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Friday, August 11, 2017

ON SWEAT-DRENCHED MEMORIES


Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, spiritual adept and founder of Transcendental Meditation, advances the following argument for the existence of a supreme Being. There are grades of creation, he says. Some beings are less powerful and less intelligent, less joyful and less creative, while others have greater degrees of these attributes. Creation is therefore composed of different strata of intelligent energy forms, from inert states such as the rock, to the single-celled organisms and upwards from there through higher and higher degrees of complexity. We see all around us diverse species of vegetable, egg-born animals, water-born animals, mammals and humans. A seemingly infinite array of variety is observable to anyone with eyes - or ears, if you're like our friendly garden mole. And if you are, please stop tearing up the lawn!

Thus, as you are able to observe evolutionary levels leading downward from humans to the lower life forms, it is no great feat to fathom some stratum of evolution at the topmost level of creation where life has achieved its greatest potential. To believe that human beings are the crown jewel of the cosmos is preposterous. And as we go beyond the common rung we find the sages and saints. These noble individuals have purified themselves through discipline and devotion. Upwards from the earthly beacons of righteousness we encounter, at least in our minds, the realm of the angels. These mighty beings, which some call extraterrestrials and others term supercomputers, possess extrasensory powers and serve to guide and protect the denizens of the planet. With or without wings.

Ultimately, says the yogi, we find at the top stratum of evolution, above the choirs of angels, He whose power is unlimited, whose joyfulness is unlimited, whose tenderness and love and mercy know no bounds. This supreme Being, though in a body, is all knowing, all powerful and ever present, and as such He is a representative of the all-pervasive force or power that runs through, governs and contains the entire universe - and if there are multi-verses, those too. This personal God, in contrast to the impersonal energy that runs through everything, goes by the name Ishvara in Sanskrit. While Brahman is the name given to the impersonal energy pervading all that is. Ishvara, says the yogi, has "a nervous system so highly developed that His ability on every level of life is unlimited. His senses are the most powerful senses. His mind is the most powerful mind. His intellect is the most powerful intellect."

And so, if you do not doubt the existence of life forms below that of the human, you cannot deny the existence of some supreme Entity in the form of a personal almighty God. And most people believe in such a God, and pray. For me growing up Sai Baba was just such a being. Though encased in a human form, and a rather eccentric-looking one at that, with Afro hair and flowing ocher robe, this diminutive individual was not limited by time and space. His spirit or divine essence was able to soar the cosmos and bring about whatever miracles he cared to. How else to explain the divination (predictions) and the manifestations which I witnessed first-hand? Yes there were accusations of sorcery, sleight of hand and even child abuse, as well as an assassination attempt on this extraordinary being. Nevertheless Sai Baba continued to shine, ignoring the naysayers and controversy. His stance was one which I have adopted, and which can be stated as follows: "Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty. And the pig likes it."

And even as I have striven to go beyond allegiance to a form of God and access the formless perfection that dwells within, I still pray to Sai Baba. Call it force of habit. As Ramana Maharshi said, "There is one who governs the world, and it is His duty to look after the world. He who has given life to the world knows how to look after it also. He bears the burden of this world, not you." And not me. 

Which is why these sages say we should be like travelers who, when boarding their train, set their heavy luggage at their feet. For whether on our shoulders or on the ground, the loads we carry with us through life will arrive at our intended destination just the same. These loads are worries, concerns, fears, anxieties and even responsibilities. Trust that all will be well, that all will get to where it is supposed to go. Because you are the destination and the source. Doing so you will save yourself unnecessary worry, not to mention quite a few pains in the neck!

And so in my adult life my prayer has been abbreviated to four short words, which run: "Thy will be done." Even this humble orison is superfluous. Given an almighty Lord of the universe, how could anything other than the divine will ever occur! 

Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of my mother's death. In the intervening 12 months I have done a lot of reflecting on her life and our relationship. I have looked at pictures and dwelt upon the past with bittersweet sentiments. And it made me marvel at how when I reminisce there is not a tinge of worry or concern. The past is history, and it worked out just fine, as I am here to think about it. Would if we could regard the future with such calm equanimity. And we should. If as the almighty Being you were able to step out of time you too would see that the future has already played itself out to perfection. In lieu of this ability, have faith.

I came across a picture of my brother and me sitting in my mother's lap. How safe and secure I felt. Growing up in a loving household with parents who were happily married, my days were filled with love and affection. I knew I'd be taken care of, come what may, because my parents were with me, guiding and protecting me. And then, when I was 24, they separated. My brother had passed away, and this had caused a rift in the fabric of their marriage, which led a few months later to my father's having an affair. My mother discovered his infidelity with a woman's intuition and some timely advice from her youngest son, and promptly cast her partner of 30 years out of the house. How I cried when I found out! It broke my heart. I told my father that I didn't agree with how he had ended the marriage. He raised me in accordance with the five human values, and lying and cheating aren't the most saintly expedients. But I understood why he had acted as he had. My parents' union had run its course, their son's death had proved an insurmountable barrier to the continuation of their togetherness, and so the time had come to turn the page on that great decades long chapter of their life. And there is no swifter way out of one romantic paring than by entering another. A woman will accept a lot of abuse from her man, and all along my mother had tolerated my father's moods and tirades with an carefree ease, but for a staunch Catholic adultery would Just. Not. Stand. Man.

And who was I to lay the finger of blame, being no stranger to such behavior myself. 

My own personal history was a sort of blueprint for my father's behavior. In college I had taken a good friend up on his offer to enjoy a roll in the hay with him and his girlfriend. Sultry nights, those. Sparks inevitably flew between Layla and me and we began seeing each other without my friend's approval. He did not like this. My involvement in their relationship resulted for a time in our estrangement, and also led to their break-up. Like the other woman's involvement in my father's life. Not long after this threesome, I was in a relationship of my own with a girl I had known in high school, and I didn't feel that strongly about its longevity. When Layla re-entered my life for just one night, I chose to tell my girlfriend that I had been with another woman, and my confession broke us up. Which was what in my heart I had desired. So over a year before my parents' marriage ended, I had played both the part of cheater, like my father, as well as that of the "other lover." Thus my level-headed reaction to the break-up of my family was one of sympathetic understanding. Though it still hurt very much to see my home life crumble before my very eyes. And in the many years since I have, more than once, played the part of my mother in that doomed union. I mean the part of jilted lover. Not fun, but talk about enlarging one's perspective!

And though I may never encounter another person who loves me as unconditionally as my mother, who was my biggest fan, who always had my best interests at heart, I don't long for that lap where as a boy I had felt so safe and secure. Why? Because I have found a new place to call home. We should all be like children and live in the lap of the Lord, for all is as it should be. And understanding is a very precious thing. As are my sweat-drenched memories.



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