Saturday, January 19, 2013

From ‘Fear. Essential Wisdom for getting through the storm’ by Thich Nhat Hanh

If we don’t acknowledge and look deeply at our own fears, we can draw dangers and accidents to us…….
The first part of looking at our fear is just inviting it into our awareness without judgement. We just acknowledge gently that it is there. This brings a lot of relief already. Then, once our fear has calmed down, we can embrace it tenderly and look deeply into its roots, its sources.

If I am ever in an airplane and the pilot announces that the plane is about to crash, I will practice mindful breathing. If you receive bad news, I hope you will do the same.

One of the first things we can do to soothe our fear is to talk to it. You can sit down with that fearful child inside and be gentle with him or her. …. That is why its very important to take the time to go back, to recognize the presence of the wounded child in us, to talk to him and try to help him heal……. Put down two cushions. First sit on one cushion and pretend you are the helpless, vulnerable child. You express yourself …..Allow the helpless child enough time to express herself fully. This is very important…..
After she has finished, move to the other cushion to play the role of the adult self.

Many of us often find ourselves thinking of things that stir up feelings of fear and sorrow ….. But if we revisit these memories without mindfulness or awareness, every time we watch those images we suffer again.

When we recognize that we have a habit of replaying old events and reacting to new events as if they were the old ones, we can begin to notice when that habit energy comes up. We can then gently remind ourselves that we have another choice. ….. If you are truly present and know how to take care of the present moment as best as you can, you are doing your best for the future already.

When you are a small boy or girl, you are very fragile, very vulnerable. Just a stern look from your father can create a little wound in your heart…. Do you think that little child is no longer there? The little boy or girl in you is still alive, and maybe still deeply wounded. … So when you breathe in and see yourself as a small child who is fragile like that, compassion is born in your heart. And when you breathe out, you smile to him or her, and that is already a smile of understanding, of compassion.

Zen master Linji said, “The miracle is not to walk on water or fire. The miracle is to walk on the earth.”

When animals in the forest get wounded, they find a place to lie down, and they rest completely for many days. They don’t think about food or anything else. They just rest, and they are able to heal themselves quite naturally.

The French poet Rene Char said, “If you can dwell in one moment, you will discover eternity.”

From ‘In Search of Oneness. The Bhagavad Gita and the Quran through Sufi eyes’ by Moosa Raza

Ghalib …..Persian verse
Sar az hijab-e-ta’yyun agar berun aayad
Cheh jalwaha keh b’har kish mitawan kardan
If man were to come our of the self-limiting veil that covers
his eyes, what glorious revelations he will see in every faith.

Rumi … his Mathnavi
Beshtar ashaab-e jannat ablah and
Ta z’sharre failsoofi mi rahand
Most of those that inhabit Paradise are simple folk, who have
kept away from the mischief of philosophy

……Yogavasishta. The author, sage Vasishta, was a rationalist.
He says:
Truth should be discovered by one’s own endeavor through rational interpretation of our own experience, deepened and extended by our own aspirations and efforts……..
All the various views arising at different times and in different countries however lead to the same Supreme Truth …… It is the ignorance of the Absolute Truth and misunderstanding of the different views that cause their followers to quarrel with one another and bitter animosity. They consider their own particular dogmas to be the best, as every traveler may think, though wrongly, his own path to be the only or the best path.

For Sankara, the whole essence of the Gita was gathered in verse 66 of Chapter 18 where Krishna asks Arjun to abandon all religions and irreligions alike
sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami ma sucah

Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto
Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear
…..Abdur Rahman Chishti, who was a staunch believer in Ibn al Arabi’s monism, interpreted the Gita in the same vein as Sankara. For him, when the individual soul reached its acme of perfection, it ceased to exist, it is annihilated and only God remains. ‘Muhyial din is no more,’ cried Abdul Qadir Gilani, the great Sufi of Baghdad. ‘I am God!’

…..what is maya? ……..Ibn al Arabi is the proponent of the mystic inspiration of Wahdat al-Wujud – Oneness of Being …..Hadith Qudsi, a sacred utterance of the Prophet through whom God spoke, ‘I was a hidden treasure, and longed to be known, so I created the Cosmos.’
The differentiation that thus arises between God and the Cosmos is a result of the divine self-consciousness, the link between the Creator and the created, between the knower and the known; it is the very principle of creation …. This is perhaps the most comprehensible explanation of maya …..

The poet Iqbal ….
Kabhi ay haqeeqate muntazar, nazer aa libaase majaaz mein.
Keh hazaron sajdey tadap rahey hain meri jabeene niaaz mein
O long-awaited Reality, appear Thou sometime in a material garb for a thousand obeisances are writhing in my expectant brow.

