CHAPTER TWO

Today was the day after the funeral of his beloved Satya.

The Sadhu and the Swami had set forth a structure and a routine for Satya’s husband for the next three days, beginning today.

Each morning, Satya’s husband was to breakfast at the break of dawn with his family of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Then, he was to trek to the Sacred Forest to meet the Sadhu and the Swami and the three elders were to partake in their triangulated meditation for the entire day. As the sun began to set and the light of day began to fade, Satya’s husband would return home to his family and they would take a light supper together of lentil daal and saffron rice before Satya’s husband retired for the evening and slumbered until day break, when the routine would begin once again.

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Thus, for three days, beginning today, Satya’s husband had a structure and a purpose that focused all his energies upon silent meditation.

Both the Sadhu and the Swami had informed him that these next three days were auspicious because they were the sacred period during which his beloved Satya’s Spirit would straddle between the realities of the Earth and the realities of the Universe, before her Spirit ascended into the other realm where it would assuredly find peace.

Moreover, said the Sadhu and the Swami to Satya’s husband, these three sacred days were also a preparation for his own journey, and his own passing. Not only was his heart failing physically, it was also emotionally broken at the passing of Satya. It was in this frail and fragile condition, counseled the Sadhu and the Swami, that Satya’s husband would most need their support and their compassion, and to be his earthly wings to launch and guide his being into the next world.

Today, as Satya’s husband made his early morning trek to the Sacred Forest, to meet the Sadhu and the Swami, he began to feel at peace.

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He had just breakfasted with his family and he witnessed what a rich man he was, to have had the blessing of such beautifully spirited and smiling and healthy children, and grandchildren and great grandchildren. All of his family respected and understood the need for these coming three days of his meditation in the Sacred Forest. As he left his family to depart for the forest, his daughters presented him with a reed-woven rucksack of nourishments, which he could enjoy with the Sadhu and the Swami to sustain them during their long day of meditative contemplation.

His daughters had lovingly packed and wrapped for him freshly made Indian sweetmeats as well as almonds, cashew nuts, tamarind rinds, freshly harvested figs and succulent dates, honeyed parathas, a minted yoghurt raita and a cruise of fresh mango juice.

Strapping the reed rucksack upon his shoulder, Satya’s husband trekked toward the Sacred Forest and felt the subtle transformation within him from the previous day, the day of the funeral.

Yesterday, on the day of the funeral, everything seemed to be misty.

His eyes were misty with tears, and from the sandalwood smoke of the funeral pyre.

The morning mist from the Himalayan mountain ranges seemed to envelope and to engulf his entire grieving family, in a wispy white fog as they all stood to witness Satya’s cremation. His senses also seemed clouded and unable to discern the familiar scents of the morning, such as the scent of the vast tea plantations terraced along the hillsides in swirling and sliding rows and patterns.

Today was a different day.

Today, his senses had become heightened and returned to him.

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It was a morning filled with gentle Himalayan sunlight and the green terraced tea plantations, dotted in the distance with the colorful saris of the women tea pickers, against the glorious mountains filled his senses with splendor and his soul with joy.

It was true that he felt a deep sense of grief for the loss of his life, as he had done the previous day.

Yet, today was different, even for his grief of Satya’s passing.

Yesterday, his heart was full of grief and that grief was dark and thick and foggy and it obliterated every other emotion, and it deadened and desensitized his senses. Yesterday, his grief had reign of his heart.

Today, something completely new had reign of his heart:

Gratitude.

Today, he felt the sense of loss and grief deeply but it did not hold sovereignty over his soul and did not fill up his heart.

Today, his deep sense of gratitude for his family and his friends filled his heart and enlightened his soul.

His joyous communal family breakfast filled his heart, as did the buoyant anticipation of his walking to meet his two steadfast friends, the Sadhu and the Swami.

As he trekked on through the Sacred Forest, his heightened senses filled with the scent of the forest, the sounds of the chirping birds and the rustle of the leaves in the wind.

He felt a reverence for Nature and for Creation and began to observe the most ordinary of objects, such as tree bark and twigs and leaves, in the most extraordinary way. Veins of leaves, and contours and grooves of tree bark, all became vibrant and illuminated with his heightened observation.

