Summer Snow, Chapter One
William T. Hathaway
is honored to serialize the first three chapters of the
(Avatar Publications, ISBN 0-9738442-3-X)]
sang as she hoed the earth by the honeydew melons, chopping
the soil and heaping it up around the vines. The Sufi
women working with her sang too; their voices swelled
in unison, creating a vibrant hum that filled the space
between them. "Apavitrah," the altos led. "Pavitro-va,"
the sopranos answered. Their chant echoed off the rocky
cliffs and returned to spill over them like the overlapping
rounds of a canon, suffusing the valley with music. As
they sang the ancient verses, mantras whose vibrations
cleared their minds of thoughts, they merged with the
life around them: translucent green leaves, curling tendrils,
floppy yellow blossoms, melon globes swelling from the
calyxes of withered flowers. They became the singer and
the song, the hoe and the earth, the bug and the leaf,
all moving to the rhythm of the hymns. The August sun
fed them with its radiance. They knew they were this sun
too and its million sister stars, all working together.
man walked down the path leading from the adjoining farm;
Cholpon saw he wasn't their neighbor but a stranger. As
he came closer, she could tell from his long face, full
beard, and cloth headdress that he was a refugee from
nearby Afghanistan. Thousands had fled the fighting and
bombing, and some of the more shell shocked had then fled
the refugee camps and were now wandering the countryside
of Kyrgyzstan. He carried an ax over his shoulder and
a bow saw in his hand and wore a pack frame to which were
strapped a few dead tree branches. He's probably trying
to make a few soms selling firewood. He walked with a
bit of a lurch. Was he injured? No, it looked more like
stopped and regarded the women, puzzled. His eyes traveled
back and forth searching for something that wasn't there.
Oh, of course, Cholpon realized, he's looking for a man--the
boss, no doubt. He snickered then threw back his shoulders
and stood straighter. Ah, she thought, it just occurred
to him that as the only man, HE was the boss. Middle-aged,
he was dressed in a torn Pashtun tunic whose once colorful
geometric design was now soiled and stained.
have no dead wood here," Cholpon told him in Kyrgyz,
"but farther up the canyon you can find some."
She didn't know if he understood the language, but she
spoke no Pashto. She could try Russian or English, but
that might trigger hostility.
turned to Cholpon's voice, jutted one hand on his hip,
and surveyed her as if she were an upstart rival to his
new-found authority. He pointed his ax at a nearby walnut
tree and narrowed his eyes.
trees here have no dead limbs," Cholpon said. "We
use them ourselves for firewood."
he started toward the tree, Cholpon knew there would be
trouble. Her Sufi sisters stared at the intruder, clutching
their hoes. Cholpon thought her mantra while gazing around
his head, to read his aura. The light coming from him
was mostly muddy brown, but the green flares showed he
wasn't totally vicious. Overloaded by stress--nothing
but chaos to return to in Afghanistan and no future here.
His surly stride told her this made him mad, made him
want to bully someone, someone weaker than himself.
whacked the tree with the ax, lopping off a green limb.
not firewood," said Cholpon. "That's a living
tree." Her indignation was mixed with fear: if he
was crazy enough to hack a green tree, he might hack them.
man leaned on his ax, mouthed a kiss at Cholpon, then
thrust his hips at her.
stood about ten meters from him--that felt a safe distance,
on the fringe of his dark field. The women stood where
they'd been working, watching in fright and repulsion,
and she motioned them to draw together. As they moved,
the man hefted his ax, not yet brandishing it but gripping
it to show his power.
will not harm you," Cholpon told him.
snorted, then suddenly pivoted back to the tree and brought
the blade down on another limb, severing it.
know how to handle this," Cholpon said to her sisters.
