May 9, 2013

61 of 65


Dr. Baskaran Pillai has an interesting educational background.  He earned his Master’s degree in English Literature from Madurai University in Southern India.  He then came to the University of Pittsburgh to study Hinduism and earn a Ph.D. in Religious Studies.  Along the way, he developed a special relationship with the Hindu god Siva and began to call himself Sri Siva (“Sri” meaning “holy” and “Siva” meaning “Siva.”)

Wayne Dyer is a psychologist who has become the country’s best known self-help author and motivational speaker.  I once heard a recording by Dr. Dyer on which he talked about meeting Sri Siva, whom he said was a very holy man.  He said that he came into the room where Sri Siva was sitting and took a seat across from him.  Nothing was spoken between them for a considerable length of time until Sri Siva asked, “Do you have any questions?” and Dr. Dyer replied, “No, you have answered them all.”

Soon after I heard that recording, I learned that Sri Siva was giving a lecture in Boulder.  I thought it would be good to be in the presence of a very holy man, so I attended.  I also brought our children, Michael and Suzanne to let them experience the presence.  My wife Cathy had to work, but another friend – Kathy – wanted to attend and met us there.

After hearing Dr. Dyer’s talk, I wondered whether this was to be a darshan experience in which we would all sit silently until he asked if there were any questions.  In fact, it was just the opposite.  The lecture was a discussion of mantra and sacred sounds.

He primarily discussed the mantra “ara kara” which is supposed to aid in the manifestation of abundance. 
An interesting topic, I thought; but not necessarily what I would expect from a holy man.  When the lecture concluded, we were told that there would be a drawing for some products Sri Siva had made available for purchase.  It seemed like going to a bluegrass festival, where after listening to the band one is supposed to buy a CD.

As they brought the prizes to the stage, I mentioned to Kathy and Michael and Suzanne that we should start chanting “ara kara” if we wanted to win because everyone else in the audience would be doing it.  I said “ara kara” a few times before the drawing for a meditation CD – and I didn’t win.  Another meditation CD was given away – and I didn’t win again.

Finally, there was a drawing to win Sri Siva’s year-long personal transformation program.  That program was produced by the Nightingale Conant Corporation and consisted of 12 videos and accompanying material.  One was to be studied each month, making it a year-long program.  This time I did win.  I was impressed with how well the ara kara mantra was working.  Kathy said, “I knew you were going to win.”

The next day, I started thinking about that last comment.  Should I assume that the ara kara mantra was effective, or was it Kathy’s belief that brought about the result even though the whole audience was silently chanting ara kara?  I had to go to Black Hawk for business, so I decided to test the mantra while I was in town.  I sat in my car and chanted “ara kara” for five minutes and then entered a local casino.  Within 15 minutes, I had won over $300 and I left, looking forward to beginning the year-long program.

The program focused on different areas of life and a mantra was given for each.  Ara kara for abundance, something else for improved relationships, something else for vitality, and so on.  After the first couple of months, I lost interest.  It seemed like this teacher wanted us to believe in magic words.  While I do accept that words have power, I do not believe in magic words.  That was some fifteen years ago, and I still haven’t watched all the videos.

After a few years, Sri Siva dropped that name and began calling himself Siva Baba.  More recently, he has reverted to calling himself Dr. Pillai.  He heads an organization called the Tripura Foundation which works with orphans and the extreme poor in Southern India, and he sells Vedic astrology readings and Tamil religious rituals.  I can’t be any more precise because I have not paid much attention to his life for the past several years.

One thought that came to me while focusing my attention on mantras, though, is that sounds, as well as words, have a power.  I wrote this poem to express what I was thinking:


In the beginning was the Sound.
Imagine the world
before the birth
of the first pre-human being.
The wind moved through openings in the rocks,
the rain struck the land,
sending vibrations through the lifeless air.
The sound had begun.

