Saturday, November 29, 2008

Union through Detachment

The soul that is attached to anything,
However much good there may be in it, will
Not arrive at the liberty of divine union. For
Whether it be strong wire rope or a slender
And delicate thread that holds the bird,
it matters not, if it really holds it fast; for, until
the cord is broken, the bird cannot fly.

……. St. John of the Cross

When the heart grieves over what it has lost,
The spirit rejoices over what it has found

………… Sufi Epigram

Look at the picture of the Goldfish; there seems to be something unusual about it. We see Goldfishes in aquariums and in decorative ponds but we seem to have difficulty ever imagining the Goldfish isolated from its entire environment. The first element we look for is water as this is the very essence of the Goldfish’s existence just as we associate human soul to human body for its existence.
We add value to any object mostly by association. Even when we refer to a well known personality, like as Sir.C.V. Raman, it is natural for us to qualify him as a Nobel laureate or the ‘man who discovered the Raman Effect’. This habit of ours leads to look at all objects in our sensory field through qualification. It then leads to the value being attached to the peripheral qualities rather than the intrinsic object of our relationship.
We do not leave out even God from this attachment. This is the reason we call ‘God the Father’ or Brahma, the creator and knowing this fallacy of the human mind Vedic seers knew that we have difficulty in comprehending the absolute and hence created the Saguna Brahman (Brahman with attributes).
As John of the Cross, who was great Christian mystic, says as long as we are attached to any surface qualities or qualifying attributes, we are not able to reach out and attain divine union. Meister Eckhart, another great German medieval Christian mystic, also points out this fact that the human soul has layers upon layers of covering acquired through our attachments to worldly and material objects and it is a Herculean task to remove these sheaths and attain union with the divine.
This is where a centring prayer and inner awakening process plays an important role. First we prepare the ground of action for the divine will to act through heart centring contemplation and then through inner awakening we open the soul’s portal for divine wisdom to take residence . It is only when the divine grace is operational that the layers of falsehood shrouding the soul can be destroyed.
The consciousness resident in your self is the same as the one that is limitless and infinite which we call God or Divine. We limit the individual consciousness through our own conditioning by acquiring desensitizing layers through our evolutionary nature and through our own nurturing from the time we come into this world.
This unification of limited consciousness and the limitless Divine consciousness is a two way process of you seeking the divine and the divine seeking you.

This can be summarized in the beautiful words of Ramana Maharishi:

“If you go on working with the light available, you will meet your Master, as he himself will be seeking you.”

Love to you all

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Field of Daffodils

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
........... William Wordsworth

I remember in the early summer of 1981, I was in Pennsylvania on an official visit and my friend, Nancy, in the business I was visiting had been telling me about a field of flowers that I must see. As I was on a short visit of two weeks I could not find time till the day before I had to leave for the west coast. It was a short drive of about 30 miles and as we neared the village and drove around the little chapel a field of beautiful Daffodils spread out as far as eye could see. In the middle of the field was a small house. A frail old lady was standing in the patio. I was introduced as a friend from India and I could see a vacant look on the poor woman’s face as she probably had not travelled beyond her village and was oblivious of difference between an Indian from India or an American Indian, the original settlers of America. Nancy told me that the field belonged to this old lady and that she had planted all the Daffodils. In my curiosity I asked her how long she took to complete this task. The answer just blew my mind. She said that it had taken her 35 years to complete this work and she plans to add few more bulbs next season.

The filed was very geometrically laid out and the painstaking work that had gone into this exercise was very visible. One step at a time, she had created something of extraordinary magnificence, beauty, and inspiration. The principle her daffodil garden taught is one of the greatest principles of celebration.

