curiosity helped the cat

The campus at Kohlapur was wonderful – a serene place near a village called Alate, surrounded by green hills. There were peacocks roaming all around the place.

Took the Rani Chenamma express to get there and return. Departure from Bangalore at 21:00, got off at Miraj Junction at around 12:00 the next day (since the train waits there for half an hour anyway, no point in going further up to Kohlapur). Got a bus from there to Hatkanangale (around an hour). A van arranged by the campus was waiting there to take me (and several others) to the campus in Alate around 5 km away.

While returning, took a bus from Hatkanangale to Kohlapur (around 45 minutes drive) – there’s one every 10 minutes. The train left from there at 14:00 and reached Bangalore the next morning at 7 AM.

Yesterday someone in the train from near Kohlapur, in casual conversation, happened to ask what I’d been doing there. After some hesitation, I eventually said meditation, and the first thing he did was ask very sympathetically “oh… whats your problem?”

This is quite a common reaction 🙂 …a common perspective is “Tried drugs? How about alchohol? Psychotherapy?” And then finally “hmm… maybe you should try meditation”

Then I gave him a brief explain of my background [I add a few more details here that I hadn’t mentioned then].

In the first place, I’ve always been a curious child. Most if not all children are curious, but as they grow older, with parents and society forever telling them “don’t do this, don’t do that… NO NO Nooooo don’t touch that…” and so on… their curiosity gradually starts fading out. By the time they’re into their 20s, they’re mature adults, who know life is all about the pursuit of wealth that’s guaranteed to make them happy… some day 😉

Luckily (and thankfully) I had two very important people who kept fueling my curiosity keeping it alive till it survived a minimal age after which it needed no more support to thrive. The first is my father who always encouraged me to read books – comics, encyclopedias, science-magazines, I especially remember some excellent Russian books. He also took me to countless fascinating science/animal kingdom movies or exhibhitions. The second was my grandfather who had an amazing breadth of knowledge ranging from astronomy to palmistry to philosophy who was also my best friend and mentor, and we had countless discussions where we kept questioning the obvious to get at something beyond it.

After reading endlessly about various topics mainly science – and also learning just by observing nature, even staring at ants – not that I became an expert in anything but atleast I got an idea that “such things are also there” where I could develop a more open mind. The more I learnt, the more my unquenchable thirst for knowledge increased over time. Its said that “curiosity kills the cat”, but eventually there came a time when there turned out to be one thing that I would even give my very life to know – the very essence of life!

I ran from pillar to post searching – investigating (in an occasional background thread, not my main activity) – with a very open mind – but found that everywhere I looked, there was a lot of beating around the bush. No doubt very thought provoking eloquent descriptions or speeches – the presentation was wonderful, often inspiring or useful, but the core content was always elusive and intangible. After a while, I didn’t care about presentation anymore, I was only looking for content.

“If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor”
– Einstein

Finally, this was the only place I’ve found so far that really gets to the point – after which a lot of things everybody else had been saying all the while took on a fresh meaning as well.

After the explanation, I wondered if I’d spoken too much, if I’d bored him to death and permanently discouraged him from ever striking a conversation with a fellow passenger again 😉 But he surprised me by asking for more details of the course, especially considering that the center was close to his own home town!

Incidentally, at the end of the course when we can talk to others, I met Jacob – an Austrian electrician who spends half the time travelling, and who’s driven with his wife all the way from his home in their caravan, to Goa, India!

He had an excellent experience in the course. Even though he wasn’t able to squat on the floor at first, he still had the determination to squat and get used to it right from the very first day! It was surprising to know that he was able to experience some of the deeper effects of meditation right in his very first course.

In my travels I’ve observed that in general in Europe, they have a very strong sense of integrity. They strictly adhere to even their most trivial word or commitment. Its usually considered an offence to ask someone things like “are you sure?” because in their culture, when simply wouldn’t have made the statement at all if they were not sure of it (or else would put relevant disclaimers). Meditation strengthens as well as gets strengthened by integrity, and having a good sense of integrity in the first place is an excellent start.

He was the first person I have met in all my life who has
1) led an unfetterred life (of course what I have seen is very trivial compared to how much he has seen, but atleast I have an idea)
2) and who has taken a course

So finally I found atleast one person who could share my traveller’s perpective that meditation is like a “base class” or a root experience, that gives a more holistic view of any other experience! 🙂

Some questions/comments people I’ve (rarely) spoken about it to have asked me – will continue this list over time:

Q: Why is it free?

