swept away by a sudden current to ideas beyond my depth. I whirled and whirled, fighting to come up floating; but his hand was already on my head. He looked deep inte me and asked, “Do you not sit on the body of the Bhairavi? On her naked skin? In an āsana?

“She is my auntie?”

“So?... Just an auntie?. . Just a related person like that? And nothing more? O, how foolish you could be.... The auntie vanisher in the asana, as the body does. What remains is abstract. Prakti alter ego, and the vibrations. Govinda Pandit is your uncle. But he is also a doctor of smallpox. He is also an astute Hatha-yogi. Isn’t it? But not always so. To a tiger he is just food, nothing else. No longer Govinda Pandit, the Hatha-yogi. Nevertheless, could you deny he is

A Hatha yogi? A master?” “No I cannot,” I asserted.

“But what is he? Your uncle? A Hatha-yogi? A mass of assimilated food? Really what then is he?... Your auntie is your auntie. But she is also a Bhairavi. As you sit in āsana on her body, what is she? Your auntie? A Bhairavi? Or an experience? Could you describe that experience?”

I was so confounded by the question that for a few seconds I felt totally lost.

How real was the experience! How vivid! How saturating! Yet to describe faithfully the nature and substance of that taste of absolute thrill seems to be beyond words.

...But I was being watched. And gradually a voice whispered anirvacaniyam! Anucchistam!” (Beyond spoken words. Undefiled b the tongue.)

Narada had been whispering into my ears.

“Yes,” I repeated, “that was joy. Beyond words. I feel. Just feel.” “This is anandam. Anandam is total. Always total. It could not b fractioned even for sharing. It could not be brought out even fo description.... Am I right?”

That impish smile. It was ticklish.

“Total Brahman.” I admitted.

“Let me examine the point again,” my friend continued. “Shall we? Look at my hands. How many fingers?”

“Of course ten.”

“How many hands?”

“Two.”

“How many bodies?”

“One, only one body.”

“Now, look around. How many bodies?” “Why? You; I;... many; many bodies.”

“And now. How many ‘I’s?”

“’I’s?.... Oh, I see. Why, only one ‘I’ in all.”

“Then, what about me? Do I also not see, think, act?”

“Indeed you do...as a different body. Not as a different ‘I’.”

“We all float,” he explained, “in the same air. The air is one, and the bodies are many; the water, for the fish, is one, but bodies are many. And so on.. There must be one ‘I’, one consciousness, one Brahman, although all these appear to be many. Maniness is a convenience in everyday empirical thinking.

“...The doctors,” he continued, “are many. But when we talk of cholera, or malaria, or cancer...to them, these are only one. We are patients. As patients, we are many. In hospitals we share many numbers. But to the doctors, we are mostly abstractions. We are problems for them to solve. They treat us as individual cases of some disease; i.e., the patient is not at ease. Each of the many is a fraction of one. One is the only truth, the Real. There is not else but the One.”

“This One,” he said, “the ‘1’, then must be in every thing, even if, like the one air, we do not see it. This One must be in life, as well as in what has no life...”

“Now, that is yet again another form of confusion,” he explained. “Confusion of the mind, understanding.. line In the Gita there is a

I held him there, and recited....... Ajñānenavrtam jaanam tena muhyanti jantavah (knowledge lies hidden in the darkness of un-knowledge, and creates confusion amongst the living). ....And the Lord goes further,” he remarked. “A beautiful simile,"

Encouraged, I went on holding my finger up at him, "Let me try."

Yathol-vena vrtam garbham tatha tenedamavętam,

Avrtam jñānam-etena nitya yuktena vairiņā.

(That one anti-thought, an enemy, eternally clinging covers t entire world of knowledge, as does the uterine membranes cover life within the foetus.)

Šiva, the Asleep

He looked happy.

“Therefore,” he continued, “you see, that supreme knowledge too is one. Anything beyond this One is nothing but an extension of our ignorance. You call it an extension of our ego. There is no ego without a sense of attachment or possession. To acknowledge ‘I’ in a total sense is to get rid of attachment that creates confusion; but saying ‘my’ is to merge the self in a whirlpool of confusion of attachment and more attachment. That is anti-freedom. ‘I’ is an extension of the Subject; ‘my’ is an extension of the Object, which fetters the Subject. The fetter is ego. ‘I’ cannot possess anything without damaging its pure innocence. Yet, and this is important, this ‘I’ could indeed be extended to the Infinite, only when not tied to ignorance, ego, the sense of possession.

“Such was the man Swami Bhaskarānanda, a creature of no other substance but Light. We call these men the enlightened ones. When “I’ is inflated with ego, you get men like Rāvana, Sisupāla, Napoleon, Hitler. Realised Truth needs a heart as pure as a lotus in bloom for the light to rest on. Are you following?”

“I think I do,” I said. “Now I could figure out time as living. But the space is not as living as time is. Space ‘is’; but time is more than just ‘is’; it is eternally continuing, eternally passing; eternally in motion, change. Space ‘is’. There’s no change. Limp. Even the change that there is, is dormant. Undetectable....”

“No!,” he warned. “Do not go further. You say dormant; not dead. Remember the ONE of which we had been speaking? Even Space and Time are One. Life as an active vast ocean touches the shores of Time and Space; and rests on the static Space.

“For even an ocean at bottom rests on something; and all is a compact whole. Time is Space in activity. Space is Time asleep. So you see Siva, asleep, inert, lying flat, and seemingly ‘dead’ under Sakti, Kall, Siva is a word formed from the root ✓SE which means ‘to sleep’. Now you could imagine why we say, Time and Space are one like the moon and its light. We talk of them as two for the sake of convenience. Description, as we have been saying, is the least part of realisation. Realisation is silent. A yogi is a silent person. Siva is silent. Käli or Sakti moves with power in mantra, japa, vāk, utterance.”

I winced under the heavy impact of this analysis. But I did not give up, or get lost. It was not new to me any way. Abstruse arguments came to me as swimming to ducklings. At our home talks between logicians and metaphysicians were an everyday feature. I was somehow familiar with abstruse talks and technical vocabulary. Yet this long talk was difficult to keep pace with, and absorb.

But Narada was an adept in teaching. He would not tarry for long on the abstruse area. Like an expert weaver he picked up the broken strand at the right moment, and started as if nothing had interrupted our talks.

“.. .So you see,” he continued, “Time could not be described as a principle having a beginning. Time has no beginning, as indeed space has none. Šiva is anādi. Kält is cit (consciousness), the cosmic energy of conscious life. Beginning of things cannot be known. All beginnings are shrouded in mystery.

“Let me see if this could be explained more easily. A circle is a racing path traced by running points kept equidistant from a given point.” As he had been talking he described a diagram on the white marble with the sandal paste which was always there in his water jug. “The points,” he continued, “in the circle are held fast and close to one another. Naturally of these points none is a ‘first’.

Sound Gems

“All of us, and all of such as we are, had had somewhere else a beginning. We have no direct knowledge of it in our present condition. We always come back where we had been before. Some feel it, some do not, depending on the subtlety of the feeler’s sensitivity. Why? It is quite possible that you had been not be unknown. The Durga temple is so close; and annually they come there for pilgrimage. And the place is so attractive. Swami Bhāskarānanda was your father’s guru. Your father is within you. Do you, then, disbelieve to have been here before?”

“Of course,” I responded. “I have been engaged in picking flowers from this wild garden. Why? I remember now, yes.... It was a strange experience....”

“What was it?,” enquired Närada.

“I remember once I was busy picking flowers dropped from the branches on the grass....Basak and Cameli (Mimu sops Elengi and F. Arborescens). All of a sudden a serpent from nowhere appeared, and slid first underneath the basket, and then calmly climbed and coiled on the flowers gathered in the basket. I had nothing else to do but to watch. It was so beautiful, so gorgeous in its brilliant attire, spangled white and grey and black. It was a cobra. I began to a sing a prayer for Siva. After a long while it left me ....... But I felt so happy.... I do remember. Yes, I was here.”

“Yes. You prayed to Śiva. But there are smaller caskets of sound, Little gem sounds. Like a small tiny seed that keeps enclosed within its shell even a great banyan, or any tree for that matter. These seed sounds contain within them great prayers; prayers of unbelievable energy and force.”

Before he could say anything further, I was uttering, Om namo nārāyanāya: om namah śivāya: om namo bhagvate vasudevāya: om kling

Kālikāyai namah: om hring durgāyai namah.” He smiled at me and enquired why I repeated so many of them. And continued, “How many boats you need to cross the Ganges?”

Not to be taken back I retorted, “Depends. The time, the current,

The nature of the winds...,” and I laughed. “Why not only one dependable boat for all weathers and currents?”

“What about oceans?,” I persisted.

“Is it so very impossible to secure a dependable boat to get across the oceans? Of course, a very dependable pilot will be necessary. But one boat would do I believe.”

“Then why so many mantras? So many gods?” This time my question had an urgency. I wanted to bring this subject to him. I found now the opportunity.

Mantras

“This is a very honest question, but not that much intelligent. Unless one is blind, or to much bogged into a single-track thinking, one should be able to appreciate the charm of variety in objects. Have you ever entered a drug store? Have you noticed how many kinds of medicines are there, and how many kinds of bottles? Some on open racks for you to handle. Some are kept out of common reach. Some are too dangerous, or too complicated. But do you need all of them? Have you entered a drug-store ever to need all the bottles? Although you need one at a time, doctors have to keep at hand a number of drugs. The doctor selects, and gives you that one which you need. Good doctors do not prescribe a number of medicines for a single patient. But they keep many medicines; and at times, they even have to show off a number of medicines to build up the feeble confidence of weak-minded patients.

“Your spiritual guru prescribes for you a dependable mantra. He knows many of them. But you need only one. He will select. Even in your lifetime he could change this, and give you another mantra. That depends on your power of spiritual need and assimilation.

“Take for instance the gradual selection of your food. You start with the mother’s breast. You go to cow’s milk. Then to the solids. Then back to softer, even liquid food. This depends on the needs of the body, and the powers of assimilation.

“The principal motive behind these changes is to assist absorption and assimilation. The power to absorb may vary between body and body, mind and mind, depending on other factors. Do you agree?... well, you do. Variety and changes should not disturb you at all. Our ancients have passed through many experiences. The history of spiritual experience of the ancients of the East is too long and various. Like undeveloped children we reach for as many mantras as we happen to come across with. This shows how we suffer from lack of confidence.

“One alone is enough, if the guru has selected that for you. It is obviously a mistake to claim that one single mantra, like one single medicine, is good for all on all occasions. We do not feel for many. We feel for one, just one, but out of the many. This is the correct position. We honour and respect all of them; but we cherish and hold on to only one. This one is mantra. Your mantra. The gurumantra. The one medicine that the doctor has chosen for you, for your help. Mantra etymologically means ‘the sound that helps one to get across by constant mind-ing’. You mind it. Repeat it. Own it. Realise its powers. It would give you power.”

Pennyworth of Powers

“Could you give me the powers?,” I jumped at the prospect. “What powers?” asked Närada derisively. “What powers are you talking of? Miracles? Powers to kill or save a life? To demonstrate magic? To bring people under control? Here is a story from him. Listen.... Remember Ramakrishna?

“One of the two brothers of a family of ferry-boatman grew tired of the life in a village, Sheer monotony. He wanted powers, so that he could play the miracle man, the spiritual man. He left home, and found himself a guru. In time he did succeed in acquiring powert With the powers now earned, he returned home, and arrived at the old ferry; there he found his brother, the ferry-man, playing the same old ferry boat. The return of the brother in the spiritual garments of a saint made the ferry-man very proud. He made haste to carry him across the river to their village.

"Gradually the ferry-man asked his brother what special powers the brother had acquired.

""Plenty,' replied the saint. 'For example, I could cross this river walking over it.'

""But why?,' asked the ferry-man quite disappointed. 'We have this craft. And it does quite well. It takes only a copper to cross the river. Had you to spend all these long years just to acquire a pennyworth of powers? This game of acquiring power might be a jolly sport, but it must be very expensive.'

"So you see, a real spiritual quest is actually blunted by greed for powers. Besides, power by itself is a temptation. Have I not already explained this? It provokes ego. Provoked ego acts against spiritual peace. Joy, not power, is the key. Spread joy."

Then Narada began to elaborate on the subject of love, the powers of unattached love for the fellow beings; love for the world. "The secret of power," he said, "lay in considering and accepting all as one. One must see one's ownself in every other manifested object. The same subject everywhere. That is the real power worthy to be acquired."

I got confused. I must have told him that my quest was for no powers, really. I am bent upon only one object. I wanted to be filled with the love power like my Lady in Saffron. I wanted to be loved by her.

An Ancient Temple of Tārā

Objects blown into ocean become saturated with salt; so all inert objects become animated with consciousness as they get in touch with conscious power. (VI-1-30)

 “A Guru is he, who by a look, a touch, an utterance could electrify the divine consciousness of his disciple through his grace.” (VI-I-61)

The solemn music of the ringing verses of Yoga-Vāśishța filled the ancient temple. Our sessions continued. The same solemnity; the same  asana, the same sound and smell; the same aura. The Lady in Saffron had been leading me methodically towards the difficult achievement of gaining a state of total impersonality, c.g., the art of detachment in attachment; love without reactive emotional stress; sleeping when awake, and awaking while sleeping. The fortnightly sessions at night were now held at different places. We had been selecting more and yet more secluded hide-outs.

The one hide-out we had finally come upon was an almost unnoticed and certainly neglected temple in a series of temples built by a lady, Rani Bhavani (eighteenth-century female devotee from West Bengal) on the banks of the Ganges.

This was the dreaded Tärä temple. The access to this temple had to be gained through completely ruined and dark subways. Every time I gained entrance there I had to hold her hands for guidance. The passage to the temple felt eerie with screeching bats and furtive rodents.

But once within the haven of the small temple yard, paved with red sandstone, the feeling changed.

Participating in Seances

At times we came across strange unknown faces in the temple. Some engaged in meditation, some engaged in rites. If fire had to be lighted, the Lady in Saffron would do it. But on days when she found a seance already in progress, she would just sit near the flaming altar and join the stream of the rites without any ado.

Fire, blood and sex formed parts of the rites. Today when I have become more than aware of the powers of sex, as well as of the misuses of sex, I recall those seances with as much veneration and awe as I would bear at the direct presence of the Divine, or before a cobra alert with his hood swaying.

Of course, I knew which of the participants would be my ‘seat’. I also knew how before assuming the seat I had to worship the asana with certain special types of flowers, and rice grains, and also with blood, if available. In those days I could paint my forehead with hot sacrificial blood without any compunction. I knew how to draw the mandalas for such special purposes. The use of various coloured powders in the mandala had its own meaning and significance.

Before starting the rites I had to sip a special liquid. The quality was insignificant; but the effect was electric. As I sipped the liquid I did not care to notice if the pot was a jade, a bronze, a skull. Significance was more important than the material object.

 The word significance is often used in whatever context possible Specially, novices show concerned eagerness to learn (not the rites, or the things used but) about the ‘significance’ of the objects used, of the diagrams, of this, of that. Significance points out to a certain definite meaning, and no other. This means a very special treatment of a mantra, a word or a rite; even of ritual objects. Whenever the word significance is used, the aspirant is expected to absorb the meaning of the word, and rest the mind on that meaning alone in the abstract, and wrench the mind away from its mundane everyday meaning.

Yoni and Maithuna (Coitus)

Yoni as a word means the female organ, from which life springs out. In fact it signifies the matrix, starting point of a ‘life’. This word in usage at once projects ideas, expressed as well as unexpressed, associated with the female organ, and coitus; and by extension of this image, the lurid use of this organ for the satisfaction of lust, which of course, is never satisfied. In reality, however and in the context of spiritualism, specially in tantra, this word almost invariably means the matrix, or the supposed fountainhead of life in general. As such it is indeed imaged as the matrix of the cosmic power of creation.

Imaging the cosmic in any sense has given man the gift of creating handy and helpful images: the lamp, for the sun; fire flames, for regis tering the gratitude of the Aryans of the cold nordic regions to the forests; water jar with leaves dipped within, for the bountifulness of rivers and rains etc., etc.

Images, delicate, sensitive, and eloquent images, form picturesque homages paid by the imaginative, the reflective to elements and forces of nature.

Since these phenomena are too big to be contained within the temples (symbols in themselves) built by man, the seer poets invent and accept a fittingly appropriate form to contain the big within a small indexive representation, or symbol. In tackling with the mighty forces of the cosmic, it becomes necessary to be toying with ideas, and capture the immense into the secured box of an index.

In imaging the matrix of all lives, or the cosmic law which gives us the primal form of the nebulae, man has stuck to certain pictures of which the most popular in usage are the furrow of the field, the pit for the fire sacrifice and the yoni itself (not always of the human female; but of any female for that matter). I am emphasising this because I want to impress upon the mind of all tantra enthusiasts that to the real adept in tantra, a yoni never projects the erotic image of coitus and lust. True it is that it takes a very long and hardcore training to arrive at this objectivity regarding yoni, and develop this reverential attitude to the triangle between the thighs of an uttara-sādhikā (alter ego), who is a female. It is then considered as a pitha (a seat for seancic meditation). (My personal initiation from the bodily approach of the Lady in Saffron has stood me in lasting grace; and I found, no difficulty at all whenever occasion arose, to approach this zonal reverence in the proper and exclusive spirit of

Tantra.) To be in direct contact with the famale triangle. (I am deliberately not mentioning the female ‘body’; for there is nothing physically responsive in the act of seance in tantra. Unless the triangle is approached as an asana, a pītha, it should not be approached at all without singular peril to the efforts for spiritual realisation. The triangle in that case would be nothing other than one of the many paraphernalia associated with, and necessitated by the ritual of tantric sādhanā.) One has to undergo years of penance and practice; hard cruel excruciating processes of self-chastisement, self-denial.

Of the six passions living within the body, the first passion is the most demanding, elusive, tenacious and obdurate. Whilst it takes prenatal roots, it survives the decay with years of the body, as of the mind. Its embers flicker within the ruins of even a palsied body.

Naturally yogis, in order to be free from emotional handicaps, aim their efforts at gripping this powerful incentive, and engage its fire for loftier uses; for this power (the serpent, the Ihadini, the sex) is the power of creative urge. It lies at the root of all progress, even spiritual progress, which supplies really the basic motor to all progress. Spiritual progress that does not involve universal progress is progress in name alone. It is an empty progress.

Mastering this power has been the aim of many yogis, many techniques, many clans in so many different ways; Rāja-yoga, Karmayoga, Hatha-yoga etc., etc. But on all hands it has been accepted that the perilous (often self-deceptive) tantra way leads to the easiest and the most rewarding results, because the basic tenet of the tantra way has been joy, happiness and living in the fullness of life.

Because I was lucky, I was initiated to the female body directly through the blissful gift of an angel. The Lady in Saffron had caught hold of me when the implications of sex and of sexual pleasures had been a closed chapter to my boyish years. Yet there came a time when I did realise a strange awakening in

Met realised that my body was undergoing a change. When at first I noticed (and she noticed) the stiffening of the organ, which hitherto never responded to the close, closest contact with the bushy triangle, the Lady in Saffron smiled; and made a funny remark. She at once explained to me that the change had to be overcome through com. Plete concentration on certain details, like the touch of the skin of the loving old lady. “Touch and smell are two very important lead. Guides to perfect samādhi”, she said. “The senses are there to absorb the world in its gorgeous glory, but no more; the use of the senses has to be sternly restricted to the purpose of absorbing the supreme sublimity of the magic of creation. Indriyāni indriärtheșu, as says the Gitā.”

And then the contact became deeper, longer and more warm, though more trying. Long was the process; longer the seances until the body became redundant to all feeling, and an unbodied steadiness descended on consciousness transporting it to the realms of perfect peace.

Where was the body then? Where the stiffness? Where the triangle? Where male, where female? Only anandam; only bliss.

And thereafter, this body has been coming into contact with many such triangles. Even when the prakrti belonged to different age groups, it realised the same bliss. In tantra-cakra the most edifying and the most relevant alter ego is a virgin in her teens, when ‘power’ radiates at its highest intensity.

At time an immature sensuous alter ego, demanding secretly other things, and expecting other responses has miscalled her partner as limp, lame, disabled; but never in life, during the process of the spiri tual tantra seances, when engaged in the rites, did this body falter, quiver, extinguish.

If it has not, then, the credit goes entirely to my heaven-sent mentor, my own dear Lady in Saffron, who had, through her selfsacrifice, guided me through the ‘razor edge path of the labyrinth known as latā sādhana. It is through her long long seances with me as her alter ego that she had made me familiar with the unfamiliar, accustomed to the uncustomary, intimate with the forbidden, and thereby made me grow with the area of social restrictions and moral taboo. Naturally, when later alter egos appeared in life, that area reminded me of the original blessed experiences. I wonder what would have been my fate, as it has been in many other cases of the sort, if that one yoni pitha had not blessed me with the embrace, the touch, the smell, the taste, the sight, as well as the sounds of the mantra which has been humming and humming through the long corridors of my life.

Yogis alone contemplate on the yoni as being the matrix, the source from where the cosmic laws and the cosmic power help evolve all that is created, inclusive of the mind’s interrelation with the supra-mind, as well as the suppressed mind.

Mandala is a diagrammatic representation of not only this source of life i.e., the yoni, or the matrix, but in certain cases such a diagram holds within its very carefully laid-out lines the entire lessons for the practice of tantra rites. It is a symbolic representation of tantra power. Indeed a mandala could be described as a meditational lesson entirely illustrated.

Thus, merging in the joys of the yoni always signifies complete trance, or samādhi. Those who know Sanskrit very well would know how to account for and explain all those hymns, mantras, illustrations and sculptures which project not only the copulating duets, orgies of a number of men and women, but also those word pictures, word images, similes and metaphors, even entire legends (like rāsa, or vastraharana) and lores pointing to sexual images. To the dilettante, the charlatan, the opportunist, the irreverent and the ignorant, tantra does appear, no doubt, as a profligate’s horrid, diseased world, a paradise for degenerates and morbid perverts; but even if there were no tantra around us, such minds would continue to have their fill, and satisfy their lust and rut from the thousand other means which urbanised civilisation stocks for easy sale.

Never is the yoni ‘as conceived by tantra’ conceived as an apparatus for coitus. It is indeed unfortunate, and a whim in nature, that this organ is used for both ingress and egress of life; ingress of life in the seed form; and egress of life in the form of the living body. In tantra, the mystic congress carries the supreme and solemn importance of life’s greatest, total and ultimate sacrifice. It is the dedication, nay, the complete annihilation of the maddening desire of sex exhilaration to man’s negation of selfishness and ego. It is an acid test par excellence. Suspension of the erotic in physical existence grants the seal of entry into the sacred hall of everlasting ecstasy.

The tantra-yogins make nothing of the ingressing congress. Why? Because in the ingressing process the incidental fact of casting the se is totally eliminated; because in this congress there cannot be, and there is not any lust or excitement. As such, a penetration, in the physical and erotic sense, is impossible.

(I have heard from Lamaic adepts from Tibet that cases of with drawing of any accidentally ejaculated fluid, if not common, is not entirely unknown.)

Entirely unknown.) As I say this I could hear the caustic chuckle of the sceptic remarking

With a guffaw that this kind of statement is mere rubbish, a mid summer effervescence, that such a state exists only in imagination; that this is incredible. I would not die to convince them. That is the duty of an advocate. But in modest humility I would ask them if conjuring great lines of art wonders, scientific invention, poetical sublimity is possible for the common and the sundry only because they are, or happen to be literate. Would they propose that every individual who has experienced sex is automatically fit for a tantra-congress? Does not the creation and execution of a thing of art appear equally incredible to the dud of intellect and blind of imagination? Where is there a ‘norm’ in sensitiveness? By being what they are, and achieving what they have achieved visionaries like Kalidāsa, Michaelangelo. Leonardo, Tagore, Goethe, Einstein have stamped our mundane world with the signet of beauty and eternity. Just by exclaiming, ‘I am incapable of believing it, the egoist is pervertly trying to impose a personal standard to measure what is beyond the capacity of an individual, specially of one without the least training for the subject. We are discussing here the hard core of an infinitely complex phenomenon, of a very mystic and specialised esoteric subject. To pass judgement in a cavalier fashion on the seriousness and solemnity of an involvement in which the best and the most disciplined minds of all times have participated, is definitely vulgar, even obscene.

Since in all tantra involvement the primary requisite prescribed insisted upon is the elimination of not only lust, but of any personal gratification, mundane, physical or spiritual, the question of utilising tantra seances as places and opportunities for consummating the erotic hunger of the perverse does not arise.

Those who feel differently, cannot enter the circle, much less assume the all important role of the Queen, the nayikā. (Let us remember that in the Krsna lore, or history (whatever it is), Rādhā was the nāyikā.) So secret and important is the function of this all important esoteric role that in the entire Mahā Bhāgavata Purāņa, which records finally all the acts of Sri Krsna, the name of Radha never occurs even once as a person’. She remains the mystery nayika without any personal identity. The impersonality is the hallmark of a tantric participation.

The tantra adept attaches so much importance to the details of the rites for these seances that in everything collected for the purpose, the central theme must remain the yoni (not coitus, though). The names of the flowers used, their shapes, colours and smells, the utensils and their shapes and sizes, the aromatics, the food and the drink, the time and the place selected, the asanas, the companions, the hours of the seances, the zodiacal convergence in pin-pointing the time of the seance, all these have their technical import for the adept.

Dangers and the Two Ways

This is why tantra teachings are restricted to a personal guidance. These are never to be exposed haphazardly. This is for the benefit of the aspirant, as well as for the novice. A faulty seance is a dangerous thing. In case the seance cannot do good, it will do bad. Effect it shall have to have. ‘Even a small portion of this dharma does not go in vain. .’ Indeed it has its effect.

Those who are acquainted with the gipsy-hymns, ancient dryadic songs, ballads and legends of mystery coming down to us from times immemorial, know how the ‘heroes’ are warned about the legendary “two ways’: the short one is full of dangers, but the other, though easier, is a long one. Tantra takes the short one, and accepts the challenges of dangers wilfully. Tantra dares the dangers. A tantrik is a vira (hero). That is why in tantra each success registered finds a hundred fallen ‘heroes’. Charlatans are warned away from attempting this. It is dancing on the hood of a cobra; riding a hungry tiger. Hobnobbing will not do. Dilettantes, conceits and cynics beware!

The Dead is not Dead

Convinced of the truth on which tantra seances were based and blessed by the Lady in Saffron. I delighted in personal undertaking of a sort. Hence my adventures in the Tārā temple of Rani Bhavant.

Here, in this temple I had witnessed around the year 1924 a terrible incident which has left since an indelible impression on my mind.

It was the dark fortnight's end; Kartik the new moon night. The whole city was engaged in the lamp festival, Mother Kali was being worshipped here, there and everywhere. I had made up my mind to spend the night in the Tärä shrine. I knew that for this night the Lady in Saffron shall be keeping her asana on the ashes and bones or Manikarnikā crematorium. So I had to be alone. I had taken courage and groped within the dark passage to the temple. That passage wa an abode of cold fear and damp creeps.

Let me narrate!

On that day I was alone. Seclusion had become a favoured companion to me. The Lady in Saffron was not near. But how far could she be from me?

A lamp was burning within the temple. A single lamp. And a woman was busy lighting a fire, assisting a big, dark and strong man obviously engaged in a tantra rite. His features and attire, specially the matted locks held by beads of the rudrākşa, his red cloth’announc ed his efforts. None had noticed me; but I heard him asking her in a rough voice to watch out. “I heard a noise. Someone is approaching. It is time they came

The talk was incoherent. But who ‘they’?

The prakiti was young, and good-looking. But she too was wearing a red dyed silk cloth which kept rustling in the dark. She too had the rudrākșa and the coral beads on. She came out and looked into dark passage. In her hand was a vermillion painted trident, the ole sign of the female counterpart in a tantra rite.

On enough I realised that I should be getting away from all that; out as she had been keeping a guard over the only passage, and as I could suspect the expected approach of others, I held my breath, and hung around the thicker part of the darkness amassed along the walls of the inner temple.

All thought of sitting at a long prayer had vanished. I was not really afraid; but I knew I was not normal. I was under a tension. The silent build-up of expectations of the unknown course of events had charged my nerves; and the abnormality of the situation kept my inner self on fire.

I heard people breathing heavily. Soon two persons carrying a load materialised from the mass of intense darkness of the passage. I knew them to be the undertakers, the ‘Dom’-servants (Dom: a caste of funerary undertakers, guardians of dead bodies) of the crematory grounds at the Hariścandra Ghats.

The heavy load they had been carrying turned out to be a dead body. It was the first time I knew what it was to have a dead body as an āsana. I felt like a tiger on the smell of his quarry.

 

I noticed the lady asking them something. They were answering in affirmative.

“All ready?.... Sure?.... Any one noticed? Be careful. How do you know? All right. Uncover, and carry it in, and wait within the temple... You will also have to carry it back

The white mantled body was then carried within the temple. I remained still for about an hour. Then, when I knew everything was in place, I expected everyone to be engaged. By and by the ground would be clear for me to slip out, I hoped.

The great tantrik was totally nude. He was sitting on the chest of the cadavar with its face up. A fire was being nursed by two men, hiby which the lady was seated in meditation.

A Seantic Hush

Confronting the tantrik each of them was seated on either side of the sacrificial fire. They were sipping out of the same brass-lined coconut vessel. At about two o’clock in the morning (a brass gong from somewhere announced every hour and quarters) I became aware of some agitation, and the flames leapt up. The tantrik groaned. The woman, at this stage, put away the piece of cloth she was wearing, and lay flat on her back. The man, then spat on the face of the cadaver. Did it stir? I saw with my own eyes the seat, that is the body of the cadaver, rocking... rocking. Gently, but unmistakably. Then I heard a squeamish noise. But with the spitting, calmness prevailed again.

What I noticed then was quite unbelievable. Because I myself have been a witness, I could now say with certainty that it was no magic, no mirage, no kind of illusion. In fact and truth the scene which was being unfolded was actually happening within the dimensions familiar to us.

The lady lay flat on the ground, just beneath the raised platform on which the cadaver lay, and on which the yogi was seated. The corpse appeared to stir again, this time giving a heavy jolt to the man seated over it. He spat again into the mouth of the corpse; this time all over his face, or was it inside the mouth? Then, for a while, all lay still.

