Sunday, December 7, 2008

Volume 2 Issue 1 December 2008


Expressions true to page,
Lines favorable to form.
This is so.
We'll just throw it in there,
A leap of faith.
Our opinions
Hold open truth.
How did you make?
We tested the line it said.
We grappled with our own whereabouts
Where sadhana opened doors.
We trialed our error
Inwardly expressed.
A wrong movement finds right measure.
This is the story arm
Of The Chipmunk Press.
It has other lookouts.
Look,
Read inside.

(our cover photo this month comes from http://flickr.com/photos/58301808@N00)

Friday, December 5, 2008

From First, From Within
A column dedicat
ed to exploring the role of dreams, voices, and visions in the integral yoga.

By Douglas McElheny

I must confess that there are many dreams whose significance completely eludes me, and it is tempting to wish petulantly that the unconscious would often have the decency to speak to us in a clearer language. However, on those occasions
when we succeed in making the translation, the message always seems to be one designed to nurture our spiritual growth.1
M. Scott Peck

With this idea in mind, let’s take a look at our first dream which features two characters from the japanese cartoon series Dragonball. They are Master Roshi and Oolong.

As the observer I can see Master Roshi, Oolong, and a few other characters standing on the ground. Up above them high in the sky is Kami’s Lookout which is a floating palace. There is a ladder that comes all the way down to the ground from the Lookout. Master Roshi and Oolong start climbing up the ladder. The other characters follow them.

Then I find myself up on Kami’s Lookout and I see Master Roshi, Oolong, and the others reaching the top. They have however transformed into these rather cute and harmless looking creatures one of which is very cat like.2

Even though this dream is short, it’s chock-full of interesting content. Before I get into it though, I need to talk a bit about the circumstances surrounding it.

The day before I had the dream I had indulged the lower vital by viewing some internet porn and putting to the test Whitney Houston’s assertion that learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all. Afterwards, I could feel quite concretely how I had lowered my consciousness by this action. I wasn’t angry or disgusted with myself, but I realized that it had been quite unnecessary. As a result there arose in me a firm resolve not to repeat this sort of thing, and I went to bed that night still feeling that resolve.


I guess the seed of that resolution must have germinated during the night because the next morning I woke up with a fire in the vital the likes of which I had never experienced before. It was a good fire though, a strong and ardent aspiration to leave all my little insect joys behind. I could see this movement reflected in the dream, but I didn’t examine it too deeply. Instead, I began my regular Monday morning ritual which includes drawing a few cards from The Eternity Game3 in order to get a reading on the coming week. One of the cards I drew that morning was Sage, whose recommended course of action is Renunciation. Remembering the dream I clearly saw the connection between the card and Master Roshi who is a bearded old man and who very much looks the part of the Sage. Having that kind of synchronicity made me realize that what I was experiencing was more than just a whim of the vital. I could see that the archetype4 represented by this card was active in me at that moment. As the day wore on I could even feel the action of the archetype as a sort of background force that was infusing the being with this drive for renunciation. When I went to bed that night I could still feel that force.



But when I awoke the next morning, the force was no longer perceptible and the vital had lost a fair amount of the previous day’s vigor. There was still a strong will though to carry on with the higher level of renunciation, so continue I did. Now however, it was more of a battle, but during the day I would remember the dream as well as the Sage card to help me overcome temptation. In the process more of the dream’s meaning became clear.

In a nutshell, it shows the process of the previous day, how this force took hold of the different parts of myself and drove them to aspire for something higher. This upward climb is led by Master Roshi, the Sage. Oolong is a humanoid pig, and he is also a pervert whose favorite hobby is collecting women’s underwear. He is thus a fitting symbol for things like the lower vital or the sex impulse etc. The thing is though, Master Roshi himself, while he is very much the wise old man, is also very much a dirty old man. So to me it appears that, in addition to the Sage archetype, he also shows a dichotomy in me between my sage-like inclinations and my dirty old man inclinations.


It is also quite relevant for me to point out that Oolong is a shapeshifter and can assume any form he likes, but only for five minutes at a time. I find this fact to be applicable to my vital in an allegorical sort of way. My vital too is capable of ‘shapeshifting’ from its normal disposition towards the life of senses to an aspiration for the divine life, but only for short periods of time. We see this happen in the dream when not just Oolong but all the other characters as well go through a transformation before reaching the top of Kami’s Lookout.

The other characters in the dream (as they appeared both on the ground and on Kami’s Lookout) are too indistinct for me to say much about them. All I can say with any surety is that they must represent other parts of myself. Kami’s Lookout on the other hand is a very rich and potent dream symbol and bears some discussion. On Dragonball, Kami’s Lookout is the palace where the current guardian of the earth resides and the station from which he observes events occurring on the planet. In my dream it is almost certainly a symbol for a higher level of consciousness and perhaps (since it overlooks the earth) for Overmind itself.


Now I of course didn’t ascend into any sort of higher consciousness on the previous day, so it appears to me that what the dream is showing is that a connection was made between the higher consciousness and the outer consciousness. I do think however that its not completely out of the realm of possibility that the dream also corresponds to an inner event that happened that night while I was sleeping. Perhaps my inner consciousness actually rose up to one of the overhead planes, and the effects of that uplifting spilled over into the waking life the next day. I recently came across a quote from the Mother where she talks about how events during sleep do indeed affect our waking consciousness. She tells us:

First become conscious–conscious of your dreams. Observe the relation between them and the happenings of your waking hours. If you remember your night, you will be able to trace back very often the condition of your day to the condition of your night. In sleep some action or other is always going on in your mental or vital or other plane; things happen there and they govern your waking consciousness.5

That’s all I have to say about that dream so let’s continue with our story. As the week wore on I continued to be vigilant with my renunciation. The two problem areas I was giving the most attention to were the sex impulse (in all its varying manifestations) and wasting time surfing the internet.6 I found however that the strength of my resolve would waver and I would allow myself little indulgences such as a sexual fantasy here, five minutes of compulsive surfing there, etc. When Monday came around again I played The Eternity Game and once again drew the Sage card.7 This gave me renewed vigor so I carried on with the renunciation, but it continued to be punctuated by bite-sized moments of vital gratification. Then I had this dream.

I am walking down a long dirt road through very arid countryside. I know that there is a large man-eating fish with big teeth that is following me. He’s far enough away though that I can’t see him. I am passing by a nice middle class looking home, and I know that there are other such homes spaced out along the road even though no others are visible at that moment. This house has a small goldfish pond in its front lawn, and I realize that the man-eating fish will be able to rejuvenate itself by sitting in the water for a while and will then continue to pursue me. I know that walking through the desert weakens the fish, but I can see that he will refresh himself at each house along the way and continue to follow me.

In this dream we find a very clear and straightforward lesson. I am walking through the desert of renunciation and am being followed by a man-eating fish which represents a vital movement or in this case I think a combination of them. The houses along the way with their ponds are the little ‘oasis’ I was giving to the vital movements which gave them strength and allowed them to continue to seek expression. Now there is of course nothing astonishing about the knowledge this dream gives. In fact it is quite self-evident. The thing is though we’re quite dense creatures, and it seems we have to have even the simplest things pointed out to us again and again and again before we finally learn our lesson.

