Peter Malakoff – India Journals

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India Journals



Peter is in
Tiruvannamalai, India a town in the state of Tamil Nadu
situated 185 km from Chennai/Madras and 210 km from
Bangalore (Karnataka).


The Beginning of the Vedic New Year,
April 2011


I want to begin with a a few
paragraphs containing a more lyrical description of where I
am right now-India. Although India is very real, it seems
also dreamlike, one of the qualities that some schools of
Indian Philosophy attribute to the waking state in general.
I will take that dreamlike state as a jumping off

There is a different dream being
dreamt in India, even now, in the twilight hours of that
dream, while the dreamer tosses lightly and seems like he
might awake into this modern world, India dreams that dream.
India has slept and dreamed for thousands of years before
the the Trojan horse of Western technology spread into the
world. There are large parts of India that are dreaming

You can tell the dominant theme and
principle of a culture by its tallest building when you come
into town. In the largest cities of India, where the tallest
buildings are no longer religious temples but economic
towers, they are dreaming that new dream that has come to
them from the West. But, in ancient India, and the vast
majority of India lives in ancient India, where the tallest
building in town is a religious temple and in the small
villages, and the vast majority of India is in small
villages, the modern world does not make a very big
impression. Here, oxcarts move slowly down the road.
Roosters crow in the morning and throughout the day. Women
go to wells to draw water. Mandalas are drawn every day in
chalk outside the front door of a house. The people of the
villages are farmers and they walk about barefoot and the
electricity, which they use very sparingly, goes off daily
in the afternoon. Time is measured out differently here and
pace is kept by the sun and the moon, by the turning and
obligations of the seasons, by the weather and the winds and
by the crops and their care.

But, this is just the bed of the
dreamer. Any dreamer needs a bed. But, the dream I am
talking about is not the dream of living in a village. I am
pointing to something else, something more fundamental. How
shall I describe it? Let me offer a few names and
descriptions: Let me call it a dream of Truth, GOD and
Bliss. That is extremely general so let me

To the casual observer, India seems
to be full of many Gods. A few will say there is only One
God, but, the greatest of these dreamers have said there is
ONLY GOD. This has been and is the dream of holy men and
sages and sadhus and even Buddhists and Jains and Su?s and
Pirs and poets to this day. It is a dream of Reality and
Truth so huge that there is no other. It has been dreamt in
the rand and small temples covered with Gods in thousands of
varieties of forms so that each devotee may ?nd his or her
own favorite, in a form that hints at what cannot be seen,
that represents what cannot be understood and allows the
unde?nable to be approached, seen, sensed and

India dreams a people who have
history, time, wisdom, experience and sophistication far
beyond the white Europeans who only very recently developed
their culture and developed technology and machines that
gave them great physical power over others. But, these
whites are like young adolescents, unaware of where they are
on the long scale of time and maturity, full of themselves
and thinking they must be lords of it all. The great power
of their tools, machines and guns gave them reason to think
themselves superior and these white men came to to this
dreaming country of India, bringing their superior culture
and their white Christian God, who was in fact was a dark
skinned Jewish Rabbi-Jesus from the middle

East whose teachings they did not
really follow or understand and naively asked the people of
India to believe in him like they did, as if it would make a
real difference.

But, India did not believe very much
for India makes much more of experience than of belief.
India was dreaming, but, India knows it is dreaming and to a
person who knows that they are dreaming, what matters is not
what they believe within the dream, not what they do within
the dream, but what matters most is to wake up from the
dream. This is the nature of the dream that is dreamt in

They know this because great Beings
who they venerated and istened to for thousands of years,
have woken from the dream and with great authority told them
they were still dreaming and the still dreaming people of
India recognized these teachings and stories and the Truth
in them and honored them and followed them to the best of
their ability and that is the dream of India.

What is unique and different about
India is that for thousands of
and to a greater extent than any civilization on earth,
were a people who not only
dreamed, but knew that they were
They were a culture that ultimately valued direct

realization over belief.


