Friday, December 31, 2010


"The Truth does not make people free. Facts do not change attitudes. If the guru is dogmatic, all that he evokes in his pilgrims/disciples is their stubbornly resistant insistence on clinging to those unfortunate beliefs that at least provide the security of known misery, rather than openness to the risk of the unknown or the untried. That is why that Renaissance Magus, Paracelsus, warned that the guru should avoid simply revealing "the naked truth. He should use images, allegories, figures, wondrous speech, or other hidden, roundabout ways".

The earliest form in which the guru appeared was that of the shaman, who arose in the hunting and gathering societies of the Paleolithic era (and among their contemporary Eskimo and Indian progeny). Before the advent of God and His priests in the more stable agricultural societies of the Neolithic era, the shaman acted as the spiritual leader to the nomadic, Stone Age hunting band.

Such a guru starts out on his own tortured pilgrimage as a deeply troubled, misfit youth. In mastering his personal afflictions, he gradually comes to the position of being able to help others on their spiritual trips. Unlike the later priests who were ceremonially trained in ritual acts and verbatim incantations, the shaman has been inspired by the visions that arise during his own pilgrimage.

The power of his growing self-awareness and the spontaneity of his improvisations fit the hunters' need for daring and imagination (just as the priests' ritual intonements and predetermined social proscriptions fit the planters' needs for stability achieved by the sacrifice of the individual to the greater good of the group)."

Page 13, "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!" by Sheldon B.Kopp

The cultural definition of insanity

"I once witnessed an ironically enlightening instance of the cultural definition of insanity, and of the power politics of psychiatric social control. At the time when I was on the staff of a New Jersey State Mental Hospital, a strange man appeared on a street corner in Trenton, wearing a long white sheet and quietly muttering "gibberish". His very presence threatened the certitude of sanity of the community at large. Fortunately, for the sheeted man's own good, a policeman was called by the some saner citizen. So it was that this poor man was able to be brought under the protective lock-and-key of his local Asylum.

His efforts to explain his strange behaviour were offered in vain, since it was clear that he was a loony, or to be more scientific, he was diagnosed into that catch-all garbage can of a syndrome known as Schizophrenia, Chronic Undifferentiated Type.

...Fortunately, for the white-sheeted, gibberish-muttering patient in question, the hospital Visitors' Day began the very next morning. Evidently he had called home and made his plight known. That morning twenty other people wearing white sheets arrived at the hospital. Equally strangely clad, they were also equivalently incomprehensible to the psychiatric staff. It turned out that these men and women were all members of the same small rural church sect, a religious group who defined their identity in part by clothing themselves in the purity of white cloth, and by being divinely inspired to talk in tongues.

...The patient was released that afternoon. One such man is a lunatic. Twenty constitute an acceptable and sane community."

Page 94, 'If you meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him', by Sheldon B.Kopp


"...The Buddha's enlightenment is the most important single moment in Oriental mythology, a counterpart of the Crucifixion of the West. The Buddha beneath the Tree of Enlightenment (the Bo Tree) and Christ on Holy Rood (the Tree of Redemption) are analogous figures, incorporating an archetypal World Savior, World Tree motif, which is of immemorial antiquity.

...The point is that Buddhahood, Enlightenment, cannot be communicated, but only the way to Enlightenment. This doctrine of the incommunicability of the Truth which is beyond names and forms is basic to the great Oriental, as well as to the Platonic, traditions.

Whereas the truths of science are communicable, being demonstrable hypotheses rationally founded on observable facts - ritual, mythology, and metaphysics are but guides to the brink of a transcendent illumination, the final step to which must be taken by each in his own silent experience.

Hence one of the Sanskrit terms for sage is muni, "the silent one." Sakyamuni (one of the titles of Gautama Buddha) means "the silent one or sage (muni) of the Sakya clan." Though he is the founder of a widely taught religion, the ultimate core of his doctrine remains concealed, necessarily, in silence."

Page 25, 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces' , the seminal work of comparative mythology by Joseph Campbell

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

And ghastly thro’ the drizzling rain....

"In Memoriam A.H.H. is a poem by the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, completed in 1849. It is a requiem for the poet's Cambridge friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who died suddenly of a cerebral haemorrhage in Vienna in 1833....."

Ending of the poem:


Dark house, by which once more I stand
Here in the long unlovely street,
Doors, where my heart was used to beat
So quickly, waiting for a hand,

A hand that can be clasp’d no more–
Behold me, for I cannot sleep,
And like a guilty thing I creep
At earliest morning to the door.

He is not here; but far away
The noise of life begins again,
And ghastly thro’ the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

And the loneliness...

From John Steinbeck's "Cannery Row" -

"...Only one brave and beautiful boy of ten named Andy from Salinas ever crossed the old Chinaman. Andy was visiting in Monterey and he saw the old man and knew he must shout at him if only to keep his self-respect, but even Andy, brave as he was, felt the little cloud of fear. Andy watched him go by evening after evening while his duty and his terror wrestled. And then one evening Andy braced himself and marched behind the old man singing in a shrill falsetto, "Ching-Chong Chinaman sitting on a rail - 'Long came a white man an' chopped off his tail".