Anyway, I don’t remember exactly when or how it happened, but eventually my drive for renunciation petered out. Regardless of that I can see that some fundamental progress has been made as a result of this process. The fact is I still haven’t completely learned my lesson and I continue to provide little oasis’ for the lower vital movements. But thanks to the second dream I have crossed what you might call a knowledge threshold, one I can’t seem to cross back over. I see more clearly now what it is that I am doing and the adverse affects of it, and I can’t lie to myself or deceive myself about it the way I could before the dream. The Mother talks about how dreams can help us in this way. She tells us:


It happens that when you need to dream of something, so that it may enlighten you on a point of your nature, give you an indication about the effort you must make, it comes.

It depends perhaps on a consciousness that watches over everyone; and provided one is just a little open, it can guide him and give sure indications.8

So the end result is that I can’t give these movements quite as much play as I did before. So I can see that I have taken a step, however small, in the direction of a full renunciation.
***
Our last dream for this month is quite noteworthy because it also involves a line I got from the inner voice which reveals the meaning of one of the dream’s symbols. Here it is:

I am in the family room of Tom’s9 house. We’re talking about video games, and I’m telling him about how I’ve been putting together a nice collection of all the old video games we used to play as teenagers. Then we start playing a game ourselves, but it is a very simple board game. On my third turn I roll three sevens for a total of twenty-one. This is the exact number I need to get to the end of the game, so I am the winner.

After I awoke from this dream I passed back into a light trance and I heard the inner voice say

Inadequacy is one partner in crime.

Like many people from my past, Tom has been popping up in my dreams for years but I had never been able to figure out what he might represent. But after hearing the line a light suddenly turned on. “Inadequacy! Yes of course! That’s what Tom means. He’s a symbol for my feelings of inadequacy.”

Tom had an older brother named Bob. Now Bob was the kind of son most parents dream of. He was at the top of his class scholastically, and he was very talented in a number of areas including theatre, music, dance, and journalism. Tom on the other hand (though he was popular and well liked) got average grades, wasn’t involved much in extracurricular activities, and didn’t seem to have much ambition. Though Tom and I never spoke about it, its hard to imagine that he wouldn’t have feelings of inadequacy under such circumstances. In fact, I once heard my mother telling someone that it must be hard for Tom having Bob as a brother. It must be admitted however that only Tom himself could confirm whether or not he did indeed have those feelings.


Looking at my life in light of the dream I could see that under the surface there were indeed feelings of inadequacy that were bothering the vital. Knowing this I was able to address the presence of those feelings and to clear them out. The line I received does suggest that there were other things going on, that there were other partners in crime, but I was unable to figure out what they might have been. I guess they will remain a mystery for the moment.

Now there are two other interesting things worth discussing in this dream. The first is the game I am playing with Tom. I imagine that there could be numerous levels of significance in this, but perhaps on the waking level it previses the victory I had over this part of myself during the day. And of course its quite interesting that the victory came on my third turn when I rolled a triple seven. Intrigued by this I decided to do some research on the numbers three and seven. The only thing I could find that either Sri Aurobindo or the Mother said about it is that “seven is realization.”10 But I also did some googling to see what I could find on the subject. Most of what I found was hogwash, but I did find one interesting entry on Wikipedia called Numbers in Egyptian Mythology. According to the entry “the number seven was apparently the Egyptian symbol of such ideas as perfection, effectiveness, and completeness.”11 I also found another entry entitled Numerology which has a section on the numerology of the Bible. It states that seven “is taken to mean spiritual perfection”12 and that “three is symbolic of completeness or divine perfection.”13 I have to admit I’m not quite sure how to apply these ideas to the dream, but it’s obvious some quite powerful forces were at work. The sort of forces perhaps that help one reach realization and spiritual perfection. I’m afraid I’m not qualified or comfortable to say more so I will leave this as food for thought for the reader.

Moving on, the second and final thing I would like to discuss about this dream is my conversation with Tom about my video game collection. At the time of the dream I actually was putting together a collection of old sega and nintendo games that I was downloading from the internet for children to play. A number of them were games I used to play after school with Tom, who lived just two houses down the street. Now over the years I’ve come to suspect that dreams often show inner communications and inner meetings with people from our past with whom we still have a relationship on some other plane. In the Letters on Yoga Sri Aurobindo indicates that this is indeed the case. He tells us:


These dreams are not all mere dreams, all have not a casual, incoherent or subconscious building. Many are records or transcripts of experiences on the vital plane into which one enters in sleep, some are scenes or events of the subtle physical plane. There one often undergoes happenings or carries on actions that resemble those of the physical life with the same surroundings and the same people, though usually there is in arrangement and feature some or a considerable difference. But it may also be a contact with other surroundings and with other people, not known in the physical life or not belonging at all to the physical world.14

It strikes me as quite possible that on some level (most likely the vital) I told Tom what I was doing. My vital was quite excited about amassing all my favorite video games from my teenage years, and it makes sense that it would want to communicate that to one of its old video game buddies when it was free to roam on the vital plane. So this dream might be a transcript of this inner communication as well as symbolic in terms of my own psychological processes. Here again it is impossible to know for sure given the limitations of the author, but I felt it was important to address this possibility as well as other possibilities I have addressed throughout this article. Which brings me to my final point.

As long as you’re kicking around in normal human consciousness you’re going to have to deal with dreams on the level of possibilities to some extent. Given that I don’t feel it’s inappropriate to address possibilities, as long as it is done with a grain of salt and within the parameters of what has been been said by those with true authority such as Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. If we do things in this way we can only benefit because it will serve to widen our outlook not only on the multifaceted nature of dreams, but also on the multifaceted and multileveled nature of our life and being. This is perhaps the most important benefit we reap from getting to know our dreams. They (as well as things like the inner voice and synchronicity) help us to see again and again that we aren’t just this surface self and that our life extends well beyond the confines of waking events. They help us to see that there really is a Consciousness, an Intelligence orchestrating everything that happens ,even down to the smallest detail. And they help us to see these things in a way that is concrete and living and not just something we read in a book. And this is of course useful because it (along with many other factors) helps us to slowly disidentify with this surface self until we reach that critical point where we can break through into another consciousness.15


Well I think that’s a good place to stop. See you next time here at From First, From Within!


Notes and References
1. M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled, Simon and Schuster, New York, New York, 1978, p. 244-245.
2. For those who know Dragonball let me say that this cat-like creature looked nothing like Puar nor did I have the sense that that’s who he was.
3. For more on The Eternity Game please see the May 2008 issue of The Chipmunk Press.
4. For more on archetypes please see the August 2007 and October 2008 issues of The Chipmunk Press.
5. The Mother, Questions and Answers 1929-1931, Collected Works of the Mother Volume 3 Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1977, p.14-15.
6. The inner voice gave me a little encouragement in this direction with a very simple line: Browser out.
7. If you consider the fact that the game has 64 cards you’d have to agree that this is quite a synchronicity.
8. The Mother, Questions and Answers 1955, Collected Works of the Mother Volume 7, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1977, p.119-120.
9. Tom was a friend of mine from eighth to twelfth grade.
10. The Mother, Mother’s Agenda Volume 7, Institute for Evolutionary Research, New York, 1981, November 9, 1966.
11. Numbers in Egyptian Mythology, www.wikipedia.org
12. Numerolgy, www.wikipedia.org
13. Ibid.
14. Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga–Part 4, Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library Volume 24, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, p. 1487.
15. The Mother has spoken about this ‘critical point.’ In her words she says “This change of consciousness and its preparation have often been compared with the formation of the chicken in the egg; till the very last second the egg remains the same, there is no change, and it is only when the chicken is completely formed, absolutely alive, that it itself makes with its little beak a hole in the shell and comes out. Something similar takes place at the moment of the change of consciousness. For a long time you have the impression that nothing is happening, that your consciousness is the same as usual, and if you have an intense aspiration, you even feel a resistance, as though you were knocking against a wall which does not yield. But when you are ready within, a last effort–the pecking of the shell of the being–and everything opens and you are projected into another consciousness.” (The Mother, Questions and Answers 1951, Collected Works of the Mother Volume 4, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1972, p.18-19.)


