What questions arise when I focus on the “scarcity and abundance” as objects of Vedanta meditation?
Olgika takes the narrator by the hand and leads him through an outer courtyard then an inner courtyard to a big, iron door. She pushes it open, telling him that she is going to show him something he has never seen before, something quite extraordinary. They walk through a large space with old puppets hanging from the ceiling and crates stacked on top of each other. Then they get to another door. They greet the godmother, and she pushes them into a huge space with endless shelves stocked full of packaged food, candy, chocolate, toilet paper, coffee, canned fish, etc. etc. etc. They stand in awe at all this abundance, especially after years of living with stores that had empty shelves, food items had been so scarce. Human beings would murder each other that one tin of fish. So when the godmother is able to offer the younger generation all of this abundance, she feels overcome with emotion and love. The godmother and Olgika embrace one another while eating chocolate; the crumbs fall to the floor. Meanwhile, the narrator feels compelled to tear open every package, knock items off the shelves, toss the abundance in the air. The narrator feels a strange sense of wanting those abandoned puppets, the horse, the owl, the bird to carry him away from all that abundance that seems to him too sweet, that easily turns nauseating.
Meditating on scarcity and abundance, a Jnana yogi might ask, “When scarcity arises then dissolves in awareness, how can this prevent hunger? When abundance arises and dissolves in awareness, how can this prevent over indulgence? When we see once-starved godmothers bestowing over-abundance upon young people, does identifying with illuminating consciousness reveal oneness or variations? How does this set us free?”
What questions arise when I focus on the “miracles” as an object of Vedanta meditation?
A con man named Blacaman takes on an apprentice. He is cruel to the boy, and this cruelty somehow makes the boy into a great miracle worker. The boy can heal the sick. He can bring back the dead, but he doesn’t like to do that because the dead prefer their eternal rest. The boy helps the con man restore his wealth and reputation. However, when Blacaman dies, the boy does bring his mentor back from the dead and leaves him living in a tomb as a way to take revenge for all the tricks and deceptions he played on people who were willing to buy his snake venom antidotes. Ultimately, this whole story is a trick of the author’s genius to try to fool death with narrative.
Meditating on miracles, a Jnana yogi might ask, “If a con man stands before me, charming me, trying to convince me that his product can solve all my problems, and then I just close my eyes for a moment and mentally remember Aham Brahmasmi, will that be enough to ensure I am never deceived? Hey, con artist, aren’t my problems also Brahma? Why does it too often seem the only immortal thing is the con in infinite forms?”
What questions arise when I focus on the “faded women” as an object of Vedanta meditation?
A young woman, Lindsay, worked at a dress shop in a mall. Her boss liked her. Her co-worker had a bad attitude. Young men working in the photography studio taunted her. The dresses sold well, but something was strange about them. The news of the day reported a strange phenomenon. Women were fading away. No one really knew how it happened or what fading meant. First, the women couldn’t pay their rents. In one case, some heartless landlord captured on video a woman in her vulnerable, early stages, of her fading state, and the video went viral. Nothing could explain this phenomenon of women fading. Then Lindsay met Petra, whose mother was the dress shop’s seamstress. Petra showed Lindsay where the dresses were made and stored, a place where the faded women liked to hang out. The faded women liked to be sewn into the dresses. No one knew why or how to stop it. Lindsay and Petra began a love affair that ended when one of them fades. The news eventually started to report stories about faded women connected to terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, Lindsay grieved her lost love and wanted only to free faded women from being sewn into formal dresses. But even after all the dresses were destroy, the faded women stayed in the dress shop. They didn’t move.
Meditating on faded women, a Jnana yogi might ask, “When we see the gross realm of physical reality as the ever-changing mirage, and we see the subtle realm of Being, Consciousness, and Bliss as unchanging truth, doesn’t fading become a superpower?”
What questions arise when I focus on “the hunger artist” as an object of Vedanta meditation?
