TRUTH IS A PATHLESS LAND
Working on this film is a journey that you have to close your eyes for. Because the heart is a better guide than your eyes. And boy do I hunger for a guide. Someone gentle who holds your hand through the hard and lonely parts of the journey.
Currently I am fundraising, and its is unspeakably difficult. While you are waiting and pitching it can feel like a time of darkness.
And yet remarkably this time before leaving is also one of the most important because it allows me a time to conceptualize, to dream extravagantly about the foundations of this film and what I believe in the making of it.
As I wonder will it work out, and will it be today or will it be never, something in me breaks.
I am afraid.
So much of my fear in making this film is about the audacity of the project. To talk about the Dalit experience is to put Faith itself in the cross hairs. In fact I, like so many other Dalits before me often get called “secular” bitches and assholes for daring to question hindu norms and hegemony. But the threat of secularity is not limited to an Indian context. In the face of some incredible dangerous and complex social problems we are as a species at a crossroads with fundamentalism and the future of our planet. In every single country in the world we are asking the questions of what we believe and how will our society reflect that.
My small contribution to this dialogue is this project which includes my work in progress Sufi Blues album Broken People . As a singer I could not imagine a more truer way to express my fears, my pain, and grace around these ideas. This album is so personal and against the grain of the times. Voice, sparse guitar, and hand percussion it is a blues album inspired by dalit experience, freedom songs, and sufi poetry. Fundamentally, It is an exploration of the divine for those who have been forsaken by god.
So what the hell does that mean?
What is crucial to begin, is to understand the dilemma.
Dalits have an immediate visceral connection to the terrible pain of the ideology of religion. In fact many Dalits as part of their journey to selfhood abandon religion and become passionate secularists where more than even political liberty, the intellect must be set free from superstition. This alone allows for true self-hood and self respect. This is at the heart of the Tamil reformer, Periyar’s self respect movement, its tenant in Tamil was Arivu Vidutalai Iyakkam, which literally means the liberation of the intellect!
Is for me the crux of the problem. Because while I can easily say I have abandoned established religions.
It is much harder to say then what it is I embrace. For I may have walked away from a traditional notion of GOD, the truth is his bones are all around me.
Particularly as I have to defend and understand the origination of my spirituality and with that justify the intuitive tools I use, whether it is performance, tarot, my awareness of coincidence– these things can recreate the same jail I would destroy to achieve freedom from fundamentalism and superstition.
I read then, the works of Dalit theorists, evolutionary psychologists, Greek philosophers, Jung, Neitzsche, Sufi, Hindu, Christian, Taoist, and Buddhist texts. My hope was to explore if there could be a spiritual practice and methodology that is as equally informed from a theory of the mind as its is from the eastern/western mysteries, without of course tethering to the limits of dogma.
It is here that Neitzsche and Jung were the most profound. Neitzsche because in Thus Spoke Zarthustra he has a poem that acknowledges the painfulness of beginning this experience to find yourself beyond the dogma of tradition.
He says, “Lonely one, you are going the way to yourself.And your way leads past yourself and your seven devils. You will be a heretic to yourself and a witch and soothsayer and fool and doubter and unholy one and a villain. You must wish to consume yourself in your own flame: how could you wish to become new unless you had first become ashes! With my tears go into your loneliness, my brother. I love him who wants to create over and beyond himself and thus perishes.”
This idea that to be Beyond god is profound. That to really shed the truth of the self and beingness you must “destroy god and consume yourself in its destruction.” It is frightening! Because at that threshold is a brutal and liberating truth. It is no small feat for him to argue to “Go beyond god and recognize that the gods are just tools.” It begs you to ask tools for what. and are we aware of what we are building that we would require such terrible tools?
Jung builds on these ideas in his seminal text The Red Book saying, “God is our “heaviest wound” and “appears as our sickness from which we must heal ourselves.” He goes and says, “Zeus no longer rules Olympus but rather the solar plexus, and produces curious symptoms for the doctor’s consulting room.”
To me this allows me a door way for why I practice Yoga (which for many Untouchables is rife with many painful reminders of Hindu hegemony ) and how any practitioner of a physical martial art can place their practice into a secular model. Do I believe in Sanskrit mantras truly liberating a Vedic consciousness, no.
But in exploring yoga from this secular perspective I create my own words for it. I understand how this specialized training attenuates the body for the micro-expressions of the spirit. It is also why I enjoy that yoga has a diasporic experience outside of India that allows it to be unmoored from its cultural and idealogical foundations as simply a practice by the alert for to refine the integration of mind, body, spirit. And there again and again is that word Spirit.
It is the complex thing that I would unpack for it is at the heart of consciousness itself. Evolutionary Psychologists are so clear and so damn material! The mind is what the brain does. We are Risen Apes not Fallen Angels. And religious beliefs in the brain are processed in the neural circuits that process social cognition. In many ways religious beliefs are evolved as adaptive mechanisms for our species. The materialism here is comforting like the way oatmeal is on a cold morning. It just is. Get over it.
But. I feel like my experience of spirit, which more appropriately might be expressed as consciousness is much larger than a material explanation. And that you must abandon the material to really appreciate moments of grace.
For I can accept that the brain is an organ that “secretes” continuity, and consciousness is an important product of that secretion. However there is something more. beyond explanation, beyond language and that is why there is such a terrible ambiguity when we speak about consciousness. To most philosophers, the word “consciousness” connotes the relationship between the mind and the world. To writers on religious topics, it frequently connotes the relationship between the mind and God, or the relationship between the mind and deeper truths that are thought to be more fundamental than the physical world.
That is why I return back to the work of the mystics. The great sufi mystic Shaikh Abu Saeed Abil created in this realm long before me. The main focus of his teachings is the liberation from the “I” for it was root of our separation from divinity. His biography mentions that he would never call himself “I” or “we” but “they” instead. and would often refer and sign his work as Nobody the Son of Nobody.
He wrote this:
Speech is born out of longing,
The one who tastes, knows;
the one who explains, lies.
This is the surrender. A place of no words. But a practice of omnipresence a psychogeography of a majestic scale where as sufis say “there is no god but there is god.” But it is not just in the realm of sufis, the Jesus of the gnostic gospels in the book of thomas eschews institutions and says, “Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.”
And finally it is there in the buddhist scriptures. With the mantra Nam Yo Ho Ring Kyo there is this lesson: “Individual enlightenment comes through the profound realisation of the inseparability of us as individuals and our spiritual and physical environment, and the ability we have, as an inseparable part of that environment, to powerfully influence it. Through this practice, every one of us can realize our personal responsibility for, and possibility to change, our own condition, and the condition of our immediate and distant environment:
In short. This is what I believe.
Today. With no attachment.