Friday, December 24, 2010

A Peaceful Christmas

Jesus said, "If your leaders say to you, 'Look, the Kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the Kingdom is within you and it is outside you.
When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty."
-Gospel of Thomas

William Blake, Christ in the House of Martha and Mary.

The Kingdom is a symbol for the Self, which Jesus exhorts us to know. It is coextensive with the Universe, and therefore both inside and outside us.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Be Your Self

Be yourself. There is no one better qualified.
- Mary Dunbar

I want you to be everything that's you, deep at the center of your being.
- Confucius

Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself. 
- Emerson

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Square Painting

I've long been interested by paintings in a square format. This is a wonderful composition by Thomas Buechner.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Spindle of Necessity

"After seven days in the meadow the souls and Er were required to travel further. After four days they reached a place where they could see a rainbow shaft of light brighter than any they had seen before. After another day's travel they reached it. This was the spindle of Necessity. Several women, including Lady Necessity, her daughters and the Sirens were present. The souls were then organized into rows and were each given a lottery token apart from Er."

From the Myth of Er, ascribed to Socrates by Plato.

This image of a rainbow spindle spinning out reincarnations, recalls the Kundalini, from Yoga tradition, a divine energy associated with the Goddess.

William Blake, illustration for the poem Jerusalem.

On the right a woman with the moon (feminine principle), spins a thread emerging from the crown of the head of a divine creator figure.
In yoga philosophy, the Kundalini shakti emerges through an aperture at the crown of the head, called the Brahmarandra (rent of Brahma).
Jerusalem is a symbol of the Sahasrara and the Eternal Self.

"Myths of weaving exist around the world as metaphors for creation."

"The spindle is often an axis mundi and its whirling whorls serve a cosmogonic function. Plato, for example, had a vision of the great goddess Ananke, "Necessity," spinning the universe; the sun, moon, and planets were her spindle's whorls; sirens sang through the webs of time and fate that she wove, and souls endlessly moved through the strands on their way to and from death and rebirth. Many goddesses are spinners and weavers: the Fates of ancient Greece; Athena, also of Greece; Neith of ancient Egypt; in Teutonic myth the Norns spin secret meanings into life."

The Norse goddess Frigg

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Agora, a film by the Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar (The Sea Inside), revolves around the life of Hypatia, the greatest mathematician, scientist and philosopher of her time, played admirably by Rachel Weisz. In her native 4th century AD Alexandria she was much esteemed for her dignity, intellect and virtue. Many of her students, both pagan and Christian, rose to positions of political power, which meant that she was seen as a woman of great influence, putting her into the crosshairs of the power-hungry. Her death, to some historians, marks the end of the Classical Era, although Hellenistic philosophy did survive her for a few hundred years in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire.
The villain of the piece is Cyril, patriarch/pope of Alexandria, a man described, even by Christians of his day as "a monster, born to destroy the church". He persecuted the Jews and other non-Christians of Alexandria, as well as Christians who disagreed with him, and probably incited the mob of zealots who brutally killed and mutilated Hypatia for her refusal to kneel to his power. Historians disagree over the extent of his responsibility for these events, but the Church's own resistance to his canonisation is telling.
Amenabar certainly has an agenda - firstly to warn against the overthrow of reason by ignorance, and secondly to show that so-called Christians have been, at certain times and places, no better than the Taliban. The second part of the message has infuriated certain reviewers allied to the Church. Agendas tend to distort historical accuracy, but the inaccuracies of the film are not as great as commentators, with their own ideological agenda, have made out. For example, some have deplored Agora for apparently blaming Christians for the destruction of the great Royal Library of Alexandria. There were several libraries in the city, and the film deals with the destruction of the library in the Serapeum temple, not the burning of the great library. The Serapeum was destroyed by either a Christian mob or by Roman soldiers, depending on which ancient account one reads. We will probably never know who was responsible for the tragic loss of the more famous library.
I saw the film with my librarian sister, which was quite appropriate.

Hypatia as imagined by Raphael

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Spiral Time

David Pearson is a plastic surgeon who enjoys using Photoshop to distort clock faces into spirals.
There's something a bit worrying about a plastic surgeon who likes distorting things with Photoshop!

The Left Brain as Narrator/Interpreter

"We are our narratives" has become a popular slogan. "We" refers to our selves, in the full-blooded person-constituting sense. "Narratives" refers to the stories we tell about our selves and our exploits in settings as trivial as cocktail parties and as serious as intimate discussions with loved ones. We express some in speech. Others we tell silently to ourselves, in that constant little inner voice. The full collection of one's internal and external narratives generates the self we are intimately acquainted with. Our narrative selves continually unfold.