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He saw everything in Nature differently.

He saw everything in Nature as a reflection of a glorious creation, a creation that was unstoppable and eternal and could never die. He saw that the forms of Nature may die but the substance of Creation was ever present and eternal. He saw anew, he saw through this world to the very source of all creation and this new insight comforted his grieving soul.

He began to have the same insights into his two wonderful friends.

It began to dawn upon him how wise and insightful the Swami and the Sadhu had been, by providing him with a stable routine and structure for the next three days. He knew that had he not been gently instructed to follow this set routine and had been left to his own devices, he may have wallowed like a buffalo in mud. Wallowed in his grief, and sunk into an undignified self-indulgence of self-pity and lamentation. Sunk into regions of utter darkness.

In the presence of the Swami and the Sadhu, it was impossible to wallow in such pursuits, and to sink into such darkness, for theirs was the quest of transmigration out of darkness and into the light of peace.

This was the quest that they shared with Satya’s husband; this was their gentle gift to him.

What a gift!

His heart filled with gratitude when he considered what a tremendous gift his two dear friends were providing him with in his hour of need. With a heart full of gratitude, his heart expanded out to his community and even his country. He reflected upon how comforting it would be if all the people in India, or, indeed, all the people in the world, had two gentle souls, two strong and giant pillars, two oarsmen, two wingmen, like the Sadhu and the Swami, to guide them through their own loss of a loved one. Such a world would have so much less pain and so much more understanding.

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Today, these were his thoughts, as he approached his two dear friends, the Sadhu and the Swami, who awaited him in the Sacred Forest. Yesterday, his heart had felt as if it was contracting and becoming shriveled up in despair and desolation.

Today, his thoughts were expansive and his heart was magnanimous, thinking and seeing far beyond the limited reaches of his own grief, to new horizons and new possibilities.

Today, as he sat down beside the Swami and the Sadhu for his morning meditation, his heart was open and receptive, while his soul was buoyant and no longer burdensome and his renewed mind began to fill with wonderment and curiosity.

The first morning of meditation was silent and uninterrupted by verbal conversation. All three men were deeply immersed in a triangulation of trust and intuition that intensified and elevated their contemplations.

It could be said that they all intuitively knew that metaphysically, they were laying a foundation during this first morning that would allow them to launch into the more mysterious labyrinths and corridors of the soul as they proceeded with their meditations over the three-day period.

The Sadhu had articulated this idea to Satya’s husband before the three men embarked upon this morning’s meditation.

The Sadhu illuminated this idea with the analogy of embarking upon a voyage:

“How do we embark upon a voyage of mystery and adventure, a voyage of discovery to new shores and new experiences? Well, first of all, we would need a boat or a ship. How do we embark upon building the tiniest boat or the largest ship for our voyage? Well, first of all, we need to lay down the keel.

From the bow to stern, through the very middle of the boat or the ship, we must first lay down the keel, which is the spine and the inner core of the vessel; that which gives the vessel stability and balance and poise. In this morning’s meditation, we are laying down the keel. We are preparing ourselves to embark upon a voyage and fortifying ourselves against the waves and the storms which we might encounter as we navigate our way toward new discoveries.”

Varanasi-boat

The Swami acknowledged these wise words of the Sadhu and then the three men began their triangulated morning meditations.

Already, there seemed to be a sense of comfort and ease in the dynamic of the triangulation, a sense of oneness amongst the three men, and, on an intuitive level, they were indeed having ‘conversations’ albeit nonverbal conversations.

About midday, they all naturally and harmoniously broke their meditation and their silence and opened their eyes. In this reverential quiet of awakening, while their eyes adjusted to the light of the day, Satya’s husband unpacked the feast of nourishing foods in the woven reed rucksack that his daughters had prepared for him, unfolded a large cheesecloth upon the green grass before them, and festively arranged the foods upon this makeshift tablecloth.

The Sadhu, the Swami and Satya’s husband partook quietly in this light midday repast and drank the delicious fresh mango juice. The Swami broke the quiet and said, addressing Satya’s husband:

“I noticed your thoughts were revisiting our conversations on Pandiji’s hopes for the future of India?”

