Chapter 6 – Ketumati
Altair travelled overland alone from Nepal to India to visit the Krishnamurti School in Varanasi, or Benares. He sat one day in the late afternoon in the garden of Krishnamurti’s own house. The School had kindly put him up in the house, complete with his own servants, and he was chatting with Krishnamurti’s gardener Henry, who was an exceptionally wise man.
“Why do you think Babaji wanted me to meet Krishna?” said Altair although he hadn’t the faintest idea how this could possibly happen.
“Because of your knowledge of other worlds,” replied Henry.
Altair looked at Henry in surprise. “Other worlds? Like the billions of stars and planets out there with habitable life?”
Henry laughed. “No not that. You will experience those worlds directly I’m sure. In your future, rather than mine. I am too old for space travel. Not the world of ghosts and spirits either. You will be able to contact those worlds too, in time, perhaps in your homeland. No, I mean the Pure Lands like Maitreya’s Ketumati where we are now, or Amitabha’s Sukhavati or Guan Yin’s Mount Potalaka. Masters, saints and Buddhas have known of these other worlds for thousands of years. Take Shambhala for instance. The Dalai Lama says in the Kalachakra Tantra that the Pure Land of Shambhala, which is ruled over by Maitreya, can only be visited by a worthy person. So I ask myself what a worthy person is, often. Pure Lands are not really part of this universe at all. They intertwine and are woven into the fabric of this world. People like you and Krishnamurti and others who practice the portal of deep constant presence can become aware of them. And aware of the Beings that inhabit them. The Beings we call Buddhas and Christs, Gods and Goddesses, they are in all our religions as well as our myths and legends and fairy tales for a reason.”
Henry stood up for a moment and gestured around the garden.
“Take Ketumati for instance.”
Altair blinked. He could have sworn he caught a glimpse of a completely different sort of garden, one like he first experienced as Palmo Shonu in the gardens of Zahor with Princess Mandarava. It was a garden glowing with energy, vibrant green, clear energy fields surrounding every flower, plant and tree, any point could be a portal that would transport a person’s awareness into other times or places.
“We are closer than close, closer than a heartbeat, worlds that are able to be known through stillness, silence and presence and letting go of the known,” said Henry.
Altair touched the grass. His hand disappeared, immersed in energy.
“Yes, I see it too,” said Henry, “the power of presence and cosmic consciousness. We are truly made of the same stuff as the stars. So how have you come to this awareness Altair? What has helped you along the way?”
“Firstly my dreams of Samye. That made me very curious about life and what came before and after even at the tender young age of three years old. Secondly, the visions of Zahor and many other places and Masters and guides. They made me aware of worlds beyond our own. The third was meditation, the doorway to Presence which is like the Garden of Eden here on Earth. Fourth would be action, when I was at Koya-san I decided to follow my dreams, however that turned out. Fifth and last is Kriya. My connection with Babaji through Yogananda elevated me to great heights of awareness, like climbing Mt Kailash.”
“When you breathe in such an active and sacred way as in Kriya Yoga, you actually charge the particles of your inner consciousness, a cosmos of your own creation existing within the astral spine and make the matter of this world very thin, so the portals of the chakras become much more accessible and easier to use and allow you to move between worlds for whatever your destiny and mission is. Great Masters have always known this.
That is why many institutions fear it. That is why the ignorant imprison us by feeding us limited thoughts and fueling our material desires.”
“Why?” said Altair.
“Think of the possibilities, if we realized just how powerful we were. It would revolutionize churches, temples and governments, schools and businesses. If we realized there was a way to bridge this world and all others. If we knew the power of love language and communication with presence.”
“The key is intention,” said Altair. “We only have to think it and use the power of divine imagination.”
“Yes,” said Henry. “It is in the interests of those who inspire fear and ignorance and limited thought to keep the rest of us thinking the only reality is what we see through our senses. The power that would be unleashed worldwide is beyond anything we can imagine now if we were all to be free. It is about the collective, unity. We are not supposed to do it alone. It is about going home together.”
“So those that want to keep the wealth and power have a vested interest in keeping us imprisoned in our limited thinking?”
“Yes, those who have the most fear are holding on tight to what they have, which is in actuality very little.”
“And the Masters want to open this bridge across forever?”
“Even the Masters have different perspectives on opening portals. If they open it too soon, before most people have developed awareness, they could create an imbalance in the light and dark forces at play.”
“What about nature, snakes, dolphins, hummingbirds?” said Altair with a smile.
The Krishnamurti Foundation was located on a native wildlife reserve in Varanasi. Though there were no dolphins or hummingbirds there were snakes and eagles.