State-of-the-art neuro-imaging and cognitive neuropsychology both uphold the idea that we create our "selves" through narrative. Based on a half-century's research on "split-brain" patients, neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga argues that the human brain's left hemisphere is specialised for intelligent behaviour and hypothesis formation. It also possesses the unique capacity to interpret - that is, narrate - behaviours and emotional states initiated by either hemisphere. Not surprisingly, the left hemisphere is also the language hemisphere, with specialised cortical regions for producing, interpreting and understanding speech. It is also the hemisphere that produces narratives.

Gazzaniga also thinks that this left-hemisphere "interpreter" creates the unified feeling of an autobiographical, personal, unique self. "The interpreter sustains a running narrative of our actions, emotions, thoughts, and dreams. The interpreter is the glue that keeps our story unified, and creates our sense of being a coherent, rational agent. To our bag of individual instincts it brings theories about our lives. These narratives of our past behaviour seep into our awareness and give us an autobiography," he writes. The language areas of the left hemisphere are well placed to carry out these tasks. 

Full article a
New Scientist

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi has identified the left hemisphere of the brain as the area of the subtle body in which the ahamkara (ego) accumulates.

Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? The narrator or the ego?

Drawing Hands is a lithograph by the Dutch artist M. C. Escher first printed in January 1948. It depicts a sheet of paper out of which rise, from wrists that remain flat on the page, two hands, facing each other and in the paradoxical act of drawing one another into existence. Although Escher used paradoxes in his works often, this is one of the most obvious examples.

The lithograph may signify mutual constitution; that is, the principle of one entity being formed by the other and vice versa (e.g., the state vs. the demos, predator–prey co-evolution, the subject and objects, "chicken or the egg?", agency-structure).

It is referenced in the book Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter, who calls it an example of a strange loop.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gibran Exhibition in Sydney

A few days ago, for no particular reason, I suddenly thought about the Lebanese poet/painter/philosopher, Kahlil Gibran (a Lebanese friend once told me his surname is pronounced with a soft 'g' in Lebanon, and with a hard 'g' in other parts of the Arabic speaking world). His work had inspired me in my early twenties but I had forgotten about it since then. Now I had a renewed desire to study his paintings closely. When I thought about it I felt that cool, refreshing goose-bump feeling of something serendipitous working out in mysterious ways. To my knowledge his work is not in the collection of any Australian Art Gallery, and the reproductions online are not of the best quality, so it didn't seem very likely "my" wish would be fulfilled. 
A couple of days later a friend emailed to let me know about an upcoming exhibition on his work, right here in Sydney where I live!

Kahlil Gibran: The Prophet, The Artist, The Man

4 December 2010 – 20 February 2011
Dixson Galleries, Mitchell Library
This exhibition will introduce audiences to Kahlil Gibran. While many Australians of the baby boomer generation have read The Prophet or heard of Gibran, few know about his life or artworks.

Gibran left 
Lebanon in 1895 at the age of 12 with his mother and three siblings for a better life in America. Settling in Boston, his early artistic talent was noticed by pictorial photographer F Holland Day of the Boston avant-garde. Gibran gradually developed into a romantic who read widely and drew compulsively.

This exhibition provides an overview of Gibran’s artistic output, featuring oil paintings, works of art on paper — including the original watercolours used as illustrations in the first edition of The Prophet — and writings selected from Gibran’s personal collection at the Gibran Museum in Bsharri, North Lebanon.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Kahlil Gibran on the Self

Knowledge of the self is the mother of all knowledge. So it is incumbent on me to know my self, to know it completely, to know its minutiae, its characteristics, its subtleties, and its very atoms.

I existed from all eternity and, behold, I am here; and I shall exist till the end of time, for my being has no end. 

Saturday, November 06, 2010


The film Ran (chaos), by the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, is a retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear but introduces original elements such as the ruthless hi-brow Lady Kaede, whose thirst for revenge plunges the world around her into strife and mayhem.

The story world first begins to descend into chaos when the autocratic warlord in charge decides to abdicate power to his cruel and power-hungry older children. Blinded by ego, he rewards their flattery and exiles those who try to show him the truth, including his youngest child.

King Lear and Ran have both been seen as nihilistic because the chaos and ensuing suffering envelops good and bad characters indiscriminately. However, if seen as a tale of Self-realisation through the deflation of ego, the suffering is not without purpose, and the end is not entirely tragic.

