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Journal 2008-08-31

So Swami Chidananda has passed away while I was in Rishikesh. He died the day before yesterday. The irony is that I have often worried after his health and thought that I would probably miss his final moment. Now it happens that I am here and I also missed it. About last Wednesday I was in the ashram for the evening satsang and they said that he was unconscious, though his condition was stable On Friday - the day that he died - I also visited the ashram though just spent an hour meditating in the samadhi hall. Not finding anyone, I didn't ask about his health. Today I did meet someone, and then asked in the reception office. There, as always I found an unresponsive clerk from whom it was impossible to get more than short responses.

Then I attended the evening satsang. After the Jai Ganesha and gita recitation, they began with a film of Swami Chidananda in Hindi. I stayed for the first 40 minutes or so of that, then bowed and took my leave. I think it is the last time that I will visit the ashram. That Swami Chidananda died while I am here seems to imply a kind of conclusion or parting of the ways for me with Swami Sivananda's legasy. Somehow, after Swami Vishnu passed on, the only continuing link that I felt was for Swami Chidananda. He was a saint, no doubt, but the organization that he headed had a cold feeling about it. The evening satsangs that I attended this time were frightfully boring. The samadhi hall gave me a cold feeling also the last time I saw it. There is not enough joy in this organization. I want no further part in it.

About Rishikesh, which is India for me, I have mixed feelings. I think in order to know Indians better I would need to speak Hindi. That's natural. There are lots of things I like about them, and of course lots that I like about their culture. I respect their religious feelings and their spiritual culture.

Today I saw a cow gently tearing a political poster off a wall and eating the smiling face of the politician - I think it was the same guy they were campaigning for today in a jeep with loud speakers. I smiled to a couple of passers by who also noticed the cow eating the poster and they understood the joke too.

2 AM

I said earlier that the passing of Chidananda and the feeling that the last link for me has been cut with the legasy of Sivananda has given me a new feeling of freedom. I want to try to define what this means.

I mean that I feel free of the guru diksha, of the guru parampara. Free to pursue any other path that seems reasonable to me. I will no longer consider it disrespectful to 'my teacher' to follow any spiritual or other direction, because from this point I do nothing in his name, and am in no way anyone's representative. I will not make any claim to be representing anything and have no longer any sensitivities in this direction. I am free of all that. I will make claims only in my own right and make no excuses for my behaviour or moral conduct, as if it is based on something that I inherited.

With regard to the Hindu tradition my respect for it is as an ancient, elder brother tradition. I respect the notion that spirit is present in all life, that everything carries the divine seed, which is the non-individuated whole, and the breath carries the key to this in the understanding of the soham mantra. This is the fundamental spiritual truth for me. It's a conscious assertion like a mahavakya. It is not self inquiry, not negation (neti, neti). But it can be explored in various ways, such as through studying the law of interbeing of Thich Nhat Hanh, and through smrti (mindfulness) in Buddhistic practices.

I believe that the principle of anatman in Buddhism is just another dimension of the same truth according to which there is no being that exists independently of any other being. The best way to actually understand the soham mantra (which is dualist) may actually be through Buddhist concepts which do not give prominence to any one concept. All things are as if strung upon a mala.

Monday 1 September

It seems that whenever I enter a restaurant, Israelis come and settle nearby. It is hard to get away from them. In general I am coming to prefer solitude to the company of others. Perhaps it's a period in life which is anyway more conducive to this, since young people are not much interested in the company of elders. Now I am coming to welcome it. I feel confident enough about myself. If I would stay longer here I would pick up Hindi.

I have been making quick progress through Frawley and Feuerstein's book, which gives a feeling for the ancient world, and the spiritual vision that somehow survives in this country through the millenia. It seems to linger here more than in any other modern country. It would be possible to say that Judaism too preserves an ancient culture, an ancient spiritual tradition, except that somehow it doesn't, exactly - perhaps due to the destruction of the Temple. It does preserve a tribal tradition and an ancient dogma. And countries that are founded on the traditions of holy men or prophets such as Buddha, Jesus or Mohammad miss that ancient spiritual vision, in which natural phenomena are viewed as imbued with spirit, and the actions of humans are seen as being a part of the divine order.