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

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Shri Durga

We are presently at the culmination of Navaratri, a nine night festival dedicated to Shri Durga, the fiercely protective Mother Goddess, who defeated the demonic forces threatening her children: the gods and human beings.

"The greatest thing is the blessings of the Mother, the way She looks after you, the way She loves you and the way She cares for you, which you should never take for granted. You must meditate, it's very important. No question, without meditation you can't keep yourself all right, it's no question. Meditation is the most important thing which must be followed, because that's how you come close to Her vibrations, come to Her nature."

-Shri Mataji Nirmal Devi, Navaratri 2002

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Einstein on liberation from ego

The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self.
- Albert Einstein

Friday, August 16, 2013


Belief brings me close to You
but only to the door.
It is only by disappearing into
Your mystery
That I will come in.

- Hakim Sanai

Sanai was a Persian poet who lived in the 11th and 12th centuries. While travelling in India he met a Sufi teacher and himself became a Sufi, giving up a life of wealth and luxury as a court poet.
The Walled Garden of Truth (Hadiqat al Haqiqa) is his master work, and the first Persian mystical epic of Sufism.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Not Thinking

… to arrive at the simplest truth requires years of contemplation - not activity, not reasoning, not busy behavior of any kind, not reading, not talking, not making effort, not thinking.

- Sir Isaac Newton

The Contemplation of Justice, US Supreme Court Building, by the sculptor James Earle Fraser.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sir C.P. Srivastava Remembered.

I was saddened to learn that Sir C.P. Srivastava passed away this week, aged 93. 

I had the privilege of meeting him when he visited Australia with his wife, Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, founder of Sahaja Yoga, a unique method of meditation based on the experience of Self-realisation. 

The longest serving Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organisation, Sir C.P will be remembered for his visionary and pioneering role and his ceaseless efforts in the establishment of IMO’s global educational institutions.

C.P. Srivastava was born on 8 July 1920 and was educated in Lucknow, India (obtaining BA, MA and LLB degrees). He started his career as a civil servant in the Indian Administrative Service in India, serving as the district administrator in Meerut and Lucknow, and then went on to the post of Joint Secretary to the Indian Prime Minister's office of the late Lal Bahadur Shastri from 1964 to1966.

Awards and conferments given Dr Srivastava include: a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, the International Maritime prize, the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award for Excellence in Public Administration and Management Sciences, and the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian award, by the President of India.

Sir C. P. has stated that his life has been greatly influenced by his wife and he has been motivated by her vision of the unity of the Divine and the human family. This vision motivated him in all aspects of his life. He is survived by two daughters.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Self is the Guru

"You have to be your own Guru. 
You must reach that point from where you guide yourself 
in such a way that the guiding lines become part of you."

- Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

Sunday, June 09, 2013

The Moment

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can’t breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.
— Margaret Atwood
Jamie Wyeth, The Swing

Friday, May 31, 2013

Lezhneva sings Handel

Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva sings an aria from Handle's Motetto per la Madonna Santissima (excerpt).

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Flower of Sahasrara

Flowers of Couroupita guianensis, known as the Cannonball tree, due to its hard, woody, spherical fruits.
The Tree is native to tropical South America, but seems to have been growing in India for at least 3000 years. How it got to India is a mystery.

These highly fragrant flowers were given to Shri Mataji on many occasions. She was very fond of them and commented that they are the flowers of the Sahasrara Chakra. I have also heard that the rose is associated with this Chakra.

The trees are grown extensively in Shiva temples in India, where they are called Shiv Kamal and Kailaspati. It is called the Nagalingam tree in Tamil. The flowers are called Shivalinga flowers in Hindi; Nagalinga Pushpa in Kannada; Nagamalli flowers or Mallikarjuna flowers in Telugu. Hindus revere it as a sacred tree because the petals of the flower resemble the hood of the Naga, a sacred snake, protecting a Shiva Lingam, the stigma.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The Lotus of a Thousand Petals

The Sahasrara Chakra is the seventh and highest centre of the subtle body, and is located at the crown of the head.

In this antique diagram, it is depicted as a white lotus of many petals. (In yoga texts, the Sahasrara is described as having a thousand petals).
At the centre of the lotus are the feet of the Supreme Being/Self. One is shown white, representing Shri Shiva (the masculine, un-manifest half of the Self), and one red, representing Shri Shakti (the feminine, creative half of the Self).
The trikona, or triangle, may represent the three qualities that pervade the universe: the creative, sustaining and destructive powers, enclosed by the circle of time.

