Feb 8, 2014

I Am Rich. From Slum City to Flower Petalled Saints.

I Am Rich.
 From Slum City to Flower Petalled Saints.

   A visit to Mumbai is not for the faint or one that is easily overwhelmed. Home to the largest city if all of India, the “wealthiest “city in India, home to Bollywood, the largest film industry and the largest per capita slum in the world, coined “Slum City”, also popular in many movies, like “Slum Dog Millionaire. To give you a scope of the conditions that pour out of this part of the world, it is the 4th most densely populated city in the entire world. Can you imagine this? Have you ever been in a place where there is so much of everything? After being in deep seclusion in a small village at Godharham Hills in nature, often off the grid at night with the stars and moon lighting up our nights in Satsang with 2 Saints and waking up at 4am for the hour of Brahma to go to Mungal Aarti with the local Indian devotees… entering the city in and of itself was shocking. It was a catastrophe of the senses, which became overloaded. Even one sense… that of sound for instance….the infinite potential of noises from horns to screams to packs of wild dogs howling to Indian techno rave parties to street sellers shouting  was enough to get you to remember your drishti or start remembering pratyahara… focus on one thing alone or get lost in all of the possibilities.

   After our Jivamukti bhakti pilgrimage  we experienced the ultimate ceremonial abundance ritual, called the Pushpabishek.  1.3 TONS of flower petals that we have plucked all day long, many of them sweet nectar roses from Vrindavan (the forest of dwelling place of Krishna) were tossed upon thousands of devotees and visitors for hours  as we sang and danced in total ecstasy.  I often lost myself so completely as I danced that any inhibition I may have conjured up and grasped was forced to drop out of me. I was totally enraptured, submersed and intoxicated with shakti, so much so that it frightened me at times as I felt so expansive and would forget where I was. I was totally out of my body. There are very few other times in my life of epic experiences that I can remember being so far out of form. I am sure for most of us, unless it was really good sex with a meaningful partner or really good trip on some psychotropic, few other times can one remember bathing inside of nectar itself to such a degree that every construct was graphically blown up into a state of shree. It was oozing from my every pore and that of everyone there… Indians and many foreigners from all over the world. We were baptized in the glories of nectar. In my experience of India, perhaps so many possibilities exist due to the population or the need to be colorful due to so much “poverty” ( from a Western definition of it). From our lens, Indians really know how to go over the top with embellishment, colors, flavors, touch and sounds, yet often, there is something so refined about the appreciation of it, from music to spices to fabrics to spiritual practices.  Sometimes I am bathing delightfully in all of this. Sometimes it is a bit too much for me.There is just so much!

   This puja (ritual) honoring flowers/Radha) exceeded anything I could imagine. I actually felt like I had a hangover the next day from the flower shower, and a shakti hangover at that. I was exhausted by the amount of wealth, generosity and pure honey like beauty, “Amrita”, that we experienced that night. I will never forget it. I  do remember wandering a time or two while being completely submersed and about to go out of my body in flower petals, “when will this stop? Surely soon or I will faint in this swoon! I am about to really loose it, more than ever before (which I have done a time or two)! How many flowers can there be? There can only be so much. How far out of ones mind can one truly go?. How much is there?” And they just kept coming, these fragrant flower petals dripping all over me. And I lost my mind completely at some point. I had no choice. I was in the NOW. The “I am” Ramana Maharshi and so many other Sages have spoken about. We were all oozing in the sensual, yet it was so simple. It was “pointless… or ‘point less” a Sharon Gannon said in one of our asana classes. There was no aim or striving to get things to be better or more.  Totally “ in”. Total Santosha. It was truly pointless, and being pointless drew us closer to the Divine.

   After the overflowing abundance that drunken night revealed, many of my Gurubhai left and a few of us continued on to listen to more lectures given around Mumbai by Radhanath Swami. Somehow I had the cherished humble fortune of driving in the vehicle of teachers that I adore, Jules Febre, Shri Sharon Padmaji Gannon and Maharaj Radhanath Swami to the venue and to the home of Shrila Prabhupad. On our way home back to the Radhanath Gopinath Temple, Radhanath Swami asked if we would like to see the wealthiest, most expensive home in all of the world. Who could refuse? And at that, a Saint asking us? How interesting. What dichotomy. “Of course we do”, Sharonji chimed in in youthful joy and curisousity, all inhibitions down. On the way there he told us of a story of an extremely expensive home of that of a diplomat. The diplomat invited a Swami to come do a puja and vastu ( spacial energy flow orientation). The Swami did a reading on the home and ended up telling the Diplomat that if he ever moved into this home he would experience great tragedy and misfortune due to his greed in past lives. He never chose to share his wealth before so great discord lie ahead for him. The Diplomat to this day has never moved into it and opted to live in a much smaller humble space near it even though this much more lavish home that he watches from afar contains marble floors, gem walls and riches beyond believe. “The only beings that can stay in it”, the Swami said, “are Saddhus and Swami’s those that have renounced all riches”. This still exists to this day. Even Radhanath Swami stayed in it. Treating riches with skill… now there’s something to practice being victorious about.