Then I saw what I still see. The yogi from his asana on the corpse scattered rice and flowers over the female form. He took some of the water from his jug and sprinkled it over the dead body. A chant

Began to vibrate in the still warm air. No bat moved; no rat or mongoose frisked past. No lizard called. Even the spiders in their webs lay stilled.

Flame from Water

One of the men handed to the yogi a flaming brand from the fire. pit. He took this brand, and held the flame between the thighs, on the yoni of the female and fixed it there. Somehow it stood there in flames. The yoni, then covered with some of the rice and the flowers, suddenly leapt up into a bright flame. I could hear a hissing sound. The tantric went on pouring water from his jug into the fire. Instead of dying out the fire leapt up and up.

On a much later occasion on another night by the banks of the Ganges in Garh-Mukteshwar, where I had been camping alone for a month for penance, I had the good luck of witnessing a much similar rite.

I was occupying a solitary hut. By that hut there was another semipermanent cottage of a boatman, who had become my friend and support for the time being. That evening he had gone out to visit his family in the village. I was alone.

Yet not alone. After midnight I became aware of some strange vibrations. I had read that a shark, or a sea hunting fish becomes aware of its possible prey through minute vibrations received through masses of water. What appears to be an apparent quiet stillness in nature discharges unfailing messages to the sensitive. The quiet is not so quiet.

I came out of my hut.

Imagine my surprise when I noticed a tall naked apparition standing waist high in the flowing river, and offering water collected in both hands. Ganges water was being offered to Ganges. Stream to stream.

So far all was correct, and understandable. But every time he threw the water a stream of flames leapt up from the spot where the water fell and illuminated the surroundings.

I was about to approach him. But something held me back. After a while as I tried to proceed, I saw the form gradually enter the river, and totally vanish under the water. The apparition was gone. Was it? Then how do I recall, and re-live in the experience? Nothing in experience goes out for ever. I did not know him. But my boatman friend assured me that the saint had been known in those part over years and years He came and went. But no one had been able to locate his dwelling, if he had any. He was accepted as a great saint. He has been of assistance to many distressed souls. But none has been able to see him face to face.

Pancamundi

Thus I was to witness for the first time a tantric act of offering water into a pit, and make the flames leap up. In this case the pit was provided by the triangular source of all biological life; verily the spring of life. The female vidyā or nāyikā, (as the alter ego, is known technically) lying flat on her back, with arms and legs closely gathered was receiving the homage while appearing to have been a mummified corpse.

I was sweating profusely. But the mantra was with me, the one I used to repeat at the āsana with the Lady in Saffron. In fact I was then thinking only of her, and with a deep concentration. My personal being appeared to be all too insignificant to absorb the eerie phenomenon.

Suddenly I witnessed a change in the posture of the tantric. He was no longer seated on the corpse. He was found seated on the body of the vidya lying on the floor.

The corpse began to move to one side. No. The two men were pulling it away. They carried the body to a deep pit already dug out in preparation of this ritual, and laid it to rest there. Then they covered not only the yawning pit, but arranged, or should I say, re-arranged the sandstone flags over it very carefully.

At once I became aware that there had been buried within the pit four more cadavers of four different animals. The place now stood sanctified as a tantrik pancamundi (five-cadaver) āsana. Many tantrik aspirants of the future would receive assistance from this sanctified haloed seat, I thought.

After what seemed to me hours, the pair rose and sat in a close embracing sex-bond posture, the female seated on the lap of the male, face to face, embracing very tightly in the time honoured Puspaka āsana. We are acquainted with this posture from the Tibetan scrolls. A heavy breath hung around the morbid moisture-laden air in the sanctum sanctorum. The aroma of incense burning in the fire (no incense, to my notice, was actually thrown into the fire) solemnised the sense perceptions. My nerves were on ends. I could be knocked down with the touch of a feather.

Suddenly I felt alone. I longed for company.

Then it happened!

The Curse

All of a sudden the lady shook herself free of the strong clasps of the tantrik, and sprang up, and reached for her garments.

Some catastrophe had befallen, which broke the solemn spell. Some. Thing had gone sacrilegiously wrong. Some dark sin had torn the rites apart. With a hissing curse the lady darted apart. She was breathing heavily. Her round eyes spitted fire in the dark.

The tantrik gave a howl, and reached for the iron trident that stood near enough. At that point I looked for the two men who had been there. But they were nowhere to be seen. Now for the first time, I missed them. They must have gone away as soon as the burial had been finished. The night was at an end. Somewhere a gong was beating the four o’clock beat.

The tantrik rushed at the receding lady. He could have tried more successfully to hold the hell hounds. By now thoroughly aroused and agitated, the furious lady began to curse terribly. “Fowl evil-minded corruptor!! Demon of lust! Vile fornicator! Curse on you! Curse on you! Let Tära’s wrath fall on you....” She continued as she tried to run away.

But try as she might, she could not get away. The heavy trident bit into the fleshy left loin; but fell with a clang on the stone floor immediately, it being too heavy to hold. Unconscious of the wound, and of the running blood, she ran past me. I sprang into the still deep mass of darkness hanging in the corner. Was I reaching to a situation? Should I try to save a stricken woman? Was I capable of the task? Who cared? I just sprang up. Then all was blank. I had fallen into a swoon. The last thing I remembered was the figure of the tantrik following her, and then, all was blank.

It was very late in the day. I was being lovingly nursed by the Lady in Saffron. I was already bathed. My clothes had been changed. I was lying in the yard of the Tārā temple. Obviously the Lady in Saffron had been at some rites herself for bringing me to my senses. Then we two walked out into the open. She did not say a word. I was too weak to talk. Silent, tired and all spent out, I followed my mentor. Years after I have watched that woman strolling on the streets of Varanasi as a poor insane lost being. The sore on her buttock never healed. The mercury in the vermillion must have spread all over her skin. The sores on the skin, specially the condition of the tender flesh on her back and the breasts, made her completely forbidding to touch. Always bothered and pestered by hungry swarms of flies she remained an object of pity and scornful derision for the indifferent streams of onlookers that passed her, until one morning her lifeless body was found by the river side.

Twilight Maturity

The Lady in Saffron had by now taken me out of my growing boyhood. Carefully and efficiently she brought me to the threshold of my manhood. At this critical stage all growing minds must experience, with changes in the growth of the body, a strange lonelinees. It is a kind of loneliness which is created by an awe of disacceptance by an intolerant self-absorbed social circle. Inevitably all men have to pass through these years of exile into a ‘no man’s land’, when the girl friends of yester year would look condescendingly upon a stripling youth as ‘ungrown’, and the male relations would leave the ‘lad’ aside as ‘undergrown’. It is the twilight period of maturity.

The Lady in Saffron covered my entire world. So I was personally indifferent to the changes, as well as the reactions. I was still a ‘boy’, yet no longer a boy. I would have liked to live on my dream-foods, and set out on my wish-journeys. But the Lady in Saffron was a stern realist, who used to bring me down again to the level of the life that ran around us.

I was physically much too developed and stronger than boys of my age. Thus I was about to be introduced to the closed subject of sex relationship, sex draw, sex hunger etc. I watched how others around me were engrossed in what they called sex interest, sex play, sex relations. The subject of sex floated around me as mosses in a lotus pond, unasked, self-gathered, living, but clinging too close to my ethos with an abhorring sense of clamminess.

But sex never could possibly gain the frivolity of ‘play’ so far as I was concerned. The deeper education and involvement I had gained through the exercises that the Lady in Saffron had exposed me to, made it impossible for me to look upon the thing casually or emotionally. Sex was no ‘play, for me. It was to me a sanctity named LS.

Every time my growing friends talked about it with secretive interest and adventurous excitement, my mind rushed to the haloed triangle of peace and tranquillity which I had been accustomed to approach with utmost reverence. Females and the female sex triangle meant for me my Lady in Saffron and the thoroughly enjoyable seances in her company.

Knew how to venerate that spring of life. It was an asana for me The deeply intimate forms of asanas, such as Ekadhari, Puspake the practice of which depended on sustained training dangme thquite familiar to me; and together with the Lady Jānuyugma, Saffron I used to keep in meditation, locked for hours in her quiet embrace. A hitherto absent lustre had spread over my skin. A sheen had spread over my locks, which were worn long in those days. Used to take regular exercises in swimming, boating and wrestling My body was healthy and disciplined, and my mind was alert to the lessons of my Lady in Saffron.

She had taught me a line in Sanskrit:

Nipita kāla-kūtasya Harasye-vāhi khelanam

(... it is like Hara, i.e. Śiva, immunised by the drink of cosmic poison, to be playing with a mere serpent!)

Today, as I am nearing the mile-post of an octogenarian, I realise how significant is that imagery. First train; then practise; then meditate and achieve. Only then one could survive in life, and share the fruits.

She had also explained to me the subject of sex in another way, in another context.

Near to our home an annual prayer to mother Kāli brought a number of children together. Usually members of close families overnighted there for about three days. This arrangement kept the family bunched together.

It happened during one of these annual events.

A Sex Lesson

Of course amongst us there were individuals of different built of different ages, different tastes, pursuits and urges. One of the girls, bigger than the rest, got into a close relationship with a boy. Most times they kept together. Obviously they were having fun in some intriguing way. It way the height of a June noon. Children werd supposedly kept away from the dangerous glare and the hot winds We, closetted in a room darkened by special curtains, were supposed to be taking a siesta in preparation for the long night ahead, when there would be a stage play in celebration of the gala Kāli-pūjā. Radually supposed rest at the siesta was of the gala Kali-pujdeed it gradually had grown into a warm active affair, eshit adisturbed the required rest.

A boy squealed and a girl whispered; a girl squealed and a boy whispered. Something was going on between the two mentioned before, and we too were hungering to share the fun. But no. Both of them kept mum about it, and significantly exchanged sly smiles. There hung a curtain of mischief-making.

I got my niece, a confidant, aside, and directly asked her about the goings on. She swallowed several times before she could indeed confide that they had discovered a new game. Very funny, and very interesting. She assured me, if I promised dead secrecy on oath, I could be included in the game; she offered.

But when I got introduced to the game (!), I found no fun in it. The entire exercise was nasty and very boring. The cowardly aura of secrecy, and the constant fear of being found out then held for explanations, sapped away all fun from the game. Indeed what could have been the special gamefulness in just being close to and handling each others genitals? But the girls found it very funny, and the boys felt heroic, promoted to maturer ranks.

I consulted the Lady in Saffron. I clearly recall her analytical talk on the subject. She explained at length the different functions of the different limbs of the body, inclusive of the sense organs. It turned out to be a captivating solemn session.

Body is a Kingdom

Soon I understood this body as an instrument; and the instrument always was applied to and engaged in serving a king who lived within and away from the body, and yet controlled it. This king was the mind. It is never seen, yet it rules. It controls and orders all our actions through the body. It was a grand disposer of joy and sorrow, rewards and punishments. BM ம

Like all kings this king too has around him a cabinet of ministers. Some of these are seriously disposed, and act with a certain amount of responsibility. Some others are at times prone to be light-hearted and gay. Some like Sakuni and Karna (characters in the epic Mahābharata) would push the ‘king’ towards evil consequences under the garb of fruitful advice; some like Krsna and Vidura would always advise infallibly for good results.

The body is the kingdom; the mind the king. This king receives we thorld outside the body through the instrumentality of the senses. These senses are eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin, with separate and exclusive functions such as sight, hearing, smelling, tasting and touch. There are other order carriers, or executive agents to the king mind. These are the means of speech (with lips, palate, and teeth, a aids), hands, tongue, feet and the two excretory organs.

For living a given life, these functionaries are essential. Failure of any one, or more of them, makes the body-kingdom proportionately mal-functioning. It upsets the body balance. “You will note”, she said, “sex or sex organs do not function as ‘necessary’ for just living our own lives. I have a sex organ; but it has now gone out of func tion. I am old. You have sex too; but it has yet to function. You are yet young and immature. You are like the seed of a green mango. It cannot sprout. It is not matured. Both of us have sex. In one it has ceased functioning; in another it is not yet matured. Yet both of us are living beings. This shows one thing. Sex is not essential for personal existence although as a power it wields on the creative urge of life a most telling and overwhelming influence. Sex as a power is quite a different field, and we shall have to deal with that later on. Here we were discussing the ‘game’, and the crude organs.” And she continued.

Our individual lives, according to her explanation on that evening, could thus ignore sex; at least could survive ignoring it. But the other senses and active organs are essential.

Sex is essential for the continuity of life. The more exposed a life is to external dangers, the more does it multiply, and maintain there by a natural balance. The idea is to survive despite the destructive forces. Thus insects, fish, birds etc., lay much more eggs in propor tion to the number that survives. This is because of the exposed nature of their life patterns, and because of the odds they have to face. Before these lives could mature, many die out. Animals, in comparison, produce a less number. Man normally has one life bora at a time, because in the case of man the chances of survival normally are very protected.

Yet again, and strictly speaking, the individual human life can survive without sex, i.e., the sexual act itself, or the ‘game’ in question. Hybrids have no sex, mules for example, the insect world is filled with sexless creatures, worker bees for example. In the human world too imbeciles and eunuchs, as well as saints, monks and nuns live a kind of sex negated life; so far as reproduction is concerned, they are restricted to spiritual creations. Thus many of them have left great works of art and philosophy. They failed, indeed, to propagate crude life; but in a more subtle and abiding sense they helped to propagate the cultural identity of man.

Therefore, sex organs, however powerful, must be regarded in human life as an additional aid for propagation of life alone; but the actual fact of ‘living’ could do without their use.

“We shall explain this further,” she assured. She classified the organs into two sets: the deterrant or the negative

Set; and the inspiring or the positive set. One has been called satanic, the other divine. Both work at the indication of the mind; and both leave, by their interaction, a certain permanent change on the mind such as happiness, or sadness. Happiness, inspires to create more happiness, and distributes happiness. Sadness spreads depression, and kills urge. It is the nature of wise men to cultivate those powers which make men happy, and spread happiness amongst men and life in general.

Smooth and effective functioning of physical organs is essential for the joy of living. Only the diseased think of unhappiness. Keeping a balance in using the organs for their function ensures good living. In other words, life must be kept natural. Nature wants us to remain natural; that is to say we must keep our balance with nature.

Keeping this balance depends on the balance of our desires. Our desires sweep us away from balance. Desires of the eye, of the ear, of the nose, of taste, touch and the eye takes one to see things that excite the nerves, and create more desire and imbalance. Taste creates greed for eating more, and makes the body fall sick; touch, likewise creates eagerness for embraces with other bodies, and separation from them causes grief. Grief, dissatisfaction, sickness, imbalances of all kinds result in depression, and depressions confuse good thinking; and with thinking disturbed, the beautiful human life withers in a

Wilderness of morbidity and destruction. She then began to analyse further, and took up the subject she had promised to explain.

She pointed out that the urinary organs are chiefly meant for releasing the poisonous fluids from the body, as drains function in a house. The solid wastes of the body are discharged by the anal passage,

“You urinate”, she explained, “through a tube. This tubic shape indicates the high degree of functional planning in nature. We know that tube-forms are the best for functioning as drains. I, a female, too have a tube to pass urine through. But there is a difference. Whereas the male tube shows, and is obvious, the female tube is not so obvious. It shows only its tiny head. Because it is tiny, delicate, tender and essential, it is kept secured between a pair of padded flesh, which protects this essential tube-head from infections. By and by shall show that to you.”

I insisted to know why then, there was a difference. The elongated exposed male tube, protected by a skin sheath, and the secret tube hid in an orifice.

I received the answer. “Never rush at knowledge. When you are sitting with a willing teacher, she would explain. You question only after the teacher has finished.”

Now she explained that mere living is not, and cannot be, the ultimate objective in the life machine. Life machine is a part of the world machine. It must have a purpose. “Purposeless creation is an anathema to life. Nothing in nature is

Purposeless. Even if we do not see the purpose, we must have the humility to acknowledge that we do not know everything. The secret of knowledge has not been finally gained. God is manifest knowledge. The subject and object of the finality of knowledge is what we call God. God is manifest; and God is also a mystery. Purpose is inherent in knowledge. Knowledge without purpose is waste. This world, this creation is not a waste. It is too beautifully, too perfectly, too organisedly and accurately created to be described as a waste, or the result of a whimsical sequence of events. One of the names by which the title of God has been expressed is ſta, which means the cosmic order. The Vedas did recognise this plan, discipline or order in creation.

“We, men, are destined to find out this purpose. To find out, and having found out to apply ourselves in fulfilling that purpose. The first stage in this quest is called tapasya, discipline leading to realisation; and the second is called yajñā, or sacrifice. Tapasya teaches one to prepare for sacrifices. Without sacrifice the purpose of the world shall never be fulfilled.

“As life must discover the mystery of the ultimate use of life, so life also must discover the most skilful way of utilising the body as a machine for achieving the purpose. At the application stage this body, not entirely without the mind, is necessary.

The Tussel of the Three Saktis

The desire to achieve this releases a secret force. This is the spiritual force or the sattva-sakti. But as every force meets its equal and opposite force, this force too is dragged back by a sluggish inertia of negativeness, and forms the tamas-sakti.

“These two are always at loggerheads. And the more they pull at each other, the ensuing friction automatically releases a third power, or sakti; this is the rajas-sakti.

“The sattra is striving to function as the most helpful servant of the king (mind); but the tamas would have none of it, and must keep sattva away from the King’s counsels. It is a force of detraction. Mind suffers this tension.

“Mind is thus a powerful agent to make the organs function. Mind must keep steady in order to keep the organs steady. Mind must know its tract, and follow it. When mind is detracted, tamas takes a hold, and destruction ensues.

“One of the chief and easy incentives to this detraction is released by which is also a important incentive to creative urge. In fact this urge relates to the power that maintains the perpetuity of life.

“It is very obvious that life-current has to be maintained. “The strand of life must never be severed’, says the Vedas. For this the creative urge has to be guided along the right lines, or the sättvik lines. But this creative power, srști-śakti, or the sex power, easily falls under spell of temptation and misuse.

Sex: The Lhadini

“Sex, like the mind, is not an organ by itself, yet like the mind it exerts all over our personality a telling influence. It is the spşti-śakti (creative force), or lhādinī śakti (joy force). There is a joy in creation. ‘Creation has sprung out of joy’, says the Vedas.

“Sex as a power agitates the body machine. This power gives meaning to all we see, hear, breathe, touch, eat, drink and enjoy. Sex thrills us, inspires us, and by inspiring creates. It creates life, art, poetry, dance, literature. And so creating, creates joy, ecstasy, and enlivens life with a motivation.

"When kept under control this power fills life with beauty, sweetness and appreciation. This power bubbles with glee for finding a fitting expression, and extends the area of joy. This power offers our body as a profound sacrifice to the joy of the Lord, and our soul is lifted up as a flame offering to the Ultimate. By willingly burning it, as is incense burnt, or a candle set alight, we pay our homage to the Supreme Lord of life, or to life itself, if you prefer it that way.

"But when let loose, uncontrolled, and allowed to run wild, this very power would bring disgrace and destruction not only to the self, but also to the world around. It has the natural proneness to multi ply. If it does not multiply joy in joy, it would multiply sorrow and grief, in sorrow and grief. It tempts and bemuses thinking, so that what man seeks and embraces as sources of joy and pleasure, finally could turn out to be the sources of utter despondence, frustration and morbidity, which is a dangerous mental disease.

“Like all sources of power, e.g., gas, oil or coal within the bowls of the earth, the earthquakes, the storms, the tides, the currents, steam, electricity etc., this power too could not be repressed and forgotten. No power could be eliminated. The sky, the water, the solar heat, the air cannot be eliminated. These could be misused or used; kept pure or get contaminated and polluted. When kept in order, and put to the use of life, they become the greatest friends of life, otherwise, worst foes.

“Sex is the mother of life. We call it the Mother, Sakti; (icchāmayi) the wishful one, the will. This we worship as the Mother. Misused and squandered, even love becomes lust; power becomes tyranny; joy becomes orgy and debauchery. Multiplication of life, an unavoidable duty of life to life, becomes a threat, a menace, and causes hunger, want, famine, war by causing over population. Over population is the curse of the Kali-yuga (Dark-age). And the source of it all is the misuse of sex-power, the mother-power. This is why we worship this power, and seek divine blessings for keeping it under control and discipline, so that we could handle this power with propriety and understanding, control and peacefulness; else we could become expos ed to greed, passion, squander-lust and drupkenness. As a result we hunt for more and even more, and get lost in a nerve shattering wild goose chase.

“Nature is a benign and infallible force. Throughout the natural world all animals multiply; but the animals or insects never go against their seasonal call, neither do they look for lust. Animals, insects, birds and fish act exactly as nature wanted them to act and behave. That is why there is a balance in the nature-world. Many animals have become extinct through the forces of hunger and greed of man, Man alone disturbs the balance of nature. The Mother-power is disturbed and agitated by the misdeeds of man’s hunger, and lust. That provides the meaning all the more to our concern for praying to the Mother-power.

“This is our cit, lhidint. It is the power that inspires consciousness, discrimination, joy, creativeness. Creation is joy expressed. A creation in art is an expression of divine joy. Destruction is joy repressed, and hate expressed. One is a divine joy, the other is a demoniac glee. One is progressive, and pro-god; the other is regressive, and anti-god.

The Nādī

“The mechanism of joy is very subtle. Some part of it is known, and most part is unknown. So far as the known part of the mechanism is concerned we know that throughout the animal body there spreads, like telegraphic and wireless systems of receiving and transmitting messages, a system of nerves. We call them nadīs. We control the known parts of this system by a discipline and exercise known as yoga; and when we get success in the yoga system, and gain the know-how of the sources of joy and consciousness, then from this known part we gain entry into the secrets of the unknown parts of this system.

“Again, for this we need the blessings of the Mother-power. Why? Because, as has already been explained, the Mother-power is the source of all our consciousness; this power is the cit-sakti. And this power is most active in the vital phenomenon of the birth of life.

“Contrary to common belief, this organisation of the body and nerves is responsible for producing the higher grades of life. One could thus plan to have healthy, conscious and vibrant children who could prove to be more conscious and more powerful than others. The best of the species is a product of conscious effort. It is the contribution of regulated, and disciplined use of the power of reproduction. And for this we pray.

“Prayer becomes an exercise of the submission of the worldly-self to a subtle cosmic-self; it sees without eyes, hears without ears, feels without skin etc., and distinguishes and analyses. In so doing it builds up personality, strengthens determination and fortifies selfreliance.

The Power System: The Nerves

“The common man cannot always pray effectively, yet he needs this power the most. How to help him?

“For supplying water to the common man we arrange to collect it before distribution, through the civic arrangements of the water works. Underneath the organisation of the civic authorities we supply power to all homes. This also looks after the other amenities of life, In the absence of power, life would suffer. “Much in the same way certain human beings undertake the task

Of building up a ‘power’ source. Once the power is acquired, it goes to serve the needs of the common man. Men, or women who collect this power to serve are called the yogis. They preserve within them selves, as in a power reservoir, the power of helping mankind, so that man could act in the way they are expected to act. Hence the yoga system, and the yogis.

“This accumulation of ‘power’, and its distribution depends on yogic discipline, which, in other words, means the direct control of the nervous system, i.e., of the nadīs. Nodwa

“The nadi-system is generally divided into three main parts: (a) nādīs which carry outer messages in; (b) nädīs which distribute the inner messages, reactions to the different limbs for their respec tive actions; and (c) a third set which acts by remaining ‘asleep’ that is, by ‘not acting’. It does not, and might not act; but it drives others to act. Of the three nädis (bunches of nerves) the one asleep is suşumna, which, when wakened, awakes all i.e., awake in the spiritual sense. The other two are idā and pingala. These two absorb sensations, receive and sort them out; and having done that, function as demanded and directed. But once the susumna (the ‘sleeping one’) is aroused, the Unknown reveals itself. A new world with new dimensions becomes known under the full bloom of the lotus consciousness and Light.

“What kind of a world could be this that men, though very few, are driven to? Great minds, wealthy beings, powerful persons have been known to sacrifice comfort, safety even thrones in order to achieve this power and enter this new realm. What does it hold for men?

“It holds for men the best of all that men have been seeking all the time, down the history of human quest and achievement: joy, tranquillity, peace, freedom from want, mastery over the trickeries of the mind.

“It is a world of the fourth dimension, where limits do not thwart, restrictions do not hamper, fear does not retard, hopes are not frustrated. It is the world where the realities of all hopes find their fulfilment; where doubts melt into truth, like fog melting in the sun.

“By the grace of the designer of the human system it is a surprising fact that the scurce of si si mnd is set closest to the nerves which act as reproductive organs. The urge to create, to make life in life, to build up the seeds for life and cast the same in the field meant for this purpose, depends on certain nerve points, or glands; and these points are based closest to the organs which are used for excretory functions.

 “Let us at this point take a quick bird’s-eye view of what has been said. It is necessary at this stage to note all over again what factors act as ‘aides’ to create life.

“We must realise that it is life alone that could create life. It is a natural duty of life to propagate life. If life did not create life, it would perish. But total destruction is contrary to nature. Nature intends perpetuation of life. For the creative process body is the mill, the factory, the instrument. The body is wonderfully fitted and equipped to carry out this function.

“We all know that all factories and mills have to depend on a supply of some power for driving them. There must be a source of power which supplies the required energy. Beside this energy there is something else on which the correct functioning of the machines depend. This is the personal factor; the mind factor. A master-mind constructs a master plan, and sets it on motion, depending on an assured supply of energy, or power. Man master-minds a machine, joins it to power, and then produces.

“In the body machine too the requisite power for this function is supplied by, what we have already known as the lhadini-sakti (sexpower). It is the basis of all our creative urge.

“All power comes from some kind of fuel. Fuel reserves hidden power. The body’s fuel is food. Food could be derived from the vegetable world, or from the animal world directly. The perpetuation of the vegetable world too depends on seeds. Seed alone, unaided, could not spring into life, although it stores the prospect of life. Seed, for springing into life, requires other aids, like helpful soil, correct weather, and timely seasonal aid from nature.

The Seed: The Gayatri

“We have rounded now a full circle. From the fuels in nature, to the soil, the seasons, the seed; everything finally depends on the solar energy, the sun. This is why we the Hindus regard the Gayatri mantra (which is an invocation to the power in the sun) as our greatest heritage in spiritual concentration. This sun power comes from the space as seasons and rains, and from the earth as soil, soil-heat, minerals and water. All is finally the sun power. All is Sakri, the Mother’s warmth.

“Thus, earth, water, heat, air and the atmospheric or cosmic condi tions are vitally essential for the correct type of fruitful germination. It is easy to detect and observe that none of these could be created by man power; and certainly not the power within the seed. No seed could be artificially created by man power. This is a gift from the unseen and the unknown alone.

“Seed given, man could sow it how, when or where he likes. But that is all. Like earth, water, heat, air and atmosphere life too is beyond the limited power of man. Man cannot create the elements; and man cannot create life. Neither can man guarantee the life-span.

“Nature creates this seed. We need seeds as gift from nature for the perpetuation of life and vegetation, and all that perpetuates from life to life. Seed is therefore the subtlest container of the essence of the solar energy. It must naturally be alive with a tremendous store of energy. The power stored in a seed is fantastic. You must have noted that great and well-built stone walls crack to pieces by the force of a seed of fig; the plant envelopes a building, and crumbles it like a biscuit within its root grips. The entire city and stone constructions of the famed Angkor Wat is being crushed by the grips and claws of the roots of giant trees. The seeds of these trees are sometimes smaller than spider eggs.

“But this seed has to be cast. It has to be cast from a body to the soil. Body is the tree bearing the seed of life. There the seed matures, and becomes fit to be cast. Once the seed is matured, the body, or the tree, finally realises that the time for casting the seed has come. Urged by natural power, the parent body takes joy in casting, and feels relieved. It were as if a duty fulfilled. It is life’s fruition.

“But for casting and fruition a proper selection of appropriate soil has to be made. Seed cast in unprepared and unfit soil would not bear the best results, or even worse, there would be no result at all.

Adoration of the Triangle

“Body too has its season. In season the soil gets ready. This soil is provided by that body which we call the female body. When this fermade body is ready to germinate, it notifies by letting out a flow of blood that like a river flows between the outer world, where the blood is noticed as a welcome indication, and the inner world within the body, which is called the embryo.

“It is natural for those interested in life and in the planter of life to be thankful to this soil, this flow, this extra heat that energises the body to receive the gift of the seed. It is quite understandable and expected that thinking people, whose thoughts always look into the spirit of a phenomenon, should adore this great gift from nature, Who would be grateful for a barren land, a wasteland, a land without the gifts of a flowing river, or sun and rains?

“In the human body this field, this source from which life springs out a new life, is the female genital organ which is situated very close to the urinary tube, and the sex glands that are placed at the root of the main three bands of nerves that run through and around the spinal column. We have already described all that before. Have we not?

“We try to take control of this entire area of Power through practising the tantra yoga, which accepts a spiritual view of life here, and beyond through the able use of the life in this body. Thus the tantra yoga is regarded as attached to the material view of life, without, of course, ignoring its spiritual possibilities. This is why we adore this area, this triangle; and by practising yoga in close contact with this area we try to understand, control and absorb this power, the sex power, the bija power, the lhädinī śakti.

“But the soil by itself, however fertile and receptive, fails to produce without the help of the proper and healthy seed. If the seed itself is lacking in full vigour of healthy maturity, germination is bound to suffer. This is why we had occasion to mention that like the elements, man by himself or herself alone cannot create life. In creating life the mere sex act, or togetherness, or even casting is no guarantee for success.

The Seed

“This seed matures within the body of a male. All lives spring from the seed. This seed has to be cast into the female soil, where there is a proper cradle to receive the seed, and keep it in heat for gradual development through the vital powers that the body preserves for this purpose. This is the period of germination when life is allowed to grow and take root.

“We have described the body as a machine; but we have also mentioned that this machine, unlike its material prototypes, has a mind. This mind is subject to the fluctuations of emotions. Because the functioning of the casting of the seed into the prepared soil is regarded happy event, joy is a contributory factor in the creation of life The female body may be in season, and the male body may have the seed, but the urge of working together may be lacking. They might be reluctant to function; afraid to function. They might be acting under secret reservations, inhibitions, even obsessions. Joythiannot be en forced on a being. It must effuse and gush from within. A Joyous union of the powers alone could result in creating a joyous life. A healthy seed alone could express this uninhibited joy in its final product.

