Sometimes it feels like nothing that happens is a coincidence. You will find yourself in places, taking decisions that an erstwhile ‘you’ would be surprised. I took one such decision towards the end of November last year. After almost two years of self-doubt & ego crumbling, I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t remember when was the last time I spent a day without being depressed. Depression was only getting worse. I desperately needed time to step back, step away from my daily routine and change my focus of existence from survival. Though, not a religious person, I decided to do Ayyappa Deeksha for 41 days. Something in me instinctively felt that the austerities & daily puja/prayer subscribed in the deeksha was something I needed. Was it a cop-out? In the beginning, yes. But, as days progressed, something in me was calming down. I didn’t want to ‘run’ anymore. I felt increasingly drawn to some power. I was at peace at stretch. All of us cannot be full-time hermits, but thanks to this deeksha, all could be part-time hermits every year. And, probably this was what I needed – a cut from everyone and everything for sometime. It came-in a time when I need it most. Had I done this earlier, I don’t think I would’ve realized it’s importance. Had it come late, I don’t know what would’ve become of me. I had been out on the limb for a very long time.
I recorded some thoughts during this period:
- Wow, the way people see you when in these ‘deeksha’ clothes (black dress)! The ‘image’ you curated for yourself goes out of the window. Suddenly you are that individual who is (literally) wearing his faith on himself. “You still ‘believe’? Are you not educated? You believe in god, and ‘are ready to go to this extent? I cannot believe we still have people like this. How come we allow these people here? Shouldn’t we be professional and let faith be personal?” Am I projecting my fears? Or, have I deciphered their expressions correctly?
- All I need are 3 pairs of black clothes. No desire for fancy clothing. If this is all that I need, why did I buy so many clothes? To impress. To fit-in.
- During deeksha you are supposed to be kind, not pick up fights, be polite. It was surprising to notice each conversation can be had in a direct, impolite way to ensure ‘you win’ & simultaneously put the other person on ‘defensive’ or, you can have it in an empathetic & kind way focused on helping others.
- A client asked me why I took over the deeksha. After a moment’s silence I said, ‘to set aside some time to think about the big questions. About, why, what next. To check with myself, if I can step back from this charade and look beyond.’ She looked at me as if I lost my mind. Well, I wouldn’t blame her.
- Why should you stop to ask these questions? Why did I stop to ask these questions? When all is well in life, you wouldn’t. ‘Cause there’s no reason to. But, when things don’t go well, you realize how transitory happiness can be. How you run behind stuff that is so conditional that you are always somewhere in your mind afraid that things may change. When you realize how life can yank you, you wish to find out if there’s anything that is not conditional, that is always with you, that cannot be taken away, which exists, even if you recognize it or not, even if no one validates its’ presence. I think this was the main reason for me to take on this deeksha.
- Never found time for God or prayer. How am I able to find now? Just because I’m supposed to cater time for prayer during this period, I’m able to. So, was it always a question of ‘intent’? No. Prayer, to me was always foolish. Why would God want you to sing praises of him? Surely, life’s meaning got to be more than singing praises of him?
- God doesn’t need you to praise him. Chanting mantras is not to please him. But, for us to focus our mind on him, the one beyond everything, who permeates everything. To realize and reinforce the idea that at the core of everything and everyone there is something that exists whether you believe or not.
- Why should I pray? What am I praying for? I’m not praying for anything. I’m just trying to access the force that is holding me together. If I’m always changing, who is the one changing? Buddha said there is no separate ‘I’, it’s only the ‘mind’ that creates this illusion. When the mind calms down, you realize there’s no ‘I’. This cessation of ‘I’ is nirvana. Hinduism says, there’s a soul at the core, and the outer facets undergo change but it doesn’t. The soul when realized, frees us from ‘change’ – samsara, cycle of rebirth/pain. When free, we realize that the soul/atman is nothing but the paramatma/Brahman/god/force. Buddha didn’t name what he finds in ‘nirvana’. Hinduism calls it ‘Brahman’. So, why should you pray? To be free. Prayer helps in realizing that ‘you’ are not the one who is changing. Come what may, there’s something at your core who is always there. This realization is very freeing. The more time spent in this stage of identifying with the ‘core’ the more freeing it can be. The more you understand you can exist without outside dependencies, the more peaceful you become. And this is what prayer does. It frees you.
- When you base your identity in your ego (I am this or that or have this or that) you constantly try to protect that ego. So you are always on the lookout for an attack. You are always jittery. Which makes you impatient which in turn makes you snippy, angry & sarcastic. But, when you base your identity on something else that is not dependent on anything, self-contained, indestructible, like God/soul; your identity is secure which breeds confidence, positivity & you stop seeing everyone as a threat. It makes you kind. You help people because you like helping (not to gain favours) which is nishkama karma (work that doesn’t generate any karma and thus liberates you from cycle of rebirth). But, how do u base identity on god or soul? By realizing there’s a force that created you and the world and that force is holding us together. By realizing when everything is gone that is what remains and you are ‘that’.
- Where the mind stops, the heart begins. Truth is always in front of us. We all know it. But, it ‘affects’ us only when experience/realization turns knowledge into wisdom. I won’t stop questioning. But, I also understand not all questions will have answers. Sometimes you need a leap of faith.