What you cannot find must be found

Have you ever picked up a cable or cord from an electronic device and couldn’t find where it’s plugged in or even what device it came from? It is tangled up in so many other cables and cords that it seems an almost impossible task to untangle it, get behind the desk and then find where it’s actually plugged in! Move even a tiny amount and there are other cables blocking the way. Often times, you might just shrug your shoulders and forget about it. But if it is really important, you will need to sit down and look and sort it out. If your child wants to watch her favorite show and the internet stops working you’ll have to sit down and look. Or you have a term paper or major work project due and the printer isn’t connected. Is the cable I’m looking for even in this mess? Maybe it’s not even here.

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“This is too messy, I’ll just figure it out later…”

This is a bit like attempting to find the root of the mind. Just when you notice that everything is just a thought, a whole group of other thoughts distract you from this seeing. You attempt to look for the mind but you can’t find it. It hides behind so many other thoughts, experiences and temporary states. Yet there is still the feeling of having a mind that often gives you a hard time. Sorting out all of these thoughts, memories and concepts can feel tedious and painful. “This is just too messy,” you might say.

But when you finally get to the point that you absolutely must find out what is happening, something changes. You see that you have to get to the bottom of this. This cannot go on any longer. You slow down and become patient as the task becomes very important. You realize you need all your attention for this task. It’s like the lion on the hunt. Like the person who diffuses a dangerous bomb. Like the tightrope walker. You become totally still and just LOOK. All these thoughts and experiences come back to you. Notice each experience arising. Who is watching? What is the same and what is different? Keep looking and seeing where it comes from, setting aside whatever thoughts arise to interrupt your task. You cannot ignore these thoughts. Similar to sorting the cables, you cannot ignore the tangled cables, you will have to carefully inspect each one using full awareness.

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The mind keeps you identified with the whole mess, but actually it is just a bunch of separate strings that happen to be bundled together.

When a thought arises, something catches hold of it and claims it. Keep going, keep going, keep tracing back every single thought to its source. Follow the trail. Don’t lose the scent. See where it goes.

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The tree branch is like an experience or thought. The monkey is the I-thought, the root of the mind. Catch him when he tries to grab the next experience! Catch him in the act or he will hide in those branches again.

Don’t sleep! LOOK. Suddenly, you catch it. I had this experience, I had this thought. This feeling I is arising in you as well. It is not the real you. Now the real lion, Awareness, is on the hunt and has identified the prey. Now it is only a matter of time until everything gets sorted out. The mind is becoming clear and transparent. The cables are getting untangled and loosening up.

At last you find the main cable and strip away all the other cables. You go to plug it in and realize that it’s already plugged in! It always was. This is like exposing the I-thought and watching it dissolve in the Self, or pure Awareness with nothing to cling to. Similarly, you already are free and always were. Awareness has always been free. But you had to sort everything out to see it.

Now you feel it.


Download Prasant’s meditation music and visit his YouTube Channel.

This a response to the wordpress prompt: Elusive

Does it take time to be who you are?

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The human body plays on the stage of time and space.
Your real nature, the source, is beyond all notions of time and space.

In the morning, the mind arises and creates the sense of time.
In deep sleep there is no time, no space and no world.

Thoughts about the past and future solidify a sense of time.
The infinite now is beyond past, present and future and free of time.

When the mind wants something, even 24 hours a day is not enough.
Dissolved in its source, that which is eternal enjoys Itself before time was created.

The human being has evolved over a long time.
Unblemished Being simply IS, wanting nothing.

When the suffering of the mind is noticed long enough, you want to be free.
The Infinite Self is already ever free and peaceful.

Sadhana (spiritual practice) to purify the mind takes much time and hard work.
The source of the mind is already the essence of effortless ultimate purity.

As sadhana matures, the fortress the mind has built comes crashing down.
The unlimited Self is the very dust that made the bricks and the ground on which it falls.