The dream of the Indian culture is a
dream of Liberation not one of
Salvation is about the good thing happening to the
or ego or soul or I.
Liberation is to to wake up from the dream of

self, ego, soul or I. Liberation says
the primal sin is to not wake
Liberation is not the result of any action done within the
India dreams that there
is no perfect thought or action which makes

the difference. Only waking makes the
difference. This is the dream


When Alexander the Great ?rst came
to India he sent out
a Greek disciple of Diogenes, who was traveling with

Alexander, to ?nd a great man amongst
the naked philosophers of
He found a certain Dandamis, who lived in the forest
Takshila, one of ancient
India’s great centers of learning. He
the Indian holy man: “Praise be to you O, learned
of Brahmins. The son of
the mighty God Zeus, Alexander, sovereign

of the World, commands you to go to
him. If you comply, you will
rewarded. If not, your head will be cut off.” Dandamis, who

neither threatened nor impressed by
this aggressive invitation,

looked up from his bed of grass and
leaves and said: “I am also a

son of God or Zeus, if Alexander be
one. Unlike Alexander, I am

content with what I have. I don’t
need any gifts. If he cuts off my

head, so be it. God receives all men
when death sets them free. To

be merged in God is far better than
being received by Alexander.

But, for now, please move aside and
allow the sun rays to fall on

me.” This is the dream that is
dreamt in India.


The Christian historian Eusebios,
told of an incident concerning the

great philosopher Socrates. He wrote
that Socrates once spoke with

a Hindu who had come to Athens. The
man inquired what sort of


philosopher Socrates was. When
Socrates replied that he was “an

investigator of human life,” the
Indian laughed, saying that “no one

was able to clearly observe human
affairs if he was ignorant of

Divine affairs.” This is the dream
that is dreamt in India.


Millions of holy men- Sadhus, wander
through India on a lifetime of

pilgrimage. Most of India still has
some sense of what they are

seeking, of what caused them to
venture forth and why they live the

way that they do. This is the dream
of India.


Great Realizers for thousands of
years have arisen in this country.

From Sankara to Buddha, from Neem
Karoli Baba to Ramana

Maharshi, from Nityananda to
Ramakrishna and thousands of others

over eons of time, again and again
and again they rose and radiated

their Awakening, blessing those who
still slept and this is the

beautiful fruit of the dream of the
dream of India.


Now, let me tell you my


There was a Man who wondered through
the forest


“And I, out of the midst of
many troubles, went to India”












This was my second time in India.
The ?rst time, I had come to to

complete my study of Ayurveda at
Kalidas Sanskrit University in

Nagpur in 2004. At that time, I
owned two houses in the town of

Sonoma, 30 miles north of San
Francisco. My brother had

graciously helped me buy the ?rst
one when I got married with my


?rst wife. Soon after we purchased
the house and in spite of the

vows we took, my wife and I
separated and I purchased a second

house all on my own by re?nancing my
?rst house. Housing prices

were going up like a rocket and it
seemed like an intelligent move to

create ?nancial security for the
future. As a cabinetmaker, I had all

the work I could handle. Soon after
I separated from my wife, my

Mother died in Florida and my Father
came to live with me for

several wonderful years. A few
months before I left for India, my

Father died. In spite of all these
losses, I certainly had blessings as

well. I began to live with a
wonderful, beautiful partner -Gilda.


Although I felt like I was at the
end of some great ascending period

of my life, the economy in America
was booming. I sold one house

and with the pro?ts I went to India.
There, I completed a degree in

Ayurveda from Kalidas Sanskrit
University in 2004.


Now, seven years later, looking back
on this, I see that time as the

peak of my success in the world.
Life looked good, I saw no

reason why it would all not work
out. Housing would continue to

appreciate and I envisioned
eventually selling my house and moving

to a more quiet and beautiful,
remote and less expensive place to

live when I got older.


This was not to be. Financially,
everything has gone down hill from

there. We lost our remaining house
and have been unable to fully

provide ?nancially for ourselves for
several years. I have gone

bankrupt for the second time and we
have been living on the

gracious gifts of friends and family
for over a year.


