The face

•February 28, 2018 • Leave a Comment

The face is where we meet the world, where all the intensity of our inner life meets outer life.

The faces of the children in the homeless shelter revealed life fully, in its most explicit ways. The little boy whose parents beg at a large temple in the city had been brought here last year, to have a roof over his head, a school to go to, food to eat, and some sense of safety. The little boy still looked sad and afraid. He said that one of his his roommates beats him, and he is afraid to complain. As if in the fact of the roommate beating him were revealed all the beatings he had taken when living on the streets for the first 8 years of his life, before coming here a year ago.

His best friend now was another roommate, who tried to protect him when the other boy beat him. But he was still afraid. The loneliness and solitude on his face, and the energies that emerged from it, were fully apparent, and not masked away, like in adults. The mask was beginning to form, but was not quite there, like a building still in the early stages of its construction. There was the desire to truly associate, to truly meet another human being, and also the fear of doing just that. There was the intensity that seeks a passion, a commitment. There was frustration at the life he has had, frustration that did not yet take the form of physical violence.

When he grows up, his face will become more opaque. It will draw into itself. It will develop a veneer of sociability that hides its own reality behind a well adjusted smile, a tired set of eyes, muscles of the cheeks held together alert and tense, ready to respond to the outer world, and not relaxing, dropping, just being who they are. The cult of adjustment will finally have inducted him.

Every time someone truly pays attention to that face, it will light up. It will invigorate, and the same hurts, the same intense desires will emerge that once had no mask to shield them. But only rarely would another human being truly give attention to that face, before falling into the rigmarole of everyday life and everyday relationships. He would have lovers, but after a while they will cease to truly look at his face, and will assume the mask to be the face.

As he grows older, the face will develop wrinkles and begin to droop with gravity. It will be hard to hold the mask anymore, and it will start to show more and more to all who care to see it. It will show most of all when he is alone, and nobody watches.

Eventually, he will breathe his last. And the face will be lifeless, no intensity and no mask, but just a reminder of what it was, the destiny it had, the calling it had, which was only partially realised in this life.

As he walked away from the children’s home, he wondered what his own face had come to convey. How the scars of life had occluded its radiance. Whether it was still the face he had as a child.

As a 10 year old, in the the old, boring history book from school that he was forced to read, he had discovered a gem. It was the story of Siddhartha. Of how one day, the young Siddhartha saw the suffering of others, and was reminded of his own life and its meaninglessness. Before the crack of dawn, Siddhartha went away from the life he had, the life he knew, in search of the unknown. The beauty, the passion, the tremendous radiance of that journey was marked on the 10-year old child’s soul forever. That day, something in the child arose and shone. That day, his face was fully alive.

Today, 23 years later, where was he? What had happened to that face? He asked if that light enkindled then was still alive, if that flame still burnt.

It was a story from 2500 years ago. But like the rising sun across the the river, it had an eternal quality to it. Siddhartha’s story was the story of us all, archetypally. It spoke of the soul’s journey from contraction to radiance, from entanglement to freedom. Most of all, it shone on the face of the radiant one, the Buddha himself.

This morning, before he began his work day, he sat and wondered where Siddhartha was in his own life.



•February 20, 2018 • 2 Comments

It had been an exhausting day of physical work. He was young, and his 60-year old friend had asked for his help to unpack her things in her new house. All day they had opened boxes, split through packaging paper, and arranged various objects at their right place in the new house. Their hands were covered in dust, their bodies were tired and aching. From morning to late afternoon, they had been working, except for a short break at lunch time to eat vegetables from yesterday and freshly cooked rice. The freshly painted new house, still very bare, despite the boxes over boxes of belongings waiting to be unpacked, looked at them like a stranger. The locality – far away from the heart of the city, in the outskirts, as if in another world altogether, was also a stranger.

