The Path To Bodhichitta

You start where you are, the practice will meet you there.

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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Shades of Grey

"Live a little," TN murmured, as I fussed over how far behind schedule we were for the nest day's presentation.

"What do you mean?" I demanded, slightly frazzled and not in the mood for misplaced optimism.

"Live in the moment!" he said empathatically. "When you drive home, take a different route. Roll down the window and breathe in the air outside. Notice the trees. Ignore the traffic. Enjoy the journey or you'll reach your destination with no recollection of how you got there."

"Living a little means living in the moment without being preoccupied with thoughts about the future. The feeling that every fragment of that moment is frozen in one perfect frame. And you're overwhelmed by a feeling of pure happiness. Let tomorrow take care of itself."

"Well, it's hard to live a little right now," I retorted, thinking of the secret pain in my heart.

"No it's not," he said gently. "The trouble with you is that you see things in black and white. But some things can only be experienced in the grey for it to make sense and for you to gain a clearer perspective."

"Where does responsibility come in then?" I demanded. He had touched a tender spot and he knew it.

"Simple - before you commit to doing something, be prepared to take responsibility for the consequences. Then throw youself fully into the moment and live every part of it. No point worrying about the consequences while moving through that moment and not remembering a single part when its over. Then the whole experience would have been a waste."

Friday, October 03, 2008

Exactly Where You Are Right Now

Swami Abisek Caitanya was back in town last month. The last time I saw him was a year ago, when he made his way down from Rishkesh to PDN's shared studio in Bangsar, to unveil the jewels of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. He so captivated me with his oratory skills, charisma and - I'm almost ashamed to admit this - good looks, that I began asking PDN to bring him back this year too.

"What would you want him to teach if he came back?" PDN asked in June.

"Bhagavad Gita," came my immediate reply.

In August, PDN called to inform me that Swamiji would be holding 12 Bhagavad Gita classes throughout September. My heart broke. I was travelling for business throughout September and scanning my calender, I concluded that I would just about make three classes. That was something at least, I consoled myself.

I was disappointed mainly because I would miss a big chunk of basking in Swamiji's presence, but also because a portion of the Bhagavad Gita addressed karma yoga and I had always wondered what Lord Krishna meant when he told Arjuna, "Better your dharma that the dharma of others." More so, I had also long wondered what my dharma is.

Having not been given - or not recognised - any signposts pointing to my destiny, I had to be content with using my imagination. Deep in my bones I believe that I was born to serve and this gave birth to a whole series of romantic notions that involved tending to victims of a natural disaster, feeding the hungry, sending impoverished children to get the idea. Each time I lost myself in one episode of this mini series, my heart beat a little faster, my stomach felt a little funny and my mouth got a little dry. These little sessions usually took place after my evening chanting, and then I would cast my eyes up to the deep purple sky and implore, "Please, please show me what I was put here to do." I now add, "And when you do please give me the guts to do it!"

I've been asking for a year now and still, no signs. In the meantime, I began saving so that when the call comes, I will be able to quit my job in a heartbeat and throw myself into this wonderfully noble cause. Whatever it is.

On the last day of Swamiji's stay, I finally found a quiet moment with him and asked, "How will I know what my dharma is?"

He smiled - as one does at the ignorant - and replied, "Your dharma is exactly where you are right now."

And with those nine simple words, my castles came roaring down. Swamiji continued smiling, "Your dharma may change in the future but for now, this is where you are meant to be, this is what you're meant to do."

No, no, no, my mind protested. I am not meant to be serving demanding clients, reading strategy management books and delivering corporate training programs. What kind of We-Are-The-World picture was that?! Once the denial passed, the fear set it. What if this is really all that there is? What if I'm meant to be a working girl all my life instead of a Mother Theresa in the making? What if my life was not going to make a difference to other lives in the way I hoped?

And then, a quieter thought - what if I was wasting the opportunity to serve in the present by waiting for a future that may not even exist?

It took me a couple of days to recover from this revelation, but it's gotten easier to accept. Today, though it takes conscious practice, I look at the different ways I am already serving those around me. This includes feeding my cats, hanging out my partner's freshly laundered clothes, making time for coffee with a broken-hearted friend, picking up a friend for yoga class. So many ways I had never noticed before.

So for now, I will be where I am, doing what I'm doing to serve in whatever ways I can right now. And when the seasons change, I will adapt and serve in a different way and touch different lives. For there is still a smidgen of romance left in my dreams. :)