Friday, 31 January 2014

Of Opposites, Truths, and Totality

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.

Layered - Photo by Suhas Mehra

I ended the very first post of this first month of the year with a sentence - "How interesting that Truth can be seen and expressed in so many different ways." And quite interestingly, and really without any deliberate thought and planning on my part, this last post of January 2014 is also turning out to be about the same Truth. As part of my teaching work, I was just re-reading and reflecting upon the following lines and a new blog post took birth.

Each idea (or system of ideas) is true in its own time and place. But if it tries to be exclusive or to persist even when its time is over, then it ceases to be true.
 If any element of this totality is taken separately and affirmed as the sole truth, however central or comprehensive it may be, it necessarily becomes a falsehood, for then it denies all the rest of the total Truth. This is precisely what constitutes an indisputable dogma, and this is why it is the most dangerous type of falsehood, because each one affirms that it is the sole and exclusive truth. The absolute, infinite, eternal Truth is unthinkable for the mind which can only conceive that which is spatial and temporal, fragmentary and limited. Thus, on the mental plane, the absolute Truth is divided into innumerable fragmentary and contradictory truths which strive in their entirety to reproduce the original Truth as best they can — for each is a truth that attempts to affirm itself as the sole truth, to the exclusion of all the other truths, which, through their innumerable totality, express progressively in the becoming the Infinite, Eternal and Absolute Truth — that is how they deny the total Truth.
The truth is neither in separation nor in uniformity.
The truth is in unity manifesting through diversity.
Intellectually, the Truth is the point where all the opposites meet and join to make a unity.
~ Collected Works of the Mother, volume 14, pp. 197-198

How about contemplating a bit more on these words, but this time with some some soul-touching world music which also expresses this Truth of Unity Manifesting through Diversity in its own unique way. Like this one with bansuri by Pandit Ronu Majumdar, electric guitar by Ry Cooder and trumpet by Jon Hassell.

Click here for the previous post in this series.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

You and Me

Painting by Prakash Raman

Tell me, who are you? 

But you might say - first ask yourself this, who are you? But I am what I am not only because of me but also because of who you are, I might say then. And the circle of wanting to know you, know me, know the 'you and me', 'you-in-me', and 'me-in-you' will continue...Perhaps rightly so, because we come to know so much more about ourselves in relation with others, through our relational selves. 

But what about my relation with my self, or rather my many selves? Do I know that? Do you know it for you? Let us begin with this intra-relational knowing as we go through life, our lives - 'you and me', 'you-in-me', 'me-in-you'. 

Singers: Manna Dey and Asha Bhosle, Composer: C. Ramachandra, Lyricist: Kavi Pradeep

Click here for the previous post in this series.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Love, the Beautiful

 A new post in the series: 
A Poem and A Song - XII:  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.

Earthly Love and Love for the Mother Earth. 

Love for the Nature, Love for the Beloved, the Marriage between the Two  - these are expressed here beautifully and with sensitivity, through the mode of new arts, and the old.  

A work by an Austrian digital artist, verses by a Chilean poet and a melodious composition by an Indian musician....all combine here to speak of a simple and profound truth - Love makes all things beautiful. Beautiful is the beloved, Beautiful is the Earth, when seen in Love and with Love. 

Digital Artwork by Christian Schloe, via

In You The Earth

at times,
tiny and naked,
it seems
as though you would fit
in one of my hands,
as though I’ll clasp you like this
and carry you to my mouth,
my feet touch your feet and my mouth your lips:
you have grown,
your shoulders rise like two hills,
your breasts wander over my breast,
my arm scarcely manages to encircle the thin
new-moon line of your waist:
in love you loosened yourself like sea water:
I can scarcely measure the sky’s most spacious eyes
and I lean down to your mouth to kiss the earth. 

Composer: R.D. Burman

Can love stay beautiful, always? How? Perhaps love alone can answer. 

Previous posts in this series:

What Might Have Been?        Fly Away              Which is Sweeter?       Life, a Song of Love and Memories
Diwali with a Modern Indian Poet and a Legendary Indian Musician            Of Temples, Poetry and Life
Remembering the Mother               On the Road               Who is that Presence?             Only You
Reckless Lovers

Friday, 24 January 2014

Beauty in Opposites

Sometimes you find beauty and meaning when you come across two absolutely contradictory things. 

