Sunday, February 19, 2012

I'm Shiva!

By Megha>>>
On the eve of Mahashivaratri, seeker MEGHA shares the transformative experience of the way Shiva ‘derailed’ her life when she chanced to come into his presence in an unusual temple in south India as an NRI student>>> >>>The tyres of the taxi screeched to a halt on the gravelly path, and I knew the bumpy ride had finally come to an end. When I opened the door, my foreign eyes were greeted with a thick green forest that surrounded me, and as I learnt later, was teeming with hidden wildlife. I stepped gingerly onto a pebbled patch and followed my parents towards a little shack with a thatched roof, nestled in the shrubs. There, a smiling south Indian face welcomed us and led us further into the wilderness and into the stone structure of a temple. I walked past granite pillars and engravings towards the entrance of a huge dome, that was dimly lit inside. A New Experience>>> A bespectacled, shaven-head monk dressed in white received us. As the monk grinned cheerfully, I noticed with mild shock that it was a woman, a brahmacharini. As far as I knew, Indian temples were always managed by men. She indicated for us to maintain silence and to mute our digital wristwatches. Only later, I realised that if she had not given this necessary instruction, I would have missed out on the whole experience. Through silent gestures, we entered the dome and sat down. Inside, at the centre, was a huge linga, the largest I had ever seen. It was dark and bare, except for the long garland of flowers draping it. It was some sort of Shiva temple — even my American-born Indian mind could figure that out. I had not been to many as my family was basically from a Vaishnava background. But as my mother was adamant that we visit this particular temple in Tamil Nadu, my father and I had no choice. It hardly mattered to me, a college student spending her summer holidays in her ancestral country — I was just on another interesting excursion away from textbooks. But the last thing I expected was to walk into a place that would change the very course of my life.
I stared at the linga for a few minutes. Then the deafening silence slowly permeated me and I felt myself sinking into dark emptiness behind closed eyelids. An overpowering stillness set in, and my body and mind seemed to recede into the distance. I was transported to another world, a vast uncharted inner world which I had never encountered before. In this dimension of eternal and primordial silence, my petty existence was just a temporary happening. It totally overwhelmed the miniscule me. Minutes slipped by, and I don’t know how long I sat there. Before I knew it, my father was urging me to get up. In a daze, I stepped out into the afternoon sunlight, bewildered. It was by far the strangest temple I had ever visited. Moment Of Silence>>> I had always thought temples were rather obnoxious places, and was always a reluctant visitor. I was used to the dirt, the noise of bells ringing, and the boredom of incessant chanting of mantras that accompanied endless rituals. But this place was utterly quiet, without a single puja and indisputably clean. The visit erased my prejudice against temples and opened up a new window, igniting a curiosity to know more about Shiva. I started reading. I knew Shiva was part of the Hindu pantheon of gods, whose role was that of the destroyer. I learnt that at one time in India most temples were dedicated to Shiva, and it was only much later that other temples started cropping up. The ancients prayed to him not for salvation, protection or prosperity but for destruction! They wanted him to annihilate their finite existence so they could attain the infinite. He is described as the “dark one” — the boundless emptiness in which all Creation rests. He’s known to be an indifferent ascetic, a passionate husband and a drunkard in the company of freaky goblins. His dance of ecstasy brings forth creation, and his fiery rage scorched the god of love. Was he a good guy or a bad guy? At times he seemed like the epitome of all things good, at other times he was such a hideous creature that I would not want to be anywhere near him. I didn’t know what to make of him. He encompassed everything I valued and abhorred at once. Search For Shiva>>> I couldn’t explain Shiva so easily. As I read further, the confusion only deepened. Was he a person or was he the very basis of existence — or both? My longing to know only grew more intense, and after a couple years I began my spiritual search in earnest to experience the Truth. I began practising meditation and pranayama, and underwent various yoga programmes, experiencing a few moments where stillness and silence washed over me. Those moments spurred me further on my quest and still continue to do so. Four years after that first visit to the temple, I returned, and this time for good. Somewhere it had touched me so deeply that I just couldn’t stay away. Hardly a day passes when I don’t spend time meditating near the linga. Every time I enter the place and close my eyes, thinking I know what to expect, the experience catches me off guard. Being there is like being in the presence of something far bigger than me, an all-encompassing living entity. I don’t think names matter, but what I call Shiva is not a person or a god that people can like or dislike. He is something beyond boundaries of human logic and definition, beyond time and space. He is a constant, undeniable presence and absence. He is the Ultimate possibility that I hope to become, one day.

Shiva Smoked!>>>> By Jurmi Talisman Chhowing>>> >>>There is something about the monsoons. As you sleep, the rains pour and there’s a cool breeze wafting about when you walk. It makes you move. That season and this season i did what i always try to do when it's the monsoons. I try and get around the country.