The Flowers Speak!


Extracts taken from the poetry diary
The Strength to Change the Heart,
A Transformational Journal

by Donny Duke

My memory be it, saw itself of it
Expressing world rhyme.
Worshiped face,
It had a limiting figure.
Infinity held an open view.
It labored beneath that
A sumless total.
That held all things,
Yet closer to me than Nature's touch.
Wide burnings moved in me deep
Of this alone unfathomable.
This was no terrible laugh.
It held all movement safe.
A limitless figure,
It looked on me with a smile.
I rejoiced in its solitude
And bore alone its touch.
Great kingdoms came by
Of love's reach,
And I hold all vision one.
This was alone my mind's absolute,
Spirit available,
The business I'm under the stars.
Where did it come from?
The joy of waking worlds it said.
There my pen lay,
The context of a poem.


* * * *

How standardized everything is,
How in sync.
The movement of one tops off another.
A secret unity tops off life.
We live in this world unawares
The village is our lives.
I'd surrender your flag.
I'm a mountain on social concern.
Will happy we flower unity-wise?
We'd throw our money the top ship.
This army hurts.
Before we can come together we have to see who we are.
Is this a pretty mechanism?
In our attachment to world pain,
Feel it?
The bottom dregs is the answer.
Look we must lift up here.
Everybody has a soul to earn,
But that's not our unity point.
A deeper still remains to be seen.
We grow oneness in origin.
The One would answer that clan.
Oneness breathes who we are.
And this connection sticks in the mud.
Oneness would not have us port here.
A simple message:
Oneness our lives in good;
Oneness our lives in bad.
At the top we see the hidden field.
Oneness pervades every base.
We come home this way.
Wide this message to your sleep.
It has this oneness curve.
We'd be alive all that is.
Naturally that just turns us around.
Don't bother your brother.
He's liable to be you.
Breakfast this accord.
It is reality's view.


* * * *

Society’s sea is a living sea.
Society and purpose are one.
Why don’t you meet me?
It’s excellent.
Rhythm,
The water.
The truth about empire:
We received an onvelope.
It had a picture
That mapped the whole world.
Get big as it’s getting bigger.
Alright just count it
Nine and twelve
Making big
Thunder’s reason.
"Excuse me,
Can’t find the dime."
You wanna make sure you’re free to your canvas.
Is the point lost?
A wayward test
Given this now.
Society just loses its aim.
It can’t hold on to the picture.
An animal colony fit to survive
Becomes its guess work.
The rain finally called fertile guidance.
Now I understand
Social disease
Comes from this aimlessness.
We suffer badly.
And great is our confused.
Our religion sums it up,
What you thinking about now
Where purpose can be found –
Individualistic
And a denomination sector.
There is no unity in this accord.
Our purpose lags behind.
We just throw it spears.
Our purpose can be found in a single leaf.
It’s in the design
Of Nature’s arboretum.
"I didn’t know that."
Here we reach human unity
And a deep fellowship with our growing Earth
Because we will be united in purpose.
I hope everything works alright.
It is a natural accord.
"You gonna finish it?"
We have these long pauses.
Who’s to say we’re still at large?
Purpose may be winding up.
It’s as natural as air.
You would divvy it up
In home sectors.
You might find out,
As you view your room
And want something larger to understand,
A whole note.
Keep going.
You have One to understand.
It is a waiting integer.
Milk daddy.
What you do.
You need a face off,
Some hole of confidence test.
It will arrange your room.
You will try to integrate it into your personality.
"I don’t get it."
Get out of my way:
There you think most.
Integration currents
Would you say aloud?
Whatever the problem,
I’ll walk the loop when I close the door.
We can see solution
As the best possible make up
On all sides concerned.
Well I promise to keep up good work.
Will you let it in,
This wholeness measure?
A bomb left.
You just buckle down your fort.
"Damn thing could explode."
Here we find purpose,
But before you
Integrate it
You throw it away.
That and you
Keep a close eye on
Your personal life at stake,
Your ego boundaries.
"Where’s all this leading?"
To a united purpose.
Our problems multiply
As we solve them wrong.
This will bell in our tower eventually.
Now back to square one.
We’ll get our picture taken
(He’s a good actor)
So we don’t look good.
Somebody beautiful
Well have to pass out this message
To get it across.
You don’t listen to wrong man speaks.
Well you should.
They carry what it’s worth.
I don’t have to say
Our purpose.
It’s in your eyes right now.
But let me pull down some trees
To see the forest better.
Yes the vital would have to be dealt with.
Wholeness
Is our waiting regard,
The purpose that society reaches for.
When we are united on this front
Our world will be healed
And our race become divine.
Look inevitable
These things
Whether or not you agree to them.
But of course
Agree now come closer soon.
I give you
My close up point.
Here, integrate it.


* * * *

I've neglected to mention
That we have
One item of sorrow
Be business,
Will be in business.
It's a psychic feeling deep.
The encounter of pain or wrong
Out in the world
We respond to with sorrow.
It's not an affliction
Or a heavy load.
There's a sweetness
As you feel
Sorry for them.
It's lovingkindness
As it leans over pain.
The pain is not your own.
"No matter what happens?"
Yeah but you're not catching.
It's just a slip to come to school.
Did you see this one?
I saw a little bit of it out in the field.
He didn't ask for anything.
I just felt his pain.
That's the commanding presence.
It was ushering both of you towards managing
A better presence on life.
Retrieve this arm.
Don't stick it in the mud,
And don't let it get wet.
It will help us repair the world
In the blossom of time.
Manage Drake.
It's up on that balcony,
All this attitude.
It help you:
There's God.
Let other people get used to it.
This is not encounter wars.
There you are in a room giving off warmth.
You don't have to be demonstrative.
The relationship you're having is an inner turn
As you encounter God out in someone's presence.
This is the secret to all relationship,
And your source of happiness.
You wouldn't need to speak it aloud.
Your eyes glow
A friendship touch.


* * * *

Congenial,
Think it doesn't appear in the dictionary?
It doesn't.
You won't find it in our use.
Congenial,
Right up to the master of the house.
We're at a lose for words.
We can't button its program.
Congenial means giving a little preference to everybody.
It's holistically arranged.
Congenial means giving a little presence to everybody.
How often I meet you,
And you're the one who's there.
There's something happened.
It's a harmony measure.
There, a little help.
Goodwill backs its field exercise.
"Does that mean you can do anything,
And congenial'll come by and bail you out?"
That's what it says in the dictionary
Of holistic letters.
We need a strong horse
To move us out of wrong.
Congenial takes its time,
Arranges, plans ahead,
So it can order right.
Look,
I made myself useful.
Congenial can take the worst felon
And turn him around.
One positive thing,
It will find it.
You would find your school clothes are current,
And the cover too.
They would be congenially arranged.
Eternity wrought that face never before in a vision.
If you take things very slowly
You understand.

