Friday, 29 November 2013

The Stuff of Our Lives

A new post in the series - Reminders to self


Photo by Josh Adamski


How temporarily relevant every material thing is...temporarily useful, temporarily pleasant, and temporarily meaningful...and yet at the moment something in us feels that if only we can possess that particular object, this one thing we could be so happy, so content. 

And ultimately at some point in time, that definitive moment comes when all our possessions, all the objects, all the stuff we so meticulously collected over our lives stays here in this physical realm, as our last journey out of this realm commences. What happens to all that stuff – the stuff of our temporary lives? Do we ever wonder about this all the while we are busy collecting, possessing, accumulating? Do we ever imagine, even for a split second, how will our loved ones handle all that stuff we so carefully kept in our closets, cupboards, and drawers?

Perhaps the real focus of our lives should be on accumulating the stuff of the hearts. The love, care, sweetness, tenderness, faith, trust, generosity and compassion we invest in our relationships and bonds with all who enter our lives are what keeps us intimately connected with them even after we move to those other realms beyond this earth. That will be our true inheritance to our loved ones, our true legacy, our true connection with those we leave behind. That will truly be the Stuff of Our Lives...Lives Here and Beyond. 


Previous posts in this series:

Monday, 18 November 2013

Journey toward Light

Spiritual significance of the flower: Immortality 
Forms are in perpetual transformation; identify yourself with the Immortal Consciousness and you will become it.
Botanical name: Gomphrena globosa, Globe amaranth, Bachelor's button 



Thirteen days have passed since my last post on this blog.

A life-transforming experience has happened during this time.

One of the greatest, eternal truths of Life has revealed itself, in a very upclose and personal manner. A moment of acceptance, a moment of letting go, a moment of surrender, a moment of awakening - the moment gave so much as it took away so much. The moment of earthly goodbye became a moment of lifelong blessing. Witnessing the Journey toward Light continues to change so much...inwardly.

Death is not the opposite of Life. Death is the opposite of Birth. Life goes on. Only Form changes. The essence of the Departed One takes a Formless Form and continues to bless and love and be with the loved ones.

"The world we live in is not a meaningless accident that has unaccountably taken place in the void of Space; it is the scene of an evolution in which an eternal Truth has been embodied, hidden in a form of things, and is secretly in process of unfoldment through the ages. There is a meaning in our existence, a purpose in our birth and death and travail, a consummation of all our labour. All are parts of a single plan; nothing has been idly made in the universe; nothing is vain in our life."
Sri Aurobindo, Essays Divine and Human 

In her memory, because she loved it so....




May the peace continue to prevail in the midst of the pain, may the rememberance of the eternal truth continue to give strength.



Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Faith Lives and Breathes through Images

"India must find back and manifest her soul."
~ The Mother



Photo by Dinesh Khanna, from his book - Living Faith

Some years ago in a bookstore in a small university town in the US, I came across a beautiful picture book which I had to immediately buy. The book titled Living Faith: Windows into the Sacred Life of India is a collection of photographs taken by the noted Indian photographer, Dinesh Khanna. I had seen some of his pictures on the web, but this book really made me an admirer of his work. 

The flap of the book has this to say – “Living Faith is an intimate, revealing record of a deeply spiritual way of life. It acknowledges the strength of private worship and shared faith, which ultimately transcends the more visible but short-lived realities of discord.” One has to see the pictures in this remarkable collection to get a sense of what Pico Iyer (who has written an introductory essay to this book) refers to as “something of what India does, at its best: namely, to take individual moments of worship, private acts of devotion – the soul in solitary colloquy with its God – and somehow bind them into the larger fabric of society and life” (p. 21). 

What I enjoy and appreciate most in this collection of photographs is that this is an excellent expression of the spirit and practice of the living truth of diverse forms of human attempts to connect with the Divine. The book is a visual narrative of the ways these attempts and expressions of faith, love and devotion for the Divine are present everywhere in almost every street corner in India. 

The sheer profusion of "sacred" is certaintly a visual representation of the ideal of spiritual aim of life, emphasized by Indian culture, and at the same time can serve as a deeply healing force in its own way for the sea of humanity struggling with its myriad struggles of life and living. 


Another photo from the book

The separation between the human and the Divine, between secular and sacred is not as sharp and divisive in India as we see in the Western societies. At least that is how I have come to know and experience India. And perhaps the fact that I was living in the US at that time and this book so beautifully reminded me of this sharp difference between India and the West, at least in this regard of Faith that is indeed Living and Breathing in the Indian visual landscape, made me immediately want to possess the book. Who knows? 

But of course, in some elite metro areas of today's India we now witness re-constructed, sanitized, western style attempts at urban-ness or urbane-ness, but that is still quite unreal and seems somewhat imitative and artificial. At least to me, it seems that way. And the moment we step out of it, we are in the middle of pulsating, throbbing human expression of the Divine, almost a visual record of attempts at bringing the Divine closer to the human -- whether it is expressed through a make-shift temple created by simply placing an old, half-broken statue of a deity or simply a stone marked with holy red powder, or through a picture of one's favourite deity glued awkwardly on the dashboard of a car or taxi....we see this almost everywhere. It is everywhere, in all religious traditions. The book, Living Faith, is an excellent visual representation of this India...of the Living Faith that sees and tries to experience the Divine in All and Everything and yet Beyond All and Everything. 

Interested readers may like to read an interview with Dinesh Khanna to know more about his take on this book. And for a gallery of some stunning images from this book, click here.

****


Saturday, 2 November 2013

From Darkness to Light

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.


Photo by Suhas Mehra

Read and contemplated upon a beautiful aphorism from Sri Aurobindo yesterday. 
This is my prayer and invocation for this special day of Diwali.

