A while ago Digger of the 'Digger For Truth' blog was kind enough to suggest I read a book entitled 'No Destination' by Satish Kumar. The Indian culture seems much more foreign to a North American like myself than to a Brit like Digger, so for that reason alone this book contained a lot of new information for me, especially concerning the Indian culture as it existed in the mid-20th century; but of much more interest are the philosophical and moral lessons Kumar passes on thru his thoughtful book.
I've decided, in the case of this book, to do something I've not done before on The Boat Train. I'm going to compile excerpts here of some of the most important parts of the book. If you find any of this interesting, may I suggest you go online or to your local library and obtain the book yourself. It is a special piece of writing and details a very special life lived. Kumar's story is remarkable. So many of us seemingly sleepwalk thru life, and upon reaching a certain age look back and say something like: 'Why did I not take control' and yet Kumar teaches, in part, that it is in giving up control that we gain freedom and Truth. So it isn't so much a matter of forcing life to fit into whatever preconceived ideas are deposited in our brains by our family or teachers; but rather, with an Eastern touch and taste, of living by the Golden Rule and putting aside one's own ego.
Again, so much of Eastern philosophy both sounds and appears at odds with what I grew up with and, of course, with that which is promoted in our judeacized western culture today (even the so-called 'Golden Rule' is wholly ignored, if not forgotten as we roar full speed towards full on judaism. Despite that brainwashing, this story still resonates at a soulful level. This book is a book of Truth.
Thank you, Digger, for the recommendation. (and please note all pictures/images have been added by yours truly). Also, PLEASE NOTE: I will not be publishing excerpts one after the other. Rather, I'll be publishing excerpts from this book (in sequence) when time permits but still, in between excerpt posts, publishing posts regarding other divergent interests.... so don't think I've gone 'native' on you. Not totally, anyway :) Just don't become horrifically confused when I suddenly skip from India to North Korea on this blog, or some other weird transition takes place...
Part 1: Mother
On the ninth of August 1936 I was born in the town of Sri Dungargarh, at four in the morning: the time of Brahma, the god creation, a time of complete stillness, calm and peace. As the rays of the sun touch the earth, so the rays of knowledge come to the soul.
I was four years old when my father died...
I followed mother like her own shadow. I went wherever she went. I was part of her body. She breast-fed me until I was two years old. She massaged my body daily with sesame oil. I slept in the same bed as mother and always ate off her plate. She rose at four in the morning and meditated for forty-eight minutes, the prescribed period in the Jain religion, the religion of our family. She meditated partly in silence and partly chanting the Jain mantra of Surrender:
I surrender to those who are Enlightened and therefore have no enemies
I surrender to the Released Spirits
I surrender to the Wise Gurus
I surrender to the Spiritual Teachers
I surrender to the Seekers of Enlightenment
She chanted it one hundred and eight times, counting with her bead necklace. After her meditation she took a daily vow to limit her needs. For example, on one day she might say, 'Today I will not eat anything other than the following twelve items: rice, lentils, wheat, mango, melon, cucumber, cumin, chilli, salt, water, milk and butter and today I will not travel more than ten miles, and only towards the East.'...
At dawn she ground the flour by hand with a stone mill and churned butter from yoghurt. At sunrise she milked our cows and the water buffalo.Then she would turn the animals out for the cowherd to take them to graze for the day. We were a large family-my three brothers, my four sisters, my uncle and great uncle, their sons, wives, and grandchildren all lived in the house. If we were all together, the number of us would be about forty. Breakfast was generally a glass of milk-tea and coffee were never allowed...
The family was strictly vegetarian-no meat, no fish, no eggs. About fifteen hundred years ago some wandering monks of the Jain religion had come to my ancestral village of Os. They taught complete adherence to the principle of ahimsa (not harming any living creature). My ancestors were the Rajputs, belonging to the caste of Kshatriya (the warriors). They ate meat, they collected the taxes and they were soldiers of the King. The monks awakened in them the desire to renounce all killing, and converted the whole village into pacifists and vegetarians. The King granted the Oswals (the people of Os) leave from the army on the grounds of conscience, but they had to change from the warrior caste to the trader class. He appointed my ancestor as Treasurer to the King, and since then we have born the name Sethias (the treasurers).
|Rajputs, the Warrior Class|
After father's death, mother spent more and more time with the wandering Jain monks.
She would leave the animals with a neighbour and she and I would go off in our camel cart with pots, pans, food and bedding. For several weeks we would accompany the monks, listening to their story-telling and readings from the scriptures, following them from one village to another. Their rules permit them to spend only a few days in a village, begging their food, and sleeping in the houses which disciples vacate for them. It is only during the monsoon months that they may stay long in one place...
When I was seven, a group of monks came to spend the chaturmas (the four monsoon months) in our town...People had gathered in the courtyard of the house where the monks were to stay, to hear their first sermon. One of the monks, monk Kundan, who was sitting on a table, gave the sermon. He spoke for a long time. One of the points he made was this: 'Seekers, we have come to show you the path to liberate your soul. The soul is wrapped up in good and bad karma which imprison it. [Karma is the inexorable law of retribution for evil deeds and reward for unselfish behaviour.] You have to break out of the bonds of karma. In order to break free from karma, you have to leave everything you know and love; mother, father, wife, children. These relationships are the expression of possessive love rather than the expression of divine love that sustains the universe...'...