(If you’d like to read more of my verse but written not for the Yoga specifically but for the world at large –socio/political/spiritual– or have some inspired poetry of your own to submit I have a non-literary poetry ezine of instrumental verse: http://theatomicreview.blogspot.in/)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Blue Anger by Jamie Aline Hulley

The Anger I Found in a Poem
By Donny Duke

We need to keep anger apart from our lives. It has a habit of living there, and of all the passions, it seems to be the one we're the most lenient with. Many people, if asked if they felt it was wrong to express anger, would reply of course not and would probably even go so far as to say that it's healthy to vent anger as long as you control it and don't let it get out of hand. Most mental heath professionals will tell you that anger is a normal human emotion, and that suppressing it can even be harmful. Is this really true? Do we have to give expression to anger? The Mahabharata, the Indian spiritual epic that contains the Bhagavad Gita, says this about anger: "Ignorant people mistake anger for strength. He who keeps himself free from all anger is, of a truth, strong."1 Sri Aurobindo makes clear his feelings on the matter: "The psychic reply must become habitual pointing out that anger is neither right nor helpful."2 If it is your aim to live the normal human life then perhaps anger is appropriate for you both to feel and display, but I suspect that even there you'd be wise to control it as much as possible if not to try and eliminate it altogether. On the other hand, if you have chosen to embark on the long climb to human divinity, at least that climb as it's mapped out in the Integral Yoga, then you'd need to learn to throw out anger just as you do lust, jealousy, and the whole lot of other emotional vices.

It is the aim of this article to question anger. In doing so I'll take a look at anger from angles you might not have examined carefully before, and I'll look at how to handle anger, what you do with it, but just in passing. I thought I'd angle your thought, but it won't get too far. We've a small space.

Anger, as defined in most dictionaries, is a strong feeling of displeasure or hostility we feel that has been caused by a real or supposed wrong done to us or to someone we're in some affinity with. I would add to the standard definition that it can also be a weak or subtle feeling of the same, and it is this kind of anger, because it is so subtle and therefore more easily excused or overlooked, that can be the more deleterious. In short and stripped of its clothes, anger is a negative emotional reaction to someone or something. To those of us in what is called ego consciousness, which would include most everyone on the planet, anger just seems to rise automatically when encountering the appropriate stimulus. It simply comes upon us. Looking at it from this angle, anger appears to be a reflex of the human ego. As it would stand in relation to psychic feeling or the spiritual consciousness, it would be considered an unregenerate emotion, an automatic reaction of the animal human. People vary in their experience of anger. Some are slow to anger and aren't much moved by it. Others fly into a rage at the slightest provocation and are extremely violent in their display of anger. The reason for this variation comes from the fact that the experience of anger is for the most part a conditioned response, though the influence of heredity cannot be entirely ruled out. Basically, we learned how to experience anger growing up, and each one of us grows up differently. No two people are brought up in exactly the same way, and this is true even of siblings. To understand our anger and to be able to arrive at the place where we can stop reacting to it, we need to know how we leaned to be angry and show anger, and that usually takes some form of honest self-inquiry.

Though it didn't become evident until later on in life because I was apt at suppressing it, I suddenly had to come to terms with the fact that I have a problem with violent explosive anger. This discovery is partly due to the pressure of sadhana on that part of the being to change, and partly to the fact that I've been placed in a situation that stimulates anger quite easily, though I'm sure that the latter is very much a part of the process of the former. (When doing sadhana it's quite common to find yourself in a life situation confronting your difficulties, so much so it's as if it's all been arranged, and I'm sure it has.) An example of my own personal history will show where this explosive anger comes from. As a child when I did something considered bad wrong my father would take a leather belt or a switch and beat me on the butt and down the legs. I would be dancing around him trying to avoid the blows, which were quite harsh and usually left welts. He would be in a rage and would grit his teeth and say, "Are you mad? I'll give you something to be mad about!" And then he would proceed to beat me even harder. This was a common experience during childhood. He didn't know it, but he was teaching me how to express my anger. Now I saw this violent anger inside me often enough as an adult, but it would be usually of a very short duration and not physically directed at people most times but towards objects, though whomever I was mad at did receive a concentrated mouthful of obscenities. Because this was rare and not so violent, or so I thought, I didn't realize I had a problem with anger. Then in my later life I found myself in a situation raising children, and I had to confront the anger. Fortunately by then I was much more integrated inwardly with the Yoga and had tools with which to control it and keep from physically abusing the children, though I have lost it a number of times and just yelled my damn fool head off, backing the belligerent but startled kid up against the wall. It is in fact the confrontation with my own problem with anger that has resulted in the writing of this article. Finding myself in such close proximity to getting mad, I've been able to observe anger in its movement inside me, and this has lead to a number of insights which others might find helpful.

The thing that stands out to me the most when examining anger now is the fact that ninety-nine percent of the time the person I get mad at is a scapegoat for someone else or some other situation that has made me angry – anger which I haven't expressed. They are the target I point it at, usually a safer target I might add, someone who can't bite back as hard as the real object of my anger. But that's not always the case. Sometimes they are simply the straw that broke the camel's back, and I unleash on them all the anger that's been building up inside me all day, or all week, or however long I've been nursing it. I can now see the process take place quite clearly. Someone does some small thing, maybe leaves a mess in the house or something, and as I confront them about it I can feel these strands of anger attaching themselves to that situation, all the anger I'd been holding onto throughout the day. Or if it is a case of the person being a safer target, I can feel the anger I have at X come rushing in on the anger I'm now directing towards Y. This is not self-knowledge that makes you proud of yourself. You don't enjoy seeing these things, but unfortunately the road to mastery over the vital is seeing all its ruse. I find it helpful, as the last sentence demonstrates, to put the 'blame' on the vital being misbehavior of this order. It's not that I'm running away from it. I know the vital is an integral part of me, and what it does I actually do. But referring to the vital as the 'doer' helps me not to identify so much with the wrong movement. I don't own it as mine as it were, and in the distance from it I can better manage rejecting it. In addition, I don't get so down on myself because it's not something that I do per say, not the who of who I am. The vital does it, and in that distance from the mistake I have a better attitude towards myself and am less likely to repeat the mistake or to repeat it as badly. Along the same lines it's never a good idea to think of a mistake or a wrong movement, such as anger, as something intrinsic to you, as yours. Even if it's a part of your nature or human nature in general, it is not an expression of who you are. It's quite helpful to see it as something from the outside of you, something from the universal that's seeking expression in you because you are inclined, for whatever reason, to give in to that particular movement. The point here is that, once you begin to recognize that the person or thing you're so mad it isn't really the object of your anger, or is only a part of it, it becomes easier to manage. The mind, in that case, has a better handle on the vital and its outburst. The mind just has to be quite present and insistent in pointing this out to the vital as the situation unfolds.