Satya’s husband smiled and acknowledged the Swami’s precise intuition with a respectful nod.

‘Pandiji’ was the term of endearment that the Swami affectionately used for Jawaharial Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India.

India Gandhi Nehru

The Swami felt a kinship with Prime Minister Nehru because they were of the same Brahmin caste, and from the Pandit community, though Nehru was a Kashmiri Pandit and the Swami a Bengali Pandit.

Although Satya’s husband had never learned how to read or write, he was extremely curious about the world beyond his serene Himalayan sanctuary of tea plantations and modest country cottages. He was curious about politics and economics, about science and technology, about literature and poetry.

His thirst for knowledge had been regularly quenched and satiated by his good friend the Swami, who, for many years now, had been reading aloud to Satya’s husband from newspapers and books.

The Swami was a prolific reader and, whenever Satya’s husband had a spare hour, such as the hour after he had finished work on the trains on the Indian Railway as a chaiwalla, the hour before he had dinner with his family; he would visit with the Swami’s in the Swami’s book-lined cottage living room, and ask the Swami to read out loud to him.

One of the subjects that most intrigued Satya’s husband, was Nehru’s vision for the future of India and his conviction that the future generations of Indians needed strong educational institutions that would provide them the necessary training to lead them into a newly industrialized India, an India that would flourish with economic progress. The Swami had read many newspaper articles to Satya’s husband about Nehru’s support of the creation of the IIT, the Indian Institute of Technology. There were plans for a network of IIT’s in major regions and cities throughout India that would serve the educational needs of a technocracy that would lead India into her industrial future and compete in the world markets.

Satya’s husband was fascinated by these potential advances in the knowledge and application of science and technology, and in the creation of the Indian Institute of Technology, and in this morning’s meditation he found himself thinking about this subject with an unexpected intensity.

The spiritually intuitive Swami, with his highly sensitive mental antenna, had picked up this intensity with which Satya’s husband was contemplating the Indian Institute of Technology.

As the three men feasted upon sweeten wheat cakes and honeyed parathas, the Swami considered the relevance of this subject and turned to Satya’s husband once more and said:

MITdome

“This subject of the Indian Institute of Technology, of the IIT is interesting you intensely. It seems to me that you need to be open to this and allow your afternoon meditation to contemplate this subject further. Allow your thoughts to explore and expand geographically as well. Consider that all great aspirations are connected around the world. Pandiji is encouraged by the aspiration of IIT because he has seen the success of MIT in America, which is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. IIT is inspired by MIT, while MIT itself, is inspired by the great scientific discoveries and advances throughout the ages, because all great aspirations are connected and intertwined and are part of a universal fabric.”

Satya’s husband considered these thoughtful words from the Swami, absorbing them, reflecting upon them, as the three elders completed their midday repast and shut their eyes and resumed their meditation for the afternoon. Now that the keel had been laid during the morning meditation, there was a renewed sense of stability and poise, as well as the prospect of the afternoon’s meditation being filled with the anticipation of a great voyage of adventure and discovery.

Satya’s husband’s afternoon meditation voyage began like a steady and sharp keel of a great ship cutting through the huge and rising waves of Time and Space; cutting away at the power and potency of these waves so that all the huge blocks of his former realities rapidly melted away and became powerless, while the keel of his spiritual vessel, like a hot knife cutting through a block of ghee, steadfastly and fearlessly charged mightily forward, emboldened and enlightened, gliding and glissading through an infinite corridor.

This infinite corridor was first manifested in a form that was familiar to Satya’s husband, the chaiwalla:

It was the seemingly endless and infinite corridor that divided the passenger compartments of the steam engine trains of the Indian Railway. This was the same familiar corridor that, adjacent with the chatter and banter of train travelers, he had loved and explored and served tea on, ever since he was fourteen years old and apprenticed as a chaiwalla under his beloved father, who was a master chaiwalla.