The old man stopped and turned. Andy stopped. The deep-brown eyes looked at Andy and the thin corded lips moved. What happened then Andy was never able either to explain or to forget. For the eyes spread out until there was no Chinaman. And then it was one eye - one huge brown eye as big as a church door. Andy looked through the shiny transparent brown door and through it he saw a lonely countryside, flat for miles but ending against a row of fantastic mountains shaped like cows' and dogs' heads and tents and mushrooms. There was low coarse grass on the plain and here and there a little mound. And a small animal like a woodchuck sat on each mound.

And the loneliness - the desolate cold aloneness of the landscape made Andy whimper because there wasn't anybody at all in the world and he was left. Andy shut his eyes so he wouldn't have to see it any more and when he opened them, he was in Cannery Row and the old Chinaman was just flap-flapping between Western Biological and the Hediondo Cannery. Andy was the only boy who ever did that and he never did it again."

Page 20.

Monday, December 13, 2010



Akon (born Aliaune Damala Bouga Time Puru Nacka Badara Akon Thiam), is a Senegalese-American R&B singer-songwriter, rapper, record producer, and businessman.


Right Now:

We don't care:

Thursday, December 9, 2010


A novel for winter. 'Depths', by Swedish author Henning Mankell.

Lars Tobiasson-Svartman, measurer of ocean depths, charting the seas around the Swedish archipelago with a sounding lead and rope, on a secret mission for the Swedish navy, 1914, the days before sonar.

Autumn. The arrival of winter. Frozen seas. Fog. Islands connected by ice. The holes through which the sea breathes. The silence.

Ostergotland. Norrkoping. Valdermarsvik. Graholmarna. Krakmaro. Hokbadan. Halsskar. A journey across distances. And into madness.

"His earliest memories were to do with measurements. Between himself and his mother, his mother and his father, between the floor and the ceiling, between sorrow and joy. His whole life was made up of distances, measuring, abbreviating or extending them. He was a solitary person constantly seeking new distances to estimate or measure.

Measuring distances was a sort of ritual, his personal means of reining in the movements of time and space.

From the start, from as far back as he could remember, solitude had been like his own skin."

Image from Google Earth.


Harry: The things I thought were real
are shadows,
and the real
Are what I thought were private shadows.
O that awful privacy of the insane mind!

'The Family Reunion'

The past

Lucy to Charlie Brown on the baseball field: "I am sorry I missed that easy fly ball, Captain. I suddenly remembered all the ones I had missed earlier, and the past got into my eyes."


In your grandfather's house in the village, there was this small room near the kitchen where fruits were kept to ripen. Mangoes carefully laid in baskets full of hay. Jackfruits kept standing up in the corners so as not to rot. Banana bunches hung from rafters all over the room so that you had to make your way among them to reach the shelves on the walls. All windows closed, little air coming in through the gaps in the old four-paned wooden windows. The thick smell of ripening that hung so still and full of knowing that you felt guilty for having opened the door and trespassed into a private space.

As a child you would stand there quietly with eyes closed hoping to hear the sleeping fruits breathe. And sometimes a lizard would chirp suddenly from one of the wooden rafters of the ceiling startling you out of your intense listening. A space of quiet waiting, of gradual ripening, a space speaking of maturity and readiness that cannot be forced, of sourness that will change to sweetness, of hardness that will change to softness; but all in its time.

Now when you are surrounded by this haste for experience, this frenzy for acceleration, this dark room sometimes passes in front of your mind's eye, and disappears again, leaving behind the smell of ripe mangoes and changeless truths....

Sunday, December 5, 2010


"Anyway, I keep picturing these little kids playing some game in this big field or rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around - nobody big, I mean, except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them.

That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy."

'Catcher in the Rye', J.D Salinger

Sunday, November 28, 2010

By Piccadilly Station I sat down and wept...

Do you ever wonder where love goes?
Out there in the ether, I suppose
Sometimes it burns enough to leave a trace in the air
A ghost of me and you in a parallel world somewhere

Do you ever think about that walk to the station?
And how it all ended then and there?

As if a door just opened and you vanished in the air
Into a parallel world somewhere

And I know you wonder and I wonder as well
And I'm not a secret that you've kept
My heart broke just that once,
I know the place it fell

By Piccadilly Station I sat down and wept

Does anyone witness such a disappearance?
One minute you're standing in the rain
The air just seems to shiver and you're never seen again

Never seen again.

Tracey Thorn

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Is it memory that makes us whole?

Carpe Diem

Is it memory that makes us whole?
The question was posed by the ten o'clock news
investigating Alzheimer's and stroke,
the key network of synaptic fuses
blinking out, the brain's small cities polled,
found empty across the vacant mews.
Where are the poplar trees, where's the bench
you made, the wallpaper irises you glued
in strips? Home vanishes inch by inch.

Is love, too, cobbled out of the past?
What will become of us, landmarks gone?
Dante's worst pang, the knowledge of happiness
lost, would be mine, but wrong
to think you'd feel it less-
you might sense an absence dawning,
it dawns on me, in another's face,
a bewildered sorrow you'd try to calm,
too instinctive in you to be erased.

But I'm willfully naive, I'm told.
Instinct, too, can be extinguished,
the present tense grotesquely folding
in and over on itself, contextless
and dangerous in an endless scroll
of carpe diem. Where's the face I know,
the hands I've memorized and kept?
Is it memory that makes us whole?
Is love over when memory is spent?