Henry smiled. “Those may well serve you in time. They are unconcerned with our problems. In fact we have upset their natural balance more than in any other time in history.”
“How do I connect with them?”
“The same way you are connecting to the Masters. Make a clear intention. Quiet the mind, still the heart, open up to limitless possibilities and surrender.”
“When will it happen?”
“Don’t be so impatient! Everything has its own time.”
At that very moment an eagle soared overhead and swooped down low as if feasting its eyes on the garden below.
“You see,” said Henry. “They are listening. Give it time. I imagine there are many surprises in store for you.”
In the wake of the eagle’s path a sudden brisk wind picked up, ruffling Altair’s hair.
Dark black storm clouds loomed swiftly over the horizon where there were none before.
“You’d best be getting inside,” said Henry. “There’s a storm brewing.”
“I need to buy some yoghurt!” Altair said and stood up in a hurry. “Do you think I’ll have time?”
“Maybe,” said Henry. “Better hurry!”
Altair dashed off down the path towards town. He passed by one of the fields where the boys were playing cricket.
“Six!” came a cry.
Altair turned seeking the source of the call when he received an enormous crack on the nose. He stumbled back, stunned, stars spinning in his vision.
A group of boys came running up.
“That’s alright.” Altair was still dazed. “I…I’m from New Zealand. I used to play cricket at school too.”
“Oh, Sir, do you know Richard Hadlee?”
It wasn’t long before they were all best of friends.
It was Altair’s first day at the school as a teacher. He’d arrived at the office that morning knowing they were expecting him, to find himself sitting beside an auburn-haired woman looking rather pensive, who introduced herself as Angela.
“I’m off home today,” she said, “my father is ill and they can’t find a replacement. I don’t want to leave them in the lurch.”
“What do you teach?” said Altair.
“English, drama and music.”
“I have a background in Performing Arts,” said Altair. “I might be able to help.”
And so he did, and half an hour later he was signing papers as a substitute teacher and getting Angela to show him around. The school put him up in Krishnamurti’s own house, complete with servants, which initially he felt most uncomfortable about until he discovered that it was their job and they were extremely proud of it having served generations of famous people including Krishnamurti before Altair.
So now as he headed into town just before the storm he thought back over the incredible sequence of events that had brought him here to the holy city of Varanasi.
After Nepal and Tibet he had stayed in New Delhi just to see the Taj Mahal. That was the comedy routine of his adventure so far.
“All aboard,” shouted the driver as they lined up for the bus in the dust and fumes of the early morning traffic outside the youth hostel. “We have to be back by 5pm. Evening curfew. Hurry up!”
That was true. Delhi was in the midst of riots and soldiers with rifles patrolled the streets and roofs looking to shoot looters.
They knew that to return after 5pm was to place their life in peril.
Everywhere they looked was a mass of dangling power cables, narrow streets, cycle rickshaws, winding old lanes leading to spice markets and traffic traffic everywhere.
Some of the stares they got were frankly unfriendly and for a woman more than that showing them places to avoid, especially after dark.
Altair wore his hair long and had massive curls so from behind looked every bit like a young woman. One of those days in Delhi he had an older man with his wife saunter up beside him in the crowd and grope at his breasts. Altair felt terribly invaded and was so incensed he turned and punched the man hard in the nose. The fellow hurried away with his wife through the madding crowd.
The bus lurched away from the hostel in a pall of smoke and careered down the highway knocking two cycle rickshaws off the road and into the ditch beside to the insults and waving fists of their drivers. The bus driver didn’t seem to care at all.
The Taj Mahal is located in Agra so they had a little way to go, some five hours or so, and a number of palaces and scenic spots to see on the way.
They came to the first stop, Agra Fort. The driver was very clear they didn’t have long as traffic had been heavy these first three hours. “We only have ten minutes so no photos,” he said.
A young German couple started grumbling immediately.
“We didn’t pay all this money for a ten minute tour. He can wait.”
They took their bags and cameras and set off for a stroll.
The rest of the group looked dubiously at the driver who seemed extremely nervous.
Sure enough, ten minutes later, on the dot, he climbed up into the driver’s cab and shouted “Time to go!” in the direction of the German couple who were the last to get back on. They were still atop the monumental Delhi Gate and waving buoyantly at the bus so when the driver put his foot on the gas pedal to resume his trip, minus the German couple, the tourists were all aghast, there was lots of shouting, and the Germans could still be heard yelling insults in German from the walls.
To no avail.
The driver would not turn back, regardless of threats and cajoling, and kept his head down for the rest of the trip to the Taj Mahal.