“This duty of creating a joyous climate is essentially human, Human life alone can reach the subtlest apex of all emotions. The driving factor in human life displays the emotions with profit and taste by keeping the instinctive drive under careful control. Animals other than human beings, and the insects are mainly dependent on instincts. Not so man. In man instincts are kept beautified by an emotional aura. Lhadini in man thus creates things of beauty; and the resultant crafts express joy, and invite others to share in that joy. This, men cultivate as a special power.

“Those who undertake the joyous duty of cultivating emotional fields are called the cultured in contradistinction from other types of animals. When a horse displays his skill, a monkey, a lion or an elephant performs in a circus, and gives joy, a pet gives companionship and responds to emotions, they spread joy. To that extent they too are cultured, civilised. Having control over instinct and emotion is to be civilised.

“The seeding and cultivation of life in the human beings, therefore, should not be left to the instinctive urge alone. The emotions involved in a union between the male and the female human beings, in order to be fully relished, must be trained to cause joy all around, without making any one concerned in any way unhappy.

A Happy Union

“A happy union of the two human beings engaged in the joyous function of creating a life presupposes a cultured training that keeps runway emotions under control; and the fire of passion within desired limits. For attaining a direct control over the sex power, and put it to the heaven-designed natural bonds we sit at the feet of the Mother power.

“There is a crime known as rape. It is a grievous sin. A crime is adjudged in a social court; a sin is adjudged within the perpetrator’s inner sanctuary where dwells peace. Rape as a crime forces against one’s will an act of joy and duty. It also causes, through uncontrolled indiscretion, ugliness, humiliation and sorrow. Nature guides and moulds, but never compels. To compel to act under force or duress is to rape. The rapist forgets this truth.

“The seed to be cast into the warm flow, on which the female egg floats, has to maintain, for proper incubation, a given temperature, which is determined by the body reflexes. The direct casting of this seed from body to body is the safest way to help it germinate healthily. This seed is susceptible to damage unless it is cast directly. It is so subtle that it records even the emotional state of the two at the time of casting. This emotional state at the time of casting should, therefore, be free from complexes, such as anxiety, fear, shame, retardation, greed, lust and mindlessness. Seed cast by a divided mind could yield neurotically damaged life. Seed nursed within a hesitant or unwilling embryo could equally damage a peaceful normal growth. Lhadini in either case has not been pleased. Unless this willing joy is secured, it is likely that the growth of the seed will be affected, and the life it assumes might have to bear the load of blighted emotions. This is extremely dangerous, and is filled with ugly risks. The union of bodies shall have to be between two completely healthy beings, with complete understanding and willingness, so that the union produces a feeling of fulfilment of a divine purpose served, of a joyous act brought to its natural end.

“Because this seed has to be kept warm and healthy, it has to be directly cast deep into a warm channel where the egg waits. The male body has been provided with a syringe like organ. Besides draining out the fluids of the body through urine, this organ also acts as a syringe for injecting or casting the seed into a channel where the warmth is kept up through a fluid, that the mature and prepared female partner discharges, and that carries the seed to its final destination for correct germination. This protective state is known as the embryo. A new life starts drumming within an embryo with the casting of the seed into the floating egg.

“This is again the reason why the shape of the male organ is like a long syring, and why the female organ is a close lipped crevice within which the warmth of the life fluid is kept closely guarded at a given temperature. Everything must be prophylectic, inclusive of the mind, which should be the purest of the pure.

Drive for Joy

“ This simple act of casting the seed would be too mechanical and boring unless there was the added drive for joy. This union of under. Standing and love is joy. Joy is the drive, the foundation of life. It this joy is lacking, if this situation is forced, covered by a curtain of secrecy, a sense of guilt, if this situation is clouded with overcast emotions and gloomy currents of anti-thoughts, of course the act of natural joy shall be loaded with senses of guilt and corruption, and kill all joy. That which kills joy is a sin. Joy should be known as joy by being universally acceptable as joy, and by producing further joy.

“You see how early in civilisation the human beings of a certain part of the world discovered the connection between life propagation, joy and the need of control over this joy. Because this propagation was so closely connected with the propagation of health and joy, those people of the ancient times also discovered the forces of self. Control, and education in this power of sex. They knelt before this power, prayed, and brought their highest and most precious gifts to be offered to this power, and called it Mother. They worshipped this power. To consider this to be anything other than a natural expression of devotion and lionour is to express a sad want of spiritual humility and cultural control.

“Our asanas, our seating close together, our methods of meditation are all very closely connected with the sublime task of developing a correct attitude towards the mystery of life. Lhadinī as a power should not be confused with the powers of lust and debauch. Familiarity to the secrets of creation, and to the correlated areas of body and mind that aid the creative urge, proportionally reduces the feelings of romantic urgency, uncontrollable passion and sinful surmises. By reducing excitement, and monitoring the urge, the knowledge of Ihadini and the function of creativity, together, becomes a normal achievement of joy and fulfilment. The difference between the sources of real joy and ecstasy and the sources of lust and greed is the difference between heaven and hell, god and anti-god.

Worshipping a Nayikā, a Yoni

“In tantra, and tantra asanas our organs, our body-being, come close to each other’s intimate and fully aroused conscious being. Thus we discipline our mind and body to regard these seats of joy and power in their abstractions, Remember that in tantra a nayikd, a Bhairavi, a vidya an alter ego is also worshipped as a mother.

Lustful behaviour is quite unimaginable in this context. The day is near when the very idea of a female would arouse in you the sentiments or having seen the Mother in the human form.

When you become a man, and accept the life of a ‘householder’ (gthastha) you will observe things around the society you will live in, and find out how often does a wife suffer rape from a husband. The result is a broken heart, a damaged love, and a ramshackle makebelieve home. All this need not happen if men could once believe that like all other education an intimate and practical knowledge, a tantra-bound knowledge of sexual behaviour is absolutely unavoidable. Few, if ever any, realise that such knowledge is neglected at the risk of missing the best promise to human life, viz., the joy of creativity. Let the detractors bark around the yajñasthala (the sacrificial altar); they too suffer and live in hell. The only salvation lies through an acceptance of the Mother as a benign Sakti.

Ignorance of Tantra

“The tragedy of modern existence is that men enter this most important, vital area of life without ever developing the correct attitude to life, home, woman, sex, yoni, lingam etc. By keeping most of this in the dark, man has deprived himself of the peace and nobility that is inherent in the duties of a householder.

“Tantra enjoins on the participant a severe course of discipline. Most of this discipline is addressed to life, here and now. But because of a sudden outburst of a negative philosophy, and its popularity through the unfortunate and unreal preachings of religious maharajas and swamis, society’s interest in religion has undergone a morbid change. The interest in life as it is ‘here’ has shifted to the life that is promised ‘elsewhere’. Too much of metaphysics has put out the light

Of truth, as too much of wood chokes out the flame of the fire-place. “There is no ‘elsewhere’ in tantra, ra, which conceives life as an infant in its mother’s lap. The image is significant and purposeful. The Hindus image Ganesa-Janani, the Mother, in whose lap the gana or the ‘people’ i.e., life, survives. How close to this concept is the image of the Pieta, the Madonna of the Christian church. It is the matrix where all genesis begins; the yoni of the nebulae. That exactly is the image of the Mother whose grace blesses life here and now.

“The breast of the Mother is the perennial source of sustenance, and the yoni of the Mother is the perennial ‘source’ for evolution of universal lives here. She is the matrix; the alpha of the process of genesis. In this image survives the concept of the kumari mata, the virgin mother.

“This sublime idea is better stated in the language of tantra; and the attitude of tantra to the world flux is aimed at supporting thi sublimity. The physical part of the Mother which sustains and maintains life is the stana, the breast. The Sanskrit root for the word stana (breast) means ‘to grow from more to more’; to develop And the other part, or limb of the same Mother, the expression of the same sakti, which prennially projects streams and streams of new lives, new thoughts, new products of art and intellect, new worlds, new universes-is called yoni, the triangle that tantra worships. That faith in tantra rests on this attitude, this belief.

A Practical View

“Tantra does not waste its efforts on the other-worldliness of life, it actually educates, and then trains man to be prepared best for the life as it ought to be faced and lived. Looked from this point of view you would not find it difficult to appreciate my interest in you. I am determined to bring the best out of you, as I expect that there are forces within you, which, when developed and brought out, would do a lot of good to the society you will come in contact with.

“A trained attitude towards life, a deeper appreciation of life, and an education about life would turn a man into a proper householder.

“He would be able, then, to live it so well that death would pose no problem for him. He would leave life, when the time comes, in great peace. You see that a correct appreciation of tantra has to bestow automatically the benefits of the next life. Take good care of this life, the benefits of the next life would automatically follow as night follows day, and day follows night.

“Death being the gate to enter into the next life, peace at the thres hold of entry is essentially imperative. Tantra gives that.

“The importance of the knowledge of the mysteries of tantra could be understood in depth through an episode in the life of Adi Sankara, the great Sankarācārya. Let me narrate it once again even if you have heard it. Legends are great teachers of esoteric truth.

The Change of Sankara

“In the course of his zealous efforts to bring all thinking giants of the land under one banner he finally approached the intellectual wonder of the time, Sri Mandana Misra (who was later on known as Swami Sureśvaricārya, and who had a considerable following of his own). He was a householder, and he believed in the dharma of the gthastha. He was married to an equally great lady of beauty, learning and love. Ubhaya Bharati, the wife of Mandana, stood firmly be ween the two opposite objectives: Sankara’s objective of giving Misra the vows of a sannyasin, and her firm desire of keeping her husband to the path she knew as the correct one for a married man.

“Sankara had to face this lady in debate; and at once she broached the subjects of the secrets of tantra, and the powers of yoni, as well as its immense significance. She talked of the contributions of love and sex in moulding life and society, and asked Sankara if he was speaking from theoretical erudition alone, or from a realisation of life as it has to be practically lived. She challenged the young debatee, if he had any experience of a woman’s love as a power. She asked if his mother had blundered in bringing him to the world, or if she herself is wrong to have adored motherhood.

“Sankara was confounded by the directness of the learned lady’s approach, and begged for sometime to get himself further educated along the line. When he returned to the scene after spending a long year in the society of a woman in luxery, he had visualised the nobility and grandeur of life as an aspect of Grace of the Sakti that inspires and conducts it. Although Miśra came under the immediate spell of young Sankara’s call, Sankara himself gradually became an adept in tantra, and his hymn on the Mother (saundarya-lahari) stands unto this day as one of the most treasured esoteric pieces ever written on tantra practice. Nowhere else has the sublime Śrī-yantra been described with so much fervent feeling and depth, yet so beautifully. It is

A grand piece of literature. “If ever you find time, go, visit the great shrine of Sri-yantra of Sankara’s adoration in Courtallam in south India, in Siva-Kanci, and in Sengeri. Meditation in one of these pithas could spark vibrations of consciousness, which could benefit you, which could surprise you. (I did visit Courtallam, more than once. That experience has been recorded later.)

“Tantra encourages life. Tantra expects man to live in the fullness of life. But tantra also expects our life to be disciplined. Discipline gives direction. For enjoying a well directed life, man must stand with humility before the Grace of Sakti, the Mother. In that single truth lies embedded all the truth and mystery of tantra. Mother is the core of tantra, inclusive of the roles that these mystic āsanas play. To bring in eros in such a context, in such forms of exercise and practice, is to condemn poison in spite of its ability to cure. Never see the Mother in parts. She is yoni, the ultimate, where we all vanish at the end of the life span, and the genesis where we all begin our physical existence. The Mother and the yoni together is the alpha and the omega of this education.”

 

 

7

Voices from the Void

Joy of Sex

My introduction to sex life through the chance instrumentality of that relative of mine and her boy-friend offered to me a heaven-sent opportunity to welcome a new knowledge directly, from the Lady in Saffron. I could not have expected a better start with this complex field of knowledge. Her own exposed body explained much to me. Her correct emphasis focused a new light around a hitherto mystified area held out of bounds. The supreme importance of life’s involvement with sexual powers gradually unfolded itself. Since that time whenever I had to face in life any situation conducive to physical sex participation it was impossible for me to regard these organs in any light other than sources of a profoundly laid out mysterious base of power. I still stand convinced that disciplined sex contributes to matured life the same urge and energy as a mother’s milk does to the life of a growing infant, both being sources of the Mother-power. I became convinced; and with the years the conviction grew, that

The power of libido, lhādinī, guides the sex urges through creative channels. It creates joy; and joy sustains it. This power opens up a vista of joyous atmosphere; opens up a spirit of loving understanding, and self-submission; and brings the mind to bear willingly the treasured onus of humility in love. True love glorifies itself through wilful submission. To this mysterious power the human soul brings the highest homage; and the body offers the supreme sacrifice; and life itself through this sacrifice reaps the harvest of life. We know this to be a great yajña, where death and life play together for the achievement of continuity. In this yajña pain becomes pleasure, and pleasure offers itself to pain. If life is defied by death, death, in a sense, is also defied by this power of sex.

As time passed, my understanding of the worship of this power, indeed of the triangle, (and through the triangle of the world of the female charm) became clearer. An attitude of deep respect towards the female was gradually tended by my loving mentor; as a result I could not regard these argas of the body with scorn, condemnation, I viewed this power with the highest regard and awe that life reserves for the source of life. Because I had accepted, and I have been known to accept this regard for libido, or the power of the lhadini, with a religious veneration, I have also known to regard woman as an expression of joy, as well as of a source of mysterious power.

Not the Sinner

All of us are, when not fully aware of our responsibilities, prone to act irresponsibly. This accounts for our excesses in this area. But we commit excesses in other areas too, e.g., in the choice and quantity of our food, drink, sleep, need, possession etc. The harm does not lie in what we do, but how and how much we do it. The knowledge of the limit alone is not enough; the power to draw a line, and to be able to call a halt before the limit has been reached, has to be acquired. And this is acquired through understanding, analysis, care, practice and above all through the development and cultivation of the correct attitude towards these.

This is why, I have never been able to condemn a woman for her ‘fall’, or a man for his ‘sin’. I have never felt myself competent enough to play the high and mighty role of the self-righteous. Such a false attitude has not been able to influence my thinking, or cloud my ‘love’ for humanity. The very idea of a ‘fall’, or that of a ‘sin’ is supposed to dislodge the esteem of a man for a man.

Dislodge from what? Dislodge from where to where? Is there any place outside of the Grace of that Power of Life? That Power of Love? If the entire universe is charged and saturated with the power of the Mother, how could I conceive of a ‘fall’ from her? Does that not sound absurd?

This was a supreme test for me. After I gained this understanding, things gradually started to explain themselves to me. My personal life rhythm underwent a complete change, I came to be convinced that I worship and adore the triangle because I belong to it, much as a child belongs to its mother.

What I Owe to the Mother

I could not view this mechanism of life’s supreme source of joy, of creative urge, in a spirit of flimsy delight, sporting curiosity, temporary diversion from boredom, or hunger for mere erotic excitement. I felt all these attitudes depressingly negative, and in the final analysis, extremely damaging to the balanced development of a man’s personality.

(In life, as I happened to have to swim through an ocean of humanity all over the world, I recall, and recall with great satisfaction, that I have been able to save a number of drowning and drowned souls by a simple exposure and analysis of the facts of the situation with a calm vigour and a searching touch of love and sympathy. Sympathy of man is essential to befriending a situation from where a brother could save a brother. Are we not the sons of the same Mother? But have I not saved myself from many a trying situation, thanks to the conviction about this Power.)

To me this functionalism of the life process was a positive endowment kept apart by the life force. It is a life which fulfills its ultimate objective by stimulating, cultivating and achieving the true purpose and meaning of joy in life. This force is the ‘mother’ of all joy.

The Mother, the lhädint, is the power that thrills and inspires. It overflows life with joy and joy alone. A saint is he who spreads love and joy. The balance is itself too famished to be able to propagate a communion, to produce ecstasy, to overcome grief and suffering with the powers of love. Hence life is embedded in the Mother; and the Mother is involved in life. To be living is to owe to the Mother’s grace.

This is divine. This is Nature’s; this is natural. This is straight, and therefore this is called fra. This is also why we worship the Sun, Fire, Air, Water and the great Atmosphere filled with ether which is a cosmic blessing. We call these (together or singly) pratyakşam Brahma: yes, these are the pratyakşam, directly realisable, Brahman, the all pervading power. We realise the supreme, the ultimate through these primal, never ending manifestations. We worship god through these. We worship their universality, indiscrimination, essentiality, powerfulness, grace and eternity. All lovers are idolators, and all idolators are lovers. The tangible is an idea in form. Concepts vivify themselves by getting congealed to forms.

Degradation

This is also why we regard this body, which owes its existence, feelings and thought to these manifestations of the divine as, verily, the temple of God. All functions of this body have to be divinely willed and organised. No act of the body, when naturally motivated and naturally functioned, could be regarded as heinous or sinful, without bringing a degradation to the divine purpose.

(Talking about degradation and the judgement on degradation, I recall how so many have found it fit to avoid tantra and the tantra practices as degraded. Let me digress a little to speak of this.) In a number of books on tantra mostly sectarian, or superfluous,

Or both, certain practices in tantra have been looked down upon. These have been criticised as morbid, obscene, debauched and out. Rageous. The European adventurers and conquistadors, supported by their priestly community have tried to justify their thoughtless vanda. Lism through history by condemning the tantric practices as barbarous. Let me quote just one instance. While in Mexico, I have tried to penetrate into the secrets of the ancient practices. I was delighted to find that these were still practised in the established Catholic churches. (I was amused at a remark, celebrated as having been made by the current Pope John Paul, that if he were to call the practices observed in the Mexican churches as Christian, then he is not a Christian. I, of course, cannot avow for this apocrypha.)

Let me explain. People who have condemned human sacrifices, do not find anything to abhor in accepting for the church such abominations as human limbs, (hands, heads and feet of the human beings), when made in gold and silver. I could illustrate the point much more vividly and convincingly. But this is not the proper place to do it. I have gone into the intricate details of some of the rituals (I recall one in Cholula and another one near Kaaba) and found the old cosily asleep within the folds of the new. I have seen some of the ancient rites ‘performed’ on the stage, and at once visualised the grandeur and sublimity with which the so called ‘victims’ entered, and strug gled to enter those rites of sacrifice, because they considered it to be a blessing to offer life for what they cherished as a divine faith. Those who know about self-immolation of the Jains, of Harakiri in Japan, of Thermopylae, Chitor, Bundi, of the Samsaptakas, and of Balaclava would agree that certain conditions do remove the horrors of death from minds resolved to make sacrifice.

U may be misunderstood. I am not supporting the act of animal or human sicrifice. The question is moot and cothoversial. We are accustomed to argue for and justify the existence of war, gestapo, other industri holocausts induced by nuclearxistence of war, el wars, industrial pollutions, we are used to justify gas wars, germ we accurs of attrition, wars of napham blasts anustify as bombs, we are accustomed to justify eradication of whole villages, whole tribes uprooting the lives and sustenance of millions for the ‘benefits’ of industry. In the name of politics, good government, civilising the uncivilised, we have grown accustomed to view these as inevitable tolls payable to a modern and civilised life.

But we feel morbid and scandalised about certain forms of rituals and practices. In all honesty, these rites were performed (and are still performed) and accepted as parts of reaching the sublime. In a culture where indiscriminate fornication is a pastime, indeed often a point of bravado and status; where the simple institution of prostitution has found many tones of sophisticated nuances, tantra rites have been called to question, and the earnest practitioners have been termed as rascals and orgists. As I say this, I keep also thinking of its misuses; of pretenders and frauds. Indeed I have observed closely in my life many of these so-called cranks whose actions indeed could prove to be horrifying. Yet I had the luck of appreciating sublime grandeur, the solemn tranquillity and the satisfying results of these rites.

The fact is that sensitiveness is a personal characteristic. Whatever is personal could become a race, community or state characteristic. Depending on the mechanics of eloquence, preachings and publicity, in short brainwashing. Printed words, and projected photography have been playing a great part in convincing and transforming public opinion.

Danger of Public Opinion

It is easy for personal sensitiveness to grow into a national or community sensitiveness. But sensitiveness differs from person to person, from time to time in history; and human judgements based on sensitiveness and prejudice have been found, times without number, to have been stupidly erroneous. We have on record that persons found guilty of heresy and witchery at one time, and punished with fire and sword by a society, have later on been redeemed as saints. Criminals of one time have been hailed as patriots, even national heroes of other times. We have also seen this stream flowing the other way too. Nothing is more unreliable and fluctuating than judgements based on sensitiveness.

To depend on human judgements entirely often misleads one to grievous errors. Certain eternal values must be regarded as time-tested. The human heritage of values has to be acquired through the virtue of worthiness. A sense of degradation or outrage could well be provoked by ill-conceived personal knowledge, even personal opinions. To pause and think is to mature in time. I have personal knowledge of incidents which I could have looked

Down upon asatrocious, degrading, depraved, even noxious. Anyone who has stood before the ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Pool area of London after the bombing, or on the streets of Cassel in West Germany after the winter blitzkrieg would know of atrocity and degradation. As I passed through the Cambodian devastations, through the raped earth of Thailand, I could imagine the much more wild devastations in Vietnam, and be filled with a crippling sense of morbidity, cynicism and utter frustration.

What is then really degrading? The most degrading thing on earth is the callous disregard of the wastage of human material for purpose of commercial benefit. To have at least an aim for attaining the profound, the sublime, the eternal source of soul’s tranquil joy, should justify the means, and redeem certain practices from being called names. The benefit of the doubt is never to be denied even to the avowed criminal. The law sanctions it; and the civilised practise it; or should do so.

Fortunately for me I did not avoid the challenges; and I did not hesitate to come closer to these experiences, thanks to the introduction to the closed mystic area by an astute jogini. I did not find anything to horrify or deter me, or keep me away from further researches. On the contrary, the forbidden emotions of scorn, shame. Just or fear never bothered me when I happened to get close to the subject. In consequence I pursued my quest with sublime unconcern about the sex, age or the consequent rites, whenever an opportunity of scantic session offered itself. As a result I learnt what I learnt, and became aware of the secret source of the tantric power.

Two such so called ‘degrading and horrifying’ incidents come to my mind. Let me relate.

Two Incidents of ‘Degradation’

The first one took place about the year 1934. It was at Ghora Ghat in Varanasi. It was a popular ghat (a paved

Stone embankment with flights of steps running into the river). Lis popularity was derived from the fact that White tourists always came to this halt as a convenient place for stepping down from their carr ages or cars, (I always wonder why the tourists cannot walk through the lanes of Rome or Varanasi) and climbing on to the waiting barges By setting their cameras and binoculars from the decks of the boats they would form their ‘firm’ and ‘first-hand knowledge about Hindu India!

Lepers, beggars, drug addicts crowded behind a busy market under the shades of huge banyan trees, with the municipal lavatories fuming out their stink all around. Thanks to ever-abiding streams of ine ‘pitiful’ foreigners the sizeable medley of lepers, derelicts, addicts flourished, hanging around the shades. Commerce in alms was good and easy,

Since at night no tourists were to be seen around, the dismal rejects of humanity settled to light their humble fires, and cook their scanty meals, before they could pair off under torn rags to wrench from life the little juice of joy that life had yet left for them.

Here burnt an open oven of a roadside tea stall. Two bare benches, and several cups, or fractions of them, adorned the establishment. Drug takers in need of sweets, milk or other like delicacies crowded within the narrow lane, which the sophisticated carefully avoided.

I was attending at this hovel to a very learned man, of my father’s age, who generally kept his audience spellbound by his erudition and experienced anecdotes. He has been one of the wisest persons I have come in contact with. The dialogues reminding one of Socrates-PlatoPhoedo group used to race at a very high speed. Varanasi is still full of such wise cranks. Suddenly I witnessed a sight.

A dark man with matted locks, and of course specifically nude, covered only with the celebrated ash, was speeding from the riverside towards the dark lane leading to the famed Viśvanātha and Bhairavi temples for which Varanasi is regarded as a Hindu Mecca.

He was proceeding with a swing. But he had been cupping his hands between his thighs, and spooning the liquid flowing from his bladder directly into his mouth. Yes, I saw him merrily drinking his own urine. I rushed out to fully investigate and ascertain the phenomenon.

I returned not before another two hours.

During this time I had a very engaging conversation with him, and I realised that he was indeed a very high ranking tantrik yogi of the rare order of the Bhairavas; and his powers included lighting fire by looking at the wood, and drinking water from a glass without going near it. He has been to me one of the most adored and honoured saints so far. But I was not able to keep trace of him. They come and Bo at their own free will in the manner of wild winds.

My second experience was more involved, and much more terrifying. I knew that experiences shock and scare because of our own ignorance. Experiences to which one is familiarly accustomed craie to cause either terror, or surprise. Familiarity smooths and settles nervous excitements or shocks. I have seen men fainting at the sight of a surgical operation, a skeleton or even of simple blood flowing from a body. We used to dab our foreheads with blood from sacri ficed animals, and experienced thereby imagined glorification. Some find the tantra temples too horrible, eerie or gloomy. I have known very devout Hindus shirking away from cathedrals, finding them too dark and old. These are personal reactions, and need not be generalised.

But that second incident really shocked me.

My younger sister, in mysterious circumstances, began to throm blood by mouth. No medication proved of help, until gradually she imaciated, and died in a few weeks. In accordance with Hindu custom she was to be cremated before the next sunrise. Sun is not to rise on a Hindu dead body, if one could help it. We arranged for her instant cremation at night.

In Varanasi a dead body is given its final wash by the banks of the Ganges. After wash and before laying the body on the pyre the body is properly groomed and dressed.

My sister’s body too was taken to the Ganges, and bathed. Driven by a sentiment that in life she loved to swim the river with me, I had gone out in the flowing current holding her body in my hand. The body was brought back; with the intention of changing her clothes and giving her the final wrap. Naturally, to gain some privacy, I took the corpse to a darker and more secluded section of the burning ghats.

The river, placid and dark near the stone steps, had entered a small bay formation, and stood still within a vestibular pool protected on the riverside by a wall of wire-netting. This kept the rubbish from flowing back into the river.

Imagine my surprise when half through the ritual of changing the clothes of my beloved sister, I became aware of some moving spectres stirring the stagnant water, and wading within the slush with floating ease. I could hear the smooth muffled splashing sound that the water was making as it came into clash with these phantom bodies. Soon ! could figure out a pair of black dogs scurrying for the half roasted pieces of bones. It was enough to give me a cold sweat.

But that was not all.

Before I could write off the dogs and attend to my business to hand. I noticed a figure; the figure of a man of course he was baked, and his poor charred frame was skeletal thin. He was one with the black-pool, the dark dancing shadows. But the hungry eyes, and the hungrier looks glittered like cut diamond points. Those burning eyes were set on me. He too appeared to be busy in searching for food out of the rejected and washed away mass of refuse of charred leftovers. He was actually holding a piece of bone in his hand, and wrenching portions with his teeth.

Well, it was shocking, even to me, accustomed by then to many similar so called abominable, nay, terrible seances. I picked up the body silently, and with the help of my other brothers, and my nephew laid it down on the pyre. Soon the flames would cover and lap what had been my sister in this world, and what had really been nothing more than an organised shape of natural properties, ultimately consigned to nature.

That dark night, the mysterious spell of the great flowing river, the several other unnamed pyres burning around the ash-laden stone platforms, the close touch of the stilled skin of my dearest sister, the swim and the wash of the corpse in the flowing currents of the familiar stream, the awe of death, the sudden barrenness of life’s physical continuity, all these together-had brought out of my inner being a different personality. I felt weighed down by the strange course of events. I felt the cold embrace of innui overpowering me. All I wanted was to rest a while; to come to grips with myself to sleep and ride out of the cajolings of life and death.

My elder brother looked at me and remarked that I could do very well wish a snatch of sleep. He suggested that I climb the steps to the tower of rest, standing by the funeral ghats. It had been built by a wealthy man as a gift for this purpose, that is, for offering rest to the tired carriers of a hearse.

I listened to his timely advice.

I climbed the steps. In my mind I was visualising the long tresses of my sister being consumed in seconds by the hungry flames.

I must have fallen asleep with a disturbed mind.

I do not know how long I was merged in the slumber when I experienced strange pull. I sat up and opened my eyes and saw a terrible spectre, dark, charred, emaciated and wizened, sitting very close to me, and watching me with a lifeless grin. I ran cold within me. My conscious self receded within me. But...I knew how to hold my breath, and wait for the unknown.

Before long I came to myself and confronted the apparition

Squarely. This time he laughed a little, a mere chuckle as if we have come out of an episode of great fun. We were communicating.

“So, you felt the scorn for what I had been at,” he started the offensive. “You, of all persons. You the darling of the Lady in Saffron: you who have been the favourite of the Bhairava of Batuknath, and of the great sidhu Jitendra and the holy Masai Bibi! I feel to laugh. You scorned to see me picking my food from a refuse heap? A little bundle of conceit, you are.

“Where was I wrong pray?” he asked and continued, “Have I not left life at my back? Am I not, so to say, already lost to the society of humanity? I cannot and do not choose to beg for my upkeep froma world which I have willingly left behind.

“The dogs live; the crows live; so live the fish, the vultures, and hundreds of other live. I mix with them, and share their food. In them is the Mother: in me is the Mother,-Mother, who as funger resides in all, and sends all to hunt for food. The reject goes for the reject food; the dead goes to the dead.

“All right; think of this another way. That body you washed, is gone. In Manikarnikā all bodies are finally cast away. Where do they go? I mean the material bodies? Are they spirited away into the obli vion? Or do they continue to belong to the material world? Who or what absorbs them? Is She not the Mother? The power of the Mother? Cimunda Kāli? If all this could be her food, why might I not partake of her prasāda (food blessed by her participation)? If she stops the process, how would the world order be maintained? What is the good of my being a Bhairava, an Aghori if I fail to attune myself happily with this world order? Am I not nature and the natural order personified? Am I not ‘bhūtādhyaksa’, an onlooker and assimilator of the ‘bhūtas’ (functioned and functioning matter)? Personal feelings are redundant for the likes of me. Are they not? What do you say?

“This is the logic of the wheel. No great philosophy in it; just the wheel. Where is the doubt? It turns and turns; comes and goes. All grist. Where lies the confusion? Where the scorn? Man suffers from his own conceit, and feels superior to other animals. In the eye of the Mother all are one and the same. From the birth of a star to the birth of a sand-fly, so far as the mother is concerned, all provides the same joy, the same pain. Life is life, and food is food. Why this false distinction?”