She named the more experienced Sufis standing in the melon
field around her and told them to meditate; the others
would chant the peace prayer. Although she'd been at the
Circle of Friends from its beginning, she joined with
the singers: she needed to keep her eyes open in case
he attacked. "Aum Shantih, Shantih, Shantih,"
they sang from the heart chakra at the center of their
chests. The droning waves of sound surrounded them, held
them suspended in soothing reverberations, and penetrated
even into their bones.
meditators sat cross-legged on the ground in lotus position,
eyes closed, silently thinking their mantras. Cholpon
could feel the effect in her mind as theirs settled towards
the transcendent. Her thoughts became fewer but clearer.
Her fear dissolved, replaced by compassion for this ignorant
man with an ax who thought he could get rid of his own
suffering by forcing it on others. If they could reach
him with their mental coherence, build up a strong enough
field of transcendental energy to get through to his sputtering,
miss-firing brain, he might wake up to what he was doing.
Fortunately the human mind, even his, responded like a
tuning fork to thought vibrations around it. If the sisters
could generate a higher frequency, it would make him change
his tune and hear the song of his own inner silence. Even
a moment of that could snap him out of his stupor and
let him know that any harm he does to others just bounces
back on himself. This little shift in consciousness--a
stroke with a feather of peace--had been enough to pacify
other belligerents, at least temporarily. It had worked
last year with a burglar and the year before with two
drunken sheepherders intent on carnal conquest. Ax man
didn't seem any worse than them.
howled in mockery of their chanting, spat, then swung
at the tree again. Thrap, went the ax into the trunk.
The tree shuddered; chips flew; walnuts showered to the
ground. From the grace and power of his stroke, Cholpon
could see that swinging an ax was probably what he did
best in life. Unfortunately no one needed ax swingers
anymore, especially the tree.
women continued chanting, the man continued chopping.
Cholpon visualized Djamila in her mind and questioned
her. Their teacher's aged face shone calm and beatific
as ever. No danger, came the answer. More meditators.
told the chanters to stop and meditate, and she continued
the song alone. He tried to ignore them. Cholpon could
feel her level of inner silence deepen as the new group
settled in. Her voice became more resonant.
man whacked again, then let go of the ax, leaving it quivering
in the wood. Head nodding a bit, he looked up at the tree
for a long moment. He wiped off his hands and widened
his stance for another blow. He blinked and shook his
head, then seized the ax and gave two quick chops, cutting
deeper into the trunk. Frowning, he pulled the ax out
and stared back up at the tree. His face softened a bit
and he shrugged. He looked at the ax, then tapped the
trunk with the handle, wood on wood. The man put the ax
back over his shoulder, started to walk away, then whirled
and swung the ax in a savage arc at the women. All but
Cholpon had their eyes closed. She met his tormented stare
with as much calm as she could muster. He roared to make
the others open their eyes and look at him, then laughed
as if he'd pulled a practical joke on them. He slapped
his thigh, stamped his foot, and strode away with a swagger.
women sighed with relief. "Meditate a little longer,"
Cholpon told them. "This time for us."
they made a paste of chitilani root to heal the walnut
tree, then returned to tending the melons.
woman approached on horseback. Cholpon was glad to see
Acel, a carpenter who'd been repairing the main house,
mounted on Talas, their pinto stallion. The workers paused
to rest, leaning on their hoes and drinking from water
jugs. Acel reined the horse in and called in Kyrgyz, "Cholpon,
Djamila wants to see you."
wiped her forehead with the sleeve of her cotton shift.
Maybe she wanted a report on what happened. Djamila could
usually sense an overall situation from a distance but
not the details.
Acel extended her hand to help Cholpon onto the horse.
"You can ride behind."
gave her hoe to a sister who had been working with just
a trowel. She reached up for Acel's hand, felt the woman's
strength as she hoisted her, gave a springing leap, and
vaulted up onto Talas's broad, bare back. The horse whinnied
and pranced his hooves on the flinty path. Cholpon's wide-brimmed
straw hat fell off, and another sister handed it up to
her. She snuggled in close behind Acel, wrapped her arms
around her waist, and gripped Talas's ribs with her knees.
