A Vehicle for God

‘Thanjavur Ganesha’ – Unknown author, 1820 – Wikimedia

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Regarding all things spiritual, I have always trusted the vision of India’s perennial understanding. And there is one thought that bothered me recently, which is simply: why do Hindu gods need a vehicle, a mount? Why do they all have an animal by their side, or to ride on? For god is God. All powerful and reaching far and wide. Self-sufficient and contained in Itself. So why would Shiva need a bull as his vehicle, why would Saraswati have a swan by her side, or Kartikeya a peacock, Lakshmi an owl, Indra an elephant, or Durga a tiger? Why such partnership? And for what purpose?

So I pushed further my enquiry. I discovered that these vehicles, these animals, symbolise some of the qualities inherent to the god they are attached to. For example, the swan represents the beauty, wisdom and grace in Saraswati. Or the peacock the splendour and majesty contained in the Hindu god of war. Many qualities like strength, swiftness, sharpness, fierceness, speed, effortlessness, and so many others, are attributes of god which are reflected in, or represented by, their own vehicles. So I looked at myself, as I am too, deep down, this radiating presence of consciousness, of god’s being. Could it be that, in the same way the dreamer becomes conscious of a dreamt world through the agency of a subject of experience in the dream, consciousness is experiencing a world through its being refracted by a mind? So the mind is the vehicle that consciousness needs to experience a world. Doesn’t that make me, in some way, the vehicle of the Self? And do I radiate the qualities of this presence as should a vehicle of god?

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A playful text asking why god needs a vehicle… (READ MORE…)

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A Furnace of Love

‘Sunset over a forest lake’ – Peder Mønsted, 1895 – Wikimedia

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Birgitta was sitting by the window, considering once again the recent chain of events that led to her present day situation. Twenty years ago, she came on this small Danish island for the first time, to never leave again. Lolland! What a beautifully telling name! She loved the place immediately. It is called by some the ‘pancake island’, for it is the flattest place here in the kingdom of Denmark. Its highest point: twenty five meters! But the skies were tall and wide with majestic clouds and the land imbued with a quiet remoteness that she loved on first sight. She had often smiled and still smiles on at the incongruous nature of her new home. For she was born in the heart of the French Alps, the daughter of a mountainous landscape where peaks are soaring high above deep valleys. 

Birgitta was a Catholic nun here, in a small monastery on the outskirts of the charming town of Maribo. Her actual name was Brigitte, but the sisters around her had quickly, and laughingly at first, re-baptised her Birgitta, which was the name of the fourteenth century Swedish saint and founder of their religious Order. She liked her new name for its Nordic and melodic quality. She had fit well here, in this quiet building amongst the trees, close to a little lake that she could see from her bedroom window. She came from a very religious family, and had always felt an attraction for all things spiritual. The trigger to espouse a religious life came rather abruptly, after her first dashed expectations in life. So she embarked on the preparatory journey, a few years of education in France and trips to the mother house in Rome.

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A short story that narrates Birgitta’s journey of love… (READ MORE…)

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The Song of the Little Road

Subir Banerjee (Apu) in ‘Pather Panchali’ – Wikimedia

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You never know how and when a piece of art, a film here, is going to touch the soft grounds of delight and beauty. And how it will come to be loved by people for opening that hidden, special place in their heart. ‘Pather Panchali’, or ‘The Song of the Little Road’ is one such heart opener. It was the first film made by the Indian director Satyajit Ray. It describes the life of a poor family in a village of rural Bengal, with its many struggles. You feel the occasional pinches of hunger, the cruelty, the thwarted expectations, the jealousies, the losses, intertwined with moments of peace, quietness, and insouciance. Days spent between the simple joys of life and the tragedy of death. 

What is it that makes a movie conducive to feeling in ourself that flavour of beauty? Often, such movies are slow, meditative, and as a result can bring a feeling of boredom in ourself. The craving in ourself for experiences that either fulfils our inner sense of lack, or covers it up, is not being quenched. And the mind quickly jumps in and understands it as the film being not good, not interesting. But this judgment may have nothing to do with the film, and everything with our own self’s tendencies and structure. 

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Approaching the qualities of Satyajit Ray’s film ‘Pather Panchali’… (READ MORE…)

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The Pond

Photo by sheldon0531 on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

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Is it the morning dew,
Or the remains of a summer rain?
We guess a sun deep in the chlorophyll;
It shines as you see in children’s drawings 
With all its regular rays 
Arranged, brightly shining

The pearls are on display, fine or replete
Protected on the surface of the pond.
Emerald bubbles or golden balls flowing by 
Like small, distant herds carried by the waters;
The wandering foam,
The giant reflections that shimmer

Deployed like antennas
Water lilies have other games
Other functions and other hidden links
With the peaceful waters, the sunshine, the impalpable ether
The deep nights, the shoals of stars
The whims of the moon

A world of connections
Subtle balances settled from the bottom of ages;
There are millions,
Of these intelligent immensities
Of these stories everywhere at work
These invisible rounds, these intimate marriages

And you are part of it
Only you do not know that well
Until one day, gazing at the water lilies 
They might invite you into the dance
And you may find yourself to be
Not the pond, nor the moon, or the sun

Not the water bubbles, nor the stars in the night
But the very fabric of it all, what holds them together;
The rhythm of the dance itself
And above all, the thin subtlety 
That is at the origin of such alliances
That makes them thrive and rejoice

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Text by Alain Joly

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Suggestion:
Voices from Silence (other poems from the blog)

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The Householder Sage

Photo by lensnmatter on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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Objectivity, in any form, is the only obstacle to Truth.”
~ Atmananda Krishna Menon

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It really is a remarkable thing that some of the clearest expressions of modern day non-duality have come from simple Indian men who lived simple lives in society. Atmananda Krishna Menon, married and a father of three children, a police inspector, was one such man. He became, along with Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj, an essential pillar of the non-dual understanding in India, giving voice to a new approach called the Direct Path, and becoming a guiding light for many seekers of truth in the West. 

