Saturday, May 18, 2013

From ‘Wild East. Travels in the New Mongolia’ by Jill Lawless

Mongolia…. is the size of Western Europe but has only 1,200 kilometres of paved roads. And Mongolians are almost preternaturally patient people. I decided the two things must be related.

…..Mongolian character: self-sufficient, hardy, stoic, resourceful.

The Mongols came thundering out of nowhere, they conquered the world, and then they went home.

That’s not much of an exaggeration. In the 13th century, under the leadership of Chinggis Khan (Genghis to you), the Mongol armies carved out the largest contiguous land empire the world has ever known. They conquered an area stretching from Korea to Hungary, from Vietnam to Afghanistan. And they did it all within a few decades, combining the speed and seemingly superhuman stamina of their cavalry with ruthless and inventive siege tactics. They were probably the greatest shock to the system they outside world has ever known. The arrival of the sweaty horsemen must have seemed no less cataclysmic than an alien invasion.

I went for three decades without eating mutton once; in Mongolia it is difficult to go a day without eating some.

Mongolians have what my Lonely Planet guidebook dryly referred to as “one of the world’s most rudimentary cuisines.”

Most Mongols I’d met had nothing good to say about the Chinese, their culture, language, or business practices.

Vodka….. lubricated all social gatherings in the Soviet world, from drop-in parties to weddings to state banquets; it cemented business deals, and it greased the wheels of government. …. And Mongolia has had seven decades of Russian tuition in the art of vodka consumption. ….. Lonely Planet Mongolia …..suggested that all errands and commerce in Ulaanbaatar be accomplished before noon; after that, a large segment of the population would be staggering and aggressive or catatonic…. It wasn’t that bad. …. Many men – I never saw a woman drunk – were unfamiliar with the notion of drinking in moderation. They started to drink and didn’t stop until they were unconscious. But I had been to England; I was used to this.

There was no particular social stigma attached to public drunkenness, and many men shrugged off the consequences …..the fistfights with friends, the raging hangovers, the tussles with police – with humour and grace. …..Mongols had a taste for alcohol dating back to the empire period, at least. ….. “Chinggis Khan’s son and successor, Ogodei, basically drank himself to death ….”

….Before the communist revolution, Mongolia had hundreds of Buddhist monasteries and more than 100,000 monks. By the end of the communist period, there was one functioning monastery and perhaps a couple of hundred monks.

…a Mongol proverb ……. “If you’re afraid, don’t do it. If you do it, don’t be afraid.”

From ‘Journeys to Sacred India. Acts of Faith’ by Makarand R Paranjape

It was Giri who ….taught me how to meditate …..tell all your senses that you’re about to conduct some serious business; tell them that you will not be attending to them for a while, and that they should not try to draw you outward with their perceptions or sensations. After that, you turn inward, closing the doors and windows of the mind to the outside world. Once you are reasonably comfortable in a particular place, cleanse your inner being of negativity. Cleanse the space around you, starting with the room you are in. Then send out positive thoughts in all directions – may all beings be happy; may they all be free from afflictions; may their hearts be purified. Consciously transmitting your positive vibrations everywhere. Your meditation may now commence.

I suddenly realized that I did not know of anyone, not a single person, who had left India to pursue dharma or find some sort of spiritual truth. Everyone who went abroad did so only to improve his of her standard of living, to make money, or earn success or fame. The reasons for leaving India were largely material, not spiritual.

Consequently, I understood that for those who wished to explore spirituality above all things else, India might naturally be the best place on earth.

The Vedas …..are perhaps the only sacred texts in the world which assert time and again that Truth is greater than the Vedas themselves. As Swami Vivekananda says, ‘It is the Vedas alone that declare that even the study of the Vedas is secondary. The real study is “that by which we realize the unchangeable.”’

….the four mahavakyas or ‘great sayings’ exemplify the ultimate spiritual truth of the Vedas. ….They are: Tat tvam asi or That Thou Art …..Aham brahmasmi or I am ‘Brahman’ …. Prajnanam brahma or Consciousness Is ‘Brahman’ …..and Ayam atma brahma or This Self Is Divine….These great sentences assert the oneness of the Self and God, or of the atman and Brahman, or jiva and Shiva. That is to say that we are all divine, immortal and free, even when we are human, mortal and embodied.

….Vishnu, following Shiva from behind, began to dismember Sati’s corpse. Wherever a part fell became a sacred shrine, a shaktipeetham. There are 51 such peethams, spread all over the subcontinent……

When the devotee, either physically or mentally, visits all or even some of these shrines, he is re-membering the Goddess, literally joining her different detached body parts into one unified whole. ……in doing so, what is also constituted is the image of a country, a territory……. Our myths and beliefs thus help to form this sacred geography of our country……Puranic or legendary India is full of such pan-Indian groupings of sacred places. The four sacred abodes of Vishnu or the char dhams …..the five Kashis are distributed over the north and the south; the seven sacred cities or puris, …….the 12 jyotir lingas or fire shrines of Shiva ….Likewise, Buddhist, Jain, Muslim and Christian holy places are also found all over the country. ……The thousands of temples, mosques, gurdwaras, churches, dargahs and shrines spread across the length and breadth of India help fabricate its spiritual body …….

It seems to me that it is India which has solved the ‘one-many’ problem more creatively and successfully than any other civilization. Elsewhere, a monotheistic God displaced the pagan plurality, but when God shuts our gods, then other intercessors such as angels or saints come crowding in, from the backdoor, as it were.

