Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What Lurks Behind Grief?

I attended the ceremony for Mashi, who had recently passed away. Simple Vedic rites in a room full of well wishers (mostly women clad in those traditional Kolkata sarees which are a beautiful and peaceful off white), with the flames of the fire as witness, reminding us of our connection to the elements of nature. The prayers themselves are wishes for peace for everyone - for those who have left but more importantly, for those who remain. The chanting of mantras also helps soothe and focus the mind. These days, however, prayer books are not handed out and those of us who know the hymns can chant them, but most of the people are dependent on the priest to carry out this procedure.

All went well until the prayers ended and the priest (a very pleasant lady) began her discourse, which brought me back to earth with a painful thump. It was all about who we have lost and I sensed waves of pain in the room and found myself immersed suddenly in inconsolable grief for a day. I was mourning for Mashi and all that I lost with her passing.

A certain amount of grief is natural and is a protective shield for internal wounds until they heal, but grief must pass, like everything else. I realized in this one day, how easy it is to hold on to pain and the past - a kind of self indulgence. For one grieves most for oneself. In the process, we sometimes use grief as another subtle form of attack - the world is not good enough anymore. Nothing is right, everything has changed and we don't want any share of it. People are well meaning but we don't want their kindness; we want to be alone, isolated and view the world as something which takes from us our most precious objects, giving nothing in return. This is an illusion for the perception of beauty, love and happiness (as well as pain and attack) is all from within. Events unfold and we view them as we want to.

The last hymn after the rites is a simple one, asking that our inclinations be purified and that we overcome the desire to feel or inflict pain. There is a very slight difference between the two desires, I think. Pain is felt in various forms - in the body or the spirit - and it sometimes functions in a parasitic way. It drains all it can from you and is quiet for a while before returning, or it expresses an urge to move on from you to other people or things. Perhaps a fanciful notion but I think that there are times we can sense pain or negativity in others or in our surroundings. And it is almost always linked to the past.

After thinking about these aspects of grief and watching myself use it to propagate negativity and to postpone dealing with present reality, I snapped out of my pain. Soon enough I felt peaceful and my mind returned to a state of equilibrium and I found there was much love and beauty all around me.

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