What in fact I'm learning at this moment is that I don't even have to let anger in, or rise up as the case really is, since it comes up upon us from that angry room in the subconscious where we store it and keep it locked away until some environmental outer stimulus acts to open it. As I'm observing the situations where I become angry I can see that there is an all-determining instant of time where I grant the anger entrance into that center in me that both feels and gives the impetus to display anger. Let's call it the operational control center so to understand what I'm referring to. There's a split second between the time I'm offended as it were, and the time I feel the anger for it. It is in that flash of time that on some level I decide to go ahead and get angry. This interval of time isn't always an instant. If I'm centered and focused in the inner being when encountering the stimulus, quiet and calm both inwardly and outwardly, the interval can even be a few minutes before I feel the rush of anger vying to rise. At those times I have more of a handle on whether to keep it down or not, more control over the decision to get angry or remain calm. On the other hand, if I'm scattered out on the surface of myself, anxious and unsettled, the common position of most of us most of the time, then that interval will be the split second, and I certainly won't have the will to keep from getting angry, won't even feel any will at all except the will to lash out in anger at who or what has made me mad. It's important to note that even if you don't let it rise up, the anger is still quite present in your awareness, beating on the door for you to allow it to come in and occupy your control center. It is as though you are a fort besieged so great is the force of anger upon you trying to get in. But it is possible to keep it at bay, and as I've suggested but haven't outright said, your success in doing so will depend on how inwardly focused you are and have been throughout the day. If you're a nervous wreck, well, then you're going to get mad almost instantly, and this over a bend in the spoon.


If you are even a casual observer of the occurrence of anger within yourself it becomes evident that anger has a tendency to build up over time, making it all the more harder to control when it seems to have reached some critical mass. For this reason we are advised by popular psychology to give it expression, vent it, let it out, though in ways that would not be harmful to ourselves and others. I wouldn't agree that we have to give expression to it, or that it is right and helpful to do so, and as was shown in the opening paragraph, neither does Sri Aurobindo. I don't agree because I feel that any expression of anger no matter how subtle is indeed harmful, produces its negative effect upon ourselves and the world, but to fully expound on this point is beyond the scope of this article. Now I must back up here and say that in the present world arrangement anger does have its place, facilitates the movement of things towards their desired end, as every movement no matter how 'wrong' it might appear is part of the complex and multi-faceted web of working evolving existence, and is, however remotely, a secret manifestation of the generative Absolute. What this means to us personally is that in our present state of ego consciousness it's inevitable that we're going to get mad (especially when we've just plain had enough), though it is not an actual requirement of our being. It greatly helps to know the process involved, what is going on. Then with an enlightened understanding we can turn to the vital and begin to rein it in.


As I mentioned, there is in our subconscious what you might call an angry room, a compartment in our nether regions where we store anger. Because of a particular bend in our nature the door to this room is opened by certain kinds of knocks upon it from the outer world. What would make one person boiling mad might make another simply irritated or not even bothered at all. The point is that when this door is opened the anger comes rushing up into our conscious being seeking expression. It wants to take over the control center and put us into a state of anger. As I've said, we can either stand aside and give it momentary command over ourselves or not allow it to rise up and take over. What usually happens in practice is that we do a little of both. We let it in but regulate it, control its expression, until such time that it has subsided once again behind closed doors in our subconscious down under our feet. It's very difficult to keep from doing this. What happens more often than not is that we stand there quite angry on the inside but only show a little of that anger on the outside. In other words, we suppress it. There is an almost indeterminable line between suppressing anger and not allowing it to rise up into our being. In time and with a great deal of very honest and sincere self-evaluation, however, that line becomes more distinguishable. It is of the upmost importance to learn to distinguish that line because the critical determining factor in building up a charge of anger is whether or not you're suppressing it. By suppressing it I mean that you are angry on the inside but are giving little or no expression to it on the outside. You're in fact only really suppressing the outer display of it, though most likely in that moment you are also somewhat successful in keeping it from completely taking over on the inside, or you'd be much less able to control yourself. What happens is that when that anger subsides it simply goes back into that room in the subconscious, maybe affixing a tag upon itself saying that it belongs to this or that particular outer stimulus. (It should be noted that suppressed anger does not just return down below into that angry room. Much of it goes into the body and and leads to many bodily afflictions. In addition some of it, despite our attempts to remain passive and not lash out, does go out and hit the target of our anger, the person or people we're mad it.) When that room is full of such packets of suppressed anger we have a tendency to explode. In that instant the least little thing can set it off, and we just get mad and vent as much of that anger as our very weakened self-control will allow. Please keep in mind that this model I'm using is only for the purposes of understanding. It is a picture and with it we can get a handle on the process of anger as it rises within us, but because it's a picture that does not necessarily mean it's an untrue representation. Nature in her processes is always much more untidy and slippery than our mental models can comfortably capture. Nonetheless this is as good a working model as any to begin to grasp the very involved and complex movements of anger that get the better of so many of us and makes this present world arrangement much more unpleasant that it needs to be.

Seeing things from this angle, it would stand to reason that if we were entirely successful in keeping anger at bay, not allowing it to rise up and occupy our control center putting us in a state of anger, then we would not build up a charge of anger that would push for expression as the pressure of that charge increases. In that case we have not suppressed it. As I've said, there's a fine line between suppressing it and not letting it rise up. To most people the two would appear to be identical to one another. To those of us doing sadhana and learning to live within, however, we are much more observant and conscious of inner events and are better able to distinguish such subtleties as the difference between rejecting a vital impulse, which would mean that it does not move you, and suppressing one, which means that you are taken inwardly by the movement but don't give it outer expression. To put it differently and more simply: when you keep it from rising up the movement is felt beating on the door but is not allowed inside, and when you suppress the movement it has gotten in but isn't given its desired expression. It might seem I'm splitting hairs. I am. These hairs need to be split if you want to keep from ever getting mad. The difficulty is of course that as long as we are still living in and by the ego we are identified more with surface movements and outer happenings. As long as that's the case we do not have that constant inner poise necessary to always be able to reject a vital movement or keep it from rising up. We simply are not able to be always so present on the inside in order to keep these things from getting in. So we're going to get angry sometimes, at least on the inside, and that means we're going to build up a charge of anger in the subconscious that will more and more vie for expression, making it more difficult to keep the anger from rising up as time passes.


Does this mean we are prisoners, puppets as it were, ever bound to become angry at some point even when we are ardently trying not to get mad at anybody? Will anger just simply overcome us once its charge in us, or down below us rather, has reached its boiling point? Obviously we need to discharge or neutralize anger in some manner before it becomes too much to deal with. There's always the punching bag or the muffled pillow scream. Divert the anger is what many counselors would tell us. Turn your anger upon an inanimate object but hold in view that person you're mad at. You can get it out that way and not hurt anybody. I wouldn't recommend this method even for children. In the first place you're getting mad, letting anger take over your control center. In the second place you are indeed angrily striking whomever you're mad at. It will have its negative effect upon them. We actually live in a vast communal sea of thought and feeling. Whatever you think or feel towards someone reaches them, the more so and with more impact the greater the emotional charge of the formation. Some would advise going out and doing some strenuous work or exercise to get the anger out, to release its charge. This method has more possibilities, but you'd have to be able to hold the specific incidence of anger in view without letting it get you angry, and somehow through some alchemy, release it through the vehicle of the activity. This program would be haphazard at best and I doubt in most incidences would be successful. You might accidently hit upon the right discharge button if you're lucky. I suppose there are a great deal of methods people use to release a charge of anger. I have to admit that here in this very critical area there was a big gapping hole in my program. Yeah, I've been ardently observing anger and trying to keep it out of my operational control room, but I've haven't been doing much to get rid of anger once I have been taken over by it's movement. Maybe I spend a moment or two clearing out by quieting myself until it becomes possible to get back into an inner poise, but that's about all. If I call on the Mother it's during an incidence itself, for Her to come and help so things won't escalate into the killing fields or something. I've suddenly discovered I've been doing nothing to get rid of the anger once I've gotten mad. At the present moment I'm writing a book-length poem that deals with anger as well as many other issues. It's sort of like a diary written by the inner voice, or the muse as I call it, but it's organized and focused into a long cohesive poem epic in character. The book is called The Strength to Change the Heart, A Transformational Journal. The writing of this article was was in fact suggested by a column of poetry dealing with anger in that book. Yesterday I stopped writing and put an inner concentration on the question of how to get rid of anger that is building up a charge within. The following column of poetry came to answer that question. Though it is part of the aforementioned book, as is all the poetry used here, it also came to deepen the voice of this paper.


