Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Requiem for Violence

Out there, we've walked quite friendly up to Death:
Sat down and eaten with him, cool and bland,-
Pardoned his spilling mess-tins in our hand.
We've sniffed the green thick odour of his breath,
Our eyes wept, but our courage didn't writhe.
He's spat at us with bullets and he's coughed
Shrapnel. We chorused when he sang aloft;
We whistled while he shaved us with his scythe.
Oh, Death was never enemy of ours!
We laughed at him, we leagued with him, old chum.
No soldier's paid to kick against his powers.
We laughed, knowing that better men would come,

This text is from the “War Requiem” which was written for the reconsecration of Coventry Cathedral and was first performed there 30 May 1962. Coventry Cathedral had been destroyed during the Battle of Britain in World War II.
The words are so poignant with emotions that surge in our own breasts as we ring down the curtain on the year 2008. The world and especially India has witnessed an escalation of violent death in different garbs. Natural disasters, religious violence and terrorism seem to have taken control but as the Requiem sings the advent of better men.

All that has happened should only strengthen our resolve to moot out evil in all forms.

Perpetration of evil based on fundamentalism has its root cause in ignorance and intolerance resulting from a monotheistic theology preaching salvation only through its faith. It is sad that India which was the bedrock of pluralism in religious practice with avowed focus on individual spirituality is witnessing a polarisation which is detrimental to its own well being.

Events of 26/11 has seen a solidarity, in all communities, which is very encouraging but this euphoric reaction should not be short lived. We have to find ways and means of strengthening our resolve to move beyond the narrow domains of religion and creed to elevate our spirituality to seek the divine in every human and in all creation.
Now let us sing a Requiem to all divisive forces and usher in a new year of empowered humanity.

Best wishes for a New Year filled with Joy & Peace.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Kwanzaa – A celebration of culture

Kwanzaa is a week-long holiday celebrating African-American culture and history. Created in 1966 in the midst of the civil rights movement by Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga, Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26 through January 1. Each of the seven days focuses on one of the Nguzo Saba, or seven principles. These are:

Umoja (Unity),
Kujichagulia (Self-Determination),
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility),
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics),
Nia (Purpose),
Kuumba (Creativity), and
Imani (Faith).

Today the world stands divided and fragmented mainly due to enculturation without due respect for the eons of value that native cultures contribute both at the individual level as well as at the societal dimension. In the name of civilization, driven by purely materialistic approach, we have witnessed import of alien culture into societies which had enjoyed peace and happiness ever since their evolution in human society.
In this context, it is heartening to learn of concepts such as Kwanzaa. What I felt comfortable with, even though Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga’s background and authenticity has a murky record, is the deep thought given to cultural strengthening through the seven principles laid out and its religious pluralism.
Karenga writes in “Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture”, published in 1997 that
"Kwanzaa was not created to give people an alternative to their own religion or religious holiday,"

A culture is strengthened only through unity, which is bonded through collective work and shared responsibility. This process must ensure that every individual has the freedom of self determination. A thriving culture always ensures a clear purpose of societal well being based on collective economic freedom and achievement, leveraging local resources with minimum impact on the Eco-system. This requires an innovative and creative ambiance and faith in a local leadership and in an all pervading cosmic principle.

All native cultures of African tribes, American Indians, Inuit of Canada and Alaska have made rich cultural contribution which had resulted not only in healthy and happy living under extremely harsh environments but also were responsible for a very healthy Eco-system.

Today we are aping the cultures which are highly detrimental to our very survival. Let us move back to our roots.

Happy Kwanzaa to you!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Undivided attention

The above graph is known as the E8 Graph and is currently being thought of as the geometry that can establish the fundamental theory GUT (Grand Unification Theory - to unify all forces in nature). Without getting into the mathematical or scientific details we can observe the emanation of the geometry from a singularity which is the focus of all mystical experience.

Meister Eckhart says:

“To be sure, this requires effort and love, a careful cultivation of the spiritual life, and a watchful, honest, active oversight of all one’s mental attitudes towards things and people. It is not to be learned by world flight, running away from things, turning solitary and going apart from the world.
Rather, one must learn an inner solitude, wherever or with whomsoever he may be. He must learn to penetrate things and find God there, to get a strong impression of God firmly fixed on his mind”.

