Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Curse of the Golden Ego

Chow Yun Fat brilliantly plays the ruthlessly tyrannical, late Tang Emperor Ping, in Zhang Yimou's The Curse of the Golden Flower, which I saw recently. The spectacle is incredible but one is left cold at the end of the film - perhaps this was Zhang's intention - to show how empty egoism is. The likable characters could have been explored in more depth so that they could have functioned more as a contrast to the nastiness.
Ping shows how much damage just a single egomaniac in power can wreak, not only on his country, but on those closest to him.

I Don't want to spoil it for those who haven't seen it yet but basically everyone dies, except for Ping and a few court officials and servants left to sweep up the gore and millions of yuan worth of crushed chrysanthemums, at the end. A bit like Hamlet really.

Monday, May 28, 2007


A still from Peter Brook's film adaptation of
The Mahabharata.
The following quote was not included in the script,
if memory serves.

"I do not regard even my own self to be mine.
On the other hand,
I regard the whole world to be mine.
I again think that all of this (which I can see)
is as much mine as it belongs to others.
Grief cannot approach me
in consequence of this thought.
Having acquired such an understanding,
I do not yield either to joy or grief."
-The Mahabharata
This is the consolation prize for self-renunciation -
ownership of everything in existence.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

E.M.Cioran on Mysticism

"It is a mistake to suppose that mysticism derives from a softening of the instincts, from a compromised vitality. A Luis of Leon, a John of the Cross crowned an age of great enterprises and were necessarily contemporaries of the Conquest. Far from being defectives, they fought for their faith, attacked God head on, appropriated heaven for themselves."

"The mystic reanimates and rehabilitates faith, threatens and undermines it as an intimate, providential enemy. Without him it would wither."

Cioran's life was tainted by fascist tendencies in his youth but he is an interesting writer.

He thought that Paul was a disaster for Christianity. I agree.

Among the critics of Paul the Apostle was Thomas Jefferson who wrote that Paul was the "first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus." 

The anti-semitic, misogynist strain in Christianity originated with him.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Conjuring Trick

Hieronymus Bosch, The Conjurer
"The sage knows the beginning
and end of consciousness,
its production and passing away -
the sage knows that it came from nowhere
and returns to nowhere,
and is empty of reality,
like a conjuring trick."
-The Buddha

Srimad Bhagavatam

Shun all pride and jealousy.
Give up all idea of 'me' and 'mine'.
As long as there is consciousness of diversity
and not of unity in the Self,
a man ignorantly thinks of himself as a separate being,
as the 'doer' of actions and the'experiencer' of effects.
He remains subject to birth and death,
knows happiness and misery,
is bound by his own deeds good or bad."
-Srimad Bhagavatam
The Srimad Bhagavatam is one of the Puranas. European historical scholarship suggests that the text was written in the 9th or 10th century as part of the development of the bhakti traditions. However, Hindu religious tradition holds it to be one of the works of Vyasa written at the beginning of Kali Yuga (about c.3100 BCE). Some argue that the Purana's mention of the Vedic Sarasvati River as a great river (maha-nadi) is evidence of the Purana's traditional date, since the river dried up about 2000 BCE. Interdisciplinary and intertextual studies are appearing which try to confirm the ancient status of this Purana.


"In that moment of vision,
the self into which we merge
is perceived as a simple unity.
It is better not to talk of what sees,
but of what is seen.
Bolder still -
abandon altogether the duality of seer and seen.
Count both as one,
for in that vision the seer
does not experience 'two'.
He is changed.
He is no longer himself.
Nor does he own himself..."

-Plotinus (205-270 C.E.), Mystical Union

Monday, May 21, 2007

Wave or Particle Self?

In physics, complementarity is a basic principle of quantum theory referring to effects such as the wave-particle duality, in which different measurements made on a system reveal it to have either particle-like or wave-like properties.

Perhaps the self is like a beam of light; it can be considered as both a wave and a particle. From the Western point of view the self is a discrete particle, but from the Eastern, non-dual perspective it is a wave in a continuous pervasive medium from which it is inseparable.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Ungrasped Mind

Monet - The Seine at Giverny
Only the still mind,
like water
undisturbed by thought's oars,
and nets of possession
by 'I' or 'other',
can reflect Reality

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Dream of Raphael

Giorgio Ghisi (1520-1582) Italian engraver
- The Dream of Raphael, or Allegory of Life

The meaning of this strange allegorical engraving has never been fully explained but perhaps represents a philosopher, weary of a rather rugged looking world (materialism?) where misfortune pursues him in the form of harrying dogs (the senses?) and falling stars (dis-aster). He leans on a dead tree (the fruitless search for materialistic knowledge?), and is preparing to cross a treacherous sea (the mind?) where sea-monsters and submerged rocks threaten. On the far shore the Goddess of Wisdom invites him to an idyllic world of idealised and ordered flora. The rainbow in the background evokes the bridge between Earth and Heaven.

