3.30.15

New Jersey

 Guha:

The Hindus from early days were always searching for “permanence”. They were trying to distinguish between ephemeral and eternal, i e Anitya and Nitya in this phenomenal world. They believed that human suffering was caused by not realizing “the Truth that is unchanging”. To be free from this suffering, from the bondage of illusion or what they termed “unreal”, they conceived of the concept of mukti, moksha, or emancipation, which would follow by realizing the Truth that is real. This abstraction they termed Brahman. Thus, Brahman was a logically ascertained premise. They then went on to search for the unchangeable Truth in this world of constant change and developed the process of “neti, neti,” which means negation of anything and everything that changes.

While trying to discover such a condition, they came to an absolute “give up” point. The “give up” is when one discovers that the mental movement which wants to figure out something that is real, finds – to its absolute and utter dismay – that it cannot do a damn thing about illusion; it is the mental movement that creates the unreal! However, if the “give-up” can sustain itself, eventually it may break the continuity of thought. And if that happens, it can change the entire chemistry of the body and create an enormous high that no alcohol or drug can match. That high becomes an object of reality and is described in the scriptures as “continuous or permanent bliss”. But such descriptions create a myth, a story, which are misleading. The main point to note here is that there is no guarantee that this “giving up” will produce such a state, and as such the scriptures refer to this as: “to whomsoever it chooses …”

Stumbled upon this gem while browsing through my notes. I found Guha’s explanation truly original and his crisp and succinct summation of such a profound concept literally took my breath away.

Back home I am still trying to adjust to routine here after a frenetic, amped-up, often chaotic but once-in-a-lifetime Indian odyssey with Guha. There’s so much liveliness and vibrancy in India notwithstanding the heat, dust, pollution, and ubiquitous traffic jams et al. Nonetheless, I am always happy to return to my own abode. Even though I am a city girl at heart, being born and brought up in Mumbai, I have adapted quite well to my adopted homeland since landing in New Jersey twenty years ago. The rhythm of life here is even-keeled and quiet, perhaps too solitudinous for many.  “The suburban life in U.S. seems so dull and boring,” my relatives and friends from India tell me pityingly. The city folks visiting here miss the frenzied energy, the multitudinous social and cultural engagements or the exciting night-life that they are accustomed to in a modern megapolis like Mumbai or New Delhi. But no matter, I am content leading a simple, uncluttered life.

Guha and Shujaat

This morning I have come to Julie’s to meet Guha. Shujaat, a close friend of Guha is also here. He is a polite, soft-spoken gentleman who lives by himself in upstate New York. A child psychiatrist by profession his demeanor is very sweet and gentle. Full of good humor, spiritual fervor and penchant for Sufi music, I first met Shujaat when he was accompanying Ganesanji who was giving a talk at my house a few years ago. Shujaat was also a keen follower of Ramana and like me, practiced self-enquiry, so we had a common thread. He has been associated with Ganesanji (grandnephew of Ramana Maharshi) since last ten years. I had arranged Ganesanji’s talks in New Jersey for two consecutive years. The first year they just came for the evening and departed after satsang and dinner. The following year they both stayed with me for a couple of weekends.

At this juncture I must recount how Shujaat ended up meeting and befriending Guha. While staying with me, typically Ganesanji and Shujaat would rise early and have a cup of tea together discussing profound spiritual and philosophical matters. Unfortunately, I could never partake of these conversations as I am not an early riser by habit so invariably I would join them about an hour later. But one morning when I came down to the living room I found Ganesanji sitting alone with eyes closed in front of Ramana’s portrait and the sweet smell of sandalwood wafting in the air from a bunch of lit incense sticks. But there was no sign of Shujaat. Very surprised, I asked him about Shujaat’s absence. He replied that he hadn’t seen Shujaat at all that morning. Full of remorse that I was not up earlier to cater to Ganesanji’s needs, I quickly made him a cup of tea. About an hour later Shujaat walked in looking sleep-deprived and haggard. He said he had a bad migraine and could not get out of bed earlier. Later, in the afternoon he told me that he frequently suffered from intense headaches and body pain. Sometimes the pain was so acute that he was unable to perform even simple daily tasks. Also, he had lost all drive to work; he only wanted mukti, nothing else. I then told him about Guha and all the physical torture he had undergone before coming into the Natural State. Maybe Guha would have an explanation about his pain and suffering. Well, Guha’s name fell on receptive ears, a meeting was arranged and the rest, as they say, is history!

