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Ritual B - Tat tvam asi - Week 1

Updated: Oct 14

The same sun that feeds plants birthed and feeds you. You are That.

The Gayatri Mantra is one of the earliest prayers my mother drilled into my brain. I knew nothing, and still know little, about the literal translation. All I know is the syllables, the sounds, and that they are addressed to the sun deity. When I took an interest in meditation, Vedanta, and Kashmir Shaivist philosophy at age 20, I began to ascribe my own symbologies to these orally passed down sounds. The sun, in the prayer and in my contemplation, represents—cliché I know—embodied unconditional love, the aspiration to give love without needing to receive it. Also, the fire represents the burning of karmas—I decided—the ability to let go of attachments to desires and fruits of action, to act for the sake of acting, to be present as a fucking ball of fire. The Gayatri Mantra is “supposed” to be passed down in the Janoi ceremony, whispered as wisdom from father to son. For me, my mom taught me that shit way before my father thought to. Also, the Janoi is “supposed” to be done before the age of 16. Mine was done at 18. But, but…reading about these “shoulds” now adds significance to this mantra. It is familial. It is a secret to be shared.

That’s one piece of background for this ritual. The other is my lack of familiarity and comfort with non-human beings. My parents, having come from India where the outdoors can be undesirable for reasons such as—pollution, smoke, dust, monsoons, crowdedness, and a perpetual insistence by their parents and the competitive education system/globalization to study—a climate controlled home was a luxury to be taken advantage of. Why would anyone ever go camping and expose themselves to dirt and bugs? Why would you tramp through the woods when there was a non-zero chance of poison ivy to rash you, or ticks to Lyme disease you? The outdoors, and these potential disastrous setbacks, could further impede my studies, my entrance into the institutions of secure wealth acquisition, that security my parents so coveted for me. These fears, irrational as many of them are, are embedded in me. Nature was an obstacle, not to be overcome, but avoided. My dear family friend works for the oil team at Goldman Sachs. To them (the company, not person, but well maybe the person by proxy), destruction of nature is one necessary, even if unfortunate, byproduct of a thriving economy. For differing reasons, my fears are in league with colonial imperial economic system that rules our globe.

So, it starts by changing my relationship to the other beings with whom I share this place. Plants, rocks, wind, and, who knows, maybe someday insects and animals? But here, I start with plants. Here, I start with whispering to them the secret mantra to the sun that feeds us. Here, I think of poems with which I have been in communion, friendship, family.

Steps for Ritual:

1. Choose a place to take a walk. Today that place is Te Whānau-paki, also called Mt. Flagstaff. Whānau-paki could translate to family history or sunny family. The mountain is often sunny.

2. Choose a poem by someone you have had proximity with in one or more of your places. Think of this as extended family, some close, some more distant.

Whisper that poem five times while you walk. Feel each step and breath. Feel the wind participate with your breath.

Today, that poem is “Tattvamasi, You are That” by Rajiv Mohabir.

3. At the end of the fifth recitation, find a plant. Go based on feel. Try to see what catches your senses or if any draws you towards its leaves/stalks/stem/root.

4. Ask the plant if you can hold it. Hold it for 10-15 minutes reciting the Gayatri Mantra again and again. Feel and think of the sun.

a. Gayatri Mantra: Om bhur bhuva swaha tatsavitur varainyam, bhargo devasyadhimahi dhiyoyonahpracodayat. Om shanti shanti shantihi. (No translation for now because I don’t know it or think of it, though I have recited this mantra multiple times every day for decades).

5. Either write where you are OR take the return walk, whispering whatever sounds come to mind.

Video:


https://youtu.be/P4QTC98wVSk

Lab Notes:

Was raining a bit at the start. Sitting in the car. Reading Rajiv’s poem. The fire made me think of Te Whānau-paki. I met with Simon right before this. Thinking about participation. Thinking about place. Thinking about how I got here via car vs. walking. “Everyone you meet you scorch” Rajiv says as though the speaker to himself. As though me to myself. As though the air to the mountain forest. The bird in the poem carry one beak full of water at a time to douse the flame. Yes. Tell me about futility, if the futile thing is beautiful. What “orbits the sun” inside you? The walk up is a gradual climb. I walk a little further after the whispering recitations are done. I find a flax plant overlooking the city and harbor and behind that the ocean in the distance. I sit on a lichen covered rock. I do not ask permission of the rock or the flax. I am ashamed that I forgot to ask for permission to touch them. And I held. And my hands were cold. And we basked in the moments the clouds parted for the sun. The flax who aided the Maori in much of their living. The flax which is native and attempting to reclaim the land from the queen’s golden gorse. Flax. Flax. Flax. I recorded my oral poetry on the way back down the mountain. A thirty minute walk down. A whispering video. With cold, red hands. Hands that took an hour to warm back up. And, again, like with the first ritual, I felt that warmth that often follows a deep meditation. This practice. Something is feeling and being felt. What.