They stopped at several other minor attractions, losing at least one passenger at each.
By the time they got to the Taj Mahal, they were a decimated group of tourists.
“We must be hurrying!” continued the driver, scarcely pausing at this beautiful monument for long enough to take some decent pictures. “5 o’clock, 5 o’clock!”
It was beginning to sound like the rant of a madman. By any reasonable calculations the bus should make it home just in time.
So off they went, at a giddy gait, swerving around this obstacle or that car or knocking an occasional rickshaw off the road when they wouldn’t shift for the driver.
After about 2 hours they arrived at a fairly nondescript hotel, small, dingy and rather unkept. The driver met with another man out front and they shook hands gleefully. He gestured at them all to come in.
“Tea stop, souvenirs,” yelled the driver, proudly clapping the new man on the shoulder as he introduced him. “This is my uncle. My uncle’s hotel,” he waved his hands with aplomb as if this were the most scenic attraction they had yet feasted their eyes upon.
“We have time for a stop,” he said as if to assure the group of his intentions to take good care of them finally.
Then the driver and the uncle disappeared, no doubt to discuss commissions and sales and the group were left to the extremely tardy tea service of one older gentleman, the sole waiter, server and tea pourer. Almost one hour later, the longest stop they had made anywhere, and Altair decided to go on the warpath. He found the driver laughing out the back with a group of men, smoking and drinking chai.
“The time, the time!”
The driver looked at his watch and immediately looked like he had been hit with a club. Fear filled his face and he sprung up like a jack in a box.
“Hurry up, hurry up!” He began yelling at the top of his voice.
They piled back into the bus.
“We must be taking a short cut,” said the driver.
He put his foot on the gas pedal and belted off at a gut wrenching pace, turning and scurrying down one winding narrow lane after another.
Soon he reached a long straight section which looked like it went on forever.
“Hold on!” he announced with more than a hint of trepidation in his voice.
The bus hurled past shops and doorways with barely a hair’s breadth separating them.
It was clear this short cut was going to put everyone at death’s door if the driver had anything to do with it.
The next moment they saw looming up ahead of them a very low lying bridge under which they would not pass.
“Hold on!” commanded the demon driver.
So they did and the bus hit the bridge with an enormous crash and a sound like bullets firing out of a cylinder could be heard as packs and bags which were on the roof-rack shot backwards off the top of the bus with the roof-rack and upper connections following in a tangle on the ground.
“Sorry! Sorry!” was all the mad driver could repeat over and over.
Altair got out slowly in a daze with the other passengers. The bus was still running and they gathered up their possessions and placed them back on board.
The driver said very little bar the occasional sorry on his way back to the hostel.
Needless to say Altair and the remaining passengers arrived late, past the curfew, and had to clamber secretively on the emergency escape ladders at the back of the hotel and then clutch and scrape at windowsills bruising their shins and fingers and cracking nails as they forced their way into one of the back windows of the hostel in constant fear of their life in case they were mistaken for looters by one of the soldiers positioned on nearby roofs.
Perhaps never again would Altair take a bus tour in India.
So it was that Altair found himself not on a bus heading to Varanasi but on a train, firstly in the lowest class carriage which was basically the baggage train filled with cattle and chickens, bad smells and cow-shit, and old men chewing betel nuts, teeth stained reddish-black from years of chewing this addictive nut, which they spat out on the floor at his feet. After a couple of hours of olfactory torture Altair upgraded to second class which was just as crowded and had some people riding the roof. A few hours of this experience and he went to first class which meant he had a seat and finally for the last segment he allowed himself the luxury of AC or air conditioning and found himself in a cabin with 4 other men, all with the same birthday as him. September 7th. This birthday had led to a number of synchronistic events. On one bus trip in Nepal he found himself riding on the roof of a bus with three other travelers all with this same birthday. And when he started university, he was walking up the hill to Albert Park when an old woman on the other side of the road pointed at him and called out.
She made her way across the road to him.
“You were born the same day as Queen Elizabeth the First.”
It wasn’t a question.
And she was right.
She proceeded to tell him many things about his life. How he would work with children in the arts, be a leader, travel to America and work as a healer.
So meetings with remarkable people in the most unlikely places never seemed out of place.
And so it was in Varanasi.
After signing up for the job Angela took him out on a boat on the Ganges for an hour just before lunch.
The sun was high over the holy river, casting a steady glow, big and imposing in the sky. The air was filled with the aroma of sandalwood and jasmine flowers. Angela found a boatman who rowed them close to the shore, bathing them in the aftermath of the morning cremation rituals. That meant an arm that had not been burned properly by the cremation ghats floated by the boat. An occasional body too.