Great mystics had a very clear approach to seeking the height of spirituality. The passage above from a sermon of Meister Eckhart reveals the deep seated wisdom through which he recommends a path to God realization.

There are two acts that become mandatory in our journey towards realizing God nature. One is effort and the other is love. Constant effort is paramount to any activity where we are embarked on nurturing a living and growing presence. Parents are involved in a continuous effort with ever watchful eyes to ensure that their child grows in life with optimum health, knowledge and comfort. It is not only effort but love, which gives an enhanced meaning to the very act of tending to the object of our attention, increases the effort multi fold. There is a cascading avalanche effect as effort begets love and love begets more love. This is the reason that love is given such a high value in human spirituality. This is why St. Theresa of Avilla said “Amor saca amor”, which means “love begets love”. The effort and love become the bedrock of spiritual life and the mansion of God presence that we build on this foundation is to be fortifies by a honest and vigilant control of our mind and all its dictates towards the entire ecosystem.

Eckhart is very specific that this cannot be achieved by running away from the world or physical solitude but by an inner isolation from all the corrupting influences of the world so that we can constantly focus on penetrating the very core of our existence and find the true essence from which we are born. This is the process of stamping the indelible mark of the spirit in our psyche so that all other mental processes become a path to this ultimate realization. The value of mindfulness meditation constantly practiced leads to this incremental refinement in our inner journey.

Love to you all

Friday, December 19, 2008

Everlasting Voices

O SWEET everlasting Voices, be still;
Go to the guards of the heavenly fold
And bid them wander obeying your will
Flame under flame, till Time be no more;
Have you not heard that our hearts are old,
That you call in birds, in wind on the hill,
In shaken boughs, in tide on the shore?
O sweet everlasting Voices, be still.

W.B. Yates was a renowned Celtic poet and his poetry carries a deep insight into very nature of existence. When I read the lines of this short poem he had written 1922, I was moved by its significance to the ultimate finality of all manifestations. Human existence can be defined as our current consciousness frozen in every instant of time. The cacophony of voices or inputs that we receive through our senses determines our current consciousness and hence our current existence. Stilling these voices can be achieved only by our mastery over the influence of our senses. It raises the question that we need to ask ourselves at every moment of lives as to what exactly we want to see, hear, smell, feel, taste and think.

The three gunas specified in the Vedic philosophy is the sum total of this exercise wherein one can be highly driven or lethargic or be proactive towards achieving the highest goal through equanimity and balance.

The banishment of the sense induced consciousness from the earthly realm to a cosmic domain gives it a higher role of removing the guards or barriers that hinders true perception. This perception is equated to the inner core of Agni or flame, an inner realization beyond the dictates of time.

Even higher levels of sense awareness, which we arrive at when we have matured in our thinking, that leads us to appreciate the subtle messages we receive from nature has to be quietened to be in union with a higher reality.

Love to you all

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Qualities of an Effective Teacher

"One day as I was passing the Panchavati on my way to the pine-grove, I heard a bullfrog croaking. I thought it must have been seized by a snake. After some time, as I was coming back, I could still hear its terrified croaking. I looked to see what the matter was, and found that a water snake had seized it. The snake could neither swallow it nor give it up. So there was no end to the frog's suffering. I thought that had it been seized by a cobra it would have been silenced after three croaks at most. As it was only a water snake, both of them had to go through this agony. A man's ego is destroyed after three croaks, as it were, if he gets into the clutches of a real teacher. But if the teacher in an unripe one then both the teacher and the disciple undergo endless suffering. The disciple cannot get rid either of his ego or of the shackles of the world. If a disciple falls into the clutches of an incompetent teacher, he doesn't attain liberation."
…….. From the ‘Gospel of Ramakrishna’

Well it is a simple story that carries a lot of meaning.
Especially in our adult life when we launch ourselves into learning a new discipline or subject or we are into field experience under the guidance of a project manager or leader, our egos become the main stumbling block. In my 40 year career I had witnessed this problem rearing its head both as a learner as well as a leader.

