Our Mother’s Lap

Let the little children come to me, 
and do not hinder them, 
for the kingdom of heaven 
belongs to such as these
.”
~ Mark 10:14

 

I’m sure we can all remember this. We were small children, we were playing in the courtyard near our house with our little friends. Maybe running after a ball. Then, pushed by a rough little boy, we fell and hurt our knee on the ground. It was painful. We got confused and a rush of pain and sadness overwhelmed us. We froze for a second, confused, and then what? Then we ran to the house to find our dearly mother. Our mother’s love is always here at hand, available, so we cried and complained for a while, but something magic happened. In our mother’s lap we were gradually consoled and reassured until our sadness and pain gently melted and disappeared in no time. Why was I hurt in the first place? It’s such a tiny little wound! So we rushed back to our playground, eager to continue our game and be with our little friends again. …

A divagation into the ways of the little child we once were (READ MORE…)

 

Fragrance

Prayer is our one link with the real 
– if by ‘prayer’ we mean simply an attention 
both extreme and careless of any result, 
an attention so pure that the one who practises it 
is not even aware of doing so
.”
~ Christian Bobin

 

The other day, I found the old, beautifully handmade prayer book of my grandmother, and skimmed through it. Prayer has always been to me something of a difficulty and I think the time has come to seriously address it. I’m intending to share prayers on this blog, making it the subject of a new category. 

There seems to be two habitual ways of praying. The main one is to beg, implore, request – positively or negatively, asking for something objective, however refined this object can be. The second way is devotional, contemplative, but often turns out to be a repetitive, compelled form of recitation. Both forms are unsatisfactory, ranging from being naive, belief-based, self-concerned, to just lacking efficacy. 

A good prayer is a totally non-objective one, at least in spirit if not in words. Rupert Spira says: “The turning of the mind away from the objective content of experience towards the source or essence from which it has arisen is the essence of meditation or prayer.” And Meister Eckhart says nothing different when stressing that the most powerful form of prayer is “the outcome of a quiet mind” or “a pure going out of what is our own.” And such a mind, in his own words is one that “is forever immersed in God’s most precious will, having left its own.” A prayer is an invitation to rest or abide in what is most essential in our being, and in that it can be equated with meditation, which is originally the Hindu or Buddhist form of prayer, or with the koan of zen. 

A prayer comes from the heart, and points to something that is beyond words and meaning. Its only function is to throw you back to yourself, to silence. It must be devoid of demands, which can only be objective and an expression of separation. In prayer, the result precedes the wish. Rupert Spira sums it up in a beautiful way: “Let what you become be an expression of the source.” Love is all, and love is prayer.

~

In the existence of your love, 
I become non-existent. 
This non-existence linked to you 
is better than anything 
I ever found in existence.

~ Rumi

~

 

Here is a beautiful prayer that I heard from Francis Bennett. It was originally composed by John Henry Newman, a 19th century poet and theologian, and is known as the ‘Fragrance Prayer’:

Dear Presence so divine 
Help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with Your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly,
That my life may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through me, and be so in me 
That every soul I come in contact with 
May feel your presence in my soul 
Let them look up and see no longer me, but only You!

Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine,
So to shine as to be a light to others;
The light, O Lord, will be all from You; none of it will be mine;
It will be you, shining on others through me.

Let me thus praise You the way You love best, by shining on those around me.
Let me preach You without preaching, not by words but by my example,
By the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what I do,
The evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You.

Amen.

 

~~~

Introductory text and photo by Alain Joly

Prayer by John Henry Newman (1801-1890)
(Adapted by Francis Bennett)

~~~

 

This article is the first that appears in a new category called ‘Fragrance of Love’. This is the place to share a prayer or meditation – this fragrance of ourselves – as the main feature.

