Crying School

As we enter the post-Covid era, I’m back on the road. Well, more specifically in the air, flying from one terminal to another, making a small attempt to share spiritual inspiration in the urban jungle. On a recent flight to Cairo I managed to secure the sought-after emergency seat (when you’re over 6ft tall that’s a big deal!). Unfortunately, every perk comes at a price. Emergency seats tend to be where new-born babies also hang out… and often they’re loud, crying, distressed babies! Today was one of those days – all the leg room in the world, but a screaming backing track to accompany it. This flight was going to require some mind control.

I remembered Bhaktivedanta Swami, who taught us to desperately call out while chanting God’s name, like a baby cries for the mother. That was the flash of inspiration. I reached for my prayer beads, closed my eyes, and synchronised every bursting screech of the baby with a recitation of the mantra. I tried to internalise the cry and embody desperation in my meditation. Mysteriously therapeutic! I found my meditation growing in depth! Interestingly, the Bhagavad-gita’s first chapter is entitled “Visad-yoga” – the yoga of desperation. Real spiritual connection is triggered when a deep urgency burns within, driving one to venture beyond a space that’s no longer habitable and satisfying.

Crying is a part of everyone’s life, at all stages, in all settings. There is the cry of the samsarika (one entangled in material life) – a cry of frustration, born from the frantic and futile search for substance in the shadow. A sage poetically describes how the combined tears shed by the samsarika over lifetimes would amount to an entire ocean. Then there is the cry of the sadhaka (a spiritual aspirant seeking connection) – a cry of desperation to become serious, sincere and spontaneously involved with the Supreme Person. Finally, there is the cry of the siddha (the perfected soul) – a cry of intoxication, arising from the inexplicable joy of divine love in multifarious flavours and tastes.

There’s no question of avoiding tears, but just a question of what one will cry for. A great saint described temples as ‘crying schools’ – unique places where one could learn how to channel the emotions of the heart to trigger divine communion. Indeed, Srila Prabhupada mentions this is the last word in love – to unleash the cry of the soul for God. On that journey to Cairo I prayed that the samsarika cry of the baby, would become the sadhaka cry of myself, so that one day it would become the siddha cry in the transcendent realm. A good lesson in the air.