Tuesday, February 5, 2008

a child leading children

dhyana mulam gurur murti
puja mulam gurur padam
mantra mulam gurur vakyam
moksha mulam gurur kripa

the root of meditation is the image of my master
the root of my mantra is the word of the Lord
the root of all worship is the feet of the teacher
the root of salvation is grace
Dhyana Mulam mantra

28 january 08

Heading back down to Shantivanam today. The much anticipated concert at Arunai Ananda went well last night. Due to a snafu in late advertising, I think not as big a crowd as last year and not quite as lively either, but the reception was still powerful and, in spite of many doubts listening to them set up, the sound system was wonderful. Theophy and I had had a good practice surrounded by six or seven local kids who kept inviting themselves into the main room of the bungalow––I’ll post pictures. They were adorable. At one point they were imitating me singing on, of all songs, “Lead Me From Death Into Life” which of course has an echo. But they were echoing the long held notes I do during the verses: “I–––––––––––!” and they would answer “I––––––––––––––” Just beautiful. Theophy and I agreed that we were both very relaxed together on stage and were actually breathing together. He was really following my dynamics and tempi quite well. I also tried some new things (of course), pulled off the new song from the Dhammapada, “There is No Joy (Like Freedom).” (But I didn’t throw in “Good Gets Better” yet, John.) And led the meditation with the “Jaya Guru Deva” chant I love so much, and came out of it with the Dhyana Mulam and my version, “The Root of Meditation,” which I’m a little surprised how much people like. It’s such a simple little tune I’m almost embarrassed by it.

There is a large Danish contingent here, not mostly Lutherans this time but Theosophists and New Agers etc. led by a theologian (apparently well known) named Mogen Mogensten, and a well know theosophist named Lars. We had great conversations already and I am catching a ride on the bus with them down to Shantivanam today. India affords all kind of opportunities like that, but I have been thinking about what Theophy said to me. He said if I come back I should go and stay in a village some time. During his training to be a pastor he spent one summer there himself and he said it changed his view of spirituality.

from shantivanam

Nothing can be taught to the mind which is not already concealed
as potential knowledge in the unfolding soul of the creature.
So also all perfection of which the outer person is capable
is only a realizing of the eternal perfection of the Spirit within.
Sri Aurobindo

If I were going to steal one book from the library here at the formation house it would be “The Synthesis of Yoga” by Sri Aurobindo. I’ve been carrying it around with me. Though some, including I myself at times find his language a little florid, maybe even pretentious, every page there is something quotable and I am wondering again if we have paid enough attention to how influenced Fr Bede was by him, his notion of tantric yoga and the flesh being the fulfillment of the dharma. Bede perhaps even really gets his idea of paying attention to all three realms (spirit, soul and body) from Auribindo. To the above quote I want to cross reference Jesus saying in the Gospel of Mark that “there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to the light,” and Peter telling us that our raiment should be “the inner person with the gentle spirit.”

Bro Martin is very good for me. A couple of years ago I failed to step up to the plate when asked to lead a bhajan, so have been mentally musically prepared every time after that when I enter the temple. But last night, my first time at evening prayer at the ashram since I have been here (I have been with the young guys every evening but they are away these days) just before we began Martin handed the Bible to me and said, “Cyprian, would you like to say a few words tonight?” It wasn’t really a question since when I gently tried to refuse he just smiled and passed the book to me anyway. And then he did it again this morning at Mass. He himself usually preaches on Thursday. I bring that up in the context of the fact that what I find interesting here in India is that I always feel like everyone is getting “rated” as to their state of enlightenment. I do it too from time to time, but I have witnessed an intensity of it here in India each time I have come that I don’t witness anywhere else in the world. I suppose it’s because so many people come here hungry to meet a master or guru of some kind. So you hear comments all the time like “He’s the only real sadhu here!” Or “She’s smart but she’s not enlightened.” Or, “You were talking out of your head and not out of your heart!” I try not to let it get to me but I wanted to say to anyone who would listen today, most especially myself, “Can we just give each other a break here?”