The Gita and the Quran while asserting the transcendence of God also repeatedly emphasize the divine presence in all creation and ask the devotees to look for him in the things he has created. ….
God in the Gita and the Quran is both transcendant and immanent. God as he is in Himself is an impersonal Absolute – the Brahman of Gita and Allah of Quran. But God in relationship to humanity is a personal deity – the Isvara of the Gita and the Rahman and Rahim of the Quran.
…..Arjuna wants to know whethe the devotee should worship the Transcendant, the Absolute, or the personal God. The answer given by the Gita is that both forms of worship lead to the same result. But to concentrate and focus on the Absolute and the Unmanifest is more difficult.

….a verse of Hafez:
Hazar nuktae bareektar ze moo een jast
Na har ki sar be tarashad Qalandari danad
There are a thousand nuances in this, more subtle than a hair. Not everyone who shaves his head becomes a Sufi

Rumi ….
Cross and Christians, end to end, I examined
He was not on the Cross
I went to the Hindu temple, to the ancient pagoda.
In none of them was there any sign
To the uplands of Herat, I went
And to Kandahar, I looked.
He was not on the heights or in the lowlands.
I went to the Kaaba of Mecca
He was not there
I asked about him from Avicenna
He was beyond the range of the philosophers
I looked into my own heart
In that, his place, I saw Him
He was nowhere else!

… the Bhagavad Gita ….
datavyam iti yad danam diyate 'nupakarine
dese kale ca patre ca tad danam sattvikam smrtam
That gift which is made to a deserving person, who can make no return, given at a proper place and time with the belief that ‘this must be given’, is called sattvik or good……
The Quran carried this concept of a voluntary gift into an obligatory tax for the poor. It is called zakat. ….that charity is to be given for the sake of God, not to earn name, fame, prestige and power.

To reach that state of mind where one can realize the divine in the human, one has to first clear the heart of all impurities ….a state of sthitaprajna (equipoise) as the Gita says …….Elsewhere the Gita calls such a person yogayukta. Prophet Muhammad called such a person haleem, and in a famous saying, he exclaimed, ‘Kaad al-haleemu an yakoonu nabiyya!’ – a haleem approaches the state of a prophet!

….The great Urdu poet Mir Taqi Mir ……..
Miliye us shaks se jo adam howe
Naaz ussko kamal par bahut kam howey
ho garme sukhan tho gird awey ek khalkh
Khamosh rahey tho eik aalam howey
Seek that man who is utterly human; who takes no pride in his achievements. A concourse surrounds him when he opens his lips; and when he falls silent, he is a world in himself.

Junayd Baghdadi is known as the greatest exponent of the ‘sober’ school of Sufism as opposed to the ‘ecstatic’ typified by Hallaj and Bayazid in Baghdad and Sarmad in India. Farid al-Din, his biographer, tells of an anecdote in the life of Junayd. A thief had been hanged in Baghdad. Junayd went and kissed his feet.
‘Why did you do that?’ he was asked.
‘A thousand compassions be upon him!’ he replied. ‘He proved himself to be a true man at his trade. He did his work so perfectly that he gave his life for it.’

Shabistari, in his poem ‘The Beloved Guest’…..
Cast away your existence entirely
for it is nothing but weeds and refuse
Go, clear out your heart’s chamber;
arrange it as the abiding place of the Beloved
When you go forth, He will come in
And to you with self discarded
He will unveil his beauty.

…..Krishna warns Arjuna ….not to reveal this secret of total surrender to God to the ignorant, the self-willed, the obdurate, the selfish and scoffers.
Many Sufis have lost their lives by revealing this secret to the common man. Hallaj abandoned all rituals and went about crying ‘anal haq’ (I am the Truth) and for that he was crucified …..
Bayazid and Junayd cried, ‘Subhaani, maa aazama shani.’ (Glory be to me, how great is my majesty). But they both communicated this to only a select few and escaped being lynched. Ibn al Arabi ….warns, ‘This kind of spiritual insight and knowledge must be hidden from the majority of men by reason of sublimity. For its depths are far-reaching and the dangers involved great.’ Inspite of this, he could not refrain from revealing this secret, albeit partially, in his Bezels of Wisdom and Meccan Illuminations. And for that, even though he is called the Shaikh al Akbar – the Great Shaikh – his books are ritually burnt annually in Egypt!