Perhaps the most poignantly tragic figure in Ran is the young lord Tsurumaru, whose family is destroyed when the warlord burns down their castle. Eventually he loses his surviving sister, Lady Sué, a devout Buddhist who is able to forgive the warlord for the ruin of her family.

The film ends with a shot of Tsurumaru, blind and alone on top of the ruined castle, the only survivor of the film's events. Stumbling on the precipice he loses the icon of Amida Buddha his sister has given him for spiritual comfort. Even the gods have abandoned him it seems. Yet, in the often painful stripping away of externals, the Self remains unchanged, here symbolised by the radiant Enlightened One, the witness of the world's endless flux.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Sacred Feminine: Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene, Attributed to the Master of the Mansi Magdalene (Dutch)

The idea that Mary Magdalene was a fallen woman is a falsehood invented by medieval clerics who wanted to make her into an ideal of the penitent sinner, and so had to turn her life before meeting Christ into something sinful.
She was in fact an incarnation of the Purity of the Divine Feminine, which makes the slurs on her character an even greater wrong.

Mary Magdalene is referred to in early Christian writings as "the apostle to the apostles." In apocryphal texts, she is portrayed as a visionary and leader of the early movement, who was loved by Jesus more than the other disciples.

She is often depicted opening a vessel of ointment (which suggests the vessel of the Spirit, the Kundalini) She is also sometimes shown meditating in the wilderness with a skull in one hand, symbolising the renunciation of the body. These depictions are reminiscent of Indian paintings of Shri Mahakali, the renunciant aspect of the Goddess.

The name Mary occurs in 51 passages of the New Testament. There are several people named Mary in the Gospels. There also are several unnamed women who seem to share characteristics with Mary Magdalene. At different times in history, Mary Magdalene has been confused or misidentified with almost every woman in the four Gospels, except the mother of Jesus. "The idea that this Mary was 'the woman who was a sinner,' or that she was unchaste, is altogether groundless." There is no scriptural or historical evidence that Mary’s relationship with Jesus was anything other than that of a disciple to her teacher, definitely not a lover or wife. Although in the past she has suffered from a case of mistaken identity, Mary Magdalene was never reviled, demeaned or dismissed.
Here's a link to an apocryphal text mentioning three Marys in the circle of Christ: Sahaj-A-Z

Thursday, October 28, 2010


"Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire." - Gustav Mahler

People often use the word 'traditional' to lend weight to the ideas or products they are trying to sell. As Richard Dawkins points out in his critique of alternative medical practices which claim to be based on 'traditional' medicine: just because an idea is old doesn't mean it's right.

But there's also the point that things made, or thoughts inspired, by the heart, the abode of the Self, tend to last over time. Time exposes the flaws in works which may initially appear original but are actually based on ego and conditionings. Over time, egoistic things appear idiosyncratic and ugly; things produced by conditioning appear old-fashioned or derivative.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Reality is simply the loss of ego.
Destroy the ego by seeking its identity. 
Because the ego is not a real entity 
it will automatically vanish 
and reality will shine forth by itself.

- Sri Ramana Maharshi

"it is very important to understand that Raghwindra Swami was in this area, and he did a lot of work, and now the time has come to complete his work; also Ramana Maharshi. They didn't know how to explain, so they took to mauna (silence)."
- Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, Madras, India, 1991

Wikipedia entry on Raghavendra_Swami

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Art Find of the Century

A renaissance painting, believed by art experts to be an original by Michelangelo, has been discovered behind a sofa. It depicts the Virgin Mary and Christ in a Pieta scene. In medieval versions, the Virgin is shown to the side of, and below the figure of Jesus, but Michelangelo places Her centrally. Read the news article.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Goddess of the Mountain

Detail, Allegory of Chastity, Hans Memling, Nederlandish, 15th century.

The Hindu goddess Parvati is the wife of Shiva, the personification of the Eternal Self. Parvata is one of the Sanskrit words for "mountain"; "Parvati" translates to "She of the mountains" and refers to Parvati being born the daughter of Himavan, lord of the mountains and the personification of the Himalayas. Shri Parvati is also called Gauri, meaning "of white or golden complexion". Gauri Mata (Mother Gauri) is the goddess of purity and chastity, and a benevolent aspect of Devi (Goddess); the 'brilliant'. Another form taken by Parvati, is the warrior goddess Durga, whose name means "inaccessible", or "fortress'.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Veil of Self

According to Plutarch, the Egyptian temple of the goddess Neith bore the inscription:

I am All That Has Been, That Is, and That Will Be. 
No mortal has yet been able to lift the veil that covers Me.