To escape from getting mad
We each have our own room.
Most are not two people.
We always patrol that area,
The space behind.
Look daddy,
I was playing sleep in check in.
I got mad at you.
I'm sorry.
I just held it in.
I just stayed nice.
This it too much.
I have an idea.
Burn that smoked turkey.
Administer it to justice.
Don't get down on your city.
Hold it in your room
There so you can see it,
The angry sway.
You wouldn't feel its worth.
The Mother would be a waiting rose.
Wonder at Her regard,
Her fix it everything.
There's wonder in that motion.
It changes form.
It's a devoted outbreak.
Your emotional centers rise to meet Her mounting edge.
You feel the heat of surrender.
This offers ticket.
You must associate it with your emotional concern,
That angry strife.
You're surrendered on your knees
Holding this up.
Take it Mother please.
In that fire of self-giving
It gets consumed.
It's not something you return to
And nurse in your imagination.
It is a sealed letter.
The sadhana of course refers to the books as the academy of tests.
They said if the champ wins
Science wins.
I am concords of difficulty.
I be the waiting rose.
I answer your passions
With a witness above.
It's there you follow school.
You are not given over to anger.
You are given over to a wide witness movement
That can take any movement in its field of self
And answer it with a divine holding.
This is high reach in you.
Allow its movement center.
We gather here.
It is a centered well arranged,
Conscious as it is strong.
We would found this on our lives,
And every moment
Live its purpose.
Are we still angry now?
There there is no strife.
You have found your widening room
Where you can live the world.

Now it's occurred to me that a number of people might not be able to make the leap from prose to poetry so easily and won't grasp the totality of what's said.. That's Ok. It is rather figurative and strange. Keep in mind it is indeed from the inside world, that place where dreams are made. You'd have to give it your moment's worth to understand it. In a nutshell the poetry is suggesting the method recommended by the Integral Yoga to get rid of the residue of impulses and unwanted movements. You become the witness soul and live within so as not to be vulnerable to them, and if something does get in you offer it up to the Mother, who is a personification of the divine shakti for the sadhaks of the Intergral Yoga. The poetry enhances that method, fills it out and gives it a body so you can better walk with it out in practice.

Is it ever appropriate to get angry? What about rudra anger, isn't that a divine force? I'm voicing here questions I feel some might have at this point. I an not qualified to answer the first. I can only repeat my opinion – which seems also to be the opinion of Sri Aurobindo, the psychic being, and the spiritual consciousness –, that it's never beneficial to get angry. As far as what might be called rudra anger, it's my understanding that it's a divine force used by divine beings, and that there is even a Hindu deity called by the name Rudra who personifies it. According to Sri Aurobindo, when divine beings wield it They are neither in a state of wrath on the inside nor experiencing hatred.3 I do not know if it's possible for someone in ego consciousness to experience this in its true form. It would be possible I guess in the way all things are possible, but I'd imagine that if someone thinks their anger is this divine force and they are not a divine being, then they're probably fooling themselves.


I could go on at length explaining why we should avoid getting angry, but it's really an understanding you have to come to yourself. If you're doing sadhana and are leaning to live in the witness consciousness even a little, then you can see that when you get angry you not only disrupt the flow of your progress and become scattered out on the surface of yourself, but you've also made yourself wide open to the host of other lower vital movements particular to you that are always waiting for an opportunity to get in. Even if you're not doing sadhana, or are not so serious about it, you can see this latter operation quite clearly in your romantic relationships. How many times after a heated argument with your partner have you found yourself in bed with them having sex with a passion you seldom feel? Between anger and lust there's a hair's breath; the two seem to have a special affinity. In general between anger and most all other lower vital impulses there also really isn't even as much as a hop, skip, and a jump. But the danger of anger is far more threatening than just disrupting the flow of our sadhana and putting us in close proximity to other lower vital impulses. It would destroy us if we give it its field. The muse opens anger's heart and looks in there:


I had to write an article.
We're going to eliminate
What we call anger.
There must be something wrong.
Would we call it something different?
There's a different feel to it.
It has the seeds of elimination inside.
It's destruction's timetable.
This is bad business.
This forearm hurts.
It's desire's springboard.
It calls out a plan.
I'm pretty sure it won't call out one creatively.
It's got destruction's eyes.
It could kill yah.
This is its heart's hold.

I'd imagine at this point some of you are objecting to the attempt to completely exclude anger from human life, or human anger at least. It's a needed tool, you might argue. If you didn't use it at certain very crucial times you wouldn't be able to do your job. Nobody would take you seriously. Of course I'm referring to those who have such tasks as taking care of children, treating mental patients, handling prisoners, teaching students, managing employees, commanding soldiers, etc. There are moments when people get so out of hand that the only thing they respond to seems to be an angry outburst that tells them you mean business. Is this really true, or is it that the angry outburst is just the easiest and most available way to bring order? If you closely observe its process over a period of time, you can see that anger, while it may bring a temporary order, has the effect of making things worse. In most cases it escalates things in the long run, and while it perhaps succeed in bringing things under control, that control is quite flimsy and is liable to snap under the slightest pressure. It doesn't take a keen observer to see that if someone is angry with you, and you meet their anger with your own, then far from calming them down, you've just mad them madder. If it happens that you've been able to subdue them from their fear of you or your stronger muscle, they'll get you back in some way, shape, or form if you continue to have to deal with them. I've observed this process I'm describing so many times in the taking care of children. When they are shouting and I angrily shout for them to shut up, they might get quiet a moment or two, but within a few minutes, having been more or less programed by my bad example, they start screaming again. It is becoming very clear to me that when dealing with a child's temper tantrum I must keep myself free of anger. It's almost as if they are waiting to get to me, make me mad, so that they can have an excuse to further act out. And when I get angry it is so apparent that all I've done is fuel their rage. It certainly isn't easy, and it takes a great presence of mind and a settled inner poise, but it's possible in those mad moments to keep your anger at bay but still deal, and deal forcefully, with someone flying off the handle. When you are forced by the situation to subdue someone because they've become a danger to themselves or others, it is possible to do so without using anger in your reach. If there is the slightest anger in your touch upon their body, you've lost contact with calm, and they will be more difficult to restrain, will resist your hold on them all the more. These things I haven't gotten off the internet or gleaned from a published text. They come from my field book, insights I've had while learning to play properly the card I've drawn in life.


