Darsanim

Maharashtra, India, 2004

I attended Kalidas Sanskrit University

and received a degree in Ayurveda. 

While there I visited the Sevagram Ashram (village of service)

of Mahatma Gandhi

To paraphrase the ancient writer Thucydides:

 

"All that I have written are not essays 

to win the applause of the moment, but to mark a path for all time.” 

In the Jewish tradition a person who tells stories about stories in the Torah is called a Darsanim and his story about a story in the Torah

is called a midrash.

 

I thought I might be a Darsanim since the first time I heard the word,

in any case, I have always considered my stories to be a midrash.

 

The Apology of the Preacher

- By Abn Allah Ben Saber, 1650

 

" . . . there were wandering Darsanim

who traveled from one town to another

often because of persecution or adverse economic conditions

rather than by invitation

 

"Thus, the visiting Darsanim had to apologize

with much humor, self-deprecation and flowery expressions

in order to gain the sympathy of the congregation

especially the local Hakimim (wise men)."

 

Please consider this my apology . . .

 

I am not exclusively focused on the Teachings

said to be given to Moses by God at Mount Sinai (the Torah),

rather,

I swim in the great ocean

of the now gathered together in the same room

of our consideration

for the first time in history, 

the world-wide great traditions

of religion and spirituality.

They are my Torah.

and I spin like a wheel round their hub

 

I am a religious studies scholar

and

have studied the Talmud ( the commentaries)

 not merely of believers, philosophers and enthusiasts,

but of the

 Realized Teachers of the world

Those who have become One with God or Reality

 

I have been interested in religious traditions 

since I was a little boy.

I  read the great commentators and teachers,

but I fell in love with the Realizers,

 Saints, Sages, Siddhas

and 'Crazy Wise' men and women of the world.

 

They were not 'pipe-smoking philosophers';

the lives they lived and the stories they told 

revealed the constant miracle of life

and the mysterious infinity of everything

and the humor of everyday living.

 

 They embodied what they spoke of

 the tales they told were radical (went to the root)

their mere presence in the world changed my life

and the lives of others.

 

Along with what I thought was spiritual practice,

I tasted everything

 sexuality, money, food.

 I indulged like an explorer 

visiting exotic people, places and practices in a foreign land

and like everything else I experienced

found they did not make the difference

 

Here are some of the 'jewels' I carried back:

Here are stories to share what I found,

tales and essays that speak of

the mistakes I or others made

and 

gratitude for the winds of grace that filled my sails.

Two rivers join together at Dev Prayag

the Alakananda and the Bhagirathi.

After this Divine (Dev) confluence (Prayag)

these same two waters are called the 'Ganges'

 

The two rivers of renunciation and indulgence

joined together in the river of my own life.

I  walked along them all my life

I bathed in both of them

and neither made any difference

Now it seems they have joined into the river of heaven

and I realize I have always been traveling in this direction

I had heard and read about this river of heaven,

and on many occasions

I visited and bathed in these waters

But as Kabir once said:

If bathing in the Ganges brought salvation

then every fish is in heaven

I  have met with a few extraordinary teachers

and One Unbounded as the sky

 

For all of this,

I am overwhelmingly thankful

 

but as for myself, 

I am still an ass,

bearing a load of memories, exquisite books 

Here are some of the tales written on the banks

of the river of heaven . . .

 

And now for my closing apology . . .

We all make mistakes

but not all mistakes are necessary

This is the reason I am obligated

to share

what I have learned;

to point out the mistakes I have made;

mark the trail I traveled

and tell of the dead ends I arrived at

 

These dead ends

marked the beginning of wisdom for me

and

if you are fortunate

you will discover your own . . .

The Wheel of Life