The Afternoon of our lives

Summer days are long, and often eventful,

There are places to go, and things to do.

Rarely does one sit, in quiet contemplation,

About old companions, and those who have gone.

 

Summer nights are dark, and bring the heavens closer,

There are lovers to enjoy, and dreams to dream.

Sometimes we lie half-awake, in restless beds,

Yet at others we live our lives intensely, for those to come.

 

Youth is irreverent, towards many age old dogmas,

The future belongs to them, and they are well trained.

The Morning of our life is the age of youth, and its admirers,

Tales of adventurous travels to different shores, to fight our dragons.

 

My time now I realize, is the Afternoon of my Life,

So much that was promised in my youth, has passed.

Now I am wiser and know what folly is, and what madness is,

This summer is for my lover and there is no other castle.

 

On realizing that our youth, has long passed us bye,

We can now move on to the realization, of our life’s purpose.

The idealistic way is still the best, for its sweet dreams,

Many a life I would strive, for working towards its realization.

 

The Afternoon of my life on this summer’s day,

Passes with many a roar and a celebration of Sports and Humans.

We watch the best efforts of our champions, and award the Trophies,

Enjoying this moment and this time, as this game of life looks at a setting sun.

“Views of a Foetus in the Womb”, detail from a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci

Woodland walk

The path led me deeper into the lush summer forest. There was greenery everywhere and fallen trees, were blocking; some areas of the path, which I happily scrambled over, to continue my woodland walk. It is an old habit amongst our family to walk in the hills since childhood. Drilled into us to taking morning and evening hikes, in the Himalayas. It is a very healthy lifestyle but very few of us are privileged enough, to become a mystic, or a communicator with nature. Our just being in these woods helps us identify, with our larger universe.

It is good to walk alone and introspect and find out what is happening with oneself, once in a while. So as I came among my favorite cluster of Oaks, I saw the pairs rising from a common roots. For some nature’s freakiness there is a huge proportion of these pairs towering over the path in some parts as compared to others. Here in the middle I paused as something was not right.

There to the side was a pair that seemed to have missed the spring season. This giant pair was as leafless as a mid winter’s day. I grew close to it and was strangely attracted to it. I decided to use it as a backrest for my meditation and sat down with my back to it, soon feeling safe, amongst its roots. With closed eyes I observed the sound of the Doe and her kid, as they grazed in the sloping valley behind me. A squirrel was scrambling up on the Maples, across from where I sat.

From the tree there was no vibration of life. It seemed it had caught the Rip Van Winkle effect and gone to sleep in summer. I wished them well and hoped that they would green again soon, as I missed the living twins. I sat there contemplating the times we had spent in the summers before, vibrating together with our life forces, in the eternal hum of life. Time passes slowly or at least it seems to, in the summer, when all our senses come alive. I get up with a sense of loss, and melancholy grips me momentarily. A few steps up the path and the deer family come into sight and I get distracted and move on.

Social Media grabbed me on my return back Home and there is just so much fake news going around, that I am ready to turn everything off.    How can these people blatantly lie and expect us to swallow all of it without complaining. The rhetoric levels are rising and the two parties are drifting farther apart, under this Presidency. People are falling everyday in this administration, and what can I add about our dear President, that hasn’t already been said. We are all living the dream!

“This above all: to thine own self be true, / And it must follow, as the night the day, / Thou canst not then be false to any man.” -William Shakespeare, poet and dramatist (23 Apr 1564-1616)

Magnolias, represent the profundity of our spring

Our oaks and maples are still bare

Winter’s day is not done today,

Yet there are signs of spring approaching.

Forsythias’ yellow, glows in our sunrise,

Cherry Blossoms’, waken us this morn,

It is only a passing season, and we are so alive.

 

Magnolias am I, and date ninety five million,

Am prehistoric, with tepals, I predate even bees!

Witness I stood through ice ages, and mountain formation,

My glory rises in many continents, riding this continental drift.