A beautiful image from Indian devotional poetry reveals the crown of the head as a pedestal on which the cool, fragrant, lotus feet of the Divine may rest. In India, the feet of the Divine are considered to pour out blessings and auspicious vibrations, just as in Hindu mythology, the sacred Ganges, source of all sustenance, is said to flow from the feet of Lord Vishnu.

When a person's sahasrara opens, they experience Self-realisation. After this happens, Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi recommends daily meditation with the attention lightly on the sahasrara. Some ancient yoga texts say to put the attention on the brow centre, but these were probably written with the assumption that the aspirant would not yet have had self-realisation - an achievement considered very rare and difficult in previous times. Placing the attention at the crown for meditation, means that the awareness is above the distractions of the mental level, as the lotus of sahasrara blooms above the turbulent or murky waters of the lake of mind, and its petals repel the droplets of thoughts.

In Jewish mysticism, the Sephirot centre known as Kether (literally 'crown'), is similar in it's qualities to the Sahasrara of yoga philosophy. Situated at the top of the Tree of Life within the body, it represents pure consciousness and union with the Divine.
The mystical Sufi strain of Islam has a system of subtle centres known as latifas. The highest latifa: Akfha (the 'most subtle') is also located at the crown of the head, and is the point of unity where beatific visions of Allah are directly revealed.

Modern, New Age interpretations often depict the Sahasrara as having a violet or purple colour, but this is not seen in traditional paintings and scriptures. This probably comes from the idea that the colours of the chakras follow the colours of the rainbow, starting with red at the first centre, orange yellow green blue and violet. Traditionally, however, the white colour represents the purity of this centre, and its integration of all the elements and colours. White contains all colours. 
Sometimes it is described as a lotus of multicoloured petals, and often depicted as an inverted lotus, with the petals opening downward to release divine nectar and fragrance into the brain.

This South Indian temple is crowned by an inverted sahasrara lotus.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Interdependent Self

Like the young Asian students at Cornell, Jen’s father had been born into a culture whose parenting style explicitly intends the humbling of the individual self in favor of the needs of the broader collective. (Parents engage in short, selective conversation with their children, emphasizing “proper behavior, self-restraint and attunement to others.”) What this “low elaborative” parenting style aims at instead is the creation of an “interdependent self,” defined not by its sense of inner autonomy, but by its sensitivity to the social roles it must play depending on the context in which it finds itself. The scholars of cross-cultural cognition, who reject the universality of Western models of the mind, maintain that this emphasis on social context translates into a measurable divergence in how Easterners and Westerners literally see the physical world.
More here

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Eliminating inner negativity

"Holy is the warrior who goes to war with himself."

In this Hadith (saying) the Prophet Muhammad made it clear that one should eliminate the ego and negativity within oneself rather than attacking others. The true meaning of the term jihad is inner spiritual struggle, not holy war.

Photo source:

Sunday, April 21, 2013


There’s a moon in my body, but I can’t see it! 
A moon and a sun. 
A drum never touched by hands, beating,
and I can’t hear it.

As long as a human being worries about when he will die, 
and what he has that is his, 
all of his works are zero. 

When affection for the I-creature and what it owns is dead, 
then the work of the Teacher is over. 

The purpose of labor is to learn; 
when you know it, the labor is over. 

The apple blossom exists to create fruit; 
when that comes, the petal falls. 

The musk is inside the deer, 
but the deer does not look for it: 

It wanders around looking for grass. 

~ Kabir

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

A Memory of Paradise

Soon the child’s clear eye is clouded over by ideas and opinions, preconceptions, and abstractions. Simple free being becomes encrusted with the burdensome armor of the ego. Not until years later does an instinct come that a vital sense of mystery has been withdrawn. The sun glints through the pines and the heart is pierced in a moment of beauty and strange pain, like a memory of paradise. After that day, we become seekers.
- Peter Matthiessen

Saturday, March 30, 2013


I think this is a still from a Hitchcock movie. Looks like the torch of the Statue of Liberty. What a powerful image.

