From Madhuri’s 1976 diary
The alarm rings. I sleep again, wake, and arise in the dark. Light comes through the window from the shadeless bulb swinging from a tree. A moment after I’m up Bodhi rises too, and I unhook the shadowy mosquito net from its moorings and fold it into a cloth bag. I lift our one creaking chair and set it outside the tiny door. I fold the rugs and mats and put them on it; sweep the room and mop it with an old red mop.
In the bathroom bright light, while Bodhi stands at the mirror, I come behind him with a new sense of something unspoken; feeling, aware, patient; not heated. Feeling…scared, and exploratory. We haven’t touched for days, and I place my arms around his chest and stomach and feel also his private place, which is like embracing a flower: too harsh an action. So I move my hands up and watch them in the mirror there on his chest, white and small and padded, with pointed nails. He is cool too, and awake, and we feel the energies moving from his backbone into me.
I take the hands away, go back to lift my work dress and put it over my head, and twist onto my hair the elastic to keep it out of my face. And I step out into the darkness and the wetness of rain and slip my feet into rubber sandals. I walk in gravelled puddles to the path to Lao Tzu House. Unhook chain on fence, go past the wakeful Indian guard who sits in his Indian mind like a piece of the house, un-separate, and I go in and dismantle my buckets and gloves and brushes from the cupboard with its banging doors. Here is disinfectant, Vim, a cloth; I’m balancing one thing and then another, turning a tap, scooting a rug out of the way, squatting with the scrub brush near the hole-death mouth of a toilet, again as ever, watching myself firmly or blearily, the energy ever enthusiastic, the mind perplexed at repetition. Scrub, duck, move, squat, wipe, shove buckets, Vim, put gloved wire-scrubber hand into toilet to scrub away shit particles… Always somewhere inside I retch; then I wipe the wall, rise, move, fill bucket, douse the long red floor of the little room. Out in the dark to the side of the house, to scrub the worst toilet, mud of workers, wash the door and walls. Back to the doorway to scrub the garbage-can place and big concrete sink. Then back, bucketed and Vim-handed, into the warm house; put things away, unglove, then walk back relieved and too expectant through the wet paling morning dark, Dynamic meditation beginning in the hall nearby. I hear thumping gasping sounds of the changing stages.
I think of my mending, which I love now, I don’t know why. I go back to our clean neat room. Bodhi’s put the shaken rugs back on the floors, I’ve made the bed nicely, with fresh sheets. I shower. He’s put mate tea to steep for me. I slurp from his coffee and it’s black and hot and sweet and cutting and bitter. I powder my armpits with scentless talc and dress in a dark red robe of soft heavy drapey stuff, and then sit to sew with my tidy tin sewing box and a torn work-dress; I patch it so lovingly, with such care and virginal joy, sitting neat and clean.
Suddenly a frowsy orange-and-white cat, with the used-up look of a recent mother, comes out of the clothes shelf and sits fussily on the bed. I want to accuse Bodhi of letting her in there and not noticing, and I say hysterical things I don’t feel, but I do feel the hysteria itself, and when I put her out my face itches allergically. I watch the feeling and it is gone… Now I can watch an emotion in its seed stage and see it through and through like a crystal; and then it is dissolved and gone. But again I sneak out from under myself like a barbed wire fence and am passionate and forget myself, and then again I watch.
We eat some banana, and I have a piece of bread with miso and peanut butter, and we have thick sweet ashram tea. I always have to take a shit at the last minute, and do, and Bodhi has already gone to the line for the lecture.
I go to lecture in my high plastic clog-shoes, stepping over puddles and making sure I watch myself. We go in and my heart has a slight fullness, swollen, which fades as I forget that Purna just told me I got a postcard from Geetesh, from England, which is yet in the hands of a sleeping newly arrived friend. We take off our shoes and go barefoot on the rain-mud walk beside the house, Bodhi just behind me, to the clean vast auditorium, and I forget my heart and sit against the wall snug and tight feeling the rain so near, oozing and seeping out of the sky, and watching everybody file in. Watching myself watch them, and watch my own perennial morning fantasy of breasts; I always, I suddenly realize, look at the breasts of the women and imagine mine swelling and growing and people squeezing them spontaneously, and then I realize I want to nurse the men I want, want them to be helpless at my all-pervasive incredible breast, pointed like a hot soft torpedo, and Geetesh especially I want to own like a baby, and feed and cherish erotically in eternity this way. I imagine Bodhi there, but this seems irrelevant; we are a yin and yang, not any sort of erotic hierarchy.