Like this ghazal by Ghalib, in the young voice of Jagjit Singh from late 1960s. The feeling of Hopelessness, Lost-in-the-World is wonderfully expressed through the words as well as the singing. 

And then, a few days later you see something like this -  

Photo by Hengki Koentjoro, via here

This picture appropriately titled Hope by the photographer captures and expresses so perfectly the essence of what Hope is  - a bright light shining through where all seems dark and dreary. 

This oscillation between Hopelessness and Hope is what our ordinary experience is mostly about. There are days we feel so full of hope, optimism and a quiet feeling of assurance that all is well, and all will be well. And then there are days when we just don't know how to let go of this persistent feeling of doubt, despair and hopelessness. 

Maybe it is this oscillation that keeps us real and grounded in this relative realm where the chaos and mess of every-day life can at times be overwhelming and over-powering. Perhaps if we can somehow grow in our acceptance of this simple truth that the length of the shadow is only as real as the movement of the light, maybe we can then learn to see this oscillation as part of the inherent beauty of this worldly existence of ours....just like the dance of light and shadow. 


Click here for the previous post in this series.
Click here for all the posts in this series.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Eliminating or Harmonizing?

A new post in the series - Reminders to self

"Just take the whole thing out," my husband said.

"No!" I almost yelled.

"It will be easier that way, it is getting too messy."

"But I like it very much, I like the other one too."

We were talking about the two much-over-grown creepers which had climbed up on this one over-grown and crowded wall of our front garden, each trying to over-power the other, squeeze out the other, and climb up on each other. Result was that both were not able to yield much flowers because they were not getting enough nutrition. And it was beginning to look messy and chaotic.

Oh, I must introduce now the two pushovers being discussed here.

First up is Combretum indicum, commonly known as Rangoon Creeper or Madhumalti.

And the other one is Passiflora, commonly known as the passion flower. 

Now the flowers of both these vines are not only beautiful but also beautifully fragrant. So how could I sacrifice either one? But it was also true that something needed to be done in order to make sufficient room for each of them. My husband was in favour of eliminating Passiflora and his argument was that we already have another vine of Passiflora growing in the backyard. "But that is on the back wall of the garden, we should have this one in front too," was my argument. 

So I suggested harmonizing the two - cut back each of the vines enough to make room for both. Snip, snip here, snip, snip there. Pull out a few of the extra shoots from this one, remove some of the growth from that one. Surely as they begin to grow back, the two may still try get in each other's place, try to take over as much of the territory as they can, but eventually with some regular guidance, coaxing and cajoling (i.e. timely pruning and snipping and training) they will learn to co-exist and make room for each other, even if it means giving up a bit of their pride. They may not be always able to show off their heads full of heavy blossoms, but they will still flower and spread beauty and fragrance, provided they get what is most essential - good soil and good light. They will learn to live in harmony, a harmony that will need to be re-shaped, re-worked and re-newed every now and then, by the wise hands of the gardener(s). And most likely in due course of time, some elimination of unwanted weeds that would begin to sneak into the place allotted for the two desirable vines will also become very necessary, but that too will be done in order to achieve a new harmony. Harmony between Faithfulness (the spiritual significance of the Rangoon Creeper flower) and Silence (the spiritual significance of the Passiflora flower).

I love it when my garden teaches me such deep lessons about Life and Living. What do we need to live in harmony? Harmony with each other. Harmony with what surrounds us. Harmony within ourselves. Exactly what the two vines in my garden need - Good Earth (Well-developed Aadhar/Base - Body, Heart and Mind) and Good Light (Knowledge and Grace that descend from Higher Realms), and of course, the Wisdom of the Gardener Within (Buddhi, the Intelligent Will and faculty of Discernment) to guide and motivate. And yes, some discriminating elimination might be necessary too from time to time to weed out the undesirable pesky little things that crop up here and there. 

Can the two vines in my garden do it? Can I do it? I will have to regularly keep checking up on the vines....and certainly on myself too. 

After all, both the qualities of Faithfulness and Silence are essential for a more integral and harmonious inner growth.

(Photo credits - 1 - from here; 2 - from my garden)

Previous posts in this series:

The Color Purple     Which is Sweeter?    The Stuff of Our Lives     Light an Incense    God is At Home....


Linking this post with The Writers' Post Blog Hop 2014 # 3

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Color Purple

A new post in the series - Reminders to self

Ok, so it should be The Colour Lavender, actually. But is that all you see?