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The familiar form of the inner carriageway of the steam engine train was illuminated in a soft yellow light, which seeped through the train windows and elucidated the passengers in a warm and pleasing glow. There were many families, many children of all ages, smiling, playing, chattering with their parents and their relatives; women in colorful saris and men in flowing white kurta pajamas and white Nehru caps, sharing sweetened wheat-cakes and honeyed parathas, and drinking tea from the chaiwalla’s earthenware cup. This endless stream of people, sitting in their carriage compartments, or standing in the corridor of the train, seemed to go on forever as Satya’s husband made his way past train carriage upon train carriage through the infinite corridor. Then, unexpectedly, as he walked toward the next carriage he saw that all the forms of the people in the train were fading.

All the forms and sounds of bantering of men in white dhotis and women in multicolored saris, and children chattering, were fading into a warm yellow light and all he could see in the next carriage ahead of him was a corridor of soothing light.

He hesitated at the idea of stepping into the next carriage ahead of him of a train that had now lost its structure and lost its sound and was just a faded framework sketch of an inner carriageway with a threadbare shape and form, like a charcoal sketch upon yellow paper, flooded only with yellow light.

It was at this very moment that he felt the strength and the support of his dear friends the Sadhu and the Swami, whose spirit was on either side of him, guiding him and dissipating his unfound fear and trepidation. In this momentary awareness, he recalled the Sadhu’s initial words when they had first began their meditations on the day of his beloved Satya’s passing:

“Instead of imagining a solid wall between life and death, ask yourself, in your future meditation, whether you might consider that this wall is porous and permeable, and that there is perhaps a thread of continuity between what you consider life and what you consider death. Ultimately, there is only the Eternity of life, but we all have to meet this and arrive at this in our own way and in our own time. For you, for now, there is a wall between life and death, that is your station in this journey to Eternity, so think of this wall as less solid and more permeable. Let that be your future meditation.”

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Yes, he understood now. He was here now. He was here.

He was here at the very portal and pathway between what his former realities had defined as life and defined as death. He was meeting his own demarcation between life and death and had arrived at the wall between these two realities, a wall that he had previously assumed to be a solid wall.

Here at the wall, he saw that there was indeed no wall.

He now saw that the possibilities of a wall that may be porous and permeable, had so penetrated his consciousness, like a ship’s keel through solid waves, like a hot knife through a solid block of ghee, that what seemed like the possibility of tiny holes in the solid wall were now infinite corridors and pathways to new adventures and new discoveries, while, what seemed like a solid and impenetrable wall that upheld these tiny holes and portals had crumbled and melted and were now powerless.

There were no more walls. There was only the light filled infinite corridor.

He felt his courage mount and his fear dissipate and he took a step forward into the yellow light, feeling his feet float firmly. His stride was effortless and yet it was grounded and purposeful.

The faded form of the Indian Railways steam engine carriageways disappeared forever as the yellow light carried him forward and a new form began to appear upon the horizon.

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As he stepped forward, he began to faintly hear the sounds of his own footsteps and he looked down at his feet to find that he was once again walking in a corridor… it was a corridor of a building.

As he looked from side to side he saw that although there were no longer train compartments as in the previous corridor, there were now large compartments. He peered into one of the compartments and saw that it was actually a classroom and there were students seated at desks and there was a teacher speaking at the head of the classroom in front of a blackboard. Suddenly, he began to see people in the corridor as he walked forward and he found his own form becoming more solid as he brushed and bumped into the people walking up and down the corridor alongside him.

The yellow light was still very strong and illuminated his entire visual experience as he continued to stride step by careful step down this seemingly endless corridor.

He began to notice that the people in the corridor were mostly young students with some older teachers also appearing now and then. They all seemed very busy and preoccupied as they scurried and hurried along, sometimes conversing with each other and sometimes simply focused upon their destination, which seemed to be one of the many classrooms that flanked this endless corridor. He could see the students turning into and then disappearing into a classroom from time to time.

He was baffled and disorientated.

He stopped walking and stood quietly in the corridor.

Suddenly, he felt a tap on his shoulder and a friendly young face greeted him and spoke to him in English with an American accent:

“You look lost. Do you know where you are?”

Satya’s husband’s stunned and baffled expression betrayed that he was completely  and utterly lost.

The friendly American face replied to his own question:

“Infinite Corridor.”

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