24 August 2014

Been there. Done That.

The French call it déjà vu.

Its literal translation in the English language is ‘already seen’ - however it is more than that really. It is an experience of having experienced something before.

Or someone.

Even though you haven’t.

Experienced it.

Or them.

It is a strange and somewhat eerie phenomenon that has on occasion afflicted me. I am sure that most people have. Well I am not sure but I suspect that they have.

I am not very sure of anything nowadays.

Anything is possible.

Everything is possible.

I have been to places where I have had an uncanny feeling that I have been before. The first I can recall was when I was a young adult – such a long time ago – going to Copenhagen.  It was in my days of carefree travel.

Those were the days.

I went to the famous and most beautiful Tivoli Gardens and I just knew that I had been there before.

Even though I hadn’t.

I walked around with a very distinct feeling of familiarity. There are a lot of meandering paths in the Tivoli gardens and I knew what was around each corner. I remember that it was like being in a semi dreamy state and that I was confused. At the time I wondered whether it was something I may have read about but as I reflect even now, I knew that I hadn’t done any reading or research on places. It wasn’t my thing back then – nor indeed is it really now.

I like to travel and explore and the joy and mystery of discovery is a part of the whole travel experience.

There have been other times and places since then as well. I remember having strange repetitive dreams about buildings and little villages. These are disjointed and blurry as many dreams are – but in several cases I can recall simply gasping as I recognised these places when I arrived. Tiny details that I could not possibly have known about were retrieved from some deep dark recess of my mind.

There have been people too.

I meet a lot of people in my work and in my life and I am a social animal.

I talk to strangers all the time.

On a very rare occasion I will instantly connect with someone. It might be because we have similar views or likes but to me it seems more than that. It is as if I have known them before. I know how they think, what they like and what they dislike and I find that we will complete each other’s sentences.

It is strange.

It is uncanny.

It is a bit disconcerting but it is nice.

It is very nice.

I have discussed such things with friends before. In the sorts of conversations that one has over dinner with large groups. I love these types of philosophical discussions. I love any sort of intellectual dialogue where there is debate and a swapping of experiences.

I love scenarios where the subjects include a “what if” line of questioning.

The very discussions that I have had on the déjà vu subject has been with my many Buddhist and Hindi friends in Nepal. Some of these guys are lamas and one is in fact a monk who is an incarnation of the Ranag Rinchen Buddha. His full title is Guru Ranag Rinchen Rinpoche and he is also known as the Dolpo Buddha – or simply ‘Guru’. To me he is just Rinpoche – and whilst I am not a follower or devotee of his, he has become my good friend.

Rinpoche is a healer and a master of Tummo - a curative power that 'generates heat'. Those few lamas that practice such healing are required - when they complete their teachings - to sit on a frozen lake enshrouded in a thin shawl that has been soaked with iced water. They must dry the shawl by generating 'internal heat'.

I have been treated with Tummo healing by Rinpoche for my chronic migraines.

I have felt the heat.

It was very painful but effective.

The Guru has followers from all around the world. His temple – or monastery – lies amongst a cluster of other monasteries known as Shey Gompa – and it has been the seat of his ancestors - called the Dolpo Shel-ri Rinpoches - for more than one thousand years.

The Guru’s monastery is in the very faraway region of the upper Dolpa and sits at about five thousand meters above sea level. Monks constructed it by hand on a narrow precipice and in some places it has been carved out of red rock.  It is located within a cradle of the Himalaya ranges and lies in the shadow of a sacred mountain named Shelri Drug Dra in the Nepali language – but is known as the Crystal Mountain by we Westerners.

I don’t know why.

Nor do I really care.

I digress.

I sometimes do.

The conversations I have with Rinpoche are always enlightening and delightful. I never fail to learn something and we always laugh a lot. On more than one occasion he has told me that the feelings of déjà vu that I have experienced are echoes of my previous lives.

Buddhists and Hindus believe in reincarnation. It is in fact one of the pillar stones of their faith.

The Hindu people refer to reincarnation as Punarjanma. They believe that our bodies are simply vessels but our selves – or our souls as the Christian faith describes them – go through an endless cycle of birth, death and then re-birth. The deaths and rebirths are called Samsara. The Hindu people refer to the soul as the Jiva - which they believe is eternal and indestructible.

