Saturday, May 28, 2011

From ‘A Heart as wide as the world. Stories on the path of lovingkindness’ by Sharon Salzberg

A Tibetan text puts it like this: “Beneath the pauper’s house there are inexhaustible treasures, but the pauper never realizes this, and the treasures never say, ‘I am here.’ Likewise, the treasure of our original nature, which is naturally pure, is trapped in ordinary mind, and beings suffer in poverty.”

The first meditation instruction I was ever given was to be aware of my breath. The simplicity was shocking. …. The breath is natural and uncontrived. When I first began practicing, I would become anxious about the next breath, as though I had to create it. …. Being aware of the natural breath, we bring forth ease of mind and body.

Sometimes in learning meditation the instruction is, “Sit like a mountain. Sit with a sense of strength and dignity. Be steadfast, be majestic, be natural and at ease in awareness. No matter how many winds are blowing, no matter how many clouds are swirling, no matter how many lions are prowling, be intimate with everything and sit like a mountain.”

……… meditative vision ……. as the Sufis say, with “eyes unclouded by longing.”

An interesting distinction is made in Buddhist psychology between the state of remorse and the state of guilt. Remorse is considered a wholesome or skillful state of mind. We recognize that we have said something or done something that has created harm in some way, and we experience the pain of that. But because we essentially forgive ourselves, we can let go, and thus we have the energy, the inspiration, not to go on repeating the same mistakes. Guilt, on the other hand, is considered unwholesome or unskillful because of the component of self-hatred in it. We go over and over the harmful thing we have done, continually blaming ourselves, until we are drained. The result is that we are not left with the energy to transform our actions. Our minds then remain restless.

….. one of the principle teachings of the Buddha. Dukkha means suffering, discontent, unsatisfactoriness, hollowness, change.

The Buddha said, “I teach one thing and one thing only: suffering and the end of suffering.”

As classically defined in Pali, our compassion is “the trembling or the quivering of the heart.”

As the haiku poet Issa wrote,

The world of dew
is only the world of dew -
and yet

Someone once asked Munindra why he practiced meditation. His students gathered around, expecting to hear an exalted, lofty answer. Munindra replied, “I practice meditation to notice the small purple flowers growing by the roadside, which I otherwise might miss.”

The dancer Isadora Duncan once said: “If I could tell you what it meant, there would be no point in dancing it.”

From ‘Think on These things. Inspiration from Edgar Cayce readings’ by Edgar Cayce

The more and more each is impelled by that which is intuitive, or the relying upon the soul force within, the greater, the farther, the deeper, the broader, the more constructive may be the result

…… there is no urge in the astrological, in the vocational, in the hereditary or the environmental – which surpasses the will or determination of an entity

But if ye are attempting to have they physical body doing just as it pleases, they mental body controlled by, “What will other people say?” and thy spiritual body and mind shelved only for good occasions for the good impression that you may make occasionally, there cannot be other than confusion.

Thus ye may find in thy mental and spiritual self, ye can make thyself just as happy or just as miserable as ye like. How miserable do ye want to be?

This is the first lesson ye should learn: There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, it doesn’t behoove any of us to speak evil [of] the rest of us. This is a universal law, and until one begins to make application of same, one may not go very far in spiritual or soul development.

Perfection is not possible in a material body until you have entered at least some thirty times.

For all prayer is answered. Don’t tell God how to answer it.

From ‘A book of Memory. Confessions and Reflections’ by Sudhir Kakar

We do not know the true value of our moments until they have undergone the test of memory

- Georges Duhamel

For brief periods of time, immersion in the rituals, pilgrimages and other baroque practices of traditional Hinduism lets us transcend what Yeats called ‘the desolation of reality’ in a way the dry Arya Samaj Protestantism of my grandfather’s more ‘modern’ religious faith could never have done

It was not only musicians but all performing artists who were spurned by ‘respectable society’ as entertainers. This disparaging attitude was an old one. For instance, ancient Hindu law books such as the Manusmriti have strict injunctions against adultery. One of the few exceptions, though, where ‘criminal conversations with another man’s wife’ is condoned is with ‘the wives of actors and singers’ ……. Dance in the 1940s and 1950s was associated with ‘nautch girls’, a skill needed by prostitutes of some refinement.

