Kabir Says:

(Painting by Tanya Bonello)

Lift the veil that obscures the heart
and there you will find what you are looking for
.”
~ Kabir

 

Little is known about Kabir. Legends abound and certainties are scarce. He was a weaver, probably spending most of his time working at his handloom. He was born in a Muslim family in fifteenth Century Benares, and became a mystic and a poet whose songs and ‘bānīs’ – meaning ’utterances’ – spread in the whole of India and beyond, mostly handed down orally between seekers and sadhus along the roads, sometimes written down. They were the expression of a simple man, probably illiterate, and his first-hand understanding of the deepest truth of living. 

Kabir wasn’t a philosopher, far from it, and many of his poems were deeply grounded in everyday life. His expression was often ruthless, “I see the world. What a bag of tricks it is!” He execrated the bigotry and hypocrisy of Hindu and Muslim devotees alike, and he never tired of denouncing the contradictions between the religions in place, each asserting their own god, beliefs, practices, about something Kabir knew in his flesh and soul to be one single reality, unbroken, and timeless.

Servant, where dost thou seek Me? 
Lo! I am beside thee.
I am neither in temple nor in mosque:
I am neither in Kaaba nor in Kailash: 
Neither am I in rites and ceremonies,
nor in Yoga and renunciation. 
If thou art a true seeker, thou shalt at once see Me: 
thou shalt meet Me in a moment of time. 
Kabir says, ‘O Sadhu! God is the breath of all breath.’

Discover more of the wonderful poetry and legacy of Kabir (Read more…)

 

The Heart of Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore is certainly one of the fathers of modern Indian literature. His work is immense and fascinating. He is the author of more than a thousand poems, two thousand songs of which he also wrote the music, novels, short stories, plays. He has also written essays on all subjects that were dear to him, from philosophy to politics, from education to the arts, and left many sketches, drawings and paintings. But Tagore was first and foremost a poet, ‘The Poet’, as he is affectionately known in India, and it was through his poetry that he became known throughout the world.

He was born the last child of a Brahmin family from Calcutta, in 1861, and grew up in the shadow of a learned father and religious reformer. He took part in the intense intellectual and social emulation that Bengal experienced in the 19th century, when it struggled with modern Western influences. Educated in the three languages ​​- Sanskrit, Bengali and English, he wrote poems very early, and translated some of his collections into English himself. The publication of ‘Gitanjali’ in Europe and North America made Tagore famous, and he received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. His sudden renown allowed him to make numerous trips to various continents for conferences or visits of friendship, in which he tirelessly preached peace, non-violence and unity among men. A friend of Gandhi, Tagore participated in his own way to the emergence of India as a nation. He is the author of many poems and patriotic songs, two of which have become the national anthems of India and Bangladesh.

 

Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. 
This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, 
and fillest it ever with fresh life
.”
~ Gitanjali

 

‘Gitanjali’ (1912) is a succession of dialogues, praises to God, filled with some accents of the most profound spirituality. Face to face with the Master, with the Friend, with the Lord, the poet is alternately filled with aspirations, confusions, caught in lamentations, or in luminous resolutions. These poems combine the finesse of language with philosophical reflection or contemplation, and they do so so harmoniously that we are invited to a double and indissociable meditation.

 

And it shall be my endeavour to reveal thee in my actions, 
knowing it is thy power gives me strength to act
.”
~ Gitanjali

Let’s delve into the spiritual heart of Tagore’s poetry and essays (READ MORE…)

 

 

Swami Bharatananda

~~~

Maurice Frydman is one of most extraordinary people I’ve ever come across and virtually nothing is known about him.” said David Godman, one of the foremost and infatigable exponents of Ramana Maharshi’s life and teachings. Maurice Frydman was born a polish jew in 1894, in Warsaw. Exceptionally bright at school, he was a prolific inventor, spoke many European and Indian languages, and was an earnest and passionate seeker of truth. He has explored many traditions, including Judaism, Orthodox Christianity, and the Theosophical movement of Annie Besant. He devoured books from all possible traditions, particularly interested in all the great writings of Hinduism. Over the years, he met and was close to numerous spiritual teachers like J. krishnamurti, Ramana Maharshi, swami Ramdas, and Nisargadatta Maharaj. He wrote a book on Ramana Maharshi, ‘Maharshi’s Gospel’, and was responsible for recording and publishing the now classic ‘I Am That’ by Nisargadatta Maharaj. He lived in India during the later part of his life, becoming an Indian citizen, and was associated with Mahatma Gandhi, inventing a new implement on the famous Indian spinning wheel, the Charkha. He was given the Indian name Swami Bharatananda when he was initiated as a Hindu monk or sannyasi by Swami Ramdas. Ramana Maharshi refused him this initiation, saying that “Sannyas is taken from within; not from without”. Maurice also greatly helped to organise the Dalaï Lama’s escape to India and to find places for the Tibetan refugees, like Dharamsala. But, “there is no mention of Maurice in any of the books related to either Dalai Lama‘s escape or the smuggling in of the Buddhist manuscripts from Tibet. I have never seen a person as Self-effacing as Maurice”, wrote V. Ganesan. Maurice Frydman died in Bombay in 1976, after an accident. Nisargadatta Maharaj, who held Maurice in high esteem, and considered him as a true jnani, was by his side. Of the days spent in Ramana Maharshi’s presence, Maurice wrote: “We took a cupful when the ocean was at our feet.”