There are some basic parameters that become pertinent, especially when we wish to lead a team of dynamic individuals. These are:

  • In order to kill or eradicate the ego of those who are your students, your presence in the intellectual and skill sphere has to be very large. (similar to the hooded Cobra which can quickly dispatch the frog from agony)

  • You must have sustained level of high integrity, without which you cannot hold the disciples with you. (It is as if the snake had developed indigestion or lost the capacity to ingest and had to omit out the frog. The whole exercise is useless to both participants, as one ends up dead and the other sick)

  • The recipient of knowledge always looks for empowering wisdom from the master. The overpowering wisdom of the master always destroys the ego of the student, as he or she realizes how insignificant his or her capacity is.
  • It is also important that this destruction of ego on the part of the student is accomplished with least distress to the learner. An adept master makes the student very comfortable in the process revealing the level of ignorance from which he is being relieved. (This is the quick strike of the Cobra with potent venom which provides instant release for the frog)

All these attributes of an accomplished guru cannot be had in a very short time. It took me 40 years and I am still learning.

Love to you all

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Voices over the Surf

Nature provides an ambiance where one gets close to the divine. It is in an unexpected moment that one is awe struck by the beauty of a single cloud formation or a a shape of a rock or the sound of the whistling in the wooded grove, that one's consciousness is elevated to a different level.

It is in one of those moments that I sat down and penned this poem. It hardly took a few minutes to write but the source was from some different region of existence.

Please travel the same road with me through this poem.
I sat amidst the spray from the breaking surf,
Transformed my inner being to an ethereal turf,
A power bestowed heightened senses to discern,
A kaleidoscope of voices thrown up from an urn,
Like ashes of the departed sown in the balmy wind,
To nature returned a temporal home this cycle find

In the distance, the mighty whale leads his pack,
Homing instinct this path and journey surely track,
This annual sojourn coded through million years,
Shoreward wind carries the clarion call all prey fears,
Symphony of a hundred notes his presence intimate,
This purpose a command or a love song to his mate.

On this sea I hear the deafening roar of ammunition,
A galley of war in the fog a ghostly definition,
Sails unfurled, the wind whistling, rigging taut,
Hundred hands loading the cannons victory sought,
An eerie mix of wounded cry and suppressed pain,
Chills my heart and a shiver runs down my spine.

Rudely waken from my dream on the water's edge,
Salty spray rests on my face as the dew on the hedge,
Perhaps an echo of my heart’s cry, I hear an inner call,
Your holy presence deep in my heart this evenfall,
Voices over the surf a concoction of emotion evoke,
But my heart this instant your eternal company invoke.

Love to you all

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Lord's Prayer

The Lord's Prayer is perhaps the most common prayer that is used in worship in the Christian faith. We have heard it and said it so many times and the text is provided below for ready reference. These words are fourth level of translation from the Aramaic, which Jesus spoke and taught in, to Greek then into Latin and finally in English.

Our father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

As one searches deeper into ancient sacred texts, in their original language and with current level of scholarship in those languages, one realizes the in-depth wisdom and cosmic dimension the authors of these texts wish to convey.
The prayer taught by Jesus when his apostles asked him how to pray has been watered down to a very palatable version in Christianity today. I would rather say that the translation simplifies the content to cater to the general public whose path to God realization is purely through devotion.

But for people who seek the Jnana marg or the esoteric path, the modern scholars have been manna from heaven.
A well meaning translation from modern scholarship of Aramaic and considering a higher dimension of intent, is given below:
O Birther! Father- Mother of the Cosmos
Focus your light within us - make it useful.
Create your reign of unity now-
through our fiery hearts and willing hands
Help us love beyond our ideals
and sprout acts of compassion for all creatures.
Animate the earth within us: we then
feel the Wisdom underneath supporting all.
Untangle the knots within
so that we can mend our hearts' simple ties to each other.
Don't let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back from our true purpose.
Out of you, the astonishing fire,
Returning light and sound to the cosmos. Amen.

We can see the beauty of this prayer
Jesus indicated the lack of deeper understanding when he said:

"Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: " 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them"......Gospel of Matthew 13:12-15

Love to you all