Thursday, October 10, 2019

Shri Durga

Goddess Durga, 19th century lithograph from Bengal.

The Hindu goddess, Shri Durga, is worshipped at this time of year, especially in Bengal, to celebrate Her victory over evil forces.

The ancient Persian goddess, Anahita, has many similarities to Shri Durga: both were originally warrior goddesses (although in the case of Anahita, later becoming more associated with water and the fertility of the earth), both are virgin goddesses, and both have a lion vehicle.

The Egyptian lion-headed warrior goddess Sekhmet is also similar. She was seen as a fierce protector of the Pharaohs. Her name means 'power' or 'might', and one of her epithets was "One before whom evil trembles".

Depiction of a lion-riding Iranic Goddess from the Kama River Valley in what is now Russia

Four-armed goddess, seated on a lion, from ancient Chorasmia, an Iranian civilisation in western Central Asia

Sunday, September 22, 2019

William Blake at the Tate

The Ancient of Days

From 11 September 2019 – 2 February 2020 the Tate Britain gallery in London, is showing over 300 works by William Blake; perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity to appreciate his visionary genius on such a scale.

According to his biographer, Alexander Gilchrist, Blake's design The Ancient of Days was "a singular favourite". He made many versions of it, including one completed shortly before his death.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Poet God

In Hindu ceremonies, Shri Ganesha is worshipped first. His father Shri Shiva is worshipped last. As the deity who dissolves the universe at the end of each cosmic cycle, allowing it to be renewed, Shri Shiva is the god of endings.

The Shiva moon is the final crescent phase, resembling the sickle used to cut the ripened harvest. This period is a good time for bringing projects to completion, such as the final subtle finishing touches of a painting. It is a time for letting things go, as Shiva is also the god of renunciation, especially in His form of Lord Bhairava. 

One of the epithets of the deity Lord Shiva is Kavi, the poet. Poets are known to place special importance the endings of their poems. A great final line can bring a new and unexpected meaning to the lines that have gone before, producing a deep emotional realisation in the reader.

In Japanese haiku poems, the third and final line is often a 'cutting line' (kiru), which breaks from the image evoked by the first two lines, jolting readers out of their mental complacency, and opening the possibility for a moment of awakening.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Inner Balance

Centredness is essential for spiritual ascent. Being in a state of balance: neither in the future nor the past, neither planning nor regretting, neither overactive nor lethargic.

According to fluid dynamics, at the centre of the stream the current is greatest. It is there that we are free of the snags and friction of the river banks, and we are carried along effortlessly.

Shri Mahalakshmi is the aspect of the Divine who gives us balance and gives us our ascent through the central channel of the inner subtle system. She resides at the centre of this subtle system, in the Nabhi (navel) Chakra, the colour of which is green, a balance of yellow and blue, the colours of the right and left channels respectively.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Written in Sand

Many have wondered what it was that Christ wrote in the sand/dust when the woman was brought by the Pharisees to be stoned for adultery. The passage from St John, telling of this event, is the only one in the Bible where there is mention of Christ ever having written anything. Knowing the human tendency to make idols out of words and sacred books, Christ probably decided not to personally write any scriptures (neither did Muhammad nor the Buddha). 

The Bible doesn't say what Christ wrote, and so there has been a lot of theological conjecture about it. The most interesting explanation is that He was writing down the sins of those who had gathered to carry out the stoning. In Jewish tradition, when an adulterer was brought to the Temple for punishment, their sin was written in the dust of the court floor and then brushed away (perhaps because the sin was considered too unmentionable to say aloud in such a holy place), but the Pharisees seem to have neglected to do this. They were also supposed to have brought for punishment the man caught in adultery, not just the woman. So, though they were presenting themselves as upholders of the law, they didn't even follow the letter of the law, let alone the spirit of the law, which is no doubt what Christ was trying to show them.

By writing down their hidden sins (as tradition stated the adulterer's sin should be written) Christ showed the Pharisees that He thoroughly knew the law. And when they saw their sins written on the earth, they were too shocked to carry out the stoning. John says they walked away one by one, leaving the woman with Jesus, who told her that no one will condemn her, including Himself. 

Appealing to their consciences, by just telling the Pharisees they were hypocrites ("he who is without sin may cast the first stone") would not have been enough for such people. They had to see their sins written for all to read.

Knowing He preached forgiveness, the Pharisees had tried to trick Christ into publicly going against the Old Testament laws, so they could accuse Him of blasphemy. Only a divine personality could have resolved the situation so perfectly.

Jesus and the woman taken in adultery, by Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld, 1860.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Translating Emily Dickinson

Translating poetry requires both a deep knowledge of the original language and of the poem’s historical, cultural, and literary context; more than anything, though, it requires a still deeper knowledge of the language into which it’s being translated, the translator’s own language. Added to this must be a love of that language, the language of the person receiving and then transforming the poem into a new poem—creating a new path. 
Attempting to “transport” Emily Dickinson’s poems into Portuguese is a still harder task, because Dickinson’s poetry is notable for its peculiar agrammaticality: unexpected plurals, inverted syntax, and an often complete disregard for gender, person, or agreement between nouns and verbs. As for form, Dickinson uses the structure of hymns, though, as Mutlu Konuk Blasing says, “the metric norm so severely limits the verse it empowers that the verse grows cryptic, crabbed, and idiosyncratic and resists communication itself, thus undermining the religious and social function of hymns that the form alludes to as authorization for her ‘dialect,’ her ‘New Englandly’ tune.” The result is a compact, cryptic language full of ellipses, which translates into texts that challenge the tradition of poetry as communication and gives literary language an autonomy more akin to the aesthetics of modern poetry.
More here

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

The Blessings of the Sun

Surya Narayana, Basohli.

If you are absolutely effortless, meditation will work the best. Do not think about your problems at all. Just expose yourself to the vibrations. When the sun shines, all of nature exposes itself to the sun and receives the blessings of the sun effortlessly. It does not put in any effort. It just receives the sun. The sun’s rays start acting. In the same way, the all-pervading power starts working. You are not to maneuvre it. You are not to do anything about it. Just be effortless, absolutely effortless. It will go on working as long as it can and it will do the miracle that it has to do. You do not have to worry about it. It knows its job, but when you put an effort, you actually create a barrier for it. So no effort is needed. Be absolutely effortless, and say, “Let it go, let it go. “ That’s all.
-Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Inner Breeze

For I, methought, while the sweet breath of heaven
Was blowing on my body, felt within
A correspondent breeze, that gently moved
— Wordsworth, The Prelude

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Scent of the Centre

Olivia Fraser, The Scent of the Lotus

There is no first nor last in Forever.
It is Centre there all the time.

-Emily Dickinson

Friday, January 04, 2019

Shri Virata

On the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Lord Krishna appeared to Prince Arjuna as Vishwarupa, the universal form, all that is. All the worlds, deities, sages, and peoples appeared within this total form of Lord Vishnu. Another word for this omni-form is Virata. 

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi has explained that the Virata is the integrated brain and nervous system of the Divine, which can be awakened within us. It is the totality. It is everything that exists, the body of the Cosmos. It is also reflected within each human being as the subtle system of chakras and energy channels.