My wife and I have started working with Quality of Life Trust – India – http://www.qualityoflife.in/.
They are located right next to Tiruvannamalai and working on village issues. India is going through many changes, and the villages are seeing the most change, so we thing this is a good place for our efforts.
There are two projects they are working on. The first is with the elderly in the village. Some have no place to live and are sleeping on the doorsteps of houses, etc. In some cases it is the doorstep of the house they owned. Then their children got them to give the house to them. Then there was a problem like drinking, and the child lost the house, and the parent had no place to live. The Trust is providing meals to these elders, and helping them with medical treatments. They hope to build some kind of housing in the future. My wife has experience working with the elderly and will help this project.
The other project is for composting toilets. In villages many many people do not have toilets. People will go in nearby fields. Sometimes they are bitten by snakes. Always there is the concern for personal privacy, expecially for the women. There are also problems of disease, etc. This project is building a kind of toilet developed else where in India that does not need water or a sewer connection/septic tank. To add to the appeal, and based on what these local vilages said they are also adding a shower room. This trust has gotten funding from another trust, Bless, and has just started a project to build 50 toilets in the village. I am helping them with project management. These toilets seem to meet a real need, and in addition they produce high quality fertilizer that can be used in the fields.
Working with them this week I got a chance to see the excitement that this was creating in the village. As we were at on house, planning for the foundation (and taking down some banana trees) the neighbor got so excited that he had the crew go to his house and see what kind of site that he had to build on.
These are small things that have a real impact on the lives of the villagers. You should see how proud the man was to be involved in this project, and making life better for his family.
Sahaj in Sanskrit means easy and natural.
There is saying in Hindi, “Sahaj pake so meetha hoy.”
It means that easy and natural cooking of food leads it to taste sweet.
It is something like the English saying that soup that simmers slowly or the cake that is baked slowly tastes best in the end.
These are metaphors for life. When we do something with care and love, the results are better. Sometimes we even say that, “this is a labor of love.” When we love what we do, it does not feel like work.
Everything has its nature. When we are true to our own nature, an easy authenticity takes over. Then we are not concerned about impressing others nor worried about how others are judging us.
Nature is showing us the way. Seasons are coming and going. Flowers bloom and then wither. We are breathing in and breathing out.
Easy and natural is the way. Anything else makes it appear that somewhere other than where you already are, is more attractive.
All of these teachings of self-improvement, yoga, meditation methods, breathing techniques might have some meaning to someone at some point in time. Truly these are concepts only for the mind to struggle with. The whole premise of these teachings is that you are not OK just the way you are. Ultimately, it is the most splendid nonsense.
To be easy and natural is the way.
How does one become easy and natural? How does one follow the natural path?
To be easy and natural is, well, it is to be easy and natural; and it is best because it is easy and natural.
It is so simple is it not?
What is not easy and natural will produce inner and outer conflicts. We already have enough of those. Of course, for some people making more conflicts may be easy and natural. In that case, go for it (and you can’t help it anyway).
Being easy and natural in awareness allows for the recognition of the Self, which by its very nature is easy being, natural, and wholeness of awareness aware of itself as its own bliss. There is no good way to express it.
My teacher Chitrabhanu-ji (who was a monk for 29 years) once told me that as a young monk he was very very strict with himself. “Sometimes, too much judgment and discipline can be a form of violence with oneself”, he told me.
Another time when we were talking about gurus, I mentioned many names to him and asked his views of them.
Chitrabhanu-ji knew most of the gurus personally. These included J. Krishnamurti, Swami Muktananda, Sri Chinmoy, Rajneesh (Osho), Swami Chidananda, Swami Rama, Swami Satchitananda, etc.
Those gurus whom he liked, Chitrabhanu-ji would only say, “He is a good man.”
One day Chitrabhanu-ji said to me, “You should never follow a guru.” I looked at him puzzled (because he was my guru, you see).
He smiled and said in his thick Bombay accent, “What if the guru goes crazy and tells you to do strange and crazy and weird things…” I had a good hearty laugh! He added, “that does happen you know….”. I laughed even harder.
Well, it does happen you know.
As Sri Ramana never tired of saying,… the only true guru is your Heart, your own Self.
So wise sages tell the advanced aspirants to be perfectly natural. Make the effort, if natural. Follow a teaching if it is easy and makes sense.
If something makes no sense, there is no point in following it. So what if it is considered the supreme teaching and so on by someone well known. For all you know, what the supreme and well known people say could all be manure.
Think about it. What do they really know? How can they really know? What can anyone really and truly know?
So rest, if it feels natural to rest. Watch the spiritual parade pass by and not be moved by any teaching. Or join the parade and sing your song.
Your nature will make you act in a certain way. That is why you can be at perfect ease.
Self-remembrance, Awareness aware of itself, Self-abidance, all of these mean the same.
Easy and natural is simply being aware of one’s innate wakefulness through the winds of emotions, colors of life, and changes in scenery.
To the extent one can grasp it, simply remain aware and if you become conscious of some intangible cloud of unknowing which you cannot go through, become comfortable with it, stay with it, and breathe it in and out.
If you meditate on this and become aware, it will dawn on you with clarity. You will see.
Easy and natural is the way.
My wife and I traveled to for a three-day trip to Pondichery. The main reason for the trip was to purchase items not available (or much lower priced due to taxes) in Tiruvannamalai – An Air Conditioner to install before the summer heat, better bikes, some more clothes and personal care items, especially more English books.
Pondy is a nice Indian city on the Indian Ocean with a French flavor (in the few blocks near the ocean) and a beautiful Ocean view. Also, the Auribindo Ashram is here, with many visitors. Many Westerners travel here. What we really noticed is that is the Westerners that were there seemed to be there more to ‘see the sights’, to buy things, and to enjoy the tropical Indian Ocean atmosphere and French flavor. In Tiruvannamalai, Westerners are there mainly for spiritual reasons, drawn in one way or another by Arunachala. We feel more connected to the Westerners we meet in Tiru.
After about two days in Pondy my wife and I both missed Arunachala. I also noticed that two days spent purchasing things was moving my attention away from the spiritual activities that are really the center of this life now.
We are back in Tiru now, and have spent some time with Arunachala. It is good to be home.
Today I got a haircut.
Here, even simple things like this are an experience.
First the elderly man who had a cut before me had his shirt off. He got his face and head shaved. When this was done, he had his armpits shaved as well.
Also, kids were going to school Several high school boys stopped by to carefully comb their hair, so they would look just right (for the girls at school). Their primping before the mirror reminds me of what I have heard of the girls bathroom in a US high school.
Life in Tiruvannamalai remains sweet. It is starting to get hotter though.