The original Curve of the World manuscript was much longer than the 240 pages it now is. To make it leaner and a more compelling read, I trimmed some 60 or more pages. On this page I’ll paste some of the ‘deleted scenes’ for anyone who is interested to read more….

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

Before the dark sleep of winter, cultures the world over celebrate the power of illumination. In India the holiday was called Diipavali, or Diiwali, autumn festival of light, and a margii friend and I arriving at Howrah station soon after I left Japan were plunged into the midst of it.

I hadn’t seen Baba for more than a year (I’d made a short trip to Calcutta the previous spring), not a very long time by ordinary standards, but to me it seemed an eternity. Drawing inspiration from the physical presence of the guru, I was discovering, the devotee stores energy like a squirrel hoards acorns for the cold season. This was too much delayed gratification.

The streets of Calcutta were alive with revelers lighting hand-held sparklers and fireworks. Some were doing a bump and grind to Hindi film music. Firecrackers burst in rapid-fire succession. Children flocked to the small amusement park ferris wheels set up in the main park downtown, and everywhere strings of colored lights were hung to rival the most ambitious Christmas pageant.

 

Diipavali, sache esho probhu, tomari korite boran.

I welcome you with lights, oh lord.

 

We’d hoped to reach Lake Gardens by mid-afternoon to catch Baba’s darshan, but events conspired against us. When our taxi screeched to a halt in front of Baba’s house, I could see people streaming out of the gate. I recognized a friend and approached him, asking about Baba’s talk. He confirmed that it had ended a few minutes before. I turned to my traveling companion and we saw reflected in each other’s eyes a misty disappointment.

As people milled around outside the house, we learned that an Indian devotee had invited the overseas margiis to his place for a dinner celebration. It was now 6 p.m. We knew that Baba would take his evening walk between 9 and 10 p.m. and we’d have another chance to see him tonight itself. So we decided to join the others for a while. The man had hired a city bus – a tired-looking vehicle belching smoke into the street – to carry our group to his house, though he went on ahead by car. It was the strangest of rides.

The bus snaked through the neighborhoods of Ballygunge and Tollygunge, and everywhere the dark night was lit up with celebrations. After about twenty minutes, we pulled in front of an aging apartment complex, and the thirty people on the bus trooped off and entered the building, winding up several flights of stairs, and coming to what we thought was the correct door. Our guide knocked, while the rest of us stood in the hallway.

The woman who answered the door took one glance at all these foreigners outside her residence and gave a start.

We weren’t remotely in the right place. Somehow the directions had been misinterpreted, confusing street numbers or neighborhoods, and once it became clear that we were in the wrong house, word had to be passed down the line of people standing in the narrow hallway and winding down the stairwell, a game of telephone, each exchange adding another layer of amused commentary. Finally we all piled back on the bus and our “guide” began poring over his directions in consultation with the bus driver.

The bus got under way again, and for the next fifteen minutes seemed to be making some sort of progress. Everyone chatted easily, enjoying the field-trip quality of the excursion. Then, as we drove beneath an underpass, there was a horrible scraping sound and the bus ground to a halt. The roof had wedged into the opening of the tunnel, the other half protruding back into the street. We’d plugged the underpass like a thumb in a dike.

Everyone climbed off and stood around, gaping. This being India, there’d been no sign warning vehicles with high overhead to take a different route. The driver squatted on his haunches, surveyed the situation, and broke out his betel nut chew. My friend and I stared at each other in disbelief. A kind of grim acceptance, a resignation, began to take over. What could you do? It was better to laugh than cry.

Another half hour or so flitted by; a crowd gathered and tried to help us shove the bus back out into the street. Eventually we were successful, though everyone was marveling at these two strange incidents that had delayed our trip. The bemusement was compounded for my friend and me. Why, after we had traveled for so long, and our hearts were set on only one thing, were we continuously beset by time-wasting obstacles? It felt like a cosmic conspiracy.