Lunch over, I help Julie with the dishes and then all of us get engrossed watching a documentary on the Church of Scientology on CNN. By now Radhika is here too; she works close by and was able to leave early. After a while I casually remark that Hinduism as a religion has some good points. Hearing that Guha gets very animated; looks like I have stirred a hornet’s nest. “Your religion is horrible,” he shouts, hands flailing, almost jumping out of his seat with rage. “It allows mothers and sisters to be killed in the name of religion. They tell women to treat their husbands (pati) like parmeswar (god) then they shove the widows on to the funeral pyre along with their dead husbands!” He was referring to the former Hindu practice of Sati, outlawed since long, of a widow immolating herself on her husband’s funeral pyre or committing suicide (often forced into doing so) in another fashion soon after her husband’s death. He continued to talk passionately about the woes of Hinduism, berating Vedic seers for misleading humanity: “Those guys created a fictitious reality – drinking soma juice and smoking hashish and talking about love, bliss, beatitude. They made us believe that striving for these things should be the meaning and purpose of our life.”

On to other things:

  • Understand! The movement that is created for seeking external harmony is false. The human idea disturbs the equilibrium. Ideas always want something which is not what the system needs. Don’t do anything. Leave it alone.
  • Feel whatever you want to feel, don’t impose it on others. Don’t turn it into a sales pitch.
  • You can’t accept “just as is” out there. You have to exemplify because you can think.
  •  When you realize how much part of what you think has gone to create struggle, destroy life and properties, you’ll be surprised.
  • They took everything from the American Indians and in return gave them small pox blankets! You don’t feel a damn thing for anybody. You are shedding crocodile tears!

Suddenly turning to Radhika: “Why do you want to listen to me at all?”

Radhika: Let me figure it out, then I’ll let you know why I listen to you. I have waited over 50 years to find you. I’m not going in search of someone else at this stage.

Feeling quite happy for some reason, I am smiling incessantly. “Endorphin release,” Guha says. “They are shiny little happy molecules,” he adds laughingly.

4.2.15

Guha narrating a funny but deeply touching exchange between U.G. and himself:

G: U.G., I have bought a ticket for India. I would like to go in October and see my mother.

U.G: Oh, why do you want to go India? It’s a spiritual shitland! And in October? That’s not your vacation time.

G: I have to visit my mother. She desperately wants to see me. I haven’t seen her in six years and she is not keeping well.

U.G: Oh, she has done her job, bringing a horrible person like you in this world! Let her go. Old people should die.

G: But U.G. I have to go. I have already bought the ticket.

U.G: How much did you spend on the ticket?

G: $1500

U.G: Okay, you do one thing. Instead of going to India, buy a ticket to Switzerland and come here and see me instead. I will give you the money for your India ticket.

G: Okay

U.G: By the way, I heard you got some bonus? How much did you get?

G: How did you know? I got $5000.

As it turned out, Guha purchased a ticket for Switzerland to be with U.G., gave his entire bonus to him AND never got the money from U.G. for the India ticket. He never questioned U.G. and followed his every word to the letter. Such was his love for U.G.

Footnote: Guha did go to meet his mother at a later date, just before she passed away.

4.4.15

Again at Julie’s, having tea and chit-chatting with Guha, Shujaat and Radhika. Guha looks amused, asks why everyone is in the mood to exchange love songs. Rina had sent a romantic Hindi song to Julie who had forwarded it to Shujaat. Perhaps she wanted to express her feelings via that song. This was followed by a testy exchange on love and broken hearts between Rina and Shujaat, who makes no bones of the fact that he is a skeptic about matters of the heart. Mighty tickled, Guha asked Julie to read out their texts to us:

Shujaat: “…I’ve been through that mast (crazy) love a few times. It’s an intoxicating high…just neurotransmitter and hormone-based delusional game.” Quoting Tina Turner, he added, “Love is a second hand emotion. Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken.”