She was exhausted and asked him if he could unpack the two cartons containing her books, and then they could call it a day. The books were to go into a beautiful wooden cupboard. “Please keep the dharma books on top,” she said. He opened the boxes and began to take out the books. Books on education, from her former career. Books on development work. Books on poetry – English, Hindi, Urdu. Premchand. Faiz. Books on sexuality. And then the dharma books. The beaming smile of the Dalai Lama, spiritual rock star, global teddy bear, shone on a few of them. Other lamas appeared on other covers. He read the titles curiously and arranged the books on the top shelf.

Bending forward to pick up the remaining few books, his hand landed on a large, hardcover book. “One Thousand Moons: Krishnamurti at Eighty-Five”. Of course, he knew the book. He had seen it many times earlier at retreat centres. He was pleasantly surprised to find it here among the dharma books. It was a book of photographs of the teacher, across the world – India, England, USA, elsewhere. The teacher as an elderly, wise man. He was not entirely surprised, for his friend had once worked in one of the schools set up by the man who this book was about.

He opened the book. The first page said, “For dearest uncle, with best wishes, Usha, Amit, Siddharth.” It was a gift to the friend’s late father. He turned the pages and saw the pictures. Rishi Valley, the dry, brown mountains around it. The little children. The large campus, with modest, traditional, simple Indian buildings. The teacher in Indian clothes – kurta pyjama and a waist coat. Rajghat, Varanasi – the sacred Ganga flowing past the campus. The lush greenery. The tall trees under which the teacher would sit. The large school that looked like a garden, lined everywhere with flowers – red, pink, orange, white. The children, again. Madras. A large house in the middle of the city. Gardens ahead of it. A quiet oasis in a mad city. The place where the teacher spoke to the public for the last time, five years after these pictures were taken.

He had been to all these places and been deeply touched by the atmosphere there. Like everywhere, there too there was noise and superficiality, but also a silent spirit of contemplation remained.

He continued to turn the pages. A sadness came over him as he saw these pictures. He did not know where it was from. He did not know what to do with it. It was the teacher and his memories. They had never met, but as if, somewhere outside time, they had met and made a pact. The pictures asked him if he remembered that pact. Did he remember the intensity of consciousness, the raging fire that continually creates, the fullness of meaning in every moment, the outpouring of love, as quiet and affectionate as is sword of truth sharp and dispassionate?

He had forgotten. Like mists settling over a mirror, the encumbrances of everyday life had made the resplendent reality fade away.

The dust, the cardboard boxes, the disorder of today, like the traffic, the deadlines, the work pressures of yesterday, had clouded over the mirror that the teachings were. He had not become oblivious to them, but they were not his living reality either.

The sorrow was a message from the beyond. Like everything else. He remembered, he longed, he asked what he was alive for.



•February 20, 2018 • 2 Comments

you poured your fire into me
scorched me
all this while i had been hiding from you
now there was no escape
only destruction

every pore explodes with your light
everything old dies
this is terror
as it is joy

alive or dead
what i am
i no longer know




•February 18, 2018 • 1 Comment

aakaash ka soonapan
mere tanha mann mein
paayal chhankaati tum
aa jaao jeevan mein
saansein de kar apni
sangeet amar kar do
ban jaao meet mere
meri jeet amar kar do

When he was a child, he was lonely. He was quite alone, even though he had parents and a brother. His parents would take him with them to their friends’ house. The friends loved to sing. It was this song that they sang the most. Even though he was a child, he understood what it meant.

He hoped someone would come into his life and affirm him, someone would love him for what he is. The deep sadness, and the desire for a real relationship that the song expresses made its place in his heart then.

Today, sitting in nature, 25 years later, he remembered those days, those times. The song came to his mind. He was still that child. He still wished for a real relationship in the rushed storm of life around him, a storm that had a lot of noise, a lot of fears, a lot of deadlines, a lot of people – so many people that he craved for silence and solitude. Yet, rarely was there a moment of real relatedness. He wished for someone who would really relate to him and who he really related to.

There had been people who had entered his life and shone like the sun, and exploded in their light the meaningless encrustations of life. There had been teachers, lovers, companions. They had all faded away while life went on.

That old, ancient desire remained. The flame that called for genuineness remained. Quietly, the child was still there, and he wished for, desired, love.