I thought about this event a few years ago and told this experience to a business audience in Singapore when I was delivering the keynote address in a conference on 'Motivation during recession' (remember that 1997 saw one of the worst economic melt down in Asia).
I told the audience that it is nouse thinking “What might I have accomplished if I had thought of a wonderful goal 35 or 40 years ago and had worked away at it ‘one bulb at a time’ through all those years? Just think what I might have been able to achieve!” but instaed “Start tomorrow”.
Today in “Times of India” newspaper there was a research finding that it takes for any one 10,000 hours to become a genius in any field of study. This goes to prove the old saying “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”

Love to you all

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Biology of Belief

Look at the beauty and innocence of the young girl in the picture. She is a portrait of health, vitality and purity.

I have just completed reading a wonderful book ‘Biology of Belief’ by Dr. Bruce Lipton, a leading Cell Biologist from Stanford University. He quotes Mahatma Gandhi:

Your beliefs become your thoughts
Your thoughts become your words
Your words become your actions
Your actions become your habits
Your habits become your values
Your values become your destiny

This is to bring to our attention the level of effect that belief can have on one’s health.
This is not only true for the high level of success with placebos in medicine where sugar pills can cure incurable diseases but also in case of Osteoarthritis knee surgery.

The example he sites is the case of Bayler School of Medicine study published in 2002, where Dr. Bryce Moseley conducted ‘fake’ surgery on a group of patients, through the regular procedure of making three incisions and doing the salt water splash to simulate the sound of knee washing procedure and sewed up the incisions without any invasive procedure being carried out.
The patients were on regular post operative routine and were told to start their physiotherapy during convalescence. The results were shocking. The success rate of the ‘fake’ surgery was as good as the regular surgery and even one elderly patient went on to play regular basketball.

The book has many other case histories and drug research findings to substantiate the level of effect belief can have on our health. This belief has to come not only from our waking consciousness but also from our subconscious mind. This is the reason that Buddhist "Mindfulness meditation" is an effective tool for not only our spiritual but also our physical wellbeing.

This is also reflected in the miraculous healings that Jesus carries out. While Jesus acts as the medium of channelling the divine energy that pervades the cosmos to a particular recipient, he asks "Do you believe" and always says your faith has healed you. When the disciples doubt his powers he says "…… Oh ye of little faith"

May the power of belief heal us all.

Mystic River

Flowing serenely through the wooded vale,
I chanced upon you as I broke free,
From the thicket and bramble that impale,
This tortured body, a wanderer on this lea.

I have, in my sojourn, many a river seen,
But you have the exhilarating quality to convey,
As the dawn which from darkness light wean,
A lustrous texture reflecting your laminar way.

As a trickling spring, a subterranean source,
You began your life, an unhindered course,
Many rivulets supplementing this vast concourse,
Thundering in ever increasing flow; a mighty force.

Potency bestowed to invigorate or mutate,
Magic fodder to the grain nourishment brought,
Even the mighty land and Pharaoh you subjugate,
You are my life’s inspiration, I earnestly sought.

Love to you all

Monday, November 17, 2008

Buddhist Chant - Namu Amida Butsu

Namu Amida Butsu means "total reliance upon the compassion of Amida Buddha.
Nembutsu literally means "to think of Buddha." Nen (nien in Chinese and smṛiti in Sanskrit) is "to keep in memory." According to Shinran Shonin however it is more than a mere remembering of Buddha, it is thinking his Name,
holding it in mind. The Name consists of six characters or syllables: na-mu-a-mi-da-buts(u) in Japanese pronunciation and nan-wu-o-mi-to-fo in Chinese. In actuality, the Name contains more than Buddha's name, for Namu is added to it. Namu is namas (or namo) in Sanskrit and means "adoration" or "salutation." The Name therefore is "Adoration for Amida Buddha," and this is made to stand for Amida's "Name."
According to belief those who in sincerity recite the nembutsu will be reborn in pure land. Pure land signifies a place where there is no differentiation. Where all existence is in pure undifferentiated energy.