Imagine now
that plants and animals
are in the world,
each creating new vibrations,
some with ears, organs
to detect vibrations.
The sound was heard.

In another beginning
was the Word.
Imagine the first creature,
perhaps human,
to create a sound
and pretend
the sound had meaning.
The word was born.

I do not know that first word;
I was not born.
If I heard that sound today,
I would not know its meaning.
The first word has died.

Pretend now that I am born
and as I was born and my lungs filled with air,
I let out a cry
that had no meaning
to those around me.
During my first year
I made another sound
A sound with meaning –
my first word.
I do not remember the word,
but I know
that before the word
was spoken,
I spoke sound.
In my beginning
was the sound.

Pretend now I am a poet
who wakes
to realize
that before words,
before the beginning of sound,
there was time.

I realize
that time
is as much
my prison
as are words.
(As a poet I would be chained to words.)
I realize
that time
will make me old,
will sap my strength,
will take my life,
leaving only my words.

Imagine I am no longer here.
Though I will not know it,
time will continue.
One day the words
I have set on paper
will have no more meaning
to those who see them
than the first word has to me.

Before the beginning
there was time.

Someday the marks
I call letters,
which make my words,
may have no meaning.
Those who live
may not link my marks
to any sound.

The word began with sound.
The word, it seems,
can continue without sound.

We must listen now,
to a recording,
to Mozart
and try to remember
why we had sounds to begin . . .

In the beginning.

8 thoughts on “DAY 61 – SOUND

  1. Your blog gives me a daily opportunity to consider so many things, and I thank you for that. Your willingness to be open and honest and reveal yourself here has, I hope, been a benefit to you. It certainly has been of benefit to me. Today your overall blog and this post have inexplicably reminded me of a poem by Rihaku, Exile’s Letter, as translated by Ezra Pound. I prefer not to attempt an explication of that effect, I would rather simply savor it. I will say that recollections of journeys are well-met here. Thank you for that, too.

    The cumulative effect seems to be a voice telling me and anyone reading this to be advised to stand back and brace ourselves, because I am about to think, long and out loud, about stuff.

    So. The good doctors Pillai and Dyer, the ara kara mantra and abundance, sound and word as essence and sense, and your thoughtful and insightful poem.

    First, the good doctors. The teacher, master, guru, sage are on a path like the rest of us. They seem to be separated from us by some sort of ascribed status as leaders. Leading, or being led, is a useful illusion on the path. It helps us to learn that as far as the path is concerned there really are no leaders or followers, just as the air is not concerned with how loudly we move it around. I found it revealing, amusing, telling, poignant and affirming that Dr. Pillai’s spiritual journey, for example, embraces identities both humble and proud as he traveled and bloomed and transformed, over and over. In his nominative history he is a persona (Pillai), and then a person aware of holiness (Sri), and then a person versed in holy practices (Baba), and then – a person again, in service to others.

    We all face the illusion of our seeming separation from all that is. We have a mind, we have a body, and we have an experience which overpoweringly confronts us with a condition of individuality and division. One path, the path of the seeker, is taken when individual consciousness becomes aware of separation from a thing greater than itself and begins to seek, as Thomas Wolfe described it, “the lost lane-end into heaven,” a reunification with that with which we seem to be estranged.

    It’s not the only path, of course. It has no ascribed value as being better or worse than any other path, no special status. It’s just a path. Seekers are motivated by spiritual distress, by the contradiction between a convincing conscious experience of individual separation and the seemingly very subtle connection of all to each, and each to all.

    The seeker’s path is dynamic and unfolding and moves right along at a good clip. Down the river and the road the seeker goes, with the flow, on the path. The seeker explores fascinating side channels and obscure lanes, confronts stagnant dead ends, returns to the main, always moving, always seeking, always chased by something. And somewhere on the path a person will sit down, and what is chasing them runs on past them, and what they are seeking appears there, where they are. So it seems to have gone with Dr. Pillai.

