29 and 30-June-2013
We are at Zhongpa (also called Dongpa in some maps) monastery in Tibet, having traveled 400 kms from Nyalam – the acclimatization base camp… We arrived evening of 29th… Local time is set to Beijing time…. So it is a bit tricky to understand “time”… It is 8 pm or so and Sun is yet to set…. And we see a nice earth to sky rainbow…
Feels good to see that rainbow. We take it as a good omen… Perhaps the weather at Kailasa will improve and the Parikrama opened by the authorities. Yes! Parikrama is on… That is the sign from the sky, methinks..
Night descends. It is very cold. Dinner is tasteless. God be blessed, there is electric power in the room. So the light bulb is on. But man be blamed, there is no switch to be found. So we cannot switch off the light… We have a room for six. Slightly cramped, but a bunk for each one, and so this is cool. Deep sleep shuts out not just the glare of the electric bulb, but all space and time.
Me gets up before sunrise. Outside is pitch dark. I manage to somehow locate my torch, and armed with some toiletries, set out into the open. At one end of an open courtyard is a toilet of sorts. No lights there… There is a vat of ice cold water outside, and a broken plastic bottle as a mug.. The bog is a hole on a floor. No additional plumbing. Titiksha…Having got a live tutorial in Nyalam, folks are now getting used to the demands of this yatra. A brave few are already getting back to nature and using the great open spaces for their body needs. More, including yours truly, will join the league of brave… With the sky as cap and earth as shoe what need for dwelling in between… It is all in the mind… Chill…
30-June-2013… This day, we shall go from Zhongpa, driving across open-vast-nothingness… Go some 550 Kms – to reach …. YES! …. We shall reach the most Holy teertha – Maanasarovar!
But before we embark on the long-long drive through nothingness, let us wander a bit, dazed as we are, in the maze of our minds..
So what is our state of mind or no-mind….
We are all being carried in some omnibus of Karma… Ice cold Karma… Very few of us can claim to be feeling great physically… Altitude and the constant travel is starting to tell. Starting to sing, one would rather say. You feel like Kipling-ian Mowgli caught in the coils of Kaa, the long and yellow Python, as it hisses and moves ever so slowly, tightening it’s hold on you, looking you in the eye and locking you in a timeless spell… And like Mowgli, you need to feel yourself once in a while to see if you are still there… And as you drift like an object in outer space, Kaa hisses – as Kipling describes – with the noise of a sword drawn from a steel scabbard – and says – ““I have seen all the dead seasons, and the great trees and the old elephants, and the rocks that were bare and sharp-pointed ere the moss grew. Art thou still alive, Manling?”
Yes, manling is still alive…
And manling manages to keep track of who he or she is by holding on to some routine, some ritual, something that makes one feel that one exercises some degree of control, some free will to maneuver through the vast emptiness of space and time… That ritual then is a life-saver, a compass to hold on to when one is adrift somewhere in the wide oceans… At least you know which side is North… So each manling to his own compass….
Dash, the young fifteen year old manling, has his Nook (or Kindle, or whatever). Dash is a genius looking for venture capital. Right now he has managed to deprogram Nook (a e-book reader from some American barn …), take control of it’s root (directory), and recreate it in a manner fit for a genius to use. What that Nook is now only he knows. All we lesser mortals know is that he is lives with it constantly. He is reading something in it all the time, while he has strapped earphones from it and is listening to some music from it every single moment that he is not asleep, which he is most of the time. He is rebelling against all organized social systems like country, religion or family or whatever, and anything and everything that comes between him and venture capital. He is especially angry with the stupid and draconian value systems that empower parents to drag hapless offspring to holy waters and holy mountains in Erehwon-Nowhereland, places that are not seen in civilized maps downloadable from Amazon dot com. He would much rather be in his favorite restaurant in Seattle, where he could bury his teeth into some decent tuck, out-stare Bill Gates, and work to build his own business empire. Right now, like Mowgli, he is in the grips of Kaa…. And his survival kit is that nook, and some thoughts about his dad’s high value camera. So that is Dash, with his nook beside the fire… In all matters except money, he stands taller than his dad.
