Sunday, June 08, 2014

A Random Encounter at Lucerne

It was our day to Mt.Titlis. 

We had to take the Swiss Rail from Lucerne to Engelberg from where we could go up Titlis.
As expected, like the immutable fact of every second and every hour, or more like Swiss clockwork, there were trains leaving for Engelberg, as we had been tonelessly informed by the man/boy behind our hotel desk ’ at every hour, 10 minutes past the hour ’. We were on time to take the next one leaving in 20 minutes. 

We walked all the way down to board one of the carriages at the farther end of the platform. We were keen to give a miss to the noise and crowd of Indians who were  travelling in groups and in joint families. Bad combos both. 

We expected them to fill into the carriages nearer the beginning of the platform. Well, we were only partially successful, but even then, it was a relief. Ok, I will stop this typical national self loathing of the travelling Indian and get on to the encounter or rather the connection, that happened.

The train glided smoothly across the beautiful swiss countryside. Though there was no loud hum of our country folks, there was this sort of musical huff and puff, tang and tong of either japanese or korean coming from the man with the group of either japanese or korean sitting adjacently across to us. The man seemed to be, in a general manner, clarifying or explaining the various aspects and points of this trip and of others they may have done, to his group of three women who were nodding. 

We were soaking up the view of the lakes, cottages and snowy mountains that were like cool water to our parched eyes. Suddenly he popped into our space, “Appa?” he uttered or rather enquired with a totally incredulous look in his face. I had no clue what this was about. 
“Appa?” he asked again looking at Siddhu. Now I understood that he was asking whether Siddhu had uttered that word ‘Appa’. In that totaly incredulous look I certainly could make out the friendliness and curiosity. It warmed and cheered me immensely. 
I explained to him that, yes, Siddhu had called me ‘appa’, as it meant father in our language, Tamil. He was wonder struck. He repeated the word ‘appa’ so joyously and said ‘appa’ is father in Korean too. And when I said ‘appa’ and ‘amma’ were father and mother in Tamil, he seemed close to being joyously thunderstruck. He exclaimed that they were exactly the same in Korean too. He turned to his group of women and obviously expressed to them what they had just heard. They all seemed much cheered and happy but though not as joyous as him. 

‘TTamil?’ he repeated. I explained to him we are from India, rather south India, where we spoke Tamil. I explained that though Hindi is spoken by majority, there were more than 25 languages spoken in India and in Chennai, where we were from, we spoke Tamil. He nodded, as if he understood. He said that he has travelled to India but not to Chennai. He said, “ India is very big, yes?…yes!”. He continued, “ In India there are very very rich people and very very poor people, too much difference!”. He was a Korean Naipaul! 

 His joy was contagious. It had infected me too. I now continued from where we had left off. I said, “Thatha’, ‘Paati”. He looked at me. I was not sure whether there was confusion in his face. He repeated, “Thatha?”, “Paati?”. I explained that “ Thatha’ and ‘Paati’ are words for grand father and grandmother in Tamil. He repeated that and shook his head and looked at his women. They all shook their head. That obviously didn’t make any connection. He instead said something that I could only make out as two words. Heena clarified that it could be something like ‘ayya-appa’ and ‘ayya-amma', or so we imagined. We were glad anyway. 

Heena, now thought it a good idea to play a song to him which she had herself picked out from the web with her characteristic creative resourcefulness and played to Siddhu for its typical oriental melody and music. She wanted to play that song to him and find out the meaning. It was in her phone collection. She browsed and browsed and finally got it. She played the song to him who had been keenly leaning across and waiting for her to locate the song. The song started and his smile kind of stayed in the same position for a brief longer than normal. He went back. He said, ‘ Ah…oh, that is North Korean song …..and we are South Korean.’
Heena said, “Oh!?”

That brought a hiatus to the conversation between us. But it was obvious that they were equally amazed as us, with this striking similarity of words and their meanings between two distant lands and cultures. Was it just coincidence or more than that? Perhaps this was more amazing to us to imagine that there could be a linguistic link between Tamil, a language spoken only in a small area of the south with a language spoken in a land so far away in geography. It also made me wonder whether there were any other cultural links between the two. 
We reached Engelberg after about an hour or so. Then as we were on our way out, he looked at us and said, “ Appa!, Amma", and grinned a joyous good bye. 