May this Festival of Lights bestow upon the humanity a vision to see a bit more deeply, a bit more highly, a bit more widely. 

"When I look back on my past life, I see that if I had not
failed and suffered, I would have lost my life’s supreme
blessings; yet at the time of the suffering and failure,
I was vexed with the sense of calamity. Because we
cannot see anything but the one fact under our noses,
therefore we indulge in all these snifflings and clamours.
Be silent, ye foolish hearts! Slay the ego, learn to see and
feel vastly and universally."

~ Sri Aurobindo, Thoughts and Aphorisms

***
Previous posts in this series:


Friday, 1 November 2013

Diwali with a Modern Indian Poet and a Legendary Indian Musician

Diwali spirit continues....with a special post in the series - A Poem and A Song - VII: 
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.

*****

An alternative title to this post could have been:

How to have an Enlightening Diwali - in Three Easy Steps


Step 1: 
Light a diya or a candle in a quiet spot.


Photo taken at my home, Diwali 2012

Step 2: 
Light up the mind with a poem titled Diwali by Vikram Seth. So what if it is a long one? But it makes you keenly aware of the anguish and conflict of a mind struggling to integrate diverse cultural influences, including those resulting from the colonial history of India, and doing all this in the backdrop of what "home" means to a heart, especially around Diwali - a festival of love, light, home, family and all such good things in life.

Three years of neurotic 
Guy Fawkes Days-I recall 
That lonely hankering- 
But I am home after all. 

Home. These walls, this sky 
Splintered with wakes of light 
These mud-lamps beaded round 
The eaves, this festive night, 

These streets, these voices...yet 
The old insensate dread, 
Abeyant as that love, 
Once more shifts in my head. 

Five? Six? generations ago 
Somewhere in the Punjab 
My father's family,farmers, 
Perhaps had a small shop 

And two generations later 
Could send a son to a school 
To gain the conqueror's 
Authoritarian seal: 

English! Six-armed god, 
Key to a job, to power, 
Snobbery, the good life, 
This separateness, this fear. 

English: beloved language 
of Jonson, Wordsworth's tongue- 
These my "meridian names" 
Whose grooves I crawl along. 

The Moghuls fought and ruled 
And settled. Even while 
They hungered for musk-melon, 
Rose, peach, nightingale, 

The land assumed their love. 
At sixty they could not 
Retire westwards. The British 
Made us the Orient. 

How could an Englishman say 
About the divan-e-khas 
"If there is heaven on earth 
It is this; it is this; it is this."? 

Macaulay the prophet of learning 
Chewed at his pen: one taste 
Of Western wisdom "surpasses 
All the books of the East," 

And Kalidas, Shankaracharya, 
Panini, Bhaskar, Kabir, 
Surdas sank, and we welcomed 
The reign of Shakespeare. 

The undigested Hobbes, 
The Mill who later ground 
(Through talk of liberty) 
The Raj out of the land ... 

O happy breed of Babus, 
I march on with your purpose; 
We will have railways, common law 
And a good postal service- 

And I twist along 
Those grooves from image to image, 
Violet, elm-tree, swan, 
Pork-pie, gable, scrimmage 

And as we title our memoirs 
"Roses in December" 
Though we all know that here 
Roses *grow* in December 

And we import songs 
Composed in the U.S 
For Vietnam (not even 
Our local horrors grip us) 

And as, over gin at the Club, 
I note that egregious member 
Strut just perceptibly more 
When with a foreigner, 

I know that the whole world 
Means exile of our breed 
Who are not home at home 
And are abroad abroad, 

Huddled in towns, while around: 
"He died last week. My boys 
Are starving. Daily we dig 
The ground for sweet potatoes." 

"The landlord's hirelings broke 
My husband's ribs-and I 
Grow blind in the smoke of the hearth." 
"Who will take care of me 

When I am old? No-one 
Is left." So it goes on, 
The cyclic shadow-play 
Under the sinister sun; 

That sun that, were there water, 
Could bless the dispirited land, 
Coaxing three crops a year 
From this same yieldless ground. 

Yet would these parched wraiths still 
Starve in their ruins, while 
"Silkworms around them grow 
Into fat cocoons?", Sad soil, 

This may as well be my home. 
Because no other nation 
Moves me thus? What of that? 
Cause for congratulation? 

This could well be my home; 
I am too used to the flavor 
Of tenous fixity; 
I have been brought to savour 

Its phases: the winter wheat- 
The flowers of Har-ki-Doon - 
The sal forests - the hills 
Inflamed with rhododendron - 

The first smell of the Rains 
On the baked earth-the peaks 
Snow-drowned in permanence-- 
The single mountain lakes. 

What if my tongue is warped? 
I need no words to gaze 
At Ajanta, those flaked caves, 
Or at the tomb of Mumtaz; 

And when an alap of Marwa 
Swims on slow flute-notes over 
The neighbours' roofs at sunset 
Wordlessly like a lover 

It holds me-till the strain 
Of exile, here or there, 
Subverts the trance, the fear 
Of fear found everywhere. 

"But freedom?" the notes would sing... 
Parole is enough. Tonight 
Below the fire-crossed sky 
Of the Festival of Light. 

Give your soul leave to feel 
What distilled peace it can; 
In lieu of joy, at least 
This lapsing anodyne. 

"The world is a bridge. Pass over it, 
Building no house upon it." 
Acceptance may come with time; 
Rest, then disquieted heart.

Step 3: 
Light up the inner being listening to Deep Ki Jyot Jale by Pandit Kumar Gandharva. After all that intellectual exercise understanding the long poem, all that one needs is a quieting down. And this soulful rendition provides just that...and more. Experience the silence!



Previous posts in this series: