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)

 

The Quiet Mind

Meister Eckhart was a Christian theologian and mystic born in 13th century Germany. He became famous as a talented preacher and his sermons, unusual and disruptive to the church dogma and ritual, caused him troubles. Largely forgotten until the 19th century, he is now appreciated by contemporary spirituality, for he is speaking a universal message that many can understand beyond the usual Christian jargon. Simon Parke, who wrote the beautiful ‘Conversations with Meister Eckhart’, says: “Here we have a teaching open to all, but possessed by none, and therefore free like a butterfly in the garden of the soul.”

~

The most powerful prayer,
one well nigh omnipotent,
and the worthiest work of all
is the outcome of a quiet mind.

The quieter it is
the more powerful,
the worthier, the deeper,
the more telling and more perfect the prayer is.

To the quiet mind all things are possible.
What is a quiet mind?

A quiet mind is one
which nothing weighs on,
nothing worries,
which,
free from ties and from all self-seeking,
is wholly merged into the will of God
and dead to its own. 

~ Meister Eckhart 

 

~~~

Text by Meister Eckhart (1260 – 1328)

Photo by Elsebet Barner

~~~

 

Bibliography :
– ‘Meister Eckhart, Selected Writings’ – by Meister Eckhart – (Penguin Classics)
– ‘Conversations with Meister Eckhart’ – by Meister Eckhart & Simon Parke – (White Crow Books Ltd)

Website:
Meister Eckhart (Wikipedia)

 

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In the Morning I Remember

Here is a beautiful prayer composed by Adi Shankara around the 8th century. These three verses, meant to be recited in the early morning, are a beautiful and touching summary of the heart of Advaita. I have chosen here a simple version, devoid of the Sanskrit terms…

~

प्रातः स्मरामि हृदि संस्फुरदात्मतत्त्वं
सच्चित्सुखं परमहंसगतिं तुरीयम् ।
यत्स्वप्नजागरसुषुप्तिमवैति नित्यं
तद्ब्रह्म निष्कलमहं न च भूतसङ्घः ॥१॥

prātaḥ smarāmi hṛdi saṃsphuradātmatattvaṃ
saccitsukhaṃ paramahaṃsagatiṃ turīyam |
yatsvapnajāgarasuṣuptimavaiti nityaṃ
tadbrahma niṣkalamahaṃ na ca bhūtasaṅghaḥ ||1||

~

At dawn, I meditate in my heart on the truth of the radiant inner Self.
This true Self is Pure Being, Awareness, and Joy, the transcendent goal of the great sages.
The eternal witness of the waking, dream and deep sleep states.
I am more than my body, mind and emotions, I am that undivided Spirit.

At dawn, I worship the true Self that is beyond the reach of mind and speech,
By whose grace, speech is even made possible,
This Self is described in the scriptures as “Not this, Not this”.
It is called the God of the Gods, It is unborn, undying, one with the All.

At dawn, I salute the true Self that is beyond all darkness, brilliant as the sun,
The infinite, eternal reality, the highest.
On whom this whole universe of infinite forms is superimposed.
It is like a snake on a rope. The snake seems so real, but when you pick it up, it’s just a rope.
This world is ever-changing, fleeting, but this eternal Light is real and everlasting.

Who recites in the early morning these three sacred Slokas,
which are the ornaments of the three worlds,
obtains the Supreme Abode.

~ Adi Shankara (8th century)

 

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  • Vimala Thakar wrote a beautiful translation and commentary on these lines, starting eloquently: 

In the morning as I meet the dawn, I remember that my heart contains the God, the Beloved, who has not yet been defined and described. I remember that it is He who vibrates within my heart, enables me to breathe, to talk, to listen, to move.”

  • Sanskrit language has infinite subtleties that don’t always appear, even in the best translations. Here, Vimala gives the beautiful analogy of the swan present in the original language:

I arrive at a state of being that has been called by the ancient wise Indians “Paramahansa”, a swan that swims through the waters of duality.”

  • Further down, she exposes the impossibility for the mind to attain the reality of Presence by these beautiful lines:

On the frontiers of the mind I give the mind a job to explore that which lies beyond its own frontiers, that which is not accessible to the word, to the speech, as well as to the mind.

I ask the mind to travel back, through the word, to the source of the word, the sound, and find out how the sound is born.”