How did we get to this point? When I
had come back from India the

?rst time, I found, that through a
very unfortunate, yet serious

misunderstanding, the money I had
counted on when I returned was

gone. Needing to pay a mortgage and
living expenses immediately, I

looked about for work. I was hired
to give lectures for an Ayurvedic

Herb company and traveled around to
some of the major cities in the

United States giving introductory
talks on Ayurveda. I was good at

it. I had been a TM teacher in the
70s and was at ease sharing

wisdom in front of large groups of
people. I felt blessed to be able

give the gift of understanding
relative to Life and health. I enjoyed

it immensely, but it did not develop
into long term employment.

Back home, I found that giving
consultations in Ayurveda, work

which I found highly rewarding and
of great service to others,

would not pay for the high cost of
living in northern California. I

looked around for something


I was offered a job driving 40lbs of
marijuana back to the East coast

for $7000 and so I took it. I
thought to myself, How many times

have I driven across the United
States and never had any trouble

with the police? It seemed like a
sure and easy thing. This time,

however, it was not. I was stopped
in Wyoming for going 2 miles

over the speed limit and after
giving me a ticket the policeman

asked if he could search my car. I
said, No and he called in dogs to

search the car.


I was busted. I took the rap and
refused to turn in anyone else in

spite of offers of a lesser
sentence. My life hit a brick wall. I thought

that I was going to jail for ten
years. My brief time in Wyoming

county jail had already exposed me
to the cuisine, company and

culture that I could expect and I
felt that there would be a dif?cult


decade ahead. I went to trial in
Wyoming hoping to prove that the

search had been illegal. The police
have no right to search someone

without due cause in the United
States and if they do, then the

evidence is thrown out. Although the
video and audio recordings of

the arresting conversation, showed
no due cause whatsoever and

the policeman never asked about
anything that showed concern, he

lied in court and said that the
reason he called for a search is that he

could smell the marijuana in my
trunk quadruple wrapped in plastic,

vacuum sealed, inside suitcases
which I had never opened on a

winter day hovering around zero
degrees in Wyoming, by the side of

the interstate, with the winds
blowing 40 mile per hour and the guy

was a smoker. Even though he had
never mentioned any of this on

tape or video, he testi?ed to it in
court under oath and that was that.

He was working backwards. He had
found the marijuana and

therefore he could make up anything
as long as it was subjective. He

was already right. How could we deny
what he smelled. We

made a deal with the DA and somehow,
even in Republican

Wyoming, I was able to get off with
three years probation and a

felony conviction.


This sobered me up and brought me
down to earth. I was humbled

and confounded. It also scared the
shit out of me leaving me very

calm. While I did not feel that
nature or God or Grace had deserted

me, I now felt that I would no
longer be supported in random

adventuring upon the world and the
mere enjoyment of experiences.

My life since then has only borne
out that conclusion. Up until then,

I had lived a rather adventurous
life of exploration. There was

always something new, some place,
some mountain, some

backcountry, some woman, some
person, some job, event, party,

situation, teacher or book that I
had sought to taste. I had certainly


lived a charmed and lucky life in
many respects. But now, I began to

feel that my life had passed into
another season. That kind of luck

had run out. The wave I had been
riding on was coming to an end. I

was no longer being carried in the
direction I had been going up to

that point. I needed to recognize a
different path and walk it, but, I

did not know what it was.


Ramana Maharshi, the great Indian
sage, once said the path of a

religiously oriented person is not
an easy one and once you have

taken that path, “Your head is
already in the Tigers mouth”

meaning it is impossible to ever
return to your life as you knew it

before and your life is no longer in
your control. This last statement

may not make sense to person who got
up in the morning, went to

work, had kids and grew old and died
in America. But, to anyone

who has encountered the sudden
intrusion of unexpected religious

events that completely changed their
life, it is something they know

very deeply. I think, that I had
taken the path of religious life when

I was young and then, once I had
taken it, I tried to escape from it

and that has been the story of my
life up till then.


The result of nearly going to jail
for ten years along with the

realization that there was nothing I
could do about it, really only

convinced me that my head was about
to be in a Tigers Mouth. I had

come face to face with inexorable
fate. It was this aspect of life that

the Greeks considered and celebrated
in their great tragedies. It was

fate that Oedipus and all those
around him sought to escape and it

was precisely the inability of man
to escape fate, in spite of

everything, great and small, he did
to avoid it, that formed the

underlying structure of every great
tragedy. Many ancient cultures

found the consideration of Tragedy
to be a most worthy and a great


balancer of the egoic blindness that
tends to arise when we are full

of it, that is when things look good
and the future looks bright and

everyone lives happily ever after.
The Greeks saw Tragedy as the

very nature of life. much like the
Buddha saw Dukkha or suffering

as the First Noble Truth.


