Jai Sri Hari to my beautiful OS.me sangha. I am currently slowly reading and savoring Old Path White Clouds. It’s a beautiful story of Gautam Buddha and his enlightenment. If you are like me and keep wondering what it would in the olden times when people with a spiritual bent of mind could live in large communities with a realized master, this book is definitely for you. It’s written by Thich Nhat Hanh, who is the finest Buddhist teacher of the last century. Today’s post is about a few random thoughts that have been waltzing in my head for a few months. I typically don’t write about things immediately after they come to me simply because I enjoy the process of ruminating on them. It’s like the cow chewing the cud. The slow mental processing helps me see my own biases and conditioning and separate the emotion from the core idea. So read on, dear family, to learn more about how to answer the questions posed by your mind, why I no longer address anyone as JI, my ode to long-term ashram residents, my experience with mindful speech, and how I learned to interact with women.
Answering Questions from Within
When I started my journey with Swamiji, I had hundreds of questions. I even asked one in the Ashram that got some laughter and appreciation for its directness and honesty. However, as I spent a little more time reading his work and meditating, I could feel myself opening up to the magnificence of Swamiji. As some of my conditioning disappeared, what remained was a feeling that most questions are useless. Swamiji has done hundreds of videos, written dozens of books, and created multiple digital assets to help us find our truth. The real challenge is to work on ourselves and not ask questions. Ravi Trivedi spelled out Swamiji’s core message in a wonderful blog. Let me break it down even further. Be a good human being and lead a disciplined life. That’s all he is asking for. I decided that I would only ask questions after I do these things. Meanwhile, if I believe a question is worth my time, I spend my own time researching it. The most recent question that bothered me was that “If Gautama was such a realized being, how could he abandon his family in search for self-realization. What about his duties towards them?” My research got me to the book Old Path White Clouds, which describes the beautiful relationship he had with his wife and how she told his servant to keep a horse ready to help Gautama escape the capital and begin his journey. She even pretended to be asleep so that he does not have to say goodbye. More importantly, the book talks about how Gautama came back, and his family joined him as a part of the Sangha he created. The research and the book helped me deepen my resolve to walk the spiritual path steadily.
Dropping the “Ji” from my Responses
I have always addressed people as “Ji.” It started when I was young and got a resounding scolding/slap from my mother for calling our domestic help by her name. The habit continued, and I addressed most strangers/casual acquaintances by adding “Ji” as a mark of respect. This was especially true in my interactions with women because it reminded me to be respectful. As I have spent more and more time reading posts in the community, I no longer consider you casual acquaintances. We may not have the physical sangha that the olden times afforded us, but we have this large virtual family, and you all are FAMILY. So the “ji” is getting dropped from my vocabulary as a mark of love and final embrace from me to you.
My Ode To Long Term Ashram Residents
Someone asked Swamiji a question on his qualification for accepting disciples, and he talked about some of the attributes he looked for in people who approached him. He then went on to say that most people who come and permanently settle in the Ashram are those would could not fit themselves into the world and are so stubborn and different that this was the only place for them. I am paraphrasing a little, but that’s the essence I got from it. Then I started reading Sushree Diya’s blogs and my hot chocolate buddy Divya Manoharan’s blogs. I had already read Sadhvi’s Vrinda’s book, and it struck me how different they were from me. Most of their experiences were because they absolutely refused to fit into the boxes the world has created for them. They refused to be boxed into square pegs, round holes, or any other caricatures, rebelled and fought, and fought for their share of sunlight until the mother was forced to hear their cries and call them home. I then started to think about the level of conditioning in my own thoughts and ideas, and I realized that what I call my personality and intelligence is just conditioning. As I work on de-conditioning myself, here is a small ode to those who walk the journey ahead of me and laid the milestones we all follow.
My Experience with Mindful Speech
I have realized over time that 95% of what I say is useless. Modern communication has created this urge to stay in touch with people even when you have nothing to say to them. Most conversations begin with “Aur Batao,” and since we have nothing to say, it goes on to random subjects. Most of the time, we discuss other people and how they are making mistakes in their lives. These days I try to consciously play roles to maintain some social connections and be a part of an active society. Most conversations with men tend to be around alcohol, cricket, the stock market, real estate, and Modji. At work, it’s about trying to prove how invaluable I am and how the organization is lucky to have me. Gradually, as I am stepping back, I realize that you can play a “role” and then drop that role retreat to a place of silence. That’s what I am doing as I write now. The mind is silent, and the hands move rapidly across the keyboard. This journey has just begun, and there is a long way to go to achieve the desired balance.
How I Learnt to Interact with Women
I always enjoyed having conversations with women. It was much more engaging, and the lack of toxic masculinity made it a delightful affair. However, I really did not know how to manage the relationship. What do you label it so that everyone around is comfortable? Hence, I started calling everyone sister in school. It seemed too naive to do it in college, and most women I spent time with were girlfriends of my batchmates, so we did not have to worry too much about labels. Even after I got married, I would meet a couple of fantastic women at the workplace and was figuring out how to be friends without offending anyone when I had a realization: “What if I just start by knowing them more as a human being instead of as a person of a different gender”? That made a lot of difference. I enjoyed talking to them and working with them just as friends versus trying to fit a social label to the relationship. The fact that they were women became incidental. We are all deeply socially conditioned. Our definition of relationships, beauty, love, friendship, and even bhakti is conditioned by everything we have seen and read. Asking myself such questions seems to be the only way to start the un-conditioning process. Now, the only people I call sister are one’s where I really feel that way. I can enjoy conversations with everyone else without having to fit them in a box.
When I write such stuff, I am very aware that it makes me seem very realized and much more further on the spiritual path than I really am. I have just started on this road and want to keep sharing lessons with you because I learn so much from all of you. Thank you, dear sangha, for your constant companionship. Together we have the strength to be worthy disciples of a guru who is changing the world one person at a time.
JAI SRI HARI!!