The Word

‘Ordet’ – Carl Theodor Dreyer – A/S Palladium

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Ordet is a difficult film to enter. 
But once you’re inside, 
it is impossible to escape
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~ Roger Ebert 

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There is a beautiful line in the film ‘Ordet’. This is when Inger answers her husband who is complaining about his lack of faith. “It will come. Just you see how warm you will feel then. And how happy. It’s nice to be happy, isn’t it?” How revealing that she equates here faith with happiness. For faith in God is usually meant to be a deeply ingrained certainty or belief, something artificial, made up, sustained. Serious spiritual seekers will tend to abandon the word, in favour of the search for — and ultimately abidance in — something that is our natural and inborn identity, always present in and as ourself, never at a distance. But there is indeed a kind of faith necessary for the discovery of this hidden identity. This is better called the love of truth, or a deeply ingrained eagerness to find the truth, an earnestness, a fervour that starts and fuels the journey towards the understanding of ourself. 

Faith and the lack of faith are at the centre of the Danish film ‘Ordet’, meaning ‘The Word’. This is a film of iconic dimension, that has been celebrated the world over for its perfect craftsmanship and its deeply religious subject. It was made in 1955 by one of the greatest film director in history, Carl Theodor Dreyer. Watching Ordet, you are shown to what degree of elevation a film can be subject to in the hands of a true artist. Watching the film, you are slowly grabbed and lead to unforgettable artistic and spiritual heights. Dreyer, who thought deeply about his art, once said: “There is a certain resemblance between a work of art and a person. Just as one can talk about a person’s soul, one can also talk about the work of art’s soul, its personality. […] Style is not something that can be separated from the finished work of art. It saturates and penetrates it, and yet is invisible and undemonstrable.”

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A reflection on faith with Carl Dreyer’s masterpiece ‘Ordet’… (READ MORE…)

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Reality is a Verb

‘The Gray Tree’ – Piet Mondrian, 1911 – WikiArt

Here is a reminder inspired from the words of Rupert Spira. It is necessary and terribly efficient to look into these matters for ourselves. This is why I like to share here the parts of a spiritual teaching that sounds like ‘something to do’, something to experiment and verify for ourselves:

Instead of giving attention to the known object — thoughts, feelings, sensations and perceptions, give your attention to the knowing of your experience. Neither the knower, nor the known — just the knowing of your experience. Feel only in terms of verbs. Instead of thinking ‘I know such and such’, feel ‘There is only knowing and I am that’. Instead of thinking ‘I love you’, feel ‘There is only loving and I am that’. Instead of thinking ‘I see the tree’, feel ‘There is only seeing and I am that’…’

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Further exploring on the subject:

When there is the awareness of the tree there is no evaluation. But when there is a response to the tree, when the tree is judged with like and dislike, then a division takes place in this awareness as the “me” and the “non-me”, the “me” who is different from the thing observed. This “me” is the response, in relationship, of past memory, past experiences. Now can there be an awareness, an observation of the tree, without any judgement, and can there be an observation of the response, the reactions, without any judgement? In this way we eradicate the principle of division, the principle of “me” and “non-me”, both in looking at the tree and in looking at ourselves.” 
– J. Krishnamurti (‘Awareness’ – ‘The Urgency of Change’)

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We don’t really know or come in contact with an object, called a mind, a body, or a world. All we know is the knowing of our experience. And this knowing is not known by a separate object – the knower — this knowing knows itself. […] In the seeing of a tree for instance, there is no seer and there is no seen. There is no inside ‘I’ that sees and there is no outside ‘tree’ that is seen. The ‘I’ and the ‘tree’ are concepts superimposed by thinking onto the reality of the experience, which in this case could simply be called ‘seeing’.”
~ Rupert Spira (Presence, Vol.2)

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The natural effortlessness of knowing, and the fact that it is always present, clearly prove it to be really the nature of the self; because this knowingness does not come and go like the other functions and does not part with the ‘I’-principle, even for a moment. […] A function should necessarily have a beginning and an end. Knowledge has neither of these, and so it cannot be a function. It serves as the background of all functions, lighting and co-ordinating all of them and their experiences.”
~ Atmananda Krishna Menon (‘Notes on Spiritual Discourses’ – 82 & 175)

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Knowing Self,
mind empty and at peace,
the sage lives happily,
seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating
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– Ashtavakra Gita (Bart Marshall – 17.8)

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Do not see God as having ever created anything but rather as being in every moment a different configuration that sometimes seems to reveal Him and sometimes seems to conceal Him, without any conditions, because He is the first and the last, the apparent and the hidden and He IS knowledge of everything.”
– Balyani (‘Know Yourself’)

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In True Meditation all objects (thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, etc.) are left to their natural functioning. This means that no effort should be made to focus on, manipulate, control, or suppress any object of awareness. In True Meditation the emphasis is on being awareness—not on being aware of objects, but on resting as conscious being itself. In meditation you are not trying to change your experience; you are changing your relationship to your experience.”
– Adyashanti (The Way of Liberation)

