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Sunday, 1 February 2015

Giving up devotional singing

K :
In the centre people were involved with many different things: I myself with a lot of singing. I loved those songs (most of them, not the songs we had to sing every day, I got tired of most of those) and it is a very big loss to me, not to sing like I used to. I feel that I have really lost something, but now I don't get the same thrill from those songs because they are so tied up with CKG and I haven't managed to separate them yet. I haven't found any other music that I like to sing, apart from, you know, the more mainstream music we listen to and dance to, which is fun and I do it. In particular I miss the bhajans, the songs about gods and goddesses, which I treated as love songs to the infinite. Do you ever sing anything now? Have you found something that you like to sing ?

Guillaume :
That is such a good question, K. Because I haven't thought of that yet. I feel a sense of loss too. I used to sing quite a lot when I was in the Centre. I was not a good singer, but I knew many songs, and a lot of the time I had one of Chinmoy's songs in my head. They still come back in my mind sometimes. But I do not want to get into them again because, as you say, it is very tied up with Chinmoy.
Songs are a very important thing in my inner life. All my life I would, at times, get some songs in my mind. Now I realize what it is about. But in the past, I sometimes would have songs in my mind and would be singing them from time to time aloud. Then one day I looked at the meaning of these words and I realized it was always about something that was in my mind at that moment. The meanings of the words would give me a little help about what I was dealing with at that moment.
I especially loved the bhajans too. I used to sing bhajans at the restaurant while I was cooking.
I can't help you much about that. I haven't found the solution yet. Maybe, now that you made me aware of this, some solution is gonna come. It's seems quite difficult, because I'll have to figure out on what kind of thing I want to focus now. I don't believe anymore in this all devotion crap. (Sorry!) Most of the spiritual songs are devotional songs and I do not believe in this approach anymore. I should look for songs about how infinite we are, how much power we have as human beings if we just believe in ourselves. It is almost anti-devotional songs I should find. The "I am nothing, my Lord you are my all" does obviously not work for me anymore. Even "My higher self you are my all" wouldn't work. It would have to be about "Right here, right now, I start believing in myself - there is nothing I cannot do. I am all power, I am a son of the universe. I do accept my limitations and I don't judge myself, I do accept the process, but at the same time I am fully aware that my limitations are only in my mind and that my goal is to transcend them". Well something like this. But at the same time, I do not like the slight complacent aspect there is in this.

I listen a lot to electro music since I got into it when I moved to Koh Phangan two years ago. I know it may not be great music, but it has a very nice effect on the mind and emotions and puts me in a good mood.
I was just listening to this while writing :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Woit4ebhrAM

K :
So, i am totally with you on not wanting to sing songs that say we are nothing and the gods are everything, but I never took the bhajans like this. Even with the male gods I treated them as part of myself, like an extension of me, or close family. I never liked the songs that said, 'lord forgive me' because I never really felt there was anything I needed to be forgiven for!! Not that I'd done to God, anyway. I always liked things that remind me of the infinite inside me as well, and I took the bhajans like this - almost like the gods and goddesses were my toys - dangerous toys yes, but that is the level of affection i had for them, that they were close to me rather than standing higher than me. Maybe that is a sign of dysfunction, but I felt in a way like I was singing to myself. I never prayed to them, as I don't like prayer AT ALL (I hate the bargaining nature of it 'do this for me and I'll be good) but I did try to become closer to what I felt they embodied at an abstract level. I did lose myself in a kind of abstract love for them while singing the bhajans, but I can't really say that it was devotional: it was really more like entering into a place where you feel love, rather than directing it at anything.

Guillaume :
I like this very much, that you were using the bhajans in your own way and having your own spiritual practice with it. I don't really remember how I was dealing in a symbolic way with the bhajans, but what you say about entering in a place where you feel love rings a bell. But the kind of ecstasy I was getting singing bhajans I do not want to get anymore. Ok, it's a nice feeling, but what did it change in my life ? It was allowing me to bear the shitty life I was having in the centre with the overwhelming responsibilities of the restaurant and organising events. But it did not change anything in my life. I was just escaping and disconnecting. The problem was that my life was shitty and that was what had to be changed. Chinmoy would probably have said that it was a problem with my mind unhappiness and that I should meditate more. Yes sure, keep having this very difficult life in my service, and meditate more to be able to stand it and to feel how you are blessed by the Supreme.... Blah blah blah. Same old spiritual crap. Ok, maybe I should try it once again to see if devotional songs would bring anything into my life...
I had a very special devotion for Kali. I was so fond of her. I wanted to meditate on her, but I got a strong feeling that it was dangerous for me and that I should not do it. Then later I was thinking I had an incarnation with Sri Ramakrishna and that it would explain my devotion to Kali.
I like this thing about prayer too. I relate very much to what you say. It has always been almost impossible for me to pray. I would think many of us would sometimes use our own intuition and not think exactly the way Chinmoy was teaching us. Thank God we were not robots and still had a tiny bit of independent personality. It is very far away for me now, and I do not have much memories of this kind of detail. But I know there were many things I would see or do my own way and not the way Chinmoy taught us. I was segmenting my mind and getting my own ideas, but always finding a way not to think he had defects. I was imagining that many disciples were not that evolved and that he needed to have a double discourse.
For example, we would always get those scolding talks about how important it was not to miss the functions and that no-one could be a good disciple if they were missing functions. But he was sometimes praising disciples who were not often at functions. When Udar got his kite accident in Bali in 2001, Chinmoy said he was a very good disciple. The guy was almost never coming to any functions. Same thing with Ila when she died. Ila was never attending any functions: she said she couldn't stand the other girls. But when she died, he said that she was a topmost disciple, one of the very few who knew who he really was.

