Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Gangesh Chaitanya

One of my students is a 25-year-old brahmachari named Gangesh. He is from a well-to-do family in Bangalore, but has taken a vow of naishthika brahmacharya from Swami Veda since joining the Gurukula in September last year.

Gangesh is dark-skinned with his head shaven, leaving a large, South Indian sikha. He is a bit stocky, strong looking, and his face, with bright and even teeth, exudes an effulgent good humor. Yesterday he came into my room to show me his latest enthusiasm, a copy of Tirumantiram, the Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta work, which according to Gangesh “contains everything.”

I leafed through it and it does indeed look interesting. It is a famous work which I have unfortunately never read, so I put it on my mental filing cabinet for things that I must one day and hopefully will do.

Then Gangesh, with the force of the Ganges as it passes under Lakshman Jhula, began to tell me of his adventures over the past few years. To repeat everything would take more time than I have, but I thought I would at least share with you a couple of his yarns.

When the desire for spiritual life was aroused in him, he went to stay at an ashram in South India, where his talkative nature got him into trouble with the other residents of the ashram. Someone had told him that Shiva was a devotee of Rama and Rama a devotee of Shiva. So whenever he came to a Shiva linga he would chant Rama’s name, and whenever in front of an image of Rama, he would chant "Om namah Shivaya." Indeed, his guru had given him the mantra,

rAma rAmeti rAmeti rame rAme manorame
sahasra-nAmabhis tulyam rAma-nAma varAnane

(Narada-pancharatra 4.3.223)


And so he chanted it for the pleasure of Lord Shiva. One day, after doing this, he had a dream in which Lord Shiva appeared to him and talked constantly throughout the dream, but when he woke up he could not remember anything that the Lord said. Even so, he considered this dream appearance the blessed result of his method of chanting and so he shared his experience with other members of the ashram. But rather than share his wonder and excitement, one of them told him he was crazy and should go on “bhramana,” meaning wandering through India from one sacred place to another, depending on the mercy of the Lord.

Realizing that the ashram was no longer conducive to his spiritual life, he went and asked his guru for permission to go on bhramana. So for the next two years, he walked from Bangalore north to Uttar Kashi and also as far as Ayodhya in the East, staying mostly at different ashrams where he would remain for varying periods of time (including two months at Madhuban, the Hare Krishna temple here in Rishikesh).

Though he had many adventures, one story he told was rather fun, so I will just tell it as he did.

Gangesh was staying at an ashram in Maharashtra, which was undergoing a dry spell. It was a particular tithi and the mahanta was taking him to the Godavari in a car when for some reason he began to either tease or torment Gangesh by telling him that he did not believe he was really a brahmachari. Finally, in frustration, Gangesh blurted out that if he was truly a brahmachari, then the next day at nine o’clock in the evening rain would fall from the heavens.

He immediately regretted having said it. To quote, “Swamiji, I was saying myself, what for you say this thing?” But the mahanta, who sounds like a bit of schemer, decided to spread word around, telling all the villagers that the visiting sadhu had promised rain. A steady procession of poor village people came to the dumbfounded Gangesh who was at a loss for what to tell them to solve their problems. He just told them to do Go-seva. A woman trying to get pregnant was told to say a few prayers and feed and circumambulate a cow. He was telling everyone to circumambulate the cows.

By nightfall he was in deep anxiety. He went to bed hoping that by morning everyone would have forgotten, but that was too much to expect. Still, being nervous about what would happen, Gangesh decided to follow his own advice and circumambulate a cow or two.

The day went by and no one said anything. Finally, that evening, while the mahanta was serving Gangesh a fine meal, he said, “Half an hour to go.” Gangesh was near panic, but for no reason. The gods smiled on him and gave recognition to his brahmacharya by raining at the appointed moment.

The next day, all the villagers came with money and gifts for the sadhu. According to Gangesh, he said the gifts should be given to the poor, and since you are poor yourselves, keep them. They naturally wanted him to stay in the village, but Gangesh, fearful of labha, puja and pratishtha, pushed on north towards Uttara Kashi on his wandering adventure.