   After hearing the story we arrived at the most expensive city in all of the world. It was a giant sky scraper. It looked nothing like a home. It over towered all of the other homes in this wealthy Mumbai neighborhood (and there are many). I would have never recognized it to be a home. In fact, it was so expensive that there were armed forces surrounding the entire structure. It was no longer safe and had to be guarded. From outside you can see that there were many giant balconies overlooking Mumbai on the edge of this cliff for this family of 4. There were movie theaters, pools, and 108 giant stories with who knows what else. The irony of it was that it was overlooking the largest slum, called “slum city”, in all of the world. It towered over it like an ostentatious monster.It seemed to be a bit much. And this is India. The extremes are all in your face the the largest degree you can imagine in the earthly realm.

   I admit I was curiously fascinated by the difference and awe that the whole thing inspired. Yet, as I looked up to the sky at this home, and down into my reality at both Radhanath Swami and Sharon Gannon telling me this story and experience with me, what struck me was that I felt so rich as to have their company, “Satsang”,  that if given the choice this is what I would choose hands down, (or full body down in dajda praam, optimizing a chance to be pride free!). Beings that have finally figured out, due to many life times of hard work, how to actually engage in the world and with the Divine as to have whatever they want, yet do not actually take or have whatever they want, in my definition of “free” or “moksha”, are the most free of all. They are no longer bound by so many “things” (be it literal, karma or mind stuff). They are free and still in it all, still in the world of many conditions and really not renouncing anything. To some it may look as though they are, yet, they really are experiencing everything it is that they want. They are steeped and in satiated  with it, totally satisfied and still evolving and sharing. Sharing is all they do.

   Nrisimha, our philosophy teacher here in Mysore, India said something in a “shastra” (teaching) about dharma that struck me in terms of wealth, which according to the laws of karma, only comes by being directly generous, be it this life time, or some life time we can not see. He said “The richer and more successful you are, the more you are to share the riches and success.” It is the natural law. Many beings that are wealthy do not remember this key law to karma. It doesn’t mean giving up anything at all. It means to give more.

   The word “Bhagavan” (a word for Krishna as is Nrisimha) actually means “ the generous one”. It is implying that to take on characteristics of our Source, being a generator of Real abundance, (not more' things's) gets us closer to God. Another wonderful monk that spoke to us at the Eco Village said to us “Artha (wealth) is one of the human goals of life in Hindu philosophy (there are 4. Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha). Artha doesn’t mean that you have to give up money. That is not the sanskrit translation. But what do you picture when you hear the word wealth? A good way to know how wealthy you are is to measure all of the things you have that money can not buy”.

   Nrisimha stated that part of the laws of dharma is to be sure to pay nature and God back. This is part of upholding society and our role as a human (since you are not an animal if you are reading this). As humans, payments are to be made. You are not free nor will you have true riches until you pay back everything you have been given.  Remembering this will help us to get from a narrow vision (poverty conscious/lack lens) to an expanded (over abundant) life.

   Laxmi or Radha represent abundance and wealth in the Hindu culture. One word for Laxmi in researching etymology is “aim”.  Sharonji told is this story….”In Vrindavan, Laxmi sits on the other side of the Yamuna River. She is looking over at Krishna’s forest, praying incessantly on her goal, her aim. Yet, her aim is in front of her. She has it. It is right there. It is so clearly there that nectar and ecstasy are just waiting to be experienced from her. She is oozing with it. The now, so sensual, is dripping with it. Drop the aims. It is all pointless. Point less. Your wealth is here now. Now has to do with who much time you think you have. Now is free. Free of time or lack or worry of too much. The Atha. Here, the Aim turns into ‘I am” and "I am" becomes your eternal currency.

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