Day 471: Paramahansa Yogananda
8:36pm. I might have just slept for four hours. Totally not my intention, you understand, it was just a long day of work on the computer -in bed- and I ran out of gas so I closed my eyes for a moment... and that moment turned into a ridiculous amount of time. It was glorious, but I'll no doubt suffer later tonight, when everyone else is asleep and I'm wandering the streets because I can't get back to sleep. I did that last night actually. Not wander so much as take a bit of a stroll at around 12:30am. It was a really nice night and I needed the air. The room was a little stifling.
I'm also REALLY into this book Paramahansa Yogananda Autobiography of a Yogi I've started and had been reading for hours before drifting off. It's not an easy read for a once sceptical mind, certainly not in the beginning when he explains the events of his youth. It basically follows the life of the yogi in question, a very wise man from India who came to 'the west' in order to spread the ancient knowledge of the Indian people to the modern men and women on our side of the planet, and had a very big impact on Steve Jobs in particular, among others no doubt. Still, for all the wildly mystical stories and feats of sheer magic he describes -both having witnessed them himself, and being a part of some others- there are countless quotations and monologues by the various sages he encounters along the path of his life that will stop you in your spiritual tracks; if that's something you're attuned to.
Unless you wear Nike's when considering the concept of the divine, in which case, perhaps you're able to plod on in comfort with relative ease. Lucky you!
I do feel somewhat ripped off in the God department, having grown up in a place that is utterly devoid of any true and real representation of the divine. Church in Nova Scotia, at least the ones I attended, not to mention pretty much anyone I found in youth who would discuss the topic -a topic no one in our culture really likes to get into, for fear their tenuous grasp of their own God/ego projection may be undermined, or shattered completely- were quite bankrupt of any serious consideration.
There's a big guy in the sky you should fear and the bible is to be taken literally.
That pretty much sums up the general thinking on the matter that I experienced myself in youth.
Really?? Well then my friends, you have certainly lost a potential devotee, and one with a true and honest yearning for a greater purpose I'll easily admit to at this point. When I was a kid this is all I thought about! So I gave up all the attempts at talking, not to mention the inquiries and the questions and resigned myself to 'have no opinion on the creator of the universe' whatsoever, believing as I did at the time that for a man who tells poo jokes on stage, perhaps such lofty opinions should be left to more serious students.
And yet I didn't feel as though I'd gotten much help from the 'big guy' himself in the inspiration department, certainly not in comparison to what seems to be quite common place over in India, as there weren't any remarkable incidents in my youth that I can point to where I was shown anything out of the ordinary that might have made me a believer. Not so for the yogi I'm reading about now, who from a very early age was having balloons flown to him by the creator, was healed at a young age by a picture of a sage hanging over his bed; a picture, I should add, that was only possible at all because the sage in question had allowed the camera to capture him. On several other occasions, preferring not to have his picture taken, there was merely a blank spot in the midst of his devotees when the film was developed as he confound photographer after photographer.
There were many other instances, all equally 'far fetched' to the modern mind and even more mystical in nature than the brief examples I gave above. In one story an amulet appears in the hand of his mother while she is meditating, an amulet to be given to her son by the gurus of the Himalayas when he becomes of age. The amulet will dutifully vanish from his possession when he no longer needs it, no matter the steps he takes to protect it. Which it does. In another story, a sage's whole arm is chopped off accidentally in the case of a mistaken identity, only to be picked up and placed back on by the sage himself, who tells the prostrate man at his feet, begging for his forgiveness, not to worry too much about it. Three days later the arm was back on his body without any scars whatsoever.
Is it the case then that God loves Indian people more than any other??
Is that what this poor, humble, ill-informed Nova Scotian is to believe of how things work cosmically?
I asked that question to Jeannette out of sheer frustration after reading the first few chapters. Is India a completely different universe than the one I've grown up in?? I ask this because I'm finding it much more difficult to be skeptical of such things these days, having had even a fraction of what could be considered a 'cosmic experience' myself a couple of years ago; an event that was so transformative I went from being an atheist to a rather fervent believer, in my own way, and uprooted my entire life and path in order to follow what proved to be, even if lasting only a short time, a more meaningful experience than any camera or stage or applause or award ever pointed in my direction.
Even as I try to find my own way down a now very familiar, but admittedly strange path, doing a full circle from the days of my youth, I'm quite shocked at how different my experience has been from this yogi. In every conceivable way!! Back to asking the questions I asked in youth, when I walked around stranded on a little patch of land that had no sages whatsoever, no magic amulets and no mystery, I'm now armed with the inexhaustible resource of the internet; which is nothing more or less than the scattered but easily accessible sum total of all man's knowledge from the beginning of time until now. Shocking that, when you stop to think about it. It's all there. All the ancient knowledge and modern knowledge you could ever hope to investigate, shoehorned in between videos of babies slapping cats and pictures of Bruce Jenner's new face.
The internet is what you make it. Just like the mind.
A veritable treasure trove of information passed down to the diligent seekers by people who HAVE considered these lofty religious conundrums; all down through the ages, and have now translated their savvy and resonant interpretations of the divine into English so that us poor shmucks on the morally bankrupt coast, where the game of hockey rules supreme and the education system amounts to a free place to watch movies; a place that looks westward for work on the oil fields and southward for culture and entertainment, avoiding an inward gaze for any reason whatsoever- can now peruse them at our leisure.
And yet despite the handicap I feel I may have had in early life, I'm now reading a book that was given to all of his friends by one of the great technological and entrepreneurial minds in recent memory and am being quite moved to a consistent degree by its content, with these unbelievable tales of super human powers and god given miracles thrown in between; tales that try both my imagination and patience still!
It's a shocking read, in many ways, and is a book I no doubt would have tossed to the side after about five pages in, after politely thanking whoever gave it to me. I'm quite glad I haven't as the nuggets all came some time after those first few harrowing chapters. Perhaps a conscious decision by the author to test his own devotees! These crafty Indians!!!
Anyway, we'll see where it goes, and where I go, and where we all go, as time continues to unfold. For now I'm quite happy to be where I am, following the path that's placed before me on a daily basis, excited about the work I'm doing and continue to do in my own field, and confident that it'll all lead me to the place I've wanted to go my whole life, but gave up on for quite some time.
When asked in the parking lot of Starbucks the other day if she would go with me if I needed to go to this India place some day, to seek out some of these sages or gurus, in order to discuss some of these new things I'm learning, and to learn the form of Yoga that I now consider to be very important to any kind of spiritual development from one of the masters themselves (a lofty goal that is no doubt inspired by the book and is certainly not an idea I've bought a plane ticket to support!) Jeannette responded by saying that she would go wherever I go.
She's a good woman this one I'm with. Whatever happens I think we'll never want for interesting experiences. She's certainly met me at a very interesting time in my life. Of course nowadays you don't really physically have to go anywhere at all know that I think about it. Surely a sage who can reattach his arm after it's been lopped off by a misdirected axe could manage to figure out how to use Skype, no?
p.s. My niece Emily wanted me to mention her in the blog. She kicked my ass at War today; the card game. It's getting to be habitual.