In 2008, a blind, cripple quickly
walked into a non-existent wall and

the house of cards that was built on
sand that gave rise to the

American economy, collapsed and
there came a great depression to

America. We were only one family
amongst millions of others that

lost their home and job.
Fortunately, we had the support of close

friends and family who helped us
greatly. We were very lucky and

thankful to have such support. I
continued to try and ?nd work.


I tried to go back into woodworking.
I followed up on ads for work I

found in the paper and online and
sent in my resume again and

again. I had worked at the top end
of the architectural woodworking

?eld for decades. However, with the
depression, there were simply

not that many jobs available.
Businesses were cutting back to

survive and they did not need a
highly skilled guy to whom they

thought they would have to pay
higher wages. Several businesses

said I was overquali?ed. I even
applied to a company in Maine, all

the way across the country. It
specialized in high end Mega-Yacht

Interiors, an area of the economy
that had not suffered at all. With

my portfolio, ?lled with years of
doing exquisite and high end jobs

for the extremely rich, I should of
been a perfect ?t. I was ready to

go back East and live and work and
send money back to maintain

our lives in California. They did
not hire me.


We had to move into a small
apartment to lower our overhead and

we found ourselves in an ongoing
struggle to pay the bills. I went

bankrupt for the second time in my
life and we sometimes did not

have enough money for gas or


I applied for a job teaching four
classes at two local colleges. I

wrote up the courses and presented
them to the respective

administrations. I was called in to
give preliminary presentations.

They really liked what I offered and
how I presented it and I was

given approval for all the classes.
I told them at the beginning that I

was a felon for possession of
Marijuana and they said that should

be no problem. It wasnt robbing a
bank or child molestation. After

all, marijuana was nearly legal in
California. Over the next two

months, many people enrolled in the
classes and then, right before

the programs would start, I was told
that they could not hire me as I

was a felon. I was deeply
disappointed. At this point, I had a feeling

that this was not just karma or luck
but that there was some force

at work in my life. It seemed like
this was the work of the very same

hand that had stopped my car in
Wyoming. I hoped it would be easy.

I prayed it would be graceful for
those around me and I aspired to

know the direction it wanted me to
go in so I could help out.


Since I could not ?nd a job, or when
I did it ran out of my hands like

water, I began to consider more ways
we could dramatically lower

our overhead. During an Ayurvedic
consultation, one of my clients

mentioned that she was going to
Vilcabamba in Ecuador. She asked

me what I thought about it. I looked
it up on the internet to give her

a more informed opinion. It looked
exquisite. It was outrageously

beautiful, near the equator and at
an elevation of 5000ft. Perfect

weather and very clean. It was one
of the few places in the world


where there are an abundance of
centenarians. You can drink right

out of the rivers. There was a small
American expatriate community,

a lot of them raw foodists, most of
whom had gone there for the

healthy climate and pristine
environment. Finally and wonderfully,

it was very inexpensive to live
there. I thought that I should go and

check it out. Gilda and I could live
there and support ourselves. I

could give Ayurvedic Consultations
and do some woodworking,

Gilda could give Jyotish readings
and counseling and we should be

able to support ourselves. I started
reading more about it and the

more I read, the better it


I was making plans to ?y down to
Ecuador to check it out when I
of India, speci?cally, Dharamsala/McLeod Ganj, where
Dalai Lama lived. It was in
the foothills of the Himalayas at about
and said to be very beautiful and up off the plains of
which I had found
dif?cult to live in. This seemed like an even

better idea-Gilda could study Thangka
painting which she always
to do and I could study Tibetan Medicine, Tibetan
and work in the
wonderful Buddhist library they have there. Most of

all, I thought that in the higher
elevations, with a religious library
culture surrounding me, I would not only be inspired to
something which I really
wanted to do for years, but now I would
the time. India was even less expensive than Ecuador.
quickly, I decided to go to
India instead of Vilcabamba. I had much
sympathy with the Buddhist and Indian cultures than I
with the Ecuadorean. I was
chastened by the fact that I had even
Vilcabamba as it would not of connected with what had

been the central core of my life- the
culture, practice, philosophy,
and realizers of the high Teachings and Dharma of the

Indian Traditions.


