Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Zazen Sitting

From ‘They Lived with God. Life stories of some devotees of Sri Ramakrishna’ by Swami Chetanananda

Ram: “Is it possible to realize God in this life?”…………………Master…….. “The more you advance in one direction, the more you leave behind the opposite direction…….”

Master……… “In orde to meditate on God, one should try at first to think of Him as free from upadhis, limitations. God is beyond upadhis. He is beyond speech and mind. But it is very difficult to achieve perfection in this form of meditation.”

“But it is easy to meditate on an Incarnation – God born as man. Yes, God in man. The body is a mere covering”

Sri Ramakrishna: “In the beginning one should move forward on the spiritual path holding to an initial faith [i.e., faith in the words of the scriptures and the guru]. One then attains direct perception. There are two kinds of faith – initial faith and real faith [i.e., faith that comes from direct experience]. Be steadfast in the first one and then you will see God.”

“……..How many people are restless for God-realization? People shed jugfuls of tears for their wives, children, or money, but who weeps for God? He who longs for Him certainly will find Him. Cry to Him. Call on Him with a longing heart. You will see Him.”

Holy company is essential. As one gets heat sitting near a fire, so holy company raises the mind to a higher plane. One gets peace and inspiration in the company of the holy.

Ramakrishna also taught her how to practice japa, showing how the four fingers of the right hand must be kept tightly together. “The result of japa goes away,” said the Master, “if there is any gap between the fingers.” Another time he said, “In this Kali yuga a Gopala mantra [a name of baby Krishna] or a Kali mantra produces quick results”

Yogin-ma said to the Master: “I want to call on God more and put my mind wholly on Him, but it is hard to control the mind. What shall I do?” Sri Ramakrishna replied in a sweet voice: “Why don’t you surrender to Him? Be like a cast-off leaf in a gale. Do you know what that is like?..........Let the mind move as the power of divine consciousness moves it. That’s all.”

Sri Ramakrishna used to say, “A person cannot be perfect as long as he is subject to shame, hatred, and fear.”

Once a person experiences Samadhi, the memory of it is revived at the time of death.

Sri Ramakrishna has given a new teaching especially for householders: “Let the boat be in water, but let there be no water in the boat; let an aspirant live in the world, but let there be no worldliness in him.”

According to most theistic religions, self-effort is essential for beginners, while self-surrender is practiced by advanced spiritual aspirants.

“If you find a companion who is good, wise, and loving, walk with him all the way and overcome all dangers,” said Buddha in the Dhammapada. “And if you do not find a good companion, then live alone and walk alone ‘like an elephant in the forest’”

It is said in the Mahabharata: “Human life is not eternal, and moreover no one knows when all-devouring death will come. Therefore one should begin to practice religion when one is young.”

Girish: “But I am a sinner.”

……….Master: “………Suppose a light is brought into a room that has been dark a thousand years; does it illumine the room little by little, or all in a flash?…….Give God your power of attorney. Let Him do whatever He likes.”

Once Girish heard the Master say: “If a passionate desire arises and persists during meditation, stop and begin to pray. Earnestly pray to the Lord that this desire be removed, that it not be fulfilled. Any desire coming up in meditation, particularly a repressed one, gradually becomes intensified. And if one or more of our passions are involved, the results can be most disquieting.”

One way to approach God, according to traditional Hinduism, is by practicing any one of five dualistic attitudes, or moods. These attitudes, or moods, are manifested in the relationship between the devotee and God, and they are: shanta bhava, the peace and stillness felt in the presence of God; dasya bhava, the attitude of a servant towards the master; sakhya bhava, the attitude of a friend towards a friend; vatsalya bhava, the attitude of a parent towards a child; madhura bhava, the attitude of a lover towards the beloved. The idea behind this classification is to help spiritual aspirants intensify their relationship with God according to their own inner nature. This is a natural path to God-realization

As both blades of a pair of scissors are needed to cut a piece of cloth, so both self-effort and grace are needed to realize God.