Rinpoche explained to me that the manner in which a Jiva is re-born – or the vessel into which it next manifests - is dependent upon something called karma. I thought I knew what karma was but I think it is more complicated than my understanding.

Many things are.

In its very base form karma is what we do. It is our actions and our inactions. It relates to kindness and humility and temptation. It is the process of the accumulation of wisdom and recognition of the insignificance of things that are material.

It is the absence of desire.

It is a process of love.

My friend the monk told me that the Christian concept of heaven and hell does not exist at all in the Hindu or Buddhist faiths. People who are bad or evil or simply ignorant will be reborn in a lesser vessel than they previously were. In some instances their rebirth will be in the form of an animal rather than a human.

Rinpoche told me that the journey of life and the accumulation of wisdom is what generally described as a search for enlightenment. This is a complete understanding and acceptance that virtuosity is the purest form of being and that benevolence and solicitude are the ‘true path’. Achieving absolute enlightenment is a very rare and difficult thing but when obtained it is a form of pure divinity where the soul or jiva requires no vessel in which to live.

It is an absolute purity of essence.

I like the concept a lot.

When I asked Rinpoche whether this was being a god he laughed and said that gods were a pagan and Christian belief – and that man was responsible for his own destiny. He told me that the state of divinity was known as ‘Moksa’ and the final recognition of ones true self is called ‘Sadhana’.

I told Rinpoche that I thought that this very beautiful and he told me that he agreed.

I told Rinpoche this because I think it is.

Very beautiful.

I often talk to Rinpoche about matters of faith for I have little in the way of spirituality.

He doesn’t seem to mind.

We tend to talk about things that are both Hindu and Buddhist. Rinpoche is a Tibetan Buddhist monk but he has explained very patiently to me that in the mountain kingdoms of Tibet and Nepal the two faiths have co-existed for more than two thousand years. Many of the very ancient temples of Kathmandu that I so love are actually both Hindu and Buddhist. They are shared sites.

There is no other place in the world that such places exist.

The holy man has told me that whilst there has been much conflict in both ancient and recent times in Nepal – none have ever been for religious regions.

I like this a lot.

Many of the world’s wars are caused by religion.

Look at the Middle East.

Look at Ireland.

Man’s inhumanity to man is an abhorrent thing.

The guru Rinpoche is a master of a type of meditation called Vipassana. It is the fundamental principal of his healing powers and he teaches this discipline to his followers. On more than one occasion Rinpoche has offered to teach me Vipassana but I have told him that I do not think that I have the patience.

I find it difficult to even sit still.

From what little I can understand – and I do understand very little – Vipassana meditation is an endeavour to enter a trance like state where there is an absolute denial of ownership or judgment or memory.

It is simply a state of being.

Rinpoche has told me that the concept of desire is the biggest obstacle to moving towards total enlightenment. To achieve such a state man must go through many forms of suffering. Such dolor is called ‘Dukkha” by Buddhists and when achieved it will eventually lead to something called “Nirvana”. Nirvana is where the physical world and the physical body lose all significance. The word and concept of “Nirvana” is derived from the Sanskrit concept of “Nibbana”.

The literal translation of “Nibbana” is “vanishing” where the world stops and there is complete self-awareness.

Nice huh?

I think so.

So back to the whole issue of déjà vu and my discussions with the guru on this subject. I have told him of the strange connection I feel with Nepal and the fact that I felt a type of kinship with the country the very first time I went.

And every time I return.

It was an immediate and deep fellowship.

I have told him too of the similar type of connection I have always had with the ocean – and as with the mountains of the Himalaya - I have a sense of absolute peacefulness and imperturbation that is difficult for me to describe. I also tried to explain to Rinpoche the peculiar feelings of déjà vu I have described earlier in this writing - and I remember him nodding his head in a knowing fashion.

He does this often.

Nods his head.

He thinks these feelings of mine are simply echoes of my past lives.

I may once have been to these places that seemed familiar to me. I may have known the people who I feel an immediate connection with.

He thought I might once have been a sea creature too.

When I suggested I might have once been a whale he laughed and said that this was possible – but I could also have been a turtle.

I don’t mind either actually

I don’t mind at all.

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