    There’s a story about the seeker’s path by E. M. Forster entitled The Other Side of The Hedge. It’s available to read at . In it a traveler on a path bounded on both sides by dense hedges grows weary, sits down to rest, is revived by a puff of air, acts on a suspicion as light as the puff of air itself that there is something on the other side of the hedge, follows the suspicion – and falls into heaven itself. So it seems to go with all seekers, sooner or later. People don’t grab heaven. Heaven grabs people. Or, said another way, people wake up in a place they’ve always been.

    On the path we seek to divine what appears to be mystery and magic appearing in certain places, people, things, and instances. To take a line or two from Paul Simon, all the path along, along, there are incidents and accidents and hints and allegations pointing toward the greater thing we seek to know.

    In every instance of these appearances a little whisper always softly says the same thing; “There is truth here.” A mantra of abundance, or perhaps a perfectly held belief made manifest, seems to generate a return in a material simulacrum. In the resultant return there are hints and allegations of alignments and relationships and cross-connections and resonance of the essence there, apprehended in the moment by the sense of mind and thought and words and sound. That’s the whisper of truth, the whisper of things as they are, really.

    Our conclusions to these mysterious and magical exposures may at first be jumbled or fumbled or distorted by the separation we believe in. Yet over time a whole and holy knowing grows in us, and when it does – we sit down and wake up in the place we’ve always been. And the weird part is, nothing has changed. Here we are. Always have been. Always will be. Here. Now.

    There are many paths, and I quite honestly have no idea which eyes or ears will see reflections or hear resonance in what I say here. I share all this stuff for what it’s worth, to eyes that see it and ears that hear it from their path. I honor all paths. Like you said in an earlier post, we are all here to do what we’re supposed to do.

    And with that we come to the end of this edition of the Sri Baba Bob Broadcasting Network version of All Things Considered. Next week we will present a point and counterpoint comparison of the dialectical bases of spirituality as reflected in the expressions “WTF” and “Oh, whatever…” We now return the page to just this guy named Bob.

    Bob here. Thank you yet again, this time for your poem. Your poem! What can I say? Perfect. Perfect, and true, and honest. And beautiful. Sense and essence, and a wonderful expression of every being’s long journey back home – to the beginning. Well said, and well done. It’s very cool. Namaste’.

    Note: Exile’s Letter by Rihaku can be read at .

  2. Thank you for the cites to Pound’s translation and Forster’s very short story, and for pretending to find perfection in an imperfect poem.

    Before moving on, I would like to mention another journey into Baba-ism. Richard Alpert, along with Timothy Leary, famously experimented with psychedelic drugs in the early 1960s. After he lost his teaching position, he drifted East and became Baba Ram Dass. I read his books, Be Here Now and How Can I Help?; and then much later Still Here.

    One day I received an email from Wayne Dyer. I don’t know how he got my address. The message said that Ram Dass had suffered a stroke, was ill and wheel chair-bound and unable to pay his rent. He asked if I would contribute money to try to alleviate some of these problems. I figured this partly answered the “How Can I Help?” question, so I sent some money.

    Later, I received a “personalized” thank you email from Ram Dass. I think he also said “Namaste.”

  3. I wish it will work for me, i m living a very hard life. Guruji please send me your blessing i need it badly. Thank you. Regards

    • Shiva, I am sorry to hear that you have been suffering for the past nine years, especially since you are so young. I am sure it must be very difficult for you.

      As I said in my original post, I believe that words and sounds have power, but I do not believe in magic words. Consequently, I do not think that any particular mantra, of itself, will bring the healing you are seeking. To me, the value of a mantra is that it can quiet your mind and bring it to a place, or a condition, from which healing is possible.

      Since I do not know you or know about your condition except for the very few words you have written here, I cannot give you any concrete suggestions. You probably would receive little benefit from an abstract discussion of healing. Let me simply offer you my prayers and my best thoughts.

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