Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Inner Wheels

“There are beautiful wild forces within us. 
Let them turn the mills inside 
and fill sacks that feed even heaven.”
–St. Francis of Assisi 

Painting by Graham Brown

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Devi Mahatmyam

Detail from an illustration to the Markandeya Purana, a Hindu text containing the Devi Mahatmyam, an account of the heroic martial exploits of the Goddess Devi as she protects the world from evil forces. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Non Ownership of Happiness

"Just imagine to yourself that the purpose of your life is your happiness only - and then life becomes a cruel and senseless thing. You have to embrace what the wisdom of humanity, your intellect and your heart all tell you - that the meaning of life is to serve the divine will which sent you into this world: then life will become a constant joy."
-Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy reading, by Ilya Repin

Sunday, August 03, 2014

The Inner River

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Thoreau the Yogi

The American writer and opponent of slavery, Henry David Thoreau, was influenced by the ancient spiritual texts of India. 
He wrote that the waters of his beloved Walden Pond "mingled with the sacred water of the Ganges". 
He adopted some of the precepts of yoga philosophy, and even considered himself a yogi.
He was particularly drawn to the Bhagavad Gita, the Song of Lord Krishna, deity of the Americas, and the Visshuddhi (throat) Chakra. Thoreau played the flute; also the favourite pastime of Krishna.

In an 1849 letter to his friend H.G.O. Blake, he wrote about yoga and its meaning to him:

Free in this world as the birds in the air, disengaged from every kind of chains, those who practice yoga gather in Brahma the certain fruits of their works. Depend upon it that, rude and careless as I am, I would fain practice the yoga faithfully. The yogi, absorbed in contemplation, contributes in his degree to creation; he breathes a divine perfume, he hears wonderful things. Divine forms traverse him without tearing him, and united to the nature which is proper to him, he goes, he acts as animating original matter. To some extent, and at rare intervals, even I am a yogi.

-Reference: Wikipedia

Thoreau's birthday is coming up on the 12th of July (a sensitive retiring Cancerian). He was born almost 200 years ago.

“The morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour. Then there is least somnolence in us; and for an hour, at least, some part of us awakes which slumbers all the rest of the day and night... All memorable events, I should say, transpire in morning time and in a morning atmosphere. The Vedas say, “All intelligences awake with the morning.” 

- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Innocence as Reality

... Innocence is often thought of as a quality projected outward. It means, literally, ‘not harm’. If a person is innocent, they aren’t going to harm you. But another way to consider the idea of harmlessness is that which is unharmed. It is a place within our own self, untouched by harm. Hans Christian Andersen believed in an untouched innocence at the core of every person. “She cannot receive any power from me greater than she now has,” says the Finn woman of Gerda in The Snow Queen, “which consists in her own purity and innocence of heart.” 

Children had special access to this innocence – animals and grandmothers did as well – but the innocence was inside everyone. Innocence could be hidden and emerge, or it could be apparent and then corrupted. See, for example, the devil’s mirror in The Snow Queen, which had the peculiar power to make everything good and beautiful seem like nothing. The loveliest landscapes looked like boiled spinach and the very best people became hideous or stood on their heads and had no stomachs.

To be wholly innocent was rare. To be wholly innocent, for Andersen, meant to be wholly yourself. It meant that you were free from the distorted reality of the devil’s mirror. There is a connection in Andersen’s work between innocence and reality, then, because innocence is truth. And just as truth is eternal, so is innocence. Though many of Andersen’s tales are tragedies, ending in death or humiliation, they all affirm the importance of a life lived toward an eternal, personal truth. This is what Andersen meant when he said, “Every man’s life is a fairytale, written by God's fingers.” This doesn’t mean that every man’s life is a fantasy. It means that every man’s life is a quest toward reality.

- Stefany Anne Golberg

Rie Cramer's 1931 illustration for The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Nabhi and Swadisthana Chakras

There is often confusion amongst practitioners of yoga over the qualities of the "2nd" and "3rd" chakras of the subtle body.

The Swadisthana Chakra, corresponds to the colour yellow/orange and the fire element, while the 3rd Chakra, the Nabhi (Navel centre) corresponds to the colour green and the water element. However, you often see contemporary chakra charts where the reverse is indicated.

I feel that the confusion has arisen because the Swadisthana Chakra actually orbits the Nabhi Chakra. So perhaps they should not necessarily be thought of in numerical order. Sometimes the Swadisthana is located in the 2nd position, and sometimes in the third, depending on where it is in its revolution.

It makes sense, though, to think of the Swadisthan as the 2nd Chakra, as it represents creation, the phase of existence preceding the evolutionary stage. The stage of evolution/preservation is at the Nabhi level (3rd centre) with its 10 Avatars or incarnations of Vishnu in progressively higher forms from fish to man.

Traditional depictions of the Hindu god Vishnu reclining on the cosmic ocean (see illustration) help us to properly understand the nature of these two closely connected chakras.
Lord Vishnu presides over the Nabhi Chakra, through which he and his consort Shri Lakshmi sustain the body at its centre, the navel level. He is shown reclining on a green cosmic ocean, and with greenish skin. There is a clear connection with the water element.
Lord Brahma, god of creation, sits on a lotus (chakra) growing from Lord Vishnu's navel. This is symbolic of the creative Swadisthana chakra orbiting the Nabhi chakra as a sub-chakra satellite.
In Indian mythology, as all over the world, creativity is associated with the fire element, which is yellow/orange.

In Hindu culture Shri LakshmiVishnu is the aspect of the Divine who provides wealth. Shri Lakshmi is often depicted dispensing gold coins. Perhaps this is why the Nabhi often is associated with gold or yellow.

The Nabhi Chakra (also called the Manipura - City of Gems) manifests physically as the solar plexus. According to Wikipedia, the solar plexus is so called because its many radiating nerves resemble the sun. This may be the reason that the Nabhi chakra is associated with the fire element in some systems - the sun being fiery.

Ultimately the qualities of the chakras, and the aspects of the Divine which govern them, are closely allied anyway, and best experienced for oneself through thoughtless meditation, rather than argued over on a mental level.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lord Buddha on Meditation

Lord Buddha was asked, “What have you gained from meditation?”
“Nothing”, he replied, “However let me tell you what I lost:
anger, anxiety, depression, insecurity, fear of old age and death.”

Today is Shri Buddha Purnima, the full moon day on which the birthday of Lord Buddha is celebrated.

Shri Padmapani Buddha, Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra, India

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