It was 8 p.m. by the time we entered a large warehouse, the property of our host. But there had been some miscommunication; he was serving only sweets. Indian sweets are in a class by themselves, but they don’t constitute a meal. Still, the man was going to great lengths to provide hospitality, and we appreciated his efforts. But I couldn’t help thinking that if we stayed and waited for the bus to take us back to Lake Gardens (if indeed it was returning there), we would miss seeing Baba again.

I mentioned this to another acquaintance and he said, “But you can see him tomorrow. It’s already late. Why not relax, go to Tiljala and get a good night’s sleep, and see him in the morning?” It was reasonable advice. But a kind of tension had been building in me since I’d arrived in India. In fact, it had been building for a year. I sidled over to my companion to tell him I was catching a taxi back to Lake Gardens. He was of a similar mind – the delays had fueled his determination as well.

So as the others sat down to enjoy their rasogullas and gulub jamans, we headed out into the illuminated darkness of the street, on the road toward our goal, once more.

 

On this trip I had the chance to attend a reporting session. Baba was taking reports from Prout LFTs from around the globe. Twenty or so of us filed into the hall at Lake Gardens. As the session began, several LFTs spoke about the work they’d been doing in various places. Baba smiled and nodded. Then one dada poked me in the back, prodding me forward to stand in front of Baba. Why me? Perhaps I’d been doing good work. Like a squirming school kid called upon to give an answer in his worst subject, I approached, nervous, but excited. And stood in front of my guru.

Baba asked my name, and where I was working.

“Japan, Baba.” Some dadas in the back of the room guffawed – most LFTs worked in their home countries and I didn’t seem to be Japanese.

Baba smiled, and began speaking about Japan. He’d recently been stressing the need to become fully knowledgeable about wherever we were working, in order to better serve the people there. Flora, fauna, waterways, geographical features, demographics, economics, agricultural and industrial potentialities – he wanted us to be well versed in a broad range of subjects. Now he asked me a question about tidal power in Japan.

I didn’t know the answer, so I mumbled something.

“What was that?” Baba asked.

“Baba, I don’t know,” I said.

“You don’t know?” Baba repeated.

I sensed a change in the atmosphere of the room, a squall gusting up off the coast. “He does not know?” Baba’s face assumed a stern look. I recalled then that Baba always wanted people to venture an answer, to at least try. As if electrical energy had built up around him and was waiting for an outlet, his anger flashed.

“You should know this!”

I jumped with the force of his shakti. Everyone else in the room seemed to draw back, too. The dispensation of energy lasted for only a second, but Baba’s anger was palpable. What have I done? I thought, chastened, yet strangely fascinated by the turn of events. Something was going on beyond his response to my lack of answer. Not everyone got to see this side of Baba. He could be fierce with those he loved, I knew.

As quickly as it came, the mood shifted. Then Baba assumed an expression I’ll never forget. As he gazed into my eyes, I was overwhelmed by a sense of his affection for me. I could have stood there transfixed for hours in the glow of this smile. The flip-flop in Baba’s energy, in his demeanor, was such that everyone in the room was now suffused with a sense of release. People around me began laughing, pulled in by the charm of what seemed to be Baba’s little cosmic joke.

I don’t think Baba really cared whether or not I knew a particular detail about tidal power in Japan. It was the principle that was at stake. I had the sense that he was showing me two distinct faces, that of strict disciplinarian and loving teacher. Also, that anger was a tool that could be used to instruct or motivate. I had always suppressed strong emotions. Was he demonstrating their utility? He was, in fact, only a little angry with me, but I knew that with his acaryas he sometimes expressed great anger, scolding, yelling. Many Tantric gurus throughout history had done the same: corrected the mistakes of their followers with great fierceness, and then showered love on them. They displayed anger in order to break down the pride and egotism of their devotees, so that these devotees might become filled with divine energy. In that light, I felt privileged to receive Baba’s attention.

How to trust someone like this, someone who seemed to turn convention on its head? Implicitly? No, little by little, in the beginning expecting some letdown, some flaw in character. But it never came. As long as I knew him, he continued to be as gracious, inspiring, stern, and loving as he was in that reporting session.