………..the Master told a large group of devotees: “There are many opinions about God. Each opinion is a path. There are innumerable opinions and innumerable paths leading to God……….You must stick to one path with all your strength. A man can reach the roof of a house by stone stairs or a ladder or …..a rope……But he cannot reach the roof if he sets foot now on one and now on another. He should firmly follow one path with all his strength.”

“But you must regard other views as so many paths leading to God. You should not feel that your path is the only right path and that other paths are wrong. You mustn’t bear malice towards others.”

Monday, September 20, 2010

From ‘A Disciple's Journal. In the Company of Swami Ashokananda’ by Sister Gargi (Marie Louise Burke)

Swami: …………..Never eat in restaurants, unless you can’t help it. If you want to keep your mind subtle and sensitive, you should eat at home. There are two kinds of people whom food in restaurants won’t hurt: those who are worldly, whose minds are gross to begin with, and those who have realized that all is Brahman – nothing can affect them…………………If you had psychic perception, you would see that food touched by an impure person changes color. It poisons your whole system; your mind becomes clouded

Swami: …………..You must learn to regulate your life. Keep regular hours. That is very important. It doesn’t matter if the work you do is good or bad, but do it regularly……..A regular life, building up of good habits, is the foundation of spirituality.

Swami: …………..They say there are one hundred nerves that converge upon the heart. One of these nerves leads to Brahman. One must find that nerve and travel along it…….A friend of mine……..told me that every time he sat for meditation, his mind would at once go deep, within thirty seconds. It was as though he were entering a tunnel of light…….He would travel along that tunnel that led to Brahman. You must find that tunnel, that nerve. One cannot force the experience; it just happens.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Munni Badnaam Hui, Darling Tere Liye

Munni Badnaam Hui, Darling Tere Liye (Munni's come into disrepute, Darling because of you)

The ‘Munni’ ‘item number’ is the rage all over India, going by what the newspapers say. I haven’t seen the movie but having viewed the song on youtube, it has captivated me.

As far as I am concerned, it’s a mini-classic. Yes, there are lots of rough bits that prevent it from being an out and out classic.

But first the positives. This item number has made full use of the screen. Every fresh viewing of the song and you see things that you missed before. The experience is a riot of colours, rustic touches and so many characters in the song are a significant screen presence in their own right. The colour combinations of the screen constituents are good and the outfit colours too do not seem discordant. Malaika for once doesn’t show rough edges in her dancing. But the editor of the song too is to be given much credit for the finished product. I am not a great fan of Malaika’s dancing. And I will elaborate that when talking of the below video of ‘Chaiya Chaiya’. But I thought Malaika was quite bearable, even likeable.

The choreography by Farah Khan is largely great. ‘Munni’ Malaika does credit to her producer-husband’s confidence in her and acquits herself. Her dancing and being in tune with the lyrics is largely great though her face isn’t always in sync with the rest of the body. But to me, even more than Munni, the highlight is Salman and his zany dancing. He hogs the few frames that he appears in. As the swaggering rough inspector, his dance steps are in perfect alignment to his personality. Unlike the polished, suave, urban and urbane dance that would be seen in any NRI-Bollywood movie, Salman’s steps are more of the street, more spontaneous and therefore more likely to strike a chord with the masses. One couldn’t really imagine a Shahrukh or Aamir or Amitabh or Saif doing these steps and living the character. And to this the credit goes to Salman and possibly Arbaaz and Sohail. The brothers sense of humour as evidenced in other movies is zany, loony and mostly enjoyable. And that comes out well in Salman’s dance. He is enjoying himself and that sense is infectious.

But one should not forget all the extras when we talk of choreography. The set of male dancers who accompany Munni are good. Particularly one guy with a shortened version of a Sikh headgear who is full of energy and excellent in emoting and dancing and obviously enjoying himself. He is the one in the background during Munni’s cycle-rickshaw scene. Then there are a couple of female dancers who do their job very competently. They are the ones with the heaving breasts right after the ‘re main taksaal hui darling tere liye’ step. Also seen later in black dresses, palpable energy there. Then there are those pot-bellied policemen dancing to Salman’s cue. Wonderful, wonderful………

In hindsight, had a few rough edges been attended-to with more care, this song would have been at a totally different level. The lyrics alternate between zany and loony to amateurish and unimaginative. The female voice is competent but…. and that ‘but’ remains. Rekha Bhardwaj could perhaps have done more justice to the song. The male voice is even more jarring. Especially just after Salman’s entry when they move to a lower pitch (hoton pe gaali teri aankhen duraali). With two more experienced voices, this could’ve been a better audio experience.

