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Journal 2008-08-21a

Suffering heavily from my cold today, in its phase when it has moved mainly to the chest. My temperature is up to 37.6

On the other hand, after not eating Indian style food for 24 hours, I haven't had a bowel movement.

I ate at lunch time in the German Bakery - a paneer burger. It came with salad, but I risked this anyway.

At my table I was joined by two German women but that made me uncomfortable since I had to try to hide my coughs a little.

Then I took a long slow walk along the river towards Sivananda Jhula, since I wanted to take a picture of S. Sivananda's Swargashram sadhana kutir. I discovered that just next to the kutir there is a way down to the river, where there is a wide expanse of grey sand and large boulders where it would be possible to sit and spend a pleasant afternoon. All the mugginess of the Rishikesh air leaves you when you go down directly to the river itself. Sitting there I thought that Sivananda may have once sat upon the same rock.

Then there was the long slow walk back, which took all my energy. I stopped at a chai wallah's booth for a chai. He told me how he offers cool water for free also to pilgrims along the way.

The water was kept in pots that he surrounded with cool wet cloths.

I stopped at J's hostel o say hello, then stayed to drink a bottle of Mazaa mango juice - I drank it down disappointingly quickly. There was another girl at the hostel who seems to have the same symptoms as me, though she says that the fever has come more recently than the cough.

I came back upto the room and lay down for a while. It took a long time to calm my breathing so I wasn't coughng all the time. But then I slept for a while. Now a slight burning sensation in my mouth is evidence of the slightly higher temperature that has come on this afternoon.

I wonder about disease and the fighting of it. Men like Sivananda lived under impossibly difficult conditions, despite all kinds of physical problems. Sivananda used to rise and do japa in the icy cold river before dawn in winter, and lived almost without food. The only explanation for it is the power of spiritual force or mental energy - the power of will. I wonder at this applicttion of will power. Sivananda's books are all about the development of will power, and somehow this has never appealed to me, at least, in the way that I have understood it. I would much rather imagine connecting myself to the flow of energy in the whole universe, than imagine myself struggling in an individual way, to develop my will power. That approach is given legitimacy under Sivananda's system, under the auspices of bhakti. But then, I have not sufficiently developed my approach to bhakti, since I no longer, if ever, felt truly comfortable with a deity, Ishwara, or whatever. It seems to me that if I want to connect myself to the cosmic force, I have to develop a better familiarity with it. I think Thich Nhat Hanh's writings may hold a key to that.

In Shantaram I encountered the philosophy which he called Resolution Theory, which seemed to me like a poorer version of a similar philosophy that one encounters in yoga, perhaps in Krishnananda's writings, according to which the universe began in a single vibration, where power in potential gave expression to itself and began a process of individuation, division and separation. A widening complexity, where particles divide and re-unite with particles to form new structures. Each particle carries within it the seed of its essential nature, which is the primary, unindividuated essence. As the products of creation grow more complex, there is a rise in individuated intelligence, reaching through the plant and animal kingdoms towards man. Man is the only entity capable of perceiving himself as an entity that is individuated from the whole. This carries the danger that he will act in an egoistic way that will bring about the destruction of other species and ultimately himself. But man carries also the ability to understand and reunite with his essence, the unindividuated whole. And, in as much as the universe is becoming ever more complex and separating further from its origin, it is, at the same time, striving to reach back to its point of origin. The understanding of this process is the school through which all of kife is being self educated, and it is the school that human beings are intended to travel. One of the chief classrooms or subjects for learning is that of suffering, since suffering is always the expression of an individual who has not understood his place in the universe: has not understood that he is in fact united with all beings, or rather, his true identity is the common seed that exists in all beings. That common seed is not subject to disease, death or destruction.

Another subject for learning is love, since in love we come to give more value to the welfare of other creatures than we do to our selves, and the urge towards self-preservation is one of the strongest forces and instincts that all creatures possess. The upanishads say that we love others on account of the self. That is, because of the seed or essence that is within us, we are able to reach out to the seed or essence that is in another being.

In making choices in life, we should choose the paths that bring us closer to learning our true identity and reuniting with it. It is not, as Khaderbhai says in Shantaram, the movement towards greater complexity that it is important to emulate and encourage, but the parallel movement in all creation towards understanding the underlying essence of that complexity. The universe wants to reunite with itself. In man, it finally has an opportunity. In all of creation, only man has the ability to reintegrate. Spiritual masters, prophets and saints have managed this, and are the inspiration for us. Their statements on the subject are not without problems, paradoxes and contradictions, but we must understand that the attempt that they are making is by definition super-human - they are attempting to transcend their human nature and reach a level of conscious being that is at the essence of all life and its evolutionary process. So we should forgive the saints and sages sometimes for their arrogance, mutual rivalry, delusions of grandeur and the rest.

My challenge, after having affirmed this cosmology, is how to move within it. And this has been my primary stumbling block. It seems to me that I have not made significant progress, and I really need to do so, otherwise, by my own thinking, my life will have been a waste. How to put this cosmology into practice? or at least make its realization stronger?