Repeated glimpses of your real nature seem to come and go as you mature over time.
You may wish this process went faster.
The Eternal Witness looks on with compassionate pristine impartiality. It alone is responsible for the glimpses and the ability to practice.

Many, many experiences of all kinds come and go as Silence deepens, effortlessly.
Imperturbable Presence remains as it always was, perfect.

When you see that time arises from the source that is beyond time and they have no conflict whatsoever, then YOU are beyond time.

Relaxing completely and totally into the effortless purity of liberation, all conflicts are resolved and life carries on without a hitch.


This post is in response to the wordpress daily prompt: Slowly

Visit Prasant’s Youtube Channel for music. You can download his albums too, some are free.

 

Who has all these worries?

 

Looking around today, it is easy to be swept up in a whirlwind of worries and problems happening in the world.  On top of this, there is the day to day matter of completing your work and taking care of your needs and that of your family, or if you are a student, getting into the best school or doing well on your exams.

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What am I going to do? What are WE going to do??

Many of us want to be free of this. We want to be peaceful and happy. Naturally, if you are to do your work and possibly help others, it would not help to be overwhelmed by the problems of your life and the world. Some feel they must maintain some level of stability and peace to fend off stress and get their work done. This is difficult to do and you may become frustrated. The alternative of being angry at the world and pointing out everyone’s mistakes doesn’t always work either. It is equally frustrating.

The direct way is to look and see: who has all these worries and problems? Examine even one thought, emotion or situation and you will see that it is you that is experiencing it. Even the you that is trying to maintain a peaceful, calm state is the same you. This you is not the real you, but the mind.

In simply seeing that, the part of you that was not visible to you before, that is already always free, peaceful and happy with no effort comes forward.

That part of you is totally unaffected by whatever the mind interprets and seems to experience. That is free of any worries or cares, buoyant and open, with no reference points of any kind that can be found or measured.

Feeling this, all worries fall away and all doubts fall away. True freedom dawns and you see that what you are doing right now at this very moment is perfectly ok. It is just as it is. You can relax and be yourself.

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The clear sky doesn’t mind a few clouds and birds. It’s still the sky.

You see that everything is already taken care of and there are no worries. There are no problems. There is peace. Now you can do your work again, in peace. And if you like, you can help others more than you ever thought possible.


This post is in response to the wordpress daily prompt: Carefree

Send all your desires back to their source to taste real peace

The appearance of the world and the universe provide endless things and experiences to enjoy and chase. The next delicious meal, the next tech gadget, the next movie, the next website, the next relationship, a great career move, the next house, car, book, so on and so forth. The kind of immersive entertainment available for the senses is only becoming more and more astounding.

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Plenty of things to chase after, but there may be a cost…your peace! 😉

These are all natural things, not a problem. It is all part of the Infinite play, the Infinite Self, the universal dance. But when this infinity feels limited to a mind and body and then identifying with this limitation, chases after separate objects in the world for happiness, it creates a problem.

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Are you the infinite ocean or the just the wave?

It is a problem because in order to do this, you have to leave your undivided pure perfection as Infinite Being to arise as the mind within the appearance of the body. This creates separation. Once there is separation, there is suffering. Once there is suffering you attempt to remedy it with an object and the cycle continues on and on. It imprisons you.

Rather than you enjoying the food, the foods eats you. Instead of possessing beautiful things, those things possess you.

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Very enticing, but what IS it really?

The mind is always on the hunt in an illusory world of its own making for the next hit. The next rush. Of course, once a desire is fulfilled, it only brings temporary happiness because both the mind and the object rest for a moment and enjoy their Source. But the mind does not want you to know that. It will immediately rise again to seek another object once the previous one seems insufficient. The objects become more and more complex, more grand and seem to never end. More often than not, the intense desire for objects and experiences ends up causing more harm than good.

The mind also has this habit because it does not want you to be HERE and NOW. If you did stay HERE and NOW, then you will know what it is up to. You will discover and liberate all the hidden thoughts and concepts you have that it does not want you to see and examine. It is too embarrassed of them and would rather keep them in the dark.

