Shiva Ratri Yellow Electric Seed I wear my bindi, my miniscule ornament signifying the third eye. And what is this third eye…where is it and what does it see? My favorite description follows:
Third eye is the eye that sees from a within finite perspective. At its best, it sees things in a kind of distilled form. It is Judgeless-ness. The view is of Taoality rather than duality.
Strangely, I wonder the use of the words “third world”–as it appears to me that this world of India has been around a lot longer than the civilization of North America. Oh well, no matter who came first, at this moment in terms of who’s got what, this group is definitely third in line….. The boy with his feet on backwards shows up behind me, out of nowhere, smiling as if with pride for the luxurious begging his deformity affords him. He never seems to appear at an appropriate moment for me to pay homage to his peculiar talent of walking with his feet on backwards. I ford the streams of consciousness here, this mythic river of humanity keeps flowing by and I am crossing over just as far as the other side of the street…..changing directions, this sensational unconscious stream of motorbikes, carts with fruit and flies or plastic watches, cycle rickshaws studded with entire families…. and cows, each and every moving thing is vying for the same 2 feet of space to walk or roll in.
Delhi is an interlude, a kind of intermission between the 4 weeks I have just spent in Rajasthan and tonight I will glide aboard the night train to Varanasi for the remaining time I have here. Today is Shiva Ratri and Varanasi is Shiva’s City. Today we celebrate the marriage of Shiva to Parvati. There is a ritual enactment in parade form that will flow through the busy large market streets tonight. Mostly people will be fasting, bathing in Ganga, making special pujas (praying) and drinking bhang lassis will be popular in the night.
Last night many people but mostly young boys and men, were walking barefoot 75 kilometers to pray at certain temples in a kind of circuit, not stopping for chai or resting but going for it–a kind of prayer marathon. It is a high energy and happy time here. One sad event occurred though about ten days ago. A bomb blast went off near the Ganga at a very busy central gathering place, killing 7 people and injuring about 30. Another incident was miraculously intercepted when police found the makings for 5 much bigger bombs set in another high traffic area.
There has been red alert action here with many police carefully watching for any signs of trouble, especially due to this massive Hindu holiday here today.
Terrorism, in a place like this, would seem to me to be nearly impossible to monitor, mostly, in my third eye view, due to the element of chaos, which prevails. Nearly everyone is carrying strange bundles or carts are being dragged up through the narrow streets, filled with everything from garbage to luggage. It is interesting to walk with this level of awareness, looking with careful eyes at a world that could be harboring secret weapons.
I can do this for only a few moments at a time, before my sense of creating life rather than being held victim takes over again. Possibly it is useful to have one eye on the watchful side, another on the bright side and yes, the third eye on the whole picture, eternally connected to the Universe. Another good reason to be using all three. I sit on my perch, a colorful bird among the many birds of the world here on this magnificent rooftop with its 360 degree view of Ganga and the old city of Varanasi.
Here each morning, among other wonders, I have watched a man step out onto his perfectly simple empty stone rooftop, and he reaches out to hang to dry a beautiful saffron orange cloth, he hangs it up so that its edges are symmetrically aligned, making a perfect orange rectangle which hangs as if in pure space due to the invisibility of the line it hangs upon.
This he does each day at about this time and I watch the ancient scene of mist and stone and the emergent pure orange luminous cloth hanging like a symbolic abstract art piece. Then the bird man, who lives just below and across from this rooftop, comes out, opening up the cages of his trained flock of pigeons and they begin to soar and glide to his cries, moans and the movements of his long bamboo stick, waving and calling them back and forth across the sky.
The Ganga is glistening. Now the gong from the Nepali Temple….some loudspeakers with groups of people praying layering in from various directions. Sparrows flitter about nibbling bugs, kites are whipping in the morning breeze, flags flapping, here come the birds again…one mind, one wind, one dance……many wings. There is a large international group of Krishna devotees from ISKCON who live in India and are visiting Varanasi for Shiva Ratri. They are staying in several of the hotel rooms en masse.
They have brought a stove and gas tank, their own pots and pans and are cooking their meals in the narrow hallway outside of their rooms. Always smiling, chanting and highly activated, they add a special upbeat feeling to the multidimensional traveler atmosphere. Images: a flock of tiny schoolchildren in their uniforms and little backpacks coming one way down the narrow busy labyrinth street…the other way here comes a large group of Indian pilgrims, barefoot and carrying small containers of Ganga water, foreheads fresh with red sandal paste, in between them is a very large bull who has an itch on the side of his head.
He is trying to scratch it by using the stone ledge on one side of the narrow walkway. The kids are twittering like sparrows, the pilgrims have halted…now the kids are trying to squeak by the bull, one by one, they inch around the situation. It is so adorable watching them each succeed in passing by and I am well aware of how scary this is because I am scared of this bull too! We all are. Third eye view sees the pilgrims walking, noticing beyond the cotton multicolored saris and shaved headed females with multiple earrings….into the soul of the pilgrimage itself. The humility, the hard work. Usually they are barefoot. They are elders. They have come home to Varanasi to pray their deepest prayers to Lord Shiva. Clouds have drifted in to block the sun like phantom guests, gracing the spacious skies.
Now lightning flashes across the page of sky, dancing like the swirl of Arabic script.
Rain is falling in glorious buckets.
This is unprecedented in the ultimately dry landscape and non monsoon season. I am a small, small speck in this infinite ancient land…one among a billion, also plodding often uphill to my small room in the big hotel with the exquisite view. What challenges me here remains a challenge…the poverty, the mess, the overpopulation, the cultural narrowness.
What thrills me here remains too…the animals everywhere, the in-your-face friendliness, the shrines and flowers and prayers floating through the smoky, dusty atmosphere. I am allowing everything to find its comfortable middle point, the fulcrum of balance, the bindu of the judgeless third eye place of grace. I sing the song of coming home to family and salad greens to fireplace and cleaner scenes to evergreens and telephones I sing the song of coming home. I’ll hear the tunes on stereos with central heat, computer bliss a soft bed and a lover’s kiss eat apple pie and Oreos I’ll hear the tunes on stereos. I’ll meet you on the other shore of wilderness and space to hide of buildings tall and freeways wide no cows, no shit. No beggars more I’ll meet you on the other shore. I sing the song of coming home to coolness, rain and things to do to who I’ve been and all that’s new I feel the long road I have roamed I sing the song of coming home.