Rina’s spirited response: “So, I guess this is how guys bromance. Very different and clinical compared to women. Ha! Ha! Julie, glad to know my texts to you are being evaluated by a psychiatrist. Feel I’m truly blessed and in safe hands. Any guy or gal who is willing to sing the song (to Guha) that Shujaat did (famous Sufi poet Bulleh Shah’s Pehle pagal karte ho, phir deewana kehte ho – first you make me mad after you, then you call me a romantic) can never insulate himself from love or broken heart. Neurotransmitters or hormones be damned.”

Radhika: “Her wit has improved ten-fold.” Julie’s swift response, “But no more of those jokes, please.” Julie was referring to R & R’s penchant for frequently sending jokes rom desi WhatsApp group forums to Guha who would then share some with others. Julie can’t stand these jokes and I must admit neither can I. They are silly beyond silly, in poor taste and in many cases, painfully sexist. In my opinion, such jokes highlight male chauvinism at its worst and clearly showcase the hypocritical and belittling mindset of Indian men with regards to women. The tigress in me is coming out. Grrr!

Guha continues:

  • There’s so much additional living energy inside the body when it is not stressed by your anxieties, worries and goal-oriented activities…. Your thoughts are draining life’s energy. It’s the body’s struggle – it wants to maintain equilibrium at all times but the sense of self is obstructing it. The body is trying to break down the experiencing structure to live better.
  • How can you own another human being? Is it even possible? We can be so myopic. We shudder at the thought if anyone wants to own us.
  • The intelligence through which the system works, it reaches so far it is mind boggling. The system knows how to take care of itself. If a woman is pregnant, she gets an enormous amount of protection from Nature. That’s the design of life. That knowledge is more encompassing than anything you plan.
  • The primary sound is the mother’s words. These words are the most powerful. Your habitual response to that sound gives you the feeling that there’s someone inside. They give you an apparent center. That’s not in the space of life. It is imaginary.
  • My father who was a doctor used to say that the patient thinks the doctor is god but actually he knew nothing is in our hands.
  • Vibhuti is the magical power of life. The most mysterious and magical is your relationship with yourself.
  • Life is a series of uncontrollable incidences. Know the unknowability of the source movement of life; the source movement is always hidden. Unless you project a future that is conducive to your goals you cannot live peacefully in present. The movement of thought needs to create that knowable future. However, thoughts of engineering that knowable future is destroying the peace in the present.
  • The perceptive reality is not allowing me to conjure up ideas to disturb the flow at this moment.
  • I have no desire but that doesn’t mean I am not going to participate.

Later, on a drive along Canal Road not too far from Julie’s house, we heard another Hindi song sent to Guha by Rina. After that the conversation went something like this:

Radhika: When did we have a session of listening to Hindi romantic songs?

I: All the way from Chicago to New Jersey. (Everyone laughs)

I was referring to our road trip a few months ago.

Radhika: Get ready to listen to them when we drive to South Carolina.

I thought to myself, oh no, not again. (I am not very fond of Bollywood songs.)

I (in jest): Maybe we can fly to South Carolina instead of driving.

Guha to me: May be you should not come to South Carolina.

Me: Okay, I won’t come if you don’t want me to.

Sensing that I was a little piqued, he jokingly added, “Then I can’t leave.”

Sometimes I get annoyed with myself for taking the bait so easily. Every now and then Guha teases us that we need not waste our time by coming to meet him or travel with him when he knows very well that we would give an arm and a leg to do so. After all, we genuinely want to spend as much time with him as possible, no matter where he goes or who he meets. Is he testing us, I wonder? Oh well, I thought to myself, if I don’t go on this trip, I can do some serious editing.

 

Sabyasachi Guha and Julie Thayer
Guha and Julie during a walk along Canal Road in New Jersey

 

By the way, Canal Road is a very scenic route along the Delaware & Raritan Canal. Spanning across a 70-mile stretch it is central New Jersey’s most popular recreational corridor for walking, canoeing, jogging, hiking, bicycling and fishing. We come to this stretch along the canal frequently for morning walks and Julie loves this area so much that she may even end up buying a home here.