We had a wonderful time at Titlis.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Life is Yoga.

All of Life is Yoga

A journey begins much before the first step is taken. It begins when the first thought about it enters your conscious mind. But at another level it may have begun much before that, when the seed of the journey is implanted into one’s sub-consciousness. This seed is nourished by various circumstances, thoughts, ideas, over a very long period. May be even years. And one fine day, due to some subtle neural connection it sprouts and assumes a conscious meaning. It then takes on an conscious life. After that, it is only a matter of time before the physical journey manifests itself.

My journey began much before I actually took to the road. Quite literally.
Mine was a journey of inner cultivation. And I had been on that journey for a long time. Subconsciously I don’t know when the seed to this journey was implanted, but I am sure it was a very long time ago. With a lot of reading. Over a lot of writing. After  a lot of self-enquiry.

What is the purpose of this life?
It is evolution. It is a refinement of our physical, mental and spiritual aspects towards perfection. Life, as is normally lived is a natural way of evolution. Life has been on this path since it manifested millions of years ago. When life reached its evolutionary stage of humans it had reached a crucial and significant stage in this evolution. It had evolved the crown of all life forms, and human-mind was the most refined aspect of this human-life. In human mind, nature had evolved an instrument that could become aware of its evolutionary purpose and thus accelerate its own evolution by its conscious decisions and acts. And before long the human-mind developed a system that could guide and enhance the process of this evolution. This wonder system is Yoga. Yoga is the way of physical, mental and spiritual evolution. Patanjali, an evolved human himself compiled and structured this system into ‘Yoga Sutras’.
Swami Vivekananda, another great human who had made yoga his way said that all life can be considered Yoga, but in a very dispersed way, but the system of Yoga may be regarded as a means of compressing one’s evolution, may be into a single life, or a few years or even a few months of bodily existence. Yoga is the way by which one can consciously take oneself on this path of evolution, a way of consciously assisting nature in its objective.

Yoga has been my way of self-cultivation too. This cultivation was my inner walk. And I have been on this walk for a long time. And one day, due to choking external events the inner cultivation connected to external rituals. This inner walk connected with the the external walk that I had taken to appeal to Providence. And now this pilgrimage walk and the rituals that came along with it became a part of my Yoga, my self-cultivation.
So now though the pilgrimage walk was prompted as an outward response to the external circumstance, I gradually took it inward, to connect it to my inner cultivation, in realisation that this would be the only way, that any benefit, atleast some inner-benefit could be realised. The outer larger world and its events may remain beyond our effort, of reason, of emotions, or of faith. I can only relate to this outer world in humility and in abeyance to Providence. To be indifferent or disdainful felt out-of-question then. And also having or thinking of any outside benefit felt shallow and somewhat an adharma. An inner objective gave the feeling of inner integrity. I did not want the cultivation to be focussed against anybody or anything outside. I wanted it to be within myself. I wanted it to be only an inner issue.
It grew to become relevant in my emotional and mental areas too. It assumed meanings in relation to my cultivation of discipline, will, etc,.Thus once the journey was born inside of me, it assumed a meaning and life of its own. It grew in its relevance. It touched and became relevant to various aspects of my inner cultivation. Eventually it enveloped my consciousness. It sort of connected and networked with various points of my consciousness.

The mandatory rituals that came along with this walk was a crash course on the yoga. Though  I have been doing following yoga for a long time, the rituals were more intense and formal. Ofcourse it was a ‘pilgrimage’, to Palani. A ‘padhe yathirai’, a journey on foot. An act of offering oneself to the higher, divine forces. It was imperative that one cleanses oneself spiritually for this offering. So one had to take up rituals that help one in this process of cleansing. 
An intense phase of self-cultivation for a period of around one and a half months, during which one tries to cultivate a state of ego-less and desire-less living. At the end of this intense period one makes the ‘offering’ of oneself to the symbol of the perfect and absolute, to that which we aspire to attain. 
‘Fasting’ was a primary requirement. It is not ‘fasting’ in its limited sense. But fasting in a more holistic sense. It meant physical fasting, sensual fasting, emotional fasting. It meant withdrawing one’s consciousness inward. It meant concentrating one’s life energy on one’s spiritual consciousness. 
I had started on my ‘fasting’ more than a fortnight before the walk. But even after a week my mind had not been completely and continuously reined in, or focused on the objective - the objective of attaining a state-of-being that is of pure mind and pure spirit, an inner integrity, an inner coherence. To enter a higher level of  meditation I thought I should take to higher degree of fasting. May be I should adopt this state-of-living, so as it does not become some temparory, passing phenomenon but a sincere and a deeper mode-of-living. 
For all the meditation and yoga, not to mention all the cultivating hard work  I have put in, there was  in my daily awareness, periods of slack, when mind loses its attentiveness, its sharpness. And it was these gaps of ‘slackness’, that  I wanted to reduce. It was ‘mindfulness’ that I was primarily trying to cultivate. For it was this slack gap that had let me down and lead to this major tragedy. 

