Thursday, April 24, 2014

Death and the Bull on the flight to Paris


Sometimes we don't understand the context and full significance of a dream until a subsequent event reveals it. On April 17, I recorded a dream report in my journal that included the following scene:

I am on the lawns of a center or temple devoted to Indian traditions, near a large sculpture of a sacred animal, a giant bull. I have a statuette of a bull that matches the giant version. I am carefully drawing a thick black line with a market, from between the horns along the ridge of the back. When I am finished, I place the statuette on the plinth, next to the giant version. This feels like the proper offering.

I woke from this dream tremendously excited, but the meaning and context of the dream remained a mystery. The location in the dream reminded me of the Kripalu yoga center, where I used to teach and where I had visions of Shiva. I felt strongly that the bull statues were of Nandi, a vehicle and form of Shiva.
    The match-up between the miniature bull statue and the giant one reminded me of other important resemblances I have noted in life, especially (given the Indian feel of the dream) of a time when I flew back from an emergency trip to London to pick up the pieces of a book tour I had been compelled to interrupt. I took an airport shuttle from O'Hare to the norther suburbs of Chicago and noted that the Indian driver had a large glass or crystal statue of Ganesha, the divine Gatekeeper in Hindu tradition, on his dashboard. I took out the miniature crystal figure of Ganesha I happened to have in my pocket. I almost never travel with talismans of this kind, but a friend had pressed this on me before I flew to London. My little Ganesha matched the big one perfectly. The shuttle driver became very excited and happy. "You know Ganesha!" he exclaimed. "Your doors will be open!" And so they were. The rest of the book tour went wonderfully well.
    So the new match-up between the giant and pocket-sized versions of a sacred statue in my dream of Nandi filled me with keen expectancy and a number of questions about other details of the dream.
    My curiosity was answered less than a week after my dream, on the evening of Wednesay, April 23, when I boarded a plane for the long flight to Paris, en route to Montpellier and the Hameau de l'Etoile, where I am leading a new adventure this weekend.

     My rowmate was a lively, intelligent woman from India who was traveling home to Bangalore because her mother had been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Our conversation immediately went deep and the space we shared continued to deepen over several hours. We talked about death, and imagery for healing, and many elements in Hindu religious beliefs and practices. I spoke of my experienecs of Yama, the Hindu death lord, and Ganesha, the opener of doors. Then I said, "Nandi". 
    My rowmmate smiled with her whole being. She told me there is a temple of Nandi in her home city, Bangalore , with a giant bull statue carved from granite. She added that she keeps a miniature statue of Nandi close and regards him as another important protector and gatekeeper. We discussed some specific pujas (offerings) her family might now make to call on support from the greater powers according to their traditions. The woman from Bangalore said, "Are you sure you weren't born in India? I feel you are here tonight to remind me of some of the deepest beliefs and practices of my own tradition about how to approach death and the sacred."
     A night on the mythic edge, at 37,000 feet.


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