Take it or leave it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


I am currently reading Edward Lyton's Zanoni (1842). It is my favorite novel, and not just because it's the one I'm halfway through, though if this were the case it wouldn't be the first time. Zanoni, which I plan to include on my upcoming "ten must-read books that are free" list, if I can ever get around to writing it, is a mystical novel treating the occult. The titular main character evinces super powers which make the Man of Steel seem like a wimp and which include predicting the future. Or in the author's own words, "It was as if this dark and wondrous being could convert the most ordinary events and the meanest instruments into the agencies of his inscrutable will." 

The character reminds me of Sai Baba, an Indian holy man my parents took my brothers and me to see several times when we were kids. Sai Baba possessed miraculous powers of his own, not the least of which included materializing jewelry out of thin air, healing the sick and predicting the future. He even foretold that I'd be a medical doctor. Hear him discourse playfully on the 5 minutes of daily happiness, at most, one can hope to wring from a fortunate marriage - or about 2 minutes if plagued by premature ejaculation - and it's no mystery why I'm still single.

I feel so blessed to have met Sai Baba in the flesh. He is by far the most charismatic, dynamic, fantastic individual I have ever come across either in life or in books. And I've studied Zorro and Don Quixote and some of Don Juan. Whether the diminutive guru was God himself or merely human like the rest of us is no matter to me, because he was a walking miracle. Once I sat in the pouring rain watching him walk among his followers, and wherever he stood the rain ceased to fall, just so he wouldn't get wet. I swear this is the truth. Plus he had rock star hair! What a beautiful man. Kind of looks like Lisa Bonet.

In one interview Sai Baba told us about a disciple of his who wished to see the world through God's eyes. Of course God's eyes meant Sai Baba's, since to his followers God and Sai Baba are one and the same. Sai Baba granted the man his wish. He promptly lost his senses, went bonkers, nuts, fell off his rocker, or fill in the descriptive expression of your choice to describe someone who goes stark raving mad. This story of Sai Baba, whose followers believe to be an avatar, or incarnation of divinity, reminded me of the Hindu holy text the Bhagavad Gita, in which Krishna, the ultimate avatar, reveals himself to his follower Arjuna.

After being granted the vision, which is at once terrifying and wonderful, Arjuna says, "When I behold Thee so, with awful brows a-glow, with burning glance, and lips lighted by fire, fierce as those flames which shall consume, at close of all, Earth, Heaven! Ah me! I see no Earth and Heaven! Thee, Lord of Lords! I see, Thee only-only Thee!

"Thou, that hast fashioned men, devourest them again, one with another, great and small, alike! The creatures whom Thou mak'st, with flaming jaws Thou tak'st, lapping them up! Lord God! Thy terrors strike from end to end of Earth, Filling life full, from birth to death, with deadly, burning, lurid dread!

"God, make me know why is Thy visage so? Who art Thou, feasting thus upon Thy dead? Who? awful Deity! Why hast Thou face so fierce? Whence doth this aspect horrible proceed?"

And Krishna's reply: "Thou seest me as Time who kills, Time who brings all to doom, the Slayer Time, Ancient of Days, come hither to consume."

After Arjuna has had enough of staring death straight in the face, he says, "Retake, Dear Lord! for pity's sake thine earthly shape, which earthly eyes may bear! Thou of the thousand arms and countless eyes! This frightened heart is fain to see restored again my charioteer, in Krishna's kind disguise."

Krishna complies, resuming human form, and saying, "Let no more trouble shake thy heart, because thine eyes have seen My terror with My glory. To view me as thou didst, dear Prince! The gods Dread and desire continually to view! Yet not by scriptures, nor from sacrifice, nor penance, nor gift-giving, nor with prayer shall any so behold, as thou hast seen! Only by fullest service, perfect faith, and uttermost surrender am I known and seen, and entered into! 

"Who doeth all for Me; who findeth Me in all; adoreth always; loveth all which I have made, and Me, for Love's sole end that man, Arjuna! unto Me doth wend."

If you find yourself falling short of perfect surrender to divinity, if you are not cut out for mortification of the flesh, extreme austerities, and if when the collection basket is passed around at church you stare at your toes - and then are racked with guilt when you rise for communion and eat the "body of Christ" for free - a shortcut to beholding the body of God and seeing life through God's eyes is to see divinity everywhere you turn. The moment you can regard friend and foe with the same kindness, turn your affection indiscriminately upon all, experience wonder in life's little miracles as well as the big ones, then like Arjuna you have beheld the Lord on all the Lord's grandeur. And you get to keep your marbles!

If you don't believe me, let's hear it from Krishna himself. A more prosaic version of the last line quoted above runs: "The one who does all works for Me, and to whom I am the supreme goal, who is my devotee, who has no attachment, and is free from enmity towards any being attains Me."

Or if you prefer Lytton's language: "Not in the knowledge of things without, but in the perfection of the soul within, lies the empire of man aspiring to be more than man." But: "Though all earth were carved over and inscribed with the letters of diviner knowledge, the characters would be valueless to him who does not pause to inquire the language and meditate the truth." 

Nature is God's body, and the language that describes it is love. And by the way, like Zanoni, the Gita is also free.

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