And then I ran into this little gem in Aurobindo:
And it shall also be a sign of the teacher of integral Yoga that he does not arrogate to himself Guruhood in a humanly vain and self-exalting spirit. His work, if he has one, is a trust from above, he himself a channel, a vessel or a representative. He is a man helping his brothers, a child leading children, a Light enkindling other lights, an awakened Soul awakening souls, at highest a Power or Presence of the Divine calling to him other powers of the Divine… What will most stimulate aspiration in others is the central fact of the divine realization within him governing his whole life and inner state and all his activities. (A Synthesis of Yoga, p. 67-68)

Everything has kind of screwy this week since I have been back but, as is the case in India, I am trying to roll with it. I have failed twice to do a good e-mail session, mainly for some business including my train ticket up north. But it’s good and even a little humorous for us who are so used to fast and instant access to wait a little while. I also came back from Tiru expecting to teach another week of classes, but found out on Monday night that the guys were leaving for Kerala on Wednesday for the 50th anniversary celebration of Kurusamala and not coming back until Friday. Fr George himself is away at a meeting of Indian Benedictines, also in Kerala. I myself had wanted to go to Kerala and I would have especially loved to be at Kurusamala again and for this celebration, but no one had told me of the possibility of the trip, which only got planned at the last minute, and I had already made other commitments. So I have been alone over here at the formation house, which feels a little odd but fun too.

There have been things to do. I came down from Tiruvanamalai with a Danish group that JP and Agnete from Quo Vadis have been hosting. That was a very long trip on Monday. Tuesday I gave them a talk and then Wednesday accompanied our friend Jill from the Bede Griffiths Charitable Trust and Sangha in England into Trichy where we had lunch before she caught her train up north, which also allowed me to stop and see our young monk Prabhu who is studying there in Trichy as well. And then today I visited Swami Dayananda school. Last year when I was here for the centenary event I had attended the ground breaking celebration for the same place, and had been, in the absense of Fr Joseph Wong, called upon as the official representative of the Camaldolese Congregation to give a speech in which I practically committed the full support of the worldwide Camaldolese Congregation to the school, and blessed the cornerstone which now bears my name (“In the presence of the Rev Fr Cyprian Consiglio, Camaldolese, USA”). Now they have two buildings and are teaching about 100 pre-school and primary children. Senthil, who works for Sr Mary Louise and heads up the school project, sent me ahead with a driver. I was greeted with an aarathi and having my forehead marked as last year, was asked to give everyone blessings, and even performed a truck puja of sorts with a garland of flowers, handed out candy, sang for and with the kids. The children sang a series of mantras in a call and response fashion, just beautiful, four older ones in front calling out the words first and the others answering, with hands folded and eyes closed. I led them in “My Own Two Hands,” complete with gestures. And then they held sporting events, mostly races of all sorts, during which time the kids swarmed me while I sat on a step, introducing themselves and one another and getting a kick out of shaking hands. I met a Chandru, a Lisa, a Jyoti, a Santosh and an Abbi, if I heard correctly, all names with happy resonances. It was under blasting hot noonday sun, so I was excused after not too long a time but I was glad to have been there. As I was leaving each of the teachers came up and knelt in front of me for a blessing. So moving and humbling. (Senthil got pictures and said he would give them to me so I’ll post then…)

Fr Paul has asked me to do a talk for their ongoing formation series in two sessions on Monday before I leave, so I have chosen to spend some happy hours putting into better form my notes on the Axial Consciousness and the Perennial Philosophy, a version of which I gave to the Danes Tuesday and which I also hope to use for the Integral Spirituality retreat in April. Karen Armstrong “Great Transformation,” Ewert Cousins’ “Christ in the 21st Century,” Bruno’s “Future of Wisdom,” and the Huston Smith tape series and bits and pieces of Ken Wilber, not to mention Fr Bede’s own comments on both especially from “Universal Wisdom” are finally starting to coalesce, and as always I am making sense out of it as I write. Are we really on the verge of or in the midst of a 2nd Axial Period, the move to global consciousness with a recovery of earth and the feminine, brought about by a re-discovery of our own depth? If so then Bruno summarize well what Christianity’s response should be:
Christian wisdom [in our day and age] is called upon to bring forth a depth anthropology which integrates the post-modern attainments of radical critical rationality and unconditioned creativity together with the Enlightenment values of human dignity and rights into a view of the human person grounded beneath human consciousness in the non-dual divine mystery. (The Future of Wisdom, p. 150)

That’s a lot to unpack, but that is basically what I have tried to do, show what that means and what leads up to it.

I’m also preaching on Saturday, the feast of the Presentation, picking away steadily at the manuscript for Lit Press, and jotting down some notes for a talk at Notre Dame. I do not mind at all these studying-writing projects, especially here, where I seem to spend so much time reading and writing. Being here gets me thinking in a whole new way, from a whole different part of my being––hopefully from my heart as well as my head.

Just a child leading children.