This goes back to that time when I was just out of college and I was still figuring out my career path. I am a naturally confused person, surprisingly even today, I am the self-same confused person. Now I feel that the confused state is to bring order and well-being through analysis, which I take it to mean, as a strength of character for me. Back then, I was double-minded, if I should believe in the presence of God or not.
But then, I had this sense of unshakeable faith in my Personal God; but reluctant to accept certain concepts of my Hindu religion. After all, my personal god had got me out of all the life challenges. He had ensured that I was safe and learned something at every struggle that I had faced in the course of my living. So, during one of my breaks from work, I was at home figuring myself out. When naturally I hypothesized, that if I were to study something then, I can figure myself and the Society surrounding me.
I believed, if I learned some life-skills more then, I will be able to work better and be able to handle people with the finesse of well-developed character. It has taken me many years to understand that you learn on the job by doing it. The art of working in a team is an energy exchange, that is what happens when the entire team reaches the right level of comfort and of complete confidence within the group, that the participants are willing to place their sensitive thoughts with freedom within the team’s brainstorming. I still have a long way to go, before I can say I understand the dynamics of teamwork.
So, coming back to my story of self-discovery, in this break post-college, I was learning to play the Veena and that instrument actually made me more focused on my inner being, than those singing lessons during my childhood with my sister. I was a grown up and I knew the challenge ahead was steep. Though I was struggling with the notes, given my learning disability, I did enjoy the instrument. But I could hold a raga and play relatively okay. My music teacher was blessed with great patience because he would wait until I got the fingering right on the fret.
Veena playing is like performing an arthi. You have the arthi plate in one hand, while the other one is ringing the bell. Likewise, your left hand is on the frets and the right one is plucking the strings. It takes great coordination. There is something to learn here for my entire life.
Meanwhile, I had one besotted listener, who was a little mouse, our resident pest. Once he came close enough and sat on the corner of my mat made of grass. I looked at him and he looked ready to run, if I so much as moved a muscle, but I continued to play my Veena without noticing him, hoping that he will remain to listen in. That was when I gave my first concert for a single other than the human audience. I could only play for half an hour, it was clear that the mouse heard a mini version of the concert which was not even half the ticket value.
During this time, my mother was making one of her visit to my brother’s place and I was responsible and in charge of the house. I was super nervous and tided it over with being super organized. The housekeeping was already in my bucket since we had run out of maid choices. Though I was doing this with confidence as if I knew how to do it.
My father had to put up with my cooking behavioral quirks, of course, he helped with the roti rolling activity. That way papaji was a very considerate person. During one of our conversations, he explained about his practice of holding silence every Sunday helped him but was disapproved by my grandfather. But I learned something about my family though the elders disagreed with younger generation thoughts, we were yet given the right to explore spirituality in our own ways. That thought of my father’s perked my interest and I decided to find some daily rituals for myself like him. That is when I remembered the lighting of lamp activity that mummyji would insist that I perform.
That is when, I choose the idea of working on the spiritual aspect of my life. So, I decided to take up the lighting lamp activity, at the same time included reading a book or scripture anything that was in book. So I had the choice of book from the past gift. I found a version of the Ramayana and a small box of the Bhagavad Gita well worn out. It was my youngest uncle’s copy. I got comfortable and just read the English part with great faith and hope of transformation.
I was fascinated with the Sanskrit text and sometimes would just gaze at it. Of course, I couldn’t read any of the Devanagari scripts, neither Hindi nor Sanskrit, so that left just the English text which I could make out. I was not happy with the translation of the texts, but still, it was prayers for me. It was later, many years after, I could read and recognize one conjugation of the Noun Rama.