What does this picture tell you?

To me, it speaks of a delicate and fragrant beauty that is so often missed or neglected in the daily rush-rush of life. It speaks of that slow and gentle pace of life that is generally pushed over by the craze for satisfying a few more material or not-so-material desires.

It also speaks of a forgotten innocent passion which used to see deep value in searching for a matching ribbon to tie together a bunch of flowers. Where has it gone? Disappeared? In that rush to attend one more important meeting to attend, why waste time looking for a lavender ribbon? Just shove the flowers aside and go on with that skype call. 


The colour lavender, like the flower, is generally known to induce calmness, rest, tranquility, healing.
Sri Aurobindo has somewhere mentioned that the colour purple is generally symbolic of the vital force. (The vital here refers to the life faculty or that part of the being which is not simply the life-force but also the force of various passions, desires, feelings, emotions, compulsions, preferences and likes and dislikes that strongly determine human motivation and action through desire and enthusiasm.) The colour lavender, a variant of purple, according to him, could generally symbolize higher vital or emotional vital, and lavender blue, in particular, could symbolize love and devotion, the qualities associated with the emotional and higher vital parts of the being. 

As I contemplate on the symbolic meaning of the colour lavender together with this picture of lavender flowers, a part of me feels rested and calm already. It may seem small, but a deliberate, tender and conscious action of looking for that matching lavender ribbon to give that gentle finishing touch to a bunch of lavender flowers is surely an act of love. Love for Flowers, love for Mother Nature, love for Beauty. And love heals, brings serenity, induces calmness.


In my garden in my previous home, I had a few lavender bushes. And every year when the flowers bloomed, my heart would be filled with their beauty and fragrance. This is one plant I surely miss in my present garden. But I do have some lavender-pinkish Bougainvillea growing quite nicely. Next time I bring a few of those blossoming stems inside the home, I hope I remember to look for a matching ribbon!

Previous posts in this series:

Which is Sweeter?          The Stuff of Our Lives          Light an Incense         God is At Home....

Friday, 17 January 2014

I Want to Escape...

May be curl myself up in the lap of this Big Tree...

Photo by Kevin Schafer, From the book Life and Love of Trees by Lewis Blackwell
Sourced from here

Or may be get lost for a while in this forest...

Do you want to escape sometime? Escape from all that keeps you or brings you back into the mundane every-day-ness of life? 

The wise tell me that I should learn to see the Miraculous in Ordinary, to experience the Magical in Mundane, to feel the Divine in Routine. But until I am able to do so,  at times I do feel the terrible weight and pressure of all that is ordinary, mundane and routine. What should I do then? How do I get away? Where do I turn to? Books. Music. Films. Nature. My Garden. What?

Or maybe Silence. Yes, that's what I need. Not just the outer silence, but silence within. The Real Thing. The Healing Silence. The Silence that descends from above and sinks deep inside. That possibly resides in the deep inside but most of the time is covered up with the noise and chatter from different directions. But whenever it is revealed, it reminds us of its Quiet and Healing Force. The Silence in which all the noises of the mind are quietened. The Silence which can renew and rejuvenate what is old and tired, which can make one more open and receptive to the Light and Force.

Yes, that's what I REALLY need. 

But such a Silence would not be an escape. It would be a feeling of Liberation, and even if it lasts for a few seconds it could transform something within and leave its lasting impact.   

This is my prayer for the day, my aspiration. 

But am I willing to make an effort for experiencing such Quietude? Do I have the will to work toward it? The wise again tell me - Only when we sincerely seek, we find. Only when we ardently work, we receive. 

O god! Maybe I should just go back to my curling up....Doesn't this look inviting? 

Photo by Martin

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

What Might Have Been?

A new post in the series: 
A Poem and A Song - XI:  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.

A few weeks ago, my teenager nephew was asking me some tough questions about life. This is a young lad who is quite sensitive, imaginative and perhaps thinks about things a bit too much. Ultimately most of his different questions were leading to the one BIG question - What If...? What if that thing hadn't happened several years ago, or what if this thing had happened his life would have been different then? What would be different in those scenarios? The endless questioning of a growing, seeking mind....why this, why not that, what if...? 