Lynne McMahon
The Hudson Review
Summer 2003


Amazing French band, at the Alliance Française - Yapa. Three guitars and a drummer. Towards the end the audience was standing up and clapping and dancing through the songs. They performed 2 Encores, because the audience wouldn't let them go :)

From the streets of Burkina Faso to an ancient volcano in Croatia, to a small village in Bourgogne, they spoke of inspiration from many travels, many sources. So much energy, so much skill.

Listen to them here:

Their site:

On Youtube:

A Mobylette:

Project X:

"Die like a man, like your brother did!"

Malcolm Gladwell, on a possible reason for the high prevalence of violence and crime (related to personal honor) in the Southern (Appalachian) areas of the US:

"The so-called American back country states - from the Pennsylvania border south and west through Virginia and West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina, and the northern end of Alabama and Georgia - were all settled overwhelmingly by immigrants from one of the world's most ferocious cultures of honor. They were "Scotch-Irish" - that is, from the lowlands of Scotland, the northern countries of England, and Ulster in Northern Ireland."

"...Cultures of honor tend to take root in highlands and other marginally fertile areas, such as Sicily or the mountainous Basque regions of Spain. If you live on some rocky mountainside, the explanation goes, you can't farm. You probably raise goats or sheep, and the kind of culture that grows up around being a herdsman is very different from the culture that grows up around growing crops.

The survival of a farmer depends on the cooperation of others in the community. But a herdsman is off by himself. Farmers also don't have to worry that their livelihood will be stolen in the night, because crops can't easily be stolen unless, of course, a thief wants to go to the trouble of harvesting an entire field on his own.

But a herdsman does have to worry. He's under constant threat of ruin through the loss of his animals. So he has to be aggressive: he has to make it clear, through his words and deeds, that he is not weak. He has to be willing to fight in response to even the slightest challenge to his reputation - and that's what a "culture of honor" means. It's a world where a man's reputation is at the center of his livelihood and his self-worth.

"The critical moment in the development of the young shepherd's reputation is his first quarrel," the ethnographer J.K.Campbell writes of one herding culture in Greece. "Quarrels are necessarily public. They may occur in the coffee shop, the village square, or most frequently on a grazing boundary where a curse or a stone aimed at one of his straying sheep by another shepherd is an insult which inevitably requires a violent response."

Page 167, Part Two: Legacy, Chapter 6: Harlan, Kentucky. “Die like a man, like your brother did!”.
From ‘Outliers, The Story of Success’, by Malcolm Gladwell

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Kora

One of the most melodious string instruments I've ever heard - the Kora, a 21-string harp-lute used extensively in West Africa. Kora players have traditionally come from griot families (also from the Mandinka nationalities) who are traditional historians, genealogists and storytellers who pass their skills on to their descendants.

Hear the Kora live at a recent concert of Shoonya, where French-speaking African students in the city performed along with Djembe Ashok's band - fantastic!

A beautiful 8-minute video where Toumani Diabate presents the kora, demonstrates various styles and how the instrument is made, and plays pieces from his latest album.

Elyne Road, a favorite piece:

Friday, October 29, 2010


Blue skies,
And dragonflies,

* Photo from Google Images

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Wake Up!

The nice thing about sharing music is that you sometimes get great music in return - listen to another wake-up song!

The Drums - Let's go Surfing!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Installing an Operating System :) :) :) :)

Another Dave Barry classic!

"So there are many different operating systems available, each with different capabilities, advantages, and drawbacks. Which one is right for your specific needs? The answer is: Whichever one is already on your computer. Believe me, you do not want to try to install a better operating system yourself. I have done this several times, and it is terrifying. Your computer is taken over by an Evil Demon Installation Program, very much the way young Linda Blair was taken over in the movie The Exorcist. First your screen goes blank, and then suddenly your computer starts asking you a series of questions that you could never answer in a million years, like:

"The Installation Program has determined that a conflict exists between your IRQ Port Parameter Module and your Cache Initialization Valve. Shall the Installation Program reallocate the Motherboard Transfer Polarity Replication Allotment, or shall it adjust the Disk Controller Impedance Threshold? Bear in mind that if you answer this question incorrectly, all of your data will be lost and innocent people could die."


"Before it will proceed any further with the installation, the Installation Program wishes you to name the capital of Cameroon."


"How many men are in your unit? What is your objective? What is your radio frequency? What is the password? ANSWER! THE INSTALLATION PROGRAM HAS WAYS TO MAKE YOU TALK!"

This can go on for many hours, and at any moment your computer may start laughing in a diabolical manner and spinning its monitor around 360 degrees and projectile-vomiting green stuff."

I remember a couple of years ago when my son, Rob, in an act of great bravery, attempted to install the "OS/2" operating system, which came in the form of about 8000 diskettes accompanied by a manual the size of a Toyota Camry. The computer was working fine when Rob started; after several hours of installation, it was a totally dysfunctional, muttering, potentially violent thing, and we had to take it outside and shoot it."

Page 82-83, 'In Cyberspace' by Dave Barry

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Spoken Word Poem: The Information Man

Buddy Wakefield performs a spoken word poem, The Information Man. (Received this from a friend)

"Spoken word is used as a musical or entertainment term, referring to works or performances that consist solely or mostly of one person speaking as if naturally.