There was one who arrived there.
He lifted the veil of the goddess.
But what did he see?
Wonder above wonder,
he saw himself.

Hymn to Isis

O Wealth-giver,
Queen of the Gods,
Lady Hermouthis,
Good Fortune,
Greatly Renowned Isis,
Exalted Deity,
Highest Discoverer of all life.

Many are the miracles You have performed so that mankind could exist,
and morality be established for all.
You taught us customs so that justice might in some measure prevail,
You taught us skills so that human life might be comfortable,
And You found the blossoms that produce nourishing fruit.

Because of You heaven and the whole earth have their being,
And the gusts of the winds, and the sun with its sweet light.
By Your power the channels of the Nile are filled, every one,
At the harvest season, and its turbulent water is poured out
On the whole land so that produce may be unfailing.

All mortals who live on the boundless earth:
Thracians, Greeks and Barbarians,
Express Your fair Name, a Name greatly honored among all,
Each speaks in his own language, in his own land.
The Syrians call You: Astarte, Artemis, Nanaia,
The Lycian tribes call You: Leto, the Lady,
The Thracians also name You as Mother of the gods,
And the Greeks (call You) Hera of the Great Throne, Aphrodite,
Hestia the goodly, Rheia and Demeter.
But the Egyptians call You ‘Thiouis’ (because they know) that You, being One, are all the goddesses invoked by the races of men.

Mighty One, I shall not cease to compose hymns to Your great Power,
Deathless Saviour, many-named, mightiest Isis,
Saving from war, cities and all their citizens:
Men, their wives, possessions, and children.
Those who are bound fast in prison, in the power of death,
Those who as are in pain through long, anguished, sleepless nights,
All who are wanderers in a foreign land,
Those who sail on the Ocean in winter,
When men may be destroyed, and their ships wrecked and sunk.
All of these are saved if they pray that You be present to help.

Hear my prayers, O One whose Name has great Power;
Prove Yourself merciful to me, and free me from all distress.

Isidorus, c 100 BCE

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


A 4th century BC depiction of the Iranian goddess Anahita, radiant and mounted on a lion, being worshipped by Artaxerxes II. She was an important deity in the Zoroastrian religion of ancient Persia, responsible for fertility but also skilled in the arts of war. A virgin goddess, Her name means "the immaculate one". 
The Indian goddess, Shri Devi, also rides on a lion or tiger and is indomitable in combat.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

"Creation Delights in the Recognition of Itself"

At the end of Huston Smith's autobiography, Tales of Wonder, he describes an experience his friend Ann Jauregui had as a young girl in Michigan:

In summer she would lie on a wooden raft anchored in the bay, listening to the the waters lapping, drowsy in the warm sunshine. The warm day, the clear northern light, and the water's gentle motion together worked a semi-hypnotic effect.
Then suddenly Ann would snap alert and feel intensely alive, or rather that everything was alive and that she was part of it. The rocks, the water itself - everything seemed pulsating with a kind of energy. She found she put questions to the experience. 'What is my role in all this,' she whispered. 'Show me.'
The rocks, the trees, the water - all in silent chorus 'answered' - not in words, of course - that the wanting to know, just that, was her part in the pulsating landscape.
'Creation delights in the recognition of itself', is how she would later put it.

Inquiry (called vichara in Sanskrit, the language of yoga) is the posing of questions to the Self/Spirit. It is an initial step on the way into Self-realisation or Self-recognition. 
Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi recommends asking the simple question: 'am I the Spirit?'
As meditation deepens, there is less need for Self-inquiry (atmavichara) - at least in words - and the thoughtless awareness state of nirvichara (without inquiry) is established.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Self as Universe

The little space within the heart is as great as a vast universe.
The heavens and the earth are there, and the sun,
and the moon and the stars, fire, lightning and winds are there,
and all that now is, and all that is not:
for the whole universe is the Self and the Self dwells within the heart.

- The Chandogya Upanishad

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Dream and Reality

Self-realisation is sometimes compared to the moment of awakening from a dream state. But how is one to know that the waking state is not itself a further dream?
After receiving Kundalini awakening and the opening of the Sahasrara Chakra, one is not entirely free of Maya - The World-Dream continues - but one begins to dream lucidly, to participate in it's creation from moment to moment. This is how one begins to distinguish illusion and reality after Self-realisation.

In the film Inception, the character Ariadne tells Leonardo DiCaprio's character to "remember yourself" just before he plunges into a dream state of indeterminate length. The film does not explore the nature of the Self, however.