“You may not be surprised to know that I heard you were coming,” said Angela. “I was hoping against hope that you would be able to fill my position. You know they are interested in you for other reasons. That is why they accepted you so easily. It’s usually much more difficult to get a job here. There are many volunteers waiting in line. The principal told me you would be here this morning.”
Altair had a strange feeling the school, the Principal and Krishnamurti were all somehow tied into Babaji’s prophecy of him meeting Krishna.
And so it was that he found himself searching the nearby markets for some yoghurt he loved just before the storm set in.
The markets were lazy, colorful and chaotic. Old men, stray dogs and bodies close to death lay strewn across his path at every turn. Men with baskets heaped with herbs tried to sell their wares and shopkeepers tried to bargain with him. He quickly found the shop he was looking for and ordered a mango lassi while he was waiting. He listened to the chatter of the customers around him and thought of the vision Babaji and Henry had brought him. A bridge across forever that he could travel over and link other worlds and Pure Lands. He wanted to take all the women and children that were caught up in wars and strife far away from here, to set them free, with stars and magic…
Sometime in the night he awoke to the sounds of thunder and pelting rain. The servant and his family were fast asleep and the house itself was eerily serene amidst the backdrop of the boom and bang of nature’s titanic forces clashing.
There was a soft knock at the door.
Altair waited. The storm rattled on.
The knock came softly again.
No one was going to answer it. The servants were still asleep. They were in the middle of a storm.
“Hello,” said Altair as softly as the knock. “Who’s there?” And he got up to open the door.
Standing there in the wind and rain, without an umbrella, as dry as a bone, was a woman. She was dressed in the orange cloth of a sanyasi, a wandering holy person. She had blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and was holding an ancient scroll in her hands. Behind her, in all directions, lay a tumbling sea of water that fell in ever increasing streams, pausing only now and then to catch its breath before resuming its fury, like a constant waterfall pouring straight down.
“May I come in?” Her voice was soothing, like a clear mountain stream.
Altair was at a loss for words. He gestured for her to come in and noticed that her sandals left no wet mark on the floor even though she had somehow come through the storm to get here. Now he could see her clearly for the first time. She was very young, yet wore spectacles, wore no hood or rain gear and seemed not to notice nature’s spectacle which had been crashing all around her. She had a simple red bindu between her eyebrows. She stood in the entrance like a goddess. She reminded him of Krishna himself.
“I have been sent to bring you a message.”
Altair could momentarily see through the veils and perceive the bridge across forever that Henry had spoken of, the unity linking all beliefs and faiths that Babaji had guided him to. He could feel the language of love breaking through to speak to his heart, and know of the timeless awareness that awakens when you are in the presence of divinity.
The scroll had binding which the woman carefully unwrapped and then unrolled the parchment before handing it to Altair.
“This is for you. Krishna bid me give it to you.”
Altair took the scroll and held it at the top and bottom so that he could see it better.
“This is Saraswati,” said the woman, in a sweet sing-song voice, pointing to the Goddess who sat playing a sitar surrounded by peacocks. “You have been devoted to Her many times over many lives.”
“Babaji said you would come.”
She nodded and pointed to another section of the scroll, in Sanskrit.
“Chapter 12, the Bhagavad Gita. Bhagavad Shri Krishna spoke to Arjuna and said ‘Those who fix their minds on Me, who constantly glorify Me, and possess great faith, I consider them to be most perfect.’ That is the message from Lord Krishna to you.”
She took the scroll from Altair, rolled it up, bound it and handed it back to him.
“I think there are things I need to tell you,” she said. “Altair, you were a 16th century Raj in Northern India.”
The Sanyasi’s voice was so sweet it lifted him above the storm.
“You were married with three wives. You governed a small kingdom in what is now Rajasthan.”
Altair felt his body drifting, lifting upwards, soaring into the heavens.
“You worshipped Saraswati.”
Just like Palmo Shonu with Princess Mandarava in Zahor, thought Altair.
Below him the countryside splayed out like a balloon and ahead of him a magnificent palace was sitting in all its grandeur and splendor. He was part of it and it was all around him. Great forts with round towers rose up sprawling over hills and valley plains next to rivers. Temples, houses and markets were held within its walls.
Altair saw people running in every direction, barricading doors and windows and then he found himself in the midst of a large group of men, brave, armed and ready for fighting, standing before the last of seven massive gates.
Three women, dressed in beautiful saris stood at his side, all weeping.
The one closest to him, took his arm and spoke loudly and clearly to the throng.