Musically, this is distinct from rapping, as rapping incorporates rhythm and sometimes melody, whereas spoken word is more akin to narration or speaking as the person would in conversation, as shown in the song "Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen)" by Baz Lurhmann.

In entertainment, spoken word performances generally consist of storytelling or sometimes poetry, something exemplified by people like Hedwig Gorski, the originator of performance poetry, Mark "Chopper" Read and Henry Rollins.

Start wearing Purple!

I didn't really wake up even after a brisk morning walk, have been very tired - but this woke me up!! If you need some energy, here it is -

Start wearing Purple!
by Gogol Bordello, Eugene Hütz

"Eugene Hütz is a Ukrainian-born singer and composer, most notable as the frontman of the critically-acclaimed New York Gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello. Hütz is also a DJ and actor."

Thursday, October 14, 2010


"I stepped into the bookshop and breathed in that perfume of paper and magic that strangely no one had ever thought of bottling."

— Carlos Ruiz Zafón (The Angel's Game)

Four fresh new French books. A gift from afar.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

No feeling is final

From a Lonely Planet guide on Laos, left by some other backpacker, one rainy afternoon in Luang Prabang:

"...The Theravada doctrine (of Buddishm) stresses the three principle aspects of existence: dukha (suffering, unsatisfactoriness, disease) anicca (impermanence, transcience of all things) and anatta (non-substantiality or non-essentiality of reality - no permanent 'soul').

Comprehension of anicca reveals that no experience, no state of mind, no physical object lasts. Trying to hold onto experience, states of mind, and objects that are constantly changing, creates dukkha.

Anatta is the understanding that there is no part of the changing world we can point to and say "This is me" or "This is God" or "This is the soul".

(Photo by a friend)

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Yesterday, 'Shankar', Anant Nag's book on his late younger brother, the very versatile Shankar Nag, was released, in Kannada. This particular extract was translated by Deepa Ganesh and published in The Hindu Friday Review today. What a man, and how tragic, his untimely death. For those who are not familiar with him, he was the director of 'Malgudi Days'. An extract from the article:

"Take it as it comes was Shankar's motto. It always seemed like he was telling life, "Whatever you say...". Shankar's ways were not that of a great disciplinarian. Shankar never rigidly insisted that things had to be done in a particular fashion. Scarcity never disturbed him, neither did he gloat over abundance. Poverty made me feel inferior and diffident, but it was not so with Shankar. When we lived in Mumbai, I would never invite anyone home, but Shankar would bring everyone in and have great fun. As days went by, I felt less embarrassed by our modest circumstances.

During the movement led by Jayaprakash Narayan and also the Emergency days, our little house used to be teeming with people. All that we did in those days was to distribute relief to those who were in jail, or to their families, make pamphlets and secretly reach it to people, collect money and distribute it. "

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Strugatsky: Reason

Excerpt from 'Roadside Picnic' by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, the book on which Andrei Tarkovsky's haunting film 'The Stalker' is loosely based on.

Tarkovsky really takes the story to another plane altogether. He builds in layers of philosophical meaning on a story about an extraterrestrial visitation. I got the book from here -


"...All right, I'll tell you. But I must warn you that your question, Richard, comes under the heading of xenology. Xenology: an unnatural mix of science fiction and formal logic. It's based on the false premise that human psychology is applicable to extraterrestrial intelligent beings."

"Why is that false?" Noonan asked.

"Because biologists have already been burned trying to use human psychology on animals. Earth animals, at that."

Forgive me, but that's an entirely different matter. We're talking about the psychology of rational beings."

"Yes. And everything would be fine if we only knew what reason was."

"Don't we know?" Noonan was surprised.

"Believe it or not, we don't. Usually a trivial definition is used: reason is that part of man's activity that distinguishes him from the animals. You know, an attempt to distinguish the owner from the dog who understands everything but just can't speak."

"....Or how about this hypothetical definition. Reason is a complex type of instinct that has not yet been formed completely. This implies that instinctual behaviour is always purposeful and natural. A million years from now our instinct will have matured and we will stop making the mistakes that are probably integral to reason.

And then, if something should change in the universe, we will all become extinct - precisely because we will have forgotten how to make mistakes, that is, to try various approaches not stipulated by an inflexible program of permitted alternatives."

Page 100.

Pliancy and the Freshness of Being

"…And most importantly let them believe in themselves
Let them be helpless like children.
Because weakness is a great thing
And strength is nothing.
When a man is just born,
He is weak and flexible
When he dies, he is hard and insensitive.
When a tree is growing,
It is tender and pliant
But when it is dry and hard, it dies.

Hardness and strength are death's companions.
Pliancy and weakness are expressions of the freshness of being
Because what has hardened will never win…"

The Stalker's prayer at the well, before he takes the two men into the Zone.

from the film 'The Stalker'
Andrei Tarkovsky

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Poets of the Fall

Poets of the Fall (POTF) are an independent rock band from Helsinki, Finland that was formed by Marko Saaresto (lead vocals, songwriter), Olli Tukiainen (lead guitar) and Markus "Captain" Kaarlonen (keyboards, production) in 2003. On tour they're being supported by Jani Snellman (bass guitar), Jaska Mäkinen (rhythm guitar, backing vocals) and Jari Salminen (drums, percussion).