Free-Speak (rough transcript of video recording from walk back down the mountain, whispering the whole way, some unintelligible):

American say that I stop

Consider myself human

Presume myself called to the flax

Struggling on the mountain edge

Facing the southerly winds

The Antarctic winds

My presumption to with my treaded shoes

Walk off trail and to sit on lichened stone

To rest my feet on ground and browned tussock grass

And hold the tattered flax leaf

While chanting my ancestral mantra

To the sun to the deity we’ve made of the sun

To imagine this deity

Its rays

Heating the plant feeding the plant

That gives me air to breathe

Providing life for me a creature

As much as the flax the grass and the stone

And the wind

Deity that makes this weather happen

Deities of the sun and moon

In close

Te whānau-paki

Families here before me

Feel the wind

Feel the wind

In the grasses

Chilling my hands and breath

This trail tread into the mountainside

This mountain a year ago lit aflame

Charred slipped tattered

I did not ask the plant permission to hold it

I did not try to ask it

This old presumption

[Breath with Wind and sniffle]

Whakahekerau

In the distance

Limbs of grass

Bends of grass gorse

Trying to recall the bends of mountainside

How much I have to learn

I do not level my hands

Raised as punishment

To think of the many who walked

This land before without the shelter

I can now return to

These stones upon which I walk

Perhaps they too are thieves

Creatures as much as me

Tattvamasi

I am made of the same

Chemicals I am made

Of the same chemicals

As this rock as this plant

I have arisen from the same elements

From the same celestial orbs

I have been shaped

We have been shaped

I am that wet empty

Walked around by all these many suns

To share in breath

To let this finger be molded by the wind

My fingers are turning white then red

Om namah shivaya om namah shivaya

Om namah shivaya oh nahm ah shiv eye

Are these rocks from te whānaupaki

Or imported like me hnnf

Has this flax been here forever

Or forced away and replanted

What name would this grass give itself

Would that plant call itself spider

How long will this lichen live

This is all towards a different way of

Seeing of walking of breathing of

Breath of word of step of touching of

Leaving

How am I in this body and what of the man who is

An artist who walks the river no recording

No distribution no performance

He is an artist

He walks the river

He walks the rivers

Ohhhh…what art is left

Of the footsteps here

A cart a culture is made

By footsteps here

What practice what practice

What practice is made by this video

What culture is made by this video

Look at what our species has done

To the land cleared it cleared

How many beings for pasture

Forced how many sheep to migrate

Do those surviving now remember

Do they have stories of a former land

Do their stories predate ourselves

It is lambing season or lambing season

Is near another generation to be born some

For the slaughter and some to be allowed

To live who makes these choices

How wide

What comes after the opposable

Thumb what appendages will evolve

Thought

How weak my feet must be

Hnnf om namah shivaya

Om namo narayanaya

I try my best to keep to the trails

What’s already done

Now we must work to conserve or so

Something we must

How many of these plants could feed me

Sustain

First people here used this flax for many

Things and there the cars

That make the atmosphere so skinny

I wore no sunscreen today clouds

Weather the way of moon and sun and

Water protect me wherever you are

What is your weather like

What planets do you live on

What planet exists inside your ribs

What raven’s call

Does the desire free of night call

The argument against personification

Serves those who wish to exploit

Personification perhaps is untrue

It is the best we can do there’s a life here

Feel it [in the flax fronds winded, in the grass and bush

Winded, in the gravel cold and still in the lichen

Long and with it, steps, crunch]

There is a life here of which we are only

A part part of participating in a life that predated

Us and will outlive us will outlast us no matter our

Industry our effort to survive we are a part of we

Are apart to move from being apart to

Participation ions participating to make

Food ions participating to make breath to make

The moons that shape breath into word

How many frequencies we cannot hear

[All of this has been said before and will

Be said again] not long ago the whales

Made a cacophony in the harbor now

Now people wait years and years to see one

Shadow there was a life here before us

This life will outlive us these rocks

How big were they before how long

Have they lived

I’ve spent my life inside walls my people

Spent years learning to build to build thicker

More

That one of the first birds I’ve seen today

The other side of the mountain an year ago

Burned

Kānuka kānuka

What world are we leaving for Annika

How long can we recuse [sic]

It’s cars coming it’s gas I burned to get me here

Gas I’ll burn to get me home a place

Of temporary abode my abode will abide

Participating in my own walled off ways

Is this flax related to the one I touched

Do they think of relation the way we do

What stories do these leaves whisper to one

Another what is passed / past

Om namah shivaya om bhur bhuva swaha

Tat savitur varainyam bhargo daivasya dhimahi

Dhiyoyonahpracodayat

You are that.


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