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Don’t look in here, it’s dark and scary. Too dangerous. It’s also embarrassing…says the mind.

How then do you reverse the process and discover lasting happiness and peace? See that all the thoughts and desires are only arising in you and appearing to you. Inquire into the source of each and every desire, especially when you see its pattern. You will have to see that nothing in this world will give you lasting peace, happiness and freedom. Only your own Self, your very own Being can give you that, because you are That.

When you trace the experience of the object back to its Source in pure awareness then it is no longer another thing or experience. It dissolves in being. The illusory string of attachment is cut. Even doing this one time is extremely powerful and liberating. You will taste peace uncaused by any experience or thing. After all, in deep sleep you are perfectly peaceful and happy without any objects at all.

Having done this the mind will kick and scream, but with practice it will slowly relax and breathe. This present moment becomes quite inviting with its peace, rest and contentment. Then, all the hidden content comes to light and dissolves as you continue to stay right here, without the slightest need to leave THIS.

Now you have the entire kingdom and you are free of it all. You can have all the riches, cars, houses, food or not and it wont make any difference. All experiences purified and completely liberated, you enjoy your Self as your Self.

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Free to be, just to be yourself. Like the sky or the ocean.

This post is a response to the daily wordpress prompt: Feast

When you discover what the mind really is…

Do you remember the popular story and movie, the Wizard of Oz? The Great Oz was mysterious, appeared to have great power and was quite feared. When Dorothy and her crew went to visit the wizard after a long journey, he greeted them with a scary introduction.

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The Wizard of Oz tries to intimidate any visitors

Such a frightening display would certainly scare away most people who would dare approach such a mighty figure….right? Well, later in the movie, you find out that the wizard is just a little old man with no special powers and no ability to really hurt anyone. He turns out to be just like anyone else. He is quite a talker and a wonderful entertainer but doesn’t have any real power.

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Turns out, there’s nothing to fear…

So it is with the mind. Left unexamined and unchallenged, the I-thought, the ego, the part of the mind that attaches itself to every experience and co-opts it for its own agenda, pretends to rule the kingdom. It has done this for a long time. It has done it for so long, it doesn’t even remember when it took up the job of running the world. So, naturally if you attempt to find it or examine it or find out what it really is, it will try to throw you off the investigation by putting up a big show of smoke and mirrors. “Stop! Do not enter! (Insert painful memory) Nothing to see here…hey, I think Netflix has something new on today…remember the time when…?”

All that illusory fear and power that the mind concocts can seem scary, after all, the entire universe is its canvas. It paints its picture directly over your real experience and does it fast.

But awareness is infinitely faster. Being beyond time and space it wont be long before you see what the mind is up to and what it really is. Of course, you have to look. You notice its every move. As you get to the bottom of the mind’s bag of tricks, you just find a frail, wimpy little guy who actually doesn’t even know why he’s there. It’s just another thought. He has no power whatsoever and never did. It was all part of his little game. But now his game is over. Then even if you see a smoke and mirrors display again, you will just laugh.

And that laugh never ends.


This is a response to the WordPress daily prompt: Frail

That which you are is Unknown

Do you ever make plans? Do you ever make plans and find out they didn’t turn out the way you had planned? Perhaps things didn’t turn out the way you wanted. Months, perhaps years of planning go into a project or an idea or maybe even a career. Maybe you have planned your entire life out. Somehow things don’t click. All the data analysis, all the advisors, all the thought leaders and think tanks…all the research and all the investment. Years of investment. Yet somehow, circumstances turn in a direction no one could have predicted. In your mind it appeared one way, but now it’s different.

This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, of course. You could be walking down the street and out of the blue you see your best friend from 35 years ago. You lost touch with this person, but here they are! You didn’t get that job you wanted, but somehow you end up at another job, and it’s even better than you expected. You search for a home to move into for over a year, and finally you give up and end up getting the next house. After an exhausting day in the heat, when you are just about to drop to the ground, someone hands you a cool drink and it’s the best glass of water you have ever had. And of course, yes, many times people make plans and they do go off smoothly. Nothing wrong with planning.