Then there is Shankar. The Dad. He is not Mowgli’s father for nothing. He has his own formula for beating the cold, and I dare say it is working. Everyday he chants a thousand names of fire. He chants the Agni Sahasranama. That is his compass. He has procured this rare treatise from a Vedic scholar in Gokarna – another place that does not exist in Mowgli’s school atlas. Shankar has found his path by establishing direct connection, one on one, with Vedic deities like Indra, Agni, Surya etc. He does things a Mandala at a time. He is an ancient Rshi wearing the guise of a Software King. Once a day, every day, he chants the Agni Sahasranama… The names emerge from deep in his Self, like the sounds of an ancient bell on the other side of a mountain. Boom, boom, boom he goes.. And the fire in his body builds up. He has found his own formula to cajole the Kundalini, to stoke the candaalee in the body….Akin to the Tibetan Buddhist Yoga technique of Tummo… A technique that allows Buddhist Lamas to generate so much body heat internally, that they can generate steam from cold wet clothes placed on their body in freezing temperatures. Don’t believe it? Would you believe Harvard Medical school? Then click here to read an article “Meditation changes temperatures”. Quote from that article – Herbert Benson, (associate professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School ) who has been studying Tum-mo for 20 years, says that “Buddhists feel the reality we live in is not the ultimate one. There’s another reality we can tap into that’s unaffected by our emotions, by our everyday world. Buddhists believe this state of mind can be achieved by doing good for others and by meditation. The heat they generate during the process is just a by-product of Tum-mo meditation.”
And then there is Siva. The Australian. He is a CISO. Chief Information Security Officer. He is in charge of cyber security in a big corporation. He does not voice commands. He barks them. And makes one and all heel. In his spare time he opines about matters of grave international concern in a blog that he calls as his experimentations with coffee. Bean there. Done that. Java man. For all his weighty position in the world of business, he is well and truly lost in the coils of Kaa in Tibet. His compass is his daily chant of the Tamizh hymn – Kayilaya Padigam – a composition of the great Tamizh sage Tirunavukkarasar (Appar). It is the praise of the great God Siva, the Lord of Kailasa. As a CXO he knows which side of his Roti has ghee (both sides in his case). And he understands obedience to command is needed for that ghee to never dry. We are all going to Kailasa – where God Siva is King. So manling Siva is constantly extolling his namesake God, Shivling, Siva.
வானத்தார் போற்றும் மருந்தே போற்றி
வந்தென்றன் சிந்தை புகுந்தாய் போற்றி
ஊனத்தை நீக்கு முடலே போற்றி
ஓங்கி அழலாய் நிமிர்ந்தாய் போற்றி
தேனத்தை வார்த்த தெளிவே போற்றி
தேவர்க்குந் தேவனாய் நின்றாய் போற்றி
கானத்தீ யாட லுகந்தாய் போற்றி
கயிலை மலையானே போற்றி போற்றி.
The elixir praised by the Celestial deities,
You came and entered into my heart!
You who are the body that removes all disability,
You rose as the great column of fire!
The essence of the essence of honey
You stand as the God of Gods!
You rejoice dancing in the fire of cremation,
O Lord of Kailasa Mountain,
All Praise to you! All Praise to you!
That was one of the verses of Kayilai Padigam, which he chants everyday. His antidote to cold and all disability. His antidote to the daze of Kaa.
And then there is Soota. Your’s truly.
He is half-present everywhere. Meaning, never completely present anywhere. So it is that even Kaa is not fully clear whether this Mowgli is in it’s coils or not. His head is in the celestial region, his feet in the netherworld, and his body is out there in the cold. He is so lost that he keeps losing things, which has earned him the appellation of ‘a perpetual seeker’. He knows that the only real way for you to go forward is to go back to where you come from. But his body stands in the way. Right now he is like a fragile soap bubble floating out there in the Tibetan vastlands of nothingness. He is a hollow personification of devoidness. He is the one among these three yatri manifestations carrying the name of Siva who comes closest to the sense of Shunyata. As he read somewhere – ‘Nothing is perfect. I am nothing’. This conundrum is the slow pendulum which powers his in-breath and out-breath. Anywhere and everywhere, he is lost. And his compass is his fund of stories. He tells stories. This Yatra, he began the great tale of Shakuntala from the Mahabharata. So every day, he continues that narration to a willing audience of two and maybe half. Powerful, energizing, supercharged words of Shakuntala, as she argues with the forgetful and forget-worthy husband of hers, Dushyanta. Oh the fire in the words of Vyasa! That sure can put life into a frozen stiff.
So there we are…. Kipling, Manling, Shivling…
The nook beside the fire… The thousand names of Agni… The Praise of the Lord who rose as an endless column of fire.. The fire Vaak of Vyasa….
Ready now to start from Zhongpa monastery.
All of us three and forty yatri-s have boarded the bus to Maanas. Except one manling. It is Dash. We can begin just as soon as he wakes up, brushes his teeth, does his morning ablutions, has his breakfast, straps his nook, and clambers in… All of which he can do in less than the time it takes for you to count ten.
He is not named ‘Dash’ for nothing….
**** To be continued ****