….. my father’s family home ……. my memories of that period ……. The images stamped enduringly on my psyche have an impress of swirling movement and excitement combined within secure boundaries of loyalty and protection with which the family surrounded each individual member, no matter how small. Moving from one part of the house to another, I could, within a few minutes, be witness to loud quarrels, heart-rending sobs, tender consolations, flirtatious exchanges, uproarious laughter and sober business conversations. The kitchen on the second floor, as much the heart of the house as it's stomach, was always full of women – daughters of the house, female relatives and visitors. Presided over by my strong-willed grandmother, it was busy from early in the morning, and except for a couple of hours’ break in the afternoon, closed late in the night. One ate whatever one liked and whenever one liked and there was always a steaming hot snack that had just come out of a deep-bottomed, cast-iron frying pan. At all times, there were more than a dozen cousins and visiting children from the neighbourhood and we played everywhere: on the roof terrace, in all the rooms of the house, outside in the alley. There were no private spaces and all these sites were without boundaries, blending seamlessly into one another. Whenever I was tired, I’d find an empty bed, generally a mattress on the floor, and some woman would eventually drift over and put me to sleep. As the eldest son of the eldest son, I had the privilege of demanding that my favorite aunt, Darshana, my father’s youngest sister, put aside her kitchen or other household duties and tell me stories while I tried to fight the encroachment of sleep. Many of the stories were from the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata but what I loved most was when she read out of Chandrakanta, a six-volume romance that was her favourite and soon became my obsession.

I now wonder how much of the warmth and excitement of the memories of my recurrent immersion in the life of my father’s extended family can be attributed to the majesty of Eros. The promiscuous sharing of beds and the contact with many different bodies in sleep are highly eroticizing for a child. Even otherwise, the extended family, given the constraints of space in which most Indians live, creates an erotic field that is inconceivable for those who have grown up in modern, nuclear families. Living in close quarters with many couples and with at least a pre-conscious awareness of their sexual lives by registering in half-sleep at night those special whispers, giggles and stifled cries of pleasure against a background score of snores in many different pitches, and witnessing the signs of passion on the faces and bodies in the morning as mattresses are rolled-up, is a constant source of sexual excitement. The large Indian family is not only a system of duties and obligations but also a highly charged field of eroticism. Occasions such as a marriage, where an imminent sexual union is the raison d’etre of the whole family coming together, crackle with erotic excitement. Dozens of cousins, male and female, are thrown together in close proximity for a succession of celebratory evenings of music and dance, without the prohibitions and injunctions that normally govern the contact between the sexes.

Urdu was not only the language in which most of the government work was carried out in north India but it was also the language of literature, indeed, of civilization. ….. It is a tragedy that after the independence of the country and the partition riots that accompanied it, Urdu came to be identified solely as the language of Muslims and condemned to lead a ghetto existence as religious identities began to harden. The loss of a specific Indian sensibility associated with the language, which I would identify as a yearning that is simultaneously of the body, heart and spirit, constitutes a loss of patrimony for all Indians.

The Indian preference for an arranged marriage is partly based on the young person’s acceptance of the cultural definition of marriage as a family, rather than individual, affair, where harmony and shared values that come from a common background are more important than individual fascinations. The greatest attraction of an arranged marriage, though, is the fact that it takes away the young person’s anxiety about finding a mate. Whether you are plain or good-looking, fat or thin, you can be reasonably sure that a suitable mate will be found for you.

I cannot remember my mother,
only sometimes in the midst of my play
a tune seems to hover over my playthings,
the tune of some song that she used to hum while
rocking my cradle.
I cannot remember my mother,
but when in the early autumn morning
the smell of the siuli flowers floats in the air
the scent of the morning service in the temple comes
to me as the scent of my mother.