One evening, cool after the monsoon rain, before the storytelling began, monk Kundan talked to mother. He said, 'There is a line on your son's foot, the lotus line, we think he is the reincarnation of a spiritual soul. He looks and behaves like a spiritual person. For many generations no one from your family has offered themselves as a monk. Out of eight children, surely you could contribute one?'
The next day Kundan said to me, 'If you become a monk, the people will come to listen to your preaching, they will bow their heads at your feet. You will go to heaven and after heaven to nirvana.' 'What is nirvana?' I asked. He said, No birth and no death.' That impressed me - no death. Father's death had created a deep question in my mind. I couldn't understand where he had gone and what had happened to him... Kundan showed me pictures of heaven and hell. Heaven was full of exotic flowers, beautiful men and women wearing rich clothes and fabulous jewellery, palaces, thrones, aeroplanes in which angels flew. He told me that those who didn't become monks went to hell for thousands and thousands of years. The pictures of hell terrified me - tortured bodies being cut up and boiled in cauldrons of hot oil ... Because he had been a business man, I could see my father in hell being tortured, cut up and fried. If I went into business I would go to hell too, I thought...
|A vision of Jainism hell|
When I was eight, the head of our branch of the Jain order, the guru Acharya Tulsi, with his entourage of monks and nuns, spent the monsoon months in our town... A few weeks later monk Kundan took me to the guru. Normally the guru remained aloof, beyond reach... but this day he looked at me with his kind and gentle eyes. I said, 'The monks have told me that they feel something spiritual in me, a link with my previous life, and that I should become a monk.' The guru replied, 'A monk's life is very hard. You may have spiritual links from a previous life, but in order to continue these links in this life you have to gather strength and dedication.' His words reverberated in my mind. I felt I belonged to the guru. He would take me to nirvana (enlightenment), he would give me light. I longed to put myself in his hands...
Together with mother and some prominent people of the town, I went to the guru with a formal request that he should make me a monk.. After many pleas he said, ' I accept to consider your request and I will ask monk Kundan to teach you and examine your intention properly.' A few weeks later Kundan reported to the guru that I would make a good monk. I went to the guru with my final request. He pronounced, 'On the last day of the monsoon I will make you a monk.'
I was happy but my family was in tears... The family were required to give their written consent and also to be present at the ceremony. My brothers and brothers-in-law were not convinced that a boy of nine should become a monk. My eldest brother said, 'O mother, have your wits left you?'... mother was upset and confused but still sure that she should not stand in my way. She put her trust in the guru...
On the day of the ceremony I got up just before dawn. My sisters and mother rubbed my body with a paste of turmeric powder, sesame oil, and lentil flour, and then washed me with flower-scented water. My head was shaved except for a tuft of hair in the middle. Mother and my sisters dressed me in a ceremonial silk costume.
An hour after sunrise the procession arrived at our house - fifteen horses, twenty camels, a band, singers and more than a thousand people... mother put her arms around me and burst into tears... I climbed on a horse. Mother walked in the procession behind me and we went round the town making it known that I was going to be made a monk that day... Sitting in the open space was an assembly of thousands of townspeople - women on one side and men on the other. In between the men and the women was a long pathway with a carpet over it. I stepped down from the horse and walked along the carpet path to the dais.
I bowed my head on the guru's feet and said, 'I have come to you to receive knowledge, I have come to search for a new life, I have come to seek nirvana. I am ready and I beg you to accept me. O my guru, will you lighten the darkness, will you purify my soul?' The guru answered, 'I am here on this earth to help people find light, I am here to help people search for their soul and find liberation. If you want to do this, I am ready to help you.'
I went behind a curtain to change my clothes. One by one, I handed over the jewellery, clothes and shoes to my family, and they gave me three wooden bowls for begging food and water. My brother came forward with a white silk robe which I put on. I went back to the guru and said: 'Nothing belongs to me. I renounce everything. I am ready to leave this world, I am ready to follow you.' The guru declared.... 'I accept you. The first thing you must practice is ahisma (total non-violence). Respect all that is living and all creation. Do not hurt any person - neither plants, nor water, nor fire, nor air. Practise Truth. Do not steal. Practise celibacy. Do not touch money nor think of it, have no possessions and live in poverty. Lastly, surrender your mind, your heart, your soul and your will to the guru. Live in obedience.' 'I accept.'...
The guru called to my relatives: 'This member of your family has come to me to find light, to find truth, to find nirvana, freedom from the cycle of death and birth... Do you agree?' Mother said, 'We have no more claim on him.' The guru went on, 'He is no more your son, your brother, your relative. He is no longer part of your society.'... I climbed the steps and again put my head on the guru's feet. He held my head in one hand and with the other plucked the remaining hair from my scalp. A blaze of fire shot through my whole body.
The guru said, 'You have no past, you no longer belong to this world.'