Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Fountain

The Fountain
by St. John of the Cross

English version by Willis Barnstone

How well I know that flowing spring
in black of night.

The eternal fountain is unseen.
How well I know where she has been
in black of night.

I do not know her origin.
None. Yet in her all things begin
in black of night.

I know that nothing is so fair
and earth and firmament drink there
in black of night.

I know that none can wade inside
to find her bright bottomless tide
in black of night.

Her shining never has a blur;
I know that all light comes from her
in black of night.

I know her streams converge and swell
and nourish people, skies and hell
in black of night.

The stream whose birth is in this source
I know has a gigantic force
in black of night.

The stream from but these two proceeds
yet neither one, I know, precedes
in black of night.

The eternal fountain is unseen
in living bread that gives us being
in black of night.

She calls on all mankind to start
to drink her water, though in dark,
for black is night.

O living fountain that I crave,
in bread of life I see her flame
in black of night.

Ghent Altarpiece (detail), Jan van Eyck.

St. John of the Cross was a Spanish Christian mystic and poet of the 16th century.
The Eternal Fountain is an image of the Kundalini, the nourishing energy of the Holy Spirit, which John describes as the feminine aspect of the Divine.

Friday, March 14, 2014


Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi on meditation.
Image by Graham Brown, 2014.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Phra Mae Thorani

Phra Mae Thorani is a Thai and Laotian Earth Mother goddess sometimes depicted beneath images of the Buddha. 
The water she wrings from her hair represents detachment, which drowns the demons sent to distract the Buddha from attaining enlightenment.
The Buddha is often depicted with one hand touching the Earth, as a sign that he is seeking the Mother's aid in attaining liberation. This Earth-touching gesture is called the Bhumisparsha Mudra, and signifies the moment when the Demon Mara (delusion) challenged the Buddha's right to gain enlightenment. Mara claimed that his own spiritual achievements surpassed those of the Buddha, and his countless demon soldiers attested to this. The Buddha, in turn, called on the Mother Earth to attest to his worthiness. The testimony of a deity as important as the Earth Goddess trumped that of Mara's army.

Reading about The Buddha's use of the Mother Earth reminded me of the importance of regularly sitting on the ground (weather permitting). It gives a firm foundation to one's meditative practice, and an 'earth', in the electrical sense, for superfluous or unbalanced energies in the body and mind.
While sitting on the ground you can respectfully ask the Mother Earth to remove your physical and spiritual problems. This is something Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi has recommended.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Self as Enjoyer

He is spirituality itself. He is beyond all these things. 
Whether you are a musician or you are an artist; whatever it is you are, He will enjoy, 
as He is the enjoyer.
And He will enjoy whatever is simple, whatever is given with the heart, He will enjoy. Whatever is expressed with the heart He will enjoy. 

- HH Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, Shivaratri 2003

Shri Shiva and His family by Raja Ravi Varma, vintage print.

Shri Shiva is the Universal Self, residing in the heart, the Enjoyer of Creation.

Today is Shivaratri, the Hindu festival devoted to Lord Shiva.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Goddess Excellently Bright

Queen and huntress, chaste and fair,
Now the sun is laid to sleep,
Seated in thy silver chair
State in wonted manner keep:
         Hesperus entreats thy light,
         Goddess excellently bright.

Earth, let not thy envious shade
Dare itself to interpose;
Cynthia's shining orb was made
Heaven to clear when day did close:
         Bless us then with wished sight,
         Goddess excellently bright.

Lay thy bow of pearl apart
And thy crystal-shining quiver;
Give unto the flying hart
Space to breathe, how short soever:
         Thou that mak'st a day of night,
         Goddess excellently bright.

-Ben Jonson (1572-1637), English poet and playwright

Johannes Vermeer, Diana and Her Companions (1650s).

In this painting, possibly the earliest existing work by the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer, female companions of the goddess Diana (Artemis) solemnly wash her feet. 

The theme of women in quiet, reflective moments would become a recurring feature of Vermeer's work as it developed.

The hart (deer), object of the chase, is a symbol of the god Shiva (the Self) residing in the heart. The goddess of chastity, Diana, crowned with the moon, resembles the Hindu goddess Parvati, whose sole aim was to win the love of Lord Shiva and become one with the Self.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

What you desire

A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. 

No man can serve two masters. 
Your life is shaped by the end you live for. 
You are made in the image of what you desire.
- Thomas Merton

film still from The Wings of Desire.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Until you have loved

"Until you have loved, you cannot become yourself." 
-Emily Dickinson

Mural in Amherst, Massachusetts, home of the American Self-realised poet Emily Dickinson.

Dickinson used 'slant rhyme' or half rhyme frequently in her works. In her poem "Hope is the thing with feathers" the slant rhyme is soulall.

Hope is the Thing with Feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.

Monday, January 13, 2014

the self is not a possession

I came across this on a friend's Facebook timeline.

