There is much that I learn from my son, my spirit friend, my guru Sri Sri Gattu Swami. Early in 2007, he coined a new word, “channa”. Channa initially meant “cute animal” — like a kitten, puppy or a pet rat. “Eyy-yy, what a channa anee-muhl! It is so tutti-tutti!” Gattu and his sister would cry out in an ecstacy as they handled a cute critter like a new-born rat.
But soon, Gattu was using ‘channa’ to describe a scary-looking black crab that we brought home from one of our long, rain-drenched walks to a nearby river. If you were careless, the crab could pinch you really hard and turn into a terrifying fast-moving fugitive on the floor!
And then, channa morphed into an all-embracing word. Whether predator or prey, ugly or cute, innocent or cunning, friendly or vicious/venomous, seen or unseen, known or unknown — they were all channas. Dog, spider, tree or octopus, bacteria, virus — all channas.
Channa was a word that had love written into it. It went without saying that we loved all channas and cherished their right to live and breathe without hindrance. Being harmless for humans was NOT a precondition for us to love them — to love their right to live and die within nature’s cycle.
At first, Gattu felt humans were not part of the channa world — that humans were not channas. But later, over the course of some rambling discussions, he reasoned that humans too were only channas. Homo Sapiens was a channa that had evolved the ability to build technological defenses against all natural predators and parasites, and weapons to kill creatures were far beyond his natural powers — such as oak trees and whales. The evolved power of humans to manipulate nature was not so unlike the evolved power of birds to fly in the air.
And then Gattu took what I consider a huge philosophical leap: God was a Channa God! The essential texture and feel of God was not of super-intelligence, omnipotence, omniscience, greatness, buddhahood — but of Himself being a channa!
Proceeding logically, he invented “channa prayers” for us to say at the bedroom window every morning. Illogical and childish-sounding prayers that proceeded like this: I love all channas — they are so tuth (Gattuspeak for loveable) they are so paabaaaa (and here we both shake a leg vigourously)”
The prayer concluded with a hearty ‘Good morning to all the channas in the universe!’
To me, Gattu’s prayers make sense. They are honest, innocent and visceral as all prayers should be. And they have a couple of core qualities without which I believe prayers lose their sanctity:
Firstly, channa prayers are devoid of anxieties about our own continued well-being and greed for wealth. They ask for nothing — no wishes and petitions for self or family.
Secondly, they are a simple and direct message of goodwill to the universe and everything in it.
Methinks the feel of our lives is determined by what we think ‘God’ means.
Gattu seems to think that God isn’t an awe-inspiring overlord with ten commandments or an invisible Santa Claus from whom we must expect approval, gifts and protection. Rather, God is an outward manifestation of the great oceanic love that we are all a part of.
How does one pray to Channa God, if not with the unconditional love and concern that one shows to a beloved dog or crab? One can’t go about petitioning them for blessings or protection, right? You only pray for them to continue being happy and well!
In Gattu’s own words, your only prayer should be that nature’s cycle should continue, and that you are given love!
In recent months, I have come to worship Gattu’s Channa God — a God who gives the world nothing but simple childlike love, but whom I must caress, care for, cherish, protect and lovingly serve.