The band's fourth album, named Twilight Theater, was released on 17 March 2010. The first single from the album, Dreaming Wide Awake, was released in Finland on February 3.

Late Goodbye

Carnival of Rust

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pine Forest

This reminded me so much of that Russian film set in Siberia, I cannot remember the name, but the forest was so alive, so dense, and watching you quietly.......

Pine Forest
by Gabriela Mistral

Let us go now into the forest.
Trees will pass by your face,
and I will stop and offer you to them,
but they cannot bend down.

The night watches over its creatures,
except for the pine trees that never change:
the old wounded springs that spring
blessed gum, eternal afternoons.

If they could, the trees would lift you
and carry you from valley to valley,
and you would pass from arm to arm,
a child running
from father to father.

I remember you as you were

I remember you as you were in the last autumn.
You were the grey beret and the still heart.
In your eyes the flames of the twilight fought on.
And the leaves fell in the water of your soul.

Clasping my arms like a climbing plant
the leaves garnered your voice, that was slow and at peace.
Bonfire of awe in which my thirst was burning.
Sweet blue hyacinth twisted over my soul.

I feel your eyes traveling, and the autumn is far off:
Grey beret, voice of a bird, heart like a house
Towards which my deep longings migrated
And my kisses fell, happy as embers.

Sky from a ship. Field from the hills:
Your memory is made of light, of smoke, of a still pond!
Beyond your eyes, farther on, the evenings were blazing.
Dry autumn leaves revolved in your soul.

Pablo Neruda

Taken from here -

Friday, September 10, 2010

Just look at September, look at October!

"...From the Buddhist point of view, reality itself has no meaning since it is not a sign, pointing to something beyond itself. To arrive at reality - at "suchness" - is to go beyond karma, beyond consequential action, and to enter a life which is completely aimless. Yet to Zen and Taoism alike, this is the very life of the universe, which is complete at every moment and does not need to justify itself by aiming at something beyond.

In the words of a Zenrin poem:

"If you don't believe, just look at September, look at October!
The yellow leaves falling, falling, to fill both mountain and river!"

To see this is to be like the two friends of whom another Zenrin poem says:

"Meeting, they laugh and laugh-
The forest grove, the many fallen leaves!"

To the Taoist mentality, the aimless empty life does not suggest anything depressing. On the contrary, it suggests the freedom of clouds and mountain streams, wandering nowhere, of flowers in impenetrable canyons, beautiful for no one to see, and of the ocean surf forever washing the sand, to no end."

Page 146, 'The Way of Zen', by Alan Watts

The Three Wishes

"....As they say, be very careful of what you wish for, because you may get it.

One of the problems when people ask for miracles is that they never know what the miracle they ask for ultimately involves. That is why magicians and genies always grant three wishes, so that after the first two you can always use the third one to get back to where you began.

What invariably happens is that with the first wish, things never quite work out as you expected. You may not realize what it may involve if you wish for a glass to be changed into gold, for instance. If we change the arrangment of the universe in such a way that glass becomes gold, you may suddenly find that your eyesight fails or you lose all your hair, because that might go with it.

We do not understand all the interconnections between things, because in reality what we call "things" are not really separate from each other. The words and the ideas about them separate them from each other, but they are not separate. They all go with each other, interconnected in one vast vibratory pattern, and if you change it at one point it will be changed at all sorts of other points, because every vibration penetrates through the entire pattern."

'Still the Mind'
Alan Watts

Thursday, September 9, 2010

River Wisdom

Listen, O Lord of the meeting rivers,
Things standing shall fall,
But the moving shall ever stay.


To lift the blinds

"To shed the ego is to lift the blinds that blur the vision sublime,
The veiled beauty discards its veil, otherness gets disarmed.

Oblivious of our own faults, we find fault in others,
Once we see the flaws within, none else seems deformed."

[Diya apni khudi ko jo hum ne mita, woh jo parda se beech mein tha na raha,
Parde mein ab na woh pardah nashin, koi doosra uske siwa na raha.

Na thi haal ki jab hamen apne khabar, rahe dekhte auron ke aib-o-hunar,
Pari apni buraion par jo nazar, tau nigah mein koi bura na raha.]

Bahadur Shah Zafar [1775-1862]

Page 23. "Bahadur Shah Zafar and his Contemporaries - Zauq, Ghalib, Momin, Shefta"
Text, Translation, and Transliteration [from Urdu] by K.C.Kanda
Sterling Publishers 2007

A Ramzan Gift

16 Sep 2008

There is this this Muslim electrician guy who's been doing all our repairs since a few years - Barkhat bhai. Very honest, reliable, and hardworking. My husband talks to him in Hindi and makes tea for him when he comes to work, and they get along very well. Barkhat struggles to make both ends meet, and travels huge distances on his bike to do multiple jobs the same day. Sometimes he brings his young son along too.

I remember the day after the Bangalore bomb blasts, he and his son were here repairing a lamp in the drawing room, talking to my husband, while the TV news was on. The contrast was so jarring - on the TV, much to my embarrassment, the newsreader started speaking about rising Muslim fundamentalism in India and the increasing mistrust between religions - while this poor illiterate Muslim man was inviting us Hindus home for Ramzan, telling us that we must taste his wife's biriyani, a man who can hardly afford to splurge on such generosity - though I know for a fact that generosity is a prominent Muslim trait.