“The source can only be experienced, the source can only be perceived and understood, but never defined and described. That is how the mind becomes silent.”

  • She then exemplifies the famous vedantic analogy of the serpent and the rope, and ends up with a perfect conclusion:

I had mistaken the rope of duality for the snake and cobra of misery and sorrow. But the light dispels the darkness and I see that the duality is only a rope that cannot bind me in any way unless I bind myself with it.”

The perfect eternity. The God divine. That is really my nature. I had mistaken the tensions of duality to be me, but then the light dispels all the darkness, and I get rooted back into the ‘ajam’, the ‘aychuta’ – that which can never be swept off its feet. Ajam – that which was never born, and can never die. I am that.”

 

~~~

Prayer by Adi Shankara (8th century)

Translation & Commentary by Vimala Thakar
(Hunger Mountain, MA – October, 1972)

~~~

 

– The prayer by Adi Shankara comes from Aghori.it

– Here is the full commentary from Vimala Thakar.

– Photo by Alain Joly

Bibliography:
– ‘The Crest-Jewel of Wisdom’ – by Shankaracharya / Translated by Charles Johnston – (The Freedom Religion Press)
– ‘Blossoms of Friendship’ – by Vimala Thakar – (Rodmell Press)

Website:
Adi Shankara (Wikipedia)
Vimala Thakar (Wikipedia)

 

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The Last Truth

9DF6C27B-1BF6-4BED-949F-40F4B6360333 man had left his village in search of enlightenment. After many long years, from hardship to hardship, he had become a vagabond, a pariah in our towns. One evening, he landed in a dense forest. He made a fire and thought of everything he had seen, lived and understood: pieces of light, of truth… but nothing like an awakening. He was a little discouraged when he heard a bird singing at the top of a tree: “I have the last truth, I have the last truth. It is for whoever will come and get it…”.

The man then began to climb to the top of this tree. Climbing was difficult and dangerous. As he climbed towards this last truth, he had to fight against vertigo. He was guided by the song of the bird without ever seeing it. He finally reached the summit and, bathing in a sumptuous golden light, he saw the sun set, the stars appear but no bird. However, the voice, coming out of nowhere and everywhere at the same time, said to him: “You came to receive a last truth, so receive it and leave to offer it to everyone who will believe you.”

At that moment all his questions were changed into answers and his answers into questions. The light became shadow and from the shadow was born light. All these pieces of scattered truths came together to form a whole, new, multiple truth. So his last truth became his first. His heart began to smile and his smile began to say the words of his heart. Then, without descending from the tree, awake and light, he was able to continue his way by riding some winds of wild wisdom.

Since then, this tree of passage, of metamorphosis, which was a wild tea tree, is venerated. Some of us offer or receive some of its leaves, attentive to everything that, in the golden glow of a cup, they could tell or sing to us, sensitive to any call.

 

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~~~

Text found in my computer attic, source unknown
(Translated from French by Alain Joly)

