Admin's Note: In every situation, there is an opportunity to learn something new. And Manjureddy has beautifully narrated such an experience of hers. Her contribution has been selected as Best of Forums and featured here. ------------- There are Agony Aunts . There are agonising aunts . And there is this person , a relative , who is quite simply, Aunt Agony. Auntie B who was to attend a clan wedding , had suddenly decided to shack up with us, for a "short holiday" last week. This fact elicited more commiseration from the clan than the demise of our pet terrier had. Auntie B never moved a step without her 'Reputation ' preceeding her like a red banner . This is not to say that she is a menacing shrew straight out of saas -bahu serials. She is actually a saintly Seeker of Atma Bodha, perennially immersed in "holy thoughts". AND , Holier -Than-Thou. Five days in her company and I became a hopeless tangle of nerves, writhing in selfdoubt . What did she do ? She Advised. Preached . With evangelical zeal to set me on the golden path to Moksha , this Seeker/Saadhak, missed no opportunity to impress upon me what a grand Illusion my life was and how absolutely urgent it was for me to "wake up" to The Truth.! There I was , trying to live happily ever after with fine days, dull days, little joys, little upsets , nothing great, nothing crappy, some blessings ,some broken dreams, a few Mutual Funds, a few tiramisus, sundry regrets, sundry thrills , collecting experiences and not being a nuisance to anybody ........And along comes this Hurricane B thundering : " Its all a Big Fat Maya . Everything is Mithya . You dont exist. Your jagat doesnt exist . You have no right to feel so smug and pleased with yourself , when you are just a bubble in the " Unknowable Ocean " .......Whoa ! " Introspect ! Introspect !" That was her ceaseless admonition. And to be fair, she herself was for ever Introspecting about Higher Living, Higher Consciousness, Higher Self and other elevated topics with consummate focus. So much so that on the second day of her visit , she failed to notice the low teapoy in the drawing room and ended up stumbling over it ,spilling strong coffee on the beige rug under it. No amount of belief in the Mithya-ness of Jagat could wash off the stain ,a shadow of which persisted like a Vasana of the very satya accident. And we could not even claim that Kaala (Time) is Non Linear and Delusional, because when Hubby came home, the first thing he noticed with horror was the stain from the recent past on his expensive Anatolian Kilim. Auntie just shrugged it off , with a supreme, withering pity for jivas bound in Ajnana ."Attachment to material things brings Sorrow. ", she intoned, adding ghee to the smouldering havan of his rage. I retired to my room to sit zazen, hoping for satori. On the first day of her visit, I had made the mistake of enquiring about her son. Her face had clouded over, she became pensive and I was totally alarmed. What ? Did her son land up in Tihar jail with family and friends ? Or , uh-ho, had some unmentionable health condition ? No. The son had become a well known Angel Investor in The Silicon Valley, with an amazing family of well placed Ivy League scholars . " Materialstic ! " scowled Auntie, " such avarice to collect and find happiness in transient things like career achievements and fat salaries. Did you know Bandhanam means both attachment and imprisonment ? " I tried to get in sideways with my opinion that establishing one's life on solid ground, so as not to be a burden on others is actually not selfishness but selflessness. Besides, a capitalist creates employment opportunities that fill many hungry bellies, doesn't that count as a punya point ? Auntie opined that I should quit indulging in Ku-Tharkam and develop "Seriousness ", and then broke into another verbal rash of Sat Chit ghit pit. Auntie is one of those who take themselves very seriously. " Serious " is her only expression as far as I have seen. Long face, sallow cheeks , droopy eyes, lined forehead, gaunt physique, cadaverous demeanour. Had Jiddu Krishnamurthy worn a polycot saree and spoken Nellai tamil in Ila Arun's voice, that would have been her. Though she makes the most delicious veppampoo rasam in the world, she treats the pleasure of eating like a minor sin and all other pleasures, small and big, of everyday living as major mirages to be resisted. That Serious ! How the heck is one to enjoy eating that rasam ( with potato roast too ! ) in such company ? I remember the words of the Christian mystic, Thomas Merton , " There is an erroneous idea that to a saintly person , any form of spontaneity or enjoyment should seem sinful gratification of a fallen nature. Saintly life is viewed as a perpetual duel with guilt such that a person cannot even drink a glass of cold water without making an act of contrition for slaking his thirst as if that were a mortal sin !" Obviously, Auntie does not endorse Merton . That evening, when I was getting ready for the wedding reception , she inspected my new diamond earrings with as much admiration as a shudh shakahari would show a wedge of barbecued beef. " What is the use of such adornments if the Hridaya is not adorned with Daya and if the Manas is bereft of Shanthi ? Pieces of charcoal , worthless. ! " My dear husband's gift for our last wedding anniversary ! Worthless charcoal ? .....All the warmth , marital bliss and abiding affection that it represented went up in smoke. My face fell, almost resembling hers. By the third day, I had become edgy but cautious . I quietly put away the very expensive hand embroidered table linen from Kodaikanal as i dint want her to accuse me of Moha , lobha , kama , godknowswhatelse and make a figurative bonfire of my vanities . And I hid the album of our wonderful vacation photos that was lying