Thursday, August 13, 2009

From ‘Empire of the Soul. Some Journeys in India’ by Paul William Roberts

I have spent some of the happiest days of my life in India, as well as some of the most bizarre. No other country in the world has ever made me laugh so much, or cry so much.

And though I have discarded much of past tradition and custom, and am anxious that India should rid herself of all shackles that bind and constrain her and divide her people, and suppress vast numbers of them, and prevent free development of the body and the spirit, though I seek all this, yet I do not wish to cut myself off from the past completely. I am proud of that great inheritance that has been, and is, ours, and I am conscious that I too, like all of us, am a link in that unbroken chain which goes back to the dawn of history in the immemorial past of India. That chain I would not break, for I treasure it and seek inspiration from it. And as a witness of this desire of mine and my last homage to India’s cultural inheritance, I am making this request that a handful of my ashes be thrown into the Ganges at Allahabad to be carried to the great ocean that washes India’s shore

- Jawaharlal Nehru, last will and testament

How can the mind take hold of such a country? Generations of invaders have tried, but they remain in exile

- E.M.Forster, A Passage to India

Saints explain that the soul is a drop of the Divine Ocean. Separate from her source, she has become caught in the net of illusion and has taken the mind as her companion. The mind, however, is in the grip of the senses and dances to their tune. Whatever it does under their influence, the soul has also to reap the consequences

- Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Discourses

No culture on earth ascribes such power to female sexuality as the Indian. Countless myths and fables revolve around men fighting over a woman; and that greatest of all Indian epics, the Ramayana itself, unfolds from and around this theme.
In many tales the gods find themselves threatened by a mortal who has seemingly mastered his desires and now progresses up toward their immortal realm by a kind of point system of selfless achievements. Usually, the gods’ solution for this cosmic social climber is to beam down a heavenly nymph, he cannot resist. Like Olympic judges, the gods gleefully look on as some poor ascetic who’s spent his life in a lonely cave eating weeds and meditating suddenly has the equivalent of Uma Thurman in a gossamer sari draping herself over his bony old body. Even the emission of a single drop of semen is deemed a catastrophic failure, banishing him back into the communal cesspit of carnal humanity.

So long as the mind remains away from the philosopher’s stone, it remains lost and absorbed in family and friends, it is continually tossed about by the waves of lust and anger; remains engulfed in the lure of wealth and possessions, and misses the golden opportunity of cleansing and transmuting itself. The instinct of love which God granted us for devotion to Him, we dissipate in sensuous pleasures. The mind keeps us away from the goal and never uncovers the Reality which it keeps hidden. The mind is the great slayer of the Real, and a true devotee must slay the slayer.

- Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Discourses

Indians are punctual and fussy eaters, incapable of missing a proper meal. They are also deeply suspicious of food cooked by others.

I saw no light save that which came from within my heart. Much as I battered my head in the mosque and looked for it in the temple

- Bahadur Shah Zafar

From the extravagant enigma of Sathya Sai Baba to the perverse and baffling actions of many Zen masters, spiritual teachers tend to defy our expectations for them. they may act in ways that can be deliberately offputting (the alcoholism of Chogyam Trungpa) or repugnantly antisocial (the cruel humor of George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff). But our own expectations for such teachers are yet more conditioned mental baggage from which their teachings are designed to liberate us. The Hindus view the playfulness of Krishna or the bloodthirsty violence of Kali as lila – a divine game.

The supreme bliss is found only by the tranquil yogi, whose passions have been stilled. His desires washed away, the yogi easily achieves union with the Eternal. He sees his Self in all beings, and all beings in his Self, for his heart is steady in Yoga.

Who sees me in all things, and all things in me, he is never far from me, and I am never far from him

- The Bhagavad Gita

India has two aspects – in one she is the householder, in the other a wandering ascetic. The former refuses to budge from the cozy nook, the latter has no home at all. I find both of these within me. I want to roam about and see all the wide world, yet I also yearn for a sheltered little nook, like a bird with its tiny nest for a dwelling and the vast sky for flight.

- Rabindranath Tagore

When a clod of earth, a stone, and gold become alike, serenity is achieved

- The Bhagavad Gita

The One God manifests Himself in two aspects so that the world may be sustained and fostered, improved and cleansed. These two – the terrible and the tender – are the characteristics found together in every single thing on earth, for are they not all parts of the selfsame God

- Sathya Sai Baba

……the point of ritual is that it is action and inaction at once – action outside time, thus timeless or meaningless, depending on how you view it. According to Hindu scriptures, its very lack of meaning is what gives it meaning – it is freed from motivations of ego, and thus is pure, selfless devotion. God likes that sort of thing.

Everywhere you looked in India, there was evidence of a past that had attained mythical heights. From philosophy to architecture, few civilizations have left such an awesome record. It was reputed to have made even the gods jealous of humanity

Great teachers, whether the Buddha or the Christ, have come, they have accepted faith, making themselves, perhaps, free from confusion and sorrow. But they have never prevented sorrow, they have never stopped confusion. Confusion goes on, sorrow goes on. If you, seeing this misery, withdraw into what is called the religious life and abandon the world, you may feel that you are joining these great teachers, but the world goes on with its chaos, its misery and destruction, the everlasting suffering of its rich and poor. So our problem, yours and mine, is whether we can step out of this misery instantaneously.

- J. Krishnamurti, The First and Last Freedom

There is no stable principle of evil in Vedic philosophy. There is no infernal realm for sinners. Its nondualism is really beyond monotheism – which creates a fundamental duality of God and man. Evil is not envisaged as a quality opposed to good. It is the absence of good, just as darkness is the absence of light, not its opposite quality.

There is no real sadness about death in Hinduism………It is part of an endless cycle. The Vedic idea that life implies death – is life’s only absolute certainty – also implies that there is no cause for grief. For death also implies life.

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