Speech by David Main at the launch of The Serpent Rising by Mary Garden


Date: 12-11-03

By: David Main

A young woman sees a poster in a window of a health-shop in New Zealand. The poster contains the image of a snake. The snake is coiled; its head points to the sky and there is a telephone number with an invitation to attend a meeting at the Henderson Yoga Ashram. And so begins a journey from New Zealand to India – a yatra, a seeking of the soul that will take this young woman to various ashrams, and to one in particular, one at the foothills of the Himalayas where the holy Ganges emerges from the greatest range of mountains in the world.

But let me get back to this snake. It’s an allegorical snake – the great king cobra said to have shaded Lord Krishna’s face with its hood and thereby become sacred. The king of all the cobras grows to a length of sixteen feet. Its hood is the size of a dinner plate and it raises six feet of its body clear of the ground when it strikes. Mary should have trusted her instincts. And yes, it’s a beautiful snake. Midnight black, it carries the white spectacle mark bestowed on it by Krishna and its belly is gold, pure gold flecked with orange. Such a beautiful snake, and so seductive; how could a wide-eyed girl escape its coils?

She didn’t. She didn’t escape. She embraced those coils, she embraced them with the zeal of the innocent young, and she embraced them with a hope of knowing the unknown. The girl was infected with poison, a poison strong as any known opiate. She became a victim.

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I was invited by Mary to say a few words only because I was born and bred less than twenty miles from where she was used, abused and humiliated in the name of a great religion. I know the river of which she writes; I know the ashrams on the Ganges. And because of its significant in the Hindu world, the great river is significant in Mary’s story

The Ganges has its source in and ice-cave high in the Himalayas. Two thousand kilometres later it reaches the sea. This is a celestial stream that Lord Shiva took on his head and allowed to trickle down to earth otherwise the world would have been drowned. Miraculous powers are attributed to its waters and it does indeed appear to have strange properties. It can be stored for long periods and remains fresh when other waters become stale and rancid: Indians claim that bacteria does not survive long in the Ganges and the bones of thousands cremated along its banks dissolve rapidly in Ganges water. Perhaps the water has special properties due to the minerals it gathers on its journey through the mountains, perhaps the heavy screen of silt filters out bacteria. Nobody knows the answer.

Nobody knows the true answer, but every Guru in every ashram won’t hesitate to give you his version. But how can this be when Hinduism is a philosophy? When Hinduism has no written word? There are no rules, no Ten Commandments, and the Upanishads from the Rig Veda are merely philosophical couplets open to interpretation by the subtle minds of Indian sages.

The only truth is that Brahmins sit on top of the food chain and they run the show. Devotees are fed a diet of philosophy and mantras. Meditation mixed with yoga is common fare, and to flavour the stew-pot, toss in a handful of sex and tantric magic. Anything goes. And its all backed up ladies and gentlemen, all explained away by a charlatans using bits plagiarized from a great religion that goes back six thousand years. The sages, the pundits, the sadhus and especially the gurus will all tell you they know the unknown, that knowledge is locked in the intricacies of Sanskrit words of which they alone hold the patent. They will ask you to repeat mantras over and over again until everything, and I mean everything, is blotted out of your Western mind.

Om nama ha Shiva
Om nama ha Shiva

Say it ten thousand times before breakfast and see how you feel
Go further up the mountain where Buddhism blurs the lines and try

Om mane padme hum
Om mane padme hum

Let it run through your mind even when you’re sitting on the loo
It’s like a dose of Epsom salts. It empties the mind of everything, everything including logic.

Om nama ha Shiva
Om nama ha Shiva
God’s name is Shiva
God’s name is Shiva
God’s name is also Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer. Shiva is seen not only as a destroyer but also of a god of regeneration because over the Christian era an accommodation was reached. Hinduism is flexible and the concept of a trinity of gods became fashionable. Never underestimate the subtle minds of Indian sages keeping up with the times.

Om nama ha Shiva
Om nama ha Shiva

Say it as you walk, say it as you sweep, say it over and over as you cook, even as you eat. And even as you sleep safe in the ashram, because Ashrams are factories of words, factories of Sanskrit where the subtle minds of sages make the complicated even more complex.

