My encounters of the Leonard Cohen kind

from the Diary of Ratnesh Mathur

February 2, 1999:

Hello (read Namaste !) from India.

The Canadian Mahatma is here himself - this is the moment, us Indian fans were waiting for. I just spoke to Leonard Cohen, himself , today. I know he is here on a specific mission.

February 3, 1999
Leonard Cohen is here to spend time with his "Guru" - who happens to be a "Vedanta" teacher - that for you translates to "core Hinduism" ...You may find it strange however, at the core, both Buddhism and Hinduism are pretty much the same. I know not whether this is a shift from Zen or another approach to it. A snippet has already appeared in an Indian daily, to whom Mr Cohen gave a few minutes of his time.

February 5, 1999:
I just chanced a meeting with Leonard Cohen last evening ...I thought I spent about 15 minutes but it turned out to be 2 hours & 15 minutes !

Leonard is here alone - he came down to India to meet Ramesh Balsukar, who is an 81 year old guru, staying in India. Leonard was keen on meeting Ramesh, after reading his various books. He had planned to be in Bombay for 4 or 5 days but he likes the "Daily two hour discussions with Ramesh" (i.e. Satsang in Hindi- translates to "Good community, religious music circles") so much, that he is been here for over a month. He does not know how long this phase will last, as yet. I'll be attending some Satsangs with Leonard myself.

February 8, 1999
Yesterday was Fab ......Attended Ramesh Balsekar's discussion (satsang) with Leonard from 10 to 11:30, then drove him to the Kala-Ghoda Art festival in South Mumbai. We went to the oldest synagogue in Mumbai, the Old Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue. (The synagogue is just behind India's biggest music shop, "Rhythm House". The shop has a few CDs of Leonard, lying in a section classified "Easy listening" !)

Then, to an exhibition of the late Rudolf von Leyden (Jew artist who migrated to India; he was a founder member of the Modern Art movement in India). We spent the rest of the Sunday afternoon in a long discussion (with food) at Khyber restaurant, in Mumbai. I've been taking photos right thru...

We played "I'm your man" in the car on our journey back. Leonard sang along and explained the Spanish connection of "Take this waltz"

April 20, 1999:
Leonard Cohen has continued to study with Ramesh. I am beginning to appreciate why Ramesh Balsekar's work appeals to Leonard. Over the years, there have been several writings of Leonard which one could mistake for Ramesh's "concept". Clearly, they come from the same school of thought - this has nothing to do with any "specific religion".

Leonard agrees with my observation - he highlights his poetry on "If it be your will" to be closest to Ramesh's concept. Of course, the extract about "The Saint" from Beautiful Losers & poetry such as "Anthem" are further cases in point.

So what is Ramesh's Concept ?

I know that it is simple(when Ramesh explains it , it certainly seems that way) yet its very tough for me to word it accurately.

Ramesh shares a concept (he also describes the Bible/Gita/Ramayana etc also as "concepts") - Basically, "Every living thing is an "individually programmed object" & therefore has "no control" over anything he/she does. There is of course a higher Source which has created all these objects. Therefore: - Things happen (when they are supposed to happen) ! There is nothing you & I can do about it & therefore should not see/feel any "problems" in life. Life to exist must have a balance of harmony & disharmony - and this "balance" too is not in any individual's control.

So what does an individual body-mind do ? Well, he does what he is supposed to ! No meditation by "closing your eyes" nor by "closing of thoughts". Just keep doing what you "like" to do (dont bother about the rewards) & "keep self questioning yourself about "what you do", to the minutest of detail"! Enlightenment will happen when it is supposed to happen - you'll know about it when it does however, dont expect any lights to flash in your head nor lightening to fall around you !"

Thats Ramesh's concept in a nutshell - just that simple !

Whats interesting is the 40 odd floating population of foreigners who take time-off - listen to Ramesh - and then go back to their normal lives. Infact, Ramesh wants everyone to live a "normal life" (as opposed to spiritual one). He does'nt preach anything but welcomes/answers any questions in his residence between 10 & 11, every morning. His fee ? In his words - "Nothing is expected, Nothing is refused"!

Leonard Cohen's poetry touched similar notes at various points & I can see why he has been in India for the past 3 months. He had come here for 3 days.

Amazing thing is - it took Mr Cohen to find Ramesh Balsekar for me. I stayed on Warden road for 4 years, not knowing of Ramesh staying, right next door!


Leonard autographing my books and posters

Photos and text © 1999 by Ratnesh Mathur, Mumbai, India
Reprinted here by permission. Any other use forbidden.