around as I could do without suffering through the " tvaghatita ghatanaa pateeyasi maya " dirge in HiPhi(losphy) from the saturnine senior. But I was unsuccesful in dodging the compulsory education she was bent upon imparting , in the fashionably esoteric kalisantarana- muktika Canon . I was also expected to prove I was paying attention, by raising doubts and seeking clarification. Just to save my skin, I shot off through the hat : " If the Mind is both the Creator and The Creation of the Mithya Jagat , what I Seek, Introspect about and ( may) Realise , with the same Mind, would also be Mithya, isnt it ? " She rolled her eyes to Shambhavi Mudra with such sanctimonious hauteur and indignation that I was almost vapourised. That very evening, my friend had to call up , on the landline of all things, to deliver the hot news that Prabha was dating her ex- husband, just when eagle-eyed, snake-"eared" auntie was sitting bang beside me ! Inspite of superhuman restraint to keep my voice flat and uninterested, i giggled under my breath over a salacious detail and auntie promptly ticked me off that my 'mooda mathi' should realise samprapthe sannihite kaale nahi nahi rakshati gossip karane. Suitably chastised and spiritually terrorised, I slinked away from the scene, leaving Auntie to lecture my cornered husband on the necessity of cleansing our chakras. The clueless man was heard promising earnestly that he would get his muddy car tyres washed ASAP. Fourth day dawned with the welcome news that Auntie was taking a day trip to Ranjangaon Ganpati. Unexpected holiday from seriousness ! I exhaled, let down hair and had a decadent choco sundae at Inorbit Mall .When Auntie returned that evening, bathed in a golden glow of beatitude from all the Holy Merit earned, she chided me gently for not showing any interest in pilgrimages : Love of God, Bhakthi, was the only kind of Love that deserved to be called Real love, all the rest was just emotional barter , she declared with self assured loftiness. Dismissing the love for kith, kin and kitten as something enslaving ( bandanam) and elevating the love of God as something noble ( bhakthi) is peculiar logic to me.The emotion of Love and the elevation of spirit it causes due to the release of dopamine into the system are purely internal affairs, having nothing to do with the object it fixes on, god or grandma. Infact, its my firm belief that loving God is very easy compared to loving the person next to you. God is created by humans as we want God (He, She or It) to be . God never nags, argues, snitches, complains or gets dyspeptic . Whats not to love ?! If God popped into my home, ran a critical finger over my greasy kitchen counter and slammed a no-star review on it, I'd be too cut up to offer even one of the shodasha- upacharams, bhakthi notwithstanding. But, God doesnt do social visits these days. Nicely encased in stone or metal and periodically doused with milk and honey, God sits static and inert, a perfect object for our easy affection which, we tell ourselves, is Divine Love. Auntie, surprisingly, offered no contest to my above postulate. She just chanted a lilting verse in elegant sanskrit with a complacent buddha- look and went to bed. Google later translated the verse for me as something to do with muddy slush and sandalwood paste and olfactorily challenged swine. Not very elegant . I went to bed in a very unbuddhalike mood. On the final day of her visit, I felt a trifle sympathetic towards Auntie. The poor dear had had only good intentions . Perhaps I could give her a hint that all her sincere evangelism had not gone to waste. That I too, had converted to the life of A Serious Seeker " I have been Introspecting Auntie. If in the Begining, there was only the pure undivided Brahman, why did The One become the Many, out of its own Free Will , for whose entertainment ? If Life's purpose is only to merge with the One, and if we somehow obtained sayujya and became IT, what guarantee is there that The One will not again go play Leela and become Many ? Isnt it all so pointless ?" Auntie gave me her favourite look - Serious. "You know, Manjula, after we have run around in circles, it may just transpire that Existence does not need to have any Reason or Meaning. What IS, just IS . What ISN'T, just ISN'T. " Suddenly realising that she may have given away more than she wanted to, she added hastily,in a rapid fire recitation of rote- learnt profundities " Such confusions will arise as you progress along the path of Sadhana. You may also gain siddhis. Yet, you must remain achala and be Ekagrachitta . You will succeed in finding The Truth. " I felt i had peeked through a chink in her armour. She was just an aged version of me, closet- agnostic , insatiably curious about the phenomenon of Life, using philosophy and spirituality like Sudoku to keep alzheimer's at bay . The only difference is that she has a serious face while I am never taken seriously by anybody . Its unfortunate , she had made herself believe that only unhappy seriousness could lead her to the ultimate Ananda. Auntie Serious can keep her serious philosophies about Satya, Mithya , Anithya etc . and agonize endlessly. I am just happy and grateful to have had the chance to experience this multifarious life , no matter if I am the product of Karmic Creation, or Intelligent Design or Biological Accident . A brief bubble , a rope-like snake , or a mudpot full of Akasha. Life, even with its full quota of illusions ,delusions and pollutions, is Beautiful. If this is a Dream and there is a waking-up, let it happen organically, naturally , in this janma, the next or the further next , without my tying myself into serious Introspecting knots. Whats the hurry ? When the Cucumber Ripens, The Stalk Will Fall Off , urvarukam Iva Bandhanaat etc.......... Till then, Hakuna Matata !