Sunday, November 26, 2006
Religious Responsibility on a Jet
In my salad days, I got into yoga and meditation. I can't say I was fanatical about it, but I was diligent. Every day, I'd do yoga asanas (on a wool blanket), and twice a day, morning and evening, I'd sit.
"Sit" here being a technical term for mediation, and more specifically in this case, mantra mediation. Basically, you find a spot, get comfortable, and mentally intone a word or phrase over and over to yourself for however long you feel is valid. I did it for twenty minutes a session or so. (I had an Indian mantra, but scientific research says that any word will do -- "Coca Cola" apparently does the same thing physiologially as "Brama ...")
Not a cult fanatic, but maybe not that far away. My wife and I had a rented house, and that was where the group meditations met once a week. We were considered the state's representatives by the powers-that-were in the yoga society to which we belonged -- we got all the mailings, and had our second-round mantras given to us by Dadaji, one of the chief lieutenants, who wore the orange, and who flew from India to Baton Rouge to show us all the way.
For a couple years and some, I did my routine every day without fail, rain, shine, no matter where I was.
I was also obnoxious about it: "Toke that? No, thank, you. I meditate ..."
"Sorry, I have to go and sit now, we'll continute this discussion later ..."
"Acid? Yeah, it's okay, but it doesn't let you stay where you want to go. Meditation is the key."
Remember: Be Here Now was our bible.
Eventually, I got out of it, for several reasons: I picked up Krishnamurti's Flight of the Eagle, and it, said something about mechanical meditation in, mechanical results out, and when I read that, it gave me pause.
A friend asked me if I was really getting off on meditation, or if I was getting off on people seeing that I meditated -- and I honestly wasn't sure which it was.
Then there were the frauds and organizational wars in the group that led, at one point, to rival factions coming together on a quiet plain and whacking the shit out of each other using their holy peace-and-harmony signs.
I got your universal love right here, pal -- !
Yeah? Meditate on this -- !
Baba, we were told in mails from Ma, had fallen off the path, and we should disregard him.
Ma, came the response from Baba, had abandoned the true teachings and run off with a heathen, ignore what she had to say.
It got ugly, and when we all figured out that our secret, must-never-be-spoken-aloud mantras that had been personally tailored to fit each of us were all the same word? Well, that pretty much tore it. AMF.
But the point of all this was how holier-than-thou I was at the time, glorying in my superiority as a meditator and not just a dope-smoking, mescaline-dropping, going-nowhere hippie like a lot of my friends ...
At one point during this period, I had occasion to fly from New Orleans to Los Angeles on a jumbo jet. During the flight, my appointed time to sit came, and since I had a row of three seats to myself, I raised the seat arms, pulled my legs up crosslegged, closed my eyes, and spent twenty minutes intoning my magic word silently.
I was aware that the flight attendants -- then called stewardesses -- were passing by and looking at me. One of them asked the guy I was traveling with, "What's he doing?"
My buddy, who was not pursuing any kind of particular moral or spiritual path -- he smoked three packs of Kents a day, and drank a fair amount of booze -- said to the stewardess through his cloud of cigarette smoke, "Oh, he's masturbating in his mind."
At which time I realized I wasn't in the zone, because that was pretty funny, and I couldn't stop the grin.
I could have gone to the bathroom and stayed there for twenty minutes. Or I could have waited until we landed. I could even have just leaned back and closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep and repeated my mantra -- but no, I was, by Brama, gonna sit half-lotus on that plane, in front of God and everybody, and do my thing, and devil take the unbelievers.
Playing to an audience, I was.
I hope I'm not that obnoxious any more. I know I wouldn't do it in today's charged climate, because, even as old redneck-oakie-hillbilly as I look, such a thing might cause more than a little concern on a crowded airplane. I might not be part of the solution, but I don't want to be part of the problem.
I have little sympathy for anybody who, today, would behave on a plane as I did back in the late sixties. Yeah, I was young and full of myself, but the times were different. Plane hijackings in the U.S. were rare -- D.B. Cooper's stunt was in the future, and nobody had flown any aircraft into buildings.
All of that changed on 9/11, and for better or worse, we all have to live with that from now on. If you are going to commune with God, do it in a way that doesn't scare your fellow passengers; I'm sure God will understand.