Like most rural Kyrgyz, Acel had been raised on horses,
but Cholpon was a city girl. Although she loved the rocking
sway of the animal beneath her, its warmth and smell,
and the wordless communication of their minds, Cholpon
didn't feel quite steady perched up here, especially without
a saddle. She clung tighter. The breeze of their trot
dried the sweat on her skin, bare beneath her long dress,
and she luxuriated in the coolness.
ebony hair was twisted and pinned in a spiral to fill
the crown of her hat. Her eyes--pools of gleaming darkness,
slightly slanted, almond-shaped--shone from an oval face
with high, broad cheekbones, a short, straight nose, and
full lips around a small mouth. Her pale-gold skin glowed
from her labors.
horseback Cholpon could see how much they'd accomplished
in planting this hectare of melons. Since the spring thaw
she'd helped to dig out rocks, cut down bushes, and plow
the earth behind the bay mare to turn this hardpan canyon
into a field. She'd hauled sand from the lake shore to
build proper soil for a melon patch, scooping it up from
the beach in two earthenware jugs and carrying them on
both ends of a wooden pole that pinched her shoulders
all the steep way up, shuffling with a straight back and
bent knees. Then she'd shoveled dung--cow flops, sheep
splats, horse apples--from the corrals and mixed it with
compost--webbed with mold, steaming with the reek and
heat of fertile decay--and pitchforked load after fragrant
load of it onto the donkey cart. She'd led little patient
Noumi clip-clopping with the full cart up the stony path.
Cholpon had spaded the humus into the field, turning it
over and over, making a loamy soil. She'd dug a channel
to divert water from the stream and built gates to control
the flow. She'd planted seeds from last season's melons,
thrusting them deep into hillocks of dirt, watering and
tending them, rejoicing at the first sprouts. She'd weeded
and thinned and hoed, plucked bugs and shooed rabbits,
and she'd done it all side by side with the other women,
her Sufi sisters, singing together, joined with each other
and all of nature.
knew, though, that work was secondary to sadhana--their
spiritual practice of meditation, yoga, chanting, and
dervish dancing. That expanded their awareness. It showed
them they were living in and around their bodies, each
a teeming microcosmic universe in itself, on this farm
at the shore of Lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan, north of
Afghanistan, west of China, on the round blue earth in
this solar system of the Milky Way galaxy of the teeming
macrocosmic universe. It let them know they were little
cells of the great body of God, each with a job to do.
rewards of their physical labor would soon arrive. Some
of the honeydews had grown to their full round glory and
rang under Cholpon's knuckles with the right hollow thunk.
She looked forward to her favorite breakfast of melon
and tea, and to the new beds the Circle could buy with
the sale of the crop.
and Acel rode out of the canyon, its granite walls rising
steeply on both sides and the stream coursing down the
middle. In August the flow was a trickle that seemed incapable
of having cut this sheer notch into the mountain, but
each spring the snow melt swelled it to a roily torrent
that flooded the narrow canyon, leaving no doubt of its
force. Last summer Cholpon had hiked up the stream for
two days to its source beneath a glacier high in the Tien
Shan range, using its burbling plash as a mantra to wash
her mind of grief from her father's death. She had done
puja at the foot of the glacier, offering wild raspberries,
lupin, and thirty-five years of memories up to Parvati,
the mountain Goddess. She had stared at the blue-white
wall of the glacier until it glowed amethyst in star light,
then fell asleep wrapped in felt blankets and awoke covered
with snow and finished with mourning.
did Djamila seem?" she asked Acel.
didn't turn her head. "Not so good."
brooded. Djamila was almost always fine. Maybe there was
some other problem. The teacher rarely summoned someone
from work. The day's events, even an event like ax man,
would usually be reported after evening meditation. What
else could it be? Cholpon mulled over things she could
have done wrong. Perhaps a food wholesaler in Bishkek
had complained about the quality of their produce. When
she wasn't working on the farm, she handled the sale of
their crops in the capital. Haggling with the businessmen
was her least favorite activity; they were always griping
about something, nothing was ever good enough. In contrast
to her sisters here, they seemed empty pits of unmeetable
needs, always grabbing for advantage and stuffing their
ravenous senses. Maybe they'd convinced Djamila that Cholpon
had made a mistake.
glanced around for something to take her mind off the
meeting. Her eyes rested on the silver shimmer of birch
leaves along the stream and the deep needle green of pines
at the edge of the canyon, and she drank in the sight.