While I had started on these rituals, I realised that there was still a very large ‘physical-baggage’ that I was carrying. Though I wanted to be totally taken up by the inner effort, I was still concerned about losing weight and bothered by it. My consciousness was still taken up by such issues instead of  being focussed on my ‘cultivation’. But at the same time, I was apprehensive of giving up my rational balance, and take umbrage in emotions or faith. My experiences, my knowledge, held me back from this, as I had learnt that emotions and faith don’t get any umbrage from worldly problems. It was only ‘reason’ that I could hold on to, atleast in relative reliability.
Though I was working to realise any new truth or principle, either of emotions or of faith, I was still only working with one foot in reason and had not totally given it up. Though I was exploring the value and potency of faith, I wanted to remain firmly grounded in reason and I hoped to realise the way to be impeccable in this.

The external rituals signalled  to the people around me that I was on a spiritual ‘cultivation’ and they provided me the space and time that I required. It signaled to them of my serious intentions and it recieved the solemnity that the process required. 
During this period of cultivation, I hoped and worked not to get engaged or entangled with anything that will lessen the intensity of my cultivation or make me deviate from my focus. 
I was resorting to all those external rituals to physically and manifestingly experience, and thereby add that to the various bits of memories and experiences that offered a definition of myself, to myself. Definition that took into function, my will, my discipline, my experiences, etc. Though the actions needed only a little of will and discipline, there is a difference between saying,”I can”, and actually doing it. By doing it, the experiences that the actions provide, becomes imprinted into your memories. Mental, as well as bodily memories. Memories of experiences that define one’s sense of self-identity and even one’s ego. And it certainly deepens oneself and one’s perspective.

I realised that the inner journey would go on, and would have to go on as long as one lived. But that period was just an intensive phase and it was symbolically connected to the physical ritual of walking to Palani. Thus the walk to Palani was to be only  a marking of a certain phase, it was just for my convenience. Like marking one year from another. The inner cultivation would have to be continuous, like the flow of time.

Behind all my rituals and effort of inner cultivation, I was waiting. I was contemplating and sharply exploring the way my life was, in its structure and its possibilities. I hoped to change and overcome my life’s present structure and restrictions. I hoped to realise new possibilities. I hoped to realise my true potential and perhaps my true destiny. I wanted to find a way to do it that was within dharmam. Universally righteous. 

I hoped that this walk, this pilgrimage, would help me realise this.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Have you seen a Fish cross a Road?

Dogs cross the road, cattle cross the road, but

Saw an amazing thing today morning when I had gone for a jog. I saw a small fish wriggling in the middle of the road. Even before I could figure out how it could have landed in the middle of the road, it oddly seemed to be wriggling towards the other side with purpose. I was amazed at this sight but doubt-fulll about whether this could be true. I started taking the video with my mobile but I could not do a good job, especially at the end. You watch it and figure out whether the fish was fully aware of what it was doing and was purposefully crossing over. But even then, I wonder how he wriggled out of the puddle on the other side of the road in the first place!
I had to help it into the puddle at the end. It was very slippery and heavier than I had expected. It went in with a splash and in a flash it was gone. :-)

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

The White Fang - Review

If ever there is a story of wild living spirit set in a cold wilderness, then this is it.

“ A vast silence reigned over the land. The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness. There was a hint in it of laughter, but of a laughter more terrible than any sadness - a laughter that was mirthless as the smile of the sphinx, a laughter cold as the frost and partaking of the grimness of infallibility. It was the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life. It was the Wild - the savage, frozen-hearted Northland Wild.”