The idea that the world is an illusion or dream can become an infectious meme. As we see in the character of Mal (Leonardo DiCaprio's character's wife), a kind of self-destructive madness results, if the ego claims ownership of the world-dream, rather than seeing it as an aspect of the Supreme Self.

According to Advaita philosophy, the world is a dream if seen as separate from the Subject; real if seen as the Subject.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


The Buddha, by the Mexican artist Octavio Ocampo.
After Enlightenment the Buddha remembers countless past existences.

From the viewpoint of the Self, there is no reincarnation; there is not even incarnation. The Self does not incarnate. If Self and World are indeed one and the same, how can it be said that the Self enters into a particular physical form? How can the all-pervading Self enter into itself?
However, from a human viewpoint, there is reincarnation.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Self-realisation is not an action

As soon as I say, 'You cannot put in any effort about it,' our ego gets challenged. How is it? It's difficult for a modern person to understand, that God's grace is going to work it out. Even Shankaracharya, you know Adi Shankaracharya, the one who propounded Hinduism in India, said that "Na yogena, na samkhyena," [Neither by observances nor by analysis] not by any of these things that it is going to happen, but by Mother's grace it's going to work out that you are going to be realized. There's no way out. No way thinking about it, writing about it, preaching about it, talking about it, it has to happen to you.
-Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, 1979

Friday, July 23, 2010

Praises of the Divine Mother by Four Incarnations of the Primordial Master, Shri Adi Guru Dattatreya

William Blake, The Mother Goddess whom he called Jerusalem, the Emanation from Albion (Shiva, the Self)

"The beginning of the universe is the Mother of all things."
-Master Lao Tse

"A son's paradise is found at the feet of his mother."
-Lord Muhammad

"The Primordial Mother came into being by Herself, mysteriously,
and She created three deities: one was the Creator, one the Sustainer, and one the Destroyer."
-Shri Guru Nanak (Founder of the Sikh religion), first lines of the Guru Granth Sahib

"Surrender to me and I will take care of you as a Mother takes care of a little child."
-Shri Shirdi Sai Nath

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Let us reach for the world that ought to be - that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls." 
Barack Obama

We have a stake in one another, and what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done."

Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope, Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream

Friday, July 09, 2010


This is, apparently, a real answer to a question in a school physics test.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Shri SitaRama Enthroned, Gouache on Japanese paper.

Lord Rama was an Incarnation of the Supreme Self who deliberately forgot His divine identity in order to become a human being (an ideal one).
After performing intense and prolonged austerities, the demon Ravana had won a boon from the god Brahma (or Shiva?), and asked that he become invulnerable from death at the hands of any god or fellow demon. Contemptuous of apparently frail human beings, he neglected to ask for immunity from them, thus creating a loophole which allowed Shri Rama (the all-powerful Lord Vishnu in human form) to kill him and free the world from oppression.

The Dishonesty of Ego

In Western culture, ego is often thought of as 'healthy', or at worst a necessary evil. But constructing an artificial sense of self based on the lie of separateness, can have catastrophic consequences not only for the person but for entire societies. Dorothy Rowe writes:
Can you bear to remember that time in your life when you were going along feeling secure and thinking, "This is me, this is my world, that was my past, this will be my future," when suddenly you found that you had made a major error of judgement? When you realised that many of the ideas underpinning your whole sense of being a person - that sense of "I", "me", "myself" - had been invalidated by events?
Have you ever had the sensation of falling through infinite space, shattering, crumbling, of being about to disappear like a raindrop into the ocean? Perhaps you knew that what was falling apart was not your sense of self but some of your ideas. You knew that you now had to go through a period of uncertainty until new ideas emerged. But if you did not know this, you would have been utterly terrified, so terrified that you would do anything never to go through such an experience again.
Psychiatrists and psychologists have either ignored this experience, maximised its significance as a full-scale "breakdown", or minimised it as a "panic disorder". Yet this feeling of falling apart is an essential part of our lives and of most of our narratives. In The Wizard of Oz, for example, Dorothy and her companions emerge wiser and strong from the invalidation of their idea that the wizard could solve their problems, while paradoxically Othello is destroyed by the invalidation of his belief that his wife Desdemona had been unfaithful.
We first experience the terror of being invalidated when we are small children, but by the time we are 3 or 4 we have learned a way of avoiding it: we have learned how to lie. From then on, whenever we glimpse the faintest possibility that our "selves" might be threatened with annihilation, we lie.
First of all, we lie to ourselves. Why? Because we fear that we do not have the strength and courage to face the truth of our situation. We even lie about lying, preferring to call our lies anything but a lie. We say: "He's in denial" or "She's being economical with the truth".
All lies have networks of consequences we did not expect or intend. The lies we tell may well protect us and our personal - or collective - sense of self in the short term, but in the long term and in a linked-up, complex world, the consequences can be truly disastrous. After all, when we lie to ourselves and to others, we multiply a thousandfold the inherent difficulties we have trying to determine what is actually going on inside us and around us.
-New Scientist, 21 June 2010
Dorothy Rowe is an Australian psychologist and emeritus associate of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Read the full article