But wasn't that similar to what the men in Bishkek were
doing: craving sense stimuli as an escape from themselves?
What would the teacher say about that? Probably that we
should enjoy the senses but not be dependent on them.
Djamila taught that our sensory perceptions and thoughts
form a screen that separates us from the transcendent,
the source of all this manifestation.
and Acel dismounted in front of the main house, which
stood near the shore of the lake with a craggy horizon
of mountains behind it. To Cholpon the house embodied
the past century of Kyrgyz history, from outpost of the
Russian empire to independent nation. It had once belonged
to a family of Russian kulaks, peasants who had grown
wealthy under the Czar. After executing the family, the
Bolsheviks had collectivized the farm, then added annexes
to the graceful frame building, turning it into a rambling
hodgepodge. The new additions were boxy and merely functional,
some of unpainted plywood with tin roofs. Now the women
were gradually renovating the place.
saw two fellow horses at the water trough in the corral.
As he headed toward them, it became Acel's turn to trot
to keep up with him.
walked between the two carved wooden columns which gave
the entrance of the house pretensions of grandeur, which
she rather enjoyed as a trace of frivolous luxury. The
porch and its roof, though, slanted with age.
of the large rooms had been subdivided to make a dormitory
for the farm workers. The salon, however, had been kept
as their dining hall. Stalinists had purged its chandeliers
and cornices as bourgeois ornament, but its high, coffered
ceiling remained. Filled with cushions and prayer mats,
it was now the Circle of Friends' meeting room, where
Djamila led dhikr--meditation and discussion, and sama--singing
and dervish dancing. The walls were painted an ancient
proletarian gray, which the Sufi women had covered with
colorful textiles: Kyrgyz felt, Indian cotton prints,
group had bought the property during the first wave of
privatization in the early 1990s. Before that, they'd
been an underground circle of Sufi sisters, banned by
the communist government and scorned by Muslim fundamentalists.
They'd met secretly in small cells around Kyrgyzstan,
with Djamila traveling among them teaching. The suppression
had welded them into a tight congregation, and now since
the collapse of communism they'd been thriving under the
new religious freedom.
office contained a table draped with white cloth and a
desk that held a scattering of papers, a vase of roses,
and a bowl of fruit. A purple-and-gold Bukhara carpet,
worn but still vivid, covered most of the creaky wooden
sat near the open window on a couch decked with multicolored
pillows. To Cholpon she seemed like an ancient baby: her
plump body was small in proportion to her head, white
hair fine and flossy as a new-born's crowned her round
face, her clear, luminous skin was unwrinkled except around
her mouth, and her eyes projected outward in a big open
dazzle on the world and inward as deep as Lake Issyk-Kul.
Most of her teeth were gone, but she said she preferred
her food soft and mushy anyway, so it didn't matter. The
skin of her mouth was gathered in puckers, but they disappeared
when she smiled, which was most of the time. She wore
the same unbleached cotton shift as the others, and her
only jewelry was a necklace of coral beads. She held a
rose in her hand, waving it about while talking to her
secretary in Kyrgyz.
the wall above her hung pictures of her two teachers,
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi of India and Shayk Rais Yasavi of
Kyrgyzstan. With the same deep eyes and blissful smile,
she looked like them without the beards.
college Djamila had won a scholarship to study physics
at the University of Allahabad. While in India she'd met
Maharishi, who had a degree in physics and who showed
her that what she really wanted to learn was metaphysics,
going beyond the physical to reach the source of the universe.