With this, Jack London immediately plunges the reader into essence of the cold wilderness of the north.  But the effect is not one of being dazed or numbed by it’s cold or remoteness,  but rather the opposite, one’s senses are excited to a sense of a thrill. He then proceeds straight into the deadly  pursuit of humans, by the famished wolves.

“ He awoke once and saw in front of him, not a dozen feet away, a big grey wolf, one of the largest of the pack. And even as he looked, the brute deliberately stretched himself  after the manner of a lazy dog, yawning full in his face and looking upon him with a possessive eye, as if, in truth, he were merely a delayed meal that was soon to be eaten.”

A cold sweat broke over me. I saw the grey-wolf right in front of me.

 “He came out of a doze that was half nightmare to see the red-haired she-wolf before him. She was not more than half a dozen feet away, sitting in the snow and wistfully regarding him. The two dogs were whimperimg and snarling at his feet, but she took no notice of them. She was looking at the man, and for sometime he returned her look. There was nothing threatening about her. She looked at him merely with a great wisfullness, but he knew it to be the wistfullness of equally great hunger. He was food, and the sight of him exited in her the gustatory senstations. Her mouth opened, the saliva drooled forth, and she licked her chops with the pleasure of anticipation.
A spasm of fear went through him. He reached hastily for a brand to throw at her. But even as he reached, before his fingers had closed on the missile, she sprang back into safety; and he knew that she was used to having things thrown at her. She had snarled as she sprang away, baring her white fangs to their roots, all her wistfullness vanishing, being replaced by a carnivorous malignity that made him shudder.”

I shuddered too.
This man Jack London writes from his guts. I felt his words affect my imagination completely. It felt as if he could be saying only what he had encountered in real flesh and blood, and not just from his imagination. The words with which he portrays the images  are so close and the feelings so true that I felt myself in those cold lands with those wolves behind me.

White Fang is the story of a wild artic wolf.
Born in wilderness, and of wilderness, White Fang learns its ways within the artic wilderness - savage and unsympathetic and against human extremes of violence and compassion. But in a larger perspective, through the flesh and body of the artic wolf , Jack London actually provides an insight into the potential of  life-energy, as it manifests itself in flesh and body, and its nature, as is moulded by the harsh environment. The living spirit of the wild comes full-alive through the empathy that Jack London has with the wild and the insight that he has into nature.

The influence that environment has on moulding the nature of an animal, in consonance with its flesh and blood, is very convincingly  elucidated in ways by which, White-Fang as a cub, encounters his environment for the first time, and learns his place in it. He realises his instincts, he experiences fear. He is driven by curiosity and hunger to overcome the fear of unknown as life surges through him towards his growth and survival in the wilderness.
 White-Fang realises his essence in his first encounter with a grown ptarmigan.

“He held on to the wing and growled between his tight-clenched teeth. The ptarmigan dragged him out of the bush. When she turned and tried to drag him back into the bush’s shelter, he pulled her away from it and on into the open. And all the time she was making outcry and striking with her free wing, while feathers were flying like snow-fall. The pitch to which he was aroused was tremendous. All the fighting blood of his breed was up in him and surging through him. This was living, though he did not know it. He was realizing his own meaning in the world; he was doing that for which he was made- killing meat and battling to kill it. He was justifying his existence, than which life can do no greater; for life achieves its summit when it does to the uttermost that which it was equipped to do.”

White-Fang, as a wild animal, epitomises the five-sense perfection  of animal nature. He observes and he classifies, without any questioning or moralising.
And thus he learns the law.

“The aim of life was meat. Life itself was meat. Life lived on life. There were the eaters and the eaten. The law was; EAT, OR  BE EATEN. He did not formulate the law in clear, set terms and moralise about it. He did not even think the law; he merely lived the law without thinking about  it  at all.”

With such definitive and evocative passages Jack London goes through the ways of a wild life, while he very convincingly propounds on the determining influence that the environment has on all life forms. This is as close as any story can get to this theory. But towards the end, the wild and savage spirit of White-Fang finally yields to human-compassion and realises his dog nature,   thus completely transforming into an ideal companion to man.  This, though, would be stretching the wild spirit  beyond the limits of its flesh and body. This, though, is streching the theory for want of a perfect ending to a story.