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Only if your knowledge of your own Self is correct, can you hope to know anything else correctly. It is our experience that our physical activities do not stand in the way of our thoughts and feelings. Similarly, it is possible for me as witness to be always knowing – even when the body, senses and mind are functioning. Merely note this fact and become deeply convinced of it. Don’t attempt to objectify the witness by thought.”
~ Atmananda Krishna Menon (’Notes on Spiritual Discourses’ – 288)

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In the beginning, 
The very first thing, 
The primary experience, 
Is pure knowing being. 
And that becomes 
— Or rather seems to become
Flesh.
This knowing takes the form 
Of seeing,
And seems to become 
The seen world, 
The object, 
The known.
In fact it never actually 
Becomes flesh. 
It always remain 
Pure knowing being
.”
– Rupert Spira (‘The Language of Non-Duality is only Verbs’)

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Bibliography:
– ‘Presence’, Vol. I & II – by Rupert Spira – (Non-Duality Press)
– ‘The First and Last Freedom’ – by J. krishnamurti – (Rider Book)
– ‘Notes on Spiritual Discourses of Shri Atmananda: Volumes 1-2-3’ – Shri Atmananda (Krishna Menon) (Taken by Nitya Tripta) – (Non-duality Press)
– ‘Know Yourself: An explanation of the oneness of being’ – by Balyani – (Beshara Publications) 

Websites:
Rupert Spira
J. Krishnamurti
Adyashanti (Wikipedia)
Atmananda Krishna Menon (Wikipedia)
Ashtavakra Gita (Wikipedia)

Suggestions:
Fleeing to God (other pointers from the blog…)

A Day at Brockwood Park (Homage to J. Krishnamurti)
The Householder Sage (Homage to Atmananda Krishna Menon)
The Song of Ashtavakra (Homage to the Ashtavakra Gita)

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A Vehicle for God

‘Thanjavur Ganesha’ – Unknown author, 1820 – Wikimedia

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Regarding all things spiritual, I have always trusted the vision of India’s perennial understanding. And there is one thought that bothered me recently, which is simply: why do Hindu gods need a vehicle, a mount? Why do they all have an animal by their side, or to ride on? For god is God. All powerful and reaching far and wide. Self-sufficient and contained in Itself. So why would Shiva need a bull as his vehicle, why would Saraswati have a swan by her side, or Kartikeya a peacock, Lakshmi an owl, Indra an elephant, or Durga a tiger? Why such partnership? And for what purpose?

So I pushed further my enquiry. I discovered that these vehicles, these animals, symbolise some of the qualities inherent to the god they are attached to. For example, the swan represents the beauty, wisdom and grace in Saraswati. Or the peacock the splendour and majesty contained in the Hindu god of war. Many qualities like strength, swiftness, sharpness, fierceness, speed, effortlessness, and so many others, are attributes of god which are reflected in, or represented by, their own vehicles. So I looked at myself, as I am too, deep down, this radiating presence of consciousness, of god’s being. Could it be that, in the same way the dreamer becomes conscious of a dreamt world through the agency of a subject of experience in the dream, consciousness is experiencing a world through its being refracted by a mind? So the mind is the vehicle that consciousness needs to experience a world. Doesn’t that make me, in some way, the vehicle of the Self? And do I radiate the qualities of this presence as should a vehicle of god?

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A playful text asking why god needs a vehicle… (READ MORE…)

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A Furnace of Love

‘Sunset over a forest lake’ – Peder Mønsted, 1895 – Wikimedia

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Birgitta was sitting by the window, considering once again the recent chain of events that led to her present day situation. Twenty years ago, she came on this small Danish island for the first time, to never leave again. Lolland! What a beautifully telling name! She loved the place immediately. It is called by some the ‘pancake island’, for it is the flattest place here in the kingdom of Denmark. Its highest point: twenty five meters! But the skies were tall and wide with majestic clouds and the land imbued with a quiet remoteness that she loved on first sight. She had often smiled and still smiles on at the incongruous nature of her new home. For she was born in the heart of the French Alps, the daughter of a mountainous landscape where peaks are soaring high above deep valleys. 

Birgitta was a Catholic nun here, in a small monastery on the outskirts of the charming town of Maribo. Her actual name was Brigitte, but the sisters around her had quickly, and laughingly at first, re-baptised her Birgitta, which was the name of the fourteenth century Swedish saint and founder of their religious Order. She liked her new name for its Nordic and melodic quality. She had fit well here, in this quiet building amongst the trees, close to a little lake that she could see from her bedroom window. She came from a very religious family, and had always felt an attraction for all things spiritual. The trigger to espouse a religious life came rather abruptly, after her first dashed expectations in life. So she embarked on the preparatory journey, a few years of education in France and trips to the mother house in Rome.