She'd become a chela, an aspiring yogi, and studied at
his ashram in the Himalayas. He'd taught her transcendental
meditation and sidhis, higher mental powers, and then,
once she'd mastered them, how to teach them to others.
He encouraged her to return to Kyrgyzstan, remain a Muslim,
and use these Vedic techniques of consciousness to re-enliven
the mystical spirit of Sufism.
home, she had apprenticed to Shayk Yasavi at the Sufi
center in Osh and immersed herself in Islam. When she
finally felt ready, she founded the Circle of Friends
and devoted herself to teaching.
from the Koran to the poems of Rumi to quantum physics,
her lessons integrated spirituality and science. She taught
ancient meditation methods but used an electroencephalograph
to study their effects on the mind. The scientific aspects
of her teachings appealed to the many educated, nontraditional
women who had come of age in Soviet times and were now
seeking something deeper than the materialism of either
communism or capitalism.
waited hesitantly at the door until the secretary, a severe,
efficient woman in her mid fifties, a former school administrator,
noticed her and motioned her in.
Cholpon! Yes, come," said Djamila in her birdlike
chirp, her face suddenly tinged with worry.
brought her right palm up to her forehead and made a sweeping
bow onto the carpet, saying, "Assalam alaikum"--Peace
to you, my dear. And to that sad creature who caused such
a disturbance. Were there any more problems with him?"
We re-synchronized his brain waves," Cholpon said
with an ironic smile. "He didn't exactly thank us,
but he left."
That's the only way to handle people like that. Opposing
them on their level is useless. Now sit here"--Djamila
plumped the cushion of the easy chair beside her--"for
we must have a proper chat."
by her friendly tone, Cholpon began to relax. If the purpose
of the meeting was a reprimand, it wouldn't have started
as Djamila looked at her, the sparkle in her eyes faded
and her mouth tightened like a drawstring purse. Cholpon's
stomach did the same. "But peace for you may have
to be postponed for a while." The teacher's voice
dropped. She gestured with the rose to her secretary,
who left the room and closed the door. "I must tell
you what I saw in trance this morning." Djamila frowned
and gummed her lips. "It is not good. The astral
channels are now very dark...so the vision was dim. But
these troubles in Afghanistan and Iraq seem to be flowing
over to us. We may all end up wandering around like that
man out there. I could see danger approaching like a black
fire...with flames that did not burn but crumbled all
they touched into gray ash." She leaned closer, her
forehead knitted. "And you were in the middle of
the fire, dancing the dervish rings, around and round,
and a wind came up from you, fanning the flames so they
covered you. But you did not turn to ash. Then your wind
blew the flames smaller...into flickers. And they disappeared
under your feet as you danced them away. Then you disappeared.
And the evil was gone."
vision scorched Cholpon, made her cringe inside; she wasn't
ready yet to disappear. "I am evil?" was all
she could ask.
shook her head with loving patience. "No, my dear.
You are quite good. Of all our Friends here, you are closest
to enlightenment. With you, the knowledge is not just
in your mind...it is in your breath. But this fact is
just for you and me, nothing to tell the others. We must
have no favorites here...since Allah has none. But you
have special abilities...and that is why you have been
given extra duties."
thought of all her trips to Bishkek: driving the produce
van the five hours, paying the militia their bribes at
the highway checkpoints, hassling with the merchants at
the market, enduring the men leering at her breasts, spending
a lonely night in her apartment there, then shopping for
supplies for the Circle and driving back, all the while
feeling she was wading through mud out in the world, yearning
never again to leave the sacred atmosphere their sadhana
had created in this valley. She had grown up in Bishkek,
in that same apartment, but now after being with Djamila
for eighteen years she felt alien in the capital, her
weekly trips a burden.
know it has been difficult," Djamila responded to
her thoughts, "but it has been necessary...for us
and for your own growth. We all need activity...we can't
always be turned inward. Remember when we dye cloth, first
we soak it in the color. That's our meditation, merging
our mind with Allah."
settled into the cushions and prepared herself to be talked
most important, but there's another part too. We must
take the cloth out and spread it in the sun...to fade
the color. That's like our work...in the fields, the city,
wherever. Then dip it again into the dye...in and out...some
of both every day...until finally the color is fast. After
that you can wash it, wear it in the sun, doesn't matter.