It is in these mornings, with my body clear and fresh, and a little caffeine or sugar just hitting my veins, that nostalgia comes abruptly, as obvious as a black cat on snow, so that I can watch it, and my heart’s love of it. For a moment I smell ham frying, distinctly, through the window. Or a chintz-curtained pie-and-coffee shop in Oregon leaps before my eyes, with its safety, its lumpen proprietress, innocent and wholesome. Or black coffee with a lover in a lakeside lounge in forested British Columbia, with a newspaper, and holding hands under the table…and nobody worried about the bill. Each flash is momentary, viscous, and then gone – and I know so well in all of me that here is the end of it all, the place to end all places, the morning coffee to inherit all other morning coffees forever.
Then He is talking of power, of people wanting power, and I watch and feel Him instead, and I become empty and roaring, feeling him being me. He is speaking on the Buddha. How to speak of words, I no longer want to speak of them. It is futile. He says the same things over and over; it is exactly as if I tried to speak of a tree having leaves, and all the while I am sitting with the leaves, and my heart is a leaf too, fat and red and beating; to speak of him to you is futile because there is too much of him. We have all had rhinestones and dime-store glass so much, you will not be able to believe that I, one of you, have known, has found in the mulch of the jungle a pile of rubies, amethysts, emeralds and diamonds; whole and healthy and gleaming in my hands, all the more beautiful for the mud. I don’t expect you to believe me because I can put no effort out for belief or you or anything. My ambition has gone and only my impetus remains and that is going; each time it digs deeper its hole in my heart so that it can vanish more.
His voice has a cadence to it, a special kind of music found in Krishnamurti too, a connectedness with Nature, yet different from the direct issuing-from-Nature I feel in Walt Whitman or Bob Dylan, whom I consider on the deep verge interior of Nature. His voice has not their passion, no, nor their concern, their belief and wild love. Bhagwan celebrates, but from the cool heart of non-doing. From non-being he brings his words like camp-fires on ice-floes, wild natives against a background of clear white sky.
He speaks and I nod and Be and watch and hold and feel and drown in Satsang… The presence of the Master; a despair and a waiting and a bliss so great it is not pointed but is rather the very air, the breath of the auditorium.
I sit, back against the wall, eyes closed. I feel the power of the presence that comes through him, surrounding everything, permeating me magically. It is magical, and yet so natural, the way the energy rises black and blossoms yellow in my skull, pressing out with all its might on the whole front of my brow, like white blooming hands smashing to get out. Each swell, when it reaches throat level, before the ascent to the brain, carries me in a moment of suspended, washing bliss, dis-attached and rivering upwards like fat black up-surged honey. I sit, and my hands fold into one another and in my stillness become one hand, and that vanishes; I am suspended. Then, later, I listen to my bottom hurting and, instead of letting the pain feed into the upwards energy, I shift position, and sigh, and relax again.
When he is gone again hands folded, smiling, throwing his towel over his shoulder, precisely at the door to the house, and I have looked at the back of his head with its poignant bald energy white and clean and sword-like out of the back of it, I go quickly and up-end myself at his altar and feel again the non-happening, or indifference to happening, that my inner world is made of right now. I go into the hallway, the red corridor, and suddenly I’m in hush; the screaming gasping Indian, casualty of all that Satsang, heard still; but my feet are bare as a nun’s on cool tile, my red robe flows around a body that is always happy here in this walk down his dim hallway. I feel elegant and spine-straight and voluptuary. Devananda is in the store-room and I see his narrow t-shirted waist and go in and put my arms around him and hold him lightly with my head against him, and he says, “Mudpie,” with calm affection; and continues his work. I rest my head against his shoulder and then go out again, feeling some sadness I do not know. Maybe it is the way his body was, so small and broad-shouldered and narrow, and his ponytail, and the grey rain out the window, and the workingness of him in there fiddling with wood and screwdrivers, and my own emptiness and never-be-filledness. And that I needed, and that I’ve been with God for an hour and a half and never saw him.
