Feeding the Demons (Bali Dana)

On the last morning of the trip, when we were standing next to the bus (how blessed we were to have a well-driven, air-conditioned bus to take us through southern India; I was most grateful and conscious of its protective bubble) getting ready to head north for Chennai, I noticed that there were limes under the wheels of the bus.  I was standing next to Douglas Brooks, the leader of the trip.  “Why are there limes under the wheels?” I asked.  “To feed the demons,” he replied, “so that they do not feed on you.  We make offering (bali dana) for auspicious memories and a safe trip home.” The offering to the demons, bali dana, recognizes, I think, that we cannot eradicate demons.  We can feed them, though, avert their gaze with our offering to something they find more desirable and delicious than feeding on us.

On our last day of riding the bus, we were witness to the aftermath of a cyclone that downed trees and shut down power and tore roofs off of houses and rutted roads (thanks to all who noticed that I was in that part of the world and sent emails inquiring about our safety).  When it hit, we were far enough south that all we got was a little rain.  We flew out long enough after it showed, that it did not impact our flight, which went perfectly smoothly.  I do not know whether putting limes under the wheels of the bus made any difference to the external flow of our trip.  I do know, though, that I cannot kill off my demons; they are an essential part of me and my history.  Shifting the gaze of my demons and shifting my own gaze at my demons, though, is another matter entirely.  When we can turn our gaze (drishti) to the auspicious, even when looking through the eyes of our demons, that is when we can truly see what is best in things and better be able to respond with true embrace to whatever life hands us.


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