But this is a story is’nt it  ?!
And what a story !
Though I have been under a warm yellow lamp all the time, my face had weathered from the frost of the cold, and  I felt a sense of wisdom from having experienced the ways of the wild, in the raw.
Jack London IS King.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013


In a dark moonless midnight, two exhausted men, harnessed to each other, grappled below an icy peak, with just an ice axe holding them from a fall to death in an icy abyss below. Their mind dazed and hallucinating due to lack of oxygen and the air freezing their tongue when they opened their mouth to gasp for breath. Boulders of ice broke off above and hurtled past them as they shuffled and dodged weakly. They knew it was a matter of time before a ice boulder would knock them down. They had given up hope long back. They prayed silently with bowed heads to the mountain goddess. She answered soon. An ice boulder or rock knocked on the head of the lower man and batted him off the snow. The weight of his body on the harness peeled the man above from the slope. Both men hurtled down towards the black darkness of the icy abyss below. They wondered on what they had done to get the mountain goddess so angry. They wondered on how they could have got themselves into this moment as their lives flashed past in their mind.

Above them, several other alpinist, lost equally in the icy darkness and in their own hallucinations, were grappling in the icy slopes. They were all wondering how they, the best of the alpinist from around the world, could have got themselves into this hopeless situation of wandering and falling to death or just sitting down in the icy dark and most likely freeze to death. 

This was the midnight of 1st August 2008, just below the peak of K2, the most treacherous peak in the Himalayas, and it played out the deadliest of catastrophes in the history of K2's climbing history. 11 climbers died in a matter of 27 hours. Two survived. They were sherpas. 

Buried in the Sky' is not just an excellent and a deep reportage of the deadliest of Himalayan disasters but also a full-of-heart life story of the two sherpas who survived. While writing on this, Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan have written an eloquent and moving account of the Sherpa community, whose life and history are entwined with the history of Himalayan climbing. It is both a panoramic and a poignant account of the Sherpa community and their contribution to Himalayan climbing. It is a story of how this ethnic group has been burdened, liberated and defined by this egoistic and adventurous quest of other people from other parts of the world. 'Buried in the Sky' is about mountains and about Sherpas as has never been brought together before, leaving one dazed and moved. 

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Crimson Tide

Capt. Ramsey: You do qualify your remarks. If someone asked me if we should bomb Japan, a simple "Yes. By all means sir, drop that fucker, twice!" I don't mean to suggest that you're indecisive, Mr. Hunter. Not at all. Just, uh... complicated. 'course, that's the way the Navy wants you. Me, they wanted simple.
Hunter: Well, you certainly fooled them, sir.
Ramsey[chuckles] Be careful there, Mr. Hunter. It's all I've got to rely on, being a simple-minded son of a bitch. Rickover gave me my command, a checklist, a target and a button to push. All I gotta know is how to push it, they tell me when. They seem to want you to know why.
Hunter: I would hope they'd want us all to know why, sir.
Ramsey: At the Naval War College it was metallurgy and nuclear reactors, not 19th-century philosophy. "War is a continuation of politics by other means." Von Clausewitz.
Hunter: I think, sir, that what he was actually trying to say was a little more -
Ramsey: Complicated? [Men laughing]
Hunter: Yes the purpose of war is to serve a political end but the true nature of war is to serve itself.
Ramsey[Laughing] I'm very impressed. In other words, the sailor most likely to win the war is the one most willing to part company with the politicians and ignore everything except the destruction of the enemy. You'd agree with that.
Hunter: I'd agree that, um, that's what Clausewitz was trying to say.
Ramsey: But you wouldn't agree with it?
Hunter: No, sir, I do not. No, I just think that in the nuclear world the true enemy can't be destroyed.
Ramsey[Chuckling, tapping glass] Attention on deck. Von Clausewitz will now tell us exactly who the real enemy is. [Laughing]Von? [Men laughing]
Hunter: In my humble opinion, in the nuclear world, the true enemy is war itself.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Pain and Penance