A monsoon back, I drove around the western and central parts of the kingdom. I thought it would be a cool way to get myself reacquainted with the country. Nothing quite beats the road when you wanna get around. Not even the yearly monsoon rainfalls that cause umpteen road blocks and landslides. Miles Davis blew his horn as I began that journey a year ago, dubbed the return of the prodigal son by a witty friend. It was beautiful- the mountains, the forests, the clouds, the mist, waterfalls, little brooks, stupas; farm houses and fields along the way and the birds in the trees. At most stretches, driving in Bhutan is a lonely affair, especially when you're making the trip minus any company. But it is that loneliness that is beautiful. The loneliness transforms and becomes a spiritual affair- you are alone in the middle of now where. Then that feeling of being alone also transforms. You realize you are in 'natural' company.

Then everything becomes a welcoming unexpected friend. A lone farmer wrinkled with hardy work smiles at you and that sight is priceless! Another bend and you see kids that live in isolated villages waving at you; their cheerful faces a sharp contrast to their battered attires.

Then i felt something was out of tune. It was the horn of Mr Miles. So I turned him off and listened to the surrounding sounds- if you listen long enough, nature's an infinite musical that stories on and on. And just like that, suddenly there was a feeling of intimacy in the air. The roar of the engine softens and subsides as the environmental notes pick up a tempo that is at once connective and calming.

And the longer i drove, the more distant and cut-off Thimphu seemed, a mirage from whence i began that journey. I got the feeling that Thimphu was an exception, not the norm, to how the majority of our country-men live and the beautiful landscapes they live in. I felt rejuvenated by the natural sights and sounds. Horses grazing by the roadsides, cows and bulls idling by in small meadows. These traditional beasts of burden that ferried goods and ploughed the fields are now replaced by power-tillers and tractors. It felt a bit sad that their role and status in the pastoral setting had come to an end but on the brighter side, they were now free to roam and to graze wherever they wanted. Times change and if this is the product of progress, we move on.

During the trip i kept a keen-eye out for change. There were more roads, shops, schools, hospitals, electricity grids and poles, houses et al. Almost everything had tripled. I stopped over in Khuruthang in Punakha. The proprietor of the hotel I was staying in was glued to the TV along with a handful of clients. The show of the day was the BBS coverage of the NA deliberations. It was good to see our brethren tuning into the matters of the day. They all had opinions about the NA in general and individuals in particular. It varied as the weather on my journey did.

Right now i'm sitting in a cyber-cafe in Phuentsholing and rewriting this piece. It seems ironic that everything was as smooth as silk last year as far as the media-broadcasts and reportage was concerned. As i look and walk around town the channels on TV are mostly Indian entertainers. The huge viewership BBS enjoyed last monsoon is gone- awashed and flooded away by zealot-MPs and their leaders.

Last year i asked people watching the BBS coverage of the two houses what interested them? The return of their MPs back to the folds that voted them onto the national channel, they told me. And what were they going to ask them? I prodded on. Issues like schools, roads and hospitals generally topped the list. I hope they are not disappointed by the turn of events.

I drove on to Wangduephodrang and thought, “This is a Bhutanese version of what Jaigaon used to look like!” Queer and peculiar! I drove on... savoring the sights and sounds. To Phobjikha, where the land rises and flatten out...a drizzle and a moist mist blanketed buck-wheat and potato fields... to Trongsa, where the Dzong always reminds me of a gigantic-UFO hovering in a cloud of Zhemgang, where there really wasn’t anything man-made besides country hamlets with colorful monikers such as 'Dangdung' and 'Reefer' and a hotel-cum-bar called 'Bajay' and eventually to beautiful Bumthang- where time becomes irrelevant and valleys embrace your senses and the mind just rests.

The drive back to the capital was exhaustively satisfying! Suddenly the monsoon didn’t seem so inviting! What did seem romantic was the fact that we still live in a country that is far more real than anything you can ever find or see in the world. You don’t need to venture far, just get out of Thimphu and go to Dochula.

Five days back i drove down to Phuentsholing. The road is in better shape this year apart from a couple of stretches at Takthi and Gedu. Its still one of the best rides in the kingdom. My personal favorite is exactly the stretches that get blocked by landslides, shooting stones and falling boulders. Here the road is narrow and shallow. If you look out the window, the fall would probably be long enough to make you see your life unfold a couple of times over. The Gedu stretch is another splendor. This time i literally had my head out the window so that i could tell we were still on the road! The fog is so thick and dense you feel like you're driving on top of the clouds! How delicious and exhilarating is that!

My own rendition whenever i get to this stretch is this: "This is where Lord Shiva has moved. He now resides here. And the refreshingly surreal fog that lingers on is the smoke he puffs out after after sucking in his large 'Chillum.'

Thats the reason why i feel so high whenever i'm riding this road!
PS: YourLustForLifeStartsRightNow!


Anonymous said...

Great channeling of both H. S. Thomson And Jack Kerouc in a Bhutanese original. Right on, ride on, or, better, write on!

Karma Singye Dorji

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