Thursday, 26 September 2013

On the Road

A Poem and A Song - IV: A Series to Celebrate Art in All Forms 

It is actually quite amazing when you find the same thought being expressed through a picture, a poem, a song, or even a gesture.
Perhaps it happens because the thought has sunk deep into you, at least for the time being, and you just view a certain picture, read a certain poem and hear a certain song as expressions of that singular thought.
Or perhaps they really are conveying the same thought, but in different shades and hues. 
And it just so happens that when that very thought captured your attention, certain pictures, poems and songs also appeared before you allowing you to delve deeper into the thought and let it reveal its deeper essence to you.
Regardless of how it happens, it is always a moment to relish and cherish the beauty. The beauty of the picture, the song, the poem. The beauty of the experience. The beauty of the moment.


Photo by Ismail Okur


It is not just about the walking alone, it is not just about the path we take. It is also, perhaps even more so about the deeper awareness of walking, of being on the road, of becoming the path itself, of recognizing how small we are really amidst the grandeur of all that is around us. It is about becoming quiet and letting the path take us on the journey. On the road. Wherever it leads us. And yet slowly becoming aware and conscious of the journey - outer and inner.

What does this picture say to you? 


Lover's Gifts XLVII: The Road Is

The road is my wedded companion. She speaks to me under my feet all
day, she sings to my dreams all night.
My meeting with her had no beginning, it begins endlessly at
each daybreak, renewing its summer in fresh flowers and songs, and
her every new kiss is the first kiss to me.
The road and I are lovers. I change my dress for her night
after night, leaving the tattered cumber of the old in the wayside
inns when the day dawns. 




Singer: Hemant Kumar, Composition: Pt. Raghunath Seth, Lyrics: Pt. Narendra Sharma

To see previous posts in this series, click here and here and here.


Monday, 23 September 2013

Love Immortalized, in Stone and Song


Sometimes all you need to make the best of a lazy afternoon is a beautiful picture and a beautiful song....

A monument in marble meant to immortalize a king's love. 
Photo by Suhas Mehra


"The Taj is not merely a sensuous reminiscence of an imperial amour or a fairy enchantment hewn from the moon's lucent quarries, but the eternal dream of a love that survives death." 
~ Sri Aurobindo


Two voices that are immortal for lovers of old Hindi film music,
singing of love that wants to be immortal. 



"...sound is the perfume of poetry and music"
~ Sri Aurobindo


I say it again. 
Sometimes all you really need is a song and a picture...
Isn't that so?


Click here for the previous post in this series.



Saturday, 21 September 2013

So, What are You Working on?

A new post in the series - Satyam Shivam Sundaram

A series featuring inspiring words from various sources, words that speak of  timeless truths, words that remind me of the deeper and hidden truth behind surface events and phenomena, words that shine light when all seems dark, words that are just what I need - 
for this moment and for all times to come.






“In work too there is an austerity. It consists in not having any preferences and in doing everything one does with interest. For one who wants to grow in self-perfection, there are no great or small tasks, none that are important or unimportant; all are equally useful for one who aspires for progress and 
self-mastery.” 

~ The Mother, Four Austerities and Four Liberations


Imagine living this ideal. What a complete contrast with the typical things we often hear ourselves and others saying –- “oh, I really don’t care for my job, it is so boring, so mundane... I want to do something that is meaningful, that satisfies me, that makes me happy…etc. etc…”

What do we know about what we are really supposed to be doing, especially when we don’t really know who we truly are and what is our true nature? And still we keep looking for that perfect work that will make us happy? Happiness has nothing to do with the real, true Delight we should be seeking…which is not dependent on any one particular type of work…it should be there in all that we do.

But how, oh how, do we tread the long path… By doing…by practice, by aspiring, by rejecting, by surrendering…But this big “I” and its demands and preferences keep coming in…oh god!

***
Previous posts in this series:

Inner Truth of a Flower       
On Sensitivity and Appreciation of Beauty     




Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Led by a Photograph


Yes, this is the photograph. The photograph that led me to an interesting and beautiful discovery.

I first came across this photograph a few years ago on some website but didn't really bother to read anything on that page and was simply mesmerized by the picture itself. Or perhaps at some level I was also somewhat aware of what this picture seemed to be doing to me -- inviting almost to just experience it on some level. There was something so genuine, so tender, so sweetly real about this picture, at least to me...so I just downloaded it and saved it on my computer in my already-brimming folder of inspiring photographs I find on the web. 

Every few days I would simply open this file and take in the beauty of this picture for a few minutes...not at all trying with my mind to decipher what was going on in this image. I would just simply look at it...merely to enjoy it, if you will. During a few fleeting moments however, the photograph did reveal some meaning or message, and in fact on a couple of occasions I even used that "meaning-laden" version of this picture as part of my presentations or classes for my teaching work. But for the most part, I simply enjoyed the beauty and gentleness of whatever feeling or emotion this picture was trying to represent or perhaps even create for me at that moment in time.

I didn't have any curiosity to know anything about this picture, where it came from, what was it about, who was the photographer, nothing...just that this picture existed was enough. 

Until today....