Each chapter was read with a great eagerness and sharada, while on some days, my pestian friend would check me out from his corner and silently join me in the lamp lighting ritual. I don’t know if God thought to Himself, ‘what an odd pair of friends are seated together in front of me and wool-gathering. Both of us were evaluating, whether to risk licking the rock sugar that I have offered to the Lord, both were kind of eyeballing each other for those thoughts. This cat and mouse interaction with my pestian friend kept happening since my focus was divided between the reading of the shlokas and watching out for my prasad.
Over the years our small-sized species of mousy rat problem was completely solved and the reading after that period became very spiritual-centric. When I got married and went to Singapore the first housekeeping task that I did was to set up my prayer room on the edge of the Kitchen counter. The assembling of the pooja stand was fulfilling by itself. But one leg had not traveled well. So I had to find the zen spot for the stand to be perfectly still, almost an act of Zen spirits.
I enjoyed the self-assigned task of balancing the entire pooja stand. I stuck all my Gods and set up the silver murthi and brass ones on small space for display. I had a Gangajalam brass sealed container which is a compulsory inclusion in the gift of pooja articles. I had the brass vessel cleaned and decorated with sandal paste and vermillion marking the auspiciousness. These, according to me, were my personal activities, that calmed my mind, as I struggled with coming to terms with the new place and culture.
The one thing that I found out about myself is that I am not frightened of new places. Because I picked lines from my past reading of scriptures, which became the reference point for all my life situation. I connect with my spirit and the blue sky is always blue everywhere (maybe a different shade, but still blue!) and when we meet people they are just like each other and their nationality doesn’t matter when we see them with humanitarian eyes. I always carried Bapu’s peace and thoughts of Ahimsa in my heart. I rarely get angry, because I spend a lot of time with children and their literature in my free time, I am aware of the level of patience one needs and requires to work with a child. It is almost like a zen practice of watering a plant with mindfulness. Life is about being curious like a child and be childlike in your approach to new things in life.
So, my spiritual practice was all about peace and finding it within. I started listening in to shlokas and reading books that were in English about spiritualism. I wanted to know what constitutes my Soul? The science and art of my personal soul and I was recommended to read the Bhagavad Gita. So I began reading online and later during my Master’s in the US, I was gifted the book titled “Autobiography of a Yogi” written by Paramahansa Yogananda and gifted by a good friend and professor of mine. I read the entire book in a week without putting it down. That was when I saw his other book on the Bhagavad Gita interpretation, so I got the copy which was titled, “God Talks To Arjuna.”
A take away from the book was the one question, placed at the end of every day which even now I ask myself, “Today then, Vidya, who won the battle of Kurukshethra?” There are days when its either one of the Kurunandanas. But the idea was relentlessly to respond to that single question with complete honesty. I am sure one day, I will figure out that, the side of the Dharma won always and the right thing was done even though I was up against my own human families. In this, could I call me, as a scientific person living inside the material body or an artist living inside a being while finding the random connection of my life?
This confusion has persisted in life for a long time and I have still not found the answer I am seeking. This is interesting – are we then seeking for the very same answer we assume is true or are we seeking answer which is the ultimate truth? This, then means, the answer could not be the answer that you feel is right; but entirely something else? To renounce and leave to the jungle has been a greatest inner desire, but then if I cannot handle the concrete jungle I am just running away from one unexplored place to another place. So, despite the need to give up the life of being a part of the social life circle, I seek solace in small pocket size moments. There are times when there is complete peace, it is not a state, that I need to get to, but I am the peace. That realization has been happening a lot these days.
I am a person who can sense energies around me, I know which ones make me feel safe and which would provide me space to improve. No energy is right or wrong, it is just that ethereal truth of life which is been guided by the Divine. I cannot understand human body languages or their verbal interaction, because I am often baffled by the reactions to my thoughts. But I know that, if there is peace within me then it is there in the conversation too. I then, feel that everything will be alright. This belief that even in the energy of disagreement there is scope to expand the spirits of peace within our being. This is a brand new understanding, that I am learning in my life, given the set of challenges, that I am facing currently in my personal life.
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