Physical Pain
A way to true penance

I can remember being aghast, seeing the rows and rows of devotees hanging by their backs. They were all suspended from a leaning pole, by hooks pierced on to the skin of their backs. Face down, arms spread, and in an angle as if ready for flight into the skies. I can remember the images of devotees with small spears pierced through their cheeks. They all seemed as if from some other planet. I can remember the images of devotees pulling the temple-chariot  by the ropes tied on to the hooks which were pierced on to their backs. As a kid I remember feeling shocked and numb. These images of self-crafted pain became imprinted on to my memory undelibally. Over time, these images somehow became a part of my inner imagery of this worldly life itself: images of living that I had encountered in my life for which I had no answers. To me these images of pain, became a part of a collage of images that symbolically represented life and its sufferings that I could not understand.  These images were always there, demanding answers, demanding explanations. Later, I used to feel overwhelmed, to imagine the intensity of feelings that must have been there in those devotees. May be an intensity of devotion or more likely an intense response to one’s worldly suffering.  But I still could not answer as to why people take to self-crafted pain in response to worldly suffering. Was it in bhakti (devotion) or was it in penance?, or for what other reasons? and how could these self-crafted sufferings become an act of bhakti or penance?
These images and its questions came back to me as I wondered why so many people take to very tough and painful pilgrimages too?

Yes, this Palani-walk is physically daunting. This physical demand, reins in all of one’s physical energy. And the pilgrimage provides a destination to reach, an objective. By reining in and providing a holy objective to one’s energy, the walk not only focuses but also provides a solemnity to one’s effort. This combination of ‘focusing’ and ‘solemnity’ may  be addictive to a whole lot of people, whose daily life may otherwise be bereft of any worthy objective. The pilgrimage could also be a temparory  escape from one’s usual existential problems too. But what other inner gains? Was there any spiritual gains from a pilgrimage?

I thought about the feelings I experienced when the physical pain of the walk was overwhelming. I wondered why I had felt relieved of a burden and also soothed after the previous day’s walk.  Though I had not got into any trance, once I reached the boundary of physical pain, my emotional barriers had broken down after having endured a prolonged pain. An inner barrier that had stopped me from total obeisance to the  very act I was attempting, had broken down, as if ultimately leaving one truely open and yearning from one’s core. I realised that the barrier within me that had held holding me back from totally surrendering had suddenly broken. My ego had been broken leaving me totally vulnerable, open in faith and emotions. With my ego broken I had then totally surrendered to the act of penance. Then my appeal had felt wholesome. There was no play-acting. There was no part of my ‘self’ that was holding back in doubt and not taking part in the act I was doing. The extreme and continuous physical pain had broken my ego, leaving my soul vulnerable and open, in suffering and in appeal to Providence. The suffering was complete and total. I had felt completely truthful and genuine in my penance only then.
This was why it had felt very cleansing. As if this total suffering has cleansed me. And I felt as if I  had reduced the amount of pain I was destined to experience in my life by this ‘offering’ of self crafted wholesome pain. I felt as if I could hope for better times.
There surely is a redeeming quality to suffering. There surely is a liberating quality to suffering. And surely not in the last or in the least, there certainly a focusing quality to suffering.

What I understand from what I have described above was that people who go through suffering in their regular lives, take to self-crafted pain because prolonged pain breaks down one’s ego, leaving one’s soul in suffering. This soul-suffering is taken to in belief that, it will bring down one’s suffering in worldly life. For if in one’s life, there is an account of how  much pain and suffering one has to live through, then one might as well put oneself through genuine and soul-consuming pain so that the account on the measure of pain that is due for one’s soul reduces a bit. For this act becomes an an act of atonement, an act of self-punishment for past sins, may be even of past life, so that one’s present life becomes a little less of sufferings. Sometimes a pilgrimage is taken up as a penance: a ritual that could earn one some spiritual equity with which one can then appeal to God. One can hope for his wishes to be sanctioned because he has made a worthy offering. Genuine and complete.There could be no play-acting and no scope for falseness in a true penance. A true pilgrimage of penance is taken up in the belief that it dissolves past karma, because it is an ego-less, soulful appeal to Providence.
There are no barriers of ego. There is a total surrender to Providence. The ritual of physical pain may prove to be a way to this. It is not as if one breaks down and cries, but sometime during the ritual one crosses over the barrier of doubt and partial participation to total surrender and oneness with the very ritual. It is the physical extremity that pushes one over this barrier. This may be it’s value.

I don’t know the truth of the above but it certainly fit with my feelings and generally with the phenomenon of why so many people take to painful pilgrimages. I was searching for meanings and explanations, and this theory felt coherent to me. I could relate to it in a metaphysical and spiritual way. I felt that this was the truth of all sufferings, whether destined or self-crafted.