Contemplation is a place of leisure and space. It is, as its etymology conveys, a ‘place for observation’. It has space within itself. It is a temple, which in Latin means an ‘open and consecrated space’. It is a sacred spot. A place where you find yourself meditating without having initiated it. It means that you — your Self — are on an equal footing with the objects of experience. You have not been absorbed, or engulfed by them. You are rather with them, hosting them all, embracing them in your emptiness. You see life from the standpoint of your temple of being. This is the position where from things acquire beauty and meaning. This is how you contemplate — by looking at everything from within the position of your Self. This is like being at the beach. The beach is a threshold, as are the front stairs that lead to the Ganges in Benares. This is when or where the city life is left behind and we come to be on vacation, on a holy-day — which is always a holy ground — to have leisure, freedom. To meet a certain form of death. To face the emptiness of the sea, the river, and the sky in front of us. We know intimately, or have the intuition of this place in ourself — this threshold, this passage from a dull and empty sense of acquired fullness, to the fullness of emptiness which is nothing but our natural, god-given state and being. This is the temple from which objective experience ought to be contemplated. This is where the contemplator is felt to be the contemplated. Contemplation then becomes a prayer. And such a prayer asks for nothing but the fact of being. This is the place of convalescence, where you come to heal from the world, from yourself. This is where you come to paint, to produce a new world out of your Self. This is where you get healed by this new vision, where your life finds a reorganisation, a new standpoint, a new temple where you can breathe at last and be content. Contemplation is completion. Sitting in an empty boat, or amongst dirty laundry, and be taken far out of yourself into your newly discovered sense of Self. This is a cleansing process, both of yourself and of the world. This is the contemplative mind.
Painting and text by Alain Joly
The painting was made from an original black & white photograph by Bjørn Weinreich.
– ‘Benares, A Sacred City in North India’ – by Bjørn Weinreich and Ulla Mørch – (Denmark, 1983)
Other ‘Ways of Being‘ from the blog…
One day long ago, I was stopped on my way, redirected as it were. It was one morning, the time of a glorious encounter with the subtle ethers of a city. Nothing would ever be the same. But what did I know at the time?
In Benares I met the Ganges. But it wasn’t a river. It was something calm, placid, yet charged with a force and power that I had never met before. At night, the river was still not a river. It was an absence, an emptiness. It was dark. And the boats that were aligned on it were like suspended, resting, immobile, placed here by something I could never comprehend. And the waters met here secretly with silence, in the crystalline air where a bell breathed an occasional, happy tone.
In Benares I saw the sun rising. But it wasn’t a sun. It was a bath of golden light spread above the waters. It was giving and fresh like all illumination must be. It was a pointer reminding us tirelessly to turn our attention on ourselves. It was not taken for granted but received. You were being exposed, as all beliefs and limitations ought to be. And in the evening, its setting amongst the heartfelt notes of a devotional song would send shivers down your spine. Then you knew. You would come again tomorrow to be clothed by its golden light. And you couldn’t wait.
A secret meeting with the city of Varanasi or Benares… (READ MORE…)
“I come as an orphan to you, moist with love.
I come without refuge to you, giver of sacred rest.
I come a fallen man to you, uplifter of all.
I come undone by disease to you, the perfect physician.
I come, my heart dry with thirst, to you, ocean of sweet wine.
Do with me whatever you will.”
~ Jagannātha (Ganga Lahari)
enares – a strange and beautiful city, the most religious city of all, so entrancing, so mysterious. Pierre had often heard of this town, and now he was already treading its soil. Many people had advised him that it’s not a place to linger in. “You will be assailed by the rickshaws, the hoteliers, the merchants…”, said the tourist guides. So he was on his guard that morning, on leaving the station, and was preparing to fight hard with the hawkers and profiteers of all kinds. It was six o’clock in the morning and a beautiful day beckoned.
His anxiety was soon dispelled. Everything seemed strangely calm and serene. There wasn’t here this traditional turmoil of Indian cities, nor the famous dust that envelops every city with a gray and dirty halo. An incredible clarity illumined the landscape. Oh! Of course! One had to endure, as everywhere else in this country, the innumerable calls of the rickshaw drivers, or the greedy shopkeepers. Gazes were as intense as everywhere else in India, students as curious, children as mischievous, cows as nonchalant, dogs wandering everywhere. Everything was so marvelously the same as the rest of India, and yet Benares was not a place like any other.
A short story, that tells of an unexpected meeting (READ MORE…)