Anger, I must admit, does have a considerable force to bring to bear upon a situation. As I said, it can be used to more or less quickly bring unruly people under control. When working with special populations such as children it appears that sometimes you have little or no choice but to use it. Otherwise they just don't listen and will not stop their disruptive behavior. I've found that that's just the appearance, however, and that I can bring order better, a lasting order, by remaining calm and using a more creative albeit somewhat slower solution. And it's even possible to act very decisively and quite forcefully without being the least bit angry, but that requires a good deal of self-control and presence of mind. You don't have to get mad to bring order to chaos. It all depends on how ordered and together you are. There's a point here I could spend a lot of time on trying to explain, but let me just quote the muse when it was advising me not to respond with anger to someone who'd gotten mad at me and was being rather stupid about it: You wouldn't handle a stone with a stone and expect it different.

Someone might ask if it isn't helpful to use the force of anger in a fight. Say you find yourself in a fist fight with somebody. (I don't advocate fighting, but neither am I a pacifist. I feel that sometimes, the world being what it is, and sometimes that's a very dangerous place, a situation may require you to physically defend yourself or others.) Yes, angry and pumped up with adrenaline you might be able to land that lucky punch that will knock the other guy out. Adrenaline can give a person a lot more strength than they normally have, and there have been reports of it giving even a superhuman strength in some rare instances. The problem is you're not in control of yourself, and you have this tunnel vision that blinds you. You can't see the whole field of the fight, and in most instances, you can't even see any of it, only your rage. If you're not able to land that lucky punch, you just end up getting beat up if the other guy has more presence of mind and is in better control of his forces. I don't imagine most of us have enough self-development to control the adrenaline and remain inwardly calm in such explosive situations, but I think anyone who's a practiced and seasoned fighter, such as a martial artist for example, will tell you that if you allow yourself to get mad you'll probably lose the match.

Maybe you don't fully agree with my angles on anger, but perhaps you can see what I'm pointing towards, a more divine living. To be able to completely and at all times reject anger would mean that you are well on the way in the path of perfection, are approaching your divinity. In other words, it's a big step and would require us to surpass ourselves. Here we bring in view a difficulty so demanding that it almost has the word impossibility scrawled across its horizon, but here in this self-surpassing we also come across life's meaning, (in my perspective on things at any rate). Anger of course is a big topic, and in a short article I can't hope to question it entirely. I've only dealt with the more overt expressions of anger. I've mentioned that in its more subtle forms it is perhaps more poisonous to human living than we at this time are even remotely aware. Perhaps in another article or poem I can explain what I mean by that and why I feel that is so. What I have shown you of anger is from my own experience in dealing with it, but from the angle of approach of the Integral Yoga. I'm neither a spiritual master nor an authority on anger. I'm a sadhak that has been lead by my inner being to write this article and express what I've observed about anger in leaning to reject it. Like my coworkers here at The Chipmunk Press, I'm a work in progress. In modern society's prejudice in valuing only the opinion of 'the expert', you might not put much stock in what I advise in regards to anger, or my world view for that matter either. Even so, you might listen anyway because of the sincerity of my words. Sincerity has an impact on your inner ear, the one that listens for truth. Mine comes simply from the fact that this article is written in accordance with the true movement of my being, the one that is aligned with the reach for my divine worth. Struggling for that value I write, but I write honestly. You might ask just where I'm at in my efforts to keep anger out of my life. It would be appropriate I feel to let the muse answer that question and end the article with that. This poetry came last week to help me after I'd gotten angry:


Stop it!
Daddy you are so mean.
Oh my God,
Isn't that anger?
Yes daddy.
I even yell at you.
Matter of fulfill.
You get gratification.
Trample down the line He said.
It's way past ten.
You're conditioned response.
How else can we blow this over?
Get out of its way.
Don't stand there retrieving it.
You make it boil inside.
Whadda I do?
Keep it down.
It won't rise up
Unless you bid it do so.
A hair's breath away.
What's up with him?
He sat on his lunch.
He got mad.
And not only did he lose his life-force,
He won't be receiving any.
His anger got the better of him.
You can see it in his teeth.
He'll spring in a minute.
Open the window.
Let some fresh air in here.

Endnotes:
1 This quote from the Mahabharata appeared in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram's daily Bande Mataram of September 1, 1906 and is assumed to have been translated by Sri Aurobindo.
2 Sri Aurobindo Birth Centennial Library, Letters on Yoga, vol. 22 or 23 or 24 pg.1411
3 Ibid. Synthesis of Yoga, Vol. 21 pg. 677


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Volume 1 Issue 12 Oct 2008


A harness for the Chipmunk Press,
If I can find a better.
Couple nice things
This month.
Where you put a dream in the hands of spiritual practice,
A chipmunk shows you.
How about a calling card
If you need a special retreat?
Relate it to the Yoga.
Can poetry be a map?
I doubt you’d find tiger.
It’s not there in the News.
A page two.
You give the Media its strength?
Careful,
How easy it is
To find yourself
Mr. Bridge.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Destination Sadhana
:
Exploring places of interest to sadhaks of the integral yoga.
By Douglas McElheny

Having to go out of India every six months for a visa might seem like a real hassle. I’m always happy to do it though. Why? Well, there are two reasons. The first is that I am usually fed up with India on some level and ready for a break. What I really look forward to however is the chance to spend some time at Nilambe Meditation Center in Sri Lanka.

For those who haven’t heard of it, Nilambe is a small meditation center located at the top of a tea estate in the hills near Kandy. There is no electricity and conditions are basic, but beauty and silence abound making it an ideal oasis for the work-weary sadhak to take some much needed time for meditation and introspection.

Unlike some meditation centers, Nilambe doesn’t offer courses such as a 10 day Vipassana. So it’s possible to stay as long or as little as you like. There is a daily schedule though:

4:45–Wake Up Gong
5:00-6:00–Group Meditation
6:00-6:30–Tea
6:30-7:30–Yoga
7:30-8:00–Breakfast
8:00-9:15–Working Meditation
9:30-11:00–Group Meditation
11:00-12:00–Individual Meditation
12:00–Lunch
12:00-2:30–Library and Rest
2:30-4:00–Group Meditation
4:00-4:30–Tea Developing Right Speech
4:30-5:30–Yoga
5:30-6:30–Meditation with Nature
6:30-7:30 Chanting and Group Meditation
7:30-8:00–Snack
8:00-9:00–Discussion and Metta Meditation

At first glance this might seem like a pretty demanding program. In reality though it’s not nearly as demanding as the daily schedule for a Vipassana course1 and it has a lot more flexibility. Certain things like chanting, yoga classes, and discussions are optional and many people use the ‘Individual Meditation’ and ‘Meditation with Nature’ times to read, chill out, or take a walk in the surrounding countryside. For the ‘Working Meditation’ you are also left to your own judgement to decide how you want to occupy yourself during that time. There’s always plenty to do though such as cleaning, sweeping, weeding, food preparation, tidying the meditation hall etc.

The atmosphere at Nilambe is quite laid back and nobody is going to be breathing down your neck if you don’t adhere to the schedule perfectly. They are however fairly strict regarding some traditional buddhist precepts for dress and conduct. The first is the separation of the men and women into separate living areas. The second is a ‘dress code’ which basically boils down to covering up as much skin as possible including knees and shoulders which are expected to be concealed at all times. Lastly there is the Noble Silence which is maintained at all times except for the four o’clock tea break.

Now let’s take a look at some practical information for the potential visitor.

Accommodation
Accommodation at Nilambe consists of either single or double rooms with shared bathrooms. The mens rooms (and I assume the womens as well) are simply furnished with a bed and a nightstand. Some of the rooms however don’t have mosquito nets, and I recommend picking one up in Kandy before you get to the center unless you want to spend your nights breathing in mosquito coils.

