Faith - A Subtle Lesson in the Spiritual World.

I wonder sometimes why spiritualism has not active takers, true seekers I mean. I realise one has to be as close as sage like, confronting every thought or concept around oneself. It takes a combination of intellect and emotional unconditional love to want to even understand the other side, leave alone getting there. I am trying to understand what about it makes it so inaccessible and gives us a feeling of always falling short. 

When I look at the world around me I see people just going about their lives not realising half it's potential. Is there something more than what is visible? I would say - actually Yes! But it is so subtle that it can't even be put in words leave alone being proven. Somethings about human life are greater than proving, they don't need proof to support their presence. They are, and it is our luck if we choose to experience their potential. It's like having a beautiful plant in our backyard. Chances are we never took notice of it, we have never seen it's beauty up close, experienced it's fragrance or realised it's magic but when we do, we tend to appreciate it's presence and come to understand how much we missed it all along. Well, it was always there, we just wasted time not noticing it because we considered something else way more important... for what ever reason. 

But is that really the problem? The fact that ignorance stems from not realising that we got stuck way too deep in the mundane. Yes, we can bring spice to our lives by questioning the mundane every now and then but when we start living that life, things start to change. Let’s take the same beautiful flower in the backyard. We now know it exists and it blooms every now and then but we haven’t found the time to go and spend with it. If we dedicated time to the plant, spent time with it, tended it and spoke to it and most important of all, loved it… the garden starts to look a lot more different. There is magic in there, magic we didn’t think even existed until we chose to be a part of it. This little paradise, is an extension of what our mind can do, and how it can transform the world around it, if it chose to. 

Similarly, with a mix of discipline, strong belief system and love for the divine, a lot can change. The Gods may not respond like a flower feeding our senses openly but they certainly ensure we got the point, subtly. When this change occurs it looks like a coincidence, but when they come one after the other it becomes a way of life. Miracles happen in succession and realising that change brings a host of possibilities around human potential. 

The quote "when you want something, the universe conspires to get it for you", actually starts to work here. It is a combination of our change in tune with the universe around us and that we affect it is a big deal... But it also brings with it a certain departure from the familiar world and that tends to instil fear till we are really comfortable with it. The idea is to see truth in the face, to accept everything - good and bad - as a way of life with not an ounce of discrimination (like looking at a rose and a dead body in the same light, we will mostly find them together but our mind will make the difference), thereby eliminating dualism altogether. This is when the real questioning starts to happen and we have to be really ready for the answers. We have questioned - yes, but do we have the courage to face the answer, most likely - no. 

This is where I was originally wrong, I believed people would jump to have such an experience. Apparently I was wrong, very wrong! For one, most people don’t seem to realise what they are missing, the few who do are grappling with “what just happened” and trying to seek explanation. While there are none within the purview of our limited language, it is subtle and that acceptance over a period of time starts to work on the fear we have. It is this fear that becomes our greatest enemy. It took me ages to get here, while I believed largely that I was considerably fearless, I wasn’t completely there. Its a deep sense of inadequacy and fear that we need to get over to even qualify to go to the other side, leave alone achieving things. And while most of the world around us hasn’t even reached this realm of understanding, those who have managed are struggling with self incompetence. There is the other crowd that is waiting endlessly for the magical guru to show up not realising that when we are potentially ready, they will come, but to get there, there is only one way forward - self help. 

I have had the luck of divine intervention in strange ways, when ever I was losing my focus, something would always bring me back to this. And yet that fear lurks. When the great saints say - look within - they are essentially telling us, unleash that unconditional love with you for it is the only answer to the fear we harbour. Unfortunately, the fear shouts out louder and the unconditional love is quite lost in this din. This is hoping that we have already put the noise of the mundane to rest. The inner fear of the unfamiliar, is a great place to start the investment on practicing courage, to face anything that comes through the world of contemplation. The only trump card we hold is Bhakti/faith/devotion, to want to be with the Gods no matter what hell should come in the way. Are we ready for that kind of a commitment… its continues to remain an unfortunate struggle and even a Guru may not be able to bail us out of this... because metamorphosis is a lonely journey. 


Relevance of Akharas in the Mahakumbh

Nagas at the Kumbh

Flamboyant pictures of Naga Babas and ascetics in various expressions of Sanatana Dharma have descended upon the holy city of Varanasi and Allahabad. Some of them beat our imagination on displaying their attention grabbing attires with dashes of Vermillion smeared on their foreheads. Yes, I roughly knew the importance of the Mahakumbh but this vibrance brought me to dig further, Nagas they are but who are these people really?

Ash clad, fearless, aggressive and unstoppable, these people draw their identity from the ancient ascetics group established by the great sage Adi Shankara. They belong to the Dashanami Sampradaya, the armed order of warrior ascetics, the Astradharis, who have come to sport a trishul that marks their individual identity and its presence describes them as the protectors of the Hindu ecosystem from calamity. 

They have a past, one ridden with massacre and bloodshed, they didn't kill but they were killed in thousands by the then tyrannical emperor Aurangzeb but he couldn’t wipe out their existence entirely. That's the wonder about Hinduism, it has survived every onslaught of insult and destruction till date… including the unnecessary, apparently liberal, peevish noise in social media these days, that adds to the din of normal existence.. 

Akharas today play a major part at the Kumbh, their presence is honourable as they have been the keepers of the faith, through history. But their importance in their world is defined by the politics that governs the various akharas that dot our countryside, not as much as the Hindu army that was designed to protect the intellects - the Shastradharis, or the protectors of Hinduism as envisioned by the great Seer, Adi Shankara.

Kumbh Mela 2019 Kinnar Akhada (News 18)

The Mahamandaleshwars are chosen by their peers and they come to head the respective akharas. While women still don’t have a presence here, the transgenders have taken centre stage in this Kumbh Mela. Spiritual discussions, Satsangs and solving organizational discord are the topics of discussion in these great meetings of saints. All in all its a great spectacle of spiritual brilliance and a unique flavour to imbibe if we want to explore a new world… but does it solve a deeper quest of spiritualism… am not quite sure, beyond reverence for these saintly men, they don’t quite affect our lives and ideologies anymore, except being a brilliant spectacle at the Mahakumbh. 

Naga babas are a mysterious bunch, who perform austerities in the silence of the Himalayas and descend into civilisation when the Mahakumbh calls them. There is a huge divide between them (the keepers of the faith) and us (the followers of some definition of the same faith). There must have been a time when they affected the ecosystem of the common people. In today’s world the enemy somehow doesn’t appear half as much as how Adi Shankara had envisioned it. The enemy is deep within society modernizing itself and questioning metaphysical aspects of spiritualism by the apparatus of western logic, on what purpose the Hindu way of life serves. 

Do these Akharas have the answer to a far more complex and pertinent question on the way of life that promises the vision of God in some form, tangible to human capability? While the life they lead as a recluse bunch does deserve a lot of credit, there is a very thick invisible wall that separates them from us. We are confused for sure, but gone are the days of being a witness to a discussion, one like that between Mandana Mishra and Adi Shankara… somewhere in our rat race and in the din of the virtual world… are we forgetting the true potential of the spiritual world and our individual capability to get there?

The Mahakumbh was to take us in that direction promising us salvation by a sacred dip at the auspicious hour in the Ganges, we have in today’s world reduced it to an extravagant spiritual spectacle. While there are still a few gems in that crowd who are unapproachable and probably are at the doorstep of Nirvana, the current crop doesn’t come with the vibrant charm that once walked the earth by the name - Adi Shankaracharya.

Truly such spiritual brilliance is hard to come by in today’s times.