Krishna Menon was born in 1883 in Kerala. He grew up in a well educated Brahmin family — some of his relatives were poets or scholars — and had a happy childhood. He was endowed with a good and curious mind, that allowed him to find pathways towards understanding that are clear, simple and effective. Krishna Menon had the highest respect for the function of a true guru. His encounter with his teacher was simple and eloquent. Walking by the roadside, he met in 1919 a swami and sannyasin from Calcutta named Yogananda. It was a short, transforming and unforgettable meeting that lasted only one night but touched him to his very soul. “This paralyzed my ego.” did he say. He realised his true self in just a few years and began teaching. His impeccable logic and clarity drew many a student around him. 

The Truth goes into you undressed,
not through language at all
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~ Atmananda Krishna Menon

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Discover the life and teaching of Atmananda Krishna Menon… (READ MORE…)

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The Sacrifice

‘The Adoration of the Magi’ – Leonardo da Vinci, 1480 – WikiArt

This is the first piece of a new category in the blog called ‘Impressions of Truth’ which aims at exploring art and spirituality through the medium of films, and celebrating various famous masterpieces of world cinema. Art is at the core of the spiritual endeavour and creativity is one of the foremost qualities and expressions found with the discovery of our true nature. The function of art is to give us a taste of the deepest reality hidden behind our human endeavours. And filmmaking has uniquely tailored visual and narrative qualities, perfectly conducive to bringing us closer to the inherent peace, harmony and love within us. So let’s immerse ourselves in the unique intimacy of a cinema room, the play of forms on the screen, and the ancient gift of being told another human story…

As an introduction, I would like to warn that, for the specific purpose of this text, I have chosen to describe the precise contours of the movie’s storyline. This is a film where the narration is not of the utmost importance, but be prepared if you plan to watch the movie and would rather not know so much

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The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, 
to plough and harrow his soul, 
rendering it capable of turning to good.”
~ Andrei Tarkovsky

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The screen and cinema room turned to a pitch black. Only the faint crackling murmur of an old empty sound track could be heard. And then… Then slowly rose the most exquisite music. ‘Erbarme Dich’ of the St Matthew Passion by J. S. Bach. Only hear this piece once in a movie by Andrei Tarkovsky, and its hearing will be forever associated with the great Russian film maker. Tarkovsky once wrote: “My function is to make whoever sees my films aware of his need to love and to give his love, and aware that beauty is summoning him.” The film ‘The Sacrifice’, by the master, is a living testimony of this claim. 

As this most divine music unfolds, a darkly lit portion of a painting comes to life. This is Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Adoration of the Magi’, where you see Jesus as a baby, sitting in Mary’s lap, reaching for the gift that is presented to him by one of the Magi. Then an exquisite feminine voice rises among the violins and sings these poignant verses: ”Have mercy, my God, for the sake of my tears! See here before you, heart and eyes weep bitterly. Have mercy, my God.”

Tarkovsky’s movies move slowly, with long takes, and unconventional scenario and structure. This can be a challenge for the viewer who is used to expect from a movie the usual suspense, pleasure and excitement. The thrill comes here from a wholly different place. It comes from silence, harmony and beauty. And if the purpose of art is of the deepest kind, Tarkovsky is indeed one of its most faithful representative, and could very well make his these words by Rupert Spira: “The role of the artist is to transmit to humanity the deepest experience of reality. Art is remembrance. It is love. It is like a sword that distinguishes between appearances and reality, or a cradle that reminds us of home.” This indeed is a form of elevation, and the film makes it immediately clear.

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Discover the beauty and qualities of Andrei Tarkovsky’s last movie… (READ MORE…)

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Love Remains

‘Harlequin’ (part) – by Paul Cezanne, 1890 – WikiArt

O my self, why do you stand in the way? For the living of these many experiences, you are not necessary. The pure consciousness that is present in all of us here and now is perfectly equipped. So don’t worry and please move away. This pure being has held effortlessly the millions of billions of beings and experiences generated so far, and has allowed for ever more choices and decisions to be made, so it need not being chaperoned by you. I thank you for your good will, but your work has been too laborious. Come again if you really want to, but your presence here is not welcome anymore. 

Haven’t you noticed, by now, how your participation has been an unnecessary feature in the unfolding of experience, in the many activities of our human company? Haven’t you seen how all your unnecessary thoughts and feelings have been a perturbing element among the team work that is generated here? And has cost us dear in our expenses and plannings? We understand that you want to participate, that all this is important to you, is dear to your heart, and we have accommodated you so far the best we could. But now we gently ask you to revise your presence here. […]

A humorous divagation where the self is being confronted… (READ MORE…)

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