The Sun is setting in the West over the largest gathering of water in the world. Every stream and river feeds into the Ocean and while there are different parts of it, naming them only makes them seem more distinct. There is no clear line between them, though the waves are like a war zone at Kanyakumari, where the boundaries between the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal, and the Arabian sea famously meet. It’s a long commute from there to the middle of the Atlantic or to Lake Erie, for that matter.
Kanyakumari is where the god Hanuman dropped medicine as he flew to Sri Lanka to save Sita. Where people go to wash away their sins. Where Swami Vivekananda swam a quarter mile through belligerent waves -- waves who work in deadly concert with the knives of rocks hiding out along the seabed -- to meditate on a little island where he had his Vision of One India, the flash of insight that shaped modern Hinduism. There’s a complex temple there now. The point where he sat still for three days -- I mean for three days -- is marked with a meditation room.
This ocean, this bed where the Day is laying down under its warm sky -- quilted in phosphorescent patches red-orange-pink and purple-blue -- the Day is stretching out, exhausted head pillowed by the Sun, and feet resting on the nearly full Moon, this green Sea is not Kanyakumari, not even the Indian Ocean. No. This is the Arabian Sea, though some communities of oxygen and hydrogen, no doubt at this very moment, are rapidly hopping the borders to the Sea of Bengal and the Indian Ocean and back -- with no one to check their passports, x-ray their belongings, or take pictures of what’s under their clothes -- they migrate under the unconditionally loving auspices of that great statue of Thiruvalluvar, the poet-saint.
Some of these communities of microscopic waterdrops might go airborne out of the sea and into the lungs of a passing sage. The same, or another set indistinguishable from it, might wind its way to the Gandhi Memorial. The Great Soul’s ashes have no doubt taken up residence in the valences of these vaporous nations. No doubt parts of Gandhi have circled the globe a million times while some have set up homes, even cities, on Ramakrishna’s statuesque nose. I may even be breathing some Gandhi right now, deep into my belly. I wonder how many particles in this breath of air have wended their way through my body in one form or another already and are just starting their next cycle...
But now I am not at Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, where the two seas and an ocean meet. l am in Kerala, the month of December. It is not a cold place, but still, this is winter. Night will begin at six on perhaps the most important day in history. Time will tell. Now I am doing qi gong. Actually, I am finishing. My mind has wandered a long way. It should be at Dan Tien, the garden where the elixir grows, the center of gravity. I should be thinking about my belly, feeling my belly and only my belly. So it goes.
“Now, bring your hands to your belly. Left over right, Shivakrishnan. And very good. Feel your qi flowing to this place as a ball of flame on the exhale and on the inhale, feel its expansion.” There’s a brief pause. “Exhale. Now feel it. See it. Lit like a sun. Condensing. A deep ball of flame.” He pauses for several breaths to let this sink in. “Now let this go.” Solomon rubs his hands together. “Rub your face several times. Not ungently, but firm. Then, rub your fingers through your hair, flicking off the stale energy. And pounding your neck. Good good.” He finishes the routine and then stands up.
We’re all kneeling in a circle, closing up the evening qi gong. The water of the Arabian Sea is particularly sticky. Flies buzz around us as sporadic dots of annoyance. “Jolly wot!” I say, coming straight to my feet after an hour of kneeling and letting the mishmash of pain and pleasure soak back into them with the blood. “Not long until we find out if you’re just another wanking British fraud like Crowley or if this business about the spiritual jump you’ve been going on about is true.”
“Yes, yes. I’m sure it matters.” The slant-eyed limey says dismissively. “The important thing to remember here, Ramadupa, is that the spiritual shift has been happening gradually since the beginning of time. This is only a major point in the cycle. This is just a spoke in the wheel. Creation rolls on, on either side.”
I stomp my feet futilely as I wait for the heavy sizzling in my legs to end. “Or perhaps this Twenty Twelve business is just a bloody load of bollocks and that book you put out is not worth as much as my scrotum.” I say the last with my imperfect imitation of the Indian accent of a certain Karnagapully statesman who killed a certain monkey over a particular scrotum quite recently. I’ve been trying every night for three weeks now to use the supposed spiritual effects of the astral alignment to my advantage. No luck.
“Who on Earth would drop a tenner on your scrotum, Dupa?”
“I sure as hell would.” I retort, “Although, I’m not sure whatever monkey rips it off will take cash.”
Shivakrishnan groans from downward dog, dealing, as we all must, with the feeling that his legs are about to explode in agony. It is the anticipation of that pain, a pain which never actually comes, that I find to be the real core of the discomfort in standing up after a kneeling practice. “Why would he when he’s already got a meaty banana in his mouth? Monkeys do not think ahead.” His Spanish accent is not particularly thick, but his mentality is gloriously so.