Sadness continues through the light work of the morning, which is really heavy but feels light now because I don’t care anymore. Some intense madnesses come over me and I write him questions and plan many letters to him; all feel so important. But this morning I scarcely see my work, I have to keep remembering to relax my shoulders, which try all day long to hunch up and keep my mind company. In the mirror in the guest room I relax them, like them better; despair that they won’t stay that way, give a purposely hazy look at my body in its knee-length work dress; I don’t like to look at it open-eyed. Looking at the drab, thick-bellied creature standing there, unbelieving that it houses immortal divinity, I turn back to work. Cleaning is today fairly painless… Then it’s time for lunch.
Bodhi greets me with chapatties and cabbage salad and bean-sprout soup and bread and butter and yogurt. He sets these on a table and hugs me with his smiling sweet body. For those with rupees, which means not us, there is coconut banana cake and fruit curd. We’re in the canteen, which is a tiny sadhana for awareness while ingesting; crowded, inconvenient, six chairs for two hundred people. But the food is delicious and healthy. We eat together, Bodhi and me, and talk.
Home: our small green room in the jungly couples’ compound of Eckhardt House. I would wash the yellow bathroom rug out but it’s so raining. Usually I mend. Today I fold myself into a Newsweek, somewhat happily. Then it’s time to rest. I blindfold myself with a folded silk scarf because I can’t find my proper blindfold, and I watch myself wanting to blame poor Bodhi for that too. I put a lunghi over the rest of me, face too, and pad my ears with pillows and sink to some depths; sea-lulling, rocking, sinking, oblivious until the alarm rings.
I rise, shower, put on the same red robe, and go to work.
I work. Yes I work, yes I work. Morning had been the big marble bathrooms, white hallway; afternoons I clean taps and shine them, clean the same downstairs bathroom again, take buckets and broom and clean the messy store-room, wash rags in Dettol water and wring them, then take them to hang on the broad airy white-tiled roof on lines. And I celebrate the tiles, lilac-flowered vines, clouds, grey rain seep, and I sweep and then take a broom, the tallest of brooms, thin-handled like a young palm tree, and I go into the white corridor with its green ceiling so high up under the eaves. I scrape and crane my neck back and squint to keep it out of my eyes, the debris of web and spider which showers down on me, so I am a mess of white running spider bloblets and grey web. A long pole comes out of me swinging with descending transparent spiders, so many of them, never have I seen so many, and the floor dotted with grey stuff, leaving a satisfactory mess to clean up. Then I swing the broom far out over the descending stairs, clearing the webs from the rafters, and a huge black hand-sized moth flies about like a bat and perches, flat against green wood. I am alive with wonder at what I am doing here, a long pole with a small life on the end, pushing and moving aside my days in the act of cleaning. I am moved by my spiders and webs.
When all are gone I take the long broom out on the roof and lay it waterproof on the big pipe under the overhanging ledge. As I step away from the overhang I slip in a spot of perennial slime from the damp…it’s almost but not quite a fall. So often I nearly slip and break, and then I wake – and see that I have been dreaming and will awake only at danger, quick and slicing.
Then I go back down the stairs and use the smaller broom, still a ceiling tall, for the downstairs corridor. Then it’s the big upstairs auditorium, plants and things, brooming and washing marble edges compulsively; scooting around on my bottom with a damp rag, and sweepings and moppings of corridor and stairs, thinking madly now to write, holding it inside me.
I see that what I am doing here is watching: watching me, seeing me, as much as possible, and it is the whole purpose of the work. The agonized primal screamings of people getting Rolfed come from Jesus House across the garden, and my mind is going on about Him and writing and me and who I am and energy and what I’m doing and what it’s like to lose me.