A man in a cage makes a spectacle of his ability to go 40 days without food. Crowds of onlookers respond in various ways from admiration to scorn. Some suspect he may be sneaking food. Women wish to be the ones to help him out of the cage to walk to his first meal to break the fast. The impresario advertises and dramatizes the spectacle. Inevitably, over time, crowds lose interest. As the hunger art goes out of style, the artist can find no other way to be. He joins a circus where the supervisor places his cage near the menagerie. Crowds pass by with little or no interest. The hunger artist eventually achieves his glory of fasting ceaselessly, but by that time, no one cares. He’s forgotten and casually replaced by a beautiful – and hungry – panther.
Meditating on the hunger artist, a Jnana yogi might ask, “Whose gaze do you perceive to be most real: is it the eyes of others looking at you and reacting to you? Is it the inner eyes of your own mind judging your performances? Or, is it the gaze of the Witness that remains unimpacted by life, remains in continuing Existence, Consciousness, Bliss?”
What question arises when I focus on “Mothers” as an object of Vedanta meditation?
Two women create a baby. One gives birth to her then leaves. The other feels abandoned, unworthy, and left alone to raise the baby. She doesn’t know how. Hell, she doesn’t even know the baby’s name. Then she remembers. She remembers the love the mothers shared, the dreams, the plans, the anger, but not what caused the anger. She remembers, oh, that’s right, the child’s name is Mara. The baby cries for hours. The long breaks of silence between scream sessions seem to promise rest, but she never sleeps again. When the mother closes her eyes for a moment, years pass. She loses count of the split seconds between crying and silence. She and the baby occupy a sacred home that is watched over by 1,000 Brides of Christ who are constantly chanting erotic hymns from the Book of Lilith. After totally botching the lullaby, the mother grows confident: yes, she can raise this baby on her own at the same time she realizes the child is grown and she has been a bad mother.
Reading “Mothers,” a Jnana yogi might ask, “If Space and Time do not belong between the heartbreak that has made you stronger and your Mothers’ Love, why judge yourself as Good or Bad? Also, suppose your mother forgot to teach you how to swim, are you going to judge her for that, or avoid swimming?”
What question arises when I focus on “The Left Hand” as an object of Vedanta meditation?
This story tells of the left hand having a dialogue with the right hand. Well, not a dialogue but an argument. The right hand is feeling defensive because the left hand started the conversation by priding itself on being more refined, slimmer and smoother, than the right hand. Because the right hand does all the work, it makes its own claim to superiority, especially when it comes to playing the piano.
Reading this story as a yogi, I have to admit to growing impatient with this beautifully written creative expression. Though I have been meditating for years, I couldn’t help but get irked; as the argument developed, I wanted to scold those hands and shout shut up, already, and just hold yourselves together in Anjali mudra!
This strange story could make a Jnana yogi ask, “If the right and left hands were sentient beings — independent creatures with minds and hearts of their own — what wisdom would they seek to grasp? What blessings would they confer when placed upon objects with names and forms? Alone with each other, would the hands press together and hold one another in prayer? Or, would they only argue over who is better and who does more work?”
2 of 31 Questions for Reflection. Today’s question is inspired by reading Dṛg Dṛsya Viveka: An Inquiry Into the Seer and the Seen along with reading a short story by Clarice Lispector called “100 Years of Forgiveness.” You can find the text for Dṛg Dṛysya Viveka online as a PDF; also, you can find Lispector’s story translated from Portuguese by Rachel Klein online at “The Paris Review” Issue 199, Winter 2011.
What question arises when I focus on “100 Years of Forgiveness” as an object of Vedanta meditation?
The story is narrated by a young girl who walks the streets of Brazil with her friend. They play a game of claiming which of the wealthiest houses belong to them. One house has a garden of well-trended rose beds, and the narrator is overcome with a desire to possess one of the beautiful roses. She sneaks into the garden, and steals a rose and keeps it and loves it. No one notices. Thus, begins her habit of stealing roses and then she moves on to steal red pitanga berries. Roses and pitanga berries are things of quiet beauty, things that keep hidden; so, no one notices when they are gone. No one notices the joy and pleasure these things give to a young girl. Possessing these things of beauty feels so good, and she never regrets stealing because “a thief of roses and pitangas has 100 years of forgiveness.”
This beautiful story could make a Jnana yogi ask, “Who am I when I am enjoying something that I deem to be beautiful? Who am I when I am reminded that the thing of beauty I behold in adoration is a play of shadow and light that both hides and reveals who I am?