Prayer to the Higher Self

‘Bodhisattva Padmapani, cave 1, Ajanta, India’ – Unknown author, 450-490 CE – Wikimedia

This prayer is a beautiful expression of longing from a student to the Master, which the title reveals to be the Higher Self. It is excerpted from a long Sanskrit poem attributed to Adi Shankara in the 8th century, whose original title is the ‘Vivekachudamani’, which translates as the ‘Crest-jewel of discrimination’. The text was used as a teaching manual of Advaita for centuries. I found this prayer to be a very moving and humble call for self-knowledge. It is found in verses 35 to 40, and opens to 540 more verses of elaborate teaching of non-duality…


“I submit myself to thee, Master,
friend of the bowed-down world
and river of selfless kindness.
Raise me by thy guiding light
that pours forth the nectar of truth and mercy,
for I am sunk in the ocean of the world.
I am burnt by the hot flame of relentless life
and torn by the winds of misery:
save me from death,
for I take refuge in thee,
finding no other rest.

Sprinkle me with thy nectar voice
that brings the joy of eternal bliss,
pure and cooling,
falling on me as from a cup,
like the joy of inspiration;
for I am burnt by the hot, scorching flames
of the world’s fire.
Happy are they on whom thy light rests,
even for a moment,
and who reach harmony with thee.

How shall I cross the ocean of the world?
Where is the path? What way must I follow?
I know not, Master.
Save me from the wound of the world’s pain.”



Prayer by Adi Shankara (788-820)

Translated by Charles Johnston (1867-1931)



Something must be said of the painting above. It is one of many paintings found in a series of Buddhist caves near Ajanta, in Central India, excavated between the 2nd century BC and the end of the 5th AD. The caves served as a retreat for monks until the 7th century, before being abandoned and forgotten. They house sculptures and paintings on their walls that narrate the many lives of the Buddha. Speaking of their subjects, the art specialist Ananda Coomaraswamy wrote: “We don’t know what to admire more: either their technique, which is already so perfect, or the intensity of emotion they contain, their lives seeming very close to our own; for they are as modern in design as they are in feeling. […] The grace of their movements, their serene self-control, the love with which their every gesture is imprinted, their profound sadness creates an unforgettable impression.”

Here is another prayer composed by Adi Shankara, ‘In the Morning I Remember’…

Here is a homage to Adi Shankara: ‘Shankara the Great’, on the blog…

– ‘In the Light of the Self: Adi Shankara and the Yoga of Non-dualism’ – by Alistair Shearer – (White Crow Books)
– ‘Adi Shankaracharya: Hinduism’s Greatest Thinker’ – by Pavan K. Varma – (Tranquebar)
– ‘The Crest-Jewel of Wisdom’ – by Shankaracharya (Trans. Charles Johnston) – (Pinnacle Press)
– ‘The Ajanta Caves’ – by Benoy Behl – (Thames & Hudson Ltd)

Adi Shankara (Wikipedia)
Vivekachudamani (Wikipedia)
Charles Johnston (Wikipedia)
Ajanta Caves (Wikipedia)
Ananda Coomaraswamy (Wikipedia)


A Mountain Walking

Arthur Rubinstein mural, Lodz – Eduardo Kobra, 2014 – Wikimedia


People are always setting conditions for happiness…
I love life without condition
~ Arthur Rubinstein

Thank you, Master Arthur Rubinstein. For you did it all for me tonight. No need for convoluted meditation postures. That effortless demeanour of yours in front of the piano was enough. All your thousand nuances of lows and heights, of patience and haste, of a suspended note, or a subtle release, all were concurring to deepen me. For it is all about profundity, isn’t it? About keeping a pointed inner eye on a vast array of forms dancing in and out of ourself, while staying like an unmovable rock. The play was prodigious in its complexity and nuances, but the maestro behind it all was at rest. Voraciously still. A fullness was produced at every empty second, as his fingers were slowly racing on the keyboard towards that never moving, never ending melodious symphony of presence. He was boiling life, and the fumes of it were like curls after curls of beauty. And yet all was kept in its pristine simplicity and humility. No effect and no affect. ‘A mountain walking’, to use that koan like image by Zen master Dōgen. That’s what art can truly do. It can take your breath away to never return it back in the way you have known it.

And the maestro is not busy in a cage of his own. He doesn’t perform. He has space, leisure. And he listens. Shhhh… Rubinstein’s listening, walking at his own pace, slowly mountaineering. Loving it all. You see it in his imperceptible smile. Or the minute rise of a couple of muscles above his eyelids. And in the glance exchanged with the conductor. Oh that glance! Rubinstein is not alone. He is conversing with Chopin; co-composing this Piano Concerto No 2. He is conversing with an oboe, or with a clarinet. Meditating with a line of supporting violins. And the maestro is teaching. He’s teaching you how to listen — not to the notes — but to yourself. This is where the notes acquire their meaning and purpose. This is where listening truly takes place. This is how you become a mountain walking. This is where is revealed the essential of life, of a piece of music, of anything. And this is where you find joy. Enjoying is all that the maestro is doing, and he gives it to you. That’s how an audience breaks in rapture, in screams and applauds of thankfulness. You are grateful because the maestro broke your heart, again and again, until you can be served one thing only: yourself. Your own gentle, pliable, undefeatable self. Hurrah!