Perhaps, too, Baba knew where I was headed next, and wanted to give me a special experience. As I prepared to leave for acarya training in the Philippines, I stepped out of the session, and a few weeks later, out of India, with yet another moment of inspiration emblazoned in my brain.

 

 

 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Tantra is a complicated thing. Scholars find it difficult to say definitively what it is or is not. Certain themes or commonalities link otherwise disparate practices. For the most part Tantrics focus on personal spiritual liberation. According to Teun Goudriaan, early Tantra was rooted in very old traditions of un-systematized yoga, shamanism, medicine, astrology, religious eroticism and folkloristic ritual. Although not all Tantric traditions share the same qualities, one can generalize about certain defining characteristics. Tantra often is concerned with kundalini and yoga, the mystic nature of speech, a practical sadhana, visualization, and ritual practices.

David White, in The Alchemical Body, writes that the Tantric universe is divine and life-affirming. It is a pulsating, vibratory place, in which “matter, souls, and sound are the stuff of the outpouring of godhead into manifestation, with godhead generally identified with Siva and his self-manifestation or self-reflection taking the form of the Goddess.” And, ultimately, it is an emancipating universe.

At the heart, literally, of Tantra, is the role of the guru. “The disciple’s heart is a field,” Anandamurti writes. “Sadhana is the ploughing and irrigation of the field; and the preceptor’s initiation is the sowing of seeds.”

Anandamurti, it can be argued, brought Tantra into the 20th century. By systematizing the process of purifying cakras and raising the kundalinii, terming the process “biopsychology,” he placed emphasis on the interrelationship between mind, glands, cakras and behavior. A great emphasis was also put on purity of diet and conduct, and correspondingly, practitioners often found that their lives were simplified, brought into alignment with their spiritual goal.

An AM acarya, Dada Dharmavedananda, elaborates: “Tantra finds or creates circumstances designed expressly to bring out, rather than to bury, one’s problematic mental tendencies…  Only if a spiritual aspirant, at least at some stage, deliberately seeks out fearful, demoralizing or tempting circumstances in order to fight and overcome them by Cosmic ideation and trust in the guru, does it deserve to be called Tantra.”

Whatever the scholars say, perhaps the most important thing about Tantra is that it is practical. As I stepped further into this emancipating universe, it seemed to me that a veil, a curtain, was beginning ever so slowly to lift from over my life, though in some places it still dragged on the ground, obscuring my view. But my anxieties, I discovered, were beginning to dissipate. I was embracing an outlook of universal brotherhood, of compassionate understanding that people were fundamentally good at core. I was meditating on the idea that I was part of the vast cosmic Mystery.

As a result, I felt a kind of joyful purpose and peace, creating a stability I hadn’t quite known before. What a blessing this was!

 

 

From Prabhat Samgiita chapter:

Later, an Indian didi told me the story of how Baba had composed a song just for her: she and Baba had had an argument; he’d scolded her for some small thing, and Didi, feeling an injustice had been done, stormed out of the room.

“It pinched my heart,” she said, but she gamely continued with her duties, preparing Baba’s breakfast. Then she went to her room, sat on the floor, stretched out her legs, and cried.

Knowing she was upset, Baba dispatched people to stand outside her room and ask her not to cry. She wouldn’t listen. Didi was in the habit of making a garland for Baba each day out of flowers from the garden. On this day, too, she weaved campaka flowers together in her room, her tears streaming onto the petals. Suddenly, from the courtyard, she heard the words, “Gan, gan!” A little later, a group of people came to her room.

“Didi, Baba wrote a song for you. Would you like to hear it?” Would she?!

Kede kede gechiI’ll make a garland from my tears. Then let’s see if you accept it.”

Didi sat still; she gazed wonderingly up into the ring of beaming faces. Baba had, she realized, wreathed together the lyrics of a new song by drawing on her innermost feelings, those feelings she had experienced not an hour earlier, the sense of wounded pride felt after a lover’s tiff. Didi stopped crying. Deeply moved, she went back to work.

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