Of course, if you are honest and look at your experience and what you have experienced, you will agree that it is impossible to predict exactly what will happen. No one knows. Look and see for yourself. Even the great prophets and sages do not know. The astrologers don’t know. Keep in mind, I am not discrediting them. Predictions can be made and they may very well come true. It has definitely happened and many live by such predictions. But at the root of what is really happening, the fundamental truth remains.

This need to know what will happen only comes from identification with the thinking mind. This addiction of needing to know the result of what will happen indeed causes unnecessary suffering. The thinking mind is always somewhere else. It is never HERE. It is never NOW. Therefore, it is already too late. Whenever something good happens spontaneously, it is not thanks to the mind. The mind is already late to the party. It is like the sports commentators at a big game. All it can do is say GOAL! That’s about it. It will, of course, be glad to take credit for whatever has already happened.

For example, no one knows whether the next breath will come. Sure, you can say according to the latest medical research, or other external sources, it is likely that…but in truth, if you look and see with clarity, it is obvious that you do not know that you will have the next breath.

Take a moment to contemplate this deeply by observing the in an out breaths with awareness. Leaving aside all ideas of what might happen in the future as a fool’s errand, stay here right now, with the breath. Just be with the breath and enjoy its soothing, intoxicating movement and pulsation. A large chunk of your fears, worries, doubts and past pain is literally falling away with each breath. The breath is sweeping the floor of the mind. It is clearing the way. There is no failure. There is nothing wrong. Clarity is arising.

In this stillness, you can see how all thoughts and experiences come later. YOU were here first and you still are. You always will be. The mind can only pretend to obscure. But your real nature is the source of everything you experience and think. Sink into that Source and feel a profound rest. There is nothing to find. Anything that can be found is only passing phenomena. It is fodder for the mind. It is a passing experience. The mind wants to know. But you are Unknown.

Having felt and clearly seen this, anything is possible. You can plan or not plan, predict or not predict. It no longer matters. This here now has everything you will ever need. And you can make to-do lists and you can research and you can consult astrologers again. If things work out or they don’t, it no longer matters. Everything is already worked out.

This is peace.


This post is a response to the WordPress daily prompt: Unpredictable

Awakening from the dream of suffering

What is the first thing most people do when they find themselves in a nightmare while dreaming at night? Most people I know would become aware, conscious, and then try to wake themselves up out of the dream and into the waking state. During the dream it feels like that existence is real, but the dreamer becomes aware in the dream and realizes that she must wake up if she is to be free of this intense situation. It becomes extremely urgent during the case of a nightmare.

Everyone has experienced a nightmare at one time or another. Some are worse than others. What makes the nightmare so difficult? It is usually the feeling of intense fear and desperation. Where does that feeling come from? It is the feeling that the situation in the dream has reality. Of course, it does not even though it feels real. Sometimes you become lucid or aware in a dream. When that happens, the intensity of it changes and there is a steadiness, a subtle knowing that this will be over and it is only a dream. This awareness is of the utmost value and power. This awareness is an impartial seeing. It allows you to wake up.

The real nightmare, the real dream is the identification with the mind. In the dream state, your awareness gives rise to all the characters and locations in the dreamworld. In the waking state, it is no different, though it is longer and tends to feel more solid. Check for yourself and see. People routinely experience nightmare and dream-like experiences in the waking state as well. In fact, when these kinds of things happen, many often report that it “was like a dream” or it “was surreal.” Just like the dream state, the main suffering arises from the feeling that what is happening has reality apart from awareness. In a sense, it is not the pain itself that is the problem. There are many people who go through extremely difficult experiences and pain with a laugh. What really is it then? The suffering itself arises largely from a sense of confusion as to what is happening.

