The Burning Bush

The end is finally near, the exit from Mysore in clear view and I await ambivalently the chance to hopefully once again reinstate a degree of objectivity in my thinking and dispel the haze in my mind that has descended in the past meandering months in Mysore. Fatigue, heat and the relentless, unchanging routine of life here in Mysore has served to produce a lethargic disposition never before experienced. Though it is true the monotony is stablising and has provoked a certain calmness to flourish, a stillness of mind that allows trivial matters to wash over.

All in all I have never had an experience quite like this, and I feel eager to re-enter the realities of the world I left if only to comprehend all that has occurred. In the midst of this bubble my vision is blurring all the edges. This blurriness is no doubt worsened by the fact my actual eyesight itself is perpetually blurry as I refuse to wear my glasses. Wearing my glasses makes everything so precise again, there is no mystery left. For most of the time I am half-expecting to wake up as though my stint in Mysore never happened – another of my bizarre (if over-extended) dreams.

And yet I fear the change as the time has come again to shed the safety I have created in this place. And then to deal with the losses: the loss of practicing yoga every morning in the shala, the loss of Sharath as my teacher, the loss of the little bit of freedom I have found here.

Yesterday sat in another mundane, unspectacular yet oddly comforting spot of wasteland in Mysore a man decided to set alight some nearby bushes (it was unclear as to whether he was allocated this task or not). What started as a moderate blaze quickly spread out, the dry grass and land becoming enflamed and clouds of smoke torrented upward and taken by the breeze. At one point the blaze devoured a vulnerable bush in a matter of moments. Soon all that was left of the bush was a pool of black ashes.

It was then a ‘friendly’ local decided to clarify the reason for this seemingly random act of arson. We need to burn them, he said, before the rains come, when the rains come new life will grow (it was more incoherent than this but that was the general gist). It seemed strange to destroy something that was already alive in order to make it grow again, no doubt only to be burnt again next year.

Though as I contemplated this process, I thought the burning bush was like many other Indian customs that seem totally mindless on first encounter but somehow manage to make their own sense once you grasp their very own particular meaning-making structure. Burning always feels such a final and brutal act – it signals ending, death, and death in such an absolute way, a death that leaves no trace or evidence of life. Though life does not occur in a linear way – at least not in India. Life exists in circles, reincarnation means nothing ends in definite terms. So while it may be that anything that begins must eventually come to an end, endings are always the foundation of another beginning.

And similarly to the burning bush, my time in Mysore,- and all its joys, sadness, pains, frustrations and freedoms – is soon to be destroyed; the vitality of the present transformed into ashes of memories. But I would be wise to not fix my gaze there on the ending but to look further – or better to think cyclically – and recognise how the burnt ashes are not merely a devastation of life. Instead the ashes of my Mysore hopes and dreams will set the earth for the coming change of season which will once again rejuvenate life.  In this way, where things can always be reborn, there lies never-ending scope for possibility. The beauty of reincarnation is that it doesn’t close off possibilities; it embraces the haphazard ambiguity of life. From this point we can then pose the questions: in what way will we be reborn? And the most pressing vital concern of all: what’s next?

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