Thursday, May 17, 2007

Spirit in a Bottle.

It's often commented to me that "India is so spiritual", overlooking the 500 million people living below the poverty line, untouchable castes, child slavery, women as second class citizens, environmental degradation etc etc. The term "spiritual" seems silly to me for its' origin is in animism and ancestor worship, the benign spirit of a tree, river or lake is worshiped or the evil spirit placated, and the ghosts of the great grandparents are appealed to for guidance and support. Muddle-headed seance junkies are into "spirits", vomiting up ectoplasm to have their fortunes told or their dead loved ones revived. And let's not forget the ultimate 'spirit' comes in a bottle, very popular in India, not the genie beside the Arabian sea granting wishes, more like Johnnie Walker granting drunken forgetfulness.

It's true that I myself landed in India as a youth with dreams of "spiritual purification and self realisation", then the reality of the place got to me, knocked me off my high horse, dragged me down into the dust, corrupted me, threw my humanity in my face and laughed at my naive stupidity, and thankfully I laughed also, what a joke "spiritualism" is. Now it amuses me greatly to watch the tourists land in India, after a few moments of breathing the burning shit smell they get it in their heads that they want "enlightenment" and must find a Guru, after a few books and yoga lessons they become convinced they certainly are "enlightened" and a few meditation sessions later they believe they can be Gurus too, who needs the brown guys with long flowing white beards? One can't sit in a cafe that caters to the cosmics with pure 'satvas' food and ask for the salt to be passed without getting a lecture on the 1001 commandments of proper yogic living, it's such a bore.

I am not a spiritual seeker, thank nogod, I'm an unashamed swashbuckling adventurer, dirty, nasty, fun-loving, cynical and satirical, passionate and compassionate, in love with the goddess Maya, the illusory Universe. My sweetest gurus are the peasants in the gutter, the rock-breaking road worker and chapati patting chai-wallah, who have no pretensions, are humble, generous and wise, working to create things of neccesary use, playing hard and living bitter/sweet, such a relief to hang out with and talk over life and death matters. In the 35 years I've hung around India, particularly in Shangri-la in the Himalayas, that mecca for yogic wankers, I've seen swarms of wannabe gurus march past waving their banners, photos, booklets and tapes promoting false Light and self-aggrandisement. As if the legion of Indian fakers weren't enough, it's obvious certain venal foreign sharpshooters said to themselves, "hmmm, there's money and power in this enlightenment business, I think I'll have a piece of that!"

They can even have ludicrous monikers like "Barry Bonkhead" and still get a following of gullible morons because they've got the bullshit down pat, and westerners, who've already had everything modern consumer capitalism can give them, decide they'd like "nirvana" as the cherry on the cake, the ultimate fashion assessory, and scared of old age and death, are desperate to believe any nonsense spouted from any mealy-mouthed loonie, the more outlandish/mundane, the more believable. Money, power, and prestige, with SEX ever lurking beneath, are the lures for these spiritual entrepreneurs and, of course, those consummate capitalists the Americans are thick on the ground plugging themselves as enlightened gurus, but there are also Englishmen, Germans and wild-eyed Aussies parading as "extra-special souls", especially weird are the Israelis touting a mix of Kabbalah and Hinduism, it's kind of gotten out of control.

There's an American ex-house frau called Shanti-mat (as in cosmic door-mat) ensconced in Shangri-la, who looks like a recovering diet-pill addict and has droves of fools throwing themselves at her feet, wailing 'love-songs' and handing over their money to spend a week in her aura. Nicolette and I once sat in on one of her devotional sing-a-longs, giving her the evil Shiva third eye from our funky pierced faces, and she was so pissed off at the sight of us she had her goons remove us from the ashram, such is her equanimous and peace-filled nature. Her followers eat at a cafe near the river, they have shaved heads like frustrated runaway nuns and are so crabby one dares not sit near them for the bad vibes, I've had my head snapped off just for putting my shoulder bag on the seat next to them, such peaceniks! What happened to the meditation discipline of quietude and benevolence?

In my youth my yoga mentor was an old Aussie who called himself Compassion, he'd been a chela of the amazing Sivananda, long dead but a guru who'd left a legacy of good work behind him, like hospitals and libraries, which is the only good reason for the 'gurus' existence. I lived with my old white-haired friend in the jungle behind the ashram, he was dying from cancer and I nursed him in return for discourses upon philosophy and art. He didn't tout for followers, no photos of his smarmy smiles were propped up in the shops of the bazar, he died owning nothing, with only a couple of his friends knowing of his existence. Yes, he was just another westerner in eastern trappings who I realise was an old fool but at least he wasn't into money and holier-than-thou snootines. I tried hard for a few years to be a 'high yogi', meditating for hours, doing yoga all day long, eating little, celibate to the point of uptightness, and then I collapsed, for I'm only human. We're all only human, there's nothing but "humanity", no supermen or great souls or godlings, some humans simply care more than others, are stronger and have the courage to act upon their concerns, like 'Mahatma' Ghandi.