Suggestion:
The Quiet Mind
– Watch Francis Bennett’s video on YouTube: Integrating Humanity with Divinity, a Science and Nonduality Conference…

Bibliography:
– ‘Conversations with Meister Eckhart’ – by Meister Eckhart & Simon Parke – (White Crow Books Ltd)
– ‘The Very Lowly: A Meditation on Francis of Assisi’ – by Christian Bobin – (New Seeds)

Websites:
John Henry Newman (Wikipedia)
Francis Bennett (finding grace at the center)
Rupert Spira
Meister Eckhart (Wikipedia)
Rumi (Wikipedia)
Christian Bobin (Wikipedia)

 

Unsubstantiality

I remember one day being at the breakfast table, my eyes peeking randomly through the window. They landed on the courtyard down below where a thin layer of snow were covering the lawns. I was attracted by the curious behaviour of a couple of magpies. One was so to speak climbing up a tree, branch after branch, until it reached a spot where the building of a nest was being started. It wasn’t just flying there, in one big leap, and I wondered why. The other magpie was leisurely sitting on a bicycle shed looking at its friend, attentive, but somewhat unconcerned. I watched this little dance for a while, but realised that there was more to see. 

On the lawn, there was a big ball of snow, may be an unfinished snowman or something of the kind. It had been pushed there by the arms of a few playful children, and became this big, somewhat dirty giant ball sitting strangely in the courtyard. It was massive, solid, and yet had an odd, ethereal presence that drew me to it. It appeared as if it was not really there, somewhat absent in spite of its size and solidity. My mind wandered for a while, finding the snowball to be a perfect analogy for the ‘me’, this ‘thing’ that we assume to be the person, the doer. There is ‘somebody’ there, inside the skull so to say, that is directing the show, and for whom all actions are being undertaken. …

A reverie that speaks of our unsubstantial nature (READ MORE)

 

Welding

“The arrow that is shot should penetrate so deeply
that even the feathers do not show.
Hug the body of the Lord so tightly
that the bones must be crushed to crumble.
Weld to the divine until the very welding disappears.”
~ Akka Mahadevi

 

~~~

Quote by Akka Mahadevi (1130 – 1160)

Photo by Alain Joly

~~~

 

Bibliography:
– ‘Sky-clad: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Akka Mahadevi’ – by Mukunda Rao – (Westland)

Website:
Akka Mahadevi (Wikipedia)

 

 

The Lord of the Dance

The most famous form of Shiva is the Lord of the Dance, ‘Nataraja’, the form in which all other forms of Shiva are included. In one sublime pose, in one movement, one dance, is described the whole process of life and death, of ignorance and understanding. Ananda Coomaraswamy remarks: “Whatever the origins of Shiva’s dance, it became in time the clearest image of the activity of God which any art or religion can boast of. … Its deepest significance is felt when it is realized that it takes place within the heart and the self.” This is Shiva’s secret, buried in what is our most intimate and well known experience: consciousness. It is said that this dance encompasses all of our human experience and the spiritual processes at work on the path to realising our true nature. Indian ancient scriptures divide them in five, namely creation, preservation, destruction, veiling, and grace. I have gathered here many quotes and pointers from various spiritual teachers and poets, that remind us of the eternal truth behind Shiva’s main appearances. Let’s have a taste of it or, in more Indian terms, feel the significance and rasa of Shiva’s eternal dance:

 

O my Lord, Thy hand holding the sacred drum 
has made and ordered the heavens and earth 
and other worlds and innumerable souls. 
Thy lifted hand protects both the conscious
and unconscious order of thy creation. 
All these worlds are transformed by Thy hand bearing fire. 
Thy sacred foot, plated on the ground, 
gives an abode to the tired soul 
struggling in the toils of causality.
It is Thy lifted foot that grants eternal bliss 
to those that approach Thee.
These Five-Actions are indeed Thy Handiwork
.”
~ Chidambara Mummani Kovai

 

0C4E53AE-A742-4CA5-B2C5-6F86DC6D281C

 

When the Actor beateth the drum,
Everybody cometh to see the show;
When the Actor collecteth the stage properties
He abideth alone in His happiness
.”
~ Manikkavacakar (9th-century Tamil poet)