And then suddenly he gave me a big push. I fell flat on the polished cemented floor. With his two thumbs pushed between my brows. In a trice he jumped over my chest, and sented himself, as if on a corps. He began to chant a mantra, which later I found to be the biju (seed) mantra of Nila Sarasvati. I did not even try to disturb him. I did neither shriek, nor shake. All on a sudden he began to spit all around even on my body and face. I lay still. Almost with a reflex lack of thinking I submitted, and tried to say something like, ‘I am joy; I am the Mother; I am the terror and the tranquillity. Gradually I passed out.

On my coming back to myself I found the figure vanished; the heavy weight from my chest was gone. I felt extermely light. My senses appeared to have gained in altertness. I came, as if from a dark suffocating cavern into the light and joy of liberation.

This was a time when the Lady in Saffron was no longer available in het mortal existence. So the experience just remained, along with others, interred in the silent tomb of my memory.

I can recall other instances of apparently scornful, degrading, perverse and obnoxious behaviour of these Bhairavas. But those I have mentioned should be enough.

In the world of the great spirit there is nothing stranger than man with his awful gluttony for material possession and lust for power. Yet we suffer these gluttons of vulgar show of wealth and power; we salute them as celebrities. Then what is obscene? What ugly? The ugliest in life is to live in untruthful pretence.

We may fail to realise the divine will, and like a spoilt child indulge in undue advantages of the parental favour. We go into excesses, and overspend the store of power, thereby depleting the stock; we degrade the dignity of man, and bring on our heads all consequent sufferings of a squandering fool.

Herein lies the need for the divine intervention, and for the realisation of the divine purpose. Who or what is degraded in the divine scheme of things? Who and what is holy and mighty? Who to judge? Who to exercise the final disposal of reward and punishment? The sense of self-righteousness acts as the heaviest stone that permanently buries the divine in man in the dark silences of a doomed cemetory. One must liberate oneself from ego and false pretences. It calls for exercising self-control. Control for longer, steadier, surer and more beneficial enjoyment. Thus we learn the mysteries of life and sex. Hence we ‘worship’ what is sex, i.e., the power in sex.

A Cradle of Mistrust

I had reached the thresholds of manhood. In the tropics the sun rises with a jump, and sets with a plunge. Soon I had to reach down to the facts. The Lady must have realised the necessity of guiding me along this hidden path with more alacrity and purpose, more care and intimacy.

Twice a month, and during the course of one year on certain spe. Cial days, we were engaged together in the extremely complicated rituals which called for the highest secrecy, and a perfect poise in the mind. Our sessions gathered day by day more and more importance. I felt the itch for further knowledge, so that the very thrill of it sup. Plied the drive for seeking it. During this period I used to be on a stringently austere discipline of food, sleep and behaviour.

This familiarity to what is known as sex areas had completely erased from my mental slate the vulgarity of the curious. I had no droll craving for physical possession. In these sessions I hardly ever experienced a retarding or negative feeling. I never faced the degrading excitement of eroticism.

Sex Challenges

Life is a strange pilgrimage. Along this pilgrimage, on different occasions, I have been compelled to seek shelter at many unknown places. I had to meet strange situations in which the powerful threat of uncontrollable sex stood against further progress like a live cobra ready with its hood, spread to strike at the least mistake and carelessness. Psychologically, at times, it often used to create a void, when the outer personality met with an eroding inner commotion. To say that life has never tested my nerves, that I have never faced the acute challenges from this power, shall tantamount a vain boast, and an empty claim.

The challenges came; but not the surprises. The familiarity with the entire topography of the body, as well as with the mental phases involved, stood guard against any hunger or burn. In the physical world total closeness at times could result in a total absence. The great and peculiarly sublime experience of transcendental joy (samadhi), the thrill of finding the soul swimming in a pool of joy, made me look upon these things as temptations, much in the same way as toys tempt children. I am convinced that to a matured mind such flimsy and flitting pleasures offer no call at all.

Yet, one must bear in mind that the power of avidya levi genius) could be as strong as the power of vidya (native genius). In a much truer sense the good around us, and within us, is so profusely and intimately operative, that we often do not realise its existence. We do that only when that good is severely challenged. Goodness of health, air, water, breath, companionship is hardly realised unless threatened by fever, fret, disease and discomfort. There is in life, as in legends, always the possibility of facing a challenge which could spell doom and destruction in no time. All yogis are aware of it, and mentally prepare themselves to meet it. The Buddha had to face it; he won finally. Times without number, the great Viśvāmitra was challenged; but each time he fought hard, and finally attained to sainthood. The power and the challenges of sex never die; never. The sun sets only physically; in reality it never sets, never dies. The power of the sun shines and works for ever; so is the power of sex, which is nothing but a transformed expression of the solar energy working through our nerves, passions, desires and ambitions.

These challenges came in due course in my life too; but instead of lust, came love; then came sympathy and understanding; and lastly, poise. This was the gift of those hard practising lessons on self-control. Sex is so pervading a power that it has been imagined as a flute’s charm. The flute charms the serpent; so the Ihadini’s call charms the sex urge. If the flautist plays well, the serpent dances at his beck and call; if he flunks, falters or hesitates, comes the sting, sharp, true and fatal. The call of thādini (sex) has been imagined as a human response to the call of the flute; Rädhä (the Ihadini) responding to the call of the flute of Krsna. It has been symbolised as the happy correspondence between kindred souls seeking the joyous experience between two or even more persons. It is a practical expression of the natural vibrations electrifying the magnetic stream flowing between two opposite poles.

Only the select are initiated into, and allowed to grow with the form of sadhana (training) for joy. I was lucky to have been introduced to this at a tender age. I lived and grew with it. This form of sadliana offers me no strangeness at all. But as I recall those days, I still regard myself as an extremely lucky individual.

Warnings on the Road

Lest the indiscreet and the fraudulent make mistakes, and suffer through many cycles of agonies, several warnings have been solemnly sounded. Here are a few quoted.

1.       Nipīta kāla kūtasya harasye-väh: khelanam (this has been already explained before) Unless immunised by a drink of the ‘poison’ (of lust and greed) none should go about toying with this form of sadhanā.

2.       Learn to hold the seed. Never think of ejecting it. No; never. Not when one is at the āsana. If it appears to be a union, it is definitely not a union of the body. Souls get united beyond the body’s grasp. Results explode within a supra-conscious field of transcen dental experience. It is an experience of the sublime void, where power alone holds the reserved court.

 

3.       Sit on the asana, as if seated on a dead body. Even if there appears to be a stir, an agitation, a call to the warm flesh, parry it; master it; keep a firm hold on it, as you would do to hold a wild cobra, until it is put away in a basket. Dominate invitation from the ‘dead’. You are the only one really ‘alive’ in a world which is dominated by death. It is a union between the forces, of life and death. If, in the process, death does not transform into life, remember, life, your life, would gradually wither as dead.

4.       For attaining to such a degree of impersonality master all temptations, all fears, all external responses to sound, smell, touch, sight or taste. Remain steady in the absolute feeling of “I am allness” (Bhairvoham Sivoham).

 

In order to attain this absolute state of impersonality (nothingness), which is the only door to enter the state of super-personality, the grown-up aspirant has to seek a perfect guide, a guru. Then he is initiated into the fiery zone of väma-marga, (the left-way), the Mahāyāna canon of sadhana. He hardens himself by making āsanas on the living and the dead, eating food of all kinds horrifying or inviting, waking for indefinite periods, sleeping for indefinite periods. (I had been attendant to one such yogi in Calcutta in the year 1936 who had been sleeping for over three months, and who continued to remain asleep for another six months; I used to wash and feed the body as if I were tending a plant. Finally, I became his good Friend.)

In this state of trance, physical responses are reduced to a mere zero under a yogi’s perfect self-control. Unless the yogin gains neutra lity, that is, perfect impersonality, the cosmic forces could neither be invoked, nor absorbed. Without the blessings of those forces no one is able to project happiness and joy.

One should recall the privations that the Buddha had to underg the temptations that Jesus had to face; the warnings of the Tibetan Lamas, while accepting this way.

 

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1. Author's father.

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2. Swami Bhaskarananda's shrine, Varanasi.

 

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3. Swami Bhaskarananda's statue.

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4. The shrine of Kamaksya, Varanasi.

 

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5. The Manikarnika cremation ghat (note the white temple where auntie sat).

 

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6. Bhairava temple, Varanasi.

 

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7. The Chinnamasta shrine (tribal) at Rajarappa, Ranchi.

 

 

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8. The Baijnath yard (where the 'circle' was organised).

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9. Durga at Varanasi.

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10. The Bhairava at Muktesvata, Bhuvaneshwar.

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11. The mudra on the face of Parasurama shrine, Bhuvaneshwar

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12. Chinnamasta: according to Tantra-dhyana.Clockwise: the yoni-vivrta (evident source of life-spring)

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13. A black stone natural formation

 

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14. A sacrificial pit.

 

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15. Lajja Gauri (the white goddess with s head hidden).

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16. The neglected temple at the Bhaskar Puskar tank, Varanasi.

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17. The trunk of the peepal, where the saint had stuck the bead.

 

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18. The Amarnatha shrine. Cave with the snow lingam in full resplendent glory.

 

Bodhi

So we must never forget the acute trials of saints like the Buddha or Jesus before Buddhahood could be attained. They could survive those trials because of their complete control over impersonality. Like Ramakrishna of our times none of them had been attached to any sense of personal ownership, or personal gain. They belonged in life to the very elements. That is the state of the Bodhi, of being a Paramahamsa. No emotion disturbs a Buddha; his conscious self exists irrespective of his personal body and its senses; he reduces his feelings to a zero; he is an individual without any social symbol. The world is his home, the universe his boundary. Firmness and steadiness are the two pillars on which his will rests. He is beyond scorn, envy, jealousy, opinion, ambition, pride, anger, fear or passion. Indiscrimination is his religious faith, and equilibrium is his confirmed state. “Where the mind finds its joy, and self-control its prize; where the self, looking at the self, feels pleased with the self, there lies the bliss of the yogi.” (yatropa-ramate cittam niruddham yoga sevayā yatra cai-va-tmanātmānam paśyann atmani tuşyati-Gita.)

These words in the Gita describe the supreme state of nirvana, the tranquil state where the tantra way guides the seeker through a very difficult, trying but a much quicker path. Tantra ‘plays’ with sex indeed; gets absorbed in sex, but does not allow the sex to indulge, covete, lust or get passionate. Tantra worships it; venerates and adores it. Sex in tantra is a bath in icy fire. It excites without losing calmness, loves without passion. It reflects the illuminated state of Grace as sunlight reflects the dewy innocence of the colours on a lotus just bloomed.

The Two Friends

Where would I have gained an insight into these secrets without the Assistance of my early mentors, specially the Lady is Saffron and my friend Narada. My Lady was motherly, loving, eager and confiding. She had been taking me almost by her hand from mystery to mystery, and through practical exercises which none but she alone could have bestowed. The path was arduous; hazardous; at times challengingly ugly, even revolting; but her hand would be there, and her calm tranquil tolerance. We were close; we got closer; at the seances even closest.

But often we were sent off to a thrilling trip filled with a sublime quietitude. It was wortth all that strain.

My friend Narada was on the other hand funny, jocular, impish and frisky like a cherub-puck. Always eager to teach, under the garb of learning; give, under the garb of begging; love, under the garb of being loved, he would appear to me, at an hour of keen spiritual distress, as if we had met by an accident. He kept his brotherly hand always directly on my doubt-spots. While his sudden and unpredictable appearances were like drops of unsought mercy falling from the sky, his exits were like fog-phantoms suddenly melting away on a marsh. He taught me the simple virtues of love and patience; the arduous practices of penances and meditations; the stimulating joy of fellow feeling and service. Robinson Crusoe had his Friday; he was my everyday. So convenient; so much my chum.

The Fort by the Bank

I noticed for materialising his favoured locale was the quiet river bank. To the south of stream, on the western bank, there stood the old magnificent pre-British fort of the ancient King of Varanasi. With this fort was associated one of the most tragic chapters in the rise and fall of the princes of India mauled and bullied into submission by the servants of the East India Company.

One of those victims was this King of Varanasi, Chet Singh. Although a very small principality, because of the cultural importance of the city of Varanasi, a city which stood foremost in the Vedic tradition, where the Buddha had for the first time preached, and where he had lived long, this principality was held in high honour. In fact the prince was regarded as the symbolic unit of Hindu India. He was bullied and attacked because of his pledged traditional loyalty to the Nawab of Lucknow, a viceroy of the Moghul Emperor. Through all the political upheavals in Mustin India the King of Varanasi was always left alone, because of his special symbolic position. Here near the bank Warren Hastings was defeated, and made to run away, up the river, to the hut of a boatman, who saved him out of animal pity. But Hastings was not to leave Chet Singh alone. He attacked again with reorganised forces when he was supposed to negotiate.

Unaccustomed to the trickeries of war and peace, the king, tired of the killings, came to learn that Hastings wanted him personally at Chrissner. This meant a great humiliation to the symbole role that Chet Singh, the King of Varanasi, was supposed symbolic instead of humiliating the whole Hindu community, he escaped to some unknown destination, never to be heard of again.

Under the window of the large fort there was a small sand bank, generally covered with grass. The slope was modest and inviting. Near by, further to the south the river had its main bend before entering the city limits. The place was quiet, and a still hush made one listen to the river’s message. A strange vibration reported intense longings in me whenever I stood below the window on the green spot. Later I came to know that just above the wall stood the haloed grounds once distinguished by great tantra adepts. A series of surprisingly well preserved temples still commemorate their efforts and achievements. This should explain why that green spot stored for me feelings extremely sensitive. (I visited the spot last in 1983. Meditation here still brings almost immediate results.)

The Silent Man of the Boat

On the bend itself where the sand dunes kept the flow sluggish, one could notice a solitary boat, floating midstream. It was a phantom of a boat, and it never moved. It was permanently anchored there. During the monsoons, when all this would be merged under an angry torrent of grey waters, the boat would be guided to the safety of the narrow channel passing through the villages.

On this boat lived one of the most renowned yogis of Varanasi. He was regarded in my early days as the guardian angel of the city. He had never been heard to speak; but he communicated whenever he wanted to, by just looking at the people. He has been known, and recorded by foreign interviewers, to have held long conversations without speaking a syllable. He was the famous Mauni Baba, or the

Silent saint. I liked to sit by this green bank and prepare my lessons. At times I meditated here. Perhaps the influence of the Ganges, or the several Sakti temples in the ancient fort, or of the saint’s boat at the distance induced concentration easily. Mind seeks its own rest by chosing a harmonious surrounding.

Here the friendly Vaisnava saint, my Narada, met me on that day when I was almost tormented for knowing the secret of the hidden power in mantra.

I was aware that a mantra, a bija (seed), as a mystic sound contained entire meaning and import of abstract concepts. Besides, by the special nature of their composition they were reservoirs of power.

But how? Why? My agony to get into the secret made me impatient And lo! Narada materialised to my great consolation.

A Laughing Stock

I had spoken of the pair of children who had been engaged in sex play, and who had invited me to participate. I had tried to, but in the process I found it so very boring and futile, compared to the secret sessions I enjoyed at the seances with my Lady in Saffron. Naturally I tried to convey to them in my own way, my most intimate and sacredly held ideas regarding the position of sex in human life.

They laughed, and called me a prude ((bakwās). But whenever alone, the grown-up fiirt tried to fascinate me. She, I believed, was fond of my ways. Whatever the reasons, she appeared to be determined to win me over to her games. At least so I believed. Temptation at that age grows in that hide-and-seek way. So she stuck on; and like a desperate angler wanted to fish me out of the doldrums of theological tantrism with the aid of her fascinations and charms. So she continued pampering me in every way; and at times even followed me. In defiance of what I believed in and what I practised, she always bemocked my claims on the power of mantra. Together with some boys, she often ridiculed me about my avowed faith in the mantras. She even challenged my faith in the efficacy of a mantra. Her idea was to bring me to submission through the weapons of public humiliation, blackmail and taunt.

I was being secretly tortured. It was not the torture of the mauled ego. It was not the torture of being a sporting victim to female wanton. It was the simple and innocent tortuer that a misunderstood friend feels in not being able to convey to another a point of ecstatic pleasure; or in not being able to share in a common source of happi ness. Such an experience is I believe, unavoidable in the journey through life, specially when one has to pass through that ‘no-man’s

Land’ in human growth commonly referred to as adolescence. I felt I could influence her with my reserved charm, the real charm, the charm of the power of mantra. But I myself should be able to master the secret before I could presume to influence her to my way. Particularly her. She was so intelligent and so fluent a person.

Flesh Knows no Innocence

Naturally, I had to find out the sources and the mechanics of the secrets of mantra, the power of the syllables, the special arrangements

Of the syllables, their effects, their sound, and the corresponding responses of those sounds with corresponding nerves which influence and mould personality.

Imagine my cold surprise when I found suddenly Narada sitting close to me and smiling. I was taken aback. Before I could open my tips he pointed his almost fragile index finger to something down, and said “Look!”

A serpent!

I saw it slithering into a crack between the stones.

“That was a she cobra, boy. These females are fascinatingly demanding and disturbing!”

I could feel the mocking ring in his voice. (Was I not thinking of a ‘she’?)

But the incident itself left me cold. It was a cobra. It had been lying coiled next to my feet all the

Time, and I had not known it. I smiled in return, and looked at the receding serpent, and smiled again.

“They know the mind. However, they are harmless to harmless minds.”

“Why then do they bite babies, infants, cattle?” I parried. “They too have temper. Their moods get vexed at times and then they act thoughtlessly. Don’t they?

“Do you think babies are innocent of thought? No! Even babies think in their own ways. Flesh knows no innocence. The very elements of which living beings are formed are plagued with the crying demands of fascination, procreation and multiplication. In order to guarantee this natural demand functioning naturally, powers of enticements, inducements, temptations have to be checked, and totally eliminated in favour of love.

“There is no innocence in flesh. It has to be earned by conscious and sustained efforts. There is no innocence even in nature, which looks so unspoilt at times. No. Even babies radiate their moods. They do. Only we fail to record them correctly. We are too hardened for that tender and delicate response. Watch the difference between the understanding mothers and nurses, and the un-understanding ones. Watch the likes and dislikes of babies to strangers, even to their own folks. The selective mechanism is at operation, may be too subtle for our observation. But it is there. Sensitive animals like serpents, squirrels, badgers sense subtlety of responses through inlaid mechanisms. Do not meet with accidents in rooms crowded with spinning f Bats do faster than men when threatened with plague; bees know be where their hunting grounds are; birds are more accurate recorders of seasonal changes. There are examples throughout the panorama of life. We too act under the forces of impulse, emotion. But because we are far away from nature, we break into tempers, and occasion more misdeeds than deeds of which we could be proud.

“A father kills a son; a husband beats a wife; a man gets drunk and brings disaster to the whole family. So the serpents. They afraid by being chased and harassed. They too understand; but those who understand make mistakes too.

“But the fact stands that serpents as a whole are mysterious. They are wise. They understand motives, motives of mantras. Mantras not and cannot be powerless. Mantras are expressions of power. As bubbles grow out of water, when water in under the pressure of power, so the sound expressions bubble out of the powerful minds of the saints when they are in samādhi; of course 1 am not speaking of false sounds which priests mechanically utter for a living.”

Mantra

I looked at him with wonder. How did he know about my perturb ation, and need for assistance? But this was Nārada. The unpre dictable Nārada, the flitting cherub who appeared to know me to a T! Did he conjure the serpent and find room for introducing the topic? I would not be surprised.

From him I had learnt that the power of mantra is recognised all the world over. It affects animals. Whereas the constant humming of the swarm of bees conveys the position of the source of the honey, or the hissing of the serpent paralyses the frog or the deer, or the sound from the tigress brings the tiger near her, in the case of the human beings, mantras evolute from a mind in the samadhi state. Only then the mantras become charged with that power of will which makes then living. Sound or utterance is the physical expression of the powerful inner will of consciousness. In a state of samadhi the will-power itsel takes form in sound forms.

“Mind you,” he warned at this stage; “I say will; not impulse, nor desire.” And then he directed my attention to a very important lesson in learning, viz., distinguishing the proper import of words.

Will

On that day I understood how misleading desire was. Desire is to will what dream is to sleep, or bubbles to water. Kicks of desire are but momentary reactions of unguarded greed; they reflectesire ambridled impulses, or whims. Some desires abide, while some die out even before they have taken any tangible shape. Desires die with the death of ego.

Desire, in order to abide, must absorb within its outer shell the power of will. Will is a powerful dynamo; attached to will human efforts become dynamic. This is not the case with wish, fancy or desire. Will metamorphoses desire.

Will is a driving force, and drives to consistent and persistent acts, Will shapes character; desire tears it to pieces. The former integrates; the latter disintegrates. One mothers; the other devours. Will enforces mind to determine, distinguish, apply efforts and labour for achievements. Muscles achieve, but muscles are commanded by will. Will is Sakti, power, the Mother. What we call reflex is also in a subtle way conforming to will, although this cannot be recorded or registered.

Will inspires and invokes cosmic consciousness (cit), and compels the intangible shape to shape into a form that becomes real to the determined mind.

To the mind, that has given a tangible form and shape to an idea, contemplated with the will of making the intangible tangible, a formed idea assumes the form of an image. In a way it is the spiritual image of his enlightened. Self. From the highest source of tantric authority we learn this truth cryptically, as always. “To worship it, become it”, it commands. Without this ‘becoming’ there is no worship. There is no worship without. Worship without is a rite; it becomes a mere ritualistic form. The only worship, like love must be a continuous, penetrating and merging flow of energy from within. From within to within. “Becoming it’ is the first demand for a successful prayer. It is the soul in shape. This is at the root of our worship of deities. This is the very basis of image worship. It may be Kall, Mary, Buddha or Jesus. Unless a prayer makes the devotee become’ it, the prayer has failed. It is like reciting a cook book in order to appease hunger.

The devotee worships the image; adores it; springs from a noble spirit of true submission. To realise a state bathes in the joy that elevation through submission, he explained answers for the last three stages of a constant mind: singleness of application (dlyara), living conception (dharana), and the final rapture of oneness (samadhi)

The Sound in Ether: Nada

Then he proceeded to elucidate the subject of mantra, and the mystery sound, dhvani, in the cosmic nāda.

Any articulation is a random sound and no more. Why? Because it is the result of a mechanical process. Sound is the result of a clash, of a friction between two or more objects. There is no articulation in the void. The One is lonely (Sah ekäki-Upanisad). The stage of perfect oneness must necessarily be quiet, tranquil and peaceful.

Air, water and fire articulate and evolve sound, only when their quiet motions clash against something else e.g., air and space, wind and leaves, water and rocks, fire and wind. It could also be air and air; wind and wind; water and water; rock and rock etc. One must always remember that air, or wind is always the common factor in the phenomenon of sound. (cf. Sanskritsvan; or Latin sona, sonic, i.e.; sound in air, svanati in Sanskrit means ‘he/she/it sounds’.)

The air in the prāna covers a whole range of nerve sensations, Prana is the vital breath, and operates mainly through the nerves. Will as a force, otherwise known as volition, stimulates action through nerves. In other words nerves respond to prāna, and obey the will. Prana-responses are activised through undetected subtle vibrations. Any vibration must create activised waves in air or ether Sound is a recognised source of vibrations. Mantras are based on sounds; mantras are based in sound vibrations.

By some subtle esoteric method, the ancient consummate masters and adepts of the highest grade succeeded finally in establishing a relation between sound vibrations and nerve vibrations.

The vibrations created by the different sound effects of Sanskrit alphabets have been referred to different nerve points. Anyone who has even a superficial knowledge of philology and formation of sound arrangements of alphabets (of the different alphabetical orders of the different languages of the world), would at once discover the perfectly arranged order of Sanskrit alphabets. The sounds of Sanskrit alphabets coordinate with the physical mechanism of articulation, or pronunciation.

This perfection of Sanskrit alphabets is not a guess work. Mantra adepts put this order to the uses of the demands of the nerves and the nerve centres. In other words, mantras, conceptually formed, are so arranged, and put to uses as to assist in bringing through the subt. Lest and the most secured way, the desired effects on the will and peace of an individual.

A mantra is the sound-image of a yogi’s inner will. His soul’s appeal vibrates through the nerves, and the message activises the brain by making appeals to the proper quarters. A mantra like an atom is a store-house of power; it is saturated with the will of the person who utters it under proper guidance. A mantra is what a yogi auditions in his meditative personality.

A mantra thus becomes a living source of power. Yes, living. Believe it or not. What radiates life is ‘Living’; and mantras radiate the life force. A realised mantra vibrates, as the particles of blood in the arteries do; as the heart or the breath does. As does the heat of the skin, the light in the eye.

As the meaning of a word is inherent in the sound of the word, so does the power of a mantra-sound lie inherent in its vibration. The secret of mantra is the secret of ether; and that subtle form of ether resides also within our body, and expresses as radiation of thought, will, feeling and understanding. As the breath within the blood cannot be easily discerned, so the radiating principle of the nerves could not be easily observed. But the vibrations are there, and sound messages could inspire the communication between sound and vibrations; between vibrations and the awakening of the extra sensory responses.

This brings us to the question of ether, or space, or ākāśa. There is an indefinable power in space which animates it. And through this animation wave-lengths get evolved, and become carriers of the minutest sound that is produced by air movements in space. The planets move in the space. Millions of bodies move about. Even where the space is windless and soundless, there is still some power which radiates sound. We call it ‘form in no-form! (rupa-arūpa or gunanirguna). The stillness of the night cannot be altogether so still. The sounds around us are either too subtle, or too high for our physical ear drums to pick up. The centre of sound is soundless. At its navel, or vortex, even the fire is supposed to be cool. At the centre of restlessness lies asleep the Seşa, the Ultimate, -Narayana at peace. We sing of this truth in a hymn:

Peace is asleep on the coils of Restlessness

The abode of the universe is a single space.

To penetrate this is beyond all yoga;

This Is Vişnu, Narayana, the delighter

of the power of growth.

[Santākāram Bhujaga, śayanam

padmanabham sureśam

 viśvādhāram gagana südrśam

meghavarnam subhängam

lakşmīkāntam kamalanayanam

yogibhi-r-dhyāna gamyam

vande Vişnum bhavabhaya haranam

sarva lokaika nātham.]

What would one not pay in order to identify this cosmic sound, the sound that clings to the whirling planets, the zooming stars, and forms a cosmic link between the seen and the unseen. The physical ear is not enough to receive this; we must develop our spiritual senses Then alone we come to know the unknown. To be with the cosmic, one must realise to belong to the cosmos. (I am Brahman: aham brahmāsmi.)

Aum

This cosmic sound, the ideal nāda Brahman (the sound waves that bind all into one) has been formed into the great mantra AUM, (OM) the exact pronunciation of which comes to the tongue after a long practice under expert guidance. It is a combination of three sounds in one.

It combines, inter alia,

1.       The obvious; the inferential; the world beyond inference.

2.       Start; continuity and growth; return to the flux.

3.       Tranquillity; energy; inertia.

4.       Cosmos; order; chaos.

 

There are many more variants of the explanations of this mantra In articulating the sound A-U-M (wrongly and inaccurately pro nounced as OM, a result of human hurry and impatience) the mecha nism of articulation covers three stages of sound projection. These three stages signify the three esoteric stages of beginning, continuity and closure.

Let us explain this. It only illustrates what care was applied in the formation of these esoteric sound-seeds known as mantras. Mauras are never to be treated as random inanities.

AUM as a sound is composed of (a) an opening vowel uttered with open lips; and (b) a continuing vowel with squeezed lips, and then, (c) closing the lips finally with a lip-closing consonant that cannot be pronounced without the assistance which the previous vowel gives. “A” as in ‘saw’; ‘U’ as in ‘put’; and just the letter M without pronouncing it as ‘EM’, (in ‘pronouncing’ which we take the help of the vowel ‘E’.) The single M sound cannot be pronounced; and it brings the upper lip firmly down on the lower. It denotes the opening of Life with the sound ‘A’, and closing it with a firm clap, as death does. Death closes as ‘M’, which closes, in Devanagari (Sanskrit) alphabets, the consonant community. The spirit of Life and Death; creation and disintegration; supraconscious, conscious, and dormant states of consciousness,-all are reflected in this sound. Yogis hold on to it. The vibrations of the three-sounds-in-one (AUM) have been timehonoured, and proved, more by their results than by dry casuistry and sophistry.

This mantra AUM (or OM) has been accepted in Japan and China, in the far away South-Eastern countries of Asia, in Indo-China,. Ceylon, India, and the ancient Orient; it originated in and was accepted by countries and civilisations where 57 per cent of mankind lived. These people speak of highly developed languages based on Sanskrit,. Greek, Arabic and Chinese. Any language unrelated to these languages is still called tribal, undeveloped. This group of languages, and these people, from times immemorial, have been using this mantra for awakening their spiritual consciousness.

AUM, the mantra, has been the ‘seed’ sound for the Buddhists, Taoists, Mahāyāna and Hinayāna tantriks, and of course for the Vedists. Even in the Semitic religions we find the use of a similar sound, ‘-hom’, as the suffix of some other sound.

The sound has taken many forms, the more popular ones are om, aum, hung, hum, hoom, ung and... hom’. Let us warn at the beginning, even at the risk of being taken for a non-believer, that variations do not much matter. The utterance with proper reflection and meditation shall reach perfection with gradual progress. The exact sound function need not matter much at the beginning; but it is necessary to be warned here that it does not matter ‘much’; just ‘much’. Indeed in reality it does matter, and has to matter. For, one must remember the lessons already learnt about the prang-effect, or the vibrational effect of mantra and its repeated utterance. These vibrations cannot be ignored at all. Correct pronunciation results in correct vibrations. But it would be equally a great mistake to ignore the ‘sense’ value of a mantra for the sake of the sound value alone. The sense value of of antra appeals to the inner personality that gets merged in the joy animera appite the sound-value concerns the mechanism of the nerve based personality alone. The first is the repository of bliss; the second is only instrumental. If the two could be synchronised, good enough. But if one has to demand the ‘first’ care, the sense-value must get the priority. Yet, the sound effects cannot be ignored. Bad instruments always create obstructions to quick and accurate results.

Meanings have been added to the three stages of the sound; even pictures of this sound have been variously drawn.

The exact pronunciation does not matter in the sense that exact pronunciation has been lost in the maze of hoary times; and what remain are adaptations of the sound in various parts of the world amongst various peoples. Whatever the guru, or the expert, personally as directs by way of pronunciation, together with, and in the light of the meaningful concept, is to be practised as the seed mantra.

