Tuesday, February 25, 2014

From ‘Shafts of Light. Selected teachings of Swami Ashokananda for spiritual practice’ Compiled and Edited by Sister Gargi and Shelley Brown

“Don’t dig too deeply in the ground lest a cobra come out.”
-          Bengali saying.

In the same way that a few fingers can shut off the sun, the ego can hide the Self.

The senses perceive correctly only when there is no greed behind them.

Spiritual growth is very, very slow. What is needed is continuity of effort.

Insecurity is a very opportune time for spiritual growth. You search for something steady; you try to find resources within yourself.

A religion needs people of spiritual experience. Otherwise, it is just a show.

It is not necessarily the worthy person who advances in spiritual life; it is the determined person.

Until you have actually felt the mind at work within itself, you will not be able to control it.

If the mind is gloomy, why are you gloomy?

You have to be bold and persistent. Cut down the old thoughts again and again as they come to you again and again, and then the roots will die.

When the mind is restless, you know very little of reality. When the mind is quiet, you know all of reality.

In serious spiritual life one of the important things is to know where the mind has gone and to gather its scattered pieces.

Everything is revealed to the mind that is one-pointed.

Meditation should be undertaken with a sense of eternity, not in the atmosphere of time.

Until you perceive the formless reality, you have to take recourse to symbols.

From ‘Baghdad without a map. And other misadventures in Arabia’ by Tony Horwitz

I never saw a fat man in the desert
-          Richard Burton, nineteenth-century English explorer

“Cairo,” a long suffering correspondent once declared, “is the biggest upturned ashtray in the world.”

YEMEN ………..

A habit peculiar to the Yemenis is the chewing of a mildly narcotic leaf called qat, mainly throughout the afternoon. Parties are held at which business may be settled, and a foreigner honoured with an invitation should accept …..Addiction to the taste need not be feared.
-          The British Bank of the Middle East, Business Profile Series

“He who blows into fire makes either flames or is covered by ash,” read the proverb on page one of my Traveller’s Guide to Yemen…….. another “A lasting little is better than an ending lot.”
It was either the worst tour book ever written or the worst translation.
…. “You may stretch your feet only to the length of your mattress,” began a chapter titled “General Description of Yemen.” The guide ended with this bewildering message: “Don’t teach the bear how to throw stones.”

….I had noticed another odd thing about Yemen: the natives treated foreigners with total indifference. In Cairo, complete strangers would often demand, “Where are you from? Is this wife?.....” or peer into your shopping bag on the street ….In Yemen, apart from a few merchants and peddlars, most people were either too proud or too stoned to even look a visiting Westerner in the eye.

The toilet didn’t flush, however, and judging from its contents, hadn’t for some time.

I awoke later the next morning to the sound of automatic gunfire ….. Rushing to the window, I located the gunslingers just below. A boy of about ten was tearing pages from a magazine and pinning them to the mud wall….. Then he and a middle-aged man took turns pumping lead into the pages with a huge automatic pistol. It was a touching scene, in a Yemeni sort of way; father and son, on a bright Sunday morning, out for target practice in Saada. The father seemed particularly pleased with a series of head shots drilled into what looked like the photograph of the Yemeni president.

It was the first gathering of three or more Yemenis I’d seen that showed no evidence of either qat or jambiyas.

PERSIAN GULF: The Strait of Hoummos ……
“When the chips are down, there is only one real place in the entire area – Egypt,” a Cairo diplomat once declared. “All the rest – forgive me – are tribes with flags.”

Kochrekar allowed himself the first smile of the long boat ride. “You must let no current move you from the path you have chosen,” he said, taking the wheel. Even his simplest statements seemed lifted from the Upanishads.

There were also captains from Korea, the Philippines and Pakistan. It was the same as on shore; everyone but Arabs was doing the Arabs’ business.

CAIRO DAYS: Ozymandias Slept Here ….
In Arab homes, as in Jewish ones, overeating is an obligatory expression of love.

Cairo was also the first city I’d seen where policemen stood at intersections simply to enforce the traffic lights.

….Egyptian also are fond of driving at night without headlights, keeping them in reserve to use as a spare horn when a simple honk won’t do. Honk-honk-flash-flash-honk-flash-flash-flash; they burrow like moles through the night.
Nor surprisingly, Egyptian drivers are the most homicidal in the world, killing themselves and others at a rate twenty-tive times that of drivers in America (and without the aid of alcohol). Motorists in other Arab countries are almost as driving-impaired. The only insight I ever gained into this suicidal abandon came from a speeding Kurdish driver, after he’d recklessly run over a bird.
“Allah wanted it dead,” he said. The same fatalism applied to passengers.

