Monday, August 20, 2018

Jottings - slice of life - 223 ( Mom's indomitable spirit and her amazing spiritual journey)

Jottings - slice of life - 223 ( Mom's indomitable spirit and her amazing spiritual journey)
The Hindu Dharma divides human life into neat compartments in tune with the organic requirements of the body and psyche as it flowers and ages. There is childhood, when life is carefree and everything is full of wonder; it is followed by adolescence - a period of grooming and discipline, then follows the prolonged period of Adulthood with social, professional and cultural responsibilities taking over; finally a time when it is necessary to relinquish all that we have achieved and retire into a sacred space within in preparation to return where we came from. These are not strict watertight compartments. Each of these stages can appear sooner or later depending upon opportunity and circumstances. The goal of Hinduism is to live life as fully as one can, and then give it all up without reservations with the firm understanding that life is more than mere human achievements. This is not fatalism as western philosophy would ignorantly dub it. It is the highest form of optimism possible with the mind looking forward to blissfully folding back into cosmic omniscience, just as a drop of water gracefully dissolves into the ocean without struggle, regret or pain.
My mom was in her early seventies, when she formally started learning Vedanta in chinmaya mission, right after my father's demise. A few months after his passing away, we introduced her to the mission and swami Satyananda saraswati, who heads the local chapter in Kochi. She was excited to join the study group. I have always known she had a keen interest in formal education, and in her younger years often found ways to enroll in short spiritual courses and devotional singing practices. My grandfather, her father, was a disciplined spiritual practitioner, and she looked upon him as an ideal student with right mix of tradition and wisdom who grew up to become an officer in the erstwhile British Government because of the power of his intellect and nothing else. In fact, all three sisters in the family have good flair for learning and can speak English fluently and converse on diverse topics - much better than many modern day youngsters I encounter.
We were apprehensive and skeptical about how she would go to the mission thrice a week, climb up steep stairs, sit on erect chairs and listen to dense and hair splitting symbolism and imageries on vedantic cosmology and dialectics. She proved all of us wrong. Not only did she attend every class, without a day of voluntary absenteeism( unless she was really pressed hard); she also quickly became one of the most ardent and disciplined students in her class. Her understanding of Vedanta, its cryptic terms, its metaphors coupled with undiluted respect and devotion to her guru gave her a new vision, a deeper understanding of the movements of life. At a time, when she needed it most, Vedanta provided the perfect and soothing balm to assuage and elevate her soul. Its message was not merely intellectual to her, it has penetrated her depths. After a long well lived life, she was able to comprehend the subtle message Vedanta was sharing with her - The message that nothing matters in the end, and everything will pass as it always has.
Two years ago, she completed the first course which included all the upanishads, surrounding scriptures and the Magnus opus - Bhagavad gita. At that time she received a certificate of commendation from her master for her discipline and steadfastness. When asked to speak on the occasion, she spoke eloquently about her journey in Vedanta. Many would have rested after the first course, not Mom. She decided to continue with the second round of learning in the tradition of Hinduism which postulates that spiritual learning never ends and every reading is just a new beginning. A few days ago, she completed the second cycle of the course with Swami. Once again, she received a certificate, and is now poised to attend the third round. We are truly amazed at her commitment, passion, transformation and energy!!.
On the occasion of course completion, this time, mom did not speak much (Pic below). She merely said this to the younger audience in the crowd, and I paraphrase " Vedanta does not help stop sorrow or worries or troubles that come our way. What it does give is the understanding and courage to accept it with a compassionate heart, and that is great solace for any life that has seen many ups and downs..."
As I listened to her, I remembered the words of Philo, the mystic when he said " Be kind and compassionate, everyone you meet carry a great burden..". The greatest lesson spiritual journeys can teach us is to be forgiving in life. If the scars of the past no more haunt us, we have truly arrived at a state of bliss.
Mom's spiritual journey so far has taught us all that valuable lesson
God bless...
yours in mortality,

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