Today I finally used the trusty Google Image search engine and was delighted to find that this picture is actually a shot from a 2009 film based on the letters written by the great English poet, John Keats to his beloved, Fanny Brawne during the last three years of his very short 25-year-long life. Don't really know why I got curious today, but I did. And of course, I am now quite curious to watch this film, titled after one of Keats' poems, Bright Star! But what I find so gratifying right now is that the picture I have enjoyed for last several years without knowing anything about it actually does have such wonderful context around it. Joy of spontaneous discovery, I suppose!

I wonder however, if after watching the film, and particularly the sequence where this particular shot appears, the photograph will still continue to retain that unspoken mysterious appeal for me as it did until today. Maybe I will come to the conclusion that perhaps sometimes we don't really need to know! But who knows, maybe I will find the photograph even more beautiful after I watch the film. Maybe John Keats did say it right when he said - "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever". But speaking very humbly, I am now also quite curious to see if he was indeed right about this :) 

I can see that a sequel to this post might be on the cards soon!

A Thing of Beauty (Endymion)


A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: 
Its loveliness increases; it will never 
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep 
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep 
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing. 
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing 
A flowery band to bind us to the earth, 
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth 
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days, 
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkened ways 
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all, 
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall 
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon, 
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon 
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils 
With the green world they live in; and clear rills 
That for themselves a cooling covert make 
'Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake, 
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms: 
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms 
We have imagined for the mighty dead; 
An endless fountain of immortal drink, 
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink. 

~ John Keats


Postscript: The sequel to this post did come about after watching the film. You may read it here.


Friday, 13 September 2013

Of Aesthetics and Self-forgetfulness

Artist: Bindu Popli

 “[The] ultimate aim of an artist is to discover the Divine through beauty; highest art is that which reveals the Spirit. ” (1) 

I came across this sentence when I was re-reading something I wrote years ago for a course I was taking at that time. As I ponder upon this now, I find that it is indeed a mighty goal for an artist, and I begin to question whether this discovery of Divine through beauty and revelation of the Spirit is also shared by the viewer or patron of that art. In other words, as a non-artist how do I develop a sense of perception or vision so that I can access or relate to or somehow connect with the sense of divinity that the artist is trying to reveal or attempting to discover through her or his work? 

Aesthetic values in general are not really spiritual values, what may seem beautiful to an individual’s aesthetic sense may not lead him or her to connect with the Spirit, the Invisible. This can be true both for the artist as well as the viewer. Cultivation of an aesthetic sensibility that can begin to transform aesthetic values into spiritual values is required of the art-lovers just as it is required of the artist who wants to make art his or her sadhana (spiritual discipline). 

As I was contemplating on these thoughts over the last several days, a sentence caught my attention in this wonderful little book I had been reading by Ananda Coomaraswamy. He writes: 

“The vision of beauty is spontaneous, in just the same sense as the inward light of the lover (bhakta). It is a state of grace that cannot be achieved by deliberate effort; though perhaps we can remove hindrances to its manifestation, for there are many witnesses that the secret of all art is to be found in self-forgetfulness. And we know that this state of grace is not achieved in the pursuit of pleasure; the hedonists have their reward, but they are in bondage to loveliness, while the artist is free in beauty.” (2) 

What struck me in this sentence was the sort of an answer to my ponderings that I find in his words: to practice self-forgetfulness so as to be in a state of grace. The self-forgetfulness he speaks of is not a casual mind-less-ness, but rather a practice of going higher than the realm of mind where the mental, vital self is forgotten along with its incessant demands, desires, expectations, and preferences. It is in that state that one begins to experience a sense of oneness with that real ‘self’ which is spontaneously and freely identified with the object d’art one is creating as an artist or even experiencing as a viewer. That, according to Coomaraswamy, is the secret to experience beauty, similar to the secret known by the true bhaktas (devotees), true lovers – namely, to experience that Divinity within that unites, in absolute freedom, the lover with the beloved, the devotee with the Lord, the Beauty with the Beautiful, and makes them One (or Two that are in Truth One). 


References:
(1)   V. Madhusudan Reddy, Towards a Global Future: Agenda for the Third Millennium, p. 32
(2)   Ananda Coomaraswamy, The Dance of Shiva: Fourteen Essays, pp. 39-40.







Monday, 2 September 2013

That Thing We Want...





Day and night begin, you tell me,
When the sun may choose to set or rise.
Well, it may be; but for me their changing
Is determined only by her eyes.

Summer, spring, the fruitless winter
Hinge, you say, upon the heavenly sun?
Oh, but I have known a yearlong winter!
Spring was by her careless smiles begun.

(Sri Aurobindo, Seasons)



Someone sent me two flowers – one in the day and one in the night. Or was it the same flower sent twice? How to tell?

Day and Night, Night and Day. Does the night precede the day? Or is it the other way round? Does it make any difference as long as the fire in the heart stays lit? 





Happiness and Sorrow, Union and Separation, Pleasure and Pain. Two that are in fact One, One that always comes with its Twin.  

Seasons change. Life goes on. Flowers wither. Remembrance of the fragrance remains. Memories fade. Emotions linger. Emotions too grow pale. Still something persists. Something faint…yet intense, something from the past…yet carrying a hope for tomorrow. What is it?

Maybe a little more of the fursat (leisure) in Gulzar-RD Burman style will help contemplate upon this some more:


What is it that the heart searches for?

(Photo credits: Suhas Mehra)


Click here for the previous post in this series.