The first thing you notice, coming to Israel from the Arab world, is that you have left the most courteous region of the globe and entered the rudest. The difference is so profound that you’re left wondering when the mutation in Semitic blood occurred, as though God parted the Red Sea and said: “Okay, you rude ones, keep wandering toward the Promised Land. The rest of you can stay here and rot in the desert, saying ‘welcome, most welcome’ and drowning each other in tea until the end of time.”

The second striking thing about Israel, arriving from the Arab world, is how much the two cultures have in common. Hebrew and Arabic are closer to each other than to any other third tongue. …..Religious fanaticism has also bred a certain kinship. Bowing their beaver hats and sidelocks at the Wailing Wall, the ultra-Orthodox Chasidim reminded me of nothing so much as the bearded, skullcapped fundamentalists in Cairo, bowing toward Mecca. ….Both see God’s hand in everything they do, and godlessness in everything done by anyone else

We arrived at Tripoli’s airport ….. The airport was unadorned, except for the bewildering messages scrawled on the walls. The prohibition of English apparently didn’t extend to the pronouncements of Colonel Qaddafi.  Not that this made them any easier to understand.
The slogans were the first clue to the wackiness of Libya – or rather, the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Great Jamahiriya. Jamahiriya was a word coined by Qaddafi, meaning, roughly, “republic of the masses.” He had added the “Great” after the U.S. bombing of Tripoli in 1986, an event which, in the inverted logic of Libyan propaganda, constituted a glorious victory.

American diplomats in Khartoum received a twenty-five percent pay boost, as a hardship bonus. Even Egyptians regarded their southern neighbor with distaste. Sudan was filthy and poor, they observed without irony, and the Sudanese were lazy. This from a country where a government survey once concluded that the average Egyptian worked twenty-six minutes a day. A country that made Cairo look industrious and orderly by comparison was something that I had to see for myself.

According to the Sudan Tourism Guide, “Currency exchange rates are, from time to time, announced by the Bank of Sudan.” Taxi rates were set “according to an official tariff announced from time to time.” From time to time, a new government also announced itself, usually over the radio waves, at odd hours, with an accompanying score of gunfire. Civil war raged in the south, as it had, from time to time, for twenty-one years. “Yet the people,” the tourism guide assured me, “are peace-loving and friendly.”

The telephone system was so bad that many phones in Khartoum hadn’t rung for years.

At Sudan’s Natural History Museum, the Living Collection was mostly dead.

I found ….the museum’s curator, in a dusty office beside a bank of seven phones. They, too, were dead. “This one rang last year,” he said, pointing at the nearest phone. “It was a wrong number.”
……The museum suffered from the same problem as every other institution in Sudan. Its budget had remained stable for the past five years. Unfortunately, the Sudanese pound hadn’t, nor had inflation; the museum’s meager allotment was now worth five percent of what it had been five years before.

…..Sudan’s key economic indicators ……….
1. A foreign debt of $14 billion, on which Sudan paid nothing and which now accounted for a third of all overdue payments to the International Monetary Fund.
2. Inflation rate of 100 percent a year.
3. Factories running at 5 percent of capacity. ……..

There is no fun in Islam.
-          Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

Home-cooked food in Iran was the best I’d yet sampled in the Middle East.

Khomeini, for all his fanaticism, hadn’t abused power to enrich himself or advance his family.

Iranians, like Arabs, eat late and don’t linger long once the dinner is done.

From ‘Holy Warriors. A Journey into the heart of indian fundamentalism’ by Edna Fernandes

In 1750, the Afghans swept in to capture [Kashmir]……It was said that they cut off heads with the abandon of a child plucking flowers from a stem. It was of little consequence to them that the majority of those they killed were fellow Muslims. In their desperation, the Kashmiris turned to ….Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh ….. accompanied by Raja Gulab Singh, the Dogra ruler of Jammu, his forces galloped in to defeat the Afghans…..
The Sikhs viewed the kingdom as strictly business …….And like different grades of cattle, the Kashmiris had different prices on their heads. ‘Murder of a native by a Sikh is punished by fine to the government of from sixteen to twenty rupees, of which four rupees are paid to the family of the deceased if a Hindu; and two rupees if he was a Mohommeden.’

