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A 14-YEAR OLD AT THE GATEWAY OF THE ETERNAL FLAME: ILLUSION OF SOUL AND FLESH - I


Varanasi. Manikarnika Ghat. Circa 1995. The mighty rains had overtaken the Ganga. Ganga was back in her mythological roar away from the sophisticated flow of an advancing civilization. The Ganga-bank ecosystem was back to the practicing days. But the last journey to the salvation remained unaffected. Yes, the set-up was modified. Now the Ganga's ablution was more easily available to the liberating soul.

A boy, around 14, was there to be part of the last journey of one of his relatives. It was not the first time that the boy was visiting such a place, for he always felt drawn to the questions of existence and relevance of the debate on life and death. What perplexed him more was though he would be questioning the relevance of debates on life and death, he would find himself occasionally in such debates, giving an extempore to himself, extending a soliloquy to his drenched yet thirsty soul. He still lives with this dilemma though the restlessness has abated to his inner sanctum sanctorum only. But then, 15 years retro in the future, it was not like that.

So it was circa 1995.

Jutting, running, walking, sneaking through the incessant rain, they all reached to the Ghat of the eternal flame. As the set-up there was rather modified since the Ganga had flooded and covered all the Ghat steps, the space management was allowing limited numbers in one go and so there was time to sit, time to look around, time to think inside, and moreover, there was time to reflect internally and externally.

Soon the boy found a corner for himself where he could escape the rain and could think to look inside. But, soon, he found another group coming to the place. Lost in his thoughts, he thought to find another place.

But as he prepares to leave, so as to not to disturb himself as well as the gentlemen in the other group, suddenly he finds himself attracted to a voice, foreign accented one but rendering and explaining some Sanskrit text.

Though it is not a strange sight to find foreigners at Varanasi Ghats exploring the questions of life and death; foreigners trying to find that missing link of the spiritual quotient of their heavily objectivity oriented lives.  But it is the subject matter under discussion with an orator with a different mother tongue and an Indian audience that drew the attention of the 14-year old boy. The subject matter is revolving around death, spirituality, satisfaction and relevance of the debate on matters of life and death. The representative spiritual text could be the following one from the Gita:

"dehino 'smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
tatha dehantara-praptir
dhiras tatra na muhyati"

"As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change."

 Gita has always been the most apt text when one decides to ponder on questions on debates on relevance of life and death. But for that 14-year old boy, then, Gita was not something he is looking for. But then the way the orator with foreign accent is contextualizing the ancient Indian texts in the prevailing situation of contemporary grief and hopelessness in personal relations, and that too, at a place, where every thing else than death disappears, where everything else but illusion remains, seems quite natural to the boy to become part of the group for a while, till he goes back to the gateway of the eternal flame.

The orator with the foreign accent is elaborating on 'satisfaction' as the main attribute to the journey on the spiritual quest emphasizing on the illusion of the cult built around the flesh and perpetuity of the soul.

It is the acme of the spiritual trajectory for anyone who learns to remain calm and satisfied with whatever the means that he is left with at the end of a day and finds it sufficient to begin the next day; growth for him not only remains economical but it acquires the spiritual dimension too. 'Satisfaction' is the attribute that defines who you are; what is the way that you would take; how far would be the limit that you would define that doesn't harm your spiritual-self and the one that doesn't encroach upon the aspirations of others.  Strangely familiar, the 14-year old boy had always found himself questioning him with such questions in his day-to-day life and that would occasionally bring him to the gateway of the eternal flame.

And here, there is the orator with foreign accent, explaining 'satisfaction' in the context of death among other eventualities of life!

 Strange! Difficult! Extreme! Relevant! Familiar! Captivating! – Words that strike the boy-15-years-retro-into-the-future on the discussion and soon he becomes one of the audience rapt in attention.  
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