Kundalini meditation has started. I hear from afar its snake-charm music for the shaking, dancing, sitting, and still, passive rest which takes the day of the meditators and brings it into evening. Here we walk so many different levels and paths; I feel more elemental and almost more afraid, though quietly, featurelessly, since my life has become only work and no meditations, no love, no writing, no anything but work and the sleep between the work, which is so full of energy it is not even a sleep, for I am not heavy or involved.
I go down into the womb-red corridor with its hanging yellow lights, and prepare my mops and rags and buckets, empty the trash, wash towels, which is my favorite thing – I have affinity with cloth, especially old raggy cloth, it is like me, and I feel always a surge of joy while standing there, in one place for once, scrubbing the cloths with laundry soap and brush; and then hanging the rinsed, wrung-out, many-colored towels and glass-cloths and dusters on the roof-line, feeling like my mother in a clean good mood. I put the washed mops up on the roof too, standing them against the waist-high wall.
I go down the winding aluminium-painted stairs to pick up the broom again, and start the long sweep of the red corridor, complicated by bookshelves, shoes, rugs, and striding feet and beings. I sweep and bend, think and bend and sweep, I am full of writing and cannot see. And then it’s the mopping, long and arduous, down the same long turning cornered corridor, with later feet now, and the Darshan being prepared, and people waiting outside crowding at the gate to be in Satsang, intensely present with the Master, where he hits you open with whoever you are and leaves you there. Where he chuckles and wears his hundred faces. I need to see him. I am so scared for days before seeing him that it is like being in a dentist’s drill the whole time. God, really.
When, one day, I am finished mopping, to my surprise…I wash the mop out, filled with evening grey heart, expectation of freedom. I go up on the roof one last time to place the mop there with the few last rags. The expected peace is settling over me, the deliciousness of the evening, my evening…He has owned me all day and still owns me and I am confused, but I go downstairs, change, wash hands, and take my warm body into the grey wet evening in my red robe again.
They’ve already gone into Darshan, and I talk to beloved Asheesh again about the robes I am mending for him because I love mending and because he put a wooden protection around my mala to keep it from shattering as I bend and bump against the bathtubs in the morning. I go towards home, aching for the pen and the fat paper, wanting so much to pour myself on it, which rarely happens now. But tonight I betrayed it; instead of my evening of mending and singing Bob Dylan to myself, an invitation to dinner has come from Deepesh and Kaveesha, and Bodhi’s going to miss music group, which he doesn’t like any better than I like not writing, but for some unknown reason a dinner invitation is ultimately compelling.
I go, in haste and wrong-feeling, high with the need to write, knowing I am wasting my heart, destroying the moment of opening, the door to the writing which has been building and stating itself in me all afternoon, beautiful as parrot-green, quick and sudden in the air. So I sacrifice, and watch the high energy, and watch the people and my own built-up nothing self, and wish to be home, and even ice cream isn’t worth it, and just makes me want more; and Kaveesha is reading my poetry and says, “New Yorker,” which hurts the veins in my hand and wrists, which no longer want to aspire. And I melt and melt like butter on Sambo’s pancakes away from all that.
We come back in a three-legged rickshaw and I clean the narrow white-tiled bathroom…so gratefully, happily.
I clean naked on my hands and knees, in rubber gloves, Vim and scrubbers, smashing a tiny baby of the Tribe of Cockroach with the heel of a gloved hand. I wash out the rug and hang it on the towel rack, scrub the toilet with long-handled brush, and love the fight and pull and struggle of the cleaning so late into the night, my native activity, cleaning, though I am totally indifferent to it, really, I think. It is so clean, though, such an endless clean thing to do, so awake, so active, so cleansing, so purifying. Nothing of the sleep or the grave, the meat or the wine or the decadence, the tiredness or pillows, no.
And now finally I am writing…belatedly, tiredly, but wholly and as if possessed. This, too, is my native place; or illusion; no doubt illusion.
We are under the mosquito net, and Bodhi is reading a good simpatico mystery, and soon he’ll turn the light off. Sleep will come, black and gone. This is my day every day, cleaning, deepening, listening cleaning and thinking too much sometimes, or getting moody and fuming, but always holding on to the work for dear life, though loudly I grumble and moan.
He is here all around us, and I sleep.
Illustration and story by Madhuri