True or not, it was true to genre. And it was told with utmost sincerity and panache.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I loved that story. Thank you for sharing it! If possible see if you can post a picture of your student Ganeshji too someday.

South India really has some great stuff. Remember in CC it said that when LC went to South India, "They all became pure devotees..."

Tirukural is supposed to be "the most ethical scripture on earth" [Albert Schweitzer].

"...Holy couplets, a treasury of Hindu ethical insight" [source: glossary Hinduism's Contemporary Metaphysics].

The author Saint Tiruvalluvar [Tiru means "holy"]
is accepted as one of their own by the Buddhists, Vaisnavas, AND Saivites, of Tamil Nadu! You can swear on the Tirukkural in a court of law in Tamil Nadu instead of the Bible.

Thanks for calling this to our attention: the Tirumantiram. A shout out to Ganeshji also!

Tirumantiram: "Holy incantation": the Nandinatha Sampradaya's oldest Tamil scripture...a vast storehouse of esoteric yogic and tantric knowledge. It contains the mystical essence of raja yoga and siddha yoga and the fundamental doctrines of the 28 Saiva Siddhanta Agamas, which in turn are the heritage of the ancient pre-historic tradition of Saivism"
[ibid].

Do you remember in Western culture there was a film made in the 1960s[?] about St Bernadette? She lived in a nunnery and Jesus would talk to her all of the time. But when she tried to integrate the experience by discussing it with the other novices and Mother Superior then they all got on her case. Only at the end of her life [and some miracles? I forget] they realized she was A-OK.

The story Ganeshji relates reminds me of St. Bernadette, but he is far luckier to have been able to escape at a tender young age!

anuradha said...

I appreciate the story.

But what it does to me is show how easy legends come into existence and how easy it is to fool your average uneducated Indian, just as Sai Baba, Deepak Chopra and Uri Geller compete with Hans Klok for western admiration.

The boasting about not losing sperm and the arrogance to suggest rainfall has anything to do with his spermatazoids. Who cares ?!! Well, apparently a few fools deem it necessary to worship him because his retention of sperm and local rainfall go hand in hand. Simpletons.

One traditional friend of mine recommended me to read 'Saints of Bengal' and 'Saints of Braja' by OBL Kapoor. It would inspire me. Well, it did, but not in the way he meant it to. It started to tickle my rational mind and my suspicions as happened when I was 7 years old in relation to Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Jezus Christ.
It was the startingpoint of a slow and critical evaluation of everything I pretended to believe in, because I wish it were true, but not because it necessarily IS true.

Love and feelings of love are miracles and beautiful by itself. It doesn't need sperm and rainfall to coïncide, petty miracles and cheap magic to fool the simpletons of this planet. Actually I think it might work just the opposite...... wherever there is talk of miracles.... RUN !!

(PS. I mean no disrespect to the individuals described in OBL's books, I just seriously doubt all the irrelevant miracles and visions described therein)

Jagat said...

I often tell that story about "Adalat Shekh's familiar spirit" (google it). It is something that I found inexplicable, and I wonder sometimes why I don't take the miraculous more seriously.

Even so, I agree that the credulousness that people, especially in India, have in miracles makes them soft marks for charlatans. What I liked about Gangesh's story is that he said what he said unintentionally, without forethought. The rains came unexpectedly and he took no credit for it. He was just a player in someone else's (Indra's?) game. If the rain hadn't come, he might have been in real trouble. As to whether his "truth statement" had anything to do with the power of celibacy is another matter. It may just have been the power of truth.

Whatever, I did not tell the story to spread belief in miracles. I told it because it was a good yarn, told with good humor and without arrogance or pride. His steering clear of the adulation that he could have milked for personal gain also speaks in his favor.

Nevertheless, you are right Anuradhaji. Even most of the scriptures warn that miracles are a distraction, but they avoid denying their reality. Perhaps it would be better if they did, but on the other hand, perhaps they have valid reasons for not doing so. Even the rare occurrence is enough to prove the possibility.