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Self is infinite

The Self appears to be finite because of ignorance.
When ignorance is destroyed, the Self,
which does not admit of any multiplicity,
reveals itself by itself:
just as the sun reveals itself
when it evaporates the clouds covering it.

-Shri Adi Shankaracharya, Atmabodha

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Research on Meditation

Spiral Jetty

Meditation helps to anchor someone in the present. A new study has found it also stops people from anticipating pain.
Brain scans revealed that the most advanced meditators were the least likely to anticipate pain induced by a laser device, which made the experience more bearable.
Lead researcher Dr Christopher Brown, said: 'Meditation is becoming increasingly popular as a way to treat chronic illness such as the pain caused by arthritis.
'Recently, a mental health charity called for meditation to be routinely available on the NHS to treat depression, which occurs in up to 50 per cent of people with chronic pain.
'However, scientists have only just started to look into how meditation might reduce the emotional impact of pain.'
The study, to be published in the journal Pain, found that participants who meditated showed unusual activity in the brain region known to be involved in controlling attention and thought processes when potential threats are perceived.
Dr Brown said: 'The results of the study confirm how we suspected meditation might affect the brain.
'Meditation trains the brain to be more present-focused and therefore to spend less time anticipating future negative events. This may be why meditation is effective at reducing the recurrence of depression, which makes chronic pain considerably worse.'
Dr Brown said the findings should encourage further research into how the brain is changed by meditation practice.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Racial Purity

In the latest New Scientist: A long-awaited rough draft of the Neanderthal genome has proved what was long-suspected: Homo sapiens interbred with Neanderthals. Our own DNA contains clear evidence of this. The genome of humans today is roughly 1-4% Neanderthal, a species not generally considered "human". This holds true for all non-Africans. It turns out that Africans are actually pure homo sapiens.
White supremacists should rethink their ideas about Africans being less "human" or less "racially pure" than themselves. More likely they will attempt to reinvent Neanderthals as some kind of superior species, despite the fact that they went out of evolution.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Inhere as the Self

"Therefore become dispassionate
and inhere as the Self.
Such inherence is spontaneous and effortless.
It is realised after thoughts are eliminated
and investigation ceases.
Return to your state after you break off from it,
and then you will know all,
and the significance of its being knowable
and unknowable at the same time.
Thus realising the unknowable,
one abides in immortality
for ever and ever.

-Tripura Rahasa, (The Mystery Beyond the Three States of Consciousness,
or The Secret of the Supreme Goddess)
Attributed to Shri Adi Guru Dattatreya

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

40th Sahasrara Day

The Celestial Rose, Illustration to Dante's Paradiso

Today is the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Sahasrara Chakra of the Virata, by Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi.

"(Sanskrit: सहस्रार, Sahasrāra) is the seventh primary chakra according to Hindu tradition. Often referred as thousand-petaled lotus, it is said to be the most subtle chakra in the system, relating to pure consciousness, and it is from this chakra that all the other chakras emanate. When a yogi is able to raise his or her kundalini, energy of consciousness, up to this point, the state of Samādhi, or union with God is attained."

- Wikipedia

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Goddess and the Volcano

Archangel Michael, Peruvian Icon, Oil on Canvas

In many traditions around the world, volcanoes are considered to be manifestations of the Goddess, particularly in Her terrific or destructive aspect.
In Hawaii She is known as the indomitable Pele. In Amerindian mythology Mt St Helens is the form taken by the maiden Luwit, and Mt Fuji in Japan is presided over by the goddess Konohana Sakuya Hime. 
The blood-like lava flows, the black smoke, the grey ash reminiscent of the cremation ground, the lightning and destructive fury, are all suggestive of the Hindu goddess Shri Mahakali, the terrifying destroyer of negative forces.