….the Kanchi Paramacharya’s beautiful song, ‘Maitrim bhajata,’ which M. S. Subbulakshmi had sung at the United Nations:
Maithreem bhajatha akhila hrith jeththreem
Atmavat eva paraan api pashyata
Yuddham tyajata, spardhaam tyajata, tyajata pareshwa akrama
Jananee prthivee kaamadughaastey
Janakodeva: sakala dayaalu
Daamyata Datta Dayadhvam Janataa
Sreyo bhooyaath sakala janaanaam (thrice)
Cultivate friendship, which can conquer all hearts
Consider others even as your own self.
Renounce war, forswear competition, give up the use of force to
get others’ possessions.
Our mother earth has enough to fulfill all our needs
And the Lord, our Father, is supremely merciful.
(O people of this earth) show restraint, be generous, and practice
May all beings be prosperous (repeated thrice)

see 6:00 onwards

…..Gandhi-ji ….of gram svaraj:

It will have cottages with sufficient light and ventilations, built of a material obtainable within a radius of five miles of it. The cottages will have courtyards enabling householders to plant vegetables for domestic use and to house their cattle. The village lanes and streets will be free of all avoidable dust. It will have wells according to its needs and accessible to all. It will have houses of worship for all, also a common meeting place, a village common for grazing its cattle, a co-operative dairy, primary and secondary schools in which industrial education will be the central fact, and it will have Panchayats for settling disputes. It will produce its own grains, vegetables and fruit, and its own Khadi. This is roughly my idea of a model village …..

From ‘The Ultimate Iconoclast. Understanding Rajneesh Osho's Revolutionary and 'Dangerous' Ideas’ by Dr Kuldip Kumar Dhiman

Kabira jab ham paida huye, jag hasa ham roye,
Aisi karni kar chalo, ham hasen jag roye
(Sayeth Kabir, when I was born I cried and world rejoiced,
Do such deeds that as I die, the world cries while I rejoice)

At times he appears to be a fool, at times a wise man, at times with all the majesty of a king, at times like a misguided person, at times blissful, at times quiet like a motionless python; At times honoured, at times disgraced, often wandering unknown, Thus lives an enlightened person in everlasting supreme bliss

- Sankaracarya, Vivekacudamani

Regarding his Rolls-Royces, he responded typically, saying that a Rolls-Royce was a perfect vehicle for meditation; one would find it very difficult to meditate in a bullock cart. Not many got it, but Rajneesh was actually making fun of both the East and the West. His Rolls-Royces were not only a practical joke on Western consumerism, but also on Indians who think that to be spiritual one has to be necessarily poor.

Different people need different approaches to be provoked, to be awakened …. Buddha called such methods kusala upaya. What is being said need not be actually true, but if it is useful in teaching the truth, it is justified.

……he reminded listeners repeatedly that although language may be very powerful tool, it has severe limitations. ….it is difficult to convey certain experiences in language, and even if we manage to do so partially, the listener might not grasp them fully. … That is why, after the truth is uttered, it becomes an ‘untruth’…. Rajneesh gives a good example of how knowledge gets distorted as it is passed on. In the Bhagavadgita, Krsna is an enlightened person, he ‘knows’; he has experienced the ultimate truth himself. Now, he is trying to tell what he has experienced to Arjuna, who is an educated person but not enlightened. So Arjuna understands only a fraction of what Krsna is saying. Further, the dialogue between Krsna and Arjuna is being reported by Sanjay, who is not there on the scene at all. He is twice removed from the truth than Arjuna; therefore, by the time the truth reaches him, it becomes a lot more distorted. And Sanjay is reporting all this to Dhrtrastra, who is not only thrice removed from reality, he is also blind. How much Dhrtrastra could comprehend, we can well imagine. And five millennia later, thousands of other blind Dhrtrastras are trying to understand the dialogue with the aid of various commentaries and interpretations at our disposal. People have changed, times have changed, and the context has changed. How much of the original message of Krsna we can actually understand could well be imagined.

Mahavira held that reality is so complex tht there can be several views about it; however, no view can fully capture it. All assertions or negations are, therefore, conditional; and there is no need to be dogmatic about a particular view. When someone came to Mahavira with a question, he would give not one but seven answers. If you pointed to a simple object like a pot and asked him what it was, he would say:

Perhaps it is
Perhaps it is not
Perhaps it is and is not
Perhaps it is inexpressible
Perhaps it is and is inexpressible
Perhaps it is not and is inexpressible
Perhaps it is, is not and is inexpressible

This view is called Syadvada, and it is in sharp contrast to Aristotelian logic, which says with certainty that A is A, and A is not B. …..He felt that Mahavira was perfectly right, but he was of not much use to the common man because Syadvada leaves the seeker more confused than he already was.

Although Sankaracarya called the entire creation an illusion, maya, it does not mean, as many wrongly conclude, that the external world does not exist. It only means that we do not see the world as it is; we see fit the way our mind interprets it. The worled of a child is different from the world of old people. When we are in love, we find everything beaufiful, and when we are heartbroken, we find nothing beautiful. We all live in a world of our own creation although the external reality is the same for all. ‘The mind is a wall around you. You are enclosed in it as a prisnor. But the wall is transparent. It is a glass wall made of only thoughts, prejudices, theories, scriptures; that’s why you cannot touch it, that’s why you are not even aware of it. But you live behind it, and whatsoever you see and feel is not the fact. It is an interpretation.’