I was talking to Nilakanth the other day about his experiences in Bangalore with Sai Baba and his followers. Members of his wife's family are wealthy and make huge donations to Sai Baba's cause, despite having been shown videos that clearly demonstrate Sai Baba's using cheap slight-of-hand to produce his "miracles" like coughing up a Shiva linga and the such.

NK also told how his wife invited a Sai Baba disciple, a woman, who had apparently learned the same tricks and was using them to build up a following. She miraculously produced for them a bauble from thin air that still had the market price ticket on it. And yet these educated, middle-class, well-to-do Indians were gobbling it up.

Worse than all this, though, are the New Vrindavan-like stories of murder victims' bodies discovered in the premises of his ashrams and other such much more nefarious dealings, such as sexual abuse, etc.

There certainly is a mystery here.

anuradha said...

I agree. Gangesh is in the clear.

A close friend of mine was a long time admirer of Deepak Chopra. Since this friend has in turn a few famous friends, he was able to meet him in person after a 25.000 dollar lecture in Amsterdam. He witnessed from close how everything is staged and planned. My friend was disappointed.
But it gets worse. Nowadays some of his lectures are being pimped-up with a flying cigarettes magic show to proof his dubious quantum mechanics theory. From his book about quantum mechanics it is clear he knows very little about quantum mechanics... but enough to impress some drug addicted Hollywood stars that don't know any better.
But anyway, although Deepak doesn't know anything about quantum mechanics, the Flying Saucerer Maharishi Mahesh Yogi from Vlodrop (also Holland) awarder him the title Lord of Immortality (1990). I am serious, look it up !

About Maharishi then. He challenged some scientists from the University of Delft to measure the airtime during a meditational hop (a precursor to actual levitation) of some of his closest students. And so they did. With the newest equipment to measure even the minutest ceteris paribus out of the ordinary difference and a simple bodyweight-airtime equation the test was done. The room was filled with students that wanted to see the show. Press came. Result.... nothing out of the ordinary. Gravity is gravity.

By the way, beware of Ayur Vedic medicine (also sold in Iskcon) that contain heavy metals or poisonous herbs. Some alchemist might claim otherwise, but heavy metals are dangerous and have not scientifically proven to heal anything.

So anyways, I confronted a leading Swami in Bengal (educated, sanskrit scholar, respected) with my findings about Sai Baba's vibhuti scam, Maharishi's Ayur Veda and hopping, and so on and so on. To my surprise he stood up in their defence and told me it was probably a conspiracy of western people trying to disqualify indian culture !!! Later I had to find out that although this Swami is still a swami, he also has several unwanted fatherless children running around on the planet. And to my next shock.... everbody knew this all along, except me. It was kept secret to protect the image of ... ???

anuradha said...

Unfortunately you probably don't read Dutch. But I found an English version of one of my favorite websites. This is where I get a lot of information from, like about the TM hop experiment.
Also links to scientific, worldwide and critical papers about everything out of the ordinary (our own religion included)

http://www.skepsis.nl/english.html

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate that you told us about the Tirumantiram.

I discovered that actually I have been reading bits and pieces of it as thoughts for the day before I fall asleep at night as a type of inspirational literature.

[It's from a bunch of quotes from many different scriptures, mostly from the Vedas and Upanishads]

Here's some little tidbits of it:

"Everywhere is the Holy Form. Everywhere is Siva-Shakti. Everywhere is Chidambaram. Everywhere is Divine Dance."
verse 2722 Tirumantiram

[I guess sub "Radha-Krsna" and "Vrndavan" for the Gaudiyas]