Since Judaism, Christianity and Islam all had an orthodox creed, any deviation from that creed invited the charge of heresy. Depending on the age and the political clime they lived in, some mystics got away despite revealing the secret. Among them were Ibn al Arabi and Rumi.  ….. Hinduism had no orthodox creed and therefore no heresy. Mira, Ramakrishna, Madhava and a myriad others faced no persecution. On the contrary they were acknowledged, some of them, as saints in their own lifetime.

….Mir Taqi Mir:
Le saans bhi aahista ke nazuk hai bahut kaam
Aaafaaq ki is kaargahe sheeshagari ka.
Draw even your breath very gently in this glasswork house.
For everything here is delicately poised and finely carved

Prophet Mohammed’s remark, ‘man arafa nafiahu, arafa rabbuhu’ (he who knows himself, knows God). The ancient Greeks said, ‘gnothi seauton’ (know thyself) and the Upanishads exhorted, ‘atmanam viddhi’ (know yourself)

Amir Khusrau’s master, Nizamuddin Aulia, the famous saint of Delhi, got up one morning to offer his dawn prayers. He turned to the west, towards the Kaaba, and made his prostrations and then turned to see men standing on the banks of the Yamuna facing east and offering their prayers, the Surya namaskar with fervor equal to his own. Involuntarily, a couplet sprang to his lips and he exclaimed:
Har qaum raast raahe
Deene wa qibla gaahe
Every people is on the right path, in their faith and in the direction of their prayers.

Mahmud Shabistari (1240-1350) …..
What are ‘I’ and ‘You’
Just lattices
In the niches of a lamp
Through the one light radiates
‘I’ and ‘You’ are the veil
Between heaven and earth
Lift this veil and you will see
How all sects and religions are one.
Lift this veil and you will ask
When ‘I’ and ‘You’ do not exist
What is Mosque?
What is Synagogue?
What is Fire Temple?

The Upanishads have said:
Ekam sat vipra bahuda vadanti
(Truth is only One, the Wise call it by many names)

From ‘Learned Optimism. How to change your mind and your life’ by Martin E P Seligman

…twenty-five years of study has convinced me that if we habitually believe, as does the pessimist, that misfortune is our fault, is enduring, and will undermine everything we do, more of it will befall us than if we believe otherwise.  …. Pessimistic prophecies are self-fulfilling.

We are in the middle of an epidemic of depression ….. Severe depression is ten times more prevalent today than it was fifty years ago. It assaults women twice as often as men, and it now strikes a full decade earlier in life on average than it did a generation ago.

From ‘What are you doing with your life?’ by J.Krishnamurti

….there is an understanding when the mind is very quiet, even for a second; there is the flash of understanding when verbalization of thought is not. …. that extraordinary rapidity of insight, when mind is very still, when thought is absent….. So, the understanding of anything…… can only come when the mind is very still….

The very first thing to do,  …….. is to find out why you are thinking in a certain way. …… Don’t try to alter it, don’t try to analyse your thoughts and your emotions; but becoe conscious of why you are thinking in a particular groove and from what motive you act. Although you can discover the motive through analysis ….. it will not be real; it will be real only when you are intensely aware at the moment of the functioning of your thought and emotion; then you will see their extraordinary subtlety …..
Do you every see anything without thought? Have your ever listened, looked, without bringing in this whole process of reaction?

….the mind is always worried, it is always after something, acquiring or denying, searching and finding ……in a continuous movement…….One thought follows another without pause ….. if a pencil is being sharpened all the time, soon there will be nothing left of it; similarly, the mind uses itself constantly and is exhausted.

We suffer, don’t we? ….from physical illness, disease…..loneliness, from the poverty of our being; we suffer because we are not loved……. In every direction, to thnk is to be full of sorrow: therefore, it seems better not to think, so we accept a belief and stagnate in that belief, which we call religion.

Now, to go beyond, to transcend all that, requires tremendous attention ….no sense of becoming, of changing, ….frees the mind from the process of self-consciousness; there is then no experiencer who is accumulating, and it is only then that the mind can be truly said to be free from sorrow. It is accumulation that is the cause of sorrow. We do not die to everything from day to day; we do not die to the innumerable traditions, to the family, to our own experiences….. One has to die to all that from moment to moment …. and only then the mind is free from the self, which is the entity of accumulation.

From ‘Authentic Happiness’ by Martin E P Seligman

The “pleasant life” might be had by drinking champagne and driving a Porche, but not the good life. Rather, the good life is using your signature strengths every day to produce authentic happiness and abundant gratification

…..research from the University of Minnesota shows that there is a personality trait of good cheer and bubbliness…..which, it turns out, is highly heritable.