Here is an example: Suppose your house is going to be demolished. Due to some financial calamity you know it needs to take place. You have another house ready and your things are moved in. It is sad but there is no other option. On the scheduled day, the demolition company arrives, you sign the papers and stand aside while the team demolishes the house. Then you go to your other, smaller house and eat lunch. How much suffering? Likely little to none. In the second scenario, you wake up in the morning a little groggy and hobble down the stairs to make some coffee. Before you know it, crash! a giant wrecking ball crashes through the living room smashing all the furniture and sends shrapnel everywhere. The house alarm goes off and all the neighborhood dogs start barking. You spill hot water all over your pants. You rush outside and are shocked to find that there is a demolition team destroying your house due to some financial problem. Nobody told you about this. How much suffering in this scenario? Much more. It’s largely due to the surprise and sudden confusion of what’s happening.

Where does confusion about what is happening arise from? It comes from confusion and doubt about your real nature or who you really are. This confusion gives rise to more confusion as you identify with your limited dream body and its exploits as it interacts with the other pretend dream bodies. The way out is similar to what you would do in a dream. Of course, you will probably want to wake up. If you are having a really great dream, you may not want to wake up. Perhaps you’re eating a delicious ice cream or meal (the Matrix, anyone?), or boating on a beautiful river, or you are President of the United States (dream or nightmare, I’m not sure… ;). In this waking state you may be very successful and have a wonderful life. But experiences keep changing, just like in a dream. A turning point comes when you realize that you are suffering. You have an experience of suffering in some form. If not fear, perhaps a lack of some kind. Well, now you feel — “get me out of here!” Ok. What do you do? For example in a dream: inquire, who is having this dream? Of course, “I” am having the dream. Everything in the dream arises in my awareness. There are no other real people in my dream separate from me. Similarly, in the waking state everything arises in your awareness. Remember, you want to wake up!

Now inquire upon waking up in the morning and all day, the very same thing. Who is having this experience? Who am I? Who is having these thoughts and emotions? Don’t think but inquire with an aim to turn awareness back on itself. Sink into the space. Keep bringing all experiences (thoughts, emotions, sensations, perceptions, concepts) back to the feeling “I” again and again. The pure, colorless, imperturbable, impenetrable, clear, free, radiant, eternal awareness, Silence itself will come forward and introduce itself. It was there all along. Slowly, but surely you become aware and awake! The limited feeling “I” dissolves into this limitless awareness that is the Source of the waking, dream and deep sleep states.  This is self inquiry. This is awakening. This is the end of suffering. This is enlightenment. This is Self Realization. This is God. This is the Unknown. This is perfect peace. This is total rest. Now you see life as it is. Now you see Reality. Now you are Reality. Now you can have a nightmare and it wont matter. All doubts are gone. Now you are free.


This post is in response to the wordpress one-word prompt: Nightmare.

Remembering Sri T.R. Subramaniam (TRS)

T.R. Subramaniam, a rare vocalist, musicologist and teacher passed away in Chennai on October 4, 2013. See article at The Hindu.

TRS in Concert

TRS in Concert

I am extremely lucky to have known Sri T.R. Subramaniam or TRS as he was called. I came under his tutelage while on a Senior fellowship in Chennai with AIIS in 2004-05 and continued to study with him whenever I had a chance during my subsequent visits to Chennai.

I can only agree with all the of positive things said about TRS already. He was an incredibly warm and welcoming person. To say he was supportive and encouraging is an understatement. I have seen the incredible patience and precision he had teaching me as well as many other students. Many have observed his almost daily attendance at concerts by artists young and old even up to his last days. As a musician he was unique and a force to be reckoned with. When I began learning with him another mentor musician gave me some old recordings of TRS from the early 70’s with masters like T. Rukmini, Karaikudi Mani, TVG, Upendran etc. The concerts were amazing and at the time I had never heard anything like it before. There was a palpable electricity and energy along with the technical mastery. Surprisingly many people haven’t really heard him at his peak.