This philosophy has a familiar ring in the Vedic chant in veneration of Shiva or Narayana; “Om namo nama shivaya” or "Om namo Narayana"
The adoration comes from the profound meaning these simple words carry. If we take into consideration the emanations of sound ‘Om’ and ‘na-mo’ (the two syllables separated), Om and Mo are polar opposites and signify matter and antimatter. When these two are brought together, through a negating act ('na') , there is total annihilation and immense pure energy is released for new creation. This energy, which is the embodiment of destruction and new creation, is the symbolism of Shiva.

The name Narayana is a Sanskrit tatpurusha compound of nara ("human, man") and ayana ("eternal, without ending").Tradition associates the nara element with another meaning of "water", explaining the name as indicating the all-pervasive nature of Narayana as that of an infinite ocean of energy in which the never-ending movement of birth, life and death of the cosmos occurs. Narayana, according to this etymology, is the one who moves in the infinite waters and is also the water itself. This close association of Narayana with water explains the frequent depiction of Narayana in Hindu art as standing or sitting on an ocean. Another important translation of Narayana is "The supreme Man who is the foundation of all men".

Hence the poem of Dr. Kenryu T. Tsuji, the abbot of Ekoji Temple starts with Nembutsu being the sound of the universe.

The Nembutsu is the sound of the universe.
It is the sound of the wind
as it rustles the leaves;
It is the roar of the waves
as they rush toward the shore;
It is the song of the robin, the whippoorwill
and the chorus of cicadas on a summer evening.

The Nembutsu is naturalness...
The first cry of the baby
as it emerges into the world
from the darkness of the mother's womb;
It is the powerful cry of independence
of individuality, of selfhood;
But it is also the great cry of awakening
to its dependence on something greater than self...
for its sustenance.

The Nembutsu is the proclamation of the Buddha...
"Above heaven and below heaven,
I alone am the World Honored One."
It is the ultimate declaration of life;
I alone hold my destiny in my hand
leading to perfect Buddhahood.

When I touch the heart of reality,
It is Namu Amida Butsu...
What else can I say?
When I truly share someone's happiness,
it is Namu Amida Butsu;
And in that moment of deep grief
over a loved one's death,
it is just Namu Amida Butsu.

Namu Amida Butsu...
it is the song of gratitude
not of my finding the Buddha,
but Buddha finding me.

Love to you all

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cloud Messenger

One work which I immensely enjoyed reading is Kalidasa’s Megdoot or ‘cloud messenger’. In this work, the role of the cloud as the messenger to bring to fruition a union of the Yaksha and his beloved is beautifully depicted. The characteristics that facilitated the cloud to play this role is its ability to traverse large distances in quick time and its capacity to transfigure itself to overcome obstacles in its path. This is not a mere human love story but a portrayal of the human seeking the union with the divine beloved. Just as Radha pines for the love union with Krishna so also a male, female union in sacred literature is a mystical depiction of the soul seeking divine merging.

The following part of the Megdoot is very apt in mapping the quality of the cloud to that of Shiva.

Clothing thyself in twilight's rose-red glory,

Embrace the dancing Shiva's tree-like arm;
He will prefer thee to his mantle gory
And spare his grateful goddess-bride's alarm,
Whose eager gaze will manifest no fear of harm.

Yaksha says; the black cloud, painted with twilight red, is bidden to serve as a robe for Shiva, the god entrusted with continuous creation through annihilation, instead of the bloody elephant hide (mantle gory) which he commonly wears in his wild, and destructive (pralaya) dance. This dance transforms the subtle energies into gross manifestation. The cloud would be better attire as it will become integral with this specific attribute of Shiva; namely transformation. This is the reason that the poet says Shiva’s eager gaze will not bring about any fear. Fear is associated with lack of fore knowledge. But as the cloud is capable of any form of manifestation due to its both subtle as well as gross nature, it is already in the realm of the fruit of ‘Rudrha Thandavam’ (Destructive dance of Shiva)
Vedic cosmology had a very deep understanding of the concept of continuous creation and assigned a trinitarian character to the Godhead as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. All these three roles are basically same at the most fundamental level as what we perceive are emanations from an implicate order which is all pervading.