…..happy people have more casual friends and more close friends, are more likely to be married and are more involved in group activities than unhappy people

…..roughly 50 percent of almost every personality trait turns out to be attributable to genetic inheritance. But highly heritable traits (like sexual orientation and body weight) don’t change much at all, while other highly heritable traits (like pessimism and fearfulness) are very changeable.

After three years of study, the novice monk arrives at the dwelling of his teacher. He enters the room, bursting with ideas about knotty issues of Buddhist metaphysics, and well-prepared for the deep questions that await him in his examination.
“I have but one question,” his teacher intones.
“I am ready, master,” he replies.
“In the doorway, were the flowers to the left or to the right of the umbrella?”
The novice retires, abashed, for three more years of study.

Mounting over the last forty years in every wealthy country on the globe, there has beena startling increase in depression. Depression is now ten times as prevalent as it was in 1960, and it strikes at a much younger age. …. I have theorized that an ethos that builds unwarranted self-esteem, espouses victimology, and encourages rampant individualism has contributed to this epidemic …..There is another factor… the over-reliance on shortcuts to happiness. Every wealthy nation creates more and more shortcuts to pleasure: television, drugs, shopping, loveless sex, spectator sports, and chocolate to name a few. ….
To start the process of eschewing easy pleasures and engaging in more gratifications is hard. The gratifications produce flow, but they require skill and effort….they offer the possibility of failing….. Playing three sets of tennis, or participating in a clever conversation, or reading Richard Russo takes work – at least to start. The pleasures do not: watching a sitcom, masturbating, and inhaling perfume are not challenging. Eating a buttered bagel or viewing televised football on Monday night requires no effort and little skill, and there is no possibility of failure. …..
A mountain climber may be close to freezing, utterly exhausted, in danger of falling into a bottomless crevasse, yet he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Sipping a cocktail under a palm tree at the edge of the turquoise ocean is nice, but it just doesn’t compare to the exhilaration he feels on that freezing edge.

…..beyond the safety net, more money adds little or nothing to subjective well-being….. While real income in America has risen 16 percent in the last thirty years, the percentage of people who describe themselves as “very happy” has fallen from 36 to 29 percent.

  • Identify your signature strengths
  • Choose work that lets you use them every day.

Cindy Hazan, a Cornell psychologist, tells us that there are three kinds of love. First is love of the people who give us comfort, acceptance, and help, who bolster our confidence and guide us. The prototype is children’s love of their parents. Second, we love the people who depend on us for these provisions; the prototype of this is parents’ love for their children. Finally comes romantic love – the idealization of another, idealizing their strengths and virtues and downplaying their shortcomings. Marriage is unique as the arrangement that gives us all three kinds of love under the same umbrella, and it is this property that makes marriage so successful………
Evolution has a very strong interest in reproductive success, and thus in the institution of marriage. Successful reproduction in our species is not a matter of quick fertilization, with both partners then going their own separate ways: rather, humans are born big-brained and immature, a state that necessitates a vast amount of learning from parents. This advantage only works with the addition of pair-bonding. Immature, dependent offspring who have parents that stick around to protect and mentor them do much better than their cousins whose parents abandoned them. Those of our ancestors, therefore, who were inclined to make a deep commitment to each other were more likely to have viable children and thereby pass on their genes. Thus marriage was “invented” by natural selection, not by culture.
….Woman who have stable sexual relationships ovulate more regularly, and they continue ovulating into middle age, reaching menopause later than women in unstable relations. The children of couples who are married and stay married do better by every known criterion than the children of all other arragements. For example, children who live with both biological parents are treated for emotional disorders at one-fourth to one-third the rate of the other parenting arrangements. Among the most surprising outcomes … are the findings that the children of stable marriages mature more slowly in sexual terms, they have more positive attitudes toward potential mates, and are more interested in long-term relationships than are children of divorce.

The overarching principle of good listening is validation. The speaker first wants to know that he has been understood …. If possible, he additionally wants to know that the listener agrees or is at least sympathetic  ….. The most superficial problem of nonresponsive listening is simple inattention. External factors – kids crying, deafness, a TV set on in the background, static on the phone – should be eliminated. Avoid conversation under these circumstances ….. Preparing your rebuttal while listening is an insidious habit 

….Robert Wright’s book,  ……. The universal picture of political change over the centuries, all across the world, is from savage to barbarian to civilization. There is a progression with an increase in win-win situations at its core. The more positive-sum games in a culture, the more likely it is to survive and flourish…… history is checkered with one horror after another …..But the broad movement of human history ….. is, when viewed over centuries, in the direction of more win-win.