It won't fade. So we go back and forth between the inner
and outer worlds...until we can be anywhere and it's all
the same to us. Then we're free. Nothing can overshadow
nodded and tried to conceal a flash of irritation. She'd
heard the analogy a hundred times, and each time Djamila
spoke as if she'd just invented it. There was probably
some lesson in this, one Cholpon wasn't yet ready for.
Maybe something about every moment being new...or the
enlightening effects of boredom.
ignored the irritation. "But with you there is still
some dipping in and out to be done. And so...we must lay
you out now in the hot fiery sun. And we hope it doesn't
burn you up." She gave one of her mirthless cackles
to remind Cholpon of the stark impersonality that went
hand-in-hand with her tenderness. "But if it does,
so be it. Just remember, you are eternal."
fears rose again, but she asked, "What must I do?"
back to Bishkek."
was just there."
must go again."
sinking, Cholpon bowed her head. "How long?"
while. You will know...it will become clear."
danger is approaching, I want to stay here...to defend
danger is not here. It's in Bishkek." Djamila swung
the rose with perplexity. "I'm sending you into the
black eyebrows arched up into her creased forehead, and
a knot formed in her chest. Djamila seemed to be foretelling
her doom, and cavalierly at that. "Why?"
teacher's eyes rested on her in a way that left no doubt
as to how much she cared about her. "It is your dharma.
That which cannot be avoided is better met head on."
are a fine ancient soul...we have been together in many
lifetimes...and I love you very much." Djamila let
the flower drop to her lap. "See, the rose falls,
but it lands somewhere else. There is no loss. Our bond
is so strong it goes beyond physical space. It goes beyond
even this life. You don't have to be close to me...to
be close to me."
of the dozens of times the teacher had been right in the
past, Cholpon mustered her courage. "Yes. I will
bowed to her. "Allah-aum." She took Cholpon's
hand. Although the Shayka's face was mostly unlined, her
hands were wizened and wrinkled. Their touch, though,
gave Cholpon a surge of energy that flooded her brain
with light and her heart with calm. Just being in Djamila's
presence, or even looking at her picture, had a powerful
effect, but her touch was concentrated Shakti force. "Something
else was in the vision," Djamila continued, "something
about a man."
winced. More trouble.
is not clear...but there is some tie between you, some
karma to be met."
sort of a man?"
gave one of her cosmic shrugs. "Just the man you
will meet. I wish I knew more. The times are very bad
right now. I could not see clearly." She dropped
Cholpon's hand and stretched her short, plump arms. "Or
maybe I am just getting old."
this sacred valley to plunge into some unknown danger
with a strange man--that was as appealing as eating ashes.
What had Cholpon done in a past life to bring this on
her? No way to tell. As Djamila often said, "The
ways of karma are unfathomable to the unenlightened...and
irrelevant to the enlightened." All she could do
was meet it--head on. Or maybe head off.
pushed her fear aside: Djamila had steered her through
enough problems to have earned her trust. Last year she
had foreseen Cholpon's father's unexpected death, and
once his symptoms manifested the Shayka visited him on
the astral plane to help him prepare for the great transition.
Her father, a lifelong atheist, had told Cholpon his wonderful
dreams of an aged angel floating above him, caressing
him and relieving his dread. He died peacefully.
should I go?"
smiled in approval of her student's obedience. "Today...after
lunch. Now we will pack the van with what crops we have
ready." She paused, ruminating. "Cholpon, I
love you. But the Circle of Friends comes first. There
is danger where you are going. I don't know what, I don't
know why, but it is coming." She searched for a tactful
way to say it. "The money from the merchants...make
sure you put it in the bank as soon as you get it. We
don't know what might happen."
shuddered inside and nodded. Djamila, the ever practical.
