Friday, March 17, 2017

Jottings - slice of life - 108 ( The taming of a beautiful, cold beast )

Jottings - slice of life - 108 ( The taming of a beautiful, cold beast )
To observe a snow storm from a Hotel room is spectacular. Especially those of us for whom snow is a rarity. And what a blizzard it was. For five hours, little, cold, sizzling flakes of soft ice cut through strong winds with ceaseless precision. Within no time, the brown earth was covered by a patina of white coating, which grew in density every passing minute. Vigilant snow ploughers standing by with their machines would sweep the roads, only to be covered again with a rich, copious deposit of fresh snow, even as the plough engine moved ahead. Relentless!! is the word that comes to mind. I took some time off from my meeting, put on my wind sheeter, and stood out in the front lobby, hearing the merciless drone of cold winds, witnessing a face of nature that was at once fascinating and terrifying.
But what impressed me is the state of preparedness of Man used to living in such conditions. The city of Boston was ready. Weather channels, experts had plotted every movement of this beautiful beast over two days. They knew exactly what to do to get back to normalcy. Within hours of the storm passing away, roads were clean as if nothing had ever happened. All the remained was six feet high snow piles along road sides, conveniently and aesthetically tucked away. They were the only the reminders of the powerful blizzard. Nothing more!!. Somehow as I stood watching the storm, and Man’s response to it, a simple, yet powerful observation made by master historian Arnold Toynbee in his monumental six volume “Study of history “ flitted through my mind
“Civilizations die from suicide, not from murder..”
Toynbee was referring to the inability of many old civilizations to adapt to local circumstances and live through and by it. To respect, venerate and adapt to life as it presents itself in ones living environment is the key to Human progress and success. A few years ago, just about 800 miles from Boston, less then half an inch of snow and ice bought an entire city to standstill and panic. I am talking about my home town - Atlanta. For weeks, the impact of an inconsequential amount of ice generated existential distress. We didn't know what to do. We weren't prepared. We can handle as much as heat as nature would like to throw at us, but not an inch of snow - never!!. That is how local life is. Though we wish to think of ourselves as global citizens. Funny!!
Yesterday evening, I went out to dinner with a wonderful family. They are originally from Israel, and I always love to hear them speak in their native tongue - the fascinating sound of Hebrew. Like all ancient languages: Sanskrit, german and many others, its tone, inflections, the depth and range of sounds in Hebrew touch something very deep. Even if the meaning competes eludes me, the texture of sound vibrates within. Felix and his wife , both are teachers. Felix works for an IT company with whom I am associated. A brilliant man ( Like many Israelites). Clear, logical and methodical, I stuck a chord with him the moment we said “hello” nearly a year ago. As we talked we realized both of us had shared common interests, and we shared the conviction of software as a manifestation of deeper level of spiritual reality. Felix is widely read in Indian philosophy and very soon both of us started talking about Vedanta and Bhagavad Gita in particular.
An Interesting point came up. Felix bought it up casually.
“Bala, if imparting spiritual knowledge is as simple as dialogue between a master and student, why is it that we dont see many meaningful transformations..??”
True, isn't it... If one were to read the Gita from cover to cover, there should be enlightenment. But why does that not always happen. Felix definitely had a point there.
But I pointed out to Felix the answer to his question lies in the Gita itself. The penultimate verse of Chapter 18 Vyasa writes
“yatra yogeśvaraḥ kṛṣṇo
yatra pārtho dhanur-dharaḥ
tatra śrīr vijayo bhūtir
dhruvā nītir matir mama”
Freely translated , it means
“Wherever there is a teacher like Krsna, the realized master and a Student like Arjuna, a genuine existential seeker, in such an environment there will be mastery of self and destiny. I am certain of this truth”
“Alex, the key phrases here are “realized master” and a “seeker who is existentially thirsty” and not merely intellectually hungry. That is a crucial difference. If a student, who is ripe for the flame of understanding to be transmitted - well oiled, sharp and every fiber of his body is ready for transformation; then all it needs is a look or a word from a realized master. But on the other hand, if one approaches religion with an intellectual curiosity and nothing more, then it will stay at that level. Will not penetrate deep.
That is the meaning of a dialogue in the true sense of this word”
“Ahh..” said Alex.. Very much like Moses on top of mount Sinai - alert, thirsty and open to the voice of God “
"Yap...." All three of us nodded and smiled.
God bless…
Yours in mortality,
Bala

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