As I tried to address some of his queries in a manner that a teenager can grasp and in the process gaining some clarity on my own similar seekings, I was reminded of a beautiful ghazal by Mirza Ghalib, particularly the line - woh har ek baat par kehna ke yun hota toh kya hota (to say everytime what if this had happened). 

Can we ever really know the answer to this question? Mirza Ghalib was seeking in his way, T S Eliot was seeking in his own. You and I, and my nephew, have to find our own answers....

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.

                              But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know. 

~ T S Eliot, Burnt Norton, Four Quartets

Perhaps this soulful rendition of Ghalib's ghazal in the voice of Jagjit Singh may open some doors to let the light in,  yield some hints for my own answer, or at least clarify the question a bit more by throwing light on the inner view of such seekings. 

Postscript:    Today is Makar Sankranti - a day that signifies our aspiration to move away from the delusion and darkness and toward light, purity, knowledge and wisdom. I hadn't planned to post this entry on this day, but in a way it makes sense to do so. With this post I remind myself (and hopefully my nephew, and a few readers as well) of the futility of asking "What If?" and of the need for accepting and yet aspiring to transcend "What Is" with a hope and prayer that "What Will Be" will be exactly that is needed for my journey toward light and knowledge, purity and wisdom.

Previous posts in this series:

Fly Away

Sunday, 12 January 2014

The Remains

Mother and Daughter - by Paul Gauguin

Another month has passed. And a few days more. She still remains gone. Gone for ever. But has she gone? She comes often. Lately she has been coming regularly.

At night when I close my eyes. In the wee hours of the morning when I am still not fully awake but not asleep either. Her face, her smile, her eyes, her voice.

Her voice from the time when her voice carried and expressed all the different shades and nuances of a mother's loving heart. The voice of a woman strong and independent, the voice of a mother full of love, concern and caring.

And yes, also her voice from the last year of her earthly life when it had begun to grow faint, feeble and weak. The voice of a mother who had to slowly accept the hard fact that her daughters will now be mothering her. The voice of a woman who had been the constant pillar of strength for so many in her life but had now become physically dependent on others for her most basic needs.

The ache in the heart, that feeling of hollowness inside, that sense of missing a presence...they seem to slowly fade away as the day slowly begins and the rhythm of life catches on. Only to resurface at night or in the early morning hours. Those eyes, that smile, that face, that voice. They will always remain, will never go away. She remains here, with me, in me and around me.

Friday, 10 January 2014

In Praise of Anjaniputra

"...when one speaks of Hanuman, this represents the evolutionary man, and Rama is the involutionary being, the one who comes from above...The evolutionary being is the one that’s the continuation of the animals, and the other is a being from higher worlds who, when the earth was formed, materialised itself upon earth—it does not come from below, it has come from above. But in the evolutionary being there is that central light which is the origin of the psychic being, which will develop into the psychic being, and when the psychic being is fully formed, there is a moment when it can unite with a being from above which can incarnate in it. So this being from above which descends into a psychic being is an involutionary being..."
~ The Mother, Collected Works, Vol. 5, pp. 323-324

For a few weeks now, I have been feeling a special pull toward Lord Hanuman. I can guess a few reasons for this but those would only be mental guesses, not really the truer, inner, deeper reasons. Or perhaps it could be something as simple as the fact that my father, a life-long devotee of Lord Rama and Lord Hanuman, is staying with me these days. Whatever might be the reason, certainly the darshan of the magnificent 36-feet-tall diety at the Panchamukha Anjaneya Temple, where the Lord presides in all His Glory, Grandeur and Humility, happened at the right time for me when we visited there on New Year's eve.

This blog entry today is my humble offering and prayer to the Lord of Courage and Devotion, Strength and Surrender, the one who represents the power of spiritual discipline, sadhana shakti, the evolutionary being who through complete devotion, selfless service and absolute surrender to the Divine raises himself to the stature of gods.

A prayer that takes hold of my mind and heart today finds its expression in the form below:


O Supreme Servitor to the Divine Supreme,
Thy Grace is what the heart seeks today.
Lord of Quiet Strength, Absolute Fearlessness,
Have mercy, the mind seems to be losing its way.

Things precious were snatched by an unnamed stranger
Under the dark anonymous cover of that fated night.
Not sad about the loss material, pained by the violation
This weak mind needs your blessing, a drop of Your Might.