I'm happy to be human, to be in this awesome Universe, to feel the cold when it snows and the irritation when it bites and the joy when there's love, and the horror when there's hate, passion and pain are part of life, one can learn from them and grow, but not if one is afraid and avoid them in a fugue of crazy fantasising. How would anything have ever been achieved in history if one just floated about with a smarmy smile and let any injustice go down with just a murmured "Hari Om" in response?

I'm sure an army of cosmics will want to lynch me for this rave, with their tired retort that it's simply my sour grapes for being a weakling and not reaching the "Light". In their starry-eyed befuddlement they fail to take note of the trail of money that inevitably winds it's way into the pockets of the Gurus, for money is the real God and purpose of all the posturing. The fools are even willing to provide 99 Rolls Royces, then prostrate themselves to the "great men", even touch their precious feet, it's so insulting and dehumanising, all in the hope of 'enlightenment', but from within false consciousness, like hunting for "fool's gold": they overlook the obvious fact it's their EGO that so desperately wants Nirvana, it's oxymoronic.

After my old friend Compassion died and we threw him in the Ganga River I hung about the ashram to continue my studies and sadhana. There was an old female resident there who sat about in meditation with a blissful look on her face and her false teeth jutting out, she pretended she was always in ecstatic trance and possibly Enlightened. We called her the German princess, she was so precious, floating about in her lavender saris. For a while there she took a shine to me, thinking I was the ants pants of yogic endeavours, often chucking me under the chin and telling me what wonderful blue eyes I had, as if she was secretly lusting after me.

Then my big yogic collapse ensued, I got horny and met a taxi driver in the chai shop in front of the ashram. I took him into the jungle and sucked his cock, most disatisfying but human desire had burst forth, no matter the repressive disciplines and goody-two-shoes facades. He in turn told everyone in the bazar who told all the swamis in the ashram and having little to do but gossip they told everybody else. I was no longer the favourite of the German princess, she actually hissed like Dracula with a crucifix everytime she clapped eyes on me.

In the early seventies I had searched out and sat in front of many famous Babas, always with the hope that I'd find the supreme being, who could enlighten me with just a glance. I had darshan of Master Ram Baba, a hugely fat fellow that lay about on an island in the Ganges eating the karma of the crowd of women who patiently spoon fed him curd and rice hoping for freedom from the wheel of life and death. His eyes were forever rolled back in his head in ecstatic trance, so overweight he needed assistance to rise and walk, he was too outlandish for my pragmatic soul and I moved on. I was given 7 oranges by Deva Baba from his hut on stilts by the Jamuna River, he was supposed to be 200 years old so I kissed his wrinkled foot hoping some of that endurance would rub off on me. I meditated in front of Tatwallah Baba at his jungle cave for many weeks, a giant of a man who carted whole tree trunks about for his sadhana and who was eventually shot dead by goondas for using his charisma politically to have cow slaughter banned.

I got magic ash produced from thin air rubbed on my third eye by fuzzy-wuzzy Satya Sai Baba who later on got accused of seducing teenage boys , so maybe I should've hung about his door and got initiated with the name Poofterananda, a match made in heaven. Then I danced blindfolded and foolish in front of Bhagwan Sri Rajneesh for 3 days at his ashram in Poona, but his rave seemed the same old hippie con, "you're already enlightened, you've got IT, NOW!" The mob of hairy hets only wanted to hear more, over and over, but not me, for the Orange people looked to be lonely desperate fuckwits looking for a cosmic fuck, Osho paired them of like Noah with his ark, and I ran away horrified.

I sought out every other famous Indian Baba of the mid 20th century, Muktananda, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Guru Maharaj, on and on but none of them appealed, I couldn't hand my soul over, they came across as merely charismatic spiritual pop stars, with too much bullshit as luggage. By 1975 I was more or less my own guru, resigned to be no one and nothing at all, human and fallible, crazy and horny as all hell, I still had LIFE to grab by the throat. A group at Sivananda ashram had decided to get darshan from Ananda Mayee Ma in Haridwar, the one real saint I ever had the good fortune to meet. Seven of us piled into a cab, the German princess one of the gang, she emanated haughty distance and chilly silence so I tried to ignore her, a cocksucker trying not to give a shit.

