Day 363 – the gods and goddesses

When I say god, I don’t know if I am talking about the same figure that is presented in church or in the bible. I feel like there is a more intimate divinity to which I speak when I pray. In India, when people say ‘Namaste’, it is a greeting that recognises the inner divinity in each of us. The light within me recognises the light within you. I spend a day in front of the television as it is so painfully hot in Brisbane. For some reason I seem to come across show after show about god. The old Moses movie is on and then Hercules. This leads me to think about Persephone, the goddess of the underworld, and Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of Love, War and Sexuality. Going back to so many religions there is a god for everything, even a servant god, Hanuman, in India who represents Bhakti yoga- the yoga of love and devotion. They say there are as many paths as there are people to walk them. Each person has their own relationship and opinion on who they pray to, if they pray at all. None can be wrong, as long as the faith there connects us to something which can bring happiness, fulfilment and awareness. Regardless of name or purpose, each god is just an aspect of the inexplicable divine. And if there is a valuable lesson to learn from this year, is not to complicate it with words. Silence is the path within. The divine doesn’t need the story. It already knows the ending.

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Day 133 – a mother’s love is unconditional

I once heard a woman say that the hardest thing a mother ever had to do was raise her own children so that one day they would no longer need her. Even my own mother told me that nobody could ever imitate the love a woman has for her child and that I would understand this level of unconditional love when I have my own children. I have not yet learned how to love unconditionally as my mother loves me.

I have loved selfishly, with expectations, judgements and attachment. When there are expectations, love cannot be pure or selfless or unconditional. Flaws are revealed and we quietly hope that change will happen. This is not love. I have realised that to merely accept the flaws is not enough. Unconditional love means to love the flaws, to love the imperfections and to enjoy the mistakes. It is to kiss the wounds as a mother would for a child, to cry harder than the child in the hope of absorbing their pain and to sacrifice even one’s own last breath in a final whisper of devotion. If I cannot treat someone in this way then my most sincere act of love would be to pray that they meet someone who can.

When a relationship ends, it is easy to put blame on each other and try to rationalise and justify. To believe in love without pain is naïve. To think another person will love without expectation is blind. To see external love as a saviour is to be lost in the maya, the illusion and forever suffer in the delusion.

“For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, so shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.’ – Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

But if we turn the love inwards, towards the divine self, the essence, the truth, the light, the atman, ‘god’, then it must be selfless. It must be unconditional. It must be pure and continuous. It must fill the cup until the cup overflows with ecstatic devotion. Then that pure love will flow out of the cup and into the world. Only then can love be without pain, for pain will fall away like the layers of illusion. Only then can love be without expectation because it will be in the now. Only then can love save us for it is from within and not from without.

If I nurture my spirit as my mother nurtures me, if I feed my soul as she fed me, if I sacrifice the external world for this divine love as she has sacrificed so much for me, then I can give unconditional love.

Day 127 – the many names of god

Ashley and I have created a new game. Basically, all day long we try to think of differences between America and Australia… For starters, there are RSL (Returned Soldier’s League) clubs in Australia where beer is really cheap. Australians call ‘ketchup’ tomato sauce and are way more liberal with swearing. She is shocked at how much American culture has seeped through entertainment and how many states I actually know, without having been taught them in school. She is also mildly embarrassed that Jersey Shore is shown in Australia.

We spend most of the day travelling to Jaipur. It is only five hours by car and we stop at Fahtebad Sikri Fort, only one hour out of Agra. It is hot and the tour guide grows impatient while we wonder around spending too much time taking photos and not enough time listening to his history lesson. The problem is that after seeing the Taj Mahal yesterday, other monuments are just not doing it for us. We try to be attentive about the Moghul emperor, Shah Jahan’s grandfather, who lived at Fahtebad Sikri, but we soon give up and go back to the car to fall asleep on the journey to Jaipur.

We give up the rest of the afternoon for finding internet and waiting around for dinner. We skipped lunch and are just staring at the clock, waiting for the kitchen to open. Over dinner, we start talking about the difference between religions. Pri, who is Hindu, doesn’t understand the difference between the Messiah and a Prophet. We talk about Jesus, or St Issa who is said to have travelled to India during his 18 missing years in the bible and my personal favourite topic, the Nag Hammadi Gnostic Gospels. Ashley is Protestant and we compare it with my Catholic background, which is more concerned with saints, Mother Mary and communion. In our limited knowledge of Judaism and Islam, we draw together the many similarities between the religious icons that dominate the major religions and ultimately come to the same conclusion; whether you call it tomato sauce, or ketchup it is essentially the same condiment.