Forest Musings


Education in a lecture room environment has conditioned us with a concept: a brainy person understands every thing and nothing exists in learning beyond an intelligent mind. I was firm in such a conviction till receiving a mild chiding from my father in 1960, then a postgraduate student of science.

 I was at my village home during summer of ’60, reading one of the bulky Upanishads for a fortnight. Nothing tangible entered my head including its pornographic mantras in the last part. I thought of expressing my opinion to my father about the poorly finished book. After hearing me, he gave a very short but an uneasy reply “ Is it necessary that you follow every thing right now after you have read? There will be a day when you will follow this Upanishad”. Now, I had to wait for the day when I could follow the Brihad Aranyak. How long?   I dared not ask him. Culture was a little different those days and talking between elders and youngsters rather restricted, especially in the strict Brahman families. More over, I had faith on what he had said. He used to spend eight hours a day in penance at the banks of Ganges and was respected for his psychic faculty.

I kept quiet after hearing my father, thinking about the date when his words will come true. He was not an ordinary person, nor was his end routine. In January ’61, he gave me a slip with an address of Varanasi. I knocked at the door of a person unknown to me. An old man   opened the door, looked at me, asked no questions and spoke  “I tell you this because you are son of M. He made a mistake in Sadhana  (of Tantra) and will die within six months”. He closed the door a minute after his unkind observations shook my heart, leaving me without any utterance for long. I was deeply   shocked. I had met the person first time and he treated me merely like a letter from my father, communicating his response on the same notepad. Funeral pyre of my father was lit soon.

As student of science, I had learnt something extra after meeting the elderly gentleman. Science taught in the classrooms is not the end of knowledge. There is a wide spectrum of learning beyond science outside classrooms where persons like my father and this gentleman (Guru of my father?) excelled. They lived beyond wordy classrooms in a wordless world of psychic transactions, playing the game of life and death in Tantra.

After entering the invisible boxing ring of Tantra and surviving there instinctively I remember my two elders besides a common rule in life – those who live by sword die by sword. Many a times I have felt, I’m in a game of jingling, running to catch the bellman with my eyes blindfolded. A little extra  ‘jungle sensitiveness’ in me has helped me in surviving through difficult situations in Tantra.

Jim Corbett, a famous hunter of India, coined ‘jungle sensitiveness’ to denote the human faculty of grasping or sensing the attributes or feelings without involvement of the normal sense organs. His own example of the faculty relates to his tracking a tiger in darkness and changing his course when he approached a sensitive spot, amenable to attack by the beast. The hunter, shooting man-eaters of Kumaon, noted that the faculty, inculcated by man in forests since ages, “can be acquired only by living in jungles” (1, p. 155).

  Practice of Tantra and perceptions like Brahm or Virajapar states lean heavily on sharpening of consciousness by the Vedic men, manifesting   crudely as jungle sensitiveness. Yog, Tantra and Prajna were practiced during Vanaprasth life, meaning literally ‘firmly established in forest’.  With the upcoming city culture, jungle sensitiveness has become blunt and advertisements about Tantra for a fast buck are nothing more than bluffs.

Vanaprasth Phase in life commenced when desire to enjoy the sensuous world tapered off around fifty or when a grandson entered the family (2a). Perceptions and feelings at this age, with a meal alternate day, contrast with those of twenties (2b). Ascending to the stage of Samadhi is easy in a noise free forest environment. Experience of Brahm is also possible in a prolonged starvation and extreme isolation after Samadhi (3). Even some of the Brahms or Brahmans could acquire Virajapar State (4a). Most experiences recorded in Upanishads during Vanaprasth were lost during urbanization of man, in conformity with Corbett doctrine. Sixth century BC and later periods have witnessed waves of non-Vedic religions sweeping Iran through India. They heralded a philosophical concept of freedom from death by shortcuts, like a grace from an all-forgiving God (5) or dissolution of karms (6).

To add to decline of Upanishad’s experiential concepts of jungle dwellers about freedom of soul and eternal life, there emerged voluminous commentaries in different mental frames of young erudite philosophers of urban culture, much before the authors touched proper age of forest dwelling (7,8,9). At their age and maturity of perception, like myself as a student of M. Sc., physical senses are too energetic and it is not possible to absorb or digest exact meaning of Upanishads. When the mantra praises female organ (4b) and Tantra lays down a rule of conjugal act with every one excluding mother (10), logic tells us that their meaning is not literal for an elderly forest dweller in isolation and penance.

Talks like above are no less than a fiction of highest imagination to many of us. Similar is the material in many Upanishads for the mental frame of an intellectual of city culture. We have a paradox here, however. The situation is like talking about marriage of a prince to a child in a fairy tale. A child’s body and mind do not understand what a marriage means to an adult prince, but he is expected to know in future when young. Readers could appreciate the foregoing and following passages in the chapter with a similar, paradoxical mind of an enquirer who has no concept like a ‘wife invisible’. 

Classroom training helped me, any way, for recasting the stories in the chapter. A manual of field geology instructs: do not believe your memory and jot down observations during the filed work.  After running into a Khasi spirit on 16.1.1989 and discovering on 3.2.99 that I am under her possession and chances of my survival slim, I wrote down the experiences as notes about her, her world, her actions and my problems and responses. It helped me to come out alive from her onslaught in Tantra and learning some fundamentals about ethereal world of spirits, souls and consciousness during the last twelve years. Some important observations of these years are in the chapter. My jottings could be treated as useful stories for a child who may take to Upanishads for practice and experiential perception of Brahm, later in life. Care has been taken to diffuse the identities of persons in sensitive narrations.