Hilde asks Solomon, “So what is to happen? Would it be good to wake for that night?”
He shakes his head, “Hilde there is nothing to worry about. If you sleep then your dreams may be particularly meaningful. If you do not, then maybe your experiences will be.”
“Amma doesn’t seem to care what day it is,” I point out.
“Amma does not care what second it is,” Solomon leads the walk off of the beach, one step at a time, leaving little divots for tracks in the sand. Just like mine and everyone’s they disappear the moment I stop noticing them. Already the trenches our knees made are indistinguishable from the rest of the red beach. A seagull sings a single note, etching the palm trees and the sunset with its song for just that moment. And then the note ends and the echoes it leaves in my ear are swallowed by the drumming of the sea. “Dinner shortly. I haven’t had a bite since high tea. Owi-ow, fruit and yogurt! Maybe some jaggery. Yum yum!”
He says “yogurt” with the short “o.” I snicker. Brits.
“So here’s the thing,” I begin to say, laying out my understanding of this Twenty Twelve business, “the Earth orbits the Sun.”
Solomon interrupts, “Can you prove this? As near as I can see the Sun goes around the Earth, and certainly the world is a circle around my self.”
“Right right right.” I talk him down. “The sun orbits a hole in space and time.” I am using a pair of coconuts to demonstrate for the table the path of the Earth around the sun and the sun around the black hole. My audience consists of some six people enjoying the simple art of after dinner conversation, a ritual for us English speaking residents of the ashram where there is little else to do but meditate. Naval contemplation can only take a man so far.
“Wait, is that hole at the top of the coconut, with the straw sticking out, is that the black hole which is going to kill us all?” Solomon cuts in in mock shock and terror.
I choose to ignore him this time. “The Sun, right now, is here, in the Northern Hemisphere of the Milky Way, still just barely. We’re on the edge of the equator.”
Shivakrishnan chimes in, “Ah... that’s why it’s so warm.” He, too, is a mocker.
“No, Shiv, it’s so warm because we’re in Southern India. Will you gentlemen please let me get to my point?”
“What is this ‘me’ you speak of? And more importantly, perhaps, given the dire straights in which this ‘me’ seems to be finding itself is, ‘What is the point’?” Solomon asks me, over the thick steam in his tea cup. In my mind he is already out of the lecture. Dead to me. A ghost.
“The point is that the only ‘non-imaginary’ effect I can possibly see from this Twenty Twelve hullabaloo, is that when the Earth crosses this equator, as it is apt to, being connected to the sun, as it is,” I motion with my coconuts, “is that on one hand--and I arrive at this through syllogism -- it may begin to spin the other way. You know, the Australian Toilet Effect. Or two, that the poles will reverse.
They’ve reversed in the past. It seems to me there should need to be some sort of impetus for this sort of thing, and the passing over the equator seems like just the thing.”
“Bravo. Bravo!” Solomon puts on his American accent, “Shit man, we’re in trouble, aren’t we?”
“Solomon, these things I can see. I can actually imagine the Earth shifting its rotation. Or else flipping on its axis. In my mind’s eyesI can see the planets all lining up like toy soldier dominoes, but there’s not a single interview in that damn book of yours that makes any sense to me.” Solomon has come into some recent wealth, comparatively.
“You must not lust after results.” He says with a snaky grin.
“But this sort of a situation, this astral configuration, is not going to come along again in my lifetime. It would seem to me that one should take advantage of it.” I am tempted to tell them that I have been trying my hand at time travel.
“Dupe, do you ever listen to anything I say?” He plays exasperation as only the British can.
I am in my flat. For just around 1000 USD, and with the right friends, you too can own a modest sized condo in the home of the world’s strongest incarnation of the Devi! Three free meals a day if you can stomach Indian food for three meals a day. Western food costs money. You might like Indian food. You might think this is a great deal. But one needs the culinary fortitude of a monk to stand tall against the barrage of watery rice with fried, stewed, and spiced vegetables. There is nothing better than Indian food once in a while.
I put the stone around my neck. It dangles over my heart. It cost nearly as much as my flat. They said it came from the Moon, or was the Moon. Maybe they said this because it was true. This is unlikely.
What is true is that it is a very remarkable stone and it does have some connection to the Moon. How do I know this? I know this. That is how I know it. I believe it. What else matters? For my purposes, nothing. It settles over my heart.
I’d wandered away from the group during the middle of the bhajans. It seemed like the appropriate time to leave. I felt it. I can still hear the inscrutable songs of praise to God, to life, to existence, shaking the sky-scraping monastery from my room on the twentieth floor. They tug at my soul.
I lay down in corpse pose.