***

"Puja, reading the scriptures, singing hymns, performing japa, and unsullied austerity, truthfulness, restraint of envy, and offering of food---these and otehr self-purifying acts constitute the flawless satputra marga"

verse 1496 ibid

***

"Shuddha Saivas meditate on these as their religious path: Oneself, Absolute Reality, and the Primal Soul; the categories three: God, soul, and bonds; immaculate liberation and all that fetters the soul"

verse 1432 ibid

***

"The simple temple duties, lighting the lamps, picking flowers, lovingly polishing the floors, sweeping, singing the Lord's praise, ringing the bell, and fetching ceremonial water--these constitute the dasa marga"

verse 1502 ibid

***

"Being the Life of life is splendorous jnana worship. Beholding the Light of life is great yoga worship. Giving life by invocation is external worship. Expressing adoration is charya."

verse 1444 ibid

****
Well that is an example of some quotes from the Tirumantiram...
with some universal concepts highlighted that are used in the Gaudiya tradition also.

The Tirumantiram is available online, too. It's kind of boring but is interesting that the last Tantra [it is comprised of Nine Tantras] is all about how the Divine is Dancing.

That is a universal concept the Gaudiyas are into also: that the Divine is dancing.

Tirumantiram describes how the Divine is dancing, how the dance is pervading everything, and this dance is happening inside of us: inside of our shushumna [spine] when the ida and pingala forces are merged, leading up to the sahasrara [crown chakra].

I enjoy that aspect of GV and is something it has in common with Tirumantiram.

"Gaurasundara das" said...

That was a nice story, it would be nice to see a picture of Gangesh.


As for Sai Baba, there is no mystery there. He is an out-and-out fraud. I have been pretty open about the fact that I was formerly a follower of Sai Baba before I got into Gaudiya Vaishnavism: please see my blog on the subject here: Sai Baba EXPOSED!

Hasn't been updated for a while, but there's tons of original research performed by myself stored on there. I especially recommend going through the 'Articles of Note' list that is placed on the right side of the blog, a small collection of some of the biggest and most interesting articles (exposés) I have written.

Feel free to have a good read for your own understanding, ammunition, and what have you. And of course, anyone should feel free to get in touch with me if they need to ask any questions.

Anonymous said...

Another good source for checking to see if a guru is all hype is
www.rickross.com

Has basic info like "how do you know if you are in a destructive cult?" and a message board where you can share info, or just read and learn more in detail about specific gurus.

Intercultural lovin', poor Gangesh will never get any said...

This struck me as particularly Indian;

"Gangesh was staying at an ashram in Maharashtra, which was undergoing a dry spell. It was a particular tithi and the mahanta was taking him to the Godavari in a car when for some reason he began to either tease or torment Gangesh by telling him that he did not believe he was really a brahmachari. Finally, in frustration, Gangesh blurted out that if he was truly a brahmachari, then the next day at nine o’clock in the evening rain would fall from the heavens."

1. Teasing and tormenting, as a form of affection, is very common in Indian culture, to the point of being what we westerners would deem "politically incorrect", like when calling people "kallu" or "motu", etc.

2. Gangesh's reaction is also typically Indian. So someone says they don't believe you're a brahmachari. So? I would take it as a compliment - I've got so much game going on that I couldn't possibly be celibate. But no, in India that would be a source of "great shame" and one's honor (pratishta) has to be defended at all costs. So Gangesh reacts with frustration, because it's sooooooo important that this man and others think he is the brahmachari that he really is.

At the end of the day, who cares?

This is the type of mentality that drove me NUTS in India. Everything is about "reputation".
Everything is "log kya kahenge?" "What will the people think?"

Like, who cares?!?!

This is another big cultural difference between the East and West that we have to contend with when residing in India.

Anyway, good for Gangesh. Mother Nature came to his reputational rescue and it was established once and for all that he has never known the sweetness of a woman's love! An authentic reason to be respected and honored in society, right?

Go figure.

Anonymous said...

Intercultural ~
That is an interesting sharing. What does "kallu" and "motu" mean?

To all ~
Well, now to be the devil's advocate, has anyone ever had an experience where you noticed that the weather changed because of some good activity that you/ others did?

Because in some cultures is considered a signpost of being attuned to the devas.