K :
Good point when you were saying that the bhajans didn't help you change your life. But how do we know that the gods didn't hear your bhajans and give you the capacity to leave the path? Ha ha. The gods never react in the way we think - that is what we say about the personalities we have assigned the gods, because we have probably shaped them in our image and we are unpredictable as hell. But what if they are real and we are in their image: it's likely they would feel our bhajans and their energy would come forward in us and make us stronger, make us more independent, like them : ) You know I am not totally serious, but also in a way I am. I think we are talking about energies that are in all of us, and when we claim them for ourselves, as we two did with our bhajan practice, then maybe they live more clearly in us. I have no problem with seeing myself as a compound entity. In fact, I know that I mostly run my life by committee: all the different parts of myself have to be in agreement before going forward. Explains why everything takes so long!!! But yeah, I see the gods as different parts of myself, not something to be worshipped but something about myself to love and understand, so I don't feel that my bhajans were insincere.

I also felt a special connection to Kali because I am deeply attracted to dissolution and reassembly, as anyone who has ever been to IKEA with me will testify... I had lots of experiences with pictures of Kali, during Kali bhajans, during sports events or actually at any time - my attitude with her was like, 'You're part of me that is going to kill another part of me. I fear you because quick change really hurts, but I don't want to be a slave to fears and so come on and do it.' Actually that makes it sound as if I disliked myself and wanted to change, but I didn't - I've never disliked myself essentially, although I've disliked things that I've done. I've always given myself a lot of love, and I enjoy my own company. It was more that our whole lives were focussed on the art of transformation and that involved identifying inner stuff that was out of harmony with the perceived end goal and doing something about it. I'm not saying that was a great way to go about things, I'm just saying that is what was happening broadly speaking. And people would approach that with a variety of attitudes, some of them wiser than others. But yes, the 'end goal'. A lot of the justification for what happened in the girls' sex group was that it was to transform them and to give them a short cut to that end goal. Or yes, for the sake of pedants: to that perpetually moving and transcending end goal. As to whether these shortcuts are advisable, we would have to ask the girls involved. Many of them feel that even if it was genuinely intended to help them spiritually (and that point is being debated constantly and hotly) and accelerate their spiritual development, it was in no way advisable and that it damaged them deeply. Some feel that CKG really believed he was helping them make progress with these practices and some believe that he was consciously and cynically using them for his own sexual and mental gratification. It's probably a mixture of both. Maybe he did really believe that drinking his semen was going to make them stronger. Maybe he really did feel that teaching them to use sexual energy in a clinical way to further their meditation, via the route of enforced sex with each other and no personal attachments, was worth the damage he caused to their emotional lives and their sense of self. Who knows? But we're seeing the fallout now and, whatever he did or did not intend, these women are really traumatised. I myself am traumatised listening to the descriptions of how he groomed one young woman for her role in this by suggesting that in the future she might have a 'grandfather boyfriend' - I mean, for fuck's sake, does that really sound like someone carrying out an experiment under laboratory conditions, or does it sound like a total pervert prepping a future conquest? Right, that's what I thought, too.

So, back to Kali. I would try to hear her voice inside other peoples' criticism; there was a strong culture there of people feeling that it was fine to try to adjust their fellow devotees into a shape that was more acceptable to them (for their own good of course...), and I would try to feel that I should listen to what people said and take things on board rather than ignoring them out of ego. I felt that it was important to bare myself to rigorous criticism in order to make me a stronger model of myself, but in the very attempt to take suggestions on board and have a dispassionate appraisal of myself I think I sacrificed a lot of good things that I had. And it made it very easy for those more messed up than myself to put their own crap onto me. I have a lot to learn about discrimination - what is healthy for me as an entity at my current stage of evolution and what is not. I have changed my attitude with regard to others' appraisals of me - anyone lovingly trying to adjust my personality now will feel not my compliance but my indifference. I'll still listen, but I won't be in a hurry to change myself. I have decided that I, in all my imperfect glory, am a good enough guide for myself and I can do my own adjustment. But that was my feeling about what Kali represented, that I felt she was a part of myself for my correction but also a loving figure who embodied something I wanted to bring forward inside myself. I used to carry a picture of her round with me all the time in my wallet. I have lots more to say about Kali as she was a big figure in my mental landscape, but that can wait for another time.

The question of whether I made her in my own image or she made me in hers is not yet answered : )

I also agree that the bliss we felt when singing bhajans didn't change our lives essentially, although it was an amazing feeling. As you say these feelings of bliss helped us endure the pain in our lives, which we would probably say is a bit of an own-goal as we are now trying to work on ourselves in a more holistic way. Difficult to navigate these waters!

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