I was struck by my ability to be
distracted. I saw my own tendencies
dangerous. They often now led to my life being wasted.
my life would involve a
sensitivity to a much subtler perception that

would involve more listening and less
will. Along with this, I was
to feel that I was getting older and time was running


I had not heard of any great
teachers in Vilcabamba. There were no
there. I had not spent my life studying any great
tradition from there. I
had once again almost gone down a road that

would not of made the best use of my
life. Let me explain what I
by that with another well known story in India about a
tiger. It
goes like


There is a man is walking through
the jungle. As he is going along
realizes that a tiger is stalking him. Seeing a cliff very
nearby, he
runs over to the edge
and begins to lower himself down by some
vines that had been growing there. The tiger has run after
and now stands glaring and
growling at him from above. The man
to lower himself on the vine till he hears a growl
below him. Looking down, he
sees another tiger, standing on the
looking up at him expectantly. Now, he stops and
know what to do. There is
a tiger above him and one below him.
to do? Then, as he looks up again at the tiger he has
escaped from, he sees a
rat, gnawing at the vine he is hanging on.

He realizes that it will be all over
soon. He hangs there without
As he ponders his situation, he looks out and sees some
grapes growing on the
cliff. He reaches out and plucks one. He puts

it in his mouth. Wow, he thinks, that
is delicious.


This is a picture of human life.
Walking through the jungle of
we are threatened by death. That is the ?rst tiger. We
and try to escape, going
over a cliff where we think the tiger cannot

follow. We are right, that tiger cannot
follow, but there is another
down below. We are caught, there is no escape from death.
at least we are OK where we
are. We can persist where we are. That
is not true. We now notice that the rat of inexorable time
gnawing at the support of our
life. We are getting older, things are
and we will inevitably die. But, in the midst of this

situation, there is pleasure to be had.
There are the grapes growing
the cliffs. This ability to be distracted (the grapes) is
when your
head is about to be in
the Tigers mouth. That was how it seemed to

me. My head was not yet the in tigers
mouth but living in the short
right before it. Here I was tasting grapes and talking about
delicious they were. I was a
fool. The only thing I had going for me
that I suspected something was up.


Ramana Maharshi once said, “
The scriptures are not meant for the
because they do not need them; As for the the ignorant, they
not want them. Only those
aspiring to liberation look to the
That means the scriptures are neither for wisdom or

ignorance”. Perhaps the scriptures
are for the confused, but, I
only for those who know they are confused. They are
someone whose head was about
to be in the Tigers mouth, hanging
the vine on the cliff, knowing he was about to die, trying
decide what kind of grapes to
choose. All that I knew about dharma
religion and scripture couldnt really help me at this
because I was in between,
sort of, almost, kind of, not yet.


There was one more twist of fate to
be told in this story. While still
the US, trying to decide what to do, I called a friend of
Chris, who had lived in
India for over a decade. I told him that I was

planning on coming to India. I had met
Chris when I was with
in the Transcendental Meditation Movement in the 70s

in Santa Barbara. Chris was a noble and
good hearted character and
he suffered a lot physically, he has spent his life in a a
and giving way. He had been
busted for manufacturing ecstasy in
80s and had spent ten years in a Federal Penitentiary,
unlike his other
friends, he refused to turn in anyone else. Upset

with his lack of cooperation, the
government gave him the
sentence. Over his years in prison, I had visited him

several times and tried to help him
there however I could. When he
out, he went to Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, the spiritual
of Ramana Maharshi, one of
the greatest sages of the 20th century.


