Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Prakash

The biggest personality in the Santa Cruz Center was Prakash. He was a big, lumbering, teddy-bear of a man who seemingly sold real estate for no other reason than to fund his passion for racket sports.

His spiritual reputation preceded him. Charlie's brother Dave had, on numerous occassions, told us the story of Prakash's "transcedental experience." The scare quotes aren't meant to call into question the validity of Prakash's experience. That's just what everyone called it: Prakash's transcendental experience.

The transcendental experience was of obvious import to Praksash and unquestionably significant -- one needed only watch Prakash's countenance light up as he related the story to understand the impact that it had had on him. I'm not aware of whether he ever recaptured that peak experience, but like Tantulus -- ever reaching for the fruit just out of his reach -- Prakash's memory of the transcendental experience seemed to motivate him forward.

Today, my memory only goes so far as the story's ending.

While still under the effect of this high state of consciousness, Prakash found himself in a prasad line about to receive a piece of fruit from Sri Chinmoy's hand. As he stood in front of Guru, Prakash said that he tried to share his transcendental experience with Guru. Prakash didn't say "offer" the experience to Guru, but "share," as if Guru hadn't had access to such a state himself.

Now, I -- newly converted -- was a fanatic rule follower at the time Prakash related this tale to me. I could be quite rigid in my interpretation of what was "right" and what was "wrong." Nevertheless, the attitude implicit in Prakash's statement -- that he might have achieved something, albeit momentarily, that Guru himself hadn't -- struck me as significant. Prakash, at some level -- maybe only in potentiality -- felt himself equal to Guru. That's significant.

In one of the books I'd borrowed out of the Center library, Guru wrote that his disciples' worst quality was their "reverential awe" of him. That is, the feeling amongst the disciples that Guru was a divine being, perhaps born that way, whose spiritual height was forever out of their reach. This reverential awe is bad because it erects a barrier between the guru and his disciple.

Prakash's attitude -- which would have surely struck most in the wider Center as heretical -- was the antithesis of reverential awe. In fact, it's an intimate feeling of entitlement. Prakash had accepted Guru as his master -- a tacit acknowledgment of Guru's achievement -- while simultaenously feeling capable of that very same achievement himself. A rare and valuable understanding.

This is the kind of quality that separated Swami Vivekananda from some of his brother disciples. Swamiji had the daring to think that -- like his own master Sri Ramakrishna -- he, too, was an agent of the Divine.

That's why, as Guru used to say, if one must choose between faith in oneself or faith in God, then one should choose faith in oneself. Faith in God, with no self-confidence, leaves one weak and dependent. A beggar. Faith in oneself, however, eventually leads to the Divine.

In the years that followed, Prakash and I moved from the West Coast to the East Coast, though at different times and for different reasons. I never forgot what he taught me by his example early in my own spiritual life, though: to dare to think the heretical.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

great work yogaloy, yes that is exactly what i feel from the great Prakash - i respect him so much..
love sunirmalya

Anonymous said...

His experience has even more significance now that he is gone for there can be no questioning him as to what he was experiencing, for those who may have doubted the validity of his attempt to describe it, but simply an acceptance of whatever transpired, was spiritual. It is a testament to Prakash's personality that he even wanted to expose himself by attempting to share this with others -- not for any subtle reason of superiority, but only to share it in oneness.

Pradipan