For the Shayka, individual desires, even individual existence,
always came second to preserving the knowledge she had
to give, to building the community that would continue
her teaching after she was gone. This attitude--detached,
hard, yet loving--was the only way she had been able to
sustain her group here over the opposition of the communists
and the Muslim mullahs. The communists had recognized
her as a threat to their materialist creed and tried to
get rid of her as a religious agitator, a fomenter of
counter-revolutionary superstitions. Djamila had used
subterfuge, bureaucratic delays, and diplomatic influence
to fend them off and eventually outlast them.
that time Cholpon had been able to persuade her father,
a Party official, to block several efforts to jail the
Shayka. He had thought the old woman ridiculous, but he'd
been one of those fathers who couldn't resist giving his
daughter what she wanted. Cholpon had pleaded and wheedled
with him, and he had intervened.
the mullahs had become a problem. To them, Djamila was
a heretic. Her first teacher had been an Indian yogi.
She blended the Koran and the Veda into her own version
of Sufism, and this eclectic approach was anathema to
orthodox Muslims. Sufis were the wild, mystical, rebel
fringe of Islam, open to techniques and beliefs from other
religions, so they had often been persecuted for their
nonconformity. Djamila was on the liberal side even among
them. She revered Krishna, Christ, Mary, and Buddha as
well as Muhammad, so the Muslim establishment, under pressure
from fundamentalists, was trying to purge her. Her being
a woman, and a successful one, was a particular thorn
in their patriarchal hides.
agreed that the needs of the Circle had to be first priority.
She'd seen too much of the aggressive, greedy, ego world
for it to have any value to her. Basically the same under
communism or capitalism, that world ran in mad circles
of insatiable, ever-multiplying desires, getting nowhere.
Through Djamila she'd experienced the other realm, the
transcendental source of all this diversity, the unmanifest
unity from which the relative differences emerge. Thanks
to meditation, her mind had been saturated with the energy
and bliss of this underlying consciousness. The feeble
charade of what people smugly called the real world--just
matter and its abstraction, money--couldn't compare to
the unified field, the wellspring of creation, the infinite
mind of God. Djamila lived there all the time and was
showing her followers how to reach it too. Their Circle
and the sadhana they practiced were a structure necessary
for the journey, like sandals needed to walk the rocky
path out of ignorance, and a lamp to light the way. These
had to be maintained, or the darkness of materialism would
Cholpon said, "I'll deposit the receipts first thing.
Then we'll see...what else will happen." She swallowed.
want to give you some inner reinforcement...for what lies
ahead," Djamila said. "We've been working on
your upper chakras, but now we must strengthen your lower
centers. It's a lower energy that is coming towards you...and
you need to be able to repel it." She unfolded her
legs from the lotus position, massaged her arthritic knee,
and stood up stiffly, steadying herself on Cholpon's chair.
"First we will do puja." The sparkle returned
to her eyes.
shuffled to a shelf of pictures in gilded frames and picked
one out. "For this sort of business you need Durga's
help...the slayer of demons." She held up a picture
of a naked brown-skinned Goddess with red eyes, long matted
black hair, curving white fangs, brandishing a bloody
crescent sword, dancing on the chest of a huge, bearded,
very male, very dead demon. Rather than triumph or malice,
her face showed only peaceful joy. "Durga knows how
to handle the dark forces. With her, your soul will be
protected. Your body, though...well, we'll have to see."