~~~

Here are two Extracts from Maurice Frydman’s poetry: 

I am at the end of the tether 
and can’t break the cord 

All my going ahead 
is a deceitful dream, 

All my thinking not true, 
all my feeling not pure, 

All my doing not right, 
all my living not clear. 

I am tied to myself 
by myself through myself, 

The knot out of reach, 
I am in your hands.

There is a Heart and a mind, 
and a body and soul 
Waiting for you. 

You will come when you choose, 
And whatever you like 
you are welcome to do. 

 

* * * 

 

Heavy with the mud of many lands 
I was flowing lazily, 

Making obstacles of myself 
out of my unholy accumulations. 

Suddenly I awakened 
to the freshness of endless beauty, 

And felt the eternal environment 
of endless peace. 

My beloved I have found you, 
and yet never were we separated, 

Every drop of my being is you 
and yours is the force of my flow, 

Never are we apart 
and yet I always strive after you. 

The flow of creation will go on 
with me or without me, 

Only do not make me forget 
that I am none 

and that you only exist and create 
in ever-changing mobility. 

 

~~~

Poetry by Maurice Frydman (1901-1977)

Painting by Edwin Lord Weeks (1849-1903)
‘Temples and bathing ghat at Benares’ – wikiart

~~~

 

– Maurice Frydman’s poetry is from the book:
Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi’ – by Laxmi Narain – (Sri Ramana Kendram, Hyderabad)

– Read this more extensive biography of Maurice Frydman here.

Bibliography:
– ‘I Am That’ – by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj – (Chetana Pvt.Ltd)
– ‘Maharshi’s Gospel’ – by Ramana Maharshi and Maurice Frydman – (Sri Ramanasramam)

Websites:
Maurice Frydman (Wikipedia)
Paula Marvelly, An Interview with Sri V. Ganesan
’The Human Gospel of Ramana Maharshi’, As Shared by V. Ganesan

 

A Day at Brockwood Park

Homage to J. Krishnamurti

 

Surely,
freedom
from the self
…is the true function 
of man
.”
~ J. Krishnamurti

 

Seated on the back seat of the car, I was scrutinising the landscape. Although we were driving through one of these English narrow roads, squeezed between two tall edges, the place was nevertheless growing in familiarity. Twenty-two years! Twenty-two years that I hadn’t been here! Now the landscape and the roads were known by me, my heart was throbbing and I was seized by an unavoidable emotion. We passed in front of the school’s gate, another hundred meters, and there it was, on the right. It said on a sign: “Krishnamurti Centre”. We parked and came out of the car. No building was yet in view, I was standing and felt overwhelmed by something warm and familiar, as if all the trees, and the pebbles under my feet, and the trembling leaves, and the few sounds around, and the presence – Oh yes, the presence! – were all presented to me like one big sensation, one big knowing and remembering of something I have dearly loved. I was shaken with tears. I lived and worked here for more than four years. A big part of my personal identity still belongs to this place, even decades later, and my apprehension of the spiritual journey comes from these years spent in the aura of Krishnamurti’s teaching. …

Join me for a day spent in the aura of Krishnamurti’s Teaching (READ MORE…)

 

Rendezvous with Ramana, Part II

Paula Marvelly is my second invited guest here. She is the creator and Editor of the exquisite blog ‘The Culturium’, where she explores the interface between mystical spirituality and the cultural arts. I am happy she accepted to let me use her story extracted from her book ‘The Teachers of One’. This is the Part Two of her three part ‘Rendezvous with Ramana’: “Paula Marvelly is now safely installed in the Ramanasramam and imbibing the sacred atmosphere of the home of India’s greatest sage.”

~

The mind is only a bundle of thoughts.
The thoughts have their root in the I-thought.
Whoever investigates the True ‘I’ enjoys the stillness of bliss
.”
~ Ramana Maharshi

~

In search of bliss

I WAKE UP and leap out of bed, panting and thrashing about like a mad woman. It takes a few moments to realize where I am. It was all just a dream, I tell myself. But it was so very real whilst it was all happening. And now, another dream surrounds me. When will I wake up from this one, I wonder?

