Be Empty

The Teachings of Sri Tirtha Lal Mahanandhar

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Bed Crow   -  Editor's Pre-amble

It is only natural for us to try to think and reason our way to enlightenment or emptiness, believing that only through some intellectual understanding can our fears of the unknown be laid to rest, but words and theories can never be the final answer. For that we have to be silent and surrender. Indeed, the more we think we know, the greater the disappointment we invite when faced with the question ‘What do we really know?’. There is only one antidote to playing with the mind, and that is not to play! Nevertheless, for those of us whose whole concept of life, existence and knowledge is usually based on thought and feeling, this is much more easily said than done! Yet, there are many souls throughout human history who have broken free, for whom all doubts have been laid to rest and the one Reality of all is clearly seen, and that as in the metaphor of water being of one single essence alone - whether there exist the multitudinous forms of waves or not - there is in fact, only water.

One such soul, my teacher, Sri Tirtha Lal Mahanandhar from Kathmandu, Nepal,  wrote this book in English called ‘Bed Crow’ - which, literally interpreted, denotes an utter cry of joy from the bottom of the heart. In it, he gives one message and one alone - ‘Be Empty’.

Far from matching the stereotype of a great master dressed in flowing robes, exuding peace and love and understanding all around, Tirtha Lal was a father and husband who did his best to provide for his family through the usual ups and downs of normal life. Nevertheless, mornings and evenings would inevitably find him teaching and sharing his spiritual experience with a small group of followers and friends, including during the 1970s and early 1980s, three westerners - myself, Bud and David - fresh from the hippie trail and eagerly striving for the great goal of enlightenment.

Who indeed can recognise a realized man or woman? Surely only another who has attained that 'state'. We mere mortals, once familiar with the concept and terminology of enlightenment, may indeed recognise the synchronicity between the words of so many great souls, and, pushing our reason and intellect to their limit, marvel at the mystery they attempt to explain, yet it remains for us alone to discover their authenticity, putting our faith and trust to the test in the practicing of what they teach.

Such is my excuse for attempting to render ‘Bed Crow’ in a slightly more digestible form for readers who, like myself, might find the somewhat quaint and occasionally grammatically incorrect English of the original script a bit difficult to absorb. It is also, I have to say, a task that gives me much personal enjoyment, and in sharing this and his other teachings via this website, I would like to think that rather than simply remaining in obscurity, there is the chance that this 'utter cry of joy' from Sri Tirtha Lal may yet find a welcome echo in the heart, mind and soul of others too. 

It is a daunting task, not least because I am all too aware of how the original meaning and intent of great souls can be missed or misinterpreted by lesser mortals, and I have to ask myself if I am qualified to try. Being as impartial as I may, the answer is ‘Who else is there to do it?’ My contact with Bud and David, the only other native English speaking followers from that time, has long been lost as we went our separate ways, and the only one who really knows, the author TL himself, passed away some 20 years ago. Now I miss him dearly. Indeed, how many times I wish I could sit with him and enjoy his company again, and with an understanding that has perhaps matured somewhat over the intervening years.

To you, my great enigma, father of my soul, as I eagerly set about this work, may it be a worthy offering to you as my ‘diksha’, or guru’s fee - but most of all, please take this heart in your hands, now and for as long as any sense of separation remains. OM Jai Guru Dev.


I have decided to present the text of ‘Bed Crow’ with the lightest of edits, perhaps adding a comment of my own now and then if it seems appropriate. In this way readers can still enjoy the wonderful dialogue and poems of the original with little alteration, not to mention his lovely drawings. Where possible I will add explanations if they seem necessary, and footnotes giving the dictionary definition of obscure words so that your reading may flow more easily. In fact, in this work, Sri Tirtha Lal, 'Bed Crow', uses very few names and other words that would be unfamiliar to those who may have had little exposure to the philosophical or spiritual terminology of India and Nepal. Rather, he speaks of the human condition that is common to all.

Perhaps I should note that where capital letters are used for 'Me, My, Mine etc.', the 'I' being referred to in that context is of course the Supreme Being - in accordance with the Vedic pronouncement 'Tattvamasi' meaning 'Thou art That', or in this instance, 'I am That'. However, although I have tried to use the capital whenever it seems appropriate, Sri Tirtha Lal or the printers have hardly been consistent on this point. Nevertheless, I don't believe the distinction is so important when all is one and this one chooses to speak, either as this, or That. 

By the same token, some readers may also perhaps take umbrage at the designation of God or the Supreme Being as 'He, Him, His etc' - as can be found here and there in Bed Crow and in so many other scriptures, including the Bible etc. Wondering what to do about this, I feel that to use 'She' would be just as one-sided, whereas 'It' takes away a certain sense of personal connection or identity with the idea of a Supreme or Higher Self. Those familiar with the Hindu or other more ancient spiritual traditions, of course, would have no difficulty in understanding That as being male or female, as a divine combination or unity of both, or indeed transcending any appellation or designation at all. In view of all this, in most cases I have left the wording unaltered and trust to the reader's comprehensive understanding.

It must be noted that Sri Tirtha Lal was university educated and for many years practiced as a doctor - indeed we used to refer to him as ‘the Doctor’. As far as communication and conversation are concerned, his English was excellent, however in written form it tended to be, dare I say, a bit Dickensian, and he would often find strange words and epithets with which to sprinkle his prose. Most of these can be found in a dictionary, though hardly in general usage today.  Some indeed appear to be the product of his quirky imagination. Nevertheless, I must say that should you have no difficulty in understanding and following the thread of his words, then it is somewhat to my shame that I should even think of improving on them.

Again, I am always very interested to hear your comments here.

If you or any other reader who may chance upon these words derive some joy and understanding from them as I have done, nay, if you are prompted to ‘be empty’, then it is a bonus for both you and me and worthy of a  ‘BED CROW' - an  utter cry of  joy indeed!


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