Photo by Carol Brandt

~~~

 

Website:
Carol Brandt Photography

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Hymns to the Dawn

The Rig Veda is the oldest Indian text, a corpus of hymns that have been ‘seen’ by sages, or rishis – these ‘sacred poets’. They are hymns to Agni – the fire, to Soma – the drink of immortality, to the Gods and to nature (the Sun, the Earth, Heaven, Night, Dawn).

I have chosen to share here some hymns dedicated to Dawn. They are simple to understand, full of tender and beautiful imagery. They symbolize the eternal beginnings, the very ones that presided over the birth of the Vedas 3500 years ago. Dawn is the goddess Ushas, the beautiful maiden who infuses life with her beauty and qualities. Shardha Batra writes, “She is the pregnant silence at daybreak, which pulsates with a nebulous promise of fresh hope, dreams to be fulfilled, battles to be fought and conquered. Her gentle yet sure vibrations suffuse the most tired of souls with new potential.”

Also, the dawn symbolises the passage from darkness to light, and was bound to become this strong archetypal figure described by Sri Aurobindo: “Night in the Veda is the symbol of our obscure consciousness full of ignorance in knowledge and of stumblings in will and act, therefore of all evil, sin and suffering; light is the coming of the illuminated higher consciousness which leads to truth and happiness.”

 

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The stars were yielding reluctantly to dawn and there was that peculiar silent expectation when the sun is about to come; the hills were waiting and so were the trees and meadows open in their joy.”
~ J. Krishnamurti

 

Dawn on us with prosperity
O Ushas, Daughter of the Sky.
Dawn with great glory, Lady of the Light.
Dawn Thou with riches bounteous One.

~~

The radiant Dawns have risen up for glory,
in their white splendour like the waves of waters.
She maketh paths all easy, fair to travel, and, rich,
hath shown herself benign and friendly.

~~

The goddess Dawn has eternally shown before,
and the bounteous goddess shines here today.
So will she shine in future. The ageless and immortal Dawn
moves on according to her eternal laws.

~~

Shedding her light on human habitations
this Child of Heaven hath called us from our slumber;
She who at night-time with her argent lustre
hath shown herself e’en through the shades of darkness.

~~

Arise! the breath, the life, again hath reached us:
darkness hath passed away and light approacheth.
She for the Sun hath left a path to travel
we have arrived where men prolong existence.

~~

Singing the praises of refulgent Mornings
with his hymn’s web the priest, the poet rises.
Shine then to-day, rich Maid, on him who lauds thee,
shine down on us the gift of life and offspring.

 

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From Rig Veda (1. 92, 113, & 124) – Translation by Ralph T.H. Griffith

Picture by unknown artist ; Mandala by Elsebet Barner

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Bibliography:
– ‘The Rig Veda: Complete and Illustrated‘ – Translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith – (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform)

Websites:
Usha, vedic goddess of new beginnings – by Shardha Batra
– The Vedic Dawn: Goddess Usha – by Sri Aurobindo
Sri Aurobindo (Wikipedia)
Vedas (Wikipedia)

 

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The Pilgrims

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Love Leading the Pilgrim

“Man is indeed abroad to satisfy needs which are more to him than food and clothing. He is out to find himself. Man’s history is the history of his journey to the unknown in quest of the realisation of his immortal self – his soul. Through the rise and fall of empires; through the building up gigantic piles of wealth and the ruthless scattering of them upon the dust; through the creation of vast bodies of symbols that give shape to his dreams and aspirations, and the casting of them away like the playthings of an outworn infancy; through his forging of magic keys with which to unlock the mysteries of creation, and through his throwing away of this labour of ages to go back to his workshop and work up afresh some new form; yes, through it all man is marching from epoch to epoch towards the fullest realisation of his soul, – the soul which is greater than the things man accumulates, the deeds he accomplishes, the theories he builds; the soul whose onward course is never checked by death or dissolution.

Man’s mistakes and failures have by no means been trifling or small, they have strewn his path with colossal ruins; his sufferings have been immense, like birth-pangs for a giant child; they are the prelude of a fulfilment whose scope is infinite. Man has gone through and is still undergoing martyrdoms in various ways, and his institutions are the altars he has built whereto he brings his daily sacrifices, marvellous in kind and stupendous in quantity. All this would be absolutely unmeaning and unbearable if all along he did not feel that deepest joy of the soul within him, which tries its divine strength by suffering and proves its exhaustless riches by renunciation.

Yes, they are coming, the pilgrims, one and all – coming to their true inheritance of the world; they are ever broadening their consciousness, ever seeking a higher and higher unity, ever approaching nearer to the one central Truth which is all-comprehensive.”

~ Rabindranath Tagore (1861 – 1941)

 

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 Painting by Edward Burne-Jones (1833 – 1898)

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Bibliography:
– ‘Sadhana’: The Realization of Life – by Rabindranath Tagore – (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform)

Website:
Rabindranath Tagore (Wikipedia)

 

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Tripping over Joy

BD266EB8-3B13-4016-A613-8F7742E48D91What is the difference
between your experience of existence
and that of a saint?

The saint knows
that the spiritual path
is a sublime chess game with God
and that the Beloved
has just made such a fantastic move
that the saint is now continually
tripping over joy
and bursting out in laughter
and saying, “I surrender!”

Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think
you have a thousand serious moves.

~ Hafiz

 

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Text from Hafiz, a 14th Century Persian poet

Picture from Alain Joly

~~~

 

Bibliography:
– ‘I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy’, by Hafiz (translation by Daniel Ladinsky) – Penguin Books

Website:
Hafiz (Wikipedia)

Suggestion:
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