Her _expression held a savage drollery that said death
and other shifts in physical reality weren't worth worrying
heart beat faster.
set the picture on the white-draped puja table near a
cluster of brass ceremonial implements: a candlestick,
camphor lamp, incense holder, offering tray, bowls for
rice and water. She pulled six red roses from the vase
on the desk and a sprig of cherries from the bowl. "Stand
beside me," she told Cholpon and gave her a flower.
faced the puja table, and Cholpon followed the Shayka's
lead in bowing before the picture. Djamila dipped a rose
into the water bowl and began chanting the 108 names of
the Goddess as she waved the flower and sprayed water
drops over them in ritual purification. Standing crookedly
to take the weight off her painful knee, roses clasped
in front of her, she sang the Vedic verses in her little
bird voice while staring at the picture.
words filled Cholpon's mind in a way that ordinary sound
didn't, permeating it completely, dissolving her thoughts,
leaving her empty and immense. Her heartbeat slowed; her
breath quieted, then almost stopped; she felt her outer
self fading, and she clung to the chant to keep from disappearing.
The picture began to vibrate and glow as if alive. Durga's
eyes became beacons, and as Cholpon gazed into them, this
fierce deity seemed to devour her, but with kindness instead
surface personality fell away, revealing her inner being
that enlivened her body but was independent of it. Energy
poured from the Goddess into her. As the chanting continued
and Djamila offered rice, water, fruit, and flowers to
Durga, a current of vitality spread through Cholpon, overrode
her fears, let her know she was beyond all harm.
Shayka stopped singing, took Cholpon's flower, and offered
it with hers in front of the animate picture. They both
knelt into a vast inner space, freed from thoughts and
filled with the Goddess's reverberant presence.
spoke softly. "Now we learn how to use this Shakti.
First we straighten the back." Cholpon sat up on
her heels. "Then close your eyes and breathe out...all
the way." Cholpon tightened her diaphragm to press
the air out. "Into that hollow...pour a sound."
Djamila paused, then whispered: "Meera-ma."
The mantra rang through Cholpon as a tap on a gong fills
the huge dome of a mosque, faint but everywhere. The Shakti
force became livelier, a glowing field within her. "Now
draw this fire in from the different parts of your body...gather
it all at the base of your spine, where you sit."
Cholpon's mind brought the impulses together, collected
them, concentrated them into an inner sun. "Good."
Her tailbone grew warm and she squirmed with discomfort.
"Now bring it quickly up your spine...but only as
far as your ribs." She could feel it rising, but
it stopped after a few inches and spread into her pubis,
exciting it. "Don't let it stay there," Djamila
said. "Gather it back and draw it up. It belongs
higher, between your ribs and your stomach." Embarrassed,
Cholpon collected the energy together, moved it up, and
released it. It flowed across her torso like molten steel
that did not burn but radiated vigor. "That's its
home, your power chakra. From there you can project it
out. Now raise your arms." Cholpon did so. "Higher...and
extend your fingers. Let half the energy flow down into
your legs and half up into your arms...all the way to
your fingers." A kinetic wave surged through her
limbs and sprayed from her fingertips. She felt she could
lift the world.
I this strong?" she asked in amazement.
are...but your muscles aren't. This is your heart shield.
If dark spirits attack, it will repulse them. You can
sense when evil is approaching and avoid it. But its effects
are more on the astral than the physical. No, you can't
lift the world."
nodded in disappointment.
morning and evening you meditate with this new sound.
Afterwards, you sit straight in lotus and collect this
energy into your power chakra. Draw it all in there. Then
go out and meet the world...unafraid. The Shakti will
flow wherever it's needed. Your inner self is protected."
pressed her tingling palms together and bowed to Djamila,
fearless now, resonant with force. "How will I find
blew out the candle on the puja table. "It will find
you." She gave Cholpon one of Durga's flowers. "You
are ready for it. Go...meet the flames of your dharma...then
come back to us."
bowed again, this time in farewell. "Allah-aum."
packed her suitcase, helped load the old Moskvich van
with cabbages and a few ripe honeydews, and set out on
the 250-mile drive around Lake Issyk-Kul, over the Bistrovka
Pass, and down into the Chu Valley where the city of Bishkek
waited in the shadow of the Ala-Too peaks.
2006 by William T. Hathaway