The picture-form , idol-form, symbol-form or merely an alphabetical form differs from system to system of alphabets, languages and be racial characteristics. In all these outwardly differing forms the picture of a half circle with a dot (a crescent with a star) remains symbolically consistent. It signifies that in the ultimate objective of realisation outward forms do not much matter. Religion implies the recognition of the ultimate spirit of god.

Šabda Brahman or, nida or cosmic sound concept is best illustrated by a circle. But the God-idea itself is the idea of the immense, and cannot be bound or restricted. Although could image an idea, yet no image could completely bind up immensity as an idea Hence this circular representation could not be correct. It restricts immensity, which is falsifying the image-idea. In order to suggest the image of unbounded immensity within a bounded circle’s restrictions a part of the circle is left incomplete. Hence the crescent form. Thus never the circle (©) but ever the half circle, (i.e.,) is accepted as the truer representation of the näda Brahman.

Yet God cannot be incomplete. The word ‘God’ is supposed to carry the most complete concept in any field of human thought. The God-idea is the ultimate realisation of any idea. It is the hypothesis, the development and the thesis. ‘God’ is the index, the infinity. It is pointed, the fruition, the continuity. Like the concept of ‘God’ pounding has existence, but no magnitude. And things illustrated by the point within the half circle (o), or the sand half circle repeated thrice(ccc) as the Siva tantra followers do. The Mahayana tantriks of Tibet signify this by the single eye, ((.)). The stylised deformations of this basic iden might differ from country to country; but the basic idea holds.

Yogis Agree to Differ

Thus both in sound and shape om or aum as a seed mantra has been helping the yogis of all times. Yogis have no differences amongst themselves; their exercising paths do differ. Very naturally so. Yogis always maintain their regard for yogis. They do not argue; they do not differ as missionaries might. This is the difference between the realised and the scholarly; a wise sage and an advocating preacher. The first one is actively joyous, the second one is an energetic enthusiast.

One of the basic and significant signs of a true yogi is a spirit of acceptance and tolerance. Such tolerance comes from a grip on firmness. Compassion and forgiveness become the acclaimed virtues of a yogi. He forgives because he feels strong. In spite of this, the pursuit to the path of the Great Unknown has been tragically littered with ruins soaked in blood, fire and tears.

I recall how Nārada’s voice used to falter whenever he touched on this point: viz., the atrocities indulged by spiritual freebooters, greedy arsonists and cynical marauders in the name of religion.

Only two vices could be held responsible for this crime. One is the lust of possession, and the other is the lust for power. Power to acquire, and to hold on to its acquisition.

Those who fight for this power are the demons; and those who feel the vanity and emptiness of it all, are the divine people who care for the beauty and love for life and the world.

Love as Power

“There is yet another kind of power”, Narada continued.

“This is the power to give and sacrifice,” the loving Vaisnava said. “Give love; give sympathy; give care; give friendliness and companionship. Give it near and far; give it to known and unknown, rich and poor, friend and foe, the deserving as well as the undeserving. A man of love does not sit on judgement on the poor showings of others. A man of love floods out the misdeeds of the evil doer, or the wrong thinking of the misdirected, by an overwhelming surge of love. He soothes all inner burns by the balm of forgiveness. A man of love has so much love that there would not be left any place in his heart for doubt or hesitation.

“As has been said, love is a power; and like a powerful avalanche a powerful bulldozer, it sweeps away and removes every angularity, apsense of difference. It needs courage to carry such power to destined end; but the yogi is well equipped to carry such power with a tranquil grace. Remember the Buddha? The Christ? Those were the true yogis.

“Such power transforms a common man into a loving, compas sionate, liberal person. This is godly power. A man of love is a man of god. The one who could bear this power without ego is a yogi, Lord Śiva is Śiva because he consumed all the poison that threatened life. Jesus is Lord Jesus because by his own blood he washed the guilt of the world. Siva, or Jesus does not belong exclusively to you or me, this sect, or that commune. A yogi is a universal man. He belongs to all. If sin is everywhere, virtue is everywhere too. If there is darkness, there is light too. Darkness is nothing but light’s hunger for more light.

“The yogi by a spiritual process could acquire power. But unless his mind is responsive to the suffering hearts around, unless he is inspired by the spirit of altruism, unless he himself cries for removing the tears of the suffering, he cannot go out of himself, and feel free.

“Liberation is not acquired merely for idling or vegetating. Libera tion’s power is elemental. Liberation is a birth right to be acquired more spiritually than politically. One must feel free as the elements: the air, the sky, the light and heat from the sun, the rains and the sound. One must feel natural. The elements as well as the yogi relate their power to the source, the cosmos. Thus they are able to derive their power from the Cosmic Source. A man of God receives to distri bute; takes to give; exists to bestow; works to serve. A man of God follows principles to maintain the balance of form and order.

The yogi seeks this rta; this order; this ability to harmonise with to kee, A yogi’s chief achievement is to acquire skill in living, to st deceit himself engaged in others. But he uses keep clear of the deceitful trap of asmita (ego, I-ness), hands acquire the submis dedication of a servant of man. The ‘do-good people do good to ‘others’. Who the ‘others”? All is ‘I’. Yet others are there; the ante force, ‘Others’ here mean a contrary and fundamental anti-force. The forces of imbalance and disorderliness. The yogi helps fight this antiforce, and assists in the fight against disorderliness, selfishness, cynicism, and brings about, or at least dedicates his life to the attempt of bringing about an order of peace and equality in the normal external functions of life, and a balance in its internal responses. This is action with personal detachment; war without malice; possession without being possessed; power for service; and fullness of efforts for further achievements. One has to be a dedicated yogi to wield this power. Such alone are called the Supermen.”

A Powered Seat

The sessions were held regularly at the Bhāskarānanda mausoleum. To be there daily had become a routine. The Lady in Saffron used to refer to my absences obliquely, but gracefully, indicating her hearty approval. “Gather ye rose buds whilst ye may,” she used to mean in her own language. She used to sing a beautiful song. ‘Burn and burn until pure gold is obtained’ (Khüb koré tui purdiyé śonā khānți koré ne).

There were no appointments. We had become involved in an unchartered modus operandi, and we could perfectly participate in each other’s movements. Often at our doors he would drop in, and my father would look at him with significant smiles, which he would reciprocate. At times they would fall into a hearty but whispering conversation. The light of joy that beamed over the faces of the two indicated a kind of rapport for enjoyment of life in its fullness.

One of these days Närada suddenly asked me if I was interested in seeing and hearing for myself what a good yogi might achieve.

Of course I was by then too involved to turn down such a proposal.

He introduced me to a particularly ‘powered’ place, where some sort of vibration was immediately perceptible. What a place!

Close to the mausoleum of Bhaskarānanda there used to be in those days a stretch of straggling woodland with a tank secreted within its forbidding thickets. Besides the tank in the wilderness nestled several abandoned unkempt ancient temples and crumbling structures. The surroundings appeared to have been unmarked, and avoided. Why, I had no idea. Porcupines, rabbits, the ever busy squirrels and the patient lizards, wild hogs and serpents along with hosts of mongoose and chamelion played and frisked amongst the cacti; akanda and basaka shrubbing here and there amidst the thick growth of tall trees: mangoes, jackfruits, toddy palms, silk cotton, bakuls, mahuas, Jamuns, peepals and of course the king of such wilderness, the royal banyan with its hundreds of root staves supporting a gorgeously green and cool canopy. Innumerable migratory birds as well as local ones kept up a lively vernal orchestra. The eerie mystery and coolness of the spidery surroundings, would always keep off the casual stroller.

Today the solemn panorama, raped and exposed, has given way to a large cinema hall, and the associated vulgarities and noise. Commercial hooliganism has completely eroded the quiet solemnity of the days that are no more.

The tank exists to this day as an anachronism amidst the modernised tourist attractions. A little away, to the western side of the tank, hidden within a mango grove, there used to stand a quiet and modest stucco structure with a flat roof. It was a cubic structure hardly eight by eight, with a possible height of mere six feet. It looked like a box. The only door was locked from outside, and over this lock spiders had woven heavy webs. Besides the door, at a height of about five feet, a small window with bars carried light and air within.

The Statue

On a June afternoon, for no accountable reason at all (except perhaps the will of Narada who had been keen on my confronting some yogic power) I had selected this mango grove, instead of the mausoleum, for my meditations. Why was I attracted to this wilderness is beyond me to explain, except that Narada had introduced me here. He knew.

After entering the woods I stood on the stone banks of the tank. Inviung clear water stood below several flights of sandstone steps. I took off whatever little 1 was putting on, and took a thorough refreshing bath.

The bath completed, I entered the deeper woods. A brain-fever bird and a woodpecker kept up a lively dialogue. But the harsh sounds deepened the seclusion and thickened the mysterious feel of the place. It was so quiet, secluded and peaceful there.

I looked around hard for the source of that creeping sensuous pull, when I spotted through the grove a humble building hidden within the bushes. No sign of human life was around; not even a pedestrian’s trace to the structure’s only cobwebbed door. The ever-present monks were conspicuous by their absence. Under a huge jackfruit tree, its barks and trunk bursting with fruits as large as a year-old baby, there stood a brick platform covered with moss, and punctuated with uninviting holes.

I came to it, touched it, and decided at once to sit on it for my meditation. There was some electric contact there. What a seat! I took off my only cotton garment and folded the same to be used as an asana. Very soon I realised that I had been indeed sitting on a highly charged sanctified seat.

I had dropped into the ocean of tranquil peace, and remained there, I do not know how long; but the sun was about to set when finally I came to.

Something was naggingly holding on to me, tugging at my entrails, as it were, and I felt to be held by a strong spell. Drops of cold icicle globules seemed to shoot through my spine again and again. This world meant so little to me then; and as a pilgrim walking over the space of another world I strolled, half-dazed, towards the forsaken cubic building in the distance. What was pulling me to it? I noticed the dumb dusty look; I noticed the cobwebs. But the familiar aroma of burning camphor, sandal and frankincense drew me nearer and nearer, until I reached the grated window. With the help of a few stone slabs I gained a footing and peeped into the room.

Imagine my surprise when my attention fell on a normally seated human form, clad in punctillious white, not allowing me to know if the form was that of a male or of a female. The face itself could be seen merged in quiet and serene beauty. Long locks were tied in a knot up on the head; and the cheek appeared to be smooth. A yogi (or a yogini?) in samādhi.

As I was standing there staring at the form, I wondered if it was alive, or dead, or merely a statue. For it to be a statue the hair was too alive, the skin too vibrant, the eyelashes, dark and young, too real. Nivāta nişkampatayā vibhāti yogadhirűdha iva mārutena: description of Siva in yoga by the poet Kälidäsa. (Looked like a yogi in trance, as steady as a flame of lamp in windless serenity.) Of course the whiteness and smooth folds of the garment revealed a freshness that could not have been even a morning old.

The Cry

I was still wondering if it were dead or alive; if it were indeed a marble statue. A lamp was burning. A few flowers lay scattered on the slightly raised stone platform on which the yogi kept seated on a deer skin. I tried with all my heart to ask the question, “Are you alive, yogi? Are you of us, of this world?” I must have asked the question. For immediately, as the question cried within me, a tearingly shrill note, echoing within the walls of the small room, hooted firmly, start. Ingly and definitely.... but only once. The sharp cry, like a bird locked unawares within a closed room, and frantically trying to find a way of escape, knocked itself against the blind walls, and sensitively spiralled in echoes and counter-echoes, until the rustling autumn leaves in the wood outside absorbed the last faint vibrations within the thousand moans of its fallen leaves. And then the silence grew darker. Did it mean that the form was alive? When I was tempted to form another question, and test if the shrill affirmative note was indeed in response to my question, suddenly I felt a firm grip pulling at my shoulders. I was dislodged from my stone look-out.

I came dislodged. I was standing secure on ground.

That grip had shaken me to my depths. But as I looked at the tall imposing figure still holding my shoulder in his grip, I was shaken all the more. The figure looked familiar, but with the confusion raging through my mind 1 failed to spot him, as I should have done. The white cotton cloth around his waist, and the other end of the same cloth thrown around his shoulders, brought before my mind the tall lonely figure I used to see at the Catuhşaşthi temple. (The Sixty-four yogini temple referred to before. He was the one who had pressed the bead on my forehead.)

It took time for me to recognise and absorb him. I had never heard him speak. All I had heard from him was the incessantly poignant cry, ‘Mother! Mother!’

No, he had not broken his vow. He had not spoken a word. But his gaze burned. Immediately turning around, he began to walk very fast. I began to run after him. Why, I did not realise. But I kept following, as if I had no alternative. He suddenly cut through a wood of sacred ash-apple trees. Belhattä was the name given to the wilder ness; and no one dared enter and cross this section at night; never without at least a companion. He took a steady north-easterly direction until he had cleared the old waterworks complex. Then suddenly it dawned on me that the day was a Tuesday, and on this day the woods of the Bhairava temple attract a number of aspirants.

I was not mentally prepared to get to the Batuk Bhairava shrine at that hour. It was a difficult shrine. I felt that like another night’s excursion to the Nepali shrine, I was being ‘led’ to a place where ! should not go; not at least without the knowledge of the Lady in Saffron.

To an Asana

But I had no choice. I felt tied hand and foot. The cry, ‘Mother! Mother!’ preceded me, and I kept my steps behind. We reached the shrine. But he did not stop there. Another five hundred yards to the west stood the almost abandoned shrine of Kämäksyä. The Mother’s most mystic rites were performed here. It was a shrine of occult rites. Only on one day in the year, my mother used to bring the children here; but it had always to be the day time, when she sought blessings from the yogi of the shrine, who was widely respected, and

Feared. The sun had set for about an hour and a half. There was no moon. The place was blanketted under a dark hush. The tall figure had now slacked his pace; and was eagerly searching for some indications. Then I noticed a light.

At the back of the shrine, standing in the middle of a very wide yard, which covered almost an acre and a half of land, under an arched corridor a fire was alight. This roofed corridor built in stone, ran all along the four sides of the yard. But for the only door that gave access to this shrine, along the entire square ran this roofed corridor.

Before I could approach the fire I saw the Lady in Saffron waiting for me in the yard. But the tall figure continued his progress, until he assumed a seat. Some other persons unknown to me were seated around the fire.

Apparently a special rite was in progress.

The Lady held my hand, and the first question I heard, amazed me. “Where have you left your dhoti (loin-cloth) dear yogi?”

Indeed I stood stark naked!

For the first time I realised that I had left my loin-cloth at the foot of the jackfruit tree, on the platform. I had used it as an asana, but never remembered to pick it up. What a sight I might have made as I had crossed naked through the city’s roads. She at once tore a wide piece of cloth from her saffron sari, and asked me to breach that between my thighs.

Then she put her hands on my head, and began to chant a mantra, I held my head down. Gradually I was led to a congregation. I could detect three familiar faces. One was the Vaisnava saint Närada; one was the Bhairava guardian saint of the Batuk-Bhairava shrine; and the third one was my silent friend, the tall saint, later known as Sadhu Jitendra of Varanasi.

There sat some other persons also. All of them were seated forming a circle. The Bhairava himself was throwing butter soaked offerings into the fire. The hissing sound, and the spreading fragrance, made me suspect fleshly substances being offered. A jug of drink was placed conveniently for all to help themselves. I noticed that the Lady in Saffron, and Narada drank only from their personal water jugs which they always carried. I was given a drink from the Lady’s jug. After the drink my mind experienced a kind of erosion, and gradually a new mind, more sensitive, more alert, more receptive emerged; and it covered my sense-world entirely. Various lights in dancing colours kept consciousness at a new level of delight. I felt the Lady in Saffron drawing me closer and closer to her body, as always in seances. Actually she appeared to be making room for a stranger, who was a Bhairavi, young, vibrant and well featured.

I heard the Lady in Saffron inform her, as she pushed me towards her, “Take this one as your own. Provide the āsana for him... Do not hesitate...He will bear it...He is anointed. He is used to the bandha (union)...Only you must remain careful. Remember; 1 repeat; he is anointed...Do not cause him disruption...”

1 was listening. I could follow her motives. But I remained dumbfounded. I realised that I had gone to the wilderness driven by the will of my friend Närada, who wanted me to experience the direct power from a yogi. Now I realised that it was also the will of the Lady in Saffron.

I recalled how I was made to take a naked bath. How I was purified by the long meditation. I was built up through the miraculous meeting with the great yogic form. I was with a purpose guided to the spot by Saint Jitendra. And lastly, before going into the medita tion I was being offered a new āsana, a new sādhikā, an unknown female alter ego. Obviously I was under a test, my first real test.

Yogesvari

Narada had promised, I remembered, to bring me to a direct experience with the power of yoga; and then he had vanished. The string of events that took place after the promise was significantly strange to me. The figure in samadhi under the banyan shade in the woods still held me in awe. He (?) was known as Mother (?) Yoges vart, as I had come to learn later. I was also to learn that I could call her, and ask direct questions, after a session of meditation, and receive answers in that shrill sound. When the same sound came twice in quick succession, as if it came along in the course of inhalation and exhalation, it meant a ‘No’. This I have tested many times, and many times I found that the shrill sound was infallible.

How the white robed form came there, who she had been, what were the references, I never came to know; but I did hear from my parents that the apparition had been nothing but a memorial statue. Yet I am sure I found it to be alive whenever I approached ‘her’ for answers. Now when I go there I do not even feel to have any questions, neither do I ask any, and of course there would be no answers.

Neither can I approach her for answers. The openness of my mind has since been closed. Now when I go there, I too find her nothing more than a statue. The magic of bringing stones to life has long since slipped away from my weak mind. Only the strong and the fearless, the stout of heart and selfless could achieve and retain the secret mystery of the powers unknown. Now when I go, the banyan with its straggling umbrella-branches, the abounding jackfruit tree, the dry stone steps, the pulsating water in the tank remain mute, and send me no messages. Even memories pass into skeletons.

The agony of the growing youth fills the soul with many questions. Youth over, the ego of man gets too hardened to get immersed in and saturated with the spirit of true prayer.

That I owed the experience to Närada, I had no doubt. That the place was also the favourite haunt of Saint Jitendra, I had no doubt. That both Narada and Saint Jitendra had been working in league with my Lady in Saffron, I had no doubt.

As the unfolding events would tell.

 

 

 

8

A Pack of Four

I, an Asana Flanked by Narada on one side, and the Lady in Saffron on the other I lay down on the bare floor, flat on my back. I was, as usual, nude, and knew what was going to happen. Who cared? On one side Narada, on the other side the Lady in Saffron. The unknown Sakti sat on me in Sukhapadmāsana. The only other one who sat on a similar human āsana was the Bhairava himself. Of course he had his uttara sādhikā (alter ego) to assist him.

The hours of the night had passed in quiet solemnity. Tārā, Tără Tära! At the sudden cry of the Bhairava we all became alert. He was chanting, and we had all joined. The last lines of the famous hymn from the Mahānirvana Tantra rang out through the quiet solemo void.

HRING! Oh Destroyer of time! ŚRING! Oh the Terrific Onel KRING!

Thou who are beneficent! Night of Darkness...of opaque desire,

Thou art yet the liberator from all bonds of desire.

Then it was followed by the lines from the celebrated Käli hymn. The dark gloom trembled and shivered. Thrill after thrill followed in measured succession.

Mother, this chant sung with care, this homage paid with the proper rites makes the souls of mortals purified, when together with the worship, they offer their souls to the pair of your lotus feet: this prayer sung through the midnight whilst the worship goes on, makes even the words of the demented flow with a sweet sense of poetry...

And soon after rose the solemn chants, repeatedly, like gong bells striking in rhythm, and resonating within.

OM HUM KŞAM YAM  RAM LAM VAM KROM

OM HUM KŞAM YAM RAM LAM VAM KROM

 OM HUM KŞAM YAM RAM LAM VAM KROM

 sarva-vighņān-nāśaya nāśaya

Followed by, mahäkäli bhairava hrim phat svāha...

 

Then the hiss... the flame leaping up... and the familiar smell of the burning of the fur and skin of some animal.. (salomāsthi svairam pelalaniapi märjāramasite...) soon I got immersed. No smell, no light, no sound from the chants disturbed, or should I say, reached me; neither the weight of the one who was embracing me with her bare thighs. Her heels locked and pressed against the kundalani point, a little below the svadhisthāna granthi (nerve point of the second lotus).

My consciousness stood at a standstill like a lamp in a windless sky: yet I did experience the feeling of being carried at a very high speed through masses and masses of light bodies, like shooting stars, through the ‘starry meads’ as mystery poems describe, until a blinding beam of light began to whirl around me shedding beams after beams of brilliantly waving colours, and I appeared to crave for some quiet, some peace, some tranquil pause, just to inhale, and cope with the thrilling breath taking experience.

Then suddenly dawned a period of tranquillity, with the speed still vibrating.

Have you ever noticed a frisking squirrel speeding up the trunk of a tree, and then waiting, and watching you for a split second? Have you noticed at that split moment the bristles standing still on its back, and yet thrilling with a strange expectancy? Naturalists call it rader charged action of the fur of the rodent. That pause from speed, that stilled thrill between speed and speed. Do you visualise? Some sublime satisfaction, some fulfilled glee of having what you always longed to have, bathing you with a cool delight. It is an experience that leaves the nerves not tired, but rejuvenated; not dismayed, but strengthened. It is a tonic that makes the mind dare. Dreaded courage takes further strides, and new hopes leap. The innermost being of consciousness, the soul’s very identity, then feels secured; one feels utterly nonattached; a kind of disregard for anything that lacks the soul power.

It strengthens the being. Under its drive the feeling of allness of the soul becomes supreme...

How long shall I continue to describe it? It is futile. It is useless. It was a feeling of ‘joy forever’.

In December, 1977 on my return to India, I visited that haloed shrine again. I had the earnest desire to meet the Bhairava. The day i had reached was the second anniversary of his ascension. But his alter ego, the same Bhairavi uttara śādhikā still lingered there, crumpled like a dark prune. I was not a little amazed to find that she had been anticipating the meeting. From her ready recognition, and eager. Ness I knew something was in progress. She was sitting outside her dark hovel, where she now spent her days, and ‘nights’.

Sonie other Bhairavas had taken over. She was kept at a venerable distance.

“No, I am alone now,” she replied to my enquiry. “The new Bhairava still needs some more years to mature; but this is how She wills: and we submit. I am training a new Bhairavi... Why not come next new moon night?... I hope you have not changed.”

I was not the same adept, I confessed; and excused myself for the time being. She, however, smiled, and assured. “Even a little of this, stands in good stead at hours of crisis.”... She had quoted the Gită, my favourite ‘bible.” “You will come back,” she continued. “I will be there, though not in this flesh. Still I will be. Come again. There is never a going away from the path. Come back.”

This was not the only time when I got lost to a feeling of supreme power, a bliss of profundity in joy, a recharging of the confidence of manhood in the personality of individual existence. A paradise lost reserves a paradise regained.

I had similar experiences on four more occasions.

Let me relate.

The Humble Saint

Once I too had asked of a saint the idiotic question, “How does it feel when one is in samadhi?” We have already referred to the touch ing lines of Vidyapati, the Vaisnava poet:

Do not ask. It is indescribable. Each word spoken thirsts for another word. The more it is described, the more remains to be dis the Notlagore says it succinctly, “You and I together. None to inter vene. Nothing to bar”, or “Within the magic lake of mind I experience a honeyed stillness; but I fail to gather even a drop, for that celestial sweetness eludes human grasp.”

No the contents of samadhi are beyond describing. This saint I was speaking of had visited my humble abode in the

Holy city of Prayag situated at the confluence of the two rivers, the Ganga and the Yamuna. Every twelve years here assemble all the different saints of the Hindu order, irrespective of modal differences.

On the appointed day in the heart of winter, a couple of million people, with at least five hundred thousand recluses, monks, anchorites, saints and sādhus (male and female) assemble for a ritual dip at the confluence, at a certain given time. From all over the great land of the Indian subcontinent, from the South-East Asian countries, and even from beyond. These godly people regularly assemble here on an appointed date. I have always felt intrigued how they keep scientifically so alert and accurate about the date without any media known and organised by the ‘civilised’. It takes so much of organised publicity to collect about a hundred thousand people during the Olympics; without any fanfare of publicity, any competitive, incentive, how do the masses assemble periodically. What moves them to dare the harassment? What cudoes do they expect? How is it all organised? Who organises? That event has remained a wonder to me.

That year, winter was exceptionally exacting; and conditions became more trying because of an early winter monsoon with hail and sleet. It was a trying Kumbha, as the sādhu-fair is called. (I recall that to have been the only January when I saw icecles in Allahabad.)

I had returned from an early bath at the confluence of holy rivers; and was very busy in wasting my time with some friends talking of literature and similar uselessly useful subjects, to the delicious accompaniment of cups of tea and hot snacks. It was an extremely material moment of fullness.

When came a knock; and with the knock entered a frail form, about five feet three inches, light stepped, donning a simple beard, not too long, and wearing just a light cotton piece, which having covered his loins could hardly cover his frail body. Locks, turned copperish through over exposure to the sun, hung loose on a pair of indistinguihed shoulders. The eyes were half closed.

Carried away by the youthful gaiety of nonchalance and fun, and excited by the hypnosis of uttering the wittiest and smartest remarks on Wilde, Shaw, Lawrence, Freud, Rolland, Eliot, Sartre, Gide, Jung, names, names and names, I ignored the slight person altogether. Taking him for a begging, mendicant I rudely directed him to try knocks at the other door. He might succeed to draw the attention of

My more devout mother. And he knocked at the other door.

Imagine my utter shock when a few minutes later I found my mother entering the room with smiles spread all over her face, and introducing the stranger as my cousin Chakravarty, who had been lost in the Himalayas these twenty years or more. He had come to pay homage to her, who had given him suck when orphaned as a baby.

The last we heard of him was when he had been working at the Royal College of Nepal as the Head of the Department of English; but then one morning he was found missing. And only now my mother had rested her eyes on the prodigal.

I had heard of my cousin C, and of his spiritual greatness. Now I got an opportunity to see him at close quarters. At my mother’s earnest requests, he obliged her by the longest stretch of stay at one place; for four days. He would not disappoint her. He said that he had come to attend the bath no doubt; but his chief mission was to have a ‘final’ meeting with ‘one who had given him suck’. He should have been over fifty years in age; but he looked young; hardly thirty. He had not even greyed.

And gradually I came to be convinced of his sincere devotion to the life he led.

So, I could not resist to learn from him. I wanted to know from him what do saints actually realise in samādhī.

Feeling Free with the Supreme

“How does samādhi taste?” The question nagged. “This was the time,” I thought.

Those four days were to me four years of reconstruction. The time I had passed at the university, engrossed in collecting learning of a different kind had been, spiritually, years of a wide waste with nothing of growth, or even of maintenance of what I had acquired.

Finding saint C within the precincts of my homely surroundings I indulged in some kind of mental refreshments, spiritual replenish ments. It was a kind of indulgence that he condiscendingly sanctioned. He tolerated me with infinite patience.

Of the many questions the one I asked most emphatically was direct one. “Why did he have to leave all his past duty-bound commitments behind, and take to this lonely path? What were its gains? What exactly did it offer? Why this yoga? To what end?”

I had already warned him not to trade with me the cheap common pretentions about filling the heart and soul with love, and come back for serving humanity with love etc. By now I had seen how such empty presumptions could lead to fraud and pretence.

 

If that were so true, filling the heart with love etc, why like Krsna, other supermen had been able to fulfil their respective obligations to spirit, in spite of being fully involved in life? In fact most of the Vedic and Puranic rşis, if not all of them, had served their times with dedication, in spite of the fact that they were householders? They did not seek total seclusion by embracing a run-away life, in order to equip themselves with the necessary power.

“Are you questioning me for your knowledge,” he asked, “or, are you criticising my way of life as I live now? Are you angry with me brother?”

His eyes were half closed; his frail figure was held straight as he sat in the Padmasana posture (as he always did); his voice was poised, smooth, calm and sonorous. The very picture would convince any cynic of the earnestness of his mission, and the depth of his ‘knowledge’ of things. He indeed was all spiritual. A man realised. He, to my mind, represented the quintessence of a yogic bliss. How contented and self-contained was his demeanour.

And where was I? Cut off from my regular line of power, away from the practices, covered by doubts, impounded by a willing slavery to ‘reason’ (as the Western thoughts had taught me to be), I had turned domesticated, practical. I was racing after ‘success,’ as I was bedevilled to understand and accept ‘success’. I was teaching in those days, and knew no end of my conceit for knowledge!

Close-eyed, he was waiting for my answer.

“I am doing nothing of the kind,” I said. “All I am asking, and I have got to ask is, why must one run away from life, and seek something intangible and immaterial, if the subsequent gain is zero, or less than zero? What do you get out of this stake? What? You have to tell me please.”

The eyes closed, the body held straight and aloof, the voice sedate and cool, ‘C’ replied, “I have to, as you ask. And I will.”

Then there was silence.

I recalled my old days. I used to be tolerant with such pauses and silences, I held my breath, and waited.

“I seek joy; eternal joy; joy for life; joy for the living.”

“Do not talk rubbish.” My irritation at having to listen to these

Cliches made me intolerant. “I have got sick of hackneyed phrases. If there is so much joy collected for the living, as you say and insist, you and the like of you-then, why am I not in joy? Why? Why is so much suffering all around? Since the Buddha and Jesus we have been accustomed to live on this poor pottage! Now enough of it!”

(How impatient and impudent I had turned out to be because of the grooming I had received in a soul-less university!) “Your joy and my joy could be very differently sought and differen-

Tly viewed. What do you mean by joy? Have you ever tasted joy?” As soon as the question was asked, the closed eyes opened.

But that look! It was the glitter from a diamond in a dance hall filled with redundant people. A personal focus of attention in an impersonal crowd.

“Of course I had my moments of joy”, I said. “So what?”

“Moments....” he chuckled. “Like what? When? How?... Let me see.”

“Art gives me great satisfaction”, I said. “Art, literature. Good and noble literature. Art, literature, music....”

“Pause. Pause. Hold your breath, and pinpoint exactly what you seek, and what you get as what you term as joy. Precisely if you may.”

“I cannot. My sublimest moments of the most satisfying experience of joy come invariably from excellent pieces of sublime literature...” “Like what? Give me an example, please.”