My very first class he asked me to play Kharaharapriya (Ganapatiye – Papanasam Sivan) and immediately pointed out various subtle but important ways to improve it. During that period I was working on delving deeper into possible approaches to further creating gamaka on saxophone and was interested in exploring ragas that were typically considered impossible on my instrument. I’m still working on that one. TRS encouraged it by patiently sitting with me on such ragas as well as teaching me compositions that he felt would sound especially good on my instrument. He further opened up many areas of exploration for me such as his signature pallavis and ways of improvising in various nadais or pulses per beat. He would show me his unique rhythmic neraval variations in pallavis and say with a mischievous smile “this is intelligent neraval.” He would always say that you should be ready to perform any pallavi in any raga. I found that in many classes I was quite simply surprised at the sheer depth and breadth of his knowledge. You could ask him about literally any song and he would immediately be able to go into fine detail on the music, sahityam and its intricate meaning. He told me that he got such a strong grasp of Telegu through sheer hard work after realizing that he was unsatisfied singing Thyagaraja krithis without it. Many say that his approach is purely scholarly. I have seen articles that blatantly say TRS is just a technician. I don’t agree. I felt a deep reverence emanating from the master when he would speak of the great composers that went far beyond the technical.

His pallavis were so unique that they had a TRS stamp. When I had a concert in Mysore, I showed the violinist Sri H.K Narasimhamurthy the pallavi and to my surprise he immediately said, “this must definitely be a TRS pallavi.” The giant he was in the pallavi category, he still encouraged beginners like me. I had an album called “East Facing” in 2007 for which I composed a simple pallavi in Lathangi. But I was not so good with composing lyrics so I asked TRS about it. He immediately composed a line of sahityam on Lord Muruga in Tamil. Then he exclaimed “I like this pallavi very much, very good! I will teach this to all the students and popularize it as Prasant pallavi!” He showed me that is possible for a teacher to be completely encouraging, gentle and fun with the student while still firmly conveying the precise information and dedication needed to approach Carnatic sangeetham.

His caring demeanor did not end only with teaching music. He would not allow me to leave if it was near lunch time and would make sure that I had eaten. If we happened to be in the same concert anywhere or if I had to take a class from him in a different location he would always make sure I had a ride and often would pick me up or drop me off, regardless of the time or the traffic conditions.

He went further and often organized concerts for me while I was in Chennai, completely unasked. One special concert in fall of 2004 with M.S. Anantharaman on violin, Guruvayur Dorai on mridangam and V. Suresh on Ghatam at Shastri Hall was also spearheaded by TRS. He attended all of these concerts and would always have helpful and encouraging words to say afterwards.

TRS after a concert he put together

TRS after a concert he put together, 2004.

My only regret is that as I was not in India full-time after early 2005, I could not see him as frequently and learn from him. I will really miss his disarming humor too. The music community is indebted to him for his numerous and special contributions.

Prasant with TRS

Prasant with T.R. Subramaniam at his home in early 2005.

Kadri sir and Prasant performing together in 2004

Happy Vijayadasami: Padmashri Dr. Kadri Gopalnath and T.R.S.

Wishing all teachers, Gurus and all of you a Happy Vijayadasami.

The elements of the word Guru (gu and ru) mean to bring the disciple from darkness to light. In music, I was lucky to have met my Guru Sri Kadri Gopalnath in 1995 who did this for me. I began summer gurukula study under him in 1996. I cannot put into words all the learning experiences and memories I have from studying with him, living with him and during our travels all around India together. My most intensive time studying under him also happened to be during my very formative teenage years. So for this great teacher, my pranams and thanks.

I also offer my gratitude to Sri T.R. Subramaniam (affectionately known as TRS). I began further studies with him in 2004 during my extended time in India. I think it would be difficult for anyone to learn everything he knows! His energy and encyclopedic knowledge is of a high order but it is clothed in a very welcoming, loving demeanor. He is a rare person.

Of course there are so many other people who have stepped in to guide me and I thank them all for being in my life.

My spiritual Guru Poojya Swamiji Iswarananda Giriji is an immeasurably large one but that may be a subject of another post as this one is music-focused.

Happy Vijayadasami!