The thought of mistrust and the fearsome fear of the unknown
These hurt more really, and the inner loss is such.
A prayer for Fearlessness is my lasting refuge,
For outer means can help but really not much.

On the outer wall of the outer house a column awaits
To become the abode of the Mighty Vayuputra.
Meanwhile, in the home within, the temple awaits
Its purification by the sound of His Divine Mantra.


Singer: Pandit Jasraj

Click here for previous post in this series.
Click here for all posts in this series.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Verb in the Garden

1 - Devi with the Ivy

"A garden without its statue is like a sentence without its verb."
~  Joseph W. Beach 

My little nephew, who is almost two years now, likes to speak in sentences without much use of verbs. That's okay for a baby. Even okay for casual speech or writing by an adult :)

But for a garden, it is absolutely no no. A garden of whichever size - small, medium or big, even a balcony or terrace garden with only potted plants - always needs its verb, I mean its sculpture. While a verb generally represents an action or being in motion, a garden sculpture is something that provides a type of groundedness for all the delicate green stuff around, in a way it makes it more bound to the place, the earth itself. This is what I have always sort of intuitively felt.

A garden sculpture doesn't have to be an expensive statue in granite or some other massive marvel in stone, even small beautifully carved terracotta figurines or other object d'art made of natural material that provides a sculptural interest can work wonders in beautifying our little green living spaces.

Ok, that's enough of my little amateur landscape design tip. It is time now for a few more pictures from my somewhat wild and over-grown tiny little garden, with its appropriate verbs and wines!

2 - Amidst the greens, yellows, reds and whites

3 - Guardian 

4 - Seated in a corner

And I have saved the best for last.

The picture below is NOT from my garden, but oh how I wish it would be! I am not sure, however, if I can create something like this or if I even want to create something like this in the little open space I have. But this is an image of a serene Japanese garden that I have always found so beautifully inspiring and aesthetically pleasing, just looking at it I feel trasported to a quiet place within.

5 - Tranquil

Knowing that a place like this exists is enough to give me joy, peace and contentment. Why wish to possess it?

Picture credits: 1-4 are photos from my garden, 1,2, 3 - Suhas Mehra, 4 - Sugrutha Kamat,
5 - Source unknown 

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Time O Time

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.

There are times when we get a bit too impatient with the developments happening around us - whether in our personal lives or in the larger society and polity around us, when we want immediate turnarounds, when we wish for things to change quickly and according to our preferences, when we take a short view of events and happenings, when we forget that larger and invisible forces are indeed shaping things beyond what our rational minds can ever plan or all those times it is important to remember that Time is indeed playing with its marbles. Nothing stays the same.
The Marbles of Time

Institutions, empires, civilisations are the marbles of Time. Time, sitting in his banqueting hall of the Ages, where prophets and kings are the spice of his banquet, drinking the red wine of life and death, while on the marble floor at his feet are strewn like flowers the images of the same stars that shone on the pride of Nahusha, the tapasya of Dhruv and the splendours of Yayati, that saw Tiglath-Pileser, Sennacherib and the Egyptian Pharaohs, Pompey's head hewn off on the sands of Egypt and Caesar bleeding at Pompey's sculptured feet, Napoleon's mighty legions thundering victorious at the bidding of that god of war on the field of Austerlitz and Napoleon's panic legions fleeing disordered with pursuit and butchery behind them from that last field of Waterloo, –— Time, the Kala Purusha, drunk with the fumes of death and the tears and laughter of mortals, sits and plays there with his marbles. There are marbles there of all kinds, marbles of all colours, and some are dull and grey, some glorious with hearts of many colours, some white and pure as a dove's wings, –— but he plays with them all equally and equally he thrusts them all away when he has done with them. Sometimes even, in his drunkenness, he hurls them out of his window or lifts his mace and deals blows here and there smashing into fragments the bright and brittle globes, and he laughs as they smash and crumble. So Time, the god, sits and plays for ever with his marbles.

~ Sri Aurobindo, Essays Divine and Human, p. 379

Just as I was about to submit this post, I rememberd a poem by Amrita Pritam, in which she speaks of the fleeting nature of Time and Life in her own style. Sri Aurobindo's Time-marbles here take the form of water that squeezes out through a cracked earthern pot. What is today doesn't last till tomorrow...time like water flows on.

How interesting that Truth can be seen and expressed in so many different ways. 

(Presented here is Amrita's poem in the voice of Gulzar.)