The energy levels sag a bit a few times during the song and that jars.

Net Net though, this is a great example of a Hindi Bollywood masala item number

And to provide a contrast, here’s Malaika from ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ which shot her to more fame

She’s a bit stiff in emoting, dances mechanically and consciously and her whole presence is incongruous with the lyrics, though that is really the fault of the director and choreographer.

Friday, September 10, 2010

From ‘My Story’ by Kamala Das

I cannot think of any other Indian autobiography that so honestly captures a woman’s inner life in all is sad solitude, its desperate longing for real love and its desire for transcendence, its tumult of colours and its turbulent poetry
- K Satchidanandan

….My mother did not fall in love with my father. They were dissimilar and horribly mismatched. But my mother’s timidity helped to create an illusion of domestic harmony which satisfied the relatives and friends. Out of such an arid union were born the first two children, my brother and I, bearing the burden of a swarthy skin and ordinary features.

We must have disappointed our parents a great deal. They did not tell us so, but in every gesture and in every word it was evident……..…………Gradually our instincts told us to keep away from the limelight, to hide in the vicinity of the kitchen where we could hold together the tatters of our self-respect and talk to the scavenger or the gardener……

There was a time when our lusts were
Like multicoloured flags of no
Particular country. We lay
On bed, glassy-eyed, fatigued, just
The toys dead children leave behind
And, we asked each other, what is
The use, what is the bloody use?
That was the only kind of love,
This hacking at each other’s parts
Like convicts hacking, breaking clods
At noon. We were earth under hot
Sun. There was a burning in our
Veins and the cool mountain nights did
Nothing to lessen heat. When he
And I were one, we were neither
Male nor female. There were no more
Words left, all words lay imprisoned
In the ageing arms of night. In
Darkness we grew, as in silence
We sang, each note rising out of
Sea, out of wind, out of earth and
Out of each sad night like an ache…

There is a house now far away where once
I received love. That woman died,
The house withdrew into silence, snakes moved
Among books. I was then too young
To read, and my blood turned like the moon.
How often I think of going
There, to peer through blind eyes of windows or
Just listen to the frozen air,
Or in wild despair, pick an armful of
Darkness to bring it here to lie
Behind my bedroom door like a brooding
Dog. You cannot believe, darling,
Can you, that I lived in such a house and
Was proud and loved, I who have lost
My way and beg now at strangers’ doors to
Receive love at least in small change?

He talks turning a sun-stained
Cheek to me, his mouth a dark
Cavern where stalactites of
Uneven teeth gleam, his right
Hand on my knee, while our minds
Are willed to race towards love;
But they only wander, tripping
Idly over puddles of
Desires… Can this man with
Nimble fingers unleash
Nothing more alive than the
Skin’s lazy hungers? Who can
Help us who have lived so long
And have failed in love? The heart,
An empty cistern, waiting
Through long hours, fills itself
With coiling snakes of silence.
I am a freak. It’s only
To save my face I flaunt, at
Times, a grand, flamboyant lust.