 

~~

 

Shiva, the Great Yogi’:

When we say ‘Shiva’, there are two fundamental aspects that we are referring to. The word ‘Shiva’ means literally, ‘that which is not’. Today, modern science is proving to us that everything comes from nothing and goes back to nothing. The basis of existence and the fundamental quality of the cosmos is vast nothingness. The galaxies are just a small happening – a sprinkling. The rest is all vast empty space, which is referred to as Shiva. That is the womb from which everything is born, and that is the oblivion into which everything is sucked back. Everything comes from Shiva and goes back to Shiva.”
~ Sadhguru

~

The reason for removing or letting go of all objective experience, all thoughts, images, feelings, sensations and perceptions is to reveal that aspect of the mind that cannot be removed from itself, that cannot be let go of, that is to reveal the essential, irreducible essence of mind. That essential, irreducible essence of mind is inherently free of all objective qualities.”
~ Rupert Spira

More quotes and pointers on Shiva’s dance of life and death (READ MORE…)

 

Rendez-vous with Ramana, Part III

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 Three of her three part ‘Rendezvous with Ramana’: “Paula Marvelly ascends Mount Arunachala to sit in Virupaksha Cave and experience the oneness of the Self.”

~

Those who have sunk deeply into the ocean of silence and drowned
will live on the summit of the supreme mountain,
the expanse of Consciousness
.”
~ Ramana Maharshi

~

Dispelling illusion

THE LIFE OF Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi was immaculate humility and benevolence. He showed compassion to all beings — animals, thieves, people from all castes, religions and creeds. He refrained from getting involved in worldly activities; he never handled any of the ashram money nor did he answer letters addressed to him, though he would always welcome anyone into his presence.

Ramana also wrote down very little of his teaching. The only verses which arose spontaneously were ‘Eleven Stanzas to Sri Arunachala’ and ‘Eight Stanzas to Sri Arunachala’; the rest of his poetry being produced specifically at the request of a disciple to elucidate a particular point — put altogether as a collection, it only forms a slim volume. And his most well known work, ‘Forty Verses on Reality’ or Ulladu Narpadu, together with its forty supplementary verses, constitutes just over ten pages of written text. “All this is only activity of the mind,” he remarked to a visiting poet. “The more you exercise the mind and the more success you have in composing verses, the less peace you have.” Nevertheless, he did meticulously edit the books published during his lifetime to ensure accuracy of meaning, leaving no room for misunderstanding or misinterpretation.

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

 

Speaking of Shiva

When I didn’t know myself, 
where were you? 
Like the colour in the gold,
you were in me.
I saw in you, 
lord white as jasmine,  
the paradox of your being
in me
without showing a limb
.”
~ Akka Mahadevi

 

If you have been to India, you are likely to have met a beggar who came to you imploring, asking you to relieve him from his suffering, but also being a little rough, with something in his voice sounding like a reproach. You probably froze for a second, feeling guilty, not knowing what to do. You felt caught between giving or not giving, between an easy way out or a shameful flight. None of them satisfactory. Torn by this conflict, you may have missed the giving, salvific part of it all. You may have missed that in the profuse tradition of India, one of Shiva’s many forms is the ‘Supreme Beggar’. You may have missed that, in Krishnamurti’s words, “Conflict is the measure of the ‘I’.” Shiva came along to give you a chance, a beautiful opportunity to see that there is in you a way out of yourself, of your little ‘I’, in which you could both give and receive. I’d like to call this freezing, this second of conflict and confusion, the ‘knot of Shiva’. I had this knot undone once, long ago, and was allowed to sneak a peek at Shiva’s face. Evidently, he had some secrets to tell. Let’s walk the road from the egoistic, immature thoughts and images of Shiva, to the more understanding, universal realisation of his true identity. Let’s unravel Shiva’s mysteries…

An essay to explore the many aspects of India’s most famous god (READ MORE)