Love to you all

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Sun - Earth Symphony

A recent discovery by the Astrophysicists at Goddard Space Centre establishes, what is known as a Flux Transfer Event (FTE) between the Sun and the Earth. As you read this blog , a magnetic portal will open, linking Earth to the sun 93 million miles away. Tons of high-energy particles may flow through the opening before it closes again. Researchers have long known that the Earth and sun must be connected. Earth's magnetosphere (the magnetic bubble that surrounds our planet) is filled with particles from the sun that arrive via the solar wind and penetrate the planet's magnetic defences. They enter by following magnetic field lines that can be traced from terra firma all the way back to the sun's atmosphere.
We used to think the connection was permanent and that solar wind could trickle into the near-Earth environment anytime the wind was active. We were wrong. The connections are not steady at all. They are often brief, bursty and very dynamic.
On the dayside of Earth (the side closest to the sun), Earth's magnetic field presses against the sun's magnetic field. Approximately every 8 minutes, the two fields briefly merge or "reconnect," forming a portal through which particles can flow. The portal takes the form of a magnetic cylinder about as wide as Earth.

{for those of you interested in more scientific probing, the spin of the atom keeps flipping between up and down spin as they are normally buffeted by thermal energy but when there is a strong magnetic field the spin is fixed. By polarization scanning quantum computing can be done at nano scale. Is the portal when open, do computation and data transfer? please see}

The beauty of this discovery is the 8 minute window. The number 8 has great significance in music as it represents an octave of musical notes. Notes an octave apart have the same tone but a double or half pitch. Before 2004 it was unknown if the human brain is hard-wired for the perception of octave circularity but now research has proven that not only humans but also monkeys have this unique brain structure.

I think we are witnessing a cosmic musical ensemble. There is tremendous order within the perceived chaos and the beauty of the Creator is manifest for the deep probing mind.

Love to you all

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Returning Souls

During my assignment for three years in Asia-Pacific, I was stationed in Singapore and the main attraction for any friends visiting was to take them to the Imax theatre to have a real visual treat. The very first film we saw there was on the migration of birds, animals and insects. A very impressive migration, given its stature, was the migration of the Monarch butterfly.

The Monarch butterfly, a beautiful insect known for its orange and black markings, is famous for its annual migration to the highland forests of Michoacan, deep in the heartland of Mexico.
Each year, hundreds of millions of butterflies travel from the United States and Canada, to winter in forests of Fir and Oyamel trees. Those butterflies that survive the journey, which in some cases amounts to a 2,000 mile trip, cluster profusely in trees, creating a marvellous sight.
Near Morelia, the capital of the state is the ‘Santuario Mariposa Monarca’ (Mariposa Monarch Sanctuary), a reserve dedicated to protecting their environment.

Each year, starting in late October to early November, the butterflies start to arrive. Incidentally, this time period coincides with the ‘Dia de los Muertos’ (Day of the Dead) holiday (Second day of the month of November). The indigenous peoples of the area believe the butterflies represent their departed loved ones souls, returning in the form of the butterfly. During the evening hours, the insects gather on tree trunks and branches. After morning arrives and the heat begins to rise, the butterflies begin flocking to the forest floor, creating a tapestry of orange and black as far as the eye can see.

The eternal return is a concept deeply embedded in various tribal cultures including that of the Aztecs in central Mexico. This has been carried into the Christian tradition.

But what does this return mean for us.
This is beautifully reflected in Tagore’s Gitanjali:

“The time that my journey takes is long and the way of it long.

I came out on the chariot of the first gleam of light, and pursued
my voyage through the wildernesses of worlds leaving my track on many a star and planet.
It is the most distant course that comes nearest to thyself,
and that training is the most intricate which leads to the utter simplicity of a tune.
The traveler has to knock at every alien door to come to his own,
and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end.
My eyes strayed far and wide before I shut them and said `Here art thou!'
The question and the cry `Oh, where?' melt into tears of a thousand
streams and deluge the world with the flood of the assurance `I am!'….”

Love to you all