Last night he comes home with his son, with a huge multi-layered tiffin box full of the promised mutton biriyani, along with curry, salad, kheer, and some home-made sweet.

The news on the TV, when they walked in, was yet again about bomb blasts, this time in Delhi.

And yet, in the room, so much of positivity, that will stay with us for a long time to come, and will show in our actions. See, I am already tempted to spread it around.

Perhaps, as Borges said in his poem, "These people, unaware, are saving the world"....

Wrong Turn

I took a wrong turn the other day.
A mistake, but it led me to the shop where I found
the very thing I'd been searching for.

With my brother I opened a packet
of old letters from my mother and saw a side of her
that sweetened what had been deeply sour.

Later that day the radio sang a song from
a time when I was discovering love,
and folded me into itself again.

"Wrong Turn" by Luci Shaw, from What the Light Was Like. © WordFarm, 2006

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Way

"...The Buddha's enlightenment is the most important single moment in Oriental mythology, a counterpart of the Crucifixion of the West. The Buddha beneath the Tree of Enlightenment (the Bo Tree) and Christ on Holy Rood (the Tree of Redemption) are analogous figures, incorporating an archetypal World Savior, World Tree motif, which is of immemorial antiquity.

...The point is that Buddhahood, Enlightenment, cannot be communicated, but only the way to Englightenment. This doctrine of the incommunicability of the Truth which is beyond names and forms is basic to the great Oriental, as well as to the Platonic, traditions.

Whereas the truths of science are communicable, being demonstrable hypotheses rationally founded on observable facts - ritual, mythology, and metaphysics are but guides to the brink of a transcendent illumination, the final step to which must be taken by each in his own silent experience.

Hence one of the Sanskrit terms for sage is muni, "the silent one." Sakyamuni (one of the titles of Gautama Buddha) means "the silent one or sage (muni) of the Sakya clan." Though he is the founder of a widely taught religion, the ultimate core of his doctrine remains concealed, necessarily, in silence."

Page 25, 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces' the seminal work of comparative mythology by Joseph Campbell

Sunday, September 5, 2010


"...From fullness, fullness comes.
When fullness is taken from fullness,
Fullness still remains."

Isha Upanishad. Invocation

The Weight of Miracles

What happened to Lazarus after Jesus brought him back from the dead? Did he get back to life with renewed wonder and passion, was it all light? Or like those once visited by Death, did he wake up on dark nights, a cold hand on the back of his neck reminding him to return?

Did people treat him differently, this man who had been where no one has returned from? Did the weight of this miracle pull down his shoulders, isolate him from the rest?

And did he realize that he was just placed in Jesus' path so that people would recognize the Messiah? That it could've been anyone else in his place, it did not really matter? That his resurrection was perhaps not deserved, but just accidental?

And then you come across this German poem.

for Lene Nimbsch

"We saw Lazarus arise and walk. Took off.
And was not seen thereafter.
No one saw him die the second time."

Th Garden of Epicurus and Other Poems
Ulla Hahn

Oct 2004

Sunday Neurosis

"He is thought to have coined the term Sunday Neurosis referring to a form of depression resulting from an awareness in some people of the emptiness of their lives once the working week is over. This arises from an existential vacuum, which Frankl distinguished from existential neurosis.

The existential vacuum - or, as he sometimes terms it, "existential frustration" - is a common phenomenon and is characterised by the subjective state of boredom, apathy, and emptiness. One feels cynical, lacks direction and questions the point of most of life's activities. Some complain of a void and a vague discontent when the busy week is over (the "Sunday neurosis")."

Viktor Frankl


A short beautiful piece someone uploaded on YouTube, of Dhrupad, my favorite form of Indian classical music.

Bhawalkar is one of the greatest musicians in this genre. It is an absolutely spiritual experience listening to him live.

"Dhrupad is a vocal genre in Hindustani classical music, said to be the oldest still in use in that musical tradition. Its name is derived from the words "dhruva" (fixed) and "pada" (words)."

Each piece has three parts, the slow reflective aalap, the jod where the pakhawaj(the drum) comes in with its energy, and then the exuberant uplifting dhamaar.

My other favorite is the Gundecha Brothers. Their sheer power and range is awe-inspiring. A live performance makes your hair stand on end. Here's one of their great pieces:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

W. H. Auden

And yet

A mysterious force, a "dark energy",
is pushing the universe to expand,
flinging galaxies
away from each other.
Less sunlight is reaching the earth
with every passing year.
Still no answers,
To Spontaneous Human Combustion.
The Arctic Ice Cap is melting.
Old values are disappearing.

And yet,
Coiffeuse holds your face in old veined hands,
and says: "It is so good to see you again".
The strains of a loved tune return from nowhere,
filling the empty spaces in your head.
And at the familiar dull street corner,
suddenly, a lone tree,
in luminous yellow blossoms...

29 Jan 04, Thursday

Mysterious Energy

"......The studies of distant supernovae by the two teams (led by Saul Perlmutter, an astrophysicist at the University of California) had shown that the expansion of the universe, first observed by Edwin Hubble in 1929, was accelerating - not, as many had predicted, slowing down. It was as if some mysterious energy were creating a repulsive force to counter gravity. Unsure of its exact nature, cosmologists call it dark energy. More important, it seems to constitute nearly three-quarters of the total matter and energy in the universe.