Saint Francis Xavier ……….. the ultimate crusader, the man who brought the Inquisition to India….. the blunt instrument of Christian fundamentalism and an institution of terror that left scars imprinted on Goan society to this day. Its aim was to stop new converts to Christianity from slipping into the ways of their old religion ……stripping out the Hindu ways and replacing it with a pure, unadulterated Catholicism. It was a brutal process. Yet centuries on, the majority of the ancestors of these converts venerated Francis Xavier and loved him still.

Mario had that very Goan temperament of vivaciousness underscored with a melancholy brooding. It was very Latin and yet very Indian at the same time.

[Mario Miranda]….said …… ‘….What Goa needs is a Tennessee Williams to write it all down, about a centuries old way of life that is collapsing in our very lifetime. Goans are a vanishing tribe. I tell you, in forty years, the old Goan identity will not exist.’

……some of these early Jesuits relied on coercion, iconoclasm and in the final resort the violence of the Inquisition, to force Goans onto the righteous path …..

….. [the Nagas] ….. are a handsome people, and gentle in nature, despite their fearsome reputation as warriors. They have none of the typical India garrulousness, and a restrained dignity that reminded me a lot of the people I’d met during a visit to Mongolia ten years ago.

‘If we worship in the temple, he would desecrate it. If we carry on bhajans and car festivals, that would irritate him. If we worship cow, he would like to eat it. If we glorify woman as a symbol of sacred motherhood, he would like to molest her. He was tooth and nail opposed to our way of life in all aspects – religious, cultural, social etc. He had imbibed that hostility to the very core. His number also was not small. Next to the Hindu’s, his was the largest.’
-          M. S. Golwalkar, writing about the Muslim in India in his book Bunch of Thoughts, which is widely seen as a mission statement for Hindutva.

Former RSS leader M.S.Golwalkar, a black-bearded yogi known simply as Guruji, said in his writings that Hitler was an inspiration:
‘To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races – the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has shown how well nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by.’

Thursday, February 20, 2014

From ‘At Every Breath, A Teaching. Stories about the life and teachings of Swami Chinmayananda’ by Rudite Emir

Radhika ….had brought her small infant to Swamiji and asked “How do I teach him to become a good human being?”
“You don’t have to mold him or teach him anything,” was Swamiji’s reply. “You just keep improving as a person, and he’ll be fine.”

“There is God. There is no doubt about it. Yes, I have seen Him, but not in form. God is not a form. God is a state of consciousness. In order for the average man to conceive of the idea, a form is given. Our national flag is not the form of our country. It represents our country. Similarly, God in various forms, whether it is the cross or the crescent of Krishna, represents a state of consciousness to be reached.”

“When unwanted thoughts come to torture you, don’t try to hold them back. Don’t suppress them! Instead, shine a very bright spotlight on them. They will shy away from so much attention and scurry away out of view!”

“Soar beyond the mind,” ………. Don’t try to make a dark room bright by shoveling out darkness with a shovel, he said. Instead, simply bring in the light.

“Its very difficult to control one’s senses: seeing, hearing, touch … Even one single sense is very difficult to control, even one sense at a time. Look, sex involves all the senses at once: touch, sight, smell ….thats why it’s the last one to go. It’s natural that that’s the most difficult urge to master.”

He said that when the mind grows sluggish in this way, the seeker must give it some tapas [austerity practice]: deprive it of food or give it a cold shower. The mind will straighten out and get back into shape, he said…..

From ‘the art of thinking clearly’ by rolf dobelli

….cheerfulness – according to many studies, such as those conducted by Harvard’s Dan Gilbert – is largely  a personalily trait that remains constant throughout life. Or as social scientists Lykken and Tellegen starkly suggest, ‘trying to be happier is as futile as trying to be taller.’

W. Somerset Maugham …. ‘If 50 million peope say something foolish, it is still foolish.’

Warren Buffett ….. ‘What the human being is best at doing, is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.’

….old adage …. ‘ Never ask a barber if you need a haircut.’

‘When you hear hoofbeats behind you, don’t expect to see a zebra.’ Which means… investigate the most likely …..before you start diagnosing exotic …….

‘All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,’ wrote Blaise Pascal.

Mark Twain: ‘If you have nothing to say, say nothing.’

Daniel J Boorstin ….. ‘The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge.’

‘If your only tool is a hammer all your problems will be nails,’ said Mark Twain…..