Later, back at Julie’s we are going through the manuscript for the forthcoming book on Guha’s talks.

4.8.15

Ila and Guha – Photo by Kishor Chopda

Ila of “Mithai” fame arrived from Kolkata yesterday. She brought us mouth-watering sandesh made especially for us in her family-owned sweets shop. Pronounced shondesh in Bengali, this delicious milk and sugar based sweet, like all Bengali sweets, is highly coveted all over India. It is one of my favorites too. “Mithai” which literally means sweetmeat in Hindi is so well-known and their sweets so sought-after in Kolkata that a city bus stop has been named after the shop! Whenever Guha and friends are in Kolkata Ila sends us delectable treats like rosogollas, rasa malai or mishti doi every single day. Yummm!

Ila is a very good singer and has even cut a CD of Bengali songs. She lives with her husband in a lovely bungalow not too far from her shop. She came under Guha’s spell a few years ago after her singing teacher, Subhasis Bhattacharya, aka Bubu introduced them. Ever since then she does not take any major decision before seeking Dada’s (elder brother in Bengali) advice. Ila’s father also had tremendous trust, love and respect for Guha, so much so that he took important decisions involving his family and properties only after a nod from Guha. Intriguingly, the last time Guha met him he dressed head to foot in full Bengali regalia and paid obeisance to Guha as one would to a guru. Shortly thereafter he passed away peacefully.

Later, I again discussed with Guha me wanting to write his biography. A few weeks ago his long-time friend from Kolkata, Ramakrishna had mooted the idea of an in-depth Guha biography. I got very excited when I heard that, expressing my keen desire to take up the proposition. I told him it would fulfill my life’s ambition if I could accomplish such a humungous and challenging task, adding that could only happen if he had confidence in me. He replied I had the right kind of resonance with him and could pursue it if I wished but first I should put in a lot of thought on how to go about the project. I was very happy that he didn’t reject the idea outright and am raring to go at it.

4.15.15

Ansonia

Guha, Julie and Matthew outside Ansonia in New York City

Guha, Ila, Julie and I came to the city early. Matt will be joining us soon; he comes to meet Guha as often as he can. Matt has been exposed to a spiritual lifestyle from childhood. His mother was part of a Christian sect and he lived with her in that commune as a boy. He got hooked to U.G. years ago although he never met him personally. Matt is a videographer and has been working on a documentary on U.G. for over seven years. He has travelled far and wide to meet and interview those who moved closely with U.G., sometimes even going to the most remote places on the planet to track down U.G. friends who are too old and infirm to travel. So far Matt has recorded about 16 hours of footage. I have watched a short clip from the film and it is really good. Whenever with Guha, he asks profound fundamental questions, his interest in such matters is genuine. Guha also enjoys getting down to brass tacks with him. Now he is here and they are chitchatting about U.G. and other things:

Guha:

  • U.G. hated people keeping birds in cages.
  • It was a different kind of freedom he (U.G.) was interested in, not behavioral. That was a secondary aspect for him.
  • Freedom is when the oppressive nature of the sense of self somehow begins to peel off from a personality, then its effect is very different. It is not an idea of perfection. The brain is not going to alter but the nature of the drive is going to be so different. The individual can function in his own innate way.
  • There’s a balance that two human beings can have.
  • I can’t kill several forms of life to have a nice artwork.
  • You don’t create life, you are just a medium. You don’t know what’s going on there, neither mother nor father. Out of knowledge you get confidence, that fictitious confidence has a very limited and functional aspect.

 

Preface

Part I: A Big Zero

Part II: You Say Just the Way You See

Part III: A Pilot’s Tale

Part IV: A Collection of Nuclei

Part V: There Is No You

Part VI: The Tiger Is Out

Part VIII: Caught In A Web of Love

Part IX: Never In Past And Never In Future

Part X: Butterflies Are Free

Part XI: Sun Breaks Through Nimbus Clouds

Part XII: Love Goes Toward Love

Leave a Reply