In the first place, how can anyone possibly place a price on this ancient and invaluable technique of India? Buddha himself only discovered it, he did not invent it, nobody has any copyright over it. Donations are accepted only from old students only after they have completed atleast one course. Maintaining purity of the teaching with no commercial agenda is the highest priority. At the most there might be a price for the food and accomodation and other charges. But still if one pays in advance for these things, one is likely to evaluate everyday whether he’s getting his money’s worth or not – this creates an unnecessary obstacle to meditation. In UK I met a lady who even after an explanation, asked very suspiciously “there must be something to it… else how can it be free?” But its pretty much as simple as open source/freeware movement in software – simply use it, and only if you’re convinced there’s any value in it, then pay whatever you feel like for it. It manages to go on because all people are not so opportunistic that they would get away without paying for it even though they have the option. In fact the ‘organisation’ – if that’s what it can be called – itself is very thin (atleast from what I have seen – though I suppose that its just that they’re not making any show out of it). it consists of people who take care of the administration. Though I’ve been introduced to dhamma since 2001, I as well as all the other friends I’ve made so far have never been asked to get to register in some organisation or anything of that sort after any course – the service that grateful people do later are based entirely on their own choice. Even the teachers/assistant teachers are usually (if not always) financially independent as they are usually from some professional background (eg. one I know in Bangalore was an R&D Engineer in IISc). They do not depend on the institution to sponsor their life. If you expect flowing beards and ochre robes, you’re likely to be disappointed 😉 – they look like a typical simple common man.

Marketing if at all there is any is rather quiet, I’ve only heard of only one TV program so far, and have never seen any poster or advertisement or anything of that sort anywhere. Its probably more kind of word of mouth – the person who told me was a complete stranger I met by chance in some unlikely place (a child care center called Socare) and he too told me only as a matter of fact “Such a thing is there, this is the benefit I got from it, you too can do so if you care to” – the discussion was over in few minutes and I didn’t see him at all for several years later [Btw I lost the URL and somehow after a few months managed to get in touch with him once through email to get the URL again!]

Q: I’m already on bhakthi maarg (path of devotion) for several years, this looks like jnana maarg (path of knowledge)? I’m not sure if doing this means switching to some other path now?

Mr. Goenka too addresses this question, but in my own experience I feel that all these terminologies don’t really matter. To take yoga as an analogy, can someone really classify which “maarg” yoga comes under? Or is breathing bhakti or jnana maarg? But still just for the sake of argument, I would say that with jnana maarg one can understand more and more, little by little, what it is that one is having bhakthi really in! And this jnaana strengthens bhakthi greatly – making it more and more unconditional – independent of circumstances. The bhakthi that used to move up and down like a ship that gets challenged by waves, gradually becomes like a lighthouse, anchored unshakably on to the bedrock – independent of the thrashing waves of vicissitudes of life. I have come to believe these two paths are like two sides of a mobius strip – walking on this eventually revealed that what seemed to be the “other path” is no different! 🙂

Comment: According to some philosophy, a man has to go through several stages in life first, and only then, venture into self-discovery.

Is it really like some kind of a Grand Final Stage of life after everything else is done with and renounced? IMO the inner strength that one develops is incomparable – and is totally independent of any logical aspect of life. The inner life is like a parallel thread that eventually converges to intertwine with outer life to make them both one. And one can only smile after realising that they were never any different in the first place! So there’s no point in waiting too much for this or that particular problem to get solved (eg discipline and responsibility to get set), or this particular stage of life (earning a living, marriage, kids, grandchildren, and enough property saved for the survival of atleast 3 generations of descendants and so on…) to get over. However such things are issues that must be dealt with as well depending on one’s personal choices, so one who meditates gets no special excemption compared to anybody else! 😉

5 Responses to “curiosity helped the cat”

  1. Sanjay Mysoremutt ಸಂಜಯ » Blog Archive » from 0.00001 to 0.000011 Says:

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  2. Chaya Bhagavati Says:

    Namaskaara Sanjay,

    A couple of times, I had read these pages, curiously skimming through all the links you have created.
    This time, the above article, of all the stuff you used to post earlier in your mails, I liked it very much.

    Idelladakko hrutpoorvaka abhinandanegaLu.

    Chaya Bhagavati

  3. Maneesha. Says:

    good one…

  4. msanjay Says:

    Thanks very much Chaya & Maneesha.

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