circa 1985, h.p. india.

circa 1985, h.p. india.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Who is Watching the Watcher?

     Yesterday began as it usually does with a cup of hot chai tea, toast with butter, lots of butter, and peanut-butter, crunchy, real men use only crunchy.   I’m a little bit particular about my morning routine, whether in India or Canada or wherever.  The only compromise I have to make over here is the butter, which is not very good.  It actually doesn’t melt or go rancid, which is a bit scary.  Still, I use it every morning. 
     I remember sitting at the breakfast table with my dad, one specific morning several years ago, in Toronto.  He was reading the Globe and Mail as he did every morning religiously for a hundred and twenty years.  I asked him to pass the butter.  He looked at me above his glasses and said; ‘You know the amount of butter you slather on your toast, you’ll die of cholesterol.’  I thought about that for a moment or two before responding; ‘Dad,’ I said, ‘I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t smoke anything, I don’t eat meat of any sort, I’ve hardly had any sex in my entire life.  Pass the fucking butter.’  He gave me a wry smile and slid the dish over to my side of the table without saying another word. 
     I usually sit for a while after I finish my chai and toast, I check my emails, walk in the hillside a bit before heading down to the ashram. 
     The nights are cold at this time of year, but the sun is still hot during the days.  Sages of old have said that the human condition is one of being constantly too hot in the sun and too cold in the shade.  And that’s the way it actually is up here these days.  This is a land of extremes.  So every morning around ten o’clock, while waiting for satsang to begin, many devotees spend their time finding a place to bask in the sun for a while.  Because we know that, once Swamiji arrives, we’ll be under the corrugated tin roof and it’ll soon be cold and somewhat uncomfortable. 
     Hardly anyone complains.  Swami has been holding these meetings at least once a day for the past forty years, rain or shine, hot or cold.  He’s 86 and still cranks it out every day, a few hours that invariably includes a discourse, some chanting, Gita verses, questions and answers, speeches and, of course, meditation.  Hardly anyone complains about the weather here. 
     And so, yesterday, I went to Raju’s chai shop before satsang to sip another cup of chai in the sun.  I was standing at the counter waiting for my drink when a guy I had never seen before sashayed up from the street, handed me ten rupees and asked me to make him two cups of chai.  At first I really couldn’t comprehend what was happening.  I couldn’t quite bend my head around the idea that he thought I was the chai-wallah.  I stood there holding the fellow’s ten rupees, staring at him until he repeated his order.   At that precise moment, Raju came with my cup of chai.  I took it, handed Raju the ten rupee note, told him it was from the guy behind me and went up to the roof to sit in the sun.            
     As I climbed the stairs, I remembered an old story of the enlightened one, Lord Buddha, leaning up against the trunk of a large Banyan tree.  He was in Samadhi.  A drunkard came by and assumed the Buddha had passed out from drinking.  So the drunkard sat down beside him.  A wandering mendicant happened along, assumed the Buddha was a mendicant sleeping and sat down to rest along with him.  And a sage came by, knew the Buddha was in Samadhi, sat down beside him and began to meditate.
     I’ve been a gas jockey, a diamond merchant, an antique dealer and a teacher.  I’ve painted houses and written books.  I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor.  I’ve been loved and hated.  So who am I?  I can’t control completely how people perceive me, what they think I am when they look at me.  However, ever since I can remember there’s been a part of me just watching it all, uninvolved, unaffected, not growing or changing as my body has grown and changed.  I’ve spent most of my life aware of that and tuning into that aspect of who or what I am.  I’ve watched all the happenings in my life, the things I’ve done, the dreams I’ve had, the conscious and semi-conscious states.  I’ve always been the watcher. 
     I’m not going to try to convince anyone that I know exactly where that watcher is watching from, what is that One Source or Creative Intelligence.  I can say, however, that my experience in meditation and samadhi has afforded me the opportunity to firmly believe in what the ancient saints and sages have all said; that one can continue to identify with that watcher, uninvolved, unaffected, pure and free, even as the body begins to break down, even as one dies, and even after that.  Think about it.         

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