This painting depicts not the Goddess Herself but the Archangel Michael, who presides, with Shri Mahakali, over the left, lunar channel of the Subtle Body. This channel (also known as the Ida Nadi) has the universal quality of Tamas, the cold, dark energy of inertia, which acts as a brake to the overactivity of the solar channel of Rajas. The Icelandic volcano certainly applied a braking force to European air travel.

People who doubt that human activity has a significant effect on global warming often point to the huge amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide emitted during volcanic eruptions. However, volcanoes also emit ash and sulphur, which can remain suspended in the atmosphere for several years, partially shielding the planet from solar radiation. This cooling effect is known as the haze effect. Volcanic eruptions enhance the haze effect to a greater extent than the greenhouse effect. Observational evidence shows a clear correlation between historic eruptions and subsequent years of cold climate conditions. Volcanoes have a net cooling effect on global climate.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Another Good Letter to NS

From Maggie Hamand:
"As someone with a first degree in biochemistry and an MA in theology. I am always fascinated by debates about religion and science. I was dismayed, however, to read [in New Scientist magazine] that belief in God is equated with belief in "supernatural beings". In Christian theology God is not seen as an object of our consciousness, and therefore cannot be described as a "being" or as a "thing". God is held to be both beyond being (transcendent) and being itself (immanent). As far as I am aware Judaism, Islam and indeed Buddhism and Hinduism have similar doctrines. It is human to constantly reify things which are abstract - as scientists do when talking about particles and black holes - or which are divine: but this should be resisted if we are to truly understand things."
London, UK.

Similarly, the Self is not a thing. Reification (also known as hypostatisation, concretism, or the fallacy of misplaced concreteness) is a fallacy of ambiguity, when an abstraction (abstract belief or hypothetical construct) is treated as if it were a concrete, real event, or physical entity. In other words, it is the error of treating as a "real thing" something which is not a real thing, but merely an idea. The habit of thinking about abstractions in terms of concrete objects is probably an inborn tendency in human beings. The word 'real' is quite vague, philosophers can't even agree on what the word 'existence' means. To say that God/Self should not be reified does not necessarily mean It does not 'exist'.

The Collective Self

"The idea that consciousness is the product of interaction between different areas of the brain may have begun with Bernard Baars in 1983, but German philosopher Jurgen Habermans (born in 1929) has long argued that knowledge arises from interaction between people. George Herbert Mead argued that mind itself arises from such interaction, rather than the other way around. It is far from surprising that the social and individual processes of the mind would mimic, or perhaps mirror, each other, and comes as no surprise to those of us who question the assumption that each of us has, or is, a fundamental single self from which all else proceeds."
-Steve Wilson, letter published in New Scientist


The conscious brain evolved at the level of the Visshuddhi Chakra, which is characterised by the quality of collectivity, the interaction, or play, between variegated parts of a whole. According to Advaita philosophy, the Self is singular, but also has innumerable aspects which can interact through the principle of collectivity. Many scientists are tending towards the idea that individual 'selves' are fictitious - a simulation, or an illusion. However, to answer what has been called the 'hard problem' of consciousness - how subjective experience arises from the physical brain - we will always need a single universal subject, or Self.

3D chess game from Star Trek. Consciousness arises through interaction and play.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Tyranny of the Discontinuous Mind

"The boundaries of objects are vague - and that goes for us too... Describing the world in terms of discrete objects is a useful fiction."

- Kees van Deemter, a computational linguist at the University of Aberdeen, UK, and author of Not Exactly: In praise of vagueness

Richard Dawkins calls this tendency to think in discrete categories "the tyranny of the discontinuous mind".

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Avadhuta Gita

All that exists in this world of forms
Is nothing but the Self, and the Self alone.
How, then, shall the Infinite worship Itself?
Shiva is one undivided Whole!

-Avadhuta Gita (The Song of the Renunciant)
Probably 9th or 10th century
Traditionally ascribed to Shri Dattatreya

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


North face of Mt Kailash

At the heart of the Sahasrara Chakra (the subtle centre at the crown of the head) is the abode of the aspect of the Self known in Hinduism as Lord Shiva. Though all the deities of the Hindu pantheon are believed to be aspects of the one Universal Self, Shri Shiva represents the unmanifested Self, which exists in a state of perpetual meditation, apparently withdrawn from the world. In Advaita philosophy, the distinction between Self and world is seen as illusory, and therefore the deities who look after different aspects of worldy existence are no less "spiritual" for their involvement with the world;  however, the ascetic deity, Lord Shiva, is often chosen by Hindus to represent the Self, because He is a pure essence at the heart of all things. He is considered to reside also in the heart Chakra. Lord Shiva is both remote, in the sense of being unaffected by phenomena, and the closest, because He resides in the heart. Because Self and world are one, meditation is not a withdrawal from the world, as many believe; it is a withdrawal from the mind's illusion of separateness. What better way to get a grip on reality than to become it.