I cannot remember my mother,
only when from my bedroom window
I send my eyes into the blue of the distant sky
I feel that the stillness of my mother’s gazing on my
face has spread all over the sky
- Rabindranath Tagore

In 1969, Ahmedabad was the site of one of the worst outbreaks of Hindu-Muslim violence since the country’s independence. The city, as a commission enquiring into another riot pointed out, had witnessed recurring bouts of violence between the two communities that go back in history to 1714. The 1969 riot, though, was the bloodiest. It's official toll of 560 dead and 561 injured was matched only by the Gujarat violence of 2002; in both carnages, the majority of lives lost were Muslim.

For there is no greater pain, as Dante observed, than to remember in present grief, past happiness.

…… Greek or Roman sculptures which have greatly influenced Western gender representations. Here, male gods are represented by hard, muscled bodies and chests without any fat. One only needs to compare Greek and Roman statuary with sculpted representations of Hindu gods, or the Buddha, where the bodies are softer, suppler and in their hint of breasts, nearer to the female form.

….. the wise Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius who held that ‘those who do not observe the movements of their own minds must of necessity be unhappy’. No mental problem can be finally overcome, Krishnamurti says again and again. It can be understood but not conquered. Freud, too, has observed that a man should not strive to eliminate his complexes but get into accord with them, for they are legitimately what direct his conduct in the world. To understand deeply (Freud’s ‘get into accord’) required one to observe by paying full attention, which is not to be confused with concentration. When the conscious mind is attentive, he said, it has not thought, it is empty but aware, then it can observe. Here Krishnamurti, the intellectual-mystic, was at one with the mystical-psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion who advised analysts that to really understand the patient in an analytic hour, the therapist needs to come to the session with an empty mind, a mind ‘without memory or desire’.

The role of a community’s women in it's men taking up arms, or in the making of a terrorist, has not been appreciated enough …… there is no stronger goad to arousing a man’s fighting spirit than that of a woman mocking and challenging his masculinity. Militancy starts losing it's vigour once the women turn away from demanding masculinity from their men and begin to think more of the survival and well-being of their children. Unfortunately, anti-terror efforts are rarely directed towards influencing a community’s women.

…… Samuel Goldwyn’s observation, ‘I don’t think anyone should write their autobiography until after they’re dead.’

One of those Sanskrit love poems goes:
She let him in
She did not turn away from him
There was no anger in her words
She simply looked straight at him
As though there had never been
Anything between them.

……… a fifth-century Sanskrit poem

By rising to greet him from afar
she circumvents their sitting on one seat;
by the pretext of fixing betel
she prevents his quick embrace.
She makes no conversation with him;
instead, gives orders to the servants;
her skill is such that by politeness
she satisfies her wrath.

…….Samuel Goldwyn’s school of leadership: ‘I don’t want any yes-men around me. I want everybody to tell me the truth even if it costs them their jobs,’ or ‘If I want your opinions, I’ll give it to you.’

It is hard not to start believing in your own ‘greatness’ when those who surround you are constantly testifying to your perspicacity and wisdom. The Romans had the right idea when at the back of the chariot in which Caeser rode through Rome after his triumphs in foreign lands, acclaimed by cheering throngs, there stood a man repeating, ‘Remember, Caeser, you are human. You are human, Caeser.’

Schopenhauer once said that at the end of life, no man, if he were sincere and in possession of his faculties, would ever wish to go through it again.

Monday, May 9, 2011

From ‘My Guru in Disguise’ by Priya Mookerjee

…………. Vrindavan …….. a spot held sacred by all devout believers. ….. “Every particle, every grain of dust in this place is sacred. So many great souls have stepped on this soil, spending years, seeking Krishna within their hearts. The spiritual energy they emitted has made Vrindavan so special,” she explained, rubbing a fistful of dirt on her face and arms, and putting a little into her mouth.
“Don’t think this is just ordinary dirt. This earth is charged with spiritual energies that can have a transforming effect. Wherever you are, you should scatter this dust and sanctify that place; then, no matter where you live, that place will become as sacred as Vrindavan.”

The Upanishads …… ‘He alone sees who sees all beings as himself.’

“….. Spiritual growth usually begins with a sense of discontentment with the present condition of your life ….. no matter what your external condition is, you have to find your inner happiness – that point which connects you to God,” she said

“How does that happen?” I asked.