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A short story that narrates Birgitta’s journey of love… (READ MORE…)

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The Song of the Little Road

Subir Banerjee (Apu) in ‘Pather Panchali’ – Wikimedia

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You never know how and when a piece of art, a film here, is going to touch the soft grounds of delight and beauty. And how it will come to be loved by people for opening that hidden, special place in their heart. ‘Pather Panchali’, or ‘The Song of the Little Road’ is one such heart opener. It was the first film made by the Indian director Satyajit Ray. It describes the life of a poor family in a village of rural Bengal, with its many struggles. You feel the occasional pinches of hunger, the cruelty, the thwarted expectations, the jealousies, the losses, intertwined with moments of peace, quietness, and insouciance. Days spent between the simple joys of life and the tragedy of death. 

What is it that makes a movie conducive to feeling in ourself that flavour of beauty? Often, such movies are slow, meditative, and as a result can bring a feeling of boredom in ourself. The craving in ourself for experiences that either fulfils our inner sense of lack, or covers it up, is not being quenched. And the mind quickly jumps in and understands it as the film being not good, not interesting. But this judgment may have nothing to do with the film, and everything with our own self’s tendencies and structure. 

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Approaching the qualities of Satyajit Ray’s film ‘Pather Panchali’… (READ MORE…)

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The Householder Sage

Photo by lensnmatter on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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Objectivity, in any form, is the only obstacle to Truth.”
~ Atmananda Krishna Menon

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It really is a remarkable thing that some of the clearest expressions of modern day non-duality have come from simple Indian men who lived simple lives in society. Atmananda Krishna Menon, married and a father of three children, a police inspector, was one such man. He became, along with Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj, an essential pillar of the non-dual understanding in India, giving voice to a new approach called the Direct Path, and becoming a guiding light for many seekers of truth in the West. 

Krishna Menon was born in 1883 in Kerala. He grew up in a well educated Brahmin family — some of his relatives were poets or scholars — and had a happy childhood. He was endowed with a good and curious mind, that allowed him to find pathways towards understanding that are clear, simple and effective. Krishna Menon had the highest respect for the function of a true guru. His encounter with his teacher was simple and eloquent. Walking by the roadside, he met in 1919 a swami and sannyasin from Calcutta named Yogananda. It was a short, transforming and unforgettable meeting that lasted only one night but touched him to his very soul. “This paralyzed my ego.” did he say. He realised his true self in just a few years and began teaching. His impeccable logic and clarity drew many a student around him. 

The Truth goes into you undressed,
not through language at all
.”
~ Atmananda Krishna Menon

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Discover the life and teaching of Atmananda Krishna Menon… (READ MORE…)

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The Sacrifice

‘The Adoration of the Magi’ – Leonardo da Vinci, 1480 – WikiArt

This is the first piece of a new category in the blog called ‘Impressions of Truth’ which aims at exploring art and spirituality through the medium of films, and celebrating various famous masterpieces of world cinema. Art is at the core of the spiritual endeavour and creativity is one of the foremost qualities and expressions found with the discovery of our true nature. The function of art is to give us a taste of the deepest reality hidden behind our human endeavours. And filmmaking has uniquely tailored visual and narrative qualities, perfectly conducive to bringing us closer to the inherent peace, harmony and love within us. So let’s immerse ourselves in the unique intimacy of a cinema room, the play of forms on the screen, and the ancient gift of being told another human story…

As an introduction, I would like to warn that, for the specific purpose of this text, I have chosen to describe the precise contours of the movie’s storyline. This is a film where the narration is not of the utmost importance, but be prepared if you plan to watch the movie and would rather not know so much

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The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, 
to plough and harrow his soul, 
rendering it capable of turning to good.”
~ Andrei Tarkovsky

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The screen and cinema room turned to a pitch black. Only the faint crackling murmur of an old empty sound track could be heard. And then… Then slowly rose the most exquisite music. ‘Erbarme Dich’ of the St Matthew Passion by J. S. Bach. Only hear this piece once in a movie by Andrei Tarkovsky, and its hearing will be forever associated with the great Russian film maker. Tarkovsky once wrote: “My function is to make whoever sees my films aware of his need to love and to give his love, and aware that beauty is summoning him.” The film ‘The Sacrifice’, by the master, is a living testimony of this claim. 

As this most divine music unfolds, a darkly lit portion of a painting comes to life. This is Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Adoration of the Magi’, where you see Jesus as a baby, sitting in Mary’s lap, reaching for the gift that is presented to him by one of the Magi. Then an exquisite feminine voice rises among the violins and sings these poignant verses: ”Have mercy, my God, for the sake of my tears! See here before you, heart and eyes weep bitterly. Have mercy, my God.”

Tarkovsky’s movies move slowly, with long takes, and unconventional scenario and structure. This can be a challenge for the viewer who is used to expect from a movie the usual suspense, pleasure and excitement. The thrill comes here from a wholly different place. It comes from silence, harmony and beauty. And if the purpose of art is of the deepest kind, Tarkovsky is indeed one of its most faithful representative, and could very well make his these words by Rupert Spira: “The role of the artist is to transmit to humanity the deepest experience of reality. Art is remembrance. It is love. It is like a sword that distinguishes between appearances and reality, or a cradle that reminds us of home.” This indeed is a form of elevation, and the film makes it immediately clear.

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Discover the beauty and qualities of Andrei Tarkovsky’s last movie… (READ MORE…)

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