I shall some day leave, leave the cocoon
You built around me with morning tea,
Love words flung from doorways and of course
Your tired lust. I shall some day take
Wings, fly around, as often petals
Do, when free in air, and you dear one,
Just the sad remnant of a root, must
Lie behind, sans pride, on double beds
And grieve. But I shall some day return, losing
Nearly all hurt by wind, sun and rain,
Too hurt by fierce happiness to want
A further jaunt or a further spell
Of freedom, and I shall some day see
My world, de-fleshed, de-veined, de-blooded,
Just a skeletal thing, then shut my
Eyes and take refuge, if nowhere else,
Here in your nest of familiar scorn…

They did this to her, the men who know her, the man
She loved, who loved her not enough, being selfish
And a coward, the husband who neither loved nor
Used her, but was a ruthless watcher, and the band
Of cynics she turned to, clinging to their chests where
New hair sprouted like great-winged moths, burrowing her
Face into their smells and their young lusts to forget
To forget, oh, to forget, and, they said, each of
Them, I do not love, I cannot love, it is not
In my nature to love, but I can be kind to you.
They let her slide from pegs of sanity into
A bed made soft with tears, and she lay there weeping,
For sleep had lost its use. I shall build walls with tears,
She said, walls to shut me in. Her husband shut her
In, every morning, locked her in a room of books
With a streak of sunshine lying near the door like
A yellow cat to keep her company, but soon
Winter came, and one day while locking her in, he
Noticed that the cat of sunshine was only a
Line, a half-thin line, and in the evening when
He returned to take her out, she was a cold and
Half dead woman, now of no use at all to men

You planned to tame a swallow, to hold her
In the long summer of your love so that she would forget
Not the raw seasons alone, and the homes left behind, but
Also her nature, the urge to fly, and endless
Pathways of the sky. It was not to gather knowledge
Of yet another man that I came to you but to learn
What I was, and by learning, to learn to grow, but every lesson
You gave was about yourself. You were pleased
With my body’s response, its usual shallow
Convulsions. You dribbled spittle into my mouth, you poured
Yourself into every nook and cranny, you embalmed
My poor lust with your bitter-sweet juices. You called me wife,
I was taught to break saccharine into your tea and
To offer at the right moment the vitamins. Cowering
Beneath your monstrous ego I ate the magic loaf and
Became a dwarf. I lost my will and reason, to all your
Questions I mumbled incoherent replies. The summer
Begins to pall. I remember the ruder breezes
Of the fall and the smoke from burning leaves. Your room is
Always lit by artificial lights, your windows always
Shut. Even the airconditioner helps so little,
All pervasive is the male scent of your breath. The cut flowers
In the vases have begun to smell of human sweat. There is
No more singing, no more a dance, my mind is an old
Playhouse with all its lights put out. The strong man’s technique is
Always the same, he serves his love in lethal doses,
For love is Narcissus at the water’s edge, haunted
By its own lonely face, and yet it must seek at last
An end, a pure and total freedom, it must will the mirrors
To shatter, and the kind night to erase the water…

On sedatives
I am more lovable
Says my husband
My speech becomes a mist-laden terrain,
The words emerge tinctured with sleep,
They rise from still coves of dreams
In unhurried flight like herons,
And my ragdoll-limbs adjust better
To his versatile lust. He would if he could
Sing lullabies to his wife’s sleeping soul,
Sweet lullabies to thicken its swoon
On sedatives
I grow more lovable
Says my husband…

From the debris of house-wrecks
Pick up my broken face,
Your bride’s face,
Changed a little with the years.
I shall not remember
The betrayed honeymoon;
We are both such cynics,
You and I.
If loving me was hard then
It’s harder now
But love me one day
For a lark
Love the sixty-seven
Kilogrammes of ageing flesh
Love the damaged liver,
The heart and its ischaemia,
Yes, love me one day
Just for a lark,
Show me what our life would have been
If only you had loved…

The cicadas in brambled foliage
Naturally concave. So also these
Men who climb up the cogged scaffoldings
Building houses for the alien rich.
On some days the hot sky flings at us scraps
Of Telugu songs and we intently
Listen, but we wait in vain for the harsh
Message of the lowly. In merry tunes
Their voices break, but just a little, as
Though the hero’s happiness is too big
A burden on their breath, too big a lie
For their throats to swallow, but past sunset
Their jests sound ribald, their lust seems robust.
Puny these toy-men of dust, fathers of light
Dust-children, but their hands like the withered boughs
Of some mythic hoodoo tree cast only
Cool shadows, and with native grace bestow
Even on unbelievers vast shelters…