Archive for March, 2010


March 16, 2010 6 comments

I have the fate of a salmon.   In western astrology, it’s like being a crab hardwired to the moon.   With a Cancer Ascendant, Mars in Cancer, and the Sun/Mercury in the 4th house, there’s a lot of moon-ruled action in my chart, as the moon rules the sign of Cancer.   So like the power of the moon’s magnetic field over the tides, my upstream battle is how surroundings influence me more than I’d like.   If two million of my closest friends are watching Lady Gaga striptease on the internet, it’s likely I will, too, despite my desire to resist.   All you folks that have dominant Cancer planets or positions, take heart and compassion on this—the power of your environment is almost everything! If you wind up with eleven pairs of harem pants, red crystal incense, tulsi tea and Om pendants weighing down your suitcase, it’s not because you lack self-control.  It’s the powerful forces of the moon’s market influence over your wallet!   Sometimes I think my will is no match against the rush and mood of forces surrounding me.  Invisible energy fields must reign over different boundaries.  Some people may be immune to the siren call of such influences.  Not me.   Each new place is another kind of cascading river…  Sometimes it’s a river of nectar, sometimes it’s a river of sewage.   The real trick is to eventually experience it all without any duality.

Nepal and parts of India hum like a thousand eon mantra.   They seem to hold the energy and bear the fruit from intentions and activities of countless high masters who’ve practiced there.   Just my theory.  In the Himalayas, I felt delivered from the fishing expeditions of capitalism and carried upstream, to a place where I didn’t need to check my phone or internet every five minutes.   I stayed at Asura cave, where Guru Rinpoche defeated the Maras and had a number of mystical experiences.

My first night there I received numerous blessings.   Right below Asura Cave was the Vajrayogini temple, sacred to both Buddhists and Hindus.   I met the caretaker of this temple, the only one who was authorized to enter the actual shrine, and he said I was very lucky, because he usually wasn’t there at this hour.  Visitors can see Vajrayogini inside, but it’s gated.   It was an unexpected emotional experience to be there, realizing the odds I faced in arriving to this point.   I was fortunate to receive a personal puja, blessing cord and a special biscuit which I was instructed to eat before sleeping.   I did so, and that night I had strange hallucinations of places and people I couldn’t identify– I saw everything except the actual bedroom I was supposed to be in– all with my eyes open.   At the same time, I felt extremely protected, like I’d been led to this place.

For the next 17 days, I meditated every morning inside Asura cave, near the heat of the burning butter lamps.   Hundreds of beetles would crawl near the heat, the walls were coated with soot.   A stone carving of Padmasambhava flickered in the dark of the altar.  Wrapped around this mountain cave are three floors of bedrooms, all occupied by other pilgrims or resident monks/staff.   I was fortunate enough to have one overlooking the mountains and Pharping countryside.   All I wanted to do was meditate, prostrate, recite mantras all day long.   The best pizza in the world, the finest thangkas, even the fires lit for Siva couldn’t lure me away from Asura Cave.   OK, I admit that curried chick peas and hot chapatis in the morning were tempting baits…. but only because at 6am I was barely awake, and when you have joyful Nepalese dakinis cooking fresh food in the kitchen, of course you’d jump out of bed too!

Talk about the law of attraction!   When your mind is aligned with the buddha mindstream, then everything you desire is already manifested.   You want what exists.  Once when I got a message to come back immediately to Asura Cave while at a mid-morning puja two miles away, a spontaneously self-arising motorcyclist appeared, willing to deliver me there with the speed of Hermes.   If all the rooms in Boudhanath were booked solid, I’d somehow run into a generous friend, who happened to have a double room there with a spare bed.   If I needed to see my guru, he suddenly appeared.   Even he reiterated how lucky I was.  With prayer wheels and miraculously appearing saints-in-a-rock-or-tree in abundance, auspicious coincidence was the norm.   Everything was equipped to support my practice.

Samye Gompa in Dallu, Nepal, is the most exquisite Tibetan Buddhist temple I’ve ever seen– it’s as if the mandala of your dreams came alive. What aides for visualization!   And given the power outages, it was the best-lit place in Nepal.   Even if I understood none of the Tibetan teachings being given here each night,  I was happy just to sit for hours with hundreds of other attendees until past midnight.   The overhanging 5-tiered chandeliers were powered by a generator and yes, it was opulent even by Western standards.   I also learned to trek by flashlight, hand-launder my pants, and ration my water usage.   I learned to share the rocky, narrow dirt roads– via goat/human dung, pools of spit– with stray dogs, chickens, racing motorcades, elderly folks, pilgrims, military folk, and parades of schoolkids.   No joggers on this terrain.   The local cafe was a tin roofed shack that served tea, ramen noodles and cigarettes.   The exhaust fumes and clouds of dirt clings to your lungs, and everyone gets the hacking cough at first,  but it fades into something so insignificant,  because eventually all you really want and care about,  is enlightenment.   In this stream of existence, the current asked: what is mind?   Isn’t life is just a dream?

OK, it wasn’t all magic.   I had my grumpy days.   I found myself no different than some of the beggars on the street, who looked to me only as a source of cash flow.   They could care less who I was, only what I could give.   I was the same way with spiritual masters.   Did I really learn who these teachers were?   I only craved more blessings, more amrita, another empowerment, more tsok, a piece of torma, and how about a teaching with an English translator this time?!   I got the gimmes, bad.   In entering or exiting with a crowd, I started pushing people too, instead of just being pushed.   Even though I had received so much, with more protection cords than would ever pass through customs–  I still desired more!   And if someone else received special attention from a rinpoche, I got totally obsessed that I needed that kind of attention too!   My mind kept pivotting around that, what a good student looked like, did they have dreadlocks, how much sleep they got, were they on Facebook, did they close their eyes during meditation or keep them open?   Did they keep a spare kata in their pocket?

What helped was finding out my fellow sangha friends had the same questions or felt just as grumpy as me.   We found compassion for the other that we couldn’t find for ourselves.   Laughing ourselves out of our cocoons, we hitched a ride back on the dharma wheel.   It helped so much when friends were there to unhook me from some lie I kept feeding myself.   Slowly,  slowly,  we reminded each other–  with humility,  to keep our hearts and minds open without grasping or pushing away who or what showed up.   That’s why they call it practice.

So that magic oz,  Mecca,  paradise,  land of milk & honey which vibrates with your mindstream doesn’t have to be exotic and faraway.   I kept fearing once I left the Himalayas,  I’d wind up in its opposite, the valley of confusion.   Getting back home I was surprised.   JFK airport security smiled and joked with us,  guiding us safely to our connecting flight.   Everywhere I’ve gone is immaculate and spacious!   The toilets are manicured and polished as if with a toothbrush.   It’s like the moment when the lead characters fall in love in a Hollywood musical and start singing and dancing, ready to shake your hand, ready to help.   Everyone smiling and happy, with clean, pressed clothes.   Here a yogi,  there a yogi,  everyone a yogi, yo! 

The dualism is just an illusion…  And the journey continues….

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