When I called and told him my plans
of going to live in Dharamsala,
told me that he had a friend who was leaving
for about six
months and that his house would be available for a

very small sum of money. It was a
beautiful house, had a perfect
of the holy mountain, was quiet and I would be welcome
live there. I did not want to
live in South India but the rent was very

low, It was like a Jewish dilemma, pork
on sale. I did not pass it up.
is the outer story of how I ended up coming to


I had planned on visiting
Tiruvannamalai towards the very end of
first trip to India, I wanted to see Chris and visit the
Maharshi Ashram. I was
staying on the coast of Tamil Nadu, in the

upper floor of a two ?oor seafront
apartment in the town of
It was the last week of 2004. There was an all


Dance Festival being held there that
I wanted to attend. I had come
the coast of Tamil Nadu on my way to Thanjavur, to visit
Saraswati Mandir Library
where many of the Nadi Leaves are kept
the Bhrigu tradition. These Nadi Leaves are palm leaf

manuscripts containing, in writing, a
record of many unmistakable
of your present life as well as relevant details of your
life or lives and your
future life. They were first created thousands

of years ago and subsequently
translated from Sanskrit to ancient
many hundreds of years ago. They were the most
and wild thing I had
ever come across in India.


When I visited the Nadi readers, I
gave them only my right
and they found a palm leaf inscribed with my Fathers

name, my Mothers name, my name, my
girlfriends name (who they
my wife), my brothers name and many things about my

present life, past life and future
life. The information about my
life was obviously true and so I was naturally very

sympathetic to what they said about my
past life and future life. One
the things they told me was that in my last life, I had been
with a
great spiritual teacher
in South India. Although they did not give his

name, I believe it was Ramana


The first time I saw Ramanas picture
was in the Shambhala
in Berkeley in the late 60s. I had walked into the
and his picture was above
the shelves with a lot of other spiritual

masters. I was immediately and
powerfully drawn to his face. I
so full of emotion that I spontaneously started crying.
was the being who I had a
vision of when I was a young boy.


When I was 15 years old, I had been
reading Siddhartha by
Hesse late into the night. I had just ?nished the book.
was upstairs alone in my
parents house. I had just put down the
when a trap door seemed to open above my head and a
of liquid bliss poured
down over my being while a strong and
ascending current rose through my body. In the midst

of this light and energy I had visions
of India and a cave and a holy
who I now realized by the picture in that bookstore
Ramana Maharshi.


Perhaps that was when the tiger ?rst
took my head, that night
in my house in Takoma Park, Maryland. Perhaps it had

taken my head in another life. Either
way, it changed the orientation
my life. I wrote a letter to my parents telling them that I
them and that I would be
OK, packed a knapsack and left home that
and started to wander like a sadhu amongst the hippies
1960s America.


Now, there I was at the end of my
?rst trip to India, It was early
and I was sitting on my porch in Mahabalipuram
out towards the Indian
ocean, I was on the phone with Chris telling

him I was planning on coming to
Tiruvannamalai to visit him before
visited Thanjuvur to see the Nadi readers. I also wanted to
visit the
ashram of Ramana
Maharshi. As we were talking, a massive tidal

wave came in. I shouted to Chris that
the whole Indian Ocean was
onto the land and This may be it, thinking I was about
die and I hung up the phone.
I heard women screaming and the huge
of the ocean sweeping inland carrying all sorts of things
it that were banging into
the building I was in. The people
were trapped in their room and could not get out. I

quickly began to wrap up my computer in
plastic bags and made
ready to
jump into the waters to be swept inland rather than die
my room from the quickly
rising waters. After only a minute, I came

back out on my porch and was about to
climb over the rail and jump
the inrushing waters when I noticed that the ocean was
rising anymore. It had come
up about 15ft. There were no more
from downstairs. The waters stayed there for several
and then slowly started
to recede. That was the end of my last trip to

India. I left the coast, went inland
and then ?ew back to America.


Now, seven years later, I find
myself continuing that trip right where
left off, coming directly to Tiruvannamalai and living very
to Ramana Maharshis
ashram. Many threads of seemingly disparate

experiences wove themselves together to
produce this story. I wasnt
weaver. It certainly wasnt the story that I tried to write.
I really
dont know what will
happen next. So far, everything just fell into

place. One thing I know- My head seems
?rmly planted in the
mouth. I think we all know how that turns out.


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