Last night I decided to explore the puja a little bit more. Durgananda was fast asleep and I knew this would be a good opportunity to go places I don’t usually have permission to go. During the yoga class earlier in the evening, I had become very aware of two beautifully carved wooden objects on the puja and I wanted to take a closer look at them without getting disturbed.
Durgananda says that, once you begin your spiritual journey, you are always searching for Shakti, – the spiritual energy of contentment, peace, love and joy – and you start to look for ways to maintain and increase it. When there is Shakti in your life, everything flows so much better, like athletes when they are ‘in the zone’. These two wooden objects on the puja seemed to have an awful lot of Shakti and I wanted to know why. Perhaps if I got close to them and examined them, I could find a way to use that energy to help create a better flow in my life. Maybe all those closed doors and windows around the house could open more easily and let me outside whenever I wanted!
I jumped up onto the puja and took a closer look. The two objects were wooden sandals which are called padukas in Sanskrit. There wasn’t quite enough room for me on the table to investigate the padukas properly so I pushed one onto the floor and then jumped down to investigate it further. (It made such a loud bang, that I thought Durgananda was bound to come and check what had happened, so I hid behind the curtain until I was sure she wasn’t going to show up).
The paduka had so much Shakti that I thought it must be alive. I touched it gently with my paw and it glided across the floor with such ease that I thought it was made of pure energy. I was totally enthralled. I chase it around the room trying to seize the energy. Finally, I captured the paduka in the far corner. Holding it down fiercely, I sniffed it- daring it to try and escape from my grasp. The paduka was completely still, anchored in some mysterious force that I couldn’t see. I wanted to connect with that energy too. So, seeing that it was a sandal the obvious thing to do was to wear it. I tentatively placed my paw on the paduka and tried it on but it was much too big for me to wear. How was I going to absorb this energy? Finally, I worked it out. I sat on the paduka and rolled around on it enjoying the sensation and giving myself a really good back scratch. Then, I nuzzled the knobbly bit that goes between the big toe and second toe on a human and let it massage around my ear. What a wonderful feeling, the Shakti from the paduka was most certainly rubbing off onto me.
In the morning Durgananda was not very pleased at all. I was thoroughly chastised. Feeling a little sorry for myself, I went and sat in my usual spot at the window, and tried to recover my composure. Natji could see I was upset and he came over to give me a pat and to let me know everything was okay. He explained a little more about the padukas to me and shared what Durgananda had told him:
Padukas are sacred objects that needed to be treated with reverence. They symbolise the feet of the Guru, the spiritual teacher or the footprint of a divine deity, or the Self. We honour these symbols because they represent the means to lead us on a path through life that will ease our suffering. The teacher offers different spiritual methods for us to try on. These can be various meditation techniques, Self-inquiry, yoga, reading scriptures, chanting etc. Sometimes it is just being in the presence of the Guru that helps. Ultimately though, each person (or cat) has to do their own inner work but the teacher can hold the space for us, give encouragement and offer suggestion. We try the practices on and find the methods that work, until the footprint of the divine is anchored in our own hearts, for us to always follow. Sometimes, life can be overwhelming, and this is when it is particularly good to be close to a teacher as they can provide a still point for you, until you align with your Self again.
Durgananda said that her time with her teacher awakened an orientation point deep in her own heart, like a footprint of the Self that she follows. I think I will follow Durgananda’s footprints until I become more established on my own paws because I’ve noticed that even when she’s upset she always finds a way to be okay and when I’m upset I’m just plain not okay.
Natji said there is a song about the padukas by Adi Shankaracharya. He was instrumental in bringing some structure into Hinduism and creating different schools of Swamis. The song is titled The Guru Paduka Stotram. One of the verses says:
Salutations and Salutations to the sandals of my Guru,
Which are a boat, to help me cross the endless ocean of life,
Which endow me with the sense of devotion to my Guru,
And, by worship of which, I attain the dominion of renunciation.
Oh my catness! An endless ocean, I must always cling to these padukas. I don’t want to be trapped without solid ground. I know I got in trouble for investigating those padukas, but actually I feel rather pleased with myself. I have now come in direct contact with an object that is going to make my life easier and help sustain me when I feel upset. You see, sometimes life for a cat can be very difficult and full of woe; things often don’t go the way I would like them to. When everything gets too hard and I’m full of frustration I will always cling to Durgananda; and perhaps I should also pay a little more attention to the advice she gives.
There are a number of ways I do this, but one of the best methods for easing my frustration is to ambush her orange uggboots when she’s wearing them. I hide in doorways and when she walks down the hallway I leap out and attach myself to an uggboot. I cling tightly with my front paws while kicking intensely with my back paws and biting down hard with my sharp teeth. This is so satisfying and always makes me feel so much better. And now I understand why. Her uggboots are like padukas for me. I am trying to get her to ease my suffering, and provide me with whatever it is that I want in that moment.
Now, that I understand how powerful padukas are, I think I will increase the amount of worship I do to them. Hopefully, this will create more flow in my life and provide me with the tools I need to live with ease. Maybe the doors, like the back door and the fridge door, will open when I pull on them; maybe the heater will turn on more often. Or, perhaps, Durgananda will ease my angst and bestow more grace in my life, through the form of tuna.