A simple life

•February 14, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Simplicity is a quality of unity. In our deepest hearts, there is a deep unity. A singularity of purpose, which is beyond the many tasks and the many relationships amidst which we find ourselves.

That singularity calls us to listen. It is the heart of creation. It calls on us to live creatively, by listening to and letting the multiplicity of our commitments in the world be transformed by that singularity.

This is the washing over of all the pebbles on the way of the stream with the pure waters of the origin. This is the glowing in the moonlight of all the leaves and barks of the trees in the forest, revealing their mysterious beauty.

If we live in communion with this singularity, we live a simple life. We live a life without scatter, without two commitments pulling us in different directions and tearing us apart. We live with suffering, as we always must, but with awareness that the voice calling from deep within is deeper than the anguish of our pain.

In a life lived in the awareness of our roots in the deeper reality, our suffering flowers, like a seed germinating, rising and dying, revealing its true nature. Suffering sends us back to the this singularity, to our origins, so that we can return afresh and more deeply rooted. We do not fight suffering because our communion is with the deepest voice within, and not with that part of us which cries that it does not wish to suffer.

Suffering is not a problem to be tackled, but a space to know our origins more deeply. It is the leaf on the surface of which moonlight reveals its quietness, its gentle illumination. It is the pebble which reveals the nimble, soft nature of water which can take any shape.

In this humility, we listen, we live, we experience joy and sorrow, strength and fear, tranquility and anger, and all passes, while the light of what is deepest within us persists.

That is the simple life, a life connected with a message so basic that all else seems superficial. A life so basic that it sees our connection with our earth as fundamental. It sees that we belong to our earth. It is the life of a simple human being working on the earth with his bare hands, the life of a parent quietly holding his child’s hand as they walk together, the life of a nurse tending to the wounds and needs of those broken in body and spirit.

The simple life is lived quietly, in commitment to what is most important. It holds little interest in the flashlights of the world, the superficialities of what attracts us outwards. The modern world is a world of flash lights and flash noises, all asking for our attention. The simple life sees beyond these, and does not forget its origins.


in the dark night

•February 4, 2018 • Leave a Comment

in the dark night
on a lonely mountain
a cave, forlorn
in the cave
a fire

sounds of flickering flames
the colour golden
the smell of burning wood

continuous death
continuous birth

all forms
of Truth



A life in faith

•January 23, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Could we trust that we are part of an entity greater than us. That we are one with it, yet we are separate. That our life rests on its life. That our love is a reflection of its love. That our strength is but a branch of its strength.

Could we trust, that intimately related to it, we are all loved by it, we are in a real relationship with it which goes far beyond ideas and beliefs. That it is as real, more real, truly speaking, than the chair we sit on and the house we live in.

Could we live with the awareness that all our suffering – sorrow, fear, frustration – is a gift from it, because suffering tells us that our self-enclosed, self-sufficient, self-centred lives are false, that we can never succeed in what we want for very long, and we are but bubbles on the surface of a vast river. Because suffering awakens us from this mirage of self-centredness, and opens up a gap in us through which the Other can emerge, if allowed.

Could we live with an awareness that not only our inner suffering, but all that happens outwardly is a sign to us, a sign that speaks to a particular quality of our souls, a quality that would be the most truthful response to that outer event? Could we understand that the outer event calls on us to live with that quality of our souls, to manifest and perfect it – something that would never take place without such an event?

Could we see that our relationship to other human beings is one of seeing, appreciating and loving the Other in them. That our relationship to things is to sanctify them through the spirit of the Other. That every relationship is love and every act a sacred ritual.

All life, then, is an intimate being with this Other. In all that is truly unknown, hidden, mysterious, that is, in all others – other feelings, other experiences, other people – is concealed the ultimate Other, waiting for us to discover it, rather than remain trapped in our habitual and secure ways of living, where we rely on ourselves and consider ourselves of supreme importance.

All life, then, is lived between a deep trust of the Other, an openness to the darkness that the Other kindles in our forlorn hearts, and a perception that reveals that all there is in the world calls us to be who we were meant to be, in distinct and particular ways.

Trust, openness, perception – that is a life in faith.

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