For example in some indigenous cultures, rainbows are supposed to have a certain meaning, i.e. each rainbow with a different shape has a different meaning. And the locals who have been immersed in that culture can explain it all to you.

I am thinking like the Tibetans and the Hawaiians. And another example would be Hawaii has 300 words for rain [like how the Eskimos have 300 words for snow]. And each type of rain has a different meaning and spiritual connotation.

Like one type of rain is called the blessing rain, because it is sprinkling like Indra's umbrella
[very light, misty, cooling, and gentle: like an Evian spritzer]
and there are no visible clouds overhead. So that kind of rain is called the blessing rain.

So just curious if anyone has ever had an actual metaphysical experience with the weather?


I know it's fun to make fun of people and their culture just to improv. Cuz improv is "adult play" according to a recent Esalen catalogue.

When we improvise we are humorous, we are "testing" out different roles. Adults tend to get stuck in a rut of a certain role and to do so for a prolonged period of time makes one into an old curmudgeon

[source: Esalen catalogue July - Dec 2007, p.71 "Improv: Expanding Yourself with Laughter" by Clifford Henderson]


And I truly appreciate everyone's humor in here. So now just to be flexible human beings: has anyone here ever had a metaphysical experience with the weather?

After all it says in BG that by the performance of yajna it will rain and all of that. And the demigods will do whatever.



So it can happen. [C'mon..don't also say: "...And monkeys might fly out of my butt..."]


And I thought the point of the whole Ganeshji story was if the demigods did reciprocate, I thought it was to corroborate that the boy was being truthful.

And also to show that it is not good to tease because that is called bullying and harrassment.

So the demigods are actually more like post-modern Western educated people than medieval Indian people I thought was the whole point of the story.

i.e. the demigods understand tort law and the whole slippery slope that leads to crimes that come from teasing.

After all harassment and bullying is against the law in the West, so I thought this was an example of the demigods saying, "Yes we approve of honesty and also we don't like the kind of teasing that leads to harassment.

"We the demigods believe that people should have respectful boundaries that respect the integrity of others.

"We the demigods believe you should not say anything unless it is true, kind, helpful, and necessary. Okay and funny also.

"We the demigods like mindful speech as the Buddhists would say."



Anyway I like the demigods very much and I see them in my own life all of the time. I wish I was more sensitive that I could be more in tune with them. But not so sensitive it feels like I am on acid all of the time.

Well anyway, so what do you think?


And also by the performance of yajna there will be rain according to BG. So if Vrndavana, India is one of the hottest places on the planet in the summer, then I think we need to start examining where people are more successful at doing yajnas.

Like which place on the planet has the best weather, then they must be doing the best yajnas there.
Because apparently just ringing a bunch of bells 5000 times a day and saying Radhe Radhe ain't cutting it, people!


Also as far as diet goes, I think we need to examine which places on the planet people are the richest then let's all eat like them. For example how many times did a Hare Krsna tell you that the Goddess of Fortune hates garlic and onions?


Well I think someone needs to be telling the chef de cuisine at all of those restaurants in Beverly Hills that then. Because they seem to have more money than people in the Gaudiya enclaves of India do.


So anyway I think we need to examine the diets of people in: West Palm Beach, Park Avenue, Beverly Hills, and okay where else? How about like all of you people tell me where rich people live and then tell me if they are eating garlic and onions there.

Then we can figure out what the Goddess of Fortune really likes and really doesn't like.

I dunno, since she is a Woman, first and foremost she probably doesn't like people mistreating women, hmmm?

So seems to me that the Goddess of Fortune is happier any place where women are allowed to be educated, wear whatever the hell they want to wear, have rich husbands and/or ex-husbands who are nice to them.

Like, for example, an ex-husband like Bruce Willis who is happy to see you with a man half your age as long as you are happy.

So let's do a poll and see if maybe we should tweak some of those Gaudiya customs. Oh and tell me your demigod and weather stories also. Namaste!