Fourth Ashram

Fourth Ashram

I grew up in a culture where birthdays are not celebrated: no party, no gifts, and no resolutions. It was just another day. I didn't even know my date of birth till age 17. My parents, of course, knew it and we all knew that we had our janma-patris (birth certificate prepared by the family priest). But mine, we thought, was lost in 1947 when our country was partitioned and we had to leave our home and all our possessions. On my first college admission form I put down a cooked up birth date. Then, mysteriously, my janma-patri reappeared. It was with some papers my sister had put away in a locker. I discovered that my true birth date is May 21, 1931.

We still do not celebrate birthdays but they are highlighted mentally. May 21st this year, however, was special, for I had turned 75. In the Vedic culture we are supposed to enter the contemplative life at this age. In this day and age very few people take this tradition seriously: but I am old fashioned. Since May 21st my mind began to throb and tick. It has been planning a course of action: 'As soon as you get back home its one meal a day, simpler dress, sleep on the floor, meditate all morning on empty stomach, be silent, cut out outer and inner noise, on and on ad infinitum! It puzzled and petrified me.'

Another, more sane voice then intervened. "Stop" it said. "Drop all your worthless plans. Your mind is having a gala time. It will go on like this and you will still be where you are five years from now. That is because for your mind planning is everything: work is not important."

You must enter contemplative life (sanyas) now. Right this minute. You need to shed your mind's baggage. Seek the light of the Great Spirit and walk the path lit by it. It will guide your every step if you submit. Be ready to receive help moment to moment. Be empty, humble, and obedient. Not easy, but the only choice for you.

I am awe struck and very happy.

October 25, 2006