“We are besieged sire, but should you got out to battle, and die, we will be lost without you, and surely we will not survive what is to follow.”
Altair simply nodded. He felt heavy and realized he was wearing armor. One of the men was helping him get up on a horse. He was eating his last betel nut together with his troops. He donned his saffron robes which his first wife, the one that had spoken to the crowd, handed him.
“The invading army outnumbers us ten to one,” said the man now in front of him brandishing a double edged scimitar.
Altair nodded again. He knew the warrior’s code. Compassion for defeated foes, generosity towards the helpless, fair play in battle, respect for women and conduct of warfare governed by elegant forms and ceremonies. His people loved him and he was renowned for his courage on the battlefield. He was part of a proud martial tradition and he had a passion for war. Everyone was waiting for his signal.
He, drew his sword, holding it aloft and cried out in a wild yell, and the gates opened on his command. The warriors on horseback circled and flew with him out the gates and onto the hills and down into the valleys, many were mounted and some were on foot.
They were met by a storm of shrieks and yells and blinding fury as the two armies collided. Horsemen, war elephants, soldiers with swords, lances, matchlocks and bows and arrows battled in the breach, many hurled into the air together, and many crushed by the falling debris caused by siege engines.
War elephants, as many as three hundred, joined the onslaught. One of them trampled a man near him, rolled him up in his trunk and crushed him. The elephant then turned on Altair, smashed its trunk down on his horse’s back breaking it in two with a terrible crack and throwing Altair in the air. When Altair hit the ground he was stunned and dazed. The battle had carried him right near the center of the fighting as he struggled to his feet, now a short distance away from the invading king. The king came down from the small rise of a hill that he stood upon and faced Altair, the two men now barely meters apart. Altair was trembling like a mighty dynamo, not from fear but from grim determination. He was a warrior and to die in battle was just as honorable as to die for love. He touched his heart as he stood, thinking of his brave wives and the fate they might face if he was vanquished. Brandishing his sword he said to himself,
“I fight for you my loves. I am a king and he is nothing.”
The warriors around them continued fighting but formed a protective cordon from which no one could get in or out. The bodies piling up made a wall. Here they were, two futures, two destinies, one would continue while the other would fall.
The air seemed to grow still and silent.
Then with a roar and a shaking like two mountains clashing, the two warriors crashed into each other and fell aside, and Altair sprung up first and slashed at the other man’s neck which was his most vulnerable point.
There was a clash of metal on metal as Altair’s thrust missed its mark but caught the man’s face and a scream split the air. The other king hurled himself in fury onto Altair pummeling him to the ground and the breath was squeezed out of him all at once by that crushing fall. Hands fixed themselves on his throat and hot bloody drops dripped down his helmet.
Altair threw himself backwards with all his might and ripped downwards, tearing away those vicious hands and swinging the sword which had been underneath him out and across.
He struck metal and then metal again as the two swords met and parried and thrust.
Then they stood apart struggling to regain their breath.
Both men were bleeding and both were panting heavily.
Altair knew it was going badly for his men. He was their last hope and he would not fail them. He allowed himself the luxury of a single tear. His dear brave fearless wives were going to die if he did not find victory, through love and belief, in fearlessness and valor. He thought of how Krishna assured Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita that the proper thing to do was to fight on the battle field. He thought of his friend Mirabai and her love for Krishna which had inspired his devotion. And it was at this moment, which passed as swiftly as a blink of an eye, that he was lifted out of the battle. He remembered the words Mirabai had taught him,
“Be awake to the Name!
To be born in a human body is rare,
Don’t throw away the reward of your past good deeds.
Life passes in an instant— the leaf doesn’t go
back to the branch.
The ocean of rebirth sweeps up all beings hard,
Pulls them into its cold-running, fierce, implacable currents.
Giridhara, your name is the raft, the one safe-passage over.
Take me quickly.
All the awake ones travel with Mira, singing the name.
She says with them: Get up, stop sleeping—
the days of a life are short.”
A great swirl lifted Altair up as he raised his sword, and then something pulled him up above all of this, and then a more powerful surge, like a power tearing him away from the battle field and the carnage and the sadness and the loss. Then Altair saw in the air beside him the Sanyasi standing calmly looking at him.
“You will meet your three wives again. They are very dear to you and will be always. You will know them by this. One will be a dancer, one a singer and one an actress. Though you will try to hold on to them you cannot. You can only ever free them by letting them go. You can try anything you wish, marriage, children, but the law of karma is very clear. Trust in the flow of life. Go well Altair. Go well my child.”
Then she was gone into the storm.
Gratitude & Appreciation to all artists
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