It reminded me of Shri Mataji's elucidations on freedom and attachment.
We often think of detachment as something cold and uncaring. We conflate attachment and love.
The only attachment we should have is to the Self residing in all things. Through this pure attachment, this freedom of Selfhood, the Self can act for the benefit of 'others'.
Attachment blocks the flow of the all-pervading, intelligent providence of the Universe/Self, and helps no one.

“Attachment is the great fabricator of illusions; reality can be attained only by someone who is detached” 
 Simone Weil

Simone Weil has been described by many as a saint, and some have gone so far as to describe her as 'the greatest saint of the 20th century' (I think it was T.S. Eliot who said that).
Born into a Jewish family, she had mystical experiences that led her to accept the divinity of Jesus. However, it is unlikely that she would ever be canonised by the Church, because there is no evidence that she was ever baptised, and because of her involvement with socialism. She was deeply influenced by reading Hindu scriptures, and taught herself Sanskrit at a young age.

This is a recently published hagiography of Weil.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Carol Prusa

American artist Carol Prusa paints on acrylic domes and spheres, often drilling holes through the surface and illuminating the objects from within so that 'stars' appear on the 'domes of heaven' she creates. I particularly like the domes where the stars of light are nodes in the pattern, like buttons on upholstery.
Her intricate hand drawn and painted patterns are reminiscent of engravings from alchemical or cosmological treatises, and the drawings of Renaissance artists such as Leonardo da Vinci.
See more of Carol's work here.
Carol's website:

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Russian Buildings

Some stills of Russian buildings from the wonderful documentary film, The Art of Russia, written and presented by Andrew Graham-Dixon.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Photograph

“To the vast majority of people
a photograph is an
image of something within
their direct experience:
a more-or-less factual reality.

It is difficult for them
to realize that the
photograph can be the source
of experience, as well as the
reflection of spiritual awareness
of the world and of self.”

- Ansel Adams

Friday, February 15, 2013

An Old Hippie Era Saying

“May the baby Jesus shut your mouth and open your mind.” 
- from a Blues Project poster for the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco in 1966 by the Family Dog.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bede Griffiths

Bede Griffiths was a British-born Indian Benedictine monk who lived in South India and became a noted yogi. He has become a leading thinker in the development of the dialogue between Christianity and Hinduism. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Why not wake up?

You have slept for millions and millions of years.
Why not wake up this morning?

- Kabir (1440–1518)

Kabir is possibly the first Indian saint to have harmonised Hinduism and Islam by preaching a universal path which both Hindus and Muslims could tread together. He was a major influence on Sikhism.
Kabir lived in Varanasi, the sacred city on the Ganges.

Image used with kind permission of Azli Jamil
See more of his work here

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

An Ancient Take on the Gun Control Issue

The Tao Te Ching
... 31. A Weapon is a Tool of Death

A weapon is a tool of death.
A tool of death is anti-Tao.
A man of the Way, leading,
will reject tools of death
if he has a choice.
There is a formal attitude
the left of which is life
the right of which is death.
To the left is peace & creation;
violence & destruction
occupy the right.
There is no beauty in death,
this the wise man understands.
If a man finds beauty in death
his self is compromised to its core.
He has lost the Way.
Should a wise man be compelled to violence
he will not rejoice.  Victory is not
a time for joy. Victory is a funeral
wherein a multitude is mourned.

from The Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu
An Adaptation by R. Bob

via 3quarksdaily

Thursday, January 03, 2013

The Unforseen

Whoever cannot seek
the unforeseen sees nothing,
for the known way
is an impasse.


Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Anish Kapoor

Today I saw the Anish Kapoor exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, by the Harbour in Sydney.
Kapoor was born in India but has been based in London since the early 1970s.
I was familiar with his installations featuring piles of powdered red and yellow pigment (resembling the cone-shaped heaps of sacred kumkum and turmeric displayed in shops near Hindu temples in India) but I was unprepared for his amazing mirror and optical illusion pieces.
Several of the works appear to be flat planes flush with the walls they are hanging on, but when you stand in front of them, your eyes cannot determine where the surface is. It was hard not to try to touch the works to check; however, there were lots of museum staff to prevent people doing this. (understandable - removing fingerprints from all those polished objects would not be easy)
It's an incredible experience but unfortunately there is no way of conveying the depth perception effect through photos, and you simply have to see the exhibition. But here are some images of his mirror pieces, which are photographable.
Even someone with no interest in contemporary art would find this show amazing.