The Mind is not Yours

"Desire and anger
are objects of the mind,
but the mind is not yours,

nor ever has been.
You are choiceless,

awareness itself
and unchanging
- so live happily."
-Ashtavakra Gita

The Ashtavakra Gita (Song of Ashtavakra), also known by the name Ashtavakra Samhita, is an influential nondualist Vedic scripture traditionally said to have been spoken by the Sage Ashtavakra, though its authorship is not known with certainty. There is little doubt though that it is very old, probably dating back to the days of the classic Vedanta period. The Sanskrit style and the doctrine expressed would seem to warrant this assessment. It presents the traditional teachings of Advaita Vedanta with a clarity and power very rarely matched. The Ashtavakra Gita does not date itself or brand itself to any region, culture, or peoples, although it does contain Hindu-specific references, especially in the final chapter entitled 'I am Shiva' where it is proclaimed in the final verse that the author is in truth one with God.
-Source Wikipedia

Sunday, May 13, 2007

New Age Guff

Spot the individual

Recently I stumbled onto a neo-viking website - some sort of men's lib organisation in which members reconnect with their inner heathen. Someone had written a piece about the ego, and what a relief it had been for him to find a spirituality that didn't "buy into all that New Age, Buddhist guff about dissolving one's ego in the Supreme Being" and celebrated the passionate individuality epitomised by the adventurous Viking spirit. He felt that ego-dissolution was a form of slavery. "The Vikings had gods that didn't expect humans to be their slaves, but inspired them be individuals."
The idea that Non-duality is tantamount to slavery, is a common Western misconception. It is not the ego that makes a person unique. The ego is an amalgam of attachments, to the body, the senses, possessions and actions, etc. The permutations and combinations of these attachments differ from person to person, but essentially people tend to be attached to the same things. So it is not ego that makes a person a unique individual, quite the opposite, ego makes people banal but creates an illusion of uniqueness. The ego doesn't make people dynamic, it drains them of energy.
A person should be original, passionate, dynamic and emancipated, but there is no owner of these qualities, they are spontaneous expressions of the universe.
The idea of non-dual selfhood is not specifically 'Eastern' but is found in many cultures all over the world. It is not a 'New Age' idea but dates back thousands of years.
Having said this, it is worth remembering that ego-less saints, such as Jnaneshwara, have often said that the very idea of ego-dissolution, or enlightenment, can itself be an obstacle to Selfhood, a concept that itself becomes an attachment. After all, there is no such thing as ego: no ego to be dissolved, no ego preventing enlightenment.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Discovery in Nepal

12th century Buddhist mural in a cave recently discovered in a remote part of Nepal.
Manuscripts were also found in the cave, the entrance of which was hidden by ice.

This is my attempt at a digital restoration of the image.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Subtle System and Seats of Power through History

Thinking about the various empires/hegemonies throughout history, and how macrocosm and microcosm often seem to reflect one another, I wondered if there was any correspondence between these seats of power and the subtle centres in their mundane manifestation in different regions of the world.

Painting of the Chakras in the the subtle body

Here's a rough, speculative outline of the succession of world powers and how they may relate to the mundane chakra system:

Mooladhara Chakra - corresponds to Australia
Though not an empire as such, Australian aboriginal culture is probably the oldest continuous culture. Australia may have cradled the most advanced culture in the world 40, 000 years ago.

Kundalini - corresponds to India,
Legendary Empire of Sri Rama - 10, 000 BC? Indus/Saraswati River Civilisation - 3000BC.

Swadisthana Chakra - Africa (left aspect of Swadisthana)
Egyptian Civilization

Void - Middle East,
Persian Empire

Nabhi Chakra - Mediterranean, Italy, France, Greece, Turkey.
Roman Empire, Napoleonic Empire (right aspect of Nabhi). Ottoman Empire, European colonisation.

Heart Chakra - Britain (left aspect of Heart)
British Empire

Visshuddhi Chakra - USA (right aspect of Visshuddhi)
Currently acknowledged as the world superpower.

Agnya Chakra - China (left aspect of Agnya),
Many have speculated that it will replace the US as the main world superpower.

Sahasrara Chakra, Himalayan region,
Seat of future world government? (Reasons why this region could be chosen for this purpose are given in an earlier post)

NB. The Roman Empire has been identified as the hegemony for the Nabhi Chakra but it could be said that China was equally powerful. China has been a continuous seat of power for thousands of years, but perhaps it's greatest influence is yet to come.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

All Incarnations are the same Person

"All religions are one;
and all the Incarnations are the same person.
People don't understand this.
It seems they prefer to fight.
People who fight in the name of religion
have only read one book
and people should read the other books.
Look at these beautiful flowers:
they are all different but they don't fight."

- Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, 2007

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The True Meaning of Monotheism

Ibn Arabi, the great Islamic philosopher, understood the true meaning
of Monotheism: there is only one Self.

"Know that this existence is neither you nor other than you.
You do not exist; yet you are also not a nonexistence.
Your existence is not someone else;
nor does your nonexistence make you someone else.
Without being and without not-being,
your existence and your nonexistence
is Allah's being."