It occurred to me that the aboriginal peoples of the world tend to extend this practice of non-possessiveness even to the self.
To the Western mind, the idea of non-possessiveness of self, sounds like self-abandonment or self-neglect. Actually, the attachment that comes with possessiveness constricts a person's ability to care for oneself and for others.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Staring at the Mountains

"Everything is ecstasy, inside. We just don’t know it because of our thinking-minds. But in our true blissful essence of mind it is known that everything is alright forever and forever and forever. Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky ways of cloudy innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect. We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere, or one universal self. Self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes through everything, is one thing. It’s a dream already ended. There’s nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be glad about. I know this from staring at mountains months on end. They never show any expression, they are like empty space. Do you think the emptiness of space will ever crumble away? Mountains will crumble, but the emptiness of space, which is the one universal essence of mind, the one vast awakenerhood, empty and awake, will never crumble away because it was never born."

- Jack Kerouac

Thursday, January 02, 2014


“Oftentimes we call Life bitter names, but only when we ourselves are bitter and dark. And we deem her empty and unprofitable, but only when the soul goes wandering in desolate places, and the heart is drunken with overmindfulness of self.

Life is deep and high and distant; and though only your vast vision can reach even her feet, yet she is near; and though only the breath of your breath reaches her heart, the shadow of your shadow crosses her face, and the echo of your faintest cry becomes a spring and an autumn in her breast.

And life is veiled and hidden, even as your greater self is hidden and veiled. Yet when Life speaks, all the winds become words; and when she speaks again, the smiles upon your lips and the tears in your eyes turn also into words. When she sings, the deaf hear and are held; and when she comes walking, the sightless behold her and are amazed and follow her in wonder and astonishment.” 

- Kahlil Gibran, The Garden of the Prophet

Sunlight Through Leaves

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Joyful Christmas

William Blake, The Virgin and Child in Egypt, 1810, tempera on canvas.

Dear reader, wishing you a joyful, peaceful and safe Christmas.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Poetic Self

I think poetry always comes out of what you don’t know. And with students I say, knowledge is very important. Learn languages. Read history. Read, listen, above all, listen to everybody. Listen to everything that you hear. Every sound in the street. Every bird and every dog and everything that you hear. But know all of your knowledge is important, but your knowledge will never make anything. It will help you to form the things, but what makes something is something that you will never know. It comes out of you. It’s who you are.
- W.S. Merwin

William Stanley Merwin (born September 30, 1927) is an American poet, credited with over fifty books of poetry, translation and prose. During the 1960s anti war movement, Merwin's unique craft was thematically characterized by indirect, unpunctuated narration. In the 1980s and 1990s, Merwin's writing influence derived from his interest in Buddhist philosophy and deep ecology. Residing in Hawaii, he writes prolifically and is dedicated to the restoration of the islands' rainforests. Merwin has received many honors, including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Monday, October 28, 2013


If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.
- Marc Chagall

The Artist with Yellow Christ, 1938

Chagall was a Jewish painter, but during WW2 he included the figure of Jesus over and over in his work, including the above painting: The Artist with Yellow Christ, 1938.
Chagall has painted a Jewish Jesus; his loincloth appears to be a Jewish prayer shawl with its two blue stripes. The old Jewish man in the background connects the torture of Jesus with the torture of the Jews happening as the painting was being executed. 
The simple hieroglyph of the artist's hand held to his head conveys his struggle to understand how the human mind is capable of such doubleness: a Europe that was able to worship one Jew while it murdered millions of others. With just two horizontal lines Chagall transforms a simple crucifixion scene into a reflection on the Holocaust.
It is Chagall's genius that he was able to communicate so profoundly with such simplicity. No wonder he is one of the best loved Moderns.

The Jewish Museum of New York is currently showing several of these Christ paintings as part of the exhibition Chagall, love war exile (until February 2, 2014).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Exhibition on Yoga

Yoga: The Art of Transformation

Opens October 19
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington DC.
"Yoga is a global phenomenon practiced by millions of people seeking spiritual insight and better health. Few, however, are aware of yoga's dynamic history. Opening this fall at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery is Yoga: The Art of Transformation, the world's first exhibition of yogic art. Temple sculptures, devotional icons, vibrant manuscripts, and court paintings created in India over 2,000 years—as well as early modern photographs, books, and films—reveal yoga's mysteries and illuminate its profound meanings."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lao Tse's Description of the Self

It won’t be seen when you look
won’t be grasped when you reach
won’t be heard when you turn an ear
It’s not bright above nor dark below
seamless and un-namable
It is from and goes to no-thing
the no-form form-source
subtle and without image
preceding conception
passing beyond
trace It to Its no-beginning
track It to Its no-end
It can’t be known
only lived as ease in your own life
to understand where you’re from
is the nut of knowledge
Lao Tze,  Tao te Ching, V. 14

Image source: Freer Sackler Collection