Dark energy is the latest and most daunting puzzle to confront cosmologists, adding to another mystery that has haunted them for decades: dark matter. Nearly 90 percent of the mass of galaxies seems to be made of matter that is unknown and unseen. We know it must be there, for without its gravitational pull the galaxies would have disintegrated.

Perlmutter pointed out that cosmologists in particular, and physicists in general, are now faced with the stark reality that roughly 96 percent of the universe cannot be explained with the theories at hand. All our efforts to understand the material world have illuminated only a tiny fraction of the cosmos."

from 'The Edge of Reason, Dispatches from the Frontiers of Cosmology', (Penguin Books, 2010) by Anil Ananthaswamy (he was a software engineer in Silicon Valley before moving to science writing)

Monday, August 30, 2010

And the light comes and goes...

"...The Gospels, revealingly, tell us little of Jesus' spiritual formation and concentrate mostly on his words and actions. The Buddha story, by comparison, places most of its emphasis on how Siddhartha came to enlightenment - the process (which anyone can follow, even today, in principle) - while the particular details of his subsequent teachings and wanderings are often barely mentioned.

Even non-Christians may know some of Jesus' words, while typical Buddhists may know hardly any of Buddha's specific discourses. Buddha is a precedent more than a prophet; and where Jesus came to earth as the way, the truth, and the life, the Buddha came to suggest that the way is up to us, the 'truth' is often impermanent, and the light comes and goes, comes and goes, until we have found something changeless within."

Page 90.
'The Open Road - The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama'
Pico Iyer

A Teacher

"The whole idea of a teacher," he said, blue hawk eyes flashing, "is to present a reflective mirror. Not a blank surface, really, but a screen, on which you have to confront yourself. Like the moon on the water, in a way. When you confront a Zen master, what you're really seeing are not his limitations, but yours. "

"So that if you think he's strict, it's because you're guilty? And if you find him silent, it's because you talk too much?"

"Yeah, I guess. There are many ways to do it. Sometimes they just let you talk yourself into trouble. Or they''ll shock you out of your assumptions. Or they'll cut you down. Everything you think you're seeing in him is actually coming from yourself. A saint, I think, is someone who brings out the good in everyone he meets."

Page 289. "The Lady and the Monk. Four Seasons in Kyoto"
Pico Iyer


".................for memory to function well, it needs constant practice: if recollections are not evoked again and again, in conversations with friends, they go. Emigrés gathered together in compatriot colonies keep retelling to the point of nausea the same stories, which thereby become unforgettable.

But people who do not spend time with their compatriots, like Irena (character in the novel) or Odysseus, are inevitably struck with amnesia. The stronger the nostalgia, the emptier of recollections it becomes. The more Odysseus languished, the more he forgot.

For nostalgia does not heighten memory's activity, it does not awaken recollections; it suffices unto itself, unto its own feelings, so fully absorbed is it by its suffering and nothing else."

'Ignorance' (page 33)
Milan Kundera


Moby. Isolate -

Sunday, August 29, 2010


"In the mountains of Georgia, where they graze their flocks of sheep, there exists a special profession-that of mtsnobari, or diviner.

His function is to carry stray lambs back to their mothers in the middle of the enormous flocks.

The mtsnobari infallibly carries each suckling lamb to the right mother, in a flock of hundreds of animals, finding her by means of a particular "sense of smell". He has nothing to help him except the answering voices of ewe and lamb. However, if you take into account the fact that entire flock is bleating, that is clearly not going to simplify things much."

7 February, 1976
Time Within Time - The Diaries 1970-1986
Andrei Tarkovsky

After Years

Today, from a distance, I saw you
walking away, and without a sound
the glittering face of a glacier
slid into the sea. An ancient oak
fell in the Cumberlands, holding only
a handful of leaves, and an old woman
scattering corn to her chickens looked up
for an instant. At the other side
of the galaxy, a star thirty-five times
the size of our own sun exploded
and vanished, leaving a small green spot
on the astronomer's retina
as he stood on the great open dome
of my heart with no one to tell.

Ted Kooser
from Solo: A Journal of Poetry, Premiere Issue, Spring 1996

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Long ago, attended a fabulous cello conert by a Swedish musician, Svante Henryson. His album Enkidu speaks of an intriguing Mesopotamian myth, represented in the Epic of Gilgamesh, perhaps the oldest written story.

When Gilgamesh, who is two-thirds god and one-third man, becomes so powerful and arrogant that his own subjects cannot bear him, the goddess Aruru whom they go to for help, creates a double for him, called Enkidu. Enkidu is a hairy man-beast, his more natural, elementary, unpolished side, which balances Gilgamesh's arrogance and acquaints him with his humanness, the side that is weak and vulnerable, but also therefore capable of kindness and tolerance.

"We meet Enkidu first in the Epic of Gilgamesh, and learn that he was created to be Gilgamesh's equal and Soul Brother, so that the young, selfish, brutish and proud king of Uruk could know the meaning of friendship, trust, courage and loyalty to become a wholer being. Enkidu's coming into Gilgamesh's life is announced by the dreams of Ninsun, Gilgamesh´s mother, who states that Enkidu will be "a strong companion, the one who helps a friend in need".

from the site:

Found this story beautifully used as illustration in this book: "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him" by Sheldon B.Kopp.