I began after a moment’s hesitation. “All right. If you insist. Shakespeare for example.

He did not allow me to finish. I smelt, somehow, that he had almost cornered his quarry after calculated stalking.

“Quote lines, for example, Quote.” It was a stern command. And meekly I followed suit, and recited:

Our revels are now ended.

These our actors,

As I foretold you, were all spirits, and

Are melted into air, into thin air;

And like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

 Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded

Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff

As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.

I remember that I had put my all into reciting those lines; and the effect created the desired solemnity.

Saint ‘C’ had kept his eyes half closed. His limp arms lay on his laps, fingers gathered into a prayer posture.

“How long did it last? How long does it last pray? This excellent feeling of feeling free with the supreme of all sensations?”

Feeling free with the supreme of all sensations! What a way to express ecstatic experience. I was impressed; nay overwhelmed. The magic of a profound presence, a close friendliness, was at work. And I quietly submitted, “Not very long I believe; not long at all. That’s 1 the tragedy. “The Call eludes the sight and the touch. Has it got congealed in this vernal voice of the Infinite?’ That’s how Tagore cries. We all cry.”

“No! Not all. My source of joy is a magic fountain. It is like the tap you use in your home. You open it, and leave it open as long as you want to have the water you need; and you close it, when you do not need any more. At your own free will at your beck and call it operates. If you wanted to use the shower for hours, days, months, years well, it is up to you, the blessing of water pours, pours, pours. And soon as you want to stop, well, turn it off. It is essentially yours. It is within you. This fountain of joy. It is under your control. You command it; you maintain it... Yes this fountain of joy is all yours. Soul is the refuge of soul. Soul is the light of soul. Yoga bestows it; sādhanā prepares it; samādhi enjoys it; and the sadhu roams free from all ‘whats’ and ‘whys’, obligations and commitments. He is committed to only one thing; this joy, which he spreads; he brings peace to those who seek it. And there are so many who seek. I seek for instance. And you, if I have known you correctly. There is no tragedy but what we ourselves compose. We the poets; we the actors; we the audience.”

“What is it that man gets in samādhi?”, I asked. “Please make it clearer, We are getting lost in poetry.” “What is it,” he counter-questioned in the known Indian way of

Teaching, “that man wants to get most?” “Joy; happiness I suppose,” I replied. “Or contentmert may be, in a different language”.

“That will do. Now, answer me. Do you feel clean amongst the unclean?” he asked. When I replied in the he negative, he continued, contentment, when there “Then, how could one experience joy, call it is suffering all around? Yet man must seek and find joy. Else his life would be barrenly lived. Moreover, one cannot give what one has not got. In order to give joy, one must have joy. Then what is the s tion?” he asked. “Enigma? Eh?”, he chuckled.

“Not so,” I said. “Buddha, for instance, might have to say that the solution lies in freedom from birth, or some other like rubbish, with which I have the least desire to meddle with.”

He ignored my slight, and continued.

“To feel clean it is not enough to be clean; it becomes the duty of those who want to feel clean to make their surroundings clean. They have to work hard for it; but then, there seems to be no other way open. In a world left unclean there is no chance of feeling clean.

“So about joy. Man must work for the removal of suffering. Every. Thing, every method, every devise appears to be sanctified, ethical, if it could remove universal suffering, sufferings of the living in body, sufferings of the mind, and sufferings from lack of expression, or communication. This equally involves economical suffering, spiritual suffering and political suffering. Whatever is done for removing these kinds of suffering is holy, god’s work. This I believe.

“This is also what Rāma believed, Krsna believed. This is why we call them supermen, gods, removers of suffering. Love alone should be enough to make the evil understand, and turn to the good way. But when love and understanding fails, as failed in the case of the Kauravas, then the violent way is the correct way. Only one way is left. The violent way. Because a duty cannot be given up. Then even a violent way becomes a way. Under the pressure of love and softness duty cannot be given up. Like sama (peace) and dama (control), danda (punishment) is also one of the assigned means of correction. Extreme in extreme cases. Not to adopt the same would be wrong. Stand that much. And I agree with you. But what makes a Krsnaa I under Krsna? What makes a man a superman? What makes him a being apart?”

I had to reflect awhile before I could reply. “It appears to be his capacity of understanding, forbearance, wisdom, added to his ability to bring himself directly in opposition to the vile and the vicious, and fight it with strength and power, if, of course, his power of love fails.”

I was not entirely pleased with my lifeless reply!

“You are not getting clear to yourself”, he said, “A superman distinguishes himself from the common run of men by the great challenging virtue of involvement; involvement without the least selfish motive. The genuinely powerful must feel involved in the least of social transgressions. None should feel free of other lives, Lives are interrelated by an unseen and inscrutable bond of fellowship. One disturbed life sparks off a host of chained disturbances. Such imbalances must be rectified with a strong hand, Maintaining equilibrium becomes a demanding responsibility of the superman. Kina, and his active involvement with the society he lived in, for example. He was indeed a superman.

“But wishing is not acting. Acting without power is a weak action; and weak action generates a general weakness in corpus socialis. Therefore effective action calls for power; and this power to be abidingly effective must flow from spiritual ability alone. Again, look at Kisna’s life, which is a record of total love. Total dedication can come only out of total love. Without the backing of personal power how could one wield power? If some one has been himself lacking in love, what will he give? So the root of good intentions springs from the power of love, or the ability to love; in yogic language we call it kauśala. It lies in self-control (dama): that self-control which makes one fight for others without personal ends. It calls for tremendous resourcefulness in acquiring spiritual power, which could be charged from the yogic sources alone. This power is also known as ‘Grace’. It is the Mother of all powers. The light of this power removes the darkest intentions of evil minds. This is the eternal power of ecstasy (anandam).”

“What is exactly the nature of this anandam?”, I asked. This time my voice reflected my earnestness. I felt that ‘C’ felt pleased, and perhaps more relaxed. He radiated perceptively an aura of peace and joy. We were nearing a desired point of agreeableness.

“What about the joy you received from your association with the saints you have met?” He paused menacingly, and continued in a much deeper voice, with his eyes almost closed, “What about the old Lady of Varanasi, your aunt? Did she not lead you to joy?” “

“I have lost the touch. Now it appears to have been a thing of the past. In those days I would have risked anything for retaining that link with the source.” As I confessed, my voice charged with emotion faltered. Was I not feeling like a lost lamb? He suddenly looked at me; raised his palm, and continued. “Now, supposing I bring the  power back to you, which of these two kinds of joy you would like to have?... Not that I am proposing to bring it back. But let us talk, You had asked about the nature of this boyou, and answer th Which of these two kinds of joy is dearer to you, and why?

Did not hesitate; I did not falter. The spirit of the Lady in Saffron all did sudden me with courage. I wanted to be mercilessly true to myself. I said thar and literature. Spirit, and not the one derived

And at once came the question, “Why?”

Famous lines raced through my memory. Great sages have record. Ed this eternal answer in their words, words of all time. I just went on repeating, “What is that knowledge by knowing which all that is worth being known becomes known?. At immortality Know Him, and arrive

“To get that by getting which nothing else is again to be got; the firm feeling of that which when felt does not permit even the most acute suffering to affect feelings.

“When one arrives at this, the emotional self is stilled and pierced; all doubts come to an end; and actions are rendered free of reaction.”

But he stopped me, and said, “This joy is within yourself. It is like a flowing pipeline, supplying joy and sweetness from an eternal and unlimited reservoir. You open it and drink when you like, as I explained a while back. It is essentially your source of strength. From this strength you go from on to on.”

That has been up to this day the best description of this source of power, nay, the best transcended description of the joy that springs from this power.

Was I not on that mystic night at the Kāmāksyā shrine transcended to a region of light? But where has fled the light? Where? Where have gone the snows of yester years?

But I came to know of this mystery of love and power, bliss and eternity, yet again in the year 1954. This was about 12 years after the Prayag meeting with Saint ‘C’.

The Lost Leader

I had camped for some time at a height of 11,000 feet, away from the Tibet-Simla hills of the Himalayas. A group of young men from the universities were engaged in laying a part of the Himalayan roadk I was supposed to supervise their camp life, and discipline. The upshot was that I found myself in a thoroughly enjoyable role of a conscience keeper for those whose conscience was still found in a state of flux.

It so happened that I used to get away from the bustle during the evening; and one evening I lost my way in a deep forest. That part of the forest was notorious for pythons and bears. And I had descended to a considerable depth in a gorge, never realising how fast the evening with its darkness, could envelop a gorge. Along my climb up, there came a point when I knew I would not be able to make it, and must find myself a night’s shelter. I went round and round in the mountain-puzzle until, tired and perhaps scared, I realised I had fallen into a loop, coming back to the same point. I was perspiring heavily. I was out of breath. I felt I was on the point of fainting. I carried neither a torch, nor even a match box. All I depended on was a chance grabbed rude stick. Eventually I came upon a rather flat piece of stone. Readily I rested on it and tried to gain my breath, take my bearings, and perhaps to think about the next course of step. I was thinking; but at the same time I felt I was about to pass out.

The unrelieved solid mass of sombre opaque darkness overpowered my senses. The forest’s heavy breath steadily rose and fell, like the sleeping body of a mammoth python. Myriads of fireflies pinpointed the thick mantle of the dark. A strange vibration continued reporting me a message.

Somehow my mind was registering it. I ought to have felt lost. I ought to have felt scared. I ought to have been going through spells of nervousness of sorts. But no. Nothing like that happened. It felt as if I just woke up in my own room in the pit of a dark night, and found nature breathing more heavily and scaringly than it should. The familiar had become unfamiliar.

I realised that for me there was only one step to take, one thing to do. I sat in an asana, and made myself as relaxed as possible in the circumstances, and plunged in taking a dip within myself. I got merged in meditation.

Soon the hills cleared, and I was floating into space, instead of being engulfed by the heavy weight of the dark surroundings, I was floating through a sea of light of many colours. The body that contained myself was left far behind; and I was clothed by a superbly delightful aroma. At times a few stars like fireflies just brushed my breath, and flew at a much faster speed. I found myself singing my favourite verses from Tagore:

I watch at thy beauty with all my mind’s eye...

My eyes need no longer wander abegging.

I hear within me strange strings stirring;

A flute call keeps drawing me nearer

to what I always sought.

Then there came a moment when I ceased to exist at all; when to feel was to get lost in a sea of sheer delight. I must have passed out.

I continued perspiring heavily. I heard strange voices. The air felt warm, and the breath heavier with a thick smoke.

I saw a face peering over me. “You are safe; you are all right,” the voice assured in clear English.

Gradually, out of the unknown dark, materialised two faces I knew. These were two of the boys of the camp. They had come out in search of their lost leader.

I Want a Guru

By those faces, I noticed, was standing a strange young man clothed in his superbly pure nudity. He must have been nearing his thirties, and looked aglow with a piping health. Spiritual glow dripped from every strand of his hazel hair. He stood over me like a Hermes by Praxiteles in his classic frankness and simplicity. As soon as I saw him, I was filled with some newfound energy; and I got up, and sat on the rude floor. The two students were busy wiping my sweat, and a blanket, most certainly borrowed, was thrown over me to stop a mild shiver. A lamp burnt meekly; and a fire crackled.

It was a cave, L-shaped, the front not being three feet wide and about four feet deep. After a sharp bend at right angles the cave ran in a broken ovalish shape about eight feet deep. I had been sitting in this part, on the bare rock bestrewn with ashes.

I paid homage to the sage only after he had greeted me in a very sincere and respectable manner befitting yogis. He must have received formal education in academics, as his choice vocabulary in Sanskrit and English, specially his distinct pronunciation of each chosen word showed.

I could not resist a smile. “So”, I said, “you are the one causing this darkness, and confusion, the loss of tracks and the other things. You must be a troubleshooter of sorts. Thank you. Why do you call me? Why, at any rate this harassing recourse?.... feel puzzled.”

I was speaking in Sanskrit, and at times we both broke into English. The two boys stood confused. They did not understand a syllable of what had been transpiring between us.

“I needed you badly sir... very badly indeed. Pardon me for arranging this forced meeting without warning you. I had heard of your coming. The hill people talked of you. I would have much liked to come to you. But you see how I stand. I am helpless in a way. I feel ashamed to have to put on borrowed cover to suit the ignorant. I feel so easy and natural as I am. And when I walk in my natural state, I see that I embarrass others. So I do not move from this cave. I needed you, sir; I needed you. So I called. You have to pardon me. You have come. That is the big thing. Thank you. Thank you indeed. Please accept this.” He held out his hand holding a bunch of rhododendrons, in full bloom.

Accepting the charming gift I asked modestly, “Why... of all

Beings you must need me dear friend?” “I need a guru. I badly need a guru. I called you for this. Please do not deny me the privilege. I need you...”

That insistent appeal could have shaken any being. The two boys stood dumbfounded, as they now half realised what had been passing between us.

Then he revealed his tale to me.

He had been found inspired even as a child. Born in a family of Brahmin Vaisnavas he was picked by Christian missionaries, and educated by them. Soon the poor parents discovered a spiritual calling in the child, and became more and more concerned about it.

The mother was a devout Vaisnava; the father was a traditional Vedic Brahmin. The conservative family had no other child. After his school-leaving test when he had been taking studies at the university, he came to his mother and asked for a ‘release’ from life in the everyday world. He needed permission from the mother to become a pilgrim along the path of eternity.

At first the father had objected, but after a time, when the mother could not bear the pangs of her son’s separation from his soul’s quest, she finally freed him with a heavy heart.

When he had left home, some twelve years back, the mother had blessed him, and told him that he should never forget God, and chant the name of Rama, and she herself would protect him through the power of that name, “In Rama’s name” she said, “I myself,

And all the world come alive and alert. So Rama Rama Rama. Go to Rim

I was listening with rapt attention to the new legend of the Got Immigration. Then he reported something that took me by surprise

The Scribbled Words

He said that in the state of trance he often scribbled. But he could not decipher later what he did scribe. He asked me if I could as him in reading what he had scribbled.

I went through the neatly kept first volume. The writing was clear enough. But the script offered a great surprise. These were written now in Bengali, now in a script very near to Bengali, but not Bengali, may be Oriya; and some other parts were written, most likely in some forgotten oriental language, the alphabets looking like cuneiform While the scripts were varying, the language, where I could decipher was speaking consistently in esoteric tantric Sanskrit, and loaded with mantras, mandalas, signs, together with directions on certain rites. The language, I observed, at times broke away from pure Sanskrit to Präkst, and even to the straight current provincial dialects. The subjects hovered around the central theme, tantra and the tantric practices.

It was an entirely amazing discovery. Quite taken aback I looked at him. My wild eyes must have betrayed my perplexed bewilderment. But unconcerned he, a child so to say, continued to speak of his handiwork composition and the diagrams. “Have I gone all mad? What are these? Why? Who gets these scribbled by me? Poor me?”

“On the contrary,” I said, “they make excellent sense.”

But I would neither explain, nor read out. I knew, I assured him, that the source from which he received these messages would one day reveal more clearly what he alone was not only destined to know, but was also the most equipped to know.

Finding a Guru

He kept the book aside, as if it were a bunch of papers of no conse quence to him. His most insistent demand was that I become his guru. When he was about to tall at my feet, I held him by my hand and embraced him. The pine fire was crackling. With the flame belos us I drew him close to me, and gradually ‘on’ to me; as I was sealed in the Vire-isena. He was seated on my left thigh, his back touching my shoulder and chest. I began to whisper in his ears. (The two boys had been stilled by now, and sat crouched in the art the two of the dark her hou shall have no guru, o thou blessed arthes corner had the mother as a guru, needs no other guru. And then one who seekest lives vibrating within thee in its fullest glory.” “And what is it then?” he screamed driven besides himself.

“Of course Rama”, I said. “Did not thine own mother cover thee, with that mantra as thou had undertaken the niskramana rite? (the journey out for liberation)... Now, take my advice. Regard the Mother herself as thy true guru, thou lucky one, the blessed one. Thou shall have all that thou seekest. A few years more. Wait and try”.

Suddenly he jumped out of my embrace, snatched a burning wood from the fire, and danced out into the dark outside. The figure vanished; the flaming torch gradually faded into a dot of light, which finally was swallowed up by the thick jaws of the dark forest locked within the sharper jaws of the gorge.

Camping in a Blizzard

The third incident also refers to one of my journeys to the Himalayas. This time it was Kashmir; and the area refers to the northern range stretching from the Pir Panjoli, to the famous Amarnath hills. One has to reach it by climbing a height of 17,000 feet at the Vavyan peak. The route lies through the Liddar valley, and crosses two steep climbs, the first, the Pissu Pass, and the second, the Machhar Pass. Then one reaches the source of the Liddar at the lake of Seshnag; from Seshnag a steep climb finally descends to the valley of Panchatarani where five streams form a beautiful confluence. The route is difficult, but not as difficult as the rest of the mountain pass. Up and down it goes for over eight miles until the valley of the Amar Gangā is reached. On the banks of the Amar Gangā rises a bare rugged steep hill which contains the famous cave of the shrine of Amarnath, a selfevolved snow lingam, a miraculous ice formation by itself.

I had reached the valley of the Liddar in the early part of the month of June, a time most unwelcome for a trip to Amarnath. But I felt a strong call; and I had to make a start. It looked I had no

*Ice formations are no miracles. Yet this one was miraculous. This miracle of the formation has been pointed out and discussed in a book on Kashmir, Kalhaner Dese (in Bengali) by the author.

Option. The weather conditions were not only forbidding, but the glacial state of the high mountains after the Chandanwari gorge and the Pissu Pass had created a special threat of sudden avalanches, Particularly glacial catastrophe, any further attempt to reach the cave was legally forbidden until August.

But I had to go. I obtained a special permission from the local authorities, and signed a bond for undertaking the pilgrimage ‘at my own risk. That was a menacing phrase. But once the call comes, nothing matters I believe.

I had to carry a complete commisariat on horseback, inclusive of a small tent. On another horse I had to cover the journey in four days.

On the evening of the second day I was overwhelmed by the weird howl of a nasty blizzard; and I had to take shelter in a dilapidated ramshackle which had once been a hut. The drover pony, carrying our succour and shelter was nowhere to be seen. The animal with his man appeared to have melted away. Being a son of the soil he must have sensed the catastrophe, and had already taken shelter.

The night was terrible. Rain and blizzard continued until 2 o’clock in the morning. On the point of utter collapse and exhaustion I discovered a being in the dark; but I could not figure it in spite of my best attempts. My mind must have gone out of conscious functioning for a while. A warm fire, and the smell from some burning drug, most possibly marijuana, brought my senses back.

A naked and emaciated old man, with a heap of matted locks, was seated in a corner. Had I met with this apparition in a museum, I would certainly have taken him for an epidermised skeleton. I had no energy left in me to probe further. I could still hear the breath and the sniffings of my horse. But the warmth, and perhaps the effect of the smoke flung me into the arms of a drugged slumber.

The Distance That Never Narrows

When I got up, dawn was just trying to get through a very heavy blanket of fog. My horse was munching, and occasionally stamping his hoofs. I was up. But the phantom-man was gone without a trace.

The drover had arrived, and directed me to pick up the journey while the sun did not get hot. A high sun would soften the fallen snow, and endanger the climb, more so along the steep descent to Panchatarani. The fearsome peak of Vavyan was looking me into the face; but I girt up, and made a start after two quick cups of black coffee conjured by the illusive drover.

I had not ridden much further from the bivouac when I became conscious of the same dark figure walking naked, bare feet on the white snow, and slowly climbing the menacing peak. Faint strains of a merry chant floated past me. It was a Siva chant, punctuated by sudden breaks into the cry, ‘Hail Amarnath’.

While I wondered at the patience and the endurance of the little man, I also tried to reach him on my horseback. I gave the heel to the horse; but much as I would like my mount to overtake the figure at the front, and much as the beast would trot faster to a canter, no, I could not in any way shorten the distance. The figure, serene and unperturbed, would obstinately keep its distance.

It was no spectre. It was a reality. A fact. The drover was goading me again and again to keep to the tracks left on the snow by the fellow’s bare feet. ‘There is no danger there’, he would encourage me, and I would drive on and on and on; but I failed to come an inch nearer the ‘figure’.

Having reached the peak the figure raised both his hands and gave out a fierce cry, ‘Hail Amarnath,’ and then vanished over the other side of the watershed. When my horse reached that spot on the peak, I looked for the footprints on the snow. They were not there; and nowhere again, all along the descending broad vista of the mountain’s snow clad slopes, where the garrulous Panchatarani flowed at a distance of three miles. Even a sparrow, a flitting mouse, could be spotted against so white a background. But all I saw was snow and snow alone. The descent looked broad and smooth. An entire wide backdrop glistened in the sun. In fact it had been the wide surface of a river, now frozen. There was no place to afford cover even to a cat. But the figure had apparently melted into thin air.

The drover in despair shouted out his dismay, “Yah Allah...La illaha il-Allah”, While he had his reason to break out thus, I too was shaken. But we held our peace between us. Noises made under extreme degrees of tension not only break through the silence, they often, break through the unchartered confidence-barriers, and go a long way in rehabilitating the shaken nerves. Who but a cynic, then, could laugh at the effects of chants and mantra?

Came the Panchatarani; and we should have pressed on through the gorge. But soon a nasty roaring blizzard began to cough and puff awesome portents, and the terrific cataclasm broke loose with a mighty roar lashing and pounding the walls of the mountain sides. The blizzard rushed through the long narrow funnel of the gorge sweeping everything before it. Rains, hails and biting winds made a shambels of the prospects of a peaceful enjoyable journey. There was no question of further progress. The scaling of the last pass was postponed to the next morning. In an abandoned stable we lit a fire and settled for a sticky shivering bivouac.

The blessings that climatic changes bestow on nerves cannot be fully appreciated unless life is lived in the open. The best of prayers have been discovered and sung by Zarathustra, or the Buddha under an open sky. Imagine the Vedic sages, the Essines, the saints of yore like Socrates, Jesus living closed within a sky-scrapping mansion in Manahattan and kneeling within closed doors, and receiving the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the solemn Puruşa-sūkta or the Gayatri over a voice from the radio.

The Cave

Early morning. The climate had changed. It was heavenly. A soft sun soaked our skin with a rippling delight. The horse between my thighs felt my delight, and responded to my happy tune. (My tunes, I have come to believe since, are better appreciated by horses). I passed the gorge all alone. The drover was left behind to look after the camp, and to prepare some meals for both of us. 1 had taken. However, with me a package of offerings (nothing at all could be expected in the icy wilderness) and a prayer book.

The horse was now descending to the frozen Amar Ganga valley. Soon the cave shrine came to view.

High atop the mountain the mystic cave-mouth was bathed with a brilliant sun. The actual shrine was yet to be seen. The horse kept trotting over the frozen course of the river, now

And then munching at a mouthful of broken snow. The brilliance of the sun, a most feared cause for night blindness amongst the nomads of these parts, often hit the eye, although covered with goggles. The crisp air and the chaste sorroundings radiated the twin blessings of serenity and composure. My soul was flooded with delight.

Thousands of years ago the ancients had selected sublime beauty spots for their many pilgrimaging settlements. Their love for natural beauty and their skill in popularising and publicising those remote spots through sundry legends and lores defies the best efforts of modern holiday-spot seekers. It appears quite remarkable to me that the ancients of Greece, India, Japan, and I dare say of China too, always posted their holy places in sublime surroundings of seductive beauty.

Spirit seeks beauty along with Truth. Holiness is a complex feeling that sets in motion man’s instinctive desire to rise above the petty, drab and embarrassing coercions of life. It releases the cramped spirit of liberal youthfulness in man, and it opens avenues to man’s awareness of beauty, truth and love. A pilgrimage undertaken proposes a journey to the sublime. God is just another name for the sublime. Its abode is rightfully divined as heaven.

The cave gradually came nearer, and as I got near the foot of the hills, it got lost behind the hanging crags. The winding tracks, however, could be seen. I left the horse there, and began to climb slowly the rocky uneasy track.

A new vigour appeared to have activised me in spite of the strains of the previous days. I climbed like a mountain stag, and reached the mouth of the cave like a young boy drawn by some mysterious expectation.

It was a strange feeling to be alone for hundreds of miles, overlooking a snow-packed terrain and faced with hoary challenging peaks of perennial snow. Snow has its own silence; the silence of death.

Through the blinding sun I could detect some sparkling movements followed by flutters. The least sound would be heard a hundredfold in that quiet, serene rock locked panorama. Soon I observed that the flutter and the dazzle came from a pair of white snow pigeons. These were the proverbial companions of the Lord of the hills. I had been told so much about the mysterious pigeons of good luck. What luck could await me in a forlorn empty cave?

I entered the cave with the bundle of offerings in my hand. The surface was all packed with hard ice, slippery and dangerous. I had a fall at the very entrance. But soon as I gained my balance, and got up, I heard a consoling voice greeting me, “Take care. No hurry. You have reached.”

We Meet Again

On nothing at all, but on a slab of ice that emaciated spectre was seated. I at once recognised the mystery man of the dark night who had guided my way through the unmarked snow. Now the distance had vanished. The same light and sparing body, the same matted locks heaped on the head, the same form, the same size. Yes, it was the same man wearing nothing around but the light. Yet it seemed incredible that he would, on his bare feet, cover this long distance, and yet outdistance me, although I was on a horse. Amazed and thrilled at what I had at last physically found, some

Thing that I had ever sought, I bowed to the sage. He remonstrated, and said that in a shrine social exchanges, greetings must never be indulged in. “The only Lord is one, and there i he in all his glory. Bow to the Lord”, he said.

There stood against the wall of the oval cave a three feet high lingam of snow, so perfect in balance and proportions that it would be incredible to accept that it was a self-made structure. With the waning and waxing of the moon the figure alternately vanishes, and reassumes its full shape. This is a traditional myth. But something struck me as very strange. Although the lingam was situated within the remotest part of the cave, it reflected a very bright luminosity, It was lustrous enough for photography (without a flash).

I bowed to the lingam, but kept standing.

“Sit here, near me,” he softly commanded, and produced a small seat, drawn out from beneath him. I hesitated, and protested that his old bare skin needed it more than mine. It was his seat. (It was a broken sheet of galvanised corrugated iron, a leftover from some

Misty repair around the shrine.) “My seat is here”, he said pointing to the bare icy floor.

“When did you arrive?”, I asked with some hesitation, covering my surprise as best as I could. “I have been here ever since the last Śivarātri” (which was a couple of months back).

“Śivarātri!” I was shocked. “This place would be totally impassable then!”

“This place is impassable even now”, he smiled. “Don’t you know? But you still came. It must have been a hard trip for you, my son, and daring too, considering that all tracks have been covered by a carpet of snow.”

“But you have nothing here to survive on. Not even fire. How do you keep yourself warm? How do you...”.

He smiled again, and did not allow me to finish. “How do those pigeons survive? What fire warms them? How do the plants now asleep under the snow covering survive? Nature has enough warmth. Nature is life.”

“The pigeons could fly to warmer places”, I said.

“But they do not. They are here. And the plants; how do they survive? They never quit their places”, he said. “”They don’t survive without hiding”, I parried. “Look, the panorama is bare of plants.”

“Bare of plants? How do you know? What you see is fragmentary seeing. They are all around, and here; only they are asleep... Much is asleep in me too, much; and you do not see that. In this body so much is asleep.”

I watched him in wide wonder, not understanding a syllable of this wild claim.

Reincarnation

“You look surprised. You can’t believe. The warmth, thermal power of the sun, which tones up the pigeons, tones me up too. In body, that is. The same warmth is dormant in the ‘sleeping’ seeds and roots. That need not be surprising. Or is it?

“Let me explain. You see this body; and it is constituted of millions of cells. Each of these cells could be charged in advance, for safe storage, much as you get certain contraptions charged with stored energy. You take care of the body. But do you take care of the cells? I mean the energy potential of the cells? You look at these cells just biologically; not spiritually. How do you call it now? Thermal potentiality. (He smiled a little.) You certainly do know of it.

“But your knowledge proceeds along fragmentary paths. You feel confused again. Watch the monkey, the frog. They cover distances at great speed, in real leaps and bounds as you feel proud to describe your progress. But watch the serpent, the elephant. They move fast too; but you will miss in their way of progress your ‘leaps and bounds’. They do not ever miss the contact of continuity; contact with the real as you say.

“If you kept your knowledge also attached to the inner potentiality of the system, torn away from the biological view alone, then you would have discovered and recognised the spiritual potentiality of the cells; the secret mystery of the energy potential of the cells; and then and then alone, you would have attempted to discover the secrets of getting the cells charged, as I, and many like me, get them charged; and you wonder. There is indeed nothing to wonder at all.

“So, as you see now, this question of dormancy in nature is in a way a question of charging for storage of energy also. These plants and the other lives which appear to be sleeping, are in fact engaged in the very serious and vital business of storing energy for the future, or for continuity, if you prefer.

This body as you see, shall, at the end of the fever, also end; and leave his hade behind. You will say that nothing remains. Yet this apparent fact is difficult to live with. Something remains; the vital thing; the prana. Extend the above theory, and one could easily se into the fact that the continuity of prana remains unobstructed even when a body is surrendered to the elements. Through these elements, again prana sakti, the spirit as we commonly call it, works, and blooms again, after the weeks of prana’s winter, if you prefer to use the same imagery, are over. The spirit has no death.

“The spirit remains alive. The roots. The beginning of the things. There survives life. The germ life; bija; prāna. Life is more more real, more surviving than you imagine. Your reliance true, on the physical senses is a blinding faith. Yet the senses are agitated and activised by the nerves; and the reach of the nerve power, the reach of the extra sensory mind, is quite unknown, and unrealised by you. Is that not so? You forget that yo your senses are so organised and empowered as to receive and convey things within limits. But the unlimited could be sensed and perceived with the aid of unlimited

Power alone. “You may, or may not perceive it; but it is there. The spiritually myopic cannot form a correct view of the world. Does it surprise you?”

Sweet Inaccuracies

Things began to become clearer in a new light. The language was halting; a bit mystical. There were uneasy gaps in the sequence and flow of logic; but what he said appeared to be perfectly logical in the final analysis. All he said was inductive. Not so much theoretical as perceptual.

But I persisted in asking in my mundane way. “What about hunger?” I asked. “Hunger for food; for a little fire to warm the skin. Without some outer heat the body as an object would be frozen.”