We arrived at a temple to the Goddess, walls and ceilings covered in murals depicting every aspect of the celestial female, Parvati, Laxmi, Saraswati, Radha, Sita, devas, apsaras, Michelangelo couldn't have done better and I was gobsmacked by the beauty of the place. We were all taken into a small room wherein Ananda Mayee Ma sat upon a dais, she never said a word, nor did we, we simply sat there for half an hour drinking in her vibes while she smiled in bliss and bestowed her benevolent gaze upon us. She had been discovered when a small girl, meditating in the jungle, wrapt in ecstasy, a light-filled natural, born thus and instantly recognised by the people as an incarnation of the Cosmic Mother. Money was not the hidden agenda, nor fame, power, prestige or SEX, and there was no television, magazines or internet to flog her wares, she was the last vestige of times long gone, traditional India that was about to be swept away by free-market capitalism and cyberpunk technologies.

(My admiration for her might seem a contradiction of all I'm saying in this essay, but she was not "the Goddess", there is no such thing, she had been elected without her sayso to be a living metaphor, the 'mother universe' that had given birth to everything, hopefully nurturing and loving. It all falls within human nature to me, a spectrum of psycho-emotions and willpower, with compassion and caring at one end and cruel venality at the other, maybe with the herd-mentality gronks somewhere in the middle, no need for gods or angels to explain it, and most gurus falling into the greedy egotism section as far as I'm concerned.

Maybe the planet is capable of producing 7 great seers in any one epoch but I get the feeling they're not hanging about the market place waving photos of themselves, they're hiding out in ice-bound mountain fastnesses or deep jungle labrynths, accepting only the coolest of souls as chelas, or working as lowly nurses in AIDs hospices in the far-flung suburbs, for only the ego-maniacs and money-grubbers would advertise enlightenment for sale: an obvious truism is "you get the guru you deserve.")

At the end of the darshan we filed past Ma and she gave each of us a slight hug, no lecture had been given or money asked for, she seemed to be half in another world, maybe a better one, emanating peace and joy from a long distance, and then we staggered back out into this world, hot, painful, sensual, glorious and hard-arse real. I wandered out in a daze, ecstasy had been communicated and I was enthralled.

Down in the courtyard below her room some Indian peasants set up a furore banging on drums, they also had tasted the bliss of LIFE and wanted to share it, their enthusiasm was contagious and I couldn't resist throwing myself into the DANCE, leaping about, spinning, twisting, gyrating, belly laughing/flopping/dancing, I was JOY personified, moving to the music of the spheres. And glancing up I saw Ananda Mayee Ma at her window watching, her handmaidens at her shoulder, all mesmerised and smiling, particularly HER, she had such a sweet smile of appreciation, of delight, I'm sure the drummers were put there on purpose, for, forgetting all the pain for a few wonderful moments, LIVING was LOVING is what she told me with her eyes.

And then the drumming stopped, the magic was over, reality had to be gotten on with, the hot sun seared into my brain and sweaty people milled about. Suddenly the German princess swept up to me, her face twisted in wrath and, spitting chips, she hissed, "how dare you dance so lasciviously in the sacred compound of Ananda Mayee Ma! Have you no shame? You danced like a cabaret whore, so sexual, so profane, you've acted like a male prostitute, it's disgusting! You little exhibitionist slut!I've never seen such a display of carnal decadence!" And gathering up her horrid lavender sari, she swished off, nose in the air, leaving me stunned, red-faced, crestfallen, for I thought I'd given the performance of my life, the natives had seemed so pleased with my art. "That's DECADANCE baby!" I should've shouted, but no, I was still naive and placatory then, not the demon-possessed warrior I was to grow into, I hung my head in the face of her shame.

We travelled back to the ashram in silence, the princess had rushed off in her her own vehicle, everyone else too embarrassed to engage me, and while I had drawn in my vibes, I still felt secretly elated, and deliciously pleased I'd danced in intense ecstatic trance, for I couldn't get that sweet smile in Ananda Mayee Ma's eyes from out of my mind, you win some, you lose some, and I'd rather lose the German mother, thank you very much. The Lavendar Princess went on to reside in a small house high in the mountains outside Shangri-la for the next thirty years and she got herself quite a reputation as an enlightened being, hungry fools from all over trundled their way up the narrow goat paths to recieve her blessing and imbibe her wisdoms, but I couldn't give a flying fuck for her sainthood, she was just another uptight wannabe, just as human in her pretensions as me, and I often wondered if her false teeth still stuck out of her head when she meditated.

The good matron eventually got picked up by the local cops for never having had a visa and was deported back to Germany in a rush, a rude shock for such a cosmic refugee I bet, the poor bitch maybe lost her teeth in angst with the post-modern, cyberpunk world suddenly crashing in upon her. In 1975 I sent her a card before I left the Sivananda Ashram and it said, "in this world mother no one can love me..."

Ananda Maye Ma