“By inquiring and questioning all the time,” she replied.

…. “Why are we here is the first question. Feel this in your heart; not just in your head” ……. “The answer is irrelevant because everyone has a different point of view. ….. Simply becoming aware of such a question will have a transforming effect upon you,” she explained.

“Ma ….. what do you see and feel when you go into one of your trance states?” …….

“Words can never adequately describe what that is. Sometimes I feel a gentle rocking motion at the base of the spine. That sensation gradually travels upward, remaining at the heart centre before moving to the point in-between the brows. The energy then shoots through the fontanel on top of the head. When that happens I hear a loud sound like that of a gushing waterfall or a clap of thunder, after which a stream of liquid light pours into every part of my being. ….. My whole being gets engulfed by this energy, filling every pore with a new, intelligent, life force ……… This force moves through my body with a will of it's own that is beyond my control. I become helpless like a child. Suddenly, everything becomes abundantly clear; I am not the one who is in control. There is a higher, super-intelligent, life-sustaining energy, which is responsible for my very existence. ……. Sometimes these experiences are so potent that I cannot contain the force within the limitations of my body. During those times, I feel I am fluctuating between life and death, between sanity and madness …… This is certainly not a mental affliction, but a state that takes you beyond the mind, beyond the level of thought patterns, into a state of being fully conscious through every cell, every pore of your being. At times this energy becomes so overpowering, I feel the boundaries of my physical form starting to dissolve, and when that happens, I cannot adequately describe the breathtaking beauty I perceive … when I experience a total absence of separation, where everything becomes a part of me and I am part of everything.”

Sunday, May 8, 2011

From ‘Question your thinking, Change the world’ by Byron Katie

How do you react when you think you need people’s love? Do you become a slave for their approval? Do you live an inauthentic life because you cant bear the thought that they might disapprove of you? Do you try to figure out how they would like you to be, and then try to become that, like a chameleon?

In fact, you never really get their love. You turn into someone you aren’t, and then when they say “I love you,” you cant believe it, because they’re loving a fa├žade. They’re loving someone who doesn’t even exist, the person you’re pretending to be. It’s difficult to seek other people’s love. It's deadly. In seeking it, you lose what is genuine. This is the prison we create for ourselves as we seek what we already have.

There’s no decision in death. People who know that there’s no hope are free. The decision is out of their hands. It has always been that way, but some people have to die bodily to find out. No wonder they smile on their deathbeds. Dying is everything hey were looking for in life. Their delusion of being in charge is over. When there’s no choice, there’s no fear. And in that, there is peace. They realize that they’re home and that they’ve never left.

Reality – the way that it is, exactly as it is, in every moment – is always kind. It's our story about reality that blurs our vision, obscures what’s true, and leads us to believe that there is injustice in the world. I sometimes say that you move totally away from reality when you believe that there is a legitimate reason to suffer. When you believe that any suffering is legitimate, you become the champion of suffering, the perpetuator of it in yourself. It’s insane to believe that suffering is cause by anything outside the mind. A clear mind doesn’t suffer. That’s not possible.

It’s our beliefs about death that scare us to death.

God is another name for reality, and I am a lover of what is. If I lose my grandchild or my daughter, I lose what wasn’t mine in the first place. It's a good thing. Either that or God is a sadist, and that’s not my experience. I don’t order God around. I don’t presume to know whether life or death is better for me or for anyone I love. How can I know that? All I know is that God is everything and God is good. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Ultimately you don’t have any control over your children. You don’t have any control over anything. When you think you should and you see that you don’t, the effect is depression.

Just follow your passion. Do what you love, inquire, and have a happy life while you’re doing it.

You’re the interpreter of everything, and if you’re chaotic, what you hear and see has to be chaos. Even if Jesus, even if the Buddha, were standing in front of you and speaking, you’d only hear confused words, because confusion would be the listener. You’d only hear what you thought he was saying, and you’d start arguing with him the first time your story was threatened.

It's not your job to like me – it's mine

The miracle of love comes to you in the presence of the uninterpreted moment. If you are mentally somewhere else, you miss real life.