The following day, I join other devotees in the Main Hall for the morning milk offering to Sri Bhagavan at his Samadhi Shrine. Opened by Indira Gandhi, it is a large, slightly austere auditorium, with a marble floor and cream and green painted walls. At the end is Bhagavan’s shrine — a life-sized statue of Sri Ramana sitting in the lotus position, carved in a black onyx-textured material, is centred on a raised stage, surrounded by a balustrade. Incense billows into the air from burners and multifarious-coloured flowers are scattered all over the shrine. There are also portraits of Bhagavan drenched in garlands and various gods and goddesses standing like sentinels, protecting their Lord, whose body is entombed under the altar. Rather than being cremated as is the usual tradition in India, Ramana’s body has been preserved so that people may still benefit from his presence. …

Embark on Paula Marvelly’s second Part journey to Arunachala (READ MORE…)

 

Etty

We have to rid ourselves of all preconceptions,
of all slogans,
of all sense of security,
find the courage to let go of everything,
every standard,
every conventional bulwark
.”
~ Etty Hillesum

 

Etty Hillesum was born on 15th January 1914 in Holland. When she was 27, she started writing a journal where she described her life with the little community around her and with Julius Spier, a former student of Jung who became her mentor. At this time, the Jews in Holland were being persecuted in the most terrible manner. At her own request, Etty began to work at Westerbork, a transit camp where the Jews were being gathered before being sent to extermination. She wrote: “I know the persecution and oppression and despotism and the impotent fury and the terrible sadism. I know it all … And yet – at unguarded moments, when left to myself, I suddenly lie against the naked breast of life, and her arms round me are so gentle and so protective.” She left the camp for Auschwitz on September 10th, where she died on 30th November 1943.

Patrick Woodhouse, author of ‘Etty Hillesum: A Life Transformed’, writes eloquently: “Her courageous story leads into profound understandings about the nature of God and how suffering and sorrow can be redemptive, not destructive. These emerged out of the struggles of her inner life, and the insights she arrived at were not easily gained. What we witness in the diary, and through her letters to her friends, is a battle to go on living with hope and integrity even as the world around her collapses. Her greatest weapons in this are her love of people, her deep sense of God within, and her passion for truth.”

Her fervour and dedication for Truth was indeed remarkable and deeply touching, as we read repeatedly, page after page, gems such as these:

My life has, so to speak, been extended by death, by my looking death in the eye and accepting it, by accepting destruction as part of life and no longer wasting my energies on fear of death or the refusal to acknowledge its inevitability. It sounds paradoxical: by excluding death from our life we cannot live a full life, and by admitting death into our life we enlarge and enrich it.”
~ Etty Hillesum

~

I am having an ever stronger experience these last days: in my least daily actions and sensations a hint of eternity creeps in. I am not the only one who is tired, sick, sad, or anguished. I am united with millions of others across the centuries. All that is what life is made of. Life is beautiful and full of meaning in its absurdity if you know how to take it as a whole. So life in some sense or other forms a perfect whole. As soon as we refuse or wish to eliminate certain elements, as soon as we follow our own pleasure or caprice by accepting one aspect of life and rejecting another, then life becomes in effect, absurd. Once the sense of the wholeness of it is lost, it becomes arbitrary.”
~ Etty Hillesum

~

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Etty Hillesum – Wikimedia Commons

The great obstacle is always the representation and never the reality. One deals with reality with all the suffering and difficulties that go with it – one deals with it, loading it as we do, onto our shoulders and it is by living with this load that we increase our endurance of it. However, we have to put an end to the representation of suffering. This representation is not suffering itself which is rich and can increase the meaning of our lives. By putting an end to these representations which imprison life behind bars, we liberate reality with all its force within ourselves, and we then become able to tolerate true suffering, in one’s own as well as in the life of humankind.”
~ Etty Hillesum

 

~~~

Quotes by Etty Hillesum

Main photo by Alain Joly

~~~

 

Bibliography:
– “Etty Hillesum: An Interupted Life & Letters from Westerbork” – by Etty Hillesum – (Henry Holt & Company Inc)
– “Etty Hillesum: A Life Transformed” – by Patrick Woodhouse – (Bloomsbury Continuum)
– “Etty Hillesum and the Flow of Presence” – by Meins G. S. Coetsier – (University of Missouri Press)

En Français:
– “Sagesses concordantes” avec Vimala Thakar, Etty Hillesum, Prajnânpad et Krishnamurti – de Alain Delaye – (Éditions Accarias L’Originel)

Website:
Etty Hillesum (Wikipedia)