Nilambe charges a fee of 500 SLR per day for your food and accommodation. This works out to be about 4.75 USD or 210 INR and is quite reasonable in my opinion. The center is of course open to larger donations if you wish to make them. I would also encourage people who visit Nilambe to leave a tip for the often grumpy but hardworking kitchen staff.


Food
Food at Nilambe is tasty and nutritious though some dishes might be a bit spicy for some people. The menu is also a bit repetitive if you stay long term. Kandy however is fairly close, so its easy to head there for a day trip and satisfy your palate with a stop at Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, or one of the local restaurants such as the Devon or the Pub. You are also free to bring your own food to the center. I usually bring some fruit and biscuits to snack on if I get hungry in between lunch and the bedtime snack.

Getting There and Back
The first thing you have to do is get to Colombo and flying is your only option. Round trip airline tickets are available from Chennai to Colombo for 7000 INR from JetLite and 9000 INR from Sri Lankan Airlines. I have also heard that it is possible to get a 5000 INR ticket from Indian Airlines if you go to one of their offices.

Once you are in Colombo airport you can take a rickshaw, or tuk-tuk as they are called in Sri Lanka, for around 400 SLR to the Negambo bus stand and then catch a bus from there to Kurunegala and then another bus from there to Kandy. It should be about 200 SLR for both buses if I remember correctly. Taxis are also available and can be arranged at the airport.

Once you reach Kandy you have two options for getting to the center. First you can take the Galaha/Deltota bus #633 (about 20 SLR) to the Nilambe Office Junction 17 km away. From there you have three more km to go, up a steep and poorly maintained road. You can either hoof it or jump in a tuk-tuk. The cost for a tuk-tuk at the time of this writing was 250 SLR. Be aware however that there is a gate about two-thirds of the way up which is sometimes locked. If it is you will have to walk the last stretch.

Your second option is to take a tuk-tuk from Kandy all the way to the center itself or to the gate depending on your luck. This should cost in the neighborhood of 1000 SLR or so. From what I understand, if you want some help arranging this go to the Buddhist Publication Society in Kandy.

When it’s time for you to leave the Nilambe staff can arrange for a tuk-tuk to come up to the center and either take you to the bottom of the hill (where you can catch the bus to Kandy) or all the way to Kandy itself. Alternatively you can walk down the hill (a rather nice walk I might add) and take the bus or a tuk-tuk from there.

What to Bring
Here is a list of the things the center recommends that you bring as well as a few suggestions of my own.

a flashlight and batteries
an umbrella (if it’s the rainy season)
a mosquito net
warm clothes (it’s cold at night)
socks
clothes washing powder and a brush
a proper yoga mat (the center only has plastic floor mats)

Also if you will be traveling with cash, be sure to change your Indian rupees to dollars or euros BEFORE leaving India. You cannot change Indian rupees at banks or change houses in Sri Lanka. You can still change Indian rupees ‘unofficially’, even at the Colombo airport, but you’ll get a lousy exchange rate.

Contact Information
It’s possible to just show up at Nilambe and get a room if one is available. Guests are encouraged however to make arrangements a few weeks in advance if possible. Here is the contact info:

Telephone: 0777-804555 (country code is 94)
Email: upulnilambe@yahoo.com

About Kandy
Kandy is also a nice place to spend a couple of days. There’s a very nice and affordable guest house run by monks where you can stay for just 200 SLR a night. It’s called the Burmese Rest House. Nearby is the Sri Dalada Maligawa otherwise known as the temple of the tooth which claims to have one of the teeth of the Buddha. Another place worth visiting is the Royal Botanical Gardens which is a lovely place to spend the day. Then there’s Helga’s Folly which has been ranked as one of the world’s most unique hotels and is a must see if you are in Kandy.


***
I have paid five visits to Nilambe over the past three years, staying for as little as a week to as long as a month. I have always found my stays there to be beneficial though I have encountered some difficulties. The biggest problem I have had, especially during one long visit, was increased activity of the vital mind. I’ve also had some lesser problems with depression. I doubt I’m unique in this regard. When you suddenly find yourself free of all the things that normally occupy you, it’s easy for these sorts of things to come in and fill the emptiness. I’ve never done it, but I imagine a trip to Kandy would help to alleviate things if you found yourself treading water. The best thing I’ve found though is to just keep throwing these things out until they either stop coming or lose enough of their strength so that if they do come they don’t have the power to carry you off for any appreciable length of time.

On the positive side of things, even during short stays I have noticed a rapid amplification of the dream life in terms of both quantity and clarity. I can’t say the same about the voice and vision.2 I have however gotten some good lines of a buddhist flavor while there. Also, the title of the column From First, From Within came to me during a stay at Nilambe.

Now it makes sense of course that the inner life would open up a bit when you are out in the country and meditating for a minimum of four to five hours a day. Be that as it may, after five trips I think I can say with surety that there’s a favorable spiritual energy at Nilambe. It’s what you might call a power spot. Why that is I don’t know, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that little piece of property has a spiritual history. Perhaps it’s a place where “the large liberty of brooding seers had left the long impress of their soul’s scene.”3

It makes sense too that while at a place like Nilambe, if you can avoid the potential pitfalls of a retreat situation, you would find yourself feeling more peace, detachment, joy etc. But I also find that after a good clearing out at Nilambe life in Pondy is easier to deal with upon my return. That effect fades after a time, but I have found, especially on my last two trips, that some change of a permanent nature has also occurred which doesn’t fade. For me this has been mainly in the area of surrender, but for others it might manifest in a different way. The point is that I am quite convinced of the utility of periodic retreats for the purpose of psychological integration and I feel that many sadhaks would benefit from such experiences even though they might not be appropriate for everyone. It seems to me that places like Nilambe are and will be quite useful places for sadhaks of the integral yoga to take such retreats and and I would even go so far as to say that I think Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have their eyes on Nilambe. Let me explain why.

On my second trip to Nilambe I went to the library to see if The Experience of No-Self by Bernadette Roberts was available. I found the book in the library and walked outside with the intention of checking it out and who should I see staring up at me but Sri Aurobindo himself! There on the librarian’s table was a stack of books and the topmost book was a biography of Sri Aurobindo with his face on the cover.


At that moment I took this synchronicity as Sri Aurobindo showing his approval of my choice of reading material. As I thought about it afterwards though I thought he might also be trying to show me that he and the Mother have a presence there at Nilambe. If that’s true I can only speculate about why that is, but if what I’ve said about the utility of retreats is accurate it makes sense that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother would establish themselves at a place as close as Nilambe which can be easily reached by their sadhaks. Perhaps in the future, as religious boundaries are transcended in the development of a world spirituality, Nilambe will become a popular destination for Pondy based sadhaks.

But why wait until then? I wouldn’t have written this article if I didn’t want to encourage people to go to Nilambe now. Just try to discern if you have a real inner call to the place and not just a vital one.

For those who want or need more information on either Nilambe or Kandy please contact the center itself or consult Mr. Google.

Metta

Notes and References
1. For an example of a daily Vipassana schedule go to http://traveloncloud9.wordpress.com/2008/01/24/vipassana-meditation-course-typical-daily-schedule/
2. This is only in my case. I imagine someone with a strong opening in this area would notice a difference.
3. Sri Aurobindo, Savitri–Part 2, Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library Volume 29, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, p. 384.