Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Jodha Akbar

Hritik Roshan? as The Mughal Emperor Akbar, and Aishwarya Rai as Jodha Bai.
Stills from the Hindi movie Jodha Akbar.

Though a Muslim Emperor, Akbar (the Great), who was extremely tolerant for his time, wanted to unite the various faiths and peoples within his extensive empire. He married a Hindu princess, Jodha Bai, and invited Sunni's, Shias, Christians, Jains and Hindus to debate religious issues at his court. After hearing their arguments, he decided that no one religion has a monopoly on truth. Then he created his own syncretist religion.

Akbar was a devotee of the Sufi Saint Salim Chisti, one of a long line of pirs in a branch of Sufism particularly renowned for it's tolerance, and emphasis on love as the true essence of religion. To this day, both Muslims and Hindus worship at many of the Chisti Shrines.

Unable to produce a male heir, Akbar walked barefoot to meet with the saint to ask for a blessing so that he could have a son. Akbar subsequently had three sons. Later he built his palace of Fatehpur Sikri, and a beautiful marble tomb for Salim Chisti, on the site of the saint's encampment.
Here is a link to a beautiful sufi song:

Akbar was an exceptional patron of the arts. Under his reign, Indian miniature painting reached a high point, combining Islamic decorative bravura with Hindu genius for combining rich, bright colours.

Akbar presiding over interfaith discussions.

The Cusp of Ages

According to the ancient Indian system for reckoning time, we are at a very significant juncture in history. The present is a cusp or transitional period between Kali Yuga and Satya Yuga. Two of four ages in a recurring cycle.
Kali Yuga is a period of darkness and confusion, in which Dharma (natural law) is largely overturned. The Goddess MahaKali is often misunderstood, outside of India, to be a malevolent deity, and so it is often assumed that the Dark Age of Kali Yuga is named after Her; in fact She assumes a terrific form out of pure compassion, in order to destroy negativity threatening Her children.

The Elven Deva Galadriel reveals her terrific aspect

As Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi has explained, the name of the Dark Age comes from the demon Kali, whose name is transliterated from the Sanskrit the same way but pronounced differently. In Hindu Myth, Kali was a troublesome personification of evil and chaos defeated by a righteous king and threatened with annihilation, but who begged for a place to exist and was promised that he would preside over a future world age, which would be the worst time ever. Kali Yuga, in one sense, is a necessary evil, because without it's inversion of Dharma, evolution would stagnate. There is no impetus for change without a shock.

Satya Yuga is a period in which truth prevails, a return to a kind of Golden Age. Satya means Truth; not dogmatic truth but the inherent reality of the Universal Self. In Yoga philosophy Self/Being (Atman) and Truth (Sat) are considered to be one and the same. In realising one, we realise the other. Therefore the establishment of Satya Yuga will require the abolition of illusory ego and superego.
It's interesting to note that in one story about the evil demon, Kali is banished from the world by the righteous king but allowed to reside in gambling dice and gold. Unfortunately the king wore a golden crown, and so Kali was able to influence his thoughts and cause him to throw a poisonous snake at a sage - an extremely inauspicious act. Thus Kali succeeded in precipitating chaos in the world, and in getting his revenge on the king.

Perhaps Tolkien, a scholar of ancient languages and myths, got his inspiration for the ring from the story of Kali.

Frodo's hobbit innocence and humility allows him to bear
the malign influence of the gold Ring of Power,
where larger, more egoistic beings would have failed.

Friday, April 25, 2008


The First Passover Meal
by the Self-realised painter Chagall

The Torah states that one must remove all unleavened bread (chametz) from one's possession before Passover.

"the reference is to nullifying it in one's mind, to considering it as dust, and as being no longer in one's possession. One must consciously consider all of the chametz that is in one's possession as if it were as useless and worthless as dust. By nullifying one's chametz in one's mind and considering it as being no more than dust, and thus ownerless, one fulfills the mitzvah of removing chametz from one's possession... The prohibition does not apply to chametz which is either ownerless or which belongs to someone else."
- Eliyahu Kitov

Similarly, disownership of thought is a means of nullifying it and rendering oneself fit for the Passover of the Supreme Self.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Self and World

"The realised being sees only the Self,
just as the goldsmith sees only the gold
while valuing it in various jewels made of gold.
When you identify yourself with the body,
name and form are there.
But when you transcend the body-consciousness,
the others also disappear.
The realised one does not see the world
as different from himself."

"The sage helps the world
merely by being the real Self.
The best way for one to serve the world
is to win the egoless state."
- Shri Ramana Maharshi

In 1938 the novelist Somerset Maugham visited the Self-realised saint Ramana Maharshi, (whom Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi has identified as a partial incarnation of Shri Shiva - the ascetic yet joyous aspect of the Divine). Self-realisation can be transmitted from person to person - not so hard to accept when one realises that ultimately there is only one universal person - particularly if the catalyst is highly Self-realised and the recipient is receptive. This seems to have been the case with Maugham - he went on to write The Razor's Edge, basing the character of the wise old man on the Maharshi (no relation to the ridiculous TM guru who died recently in the Netherlands)

The hero of the novel, Larry Darrell, describes his experience of Self-realisation:

"How grand the sight was that was displayed before me as the day broke in its splendour...I was ravished with the beauty of the world. I'd never known such exaltation and such a transcendent joy. I had a strange sensation, a tingling that arose in my feet and traveled up to my head, and I felt as though I were suddenly released from my body and as pure spirit partook of a loveliness I had never conceived. I had a sense that a knowledge more than human possessed me, so that everything that had been confused was clear and everything that had perplexed me was explained. I was so happy that it was pain and I struggled to release myself from it, for I felt that if it lasted a moment longer I should die; and yet it was such rapture that I was ready to die rather than forego it. How can I tell you what I felt? No words can tell the ecstasy of my bliss."

Enlightenment scene in the Himalayas, from the black and white film version of The Razor's Edge.

Monday, April 14, 2008

El Greco

Depiction of Kundalini emerging from the Sahasrara chakras of the Virgin Mary and Apostles. Painting by the Self-realised artist El Greco. Kundalini awakening is the only way to transcend ego and superego.

The Prison of Delusion

"A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

- Albert Einstein

Scene from The Shawshank Redemption


"Ego kills the willpower of man completely.
A man who is an egoist is left with no willpower.
He does what the ego tells him."

- Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, New York, 27th October 1985

Hitler was an extreme case of ego possession and psychological projection (projecting one's own unacknowledged faults onto the 'other').
Ironically, the Nazis saw their ascendancy to power as a 'triumph of the will'.
The only source of willpower - or even freewill - is the universal Self.

German City in ruins

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Painting by Duane Keiser

"The consumer's relation with the real world, with politics, history and culture is not one of interest, investment or engaged responsibility. Rather, it is one of curiosity. One must try everything: in fact man in consumer society is tormented by the fear of 'missing' something, any enjoyment whatsoever... it is no longer desire or even taste or specific inclination that is in play, it is a generalised curiosity motivated by a widespread anxiety... It is the anxiety of always feeling on the verge of - but only on the verge of - finally grasping the object of desire, the meaning of life, the rules of the game."
- Roland Barthes, quoted in Signs Taken for Wonders: On the Sociology of Literary Forms by Franco Moretti

When you have finally ripened,
you have a choice:
let the Supreme consume you -
or rot.

(After the Sufi Poets)

Friday, April 04, 2008

Absolute Being

"We are non-existence
appearing as existence,
Thou art Absolute Being
appearing as the perishable."

Graphics Collage: Sadiq M. Alam