“But I am not, as you see. I have survived. These are facts. The only way you would accept these for firm facts is when you puta watch on me. But you know even when you want to watch on some one you feel to keep a watch on, persons just before your eyes vanish in no time. From within the lonely dark a company materialises. The dark womb nurses light. How weak are our faculties! How weak are we! Don’t you see?”

He started smiling knowingly. Obviously he had been enjoying himself. (The experienced knows that this is the precise indication for a proselyte, who comes to realise that the master is not only happy with him, but is about to bless him with knowledge.)

“Do we see all?”, he began more sedately. “We do not. Could we see all? Yes we can. But we do not. Why not? Because we are away from the cosmic. But in fact we are in it, of it; if we realise that way. “Obviously, therefore, there should not be anything that the body would not bear. The body is a mysterious reservoir of a mysterious power; only the source of that power has to be tapped. But in life what is happening? Neither do we realise that power source nor do we tap it energetically. The question does not arise.

“So, do not please disbelieve. Personal belief or disblief only betrays our own limitations. Our reasoning, logic, calculations are for a limited day-to-day use only. Are they not? It is so difficult for us to step beyond this. Reason, as we happen to know it, holds our understanding at a ransom.

“But the power asleep within us is great, immense; the Brahman as we know, as we identify... Yes I go without food for days. What of that? At times I have to. Because.

Impatiently I stopped him to ask, “When did you have your last meal?”

“Meal? I do not know what you call a meal. Meal of the one is not the meal of the other. There are only a few given sources for storing strength and vitality that the body needs for survival. These are called foods, when these are absorbed into the body through the mouth. This food is our need. But mouth is not the only passage for putting vital strength into the body. That which supplies energy, strength, vitality to the body is called food, when taken into the body through the mouth. But our skin, our hair, our nerve system, even our thoughts absorb energy, vitality, direct from the source of all energy all vitality....”

The Mother with Many Breasts

“And what is that?”, I asked, a little bewildered; compromised. “Prakrti; Nature; the Mother as we love to call it. It is helpful for life, and to the living, to be less technical. It is helpful for life to accept a bit of inaccuracy, and sweeten bare facts. Facts are more dry than truths. Truths sustain. Facts form a heavy load; almost dead as lead. Truth is alive.

You have studied literature. Haven’t you? You know how great Truth is alive. Sages, wise men have deliberately written legends, fairy tales, epics in languages deliberately inaccurate on points of facts. As if facts did not exist for them. As if they had a scorn for facts.

“Why must we call this obviously unresponsive, and vaguely, per. Ceived power ‘nature? Why? ‘Mother’ would be so much easier. Mother Nature becomes so homely. I know that this is ‘inaccurate’, Hydrogen and Oxygen are facts. H₂O is a fact. More accurate. Accuracy must be a lifeless god worshipped by science. But Mother Ganges, Father Tiber, Mother Mary, Father Himalayas become much more significant and meaningful to the hungering soul which lives caged within this body’s tangle.

“Even some laws of the mind and memory tell you that bonds of association, or relational contexts assist memory. Hidden in these beautiful and sweet inaccuracies a zest for living down the fire and brimstone of the facts of life assists us to survive. The facts keep on growing, until under their weight we lie crushed. The very meaning of existence lies dead under the load of learned facts.

“Praksti, our Mother, is also prasūti, who gives birth to life. It is the mystery-love source we image as the eternal triangle, the śakti pitha. The trikona mandala, the hring-kling-aing of the sound forms, continue to be always there with us, for us to tap from, for our sustenance. It is her pap we cling to, and suck from, in a hundred forms,fruits, grains, water etc. She is the mother with a thousand paps planted all over her body. Only we do not visualise. We keep blind. We chose to keep blind. The ancients imaged and carved a goddess to answer this description of the theory. But we have remained unresponsive and ignorant; and we remain thirsty, although there is water just beneath where we stand.. That reminds me of an incident in Australia....

“What more”, I thought. “Who is this man? What is he? How comes Australia now?” I kept listening and... listening....

“It happened in the great deserts”, he continued. “A party had got stuck in the dry lands, between the Eastern Fitzerald river and the lake Macdonell. It was a dry basin and the trapped were on the point of breaking down under exhaustion particularly for want of water. Ultimately they had almost resigned to a desert death. They had lost their way, and with that any hope for survival.

“At this point they were observed by an Australian nomad boy, who had been searching and foraging for whatever food he could collect. The party, and its condition made him act fast. He took out from one of the desert bushes a long stalk of hard grass and making pipe of it drove it through the sands. When the stalk had been pushed through a depth of about three feet, he sucked the grass pipe.

“Water filled his mouth, and he asked the others to have their fill. “We all walk through the deserts of life. The life-giving drink flows just around and beneath us. We cannot become the natural nomad, and read and interpret the ways of nature. I have remained without food for days; yes; but I never felt hungry.

“And when you mention that, feeling,-yes, what is it? What is feeling? What is yoga? Is it not the mastery over feeling? (yoga-s-citta vetti nirodhah-Patanjali) Sleep is a rest to the body. When does the body need a rest? When it is tired. The yogi has no right, as I pointed, to feel; so how could he feel tired?

“Kışna ran his horses; and in time rested them, so that they could perform better. We too have to rest our bodies. But instead of going to sleep, we go into a trance. Patanjali says that a yogi could go into sleep for months because he does not need sleep in body.

“Why? Your nerves go to sleep when you get to the proper āsana. You know that from experience. Don’t you? But you still would call for the alter ego, your opposite. Don’t you? Why? Be yourself.”

I looked at him. Watched him. On a sudden rush of agitated delight I offered him the entire pack I had brought so carefully with me to be offered to the deity. No doubt he protested, but I had no use for any other snow symbol of a lingam. I had seen and touched what I always wanted to see and touch. When I asked him what could I send for him from civilisation when I reached that wilderness (I knew of a party arranging to start for the slirine in two weeks’ time), he smiled and said, “Some air, some light, some earth and ether, and some fire.”

I understood his riddle, smiled, and answered, “Yes, I shall send you some dry woods for your fire. But what about some food?” He picked up the pack offerings. “Here is enough for the next three months."

A Misadventure

The fourth incident also, like the two previous ones, happened in the Himalayas, that mysterious landmass which has been nestling from times immemorial the great mystiques of the East, and to which even to this date souls in spiritual quest trace their pilgrimage.

The year was 1952. The place was near the meeting ground of Tibet, Kashmir and the range across the Chini valley. A journey of seven days on foot from the nearest bus outpost, Narkanda. The entire range was known for the Mahāyāna tantra system, and the cult of the Mother prevailed. Every turn of the road was protected by a mound with a white flag; and the single eye painted on all four sides stared at all.

I was on a mission, and I had young men to assist me. Although we were strictly asked by the administrative authorities to keep away from the villages, and particularly from the girls, two of the youths had erred as youths are privileged to do. The long stay in wilderness, with nothing to watch but forbidding pine forests around for ten miles, and the snows beyond, naturally the nerves of those urbanised excitable youths broke down. Drinking deep from the picturesque bounties of sublime nature is not everybody’s cup.

They had to go in search of water, and fetch it over distances. They did this daily. But one day they did not return. I was so much withdrawn within myself that I did not notice their absence until at least 30 hours had passed, and one of the camp assistants, by now anxious, brought the matter to my notice.

A little more probe, a little more wait, and some gossips from two mountain pedlars made me suspect if they had been taken into captivity by the local tribes for interfering with their life rhythm, and (this sounded dangerous) for trying to tempt their girls.

In those remote mountain areas nothing more serious could have happened. The entire area lived under the spiritual influence of a female figure regarded as the Mother by all and sundry. She had been the living divinity for them. And it was the fame of this legendary being that had kept me so long glued to the terrible spot.

Taking some rough bearings I started alone for the village lying at a distance of half a day’s walk down a gorge, one of the coldest gorges I have come across with. Except for the middle of the day sun hardly reached the gorge.

A stick in hand, I climbed down the pine-laden mountain sides, rendered extremely slipper, by the fresh and drying pine-needles. By four o’clock in the evening I came across a gorgeous thundering cataract bestrewn with huge rocks torn down from the mountain sides by a perennially raging torrent. I had to cross these rocks with very careful steps. Before me gaped what could be termed as the only ford; but a slip from any of those smooth rock boulders might have erforde at least twenty feet down where the water was falling in a rage of cold white fury. Half a mile ahead there was a bend, and after the bend a heavenly valley overshadowed by a snow peak over fifteen thousand feet high.

The setting sun on the western side of the gorge, against a backdrop of a pine clad mountain, was sending its slanting upward rays of burnt gold. The entire snow peak seemed to be bathed in burning copper and gold. Only the splendid Himalayas could reveal such stunning beauty. And then the valley itself. For miles and miles, as far as eyes could see, from the branches of the high pines to the depths of the gorge, vines and vines of cascading briar roses had spread a riotous glee with bees humming, breeze murmuring, pines sighing and the perfume from the roses maddening the nerves, and cajoling the senses. What pieces of heaven the Himalayas keep tucked away from defiled human visions!

As against such a heavenly experience my mind was loaded with a gloom of finding out my two companions kept in the custody of tribals for crimes that they could have avoided. It has always been the criminal pride of the so-called civilised to assume those children of nature as backward and unworthy of organised care. They preferred all kinds of liberties against them taking advantage of their charity and hospitality.

I felt extremely depressed.

I reached the village. It was deserted but for a single crippled old man who was left behind. The entire village had moved out. I learnt from him that the two culprits were kept captive at the Mother’s command. The people had gone out to attend an annual fair another three miles away. Across the gorge the drum beats could be heard floating from the valley. But the Mother’s cave was another mile’s walk from the fair grounds, which stood about three to four hundred feet below the cave itself.

The path, however, was not difficult to find. Before I had reached the cave, a man in red clothes, with overgrown hair and flowing beards was awaiting me, and to my surprise welcomed me by name, and informed me that the Mother expected me without delay.

The mouth of the cave did not at all indicate its largeness which was realised after about three minutes of crouching through a narrow entrance. There came a narrower passage; but one could walk straight through it, until a very wide hall came to view. Of course the view was hazily defined by several torches and a roaring fire pit. The floor was generally damp from drips from ceiling; and at one corner flowed a regular stream. The soft crooning murmur of the dark flow together with the crackling and hissing flame completed the eeriness.

Mataji

Mātāji as the Mother was called, was seated singly across the blaz. Ing fire. In a minute my tall companion vanished into the gripping mass of darkness. I found the great lady seated on a cushioned āsana, which was covered with a tiger skin. She herself was covered with masses of beads. Around her loins a piece of red rag was carelessly thrown. I knew at once that she was wearing nothing, as the Bhairavis of the Parasurama or Dattatreya-Natha order never do.

“I had been waiting on you”, she declared. It was an extremely fascinating voice; melodious, firm and unnerving. “You did not notice; today is the fourteenth night of the coming new moon; and tomorrow’s sun would dip into the dark ocean of a night without any moon. What a day to meet a young adept who had the fullest training from experts in the asanas of the vira (hero). But you are agitated over minor things, little bits of life with no substance. You have come for the boys. You will see them in a while. Be at ease. Have a drink. Sit over there; there’s a deer skin. Everything has been kept ready for you. I wanted to have you here. O if I am not happy. Come closer.”

She was of bewitching beauty; a proportionately sculptured figure in the best beaming health. It is always difficult to measure a Bhairavi by her age. But as a woman she was at her peak (mahādevim mahaghorām muktakešim digambarām).

The Two Come Close

 

An āsana opposite to her, but across the pit of fire, was pointed out; and I took my seat, still wondering at that stirring presence. At once ran through my spine the vibrations which are associated with the annointed circle (pitha cakra). I accepted the drink without ado. My tiredness was over. The atmosphere, the welcoming voice, the aroma of the place, and above all the vibrations and the ethos of the consecrated pitha sent me floating along the all too familiar rhythm. It is surprising how things learnt in the spiritual way remain fresh like gold even if long tucked away from life. I rememberd the courageous consolation from the Gitā: nothing obstructs; nothing is destroyed. (nehāvi krama našosti pratyavayo na vidyate). I assumed my own posture and remembered Varanasi Catuhsasthi yogini, and the Lady in Saffron. There was no getting away. Like a plummet heading down for the base of the depths, my conscious self merged into an experience of peace, serenity and tranquillity. That was ‘It’.

I was asked to open my right palm. As I tried to reach her hand avoiding the flames, she stretched her right hand right and through the flames, across to me, as if the fire never existed; my hand was held in her grip. The flames leapt up all around my outstretched arm. I watched; the flames hissed and danced; but not a hair singed, neither did the least feel of the flames disturb. I recalled the fire walk at the Jangama monastery in Varanasi.

She painted my palm with some vermillion pasted in butter, and ordered me to have a look. As I did so, I saw just on my palm as on a TV projection, my two young misguided friends crouching against a corner in a room, where the walls were painted red. Before I could turn my eyes off, the miserable bodies changed before my eyes; and when I looked again, I saw the crouching bodies of the two wretches melting into an agonised festering and running sore, as if they were being consumed by rotting wormy leprosy, which was eating into their bones. Maggots were wriggling on the open flesh; and thousands of flies were pestering the wretched creatures. I shrieked in agony and closed my eyes in horror. I burst into tears out of sheer pity. “Help them Mother!” I cried. “Help them!”

The vision was over. I found the Mother’s smiling face had been gazing at me fixedly.

“They must know what they are”, she said. “They must know what they are to become. They must realise that life is a bliss for those who make it a bliss. Yet it is a hell for those who want it bedevilled.

“My son, there is no shortcut to joy, Joy like heaven, has to be earned; and once earned, has to be preserved with care. Do not worry. Come close to me. Let the two come close to One, aye, even less than One, to a zero. Before you return to your camp, they will find their way back. But you always wanted to experience this. Didn’t you? Thus you will have the experience. The time is ripe... Come.”

She sprinkled water on my head, and scattered a handful of rice all around.

And she blessed me with her consecrated company, and graced my poor body by a night long participation in a feast of ethereal delight of the highest spiritual experience.

I had been there for the next fifty hours and more. When I returned I knew that the spot between my brows, where Saint Jitendra had Ikesed the bead, had been singing. Ikea frond her that sha always be having the use of a living mudra if and when I wanted always be it wanted my way to realisation wanting iway of the power-charged vama tantra 1 would never be wanting in findings sättvik alter ego, befitting the subject at hand.

Indeed, I did not find this wanting. She was true to her words. If I am found to be reticent about recording details of this session it has been so because I am still under her command not to give away the details. This is how the mystique of the secret sadhana is main. Tained from person to person.*

The Burning Socket

In Cambodia, near the great Angkor shrines in a dilapidated small wild temple, where no one ever goes, and which never attracts the notice of the curious tourists I had come across a skeletal form with sunken eyes, dangling breasts. She was loaded with beads and serpents for garlands, and was staring at me with glaringly burning pupils looking from within dark hungry sockets. At that time I was very sick. Too sick to even correspond. All I could do to appease her, (and I longed to be near her and embrace her) was to snatch a handful of the wild ākanda (calotropis giagantia) which had burst out of the ruins around.

Again, that evening in one of the shrines, where I was carried for being nursed and cured, and where a prayer was being conducted, for a while, my eyes fell on the spectre; but, this time she was smiling at me. To my great amazement, I really do not know why, I was reminded of the great Mātāji of the Himalayas. I wondered how she could reach me there. But the fact of seeing the same person at several places does not surprise me any more. Take me, if you please dear reader, for a mad man who dose not know his own mind. But then who does?

Back to Our Narration

Yes; the fact of tasting bliss had become a reality there in the Kämäksyä temple-yard at Varanasi. Narada was there, the saint

*This incident has been nurrated in Kinnar Pahari (in Bengali) by the same auther.

Jitendra was there, the auntie of Manikarnika was there, and of course my Lady in Saffron was there. I became initiated. I was introduced to the inner coterie, accepted within the circle.

But another person was there too. She was to become a haunting interest for me in my later years. She was the one selected by the Saint Jitendra. Her development and demise forms another chapter of my experience.

 

 

 

 

 

9

Illusion and Reality

Lost to the World

Remember the asana at the foot of the jackfruit tree? The halced figure of Yogeivari near the Bhaskara Puskara tank? For over a long while the wooded resort had remained my favourite hide-out for meditation. Bathing nude in the quiet tank was so exhilarating: more over its utter seclusion was inviting. On days of boyish tensions I used to ‘consult’ the statue, and received invariably the answers with the hootings; one for ‘yes’; and two for ‘no’.

The love for seclusion (even by remaining away from the Lady in Saffron) was gradually growing. I was finding it increasingly uneasy to stay home. The Lady in Saffron, too, in her own way, was becoming more and more withdrawn to herself. She was growing sick of something; and had been at pains for having to conform any longer to mundane life.

I was feeling lonely. The long hours under the jackfruit tree did not give me the peace I sought.

One evening, lost in a mood of vacant restlessness, as I was strolling on the bank of the Ganges, the usual crowd streaming by, I felt the touch of Narada on my shoulders. He was standing before me, and was smiling very knowingly. Without any introduction he came right to the subject, and asked me if I felt to accompany him to a far away place; if I would leave all this, and take to the way of the recluse; if 1 really was looking for peace.

I was over-elated. I almost jumped and grabbed at what I had been longing for. The proposal gave me a sort of release. I did not ask where, or how, or when. I was ready; he was ready; and we started out at once from that point. No looking back at all.

Suddenly he turned back, and stopped and stared deep into me. Before I could realise what he was doing to me, he had the thumb firmly planted at the point where the bead had been pressed by Saint Jitendra,

It was a sensitive spot; a special spot, as if something permanent had got planted there. As a result even the least disturbance in my

Psyche would get recorded, and set a series of reactions. The pressure from Narada’s thumb at once threw my mind into a psychedelic spin, and my consciousness began to experience waves of indescribable thrills. I appeared to have lost all control of myself, and found myself tossed on the crests of joy in a sea of ecstatic delight. I am not able at this distance of time to say how long the experience had lasted. But I could still recall that intensity, that delight.

A Room and I

I regained my consciousness in a warm room lighted by a single lamp, where several persons were seated in Bhdrāsana, deeply merged in meditation.

Before I could surface from the shock of that sudden transference from the ghats of Varanasi to a strange hide-out, there came the familiar touch; I heard the familiar voice; and felt reassured by the ethereal smile of the Man of Love. “You have reached”, he said, as he beamed, and continued, “From here there is no falling back. Hereafter only progress; Caraiveti, the forward march alone. What a lucky aspirant. Let the light shower on you.”

A strong cold wind had been blowing outside. The place was new, and the air felt much lighter. I could smell the familiar pine, and wondered if it were any part of the Himalayas But it was not so. I was brought to the foothills of the Vindhya range, little away from the holy Chitrakoot, where Lord Rama of the Ramayana had built his cottage, and meditated. Quiet flowed the dreamy Mandakini.

The Gentle Rāmadāsī

The Ramadasi sects are adepts in Hatha-yoga. They keep the body clean, inside and outside, and decorate it punctiliously as one who would love to do the bed of the beloved. For here within the body resided Rama. For them gaining success in meditation meant attaining the bliss through the privilege and ability of serving the Lord as His most intimate alter ego. One must live in the identity of being directly as the Lord’s consort, alter ego. Service in its tenderest aspect is enjoined on the adepts. I have seen amongst these saints some who for all there lives lived, thought, behaved as a famale; they keep themselves ready to be received by the Lord in His ‘inner chambers’.*

*cf. Poetry of Donne, St. John on the Cross, Hafiz, Tagore, Gibran, Blake, Kabir and the Sufis.

In later years of life I had to get close to the controversial theories of Freud, as well as the associated refutations by both McDougal and Jung. I understood the basic perverted states of some human minds, which would like to behave as males or females, even if it went contrary to their physical equipment.

I was closely associated as a boy of eleven with the only child of a wealthy father who kept her daughter covered with the charming make-belief that she were a boy. (cf. Queen Christina of Sweden). She urinated standing; and by some peculiar physical adjustments left marks against walls of the urinal, using male urinals all the time. She scoffed off her menstrual disturbances as mere periodical ailments; in order to hide her rounded smooth limbs, she wore loose garments; and sought company of girls all the time, in support of her male chauvinism, yet carefully avoiding the males all along. Had she not died rather early, I do not know what could have happened to her.

Freud might have come to her aid. But to come to the aid of the Ramadāsis sounds as fantastic a proposal as to suggest cures for the ‘madness’ of Jesus Christ or of the zeal of Muhammad. I could have written off the Rāmadāsi monks as perverts, had I not known them personally and closely. They, invariably cultivate a charm of behaviour which draws that admiration which a gentleman pays to genuine gentleness.

I have discussed with them the most involved texts in metaphysics. I have found them to be persons of very high spiritual and moral order.

Spiritual emotionalism is an area of intense involvement. In fact it leads man to perhaps the most traumatic, agonising, yet thrillingly joyous experiences in life.

Sex-intensified emotionalism is supposed to create seriously damag ing upsets in life. Most murders and suicides, litigations and ruined homes are attributed to this area of emotional disturbances. In any case the sexually aroused find their experiences finally debilitating and tiring. In contradistinction the spiritually aroused have experiences of a totally different complexion. Pangs of spiritual emotionalism have made men deny the ‘pleasures’ of life; deny wife and children; make princes abandon their kingdoms, fathers abandon their sons, sons abandon the ties of homes, fathers and mothers.

Side by side with such cases as Anna Karenina, Lady Chatterley, Oscar Wilde or Profumo there are cases like the Buddha, Chaitanya, Meera, Pingalā, St. Simon, St. Augustine and Chardin. Think of the young naked anchorite I came across with in the Khadrala cave. Much of the human treasures of mystic creations in art and literature would have remained in the dark but for the fire and flame that illuminate the captive souls of these misunderstood ‘madmen’. Hunger, sleep, envy, jealousy, fear of death, temptation for life all count as nothing to souls sparked with this kind of spiritual emotionalism.

Radha of Navadwip

I had met one of these Radha-cult saints in the sleeping town of Navadwip (West Bengal). This town is hallowed by the sweet memories of one of the greatest love-saints of India, Sri Krşņa Caitanya Mahaprabhu, otherwise known as Caitanya.

The Vaisnava sects of India owe generally a great debt of spiritual solace to his way of love; and particularly to those who believe in securing self-illumination through the rather arduous path of loving without attachment, dedicating without expectation and service without distinction. Caitanya and his cult believed intensely in the soul power of love, and in the state of supreme subjectivity attained through self-denial. This sect sings their way into the lives of people otherwise lost in the drunkenness of possessive life. They warmly believe that the ecstatic state of ‘love in the Lord’ becomes feasible by

Accepting this way of trance through music. The denial of self-passion in the interest of fullness of life lies at the basis of the Rädhä followers, as well as of the Rāmadāsī Vaisnavas.

A very subtle sense of total liberation inspires those who follow this path. They feel that the un-liberated cannot bring total peacefulness to the disturbed lives of the mundane. In serving these lives, sick with a hundred delusions, they receive their ultimate joy.

There in Navadwip I met this one (man-woman) I was referring to. ‘She’ was really a he. ‘Her’ age was above eighty; and ‘she’ could move about the yards of the shrine of Caitanya with difficulty, and was really housed in one of the smallest rooms at the end of the yard, and beyond the common sight of those who visited the holy shrine daily.

The Amazing ‘SHE’

I approached ‘her’; and looking at me ‘she’ at once dropped down her veil; and welcomed me in the sweetest language from behind the thin veil. Before I could mention anything ‘she’ asked me how my father was, and how was the Lady in Saffron whom ‘she’ openly called Bhuvan? “You know me?” I asked quite perplexed at the power the apparently held.

“It is much easier to know other people’s affairs than to know one’s own self. Don’t you agree?” With that question she smiled one of those seductive smiles which one could only expect from a trained and professional flirt known for studied communications without

Words. I was bewitched. ‘She’ offered me a seat within ‘her’ hovel which could hardly accommodate one.

Here ‘she’ kept seated all day and night, day after day, and night after night. None knew when ‘she’ would come out, when ‘she’ would get in. ‘She’ was a chimera-presence in the temple yard. None alive knew when ‘she’ had come there, or from where. The oldest of them knew ‘her’ to be an old lady. ‘She’ was always known to have kept herself in the best of ‘her’ decors, perfect in ‘her’ toiletries, make-up, and ‘her’ immaculately decorative dresses.

The walls of the insignificant hovel seemed to recede as she closed the doors. She offered me only a gesture of the hands, and said, “Here is a seat for you; here the water for washing your feet.”

And I saw a seat, and a jug of water with a washing bowl materialise from nowhere. ‘She herself’ carefully held my feet, and before l could have protested, held them firm and bathed them, as a mother would a child’s body, and wiped the same with a towel. As she was at it, she smiled charmingly, and broke into one of the sweetest melodies from the great poet Jayadeva.

Let me smoothen and brighten The pair of feet, Before I dye them red (with love). Place them now on my head, love, Thy touch, an antidote of lust; Thy feet a fitting crown for my head.*

Then looking at me she said, “You seem to resent. Why? Why this ego? Why this sense of ownership when you do not own the body. It is the residence of my beloved. Is it not? Why must you think that you are you? This might be so as you see. To me you are as good or as bad as I am. The better part of me that is. It is far easier to feel

*Gita Govindam, XIX, 6-7

The infinity in others than within the ego-ridden self. The infinite is the only real; and these bubbles that detract with their finality really keep attention diverted. A guest is a welcome blessing from God. Isn’t he? The guest is the Self come in person. Now command, what could I do for you?”

For a minute I held my peace; I did not know what to say. She asked again. “Don’t you want something? Some entertainment for instance? Some nourishment? Something soulfilling? What is it? I shall see what I could do for you. Just be sure, and call for it. Go ahead now. Do not hesitate.”

My sense of perception had been awakened like needles on the back of a porcupine alerted by the smell of carrot roots. I looked at ‘her’. And what I noticed took my breath away.

There was seated before me no other a person than the Lady in Saffron herself! The heavy soft body, the cascading hair, the ample breasts covered with the beads, the inviting arms, the familiar posture, even the base of the great lingam where she used her āsana and where I kept seated on her. I almost swooned, but I heard my own voice uttering the chant “Mother Tārā! Mother Tärā!”

“Come, tarry not. Come. You shall have it. Peace, and love.”

The session was brief but deep. Too deep to be described. In fact I have no language to reveal that experience. But need I reveal? No; because I was ordained to keep that a secret; but also because of another firm conviction. Wrenched from their proper context, the associated consonance and the attuned symphony to sing of these types of experiences, would be wrong. The narration would be vitiated with the dual poison of incredibility and pollution.

‘She’ had been an alter ego in all its nervous and spiritual senses. What ‘she’ materially or physically was, I had no means to feel, or determine. To me ‘she’ had been my Lady in Saffron; and the female in ‘her’ was fully radiated in its positivity, in its power, in its ignition and transmission. The promised peace and tranquillity became mine. When we had emerged from that small room, it was already dark; and the temple bells were ringing for the vespers. A slow clapping chant was being recited. ‘She’ joined the chorus, and began a dance,

The Great Dance I wish with all my heart that I could describe that dance. I have read the description of the dance of Isadora Duncan as she danced in Athens, Vienna, Berlin; I have read of the skill of Ana Pavlova, of Uday Shankar and their dancing ability. I have read the description, in the Bhagavatam, of the rasa dance of the boy. Krsna, But the dance that afternoon I had viewed, defeats all telling. It was intangible to the senses, and yet it kept the senses gripped with an ever-elevating tiriness because of which nothing appeared to be belonging to the world we reside in.

If there is some other dimension where reality gives way to the insubstantial supraconscious awareness, then alone that dance would relate to anything comprehensible, tangible or real. My joy flooded my inner being. That ethereal delight could have related to my supraconscious being alone. I was filled; but filled with a perfection of delight of an altogether different texture quite unreal to the realities which we know to be materially existing.

Up to this day I speak of her as a ‘she’. Yet the fact was that she had been a he, a man, a male. And years and years of dedication to the Lord, as His alter ego, had transformed him into a ‘she’ not physically, not materially, but spiritually and ethereally which is more important and to the point, so that in another dimension, he existed as ‘she’, and enjoyed the companionship of the Lord of ‘her’ Love. One is what one feels to be. She stood as an example of that epigram.

It is this abstractness that makes the highly sensitive coitus form of the Mahamudrāsana to be known also as Śavāsana, the ‘dead’ posture. It is certainly not what the uninitiated charlatans think as the male-female pairing. It is true that hundreds flee away from it, and keep away. It is more true that more hundreds try this and get destroyed irretrievably; and many more hundreds scoff at it, and call it fraudulent and hypocritical game of the scoundrel and the perverse.

I have not been able to make the Freudian postulates fit in with this direct experience. Those theories, however logical, remain logical, but unreal to me. These experiences, for example, thoroughly out of focus with logic, are still treasured by me as the most delectable and consummate ones I could recall.

I appreciate how difficult it is to believe this factually; but I also know how absurd it would be not to believe in such phenomena which are everyday occurrences in the twilight world of mysticism.

It is from this source in Navadwip that I received the priceless boon of the companionship of the only alter ego who had remained my companion for over a very long period. It was through my lack of patience, my over-zealousness that I had lost her association. And before I was ready to approach her again, she had left her material existence. But of that in time.

Before I come back to the episode of Narada, I shall narrate here another experience, also in West Bengal. This happened much later. Since the area is the same, this is the best place to refer to this. The world of tantra is a world of mystic revelations which constitute the only realities for a son of the Mother.

Quest for a Bangle

During my stay in Trinidad a doleful mother approached me to do something for her very beautiful daughter who had been gradually losing her mental balance. She must have been about twenty years of age when she was brought as a subject to me. I knew of no magic; and I knew very little of a faith cure if there is any such cure. I had my own method of prayers. All I try is to make my spiritual consciousness penetrate the material awareness, or lack of it in a subject. Of the twenty odd years this poor girl had spent in this world, nearly six years were spent in a mental hospital. Because of the utter dejection of her mother I had promised her some help as best as I could. But for that, I told her, I had to go to India, and then on my return I could have given her some hope, if I could find an answer.

For finding that answer I had to pay a visit to a shrine several hundred miles from Delhi and nearly a hundred miles south-west of the city of Calcutta. The distance did not matter; but the communications were sadly left to the most primitive methods inclusive of spanning two rather wide rivers on country barges pushed by bamboo poles. The apology of the only track road was at the time under repairs, which had been held back for political reasons, after the track had been dug up. Normal walk on that track was impossible; wheeled transport was a dream.

