Part II (Reasons)
Before going on to my experiences of the second course I took, I pause to reflect on what got me on to this path in the first place...why did I have this compelling need to do this course? I have often been asked this question.
When I look back....it probably began sometime after my sister died in a fire accident at home. The saddest days of my life..beginning 16th of August 1980. I was about 17 years old and she 25. We were chatting on the terrace in our home in Secunderabad, India, when suddenly she said she could smell gas (cooking gas). She said she will go down to the kitchen to check and as she was going, she turned around and asked me to come too. My parents were sitting on the other side of the terrace and asked me why we were going down. I told them that Jaishri suspected a gas leak, and I hurried behind her. As she opened the kitchen door, we saw to our horror the gas tube had come out of the stove and the room was stinking with gas. She quickly went over and closed the gas cylinder, while asking me to open the windows to let the gas escape.
How did it not occur to us that there was a lamp burning right there in the altar at one corner of the room? So many times I have tormented myself over this question. Why did I listen to her suggestion to open the windows before putting out the burning lamp? Why didn't I think that if I opened the window, the fresh air would cause the flame to be ignited and there would be an explosion of fire? How many times have I replayed this in my mind, wishing I had acted differently, wishing I had prevented the accident, wishing she hadn't suffered burns, death..
She died on 19th August 1980 a day after her birthday. She lived exactly 25 years. A life snuffed out so suddenly so tragically and right there in front of me..
That huge loss, painful blow, forced me to wonder why we are born, why we die, the transiency of life, the suffering therein. There were no answers... The guilt, the shame, the torture that I went through were unimaginable. I tried reading a number of books to find answers, from J Krishnamurthy, to religious texts, to listening to discourses by Swami Chinmayananda, Psychology, Philosophy, whatever I could. I am not sure if they helped, but what stood out was one story in the life of The Buddha. The story of Kisa Gotami.
This lady had lost her young son and was so overcome with grief that she wouldn't allow him to be cremated, insisting that he was only sleeping. When people saw her plight, someone suggested that she go to The Buddha and maybe he could revive the child. She went to him eagerly, carrying the child and told her story. The Buddha asked her to get a spoonful of mustard seeds and he would revive the child. However, he said he wanted her to get it from a household where no death has ever occurred. On the face of it, it was a simple task and the lady happily hurried away. After going round her village she could easily get mustard seeds, but the second requirement--that it should be from a house where no one has died could not be met. She finally was able to awaken to the reality of the situation--that her child had died and nothing could bring him back to life.
She went on to become a disciple of The Buddha and is said to have become fully enlightened.
This story provided some kind of solace to me and along with it a curiosity about meditation...what was this practice about? It seems to have provided answers to so many people, made them peaceful and enlightened--maybe it could give me answers to my questions too?
However, it was only about 10 years later, a marriage and two children, that I finally got to do a course in meditation. Those 10 years had a mixture of highs and lows, stresses and tensions which only strengthened my resolve to attend a course.