Mountains do not lack the qualities of mountains.
Therefore they always abide in ease and always walk.
You should examine in detail
this quality of the mountains walking.
If you doubt mountains’ walking,
you do not know your own walking
~ Zen Master Dōgen (Mountains and Waters Discourse, Trans. by Kazuaki Tanahashi)



I have found that if you love life, life will love you back…”
~ Arthur Rubinstein


At every concert I leave a lot to the moment. I must have the unexpected, the unforeseen. I want to risk, to dare. I want to be surprised by what comes out. I want to enjoy it more than the audience. That way the music can bloom anew. It’s like making love. The act is always the same, but each time it’s different.”
~ Arthur Rubinstein


Yes, I am very lucky, but I have a little theory about this. I have noticed through experience and observation that providence, nature, God, or what I would call the power of creation seems to favor human beings who accept and love life unconditionally, and I am certainly one who does with all my heart.”
~ Arthur Rubinstein


It is simply my life, music. I live it, breathe it, talk with it. I am almost unconscious of it. No, I do not mean I take it for granted — one should never take for granted any of the gifts of God.”
~ Arthur Rubinstein



Quotes by Arthur Rubinstein (1887-1982)

and Dōgen Zenji (1200-1253)

Text by Alain Joly



Listen to Arthur Rubinstein playing Chopin’s ‘Piano Concerto No 2 in F minor, Op 21’ (with conductor Andre Previn & London Symphony Orchestra), which he recorded one last time, for posterity, when he was 88 years old in an empty Fairfield Hall, only months before becoming blind…

Read the ‘Mountains and Waters Discourse’ by Zen Master Dōgen…

– ‘My Many Years’ – by Arthur Rubinstein – (Renaissance Literary & Talent)

Arthur Rubinstein (Wikipedia) 
Frederic Chopin (Wikipedia) 
Dōgen (Wikipedia) 


This is Meister Eckhart

‘Trinity’ – Andrei Rublev, 1410-1420 – WikiArt


The eye wherein I see God 
is the same eye wherein God sees me; 
my eye and God’s eye are one eye, 
one vision, one knowing, one love
~ Meister Eckhart


In the Middle Ages, in the heart of Europe and of the Christian faith, rose a voice of such richness and profusion, of such dumbfounding wisdom and precision of thought, that it is a duty for all serious seekers to be reminded of it. The name shines with a polish of spiritual mastery and authority: Meister Eckhart. Eckhart von Hochheim OP was born in 1260 near Gotha in central Germany. OP stands in Latin for Order of Preachers, which is a mendicant order of the Catholic Church — better known as the Dominican Order — of which Meister Eckhart was a monk and a leader. His teaching and sermons left a deep impression but he was so ahead of his time and of the general understanding of his pairs, that his work went into oblivion only to reappear in the 19th century. His voice and light could not possibly be left unnoticed. He is now accepted as one of the most profound and eminent theologians, philosophers, and mystics of all times.

Little is known about his family and early life. From 1295 onwards, he held many posts of responsibility in various states of central Germany, and as far as Cologne or Strasbourg. Among others, he was a Prior of the Dominicans, managing tens of convents, and was later made Provincial of Saxony. He also travelled around Europe and more specifically to Paris where he studied Aristotle and the Platonists. With the degree of Master of Arts, he later on became a professor of theology at the school of Dominicans in the French capital and was invited as a magister — equal to the doctorate — for two consecutive years. At this time in Europe, during the Avignon Papacy, Christianity was prey to many tensions and confusion, the Inquisition was blowing a wind of suspicion and terror, as a result of which many new groups and movements were forming in search of new avenues of practice and understanding. It goes without saying that Meister Eckhart was a coveted source of wise counsel in these times of darkness. 

Let’s say it plainly: Meister Eckhart was a scholar, but it is as a preacher that he is most remembered. His sermons in the vernacular German were highly unusual for the time and took many a liberties with the conventional church rituals and dogmas. He stated: “When I preach, I usually speak of detachment and say that a man should be empty of self and all things.” […]


Blessed, supremely blessed, are they who are installed in the eternal now, 
transcending time and place and form and matter, 
unmoved by weal or woe or wealth or want, 
for in so far as things are motionless they are like eternity
~ Sermon 16 


An exploration into the teachings of Meister Eckhart… (READ MORE…)


The Neglected Self

Relinquish yourself.
I mean this little voice
That feels it is in charge,
Entangled in things and situations.

Leave it behind.
Take height.
Experience how you can be
Detached from it.

Let it uninvolved,
It will smoothly die;
Will be englobed
By something higher, bigger.

It will release 
Its illusory presence,
Replaced by the one only being
That it so superbly ignored.

Be global. Be whole.
Take your stand as
The one thing in you that is
Complete, encompassing, ever present.

Stay with it. Be it.
For it is you, the real you
That you have left behind
Unexplored, unseen, neglected.

For you have busied yourself
With all things apparently separate;
Have engaged in an endless conversation
With a precarious little voice. Don’t.

Be like a prince: watch every thing
From the heights of your Self.
Let yourself go. Be with what is left.
With your long-neglected Self.



Text and photo by Alain Joly



Voices from Silence (other poems from the blog)