The subtle centres are manifested at various locations on Earth. The Himalaya corresponds to the Sahasrara Chakra. Mt Kailash is located in a particularly remote and desolate region of the Tibetan plateau. Hindu texts describe it as being surrounded by seven layers of mountain ranges, rather like the heart of a lotus enfolded in layers of petals. Four great rivers of South Asia have their source near the mountain, and in yoga philosophy there are four subtle nadis, or spiritual channels, emerging from the Heart Chakra.
The Sanskrit word kailash means 'crystal', and the mountain does have a jewel-like appearance rising from the surrounding bare and arid terrain.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


This is Maya (Illusion).
She has been intentionally created.
Without her, the attention would not have developed.
You should not be afraid of Maya
and should recognize Her
so that She will illuminate your path.
A cloud hides the sun and also makes it seen.
In the same way, once the Maya is identified,
she moves aside and the sun is seen.
The sun is always there,
but what is the purpose of the cloud?
Because of the cloud, you have an urge to see the sun,
which shines for a moment and again hides somewhere.

-HH Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

From the experience of bliss for a long time, there arose in the Supreme Self a certain state like deep sleep. From that state Maya (the illusive power of the Supreme Self) was born, just as a dream arises in sleep. This Maya is without the characteristics of (or different from) Reality or unreality, without beginning, and dependent on the Reality that is the Supreme Self. She, who is of the form of the Three Gunas (the qualities or energies of Nature), brings forth the Universe with all its animate and inanimate things.
-Shri Shankaracharya (probably 788–820 CE)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Self as Reality

Persian Women Gathered Around a Samovar,
19th Century.

Your name, village, country, horoscope, forecasts, many such things get attached to you, or others attach them to you. Once the Brahmarandhra is closed, many types of illusory ideas become part of your mind….
Only that attention which progresses, renouncing all that is unreal, breaks all known and unknown bindings becomes verily the Self. Atma (the Spirit) is never disturbed or destroyed.
- HH Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf... & Kundalini Awakening

"to be rippling and streaming, to feel the glory run molten up the spine, down the limbs, making the eyes glow, burning, bright, and penetrate the buffeting waves of the wind."

Virginia Woolf probably had some form of bi-polar disorder, which ultimately led her to fill the pockets of her coat with stones and drown herself in a river. Nevertheless she was an exceptionally talented and influential writer. The above quote from one of her essays suggests that she may have experienced Kundalini awakening.
A few relatively modern writers, with very little understanding of what the Kundalini is (essentially the inborn force which connects the 'individual' with the universal Self) have suggested that it is potentially dangerous to try to awaken it, that it could lead to mental instability. The canonical texts of yoga, record the experiences of practitioners of yoga and Kundalini awakening in an unbroken tradition dating back thousands of years. There is no evidence in any of these texts that Kundalini awakening is anything but beneficial. What could be more healthy than a state in which the deluding institutions of ego and conditionings are dissolved? Problems can occur, however, if Kundalini yoga is mixed with a lifestyle or practices (eg certain Tantric techniques) which disturb the innocence of the Mooladhara Chakra, the support of the Kundalini. Without the support of innocence Kundalini awakening and Self-realisation cannot be sustained. As attested by the greatest saints and yogis of India, the Kundalini itself is a nurturing inner Mother, and would never do anything harmful.
Woolf's mental stability was shaken early on when she lost several people very dear to her at a very vulnerable period in her life. There was also the formidable intellectual constraint of her time, particularly for women, which must have been terrible for someone as creative and original as herself. Woolf's journals record that her moments of awakening, of transcending her ego, were extremely valuable and therapeutic. It appears that her final depression was due to an inability to reconnect to this life energy.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Service and Duty

Your own Self-Realisation
is the greatest service you can
render the world.

Your duty is to be, and not to be this or that. "I am that I am" sums up the whole truth...
"I-I" is the Self. "I am this" is the ego. When the "I" is kept up as the "I" only, it is the Self. When it flies off at a tangent and says "I am this or that, I am such and such," - it is the ego.

-The Sage of Arunchala

Monday, January 04, 2010

Advaita in Sikhism

“There is one awareness among all created beings.”

- Shri Guru Nanaka, Siree Raag 24