"Every man has his Enkidu, his other half, his hidden self. The more he is out of touch with his double the more a man's life is an empty and unsatisfying burlesque. For one strong man who lives like a brute, there is the double of his own soft helplessness to be met. Without his weak and passive double, his capacity for tenderness and gentle touch is also lost.

For another sort of half-man who meets the world as Mr.Nice Guy, there is the danger of living a life of self-degrading appeasement. In order to become free to assert himself when he needs to, he must first be introduced to the ruthlessly dangerous double of his undiscovered rage."


"...The Piraha (of the Brazilian Amazon), Everett reveals, possess “the most complex verbal morphology I am aware of [and] are some of the brightest, pleasantest, most fun-loving people that I know.” Yet they have no numbers of any kind, no terms for quantification (such as all, each, every, most and some), no colour terms and no perfect tense. They appear to have borrowed their pronouns from another language, having previously possessed none. They have no “individual or collective memory of more than two generations past”, no drawing or other art, no fiction and “no creation stories or myths.”

All this, Everett believes, can be explained by a single characteristic: Piraha culture constrains communication to non-abstract subjects which fall within the immediate experience of [the speaker]". What can be discussed, in other words, is what has been seen. When it can no longer be perceived, it ceases, in this realm at least, to exist.

After struggling with one grammatical curiosity, he realised that the Piraha were "talking about liminality – situations in which an item goes in and out of the boundaries of their experience. [Their] excitement at seeing a canoe go around a river bend is hard to describe; they see this almost as travelling into another dimension."


" A Life with no Purpose" by George Monbiot


Alexis Zorba: Damn it boss, I like you too much not to say it. You've got everything except one thing: madness! A man needs a little madness, or else...

Basil: Or else?

Alexis Zorba: ...he never dares cut the rope and be free.

Zorba the Greek
Nikos Kazantzakis


".....The Buddha’s return is a pivotal movement, one of those rare events when the divine penetrates history and transfigures it. Like Moses returning from Mt.Sinai, like Jesus appearing in the crowd at the river Jordan to be baptized by John, a man who has left the world returns to serve it, no longer merely human but charged with transcendent power. As the scriptures record of Moses and Jesus, we can imagine how the Buddha must have shone that bright spring morning in the Himalayan foothills.

Dazzled by the radiance of his personality, it is said, people gathered about him and asked, " Are you a god?"
"Are you an angel?"
"What are you then?"
The Buddha smiled and answered simply, " I am awake" - the literal meaning of the word buddha, from the Sanskrit root budh, to wake up. "

from the Introduction to
'The Dhammapada'
Translated with a general introduction by Eknath Eswaran


"....Anthropologists found that schizophrenia is strongest among those whose ties with the cultural traditions are weakest: drug users, intellectuals, immigrants, students in their first year at college, soldiers recently inducted.

A study of Norwegian-born immigrants in Minnesota showed that over a period of four decades their rate of hospitalization for mental disorders was much higher than those for either non-immigrant Americans or Norwegians in Norway. Isaac Frost found that psychoses often develop among foreign domestic servants in Britain, usually within eighteen months of their arrival.

These psychoses, which are an extreme form of culture shock, emerge among these people because the cultural definition of values which underlies their sanity has been changed. It was not an awareness of 'truth' that was sustaining their sanity, it was their sureness of their cultural directives."

Page 387.
'Lila. An Inquiry into Morals'
Robert M Pirsig

Only to grow...

...Never the murdered finalities of wherewhen and yesno,impotent nongames of wrongright and rightwrong;never to gain or pause,never the soft adventure of undoom,greedy anguishes and cringing ecstasies of inexistence;never to rest and never to have;only to grow..."


Walking towards Oneself

On that hot summer afternoon in Delhi, on the way to the airport, you see these men in orange robes walking barefeet by the side of the road. So many of them, one behind the other. You ask the taxi driver what this is about. He says that they are pilgrims who go to the holy city of Rishikesh [in the Himalayas] and walk back all the way to their respective towns and villages, carrying with them the holy Ganges water. Sometimes for weeks together. Barefoot. Some of them have bandages on their feet. But everyone is walking at the same speed, briskly, purposefully.

You watch them all the way. You have always been fascinated by pilgrims. And there are so many such pilgrimages all over the country. People walk barefeet to so many temples. Braving the elements. Every year.

You admire their absolute faith. And not just that - you envy them the knowledge that they have of themselves. For it is only when you push yourself to the limits, when you test yourself that harshly, that you really know what you are capable of. If you can walk barefoot for weeks in the blazing sun, maybe you are tougher than you thought? And that knowledge must surely change the way you handle life and its travails afterwards?

And maybe that is the very purpose of a pilgrimage - to show us our own riches?
Maybe all pilgrimages finally lead to ourselves?

We "educated city people" are unlikely to go on these barefoot pilgrimages. We do try and test ourselves in other ways, that somehow appear so trivial compared to these.

Are we missing something very important? Are we living on the surface of our selves? Do we lack faith, do we lack courage, have we been reduced by comfort?

Oct 29, 2006

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