The derivation of the word Ashram, is from the Hindi word, Aram, to rest. Resting places as people made their pilgrimages up the banks of the great holy rivers.

History of ashrams: resting places as pilgrims travel up and down India’s rivers

The cult of the guru started in ashrams where pilgrims, mostly Brahmins took up residence. The cult of the guru has been exported. Ashrams now have their own web sites, Soul is big business in India, soul seeking brings beautiful foreign dollars where it suits the present Prime Minister and helps the economy when he claims Sai Baba is an incarnation of God.

Many Gurus claim divinity. It’s all about money. It all comes down to dollars in the end.

But back to our story. A young girl goes to an exotic land. She’s tasted India and it isn’t exotic. It’s far from exotic. Her mind has been shocked by bizarre sights, smells and sounds of everyday India. She’s seen beggars, she’s seen lepers, she’s been propositioned by legions of men, she’s seen people defecating in public because there are no public toilets and on top of it all, she’s been harassed where ever she goes and has been robbed of money and passport. And when finally she gets to where she has wanted to be all along, perhaps she’s a little afraid as she walks through the gates of her chosen ashram. Frightened, disorientated and far from home in a tranquil and beautiful setting, she finds sanctuary.

This is a typical story, and as any young seeker for the truth kneels and looks up into his eyes, the gentle brown eyes of the resident swami, she hears him say “You have come a long way my child, the journey was difficult, but it was destined. Trust me my child. Empty your mind of the poison of the West. Trust me because the rumors you hear about me are true. It’s true I lived in an Ice Cave for six months; true I lived on Prana when there was no air, no water, no food. Not even light and there I survived when any other mortal would have died.

Aho Atma! I found the true light.
Aho Atma. The light was in me. God dwells within me, Om mane padme hum. The jewel is in the lotus’ Look into my eyes, trust me as my words wash over you - Kabira sangat sadhu ke…etc.

Come into my parlour said the spider to the fly
Come into my parlour. Leave your mind outside with your shoes, don’t be afraid my child, bask amongst the coils of the great king cobra, but forgive me if I’m a little vague. You see I’ve been changing my skin. Ask the chelas, ask the other disciples and they will tell you I have been away for the winter, I have been back to my ice cave to meditate, to shed my worldly skin, to regenerate my link with the cosmos.

The truth is the little shit has been in Acapulco for the last six months. He’s been on a yacht with a four plump blonds and a couple of cases of Chivas Regal.

It’s a well-known joke amongst Indians that if a woman is barren or her husband is woefully impotent, that she should spend a week at a particular ashram. Those ashrams are known. The poor wife can expect a visit from a god, a god that comes in the night, a god in need of a shave and a dose of deodorant.

So come into my parlour said the spider to the fly
Mary Garden walked into that parlour of her own volition. She walked out when she had the courage to run but she went back, equally, of her own volition. Not dragged back kicking and screaming, because the psychologist Jung says – “it is well known that we are susceptible only to those suggestions with which we are already secretly in accord”. Mary Garden wanted desperately to believe in something, something the West could not offer. She sought solace and knowledge from a great Eastern religion and in turn was used and abused by charlatans in the name of that same religion. This is where gurus and I part company, but this kind of thing is not confined to gurus or India. Look closer to home; false teachers surround us.

I found The Serpent Rising compulsive reading despite becoming more and more frustrated as Mary returned to fall at the feet of a psychopath. This is the story of a girl hooked by a very clever man, hooked and kept on a leash like an addict on an exotic opiate. And it’s nothing new. We see women trapped in violent marriages, we see the populace manipulated by politicians, we’ve seen entire nations bent to the will of dictators, we see religion denigrated by wolves who prey on the innocent. We’ve witnessed the Jones massacre in Ghana and mass murder by the Branch Davidians in America. We’ve seen cults like the Moonies grow as early morning TV bombards us with clap-trap from marginalised faiths based on the Bible – It’s all about money and mind control and it happens only when democracy allows it to.

We need books like The Serpent Rising to expose what is basically bull-shit, and finally I salute Mary for giving us her brave and tragic story - an example of what can happen to an innocent girl in a single unguarded moment.