When I was on this quest (for a ‘cure’) I was accompanied by a determined lady I had known for years. There was no way of dissuading her from undertaking the hazardous journey. We reached the shrine on foot for the last six miles when the sun was about to set. On the way we had nothing to eat; along the paddied expanse we hardly met with any people or habitation; and a slashing Bengal lowland rain kept us on our bare toes dancing over six miles of a narrow sticky walk. Utterly harassed and famished we looked for some shelter for the night, and some sort of succour. After a research of thirty minutes we came to the conclusion that we have to pass the night al most under the sky in the mosquito-laden heavy atmosphere. Food was out of the question. Not a soul was in sight, except some urchins returning from some school somewhere to some other village somewhere.

A large ponderous tank covered with festering fallen leaves and breeding mosquitoes stretched under a sad afternoon sky; and on its bank stood the lonely singular shrine. That miserable structure was my rendezvous. The closed doors were barred; but we had a glimpse of the deity, Mother Käli of course.

I went to the pond, and took a hurried wash. My companion wanted to follow my example; but the sqeamish feminine slavery to forms stood in her way. She had to satisfy herself with just damping and brushing her sad sodden feet, and generally the portions of her much harassed body.

Her real worries related to the approaching night.. (There was no shelter worth the name.) A paddy-thrashing hut, with mud walls on three sides was all that stood at a distance from the shrine. It was unoccupied but for the bales of bare paddy-stalks, which littered almost all the floor in irregular heaps.

By now completely resigned to a dinnerless night (of course after a day of no lunch and no breakfast) I started to organise a fire under a small concrete covered pavillion situated in front of the shrine, and prepare for a night of penance. The vibrations were too loud and penetrating to be ignored. I suggested to the lady to take meanwhile a rest within the shed.

We had no changes of our clothings. If I had to offer my penances in the morning I would have to wash my clothes during the night, and leave them to dry so that I could use them in the morning; or agree to offer my prayers in wet clothes, and allow the clothes to dry on my skin. In a malarial situation the risk would have been great, specially to urbanised softies.

Of course she was free to decide the course she would adopt for herself. One thing was certain that there would be no offerings or prayers in sleptover clothings.

She Comes, Comes, and Ever Comes

The drama started after the lady had retired to the shed. In about another hour the sun would set, and the shrine, as well as the nondescript straggling village, surrounded by miles and miles of paddy fields, would be swallowed up by the growing dark surfs of gloom, made darker by the myriads of fireflies. I was about to get myself lost into the rather convenient feelings of non-existence. Bet myself lost sounds of mild jingles caused by light steps accustomed to music. The vibrations elsctrified me. As I opened my eyes, now turned to the east, I saw a charming girl of about fifteen, carrying akimbo a healthy baby boy. Clad in a red sari, and decorated with vermillion and gold, she stood before me wearing a strange smile in half appreciation of my predicament. Her two hands were kept engaged in supporting the baby. I looked a. Her feet. Not a trace of mud there. As she was facing the west, the red glow of the setting sun made her loose hair glow like hot copper, and her eyes sparkled with smiles and with a frank spirit of eager communication. She could not have been real, or was she the Real?

She looked like one of the commonest of village girls, inquisitive, eager, and ready to be of some assistance. Very naturally, and without waiting for any preliminaries she asked in a typical rural dialect, peculiarly local, “When did you arrive? What have you for food?”

I was hearing; but my eyes were fixed on the glowing circle of the vermillion that separated her arched, long, black brows. ‘Black like a line of beetles’, I remembered.

At once came to my mind other sensitive motifs: the one eye of the Tibetan Mahāyāna; the Egyptian beetle-sun motif; the Omega in Delphos; the ankus of Egypt, the serpent of the Māyās the vajra of the Thais, the trident of the Cambodians, the loop of Shintoism.. many...so many... How fascinating could the mind become. Now seeing, now visualising, now imagining, now interpreting...

But I knew that I should keep steady and alert.

I bowed to her, and paid my reverence. My forehead was on the floor.

“O! How strange”, she giggled. “Why do you bow to me? Look

There. There is the devi, within the room, closed. Why to me?” Yes, within the room, closed. I knew it so well... Clapped within the seed-heart of the lotus of the thousand petals.

“I do not know where she stands”, I said, “... or where she does not. She is where the unbudded virgin is: she is where the Mother in bloom is. Any virgin anywhere is worthy of honour. She is Sakti.”

“I am no virgin”, she said, smiling in full glory of revelation. The setting sun had spread its crimson glow all over the western sky of the palm fringed, wirde spaced paddy land of Bengal. “Look this is my son. I am his mother”

“So you are. And yet you are the virgin. I know of several virgin mothers. Are we not, all of us, the sky, the fields, the crop, the pond, the earth and the air, all, all her children? She is the eternal virgin Do you have doubts? The Virgin is a Mother; and the Mother a Virgin... That’s the Truth about the Evermore, Germ to Womb to Life to Fulfilment, to Mother and Germ and Womb. The eternal Womb; the eternal Virgin, as you might chose. The interim is a playful Mother’s wandering lullaby, as she nurses..

I avoided further talks, and asked her who she was.

As there were no habitations near about, and as the hour of the day was not suitable for a girl to be moving, how dared she to be at large, and with a baby to boot?

“I don’t know what you are talking about. I belong to the village. I belong to here. This is my son Ganeś and I have just come down from my husband’s place in the hills. But all this is by the way. The fact is that for the whole day you had nothing to eat. You must be hungry. Would you accept some popped rice from me? You will not refuse that humble fare I believe. Would you?”

I watched the engaging smile which actually made my curiosity tingle with a bundle of further enquiries.

Before I could figure out what to say, and how to say it, I watched the girl recede into the back bush, and vanish. Within ten minutes she appeared with a basket filled with puffed rice and some brown jaggery lumps. Then she threw an invitation to a poor man’s fare for dinner, and explained that behind the bush in a hut people would be waiting for us. The hut could not be missed. It was located just behind the bush; and for all purposes the best time would be eight in the evening.

She did not wait for my answer.

In a god forsaken remote village eight o’clock was midnight; and through the dark our steps were hesitant. When we reached the place, we found a young man waiting for us welcoming profusely and apolo gising at the same time that he could not have gone out earlier to welcome us in this doped village.

What did dope it I enquired, rather casually. But I was serious; because indeed by now I had absorbed a lot of the special vibrations radiating throughout the locality.

We call it in our common parlance ‘a weight’, or something living in the air.

He perhaps understood the point of my enquiry and replied to the effect that the place was under the protection of a ‘living' deity, made common clay; and periodically was exchanged for a new one; only the inued to be inside the image of ond (ash apple-egli mermenly continued the deity.

The Girl Who Illudes

Centuries back when this part of lower Bengal was covered in woods and shrubs, and had grown into a natural habitat for the woods tigers, when the lands hereabout pide and this natural Ben civilization, a yogi had strayed into this place, and found this natural tank. By the tank stood a bel tree. Under this tree he had made his and. Later, this very asand was consecrated as pancamundi (fiveskulled-seat). He must have been here for quite a few years when he became aware of a young girl of about eighteen years of age, often Sisting him, and bringing little offerings of food and drink for him. At first the yogi did not notice this. The Buddha also did not notice Sujātā. But soon he had reasons to make enquiries how in the wilderness a young girl could be seen. He decided to follow her, and find out for himself. He had made a full round of the tank, and as he came back to his āsana, he found that the girl had vanished. He tried this several times. Every time he did so, he failed; but every time consistently, and invariably the singular apparition vanished as it approached his asana. He never found the opportunity to exchange words with her. He never tried to. He had other ideas. He kept his seat, and continued, apparently undisturbed, his penances. But the people around thought otherwise.

“Gradually he was losing his balance of mind. So people thought. He was found to shriek loud through the night, and the fierce words rang through the forest. Night jars screeched; jackals sent out dismayed yells. ‘How far would you run away. How long? O thou illusive fascinator?” He would scream and howl. ‘Some day I will catch up with you, O thou self-willed deceiver, the Charming Reality!’

“But who were the people”, I asked, “if this was a dense forest infested with tigers?” “Who were they? Let me explain. Of course the tigers continued.

But with them some human tigers too began to prowl all about here. They were more dangerous. These were the thugs, the marauders, evil worshippers of mother Käll, who always sought for a secluded spot, away from civil control. That helped their way of life.

“They too must have seen this girl at times. At least so does it must have followed alter Theist inquisitiveness made appear Ten for the truth, and their failure must have finally told on their nerves. Would, they too lose their head as the sage apparently had? They held on to the saint, and asked him about what lie knew of the girl. He must have answered them most incoherently. And they were drunk. Not knowing what they were doing, they began to beat him, and was about to kill him and offer him to the Mother Kali Strangely enough the saint submitted to their will. But he had a last request to make.

“According to the legend he had awaited this hour. Now that the hour had indeed arrived, they would have done him a favour by releasing him in the way they wanted to. No objection; no hesitation. But after his body had been so offered, he directed, the lifeless body should be entombed under his seat. When they would dig the ground, he said, they would come upon other things, which they should not stir. Then they should cut down the bel tree under which he sat, and make an image of it by modelling it with clay. He knew that they wanted to see and know the girl. But that part of the privilege must be left to them. He, however, assured them that the girl would never leave the consecrated haunt. Only if they were able, they could see her, and talk to her by their own efforts, and-luck. She herself knew where she belonged to. After that the saint gave up his life.

“When the grave was dug up for his internment they, to their horror, discovered within the hollowed sarcophagus skeletons of several animals, inclusive of human bones. They at once appreciated that they had disturbed a saint with powers to have reduced them to reptiles, or maggots.

“But he did not do so only because he wanted to be interned below his āsana along with those lives who had assisted him to capture within earthly dimensions, the haunting Reality that illudes the human grasp. Because of the saint’s blessings that illusive ‘She’ would never leave this place unless desecrated by any heinous crime.”

“Like what”, I interrupted. “This mortal world is only full of crimes “

“Do you seriously think so?” he asked unconvincingly.

“There are crimes not articled in the books of law, and yet those crime could send the souls to unending tortures leven in this life and this body. Greed and envy; spite and passion; lust and unkindness... O there are so many.”

“Well, I am no expert, But you see no one really lives here. And

We do not allow people to reside permanently hereabout, We try to keep this place clean.”

“Clean of men?” I chuckled.

“Clean of men”, he repeated.

“Does the girl still appear?” I asked rather in a low key. “Some claim to have seen her. I live not very far from here. I often pass here and around. I have never seen anything like that.”

“That does not prove anything,” I remarked, “Does it? We do not see what we do not want to see. How many times, for example have sou stood before a rose, and admired its beauty? The beauty of the soul of a forgiving wife; how many times have you seen? Again, seeing suddenly the unexpected, we brush those strange experiences aside, and call them names instead, imagination, hallucination, spectres of sleeping ideas, or shadows of mental projections etc. Have you been seeking her? Actually hungering to see her?”

“Well? In a way.” As he casually remarked, he lighted a cigarrette, and offered me one. I declined, and he continued. “And why not? After all...Its something to be talked of...” He could hardly suppress his rather wise incredulous smiles.

“Like the illusive yeti or the monster of Lochness? A tourist curiosity?” I laughed and allowed thereby an opportunity for him to give vent to his repressed merriment.

“Well, I have not seen anything so far. This much I could own. But I must also own that from time to time people have been reporting seeing her. She, in many respects, belongs to hereabout. Hence people come here. You should see the multitude gathered here during the Kārtiki Amavasyä (the new moon night of October).

“She has been seen quite alone; but at times with a rather bulky boy held akimbo. Well, let them see... Let them talk... I do not have to believe. Do you?”

“I do not know how to reply. Belief like gold is so much mixed up with muck and dross. I have heard from pork-knockers in Guyana that in their search for diamonds many have thrown away in their eagerness real diamonds down the river taking them to be mere crystals, jades and pebbles. I myself have passed over many saints; have slept over many valuable unreturning hours. Who cares? He who does, is an expert. Belief too like knowledge is mixed up with cynicism and ego. We take pride in ‘scientific’ methods, ‘scientific’ knowledge; as if knowledge could be anything but scientific. But those who do believe, have to pay a bitter price before securing the longed for blessing"

The food served was bare boiled rice with no side dishes, except touched could not resist manage within the limits of the fare. But lecould not resist asking manas where is the little girl who had invited us? Judging from her concern for us, we expected a sumptuous dinner; particularly when she was so richly dressed. Where is the charming girl anyway..”

I could have continued with my half jocular tone. But as I looked at him, in spite of the dim lantern light, I was taken aback by his wide looks. His lower jaw had dropped causing his mouth to open a bit. “What girl are you talking about?... In this house no one lives really. Only pilgrims during the big festivals use it. I came here by chance today. I am a teacher in a school about eight miles away. Had to arrange for some paddy collection from my maternal uncle’s lands. Only my old mother is with me. As you see, we had just some rice left with us. And mummy is so sorry to have to treat you with such a fare. No young girl is with us. Are you sure?... What girl? Young and charming? Was she carrying a chubby baby?”

Of course I did not allow the conversation to proceed. The phenomenon was obvious to me, but only as a phenomenon. But I was determined to probe further into it.

When we returned to the thrashing hovel, I made it clear to my companion that I am going to take off my garments, and wash, and spread them out. Hopefully they would get dry by morning. I would have to offer my prayers. I also suggested to her that if she cared, she could do the same, and use the mounds of hay for cover. In the dark nothing would matter anyway. In any case I shall keep out for the night. So she would be free to adjust as she would like.

Without waiting for an answer I walked away into the dark. I spread my washed linen along the cemented floor of the temple. And assumed āsana, before the small fire I had lit. I do not know when or

How I got merged in my meditation. Then something happened.

By about midnight I was astir by a new arrival. But I kept on meditating. Attention fixed between my brows, with eyes closed, the mantra came alive even more alive. But I distinctly heard the same mantra being uttered by some other male voice.

Kşirabhavāni

I had a similar experience while meditating in the remote holy shrine of Ksirabhavani, off the Ullar lake in Kashmir. As I had been pray ing with eyes closed, I heard a myriad voice singing along with me. At the end of the session I was amazed to find myself and with me. Spot.

At a certain point wanted to touch water. I had kept no water for me, there being no vessel. Because of long practice, through reflex Thappened to stretch my hand for the water. Imagine my surprise when I actually did touch it. Shocked I opened my eyes. Before rise, in a bowl like declevity in the cemented floor, there was water By my side sat a bearded yogin in samadhi.

The Light Breaks

The resonant choral sound did not bother me. But my poise was shaken when I observed that the lady had left the haystack and was comfortably seated by me, muttering some mantras to boot. I went back into my meditation. No leaf moved.

It could have been about two o’clock in the morning when I became aware of another female form, now seated very close to me. In the still and heavy air hung a delicately ethereal fragrance. It was intoxicating. My throat was dry; my skin hot, my head and body were damp with sweat. But, as usual I did not move. Suddenly I was offered a drink.

“Take a sip.” There was no mistake in the tone. The voice was my companion’s. But the language was Bengali, which struck me at once, because the lady in question did not know Bengali. But I would not be dissuaded. I knew better. I continued with my āsana-śuddhi; bhūtaśuddhi, digbandha. Then I began to recite the famous invocation:

Pancasal-lipibhi-r-vibhakta mukhado-

Panmadhya vakşasthalām

Vāsvanmauli nivaddha candra-šakalām

Āpīna tunga stanim

Mudrāmakşagunam sudhādhya kalasam

vidyām ca hastāmbujai-r

Vibhrānam visada prabhām tri-nayanām

Vag devatām aśraye*

*The deity I seek shelter in has fifty faces divided into the fifty alphabets. Her full-grown upright firm breasts cover the area between her armpits and her heart. On her crest is tied a bright crescent; and in her hands she holds a jar filled with the drink of immortality, a book, a mudra and a dice with a lasso. Ah, she radiates her halo all around.

I continued with the Matrika Nyasa resolutely, without accommodat ing any diversion, until stood vivid before my eyes what I always longed to see, my Mother, the one I knew, the Lady in Saffron!

Then light broke, as also the first light of the welcome dawn. I was swept away by a torrent of what seemed to me electrocuted waves and waves of light and light, thrilling me all over, awakening every hair strand.

The joy of the state was sensitively wholesome, intangibly abstract. Swept away by a torrent of what seemed to me to be light, the Joy of feeling free was intense, yet quiet and cool. I felt no disturbance at all. A solemn quiet music was penetrating my being, and I felt as if l was floating through a garden filled with fragrant blossoms.

The wilderness had come to life. Early birds began calling, and I felt the gentle blowing breeze.

Tārā! Tārā! I cried fervently.

I was alone! The fire had subsided long ago. I made straight for the pond. I did not see my companion anywhere. I entered the hovel, and found her deep asleep cushioned between the straw-heaps. She stirred as soon as I had entered, and begged me to step out. I remembered that she had to dress herself, and quickly withdrew, wishing her a happy morning.

I was confused. It was high time I got out of the shroud of logic, I thought. If the arranged could get deranged through events that baffle cause, one should be intelligent enough to accept the truth, that the time to get upset has gone over the head. The excitement was too much for any pretence to equanimity. If the lady had been sleeping tucked safe in the hay stack, who was the one sitting by me? Was ! getting all muddled, befogged?

I rushed to the āsana for any signs. The fire-place was cold. I covered my forehead with the ashes. But where had disappeared the hole with the water? The smooth surface of the floor bemocked my credulity. I rushed to the shrine, and with one hard push flung open the door, and kept staring at the deity. That was the only time when cons ciously, driven by the remorse of being deluded again and again, I felt to grab the deity, and shake her up for her cruel dumb pranks, which only whetted my longings. I yearned for her embrace. I became hysteric.

I assumed the asana again. I wanted to get free of all conflicting thoughts, and get near Mä. I began my prayers, that would keep me engaged for another three hours at least. Subsequently, after her ablutions were over my companion too joined me, and reverently occupied a seat, though keeping a distance.o

But then the dreamy surroundings had come to life; and a priest showed up. He performed his normal prayers, while we waited. Then we received what we had come for, an iron bangle, which had the supposed power to put the girl’s mind at peace. On our enquiry we found that our host, the young man with his mother had already left the village.

But I was determined to see that incandescent girl-apparition (1) again, if at all possible. I had to experience her sweet charm again. I was driven into frenzy by a strange urge. That extreme longing made me burst into tears. My companion was dumbfounded. Unabashed, unchecked I expressed to her my agony, the agony of the soul longing to come to grips with the subject of ecstasy.

Yet Again She

I was talking all the time; but my talks, I knew would not make any sense to her. She grew concerned at my state. Having set out in search of a cure for some demented girl in Trinidad had I got myself demented in the process? The priest had warned (did not he?) that this state of mind always portended something bad. I did not realise how true he had been. But to go into that would be too personal; and I choose to leave it there.

Hungry, exhausted and driven beyond her feeble state of endurance, my delicate companion wanted to get out of it all. She, I believe, was scared, specially at my change. The idea of a long journey back with a demented companion made her feel extremely nervous. She wanted to get away, but how?

At this time a bullock-cart appeared, and she fell to negotiate with the driver promising him a fantastic price. When we were about to leave the village an old lady stepped by the track with a basket in hand. She had brought puffed rice, and two lumps of molasses. She reported that a little girl had asked her to bring it for the strangers in the temple. In as much as we were returning, we could as well take the

Humble fare with us. “The road is long, very long”, she remarked. “Where is the girl”, I asked. The immediacy of my ardent enquiry threw her into utter confusion. “Who is she? You know her? Go and bring her to me; if necessary, by the cuff of her neck. I will reward you.” I insisted.

Her dismayed stare looked baffled. “I thought you had sent her”, she replied with a husky voice but continued to peep into the cart. “Kalil Käll! She even had paid me some coppers, saying that the puffed rice be delivered on the cart... I myself had so much looked forward to seeing her again. A pretty girl Kali Kali!” And she bowed to the echoes of a long forgotten local legend, while I fell to cry openly like a child.

The cart man moved. The bullocks lurched philosophically. My companion accepted the dole on her sari-end which she had spread out. The cart gave a stronger jolt, and ambled past the bush, down the track, by now sun-drenched.

Then came to view the little hut from where the old lady had crys. Tallised. I could see her tracing her steps back.

But I also saw the beautiful girl standing at the threshold of the hut bathed in sunlight, and smiling with a gay abandon. At my sudden shriek to my companion, “Look there she is... There! At the thres hold of that hut...”, my companion said, “It is the effect of continued hunger and thirst. You are raving”, and she held me down for 1 was about to jump out, and get to that illusive presence.

The cart soon went past the track. No, my companion had seen no girl. Neither had she ever left the thrashing floor during the night!

And the only evidence of this incredible episode remained held within the sari-end of my companion. We munched and munched, until I fell asleep on the jolting cart, somewhat soothed by the spring of the soft heap of straws covered with lairs and lairs of palm mats.

I noticed while getting down from the cart that she held a handful of that rice in her sari-end. “These are charmed grains”, she said. I looked at her in silent approval.

But whilst crossing on the boat she slipped on its side, and fell into the wide river. With great difficulty we salvaged her; but the puffed rice, the remnants of the offering, the collected ash, everything, except the bleeding mercury (sindur). Was gone. We were drenched thoroughly. Only my diary was saved as the single evidence of what had been to me a stirring night, lived all alone, and yet not all so alone.

My eyes had never lost sight of the smooth running stream. In a while not a single grain of the puffed rice could be seen floating. They had gone for ever.

A Mountain Shrine

I have been to the mountain shrine of Kamäksyä (different from the one at Varanasi, already mentioned), known to be the most powerful’ shrine of all, in the north-eastern region of India. The shrine was built on the sakri emblem of pont, the triangle. There is no deity there, neither any given form. The actual shrine lies deep under the earth. This subterranean shrine is nothing but a spring jutting out of a slit against the Himalayan range.

The legend has it that Lord Siva had lost his wife sacrificed in a ritual observed by her father. In fact she had sacrificed herself by jumping into the fire pit of the yajña (sacrifice). This she did to mark her protest against her father’s anti-Siva stance. The bereaved husband began to roam on the earth almost demented with the dead body flung across his shoulders. Because there seemed to be no other way of bringing him back to his senses, Vişnu, a fellow god, gradually cut the body into pieces. The limbs, so dissected, fell piece by piece. Every place the pieces fell to, grew into a ‘Mother Shrine’ and was held extremely sacred to the tantra believers. The shrines were consecrated, so they hold, by the fall of the limbs of Siva’s consort. Of the most revered of these holy places Kāmāksyä is one if not the topmost of them all. Here fell her delta, triangle: and here from a rock side spring jets out a water flow. The devout dip their hands in the small square receptacle of the spring and feel a rather warm slit in the rock, which draws their devotion.

All over the world, specially amongst the mountain tribes, reverence for springs and caves, gorges and subterranean flows has been a common feature. This area in the north-west border of India has been strongly under the influence of the Dravido-Mongoloid tribes who have contributed much to the Mahāyāna Tantra of Tibet, Indo-China and China. The female principle is held in very high regard. But Kāmākşyā, like Delphos, is different, distinct and unique. Here all tantriks assemble on the break of the monsoons.

After the hot May-June months, before ploughshares penetrate the soil, the people around celebrate over three days, when the Mother is supposed to be having her periodical menses. This heralds her eternal virginity and fertility. In obvious symbolic parallelism the period is hailed; special rites are offered, and farmers never touch any digging tool, much less violate the soil. Sex is a taboo for these days.

Blood is given and taken as mark of successful prayers. Cloth pieces soaked in the Mother’s blood-blossoms are distributed as blessings from the Mother-Spirit. The shrine is kept closed for these days; and special prayers are organised to last uninterrupted for four days and three nights. Great tantra adepts assemble and offer their prayers.

Kämäksyä is thus a great link in the chain of the tantriks and the Mahayana followers, because Kämäksyä symbolises the great triangle of the Great Mother. The maha-yoni or the maha mudra is found here, and nowhere else.

There I had gone to have the ‘virgin worship’ performed according to the mountain rites. But that did not satisfy me. On my next trip to this distant place I was all by myself, but for a foreign tourist who had been visiting me then. His presence did not bother me, as he kept himself fully engaged in tribal songs, temple songs and with those Indian hippies who pass for god-men, morons or straight cranks. So I was left to myself.

The temple is invariably closed at about midnight after the last arati me. A songs at the time of the vespers after to me. A song having come to my mind I began to sing. The small gathering got shocked because such songs within the sanctum sanctorum are hardly ever tolerated. But the chants came from authentic Sanskrit tantra texts; and none dared move, not even the knowing priest.

The music and the emotive words sent me into a trance; and I quite forgot myself. I was there, yet not there. The forms and norms of life did not matter any more with me.

As I came to, I found the temple hall and nave merged in utter darkness; and the silence was so solid that I could almost touch it. The prayer finished, I stepped out. The yard was flooded with a bright moon. I went out of the temple in search of my tourist friend. He was busy talking to some hippies.

But my inner hunger remained unfulfilled. The very wide yard looked lovely. Staying there after the forbidden

Hour was considered dangerous. Yet in rare cases some infatuated zealots persist to sit out a night or two in the mysterious yard. I decided to meditate through the night all alone. Next morning, I was on the edge of nerves. Under a deep tension, almost feverish, I could feel the pulls of a very strong magnetic call. I worked slowly along the line of that magnetism, until I was climbing the great Bhuvaneśvari hill. From the peak a sublime view of the magnificent Brahmaputra widened eastwards. To be there was to touch sublimity. At a distance of about two miles down the stream floated, like an emerald, the island shrine of Umananda. I recognised at once that to have been the focal point. Did the island call me? Why?

Om Jvälä Jvālā Svāhā

I could hardly keep myself restrained any more. That night as my companion had bolted the door of his room I

Was out in the temple yard again. It was drizzling. The sky was over cast; and occasionally was rent by thunder. Flashes of those lightnings left the dark, darker, Quite unexpectedly, and quite against the run of my normal health I began to develop the symptoms of a shivering ague. I wished I were heavily clothed. I wished a fire could be near about. But the dark was as thick as my mind; and I could not see my own hand; As I shivered, I searched and searched for the gate to the shrine.

I knew that at the mouth of the shrine there was a little shelter. I proceeded towards it; and missed the door. However absurd it might sound today, but the inescapable fact was that I missed it several times, until I found a fire, and perched close to it. My eyes closed as soon as I assumed a seat near the fire. At once I dropped into a deep meditation, like one drugged, or under some spell. ‘Like a line loaded with lead I gained my depths in seconds. I had no idea of the hour of the night. When I came to, I saw a couple, both obviously kāpālikas, standing before me. No one else was about. The very stars had gone to sleep under a thick blanket of Assam clouds. A strange quietness hung from the trees. Only the inescapable sombre hills were busy standing guard over this eerieness.

Of the two, the full bloomed heavy limbed female held me in her grip, and guided me to the river, where a boat was waiting. The only ferry had stopped long ago. There was no one about; and ferrying to the island of Umānanda Bhairava at that hour was forbidden because of the dangerous nature of the cross-currents and whirlpools which hug the rocky banks of the island.

Yet the boat moved on. I have no recollection of the boatman, Was there a boatman? Or was it the male figure who managed it all? Anyway, the stretch of the dangerous river was negotiated successfully. As we passed, we were suddenly challenged by a screeching flock of crows who roost on the trees and rocks of the island. The lady talked to them angrily in Assamese; and the birds vanished. The obvious absurdity of the bizarre situation brushed my mind; but only for a moment; for at the next moment the lady, a strikingly beautiful matured Bhairavi, well clad, properly garlanded, with hairs down, sent her twining arm around me and whispered, “Depend. Rely. Come to me. I am with you, and shall be with you. Be with me. Be yourself.”

I have known myself to respond to such calls all my life even at the cost of personal dangers. I felt well protected and responded in a silent affirmative which she understood. In the quiet night, under a mystic sky the wide river flowed on its mystic journey. The water, the boat, the dipping oars, the rippling waves added to our solemn bond. Silence was the only language between us.

The next thing I knew was that I was climbing the rock of Umananda Bhairava. I passed some ramshackle settlements. Soon I was seated at the very shrine, which never keeps open at that hour; but the fact was that we had descended into the deep pit of the shrine, where stood the famous lingam.

At the sight of the lingam and of a fire, I kneeled and began to recite along with other voices: om yang linga śarīram śoşaya śaşaya svāhā.

Om yang linga śarīram šoşaya śoşaya svāhā Om ram sankoca śarīram daha daha svāhā Om parama Śiva Susumna pathena mülaśringatam ullāsollāsa jvala jvala prajvala prajvala Hansah So-Ham svāhā

Again, and again, and-again the terrible chant came out of me. I knew a crisis was at hand.

A Drink

The chants flowed on and on. The music came rhythmically ata racing pace. But all through I could recognise the voice that had kept me spiritually aware all my life; it was the familiar voice of the Lady in Saffron. From somewhere she had been chanting. It must have been nearly two o’clock in the morning when I was

Suddenly touched, and a motherly voice whispered, “Drink”. But through my long practice my eyes remained closed; and 1 desisted from making a response. I heard; and did not hear.

But someone was trying to force me; someone was drawing me to her body, and insisted, “Drink! Drink from me. Have no fear. Drink!”

My face was pushed to something soft and tender, and I was drinking. But there was no cup; no physical hard brim ever touched my lips. But, none the less, I was drinking. Yes I was.

Then realities began to dawn on me. I realised that I had fixed my

Parched lips to a human body, and I was sucking at a nipple like a helpless baby. I had indeed been drinking from a living mother’s breast; and I sucked and sucked to my heart’s content. Once at it, there was to be no stopping. (But, how could there be so copious a

Supply? I wondered as I sucked.) The warm soft touch of firm flesh, the light sweet taste of the drink, sent along my spine a kind of assurance from ‘days that are no more’.

At this stage I became aware of a sudden itch between my (awakening) brows. The well known Jitendra-centre was signalling me. At once I felt assured of all protection and aid. I felt safe and strong. I continued sucking feverishly holding the fleshy source dearly with both my hands.

All nights come to an end. On gaining my consciousness I found myself alone, breaking out of my sound sleep by the river side; I was under a tree. A cool breeze was fanning my fevered brow. But I was alone as alone could be. I had to finish my early morning bath; and I washed all alone.

Presently I could spot the holy pair, bathing. The male quickly came to me, and asked in a rasping voice, where had I been all the time; where had I spirited myself away. He wondered how could I effect my escape. Fi