Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Last Words from Ashtavakra and a blessing from the Sage of Kanchi

Ashtavakra and I have been communing on a regular basis though he would reject the idea that he has been communing with anyone except in the conventional mundane sense. He very emphatically has adopted a rigourist stance on this. As he says in the last chapter of the Ashtavakra Samhita (Gita):

XX.11:Where is illusion, where is the world; where is attachment or detachment; where is jiva or Brahman for me, who am ever pure.

XX.13:Where are instruction and scriptural injunction, where is the disciple and where is the preceptor; where indeed is the object of life for me who am absolute good and free from limitation.

So what good is it being round this Dude? Well I can tell you a little about that having been around a few of them. It’s like having your own Hadron Collidor where you can get the sense sometimes of the willful emergence into the Inconscient that the maintainance of an ego involves. The Dude doesn’t bother:

XX.14: Where is existence, where is non-existence; where is unity, where is duality: What need is there to say more? Nothing emanates from me.

Yes certainly nothing emanates but neverthless things happen around him. My friend Pete and me went on a holy tour of South India visiting places and teachers, Adyar, Tiruvanamalai, Jillelamudi (Ama). At Kanchipuram we went to the great temple to take the darshan of the murthi there. Normally Westerners would not be allowed into the holy of holies but we were wearing dhotis and had the proper mien. Arati was in process and we took the blessing of the flaring camphor. Afterwards Pete who knows things said to me:
- We ought to take the darshan of Sri Shankaracarya Jagath Guru.( aka Sri Chandrashakarendra, aka The Sage of Kanchi)
- O.K. I said, though I knew nothing much about him taking him to be the head of the Monastery set up by Shankara in the 9th.C. I had no sense of him or his religious prowess at that time. Tell this to a Hindu and they will look at you as though you fell off the moon.

The place where he gave darshan was a little hut surrounded by a picket fence ten foot or so from the door. This was to keep the devotees from crowding him but oddly there was only a handful of people there. A number of monk attendants were with him bearing long ceremonial staffs with little orange pennants at the top, just like the ancient pictures of forest sages.

Members of the audience were asking questions of the Guru which he answered. These I am told would be generally of a material order - should I open that shop, this operation is uncertain what do you advise and so on. In a lull in the proceedings I was taken aback by being addressed by a chief attendant who said to me:
- Enhance yourself. (Actually he said announce yourself, but I was a little deaf then)
My puzzled look caused him to explain:
- What is your name, where are you from?
- I am Michael, and I am from Ireland.
- Have you a question for His Holiness?
That stumped me and I blurted:
- Should I continue on with my studies?
Shankaracarya Jagathguru looked at me with a smile from where he was hunched down on his heels in the doorway. Lifting his hands in the air above his head and turning them out towards me, he said:
- Please continue.

Now remember I was 10ft. plus away from him and had no idea of what his rank was but when he made that gesture towards me I immediately felt it like a push in my chest that made me stagger back. Something emanated from him and blessed me. Shaktipat they call it.


ktismatics said...

When I woke up in the middle of the night I found myself thinking about your experience. Oddly it was the mixed message that had me puzzled. In ordinary conversation, "please continue" is an invitation to keep talking, whereas in your situation the message signaled the end of the conversation. And the guru's reaching out to you across empty space would seem to be a kind of welcoming gesture, but you experienced it as a shove, staggering you back. The physical setup of the darshan also seemed to create a double bind, with the crouching guru welcoming his handful of visitors from behind a picket fence. Eventually I went back to sleep.

Is this shaktipat presumed to be an innate ability that's latent in all humans, or do only certain adepts possess the gift? Complementarily, does everyone have the ability to receive the shaktipat? You've influenced me from a distance: I changed a sentence in my novel, I've read some Bergson, I've thought about your darshan in the middle of the night. Is this sort of influence, mediated by consciousness and language, regarded as continuous with the remote touch you experienced?

ombhurbhuva said...

The question I had asked him was 'should I continue' so his answer 'please continue' was to the point. That gesture in Indian body language, swivelling the palms out at forehead height, means 'carry on', 'certainly', 'keep it going'. There's nothing dismissive about it particularly with the 'bounce' he gave me. I should say that I was doing a Masters which had an Advaitic component and the Sage of Kanchi was in the direct lineage of Adi (First) Shankara.

Shaktipat as an energetic transfer is a well recognised charism in the Hindu Tantric tradition. It's like the laying on of hands and it often involves a physical touch to one of the chakra points on the body. There's a good Wikipedia article on it:

There are different levels of it from a strong blessing to the transfer of cosmic consciousness. What I got was the former. As to whether there has to be readiness to receive it, my experience of it is as pure grace. I don't know about this transfer occurring between two 'plain' people, my intuition is that it might, under special circumstances, as a spontaneous event. The Perfect Master can transmit it at will. Here's some video of the life of the Sage.

The fence was just to protect the Sage from the enthusiasm of the devotees rushing forward to touch his feet, he was 80 at the time and to me he seemed to be attached to this plane by a thread but he lived on for another 20 years.

john doyle said...

I'm glad the message to you was clear. My wife heard in your account the same shaktipatian ambiguities that I did, and she's far more likely to recognize spirit than I. In my view the dual possibilities add depth to the narrative, even if that wasn't your conscious intent, or his either. I'll have a look at the video later.

patrick j. mullins said...

I knew that the 'please continue' was 'to the point', as you say, but was very amused at the choice. Would usually be 'Yes, you should (or must) continue'. Or just 'Yes'. 'Please continue' definitely means to most in the 'argot world' what John said, usually, so it came across as functional and funny, unless there was the inflection and an emphasis on the 'please' and said more solemnly. I just reread the description of his physical position and gestures, so it would have made sense.

I know of another version of something like the 'push in the chest', but it was more secular and done with the touch of a finger. Wouldn't be appropriate to recount here, but the finger worked, and the purveyor had been more or less confident that the cynical recipient would see it as such.

ombhurbhuva said...

Please Continue,
As in ‘move on, nothing to see here’ or a finger in the chest that sends you on your way. In Indian etiquette generally you ask the elder’s permission to leave. The standard phrase in English that they use is ‘I may go now’. The answer may be ‘yes’ with a wobble of the head and that gesture. On the other hand you might be stayed for a moment for a final interchange. It’s a hierarchical society and simply to break away from an elder is regarded as brusque and rude. So in that sense asking the Sage of Kanchi whether I should continue is like asking permission to continue and his ‘please continue’ is like ‘you may go now’.

I’ve seen situations where the permission to go from the Guru was not given immediately. Perhaps the time was not auspicious. The formalising of this ‘break away’ moment in a conversation is probably a good thing and smooths our merry way. One can imagine the conversation with his shrink of the kid in Shane now grown up.