When spring comes, I awake from dawn prehistoric,

In a profundity of spring, rejoicing all of Earth’s seasons.

 

Magnolia I am, living in this millennium.

Young is this Earth, and younger yet is this season.

The lovers come and stare, at me and my blooms.

Captivated by my outpouring of love, for our mother.

They gaze at me in wonder, admiring Spring’s profundity.

Of nature’s shameless, as I bloom wantonly, full of color.

 

Our grass will turn green, along with our trees

Our time of love and newness, will open its buds.

We will walk in the woods and smell their sweet air

Drawn to this clearing, we will have our first visitation.

Of the profundity of spring, and Earth’s many manifestations.

Remember the Magnolia and sing in our glorious spring!

(Hope Lives! April 27, 1953).

Great Banyan story

By Biswarup Ganguly – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12679235

Long have the mystics I have studied instructed followers to stay away from Anger, Lust, Greed and things unnatural. They have all advocated that life has enough to offer without needing any artificial enhancement. In a world of plenty we need to get closer to mother nature and our origins. There are so many wonders around us that we can lead a full life, without having to travel to exotic locations. If we want to travel to exotic locations, then there is no harm, in that either. We just have to follow our own path, and not let life just happen to us. We can pick any path our heart desires, and proceed along it, to a goal, or a state of being. We must seek joy, happiness and mirth in everyday situations. If we are happy now with what we have, then start giving the extra stuff away. To live like a mystic, is to not have attachment, and hence one does not accumulate anything. One lives and discovers wonders of the world like, the Great Banyan tree as life progresses. Let me tell you a little more about the wonder of this tree:

A 255-year-old Great Banyan at the Indian Botanic Garden, Shibpur, has increased its girth by a massive two acres in a little over 30 years, from 3 acres in 1985. The Great Banyan lost its main trunk long ago after surviving two cyclones. The tree is now balanced on its growing new roots. The new roots seem to be walking east towards the sun. It is also the direction away from human habitation in the city and its pollution. 4 senior botanists and their assistants take care of the Great Banyan ensuring its health, and have built a new barrier around it. This is a remarkable tree like the Redwoods in California. They are massive and live for centuries yet this covers far more space. It continues to flourish and has grown into the largest single canopy, on earth.

We must praise nature as the more we take care of it, the more it gives back to us. We must take care of the fauna and the flora, of our native lands. Like the huge store in Norway of all the world’s seeds is good for preservation, but there is no sight like looking up from the base of tall Sequoias; and wondering how tall the trees were, as one could not possibly see the top of the trees? The real life is in our fields, our forests, our woods, our lakes, our rivers, our mountains and our oceans. They have to be nourished and cared for, by an army of people, to make them whole again. We have taken and destroyed so much, that we have to take a joint exercise, just to count the tigers, living in Nepal and India. The numbers are low, and preservation is just starting to work, and a lot of work still needs to be done to preserve the jungle species. They need their own habitats with grazing lands, rivers, woods to continue to do what nature does best. Life is to be enjoyed in its enormity and not in narrow dogmas preached for human consumption. We have become very powerful and with power also comes great responsibility. Let us use our powers wisely, to grow ourselves, and allow others to prosper also, as there is a whole universe still to explore. If we must dream then let us dream big like the Great Banyan!

We become what we desire

Very early on I was given to understand that I would never be an emperor of India. I was all of 12 and dreamed all the dreams that Alexander the Great (my hero) would have dreamed, at my age. The tall Qutub Minar towered proud above me after all these centuries in the gardens of Delhi. Gardens and monuments surrounded me from the early Sultanates of India. None was more powerful than the Slave Dynasty that established Muslim rule in India. Ruling from Delhi they conquered the Indus rich lands and a large part of the Gangetic valley and prospered. The pillar was of course much older and had fascinated me for years in its height and girth.

The Ashokan Pillar marks an older tradition of Buddhism, in India. This rust less iron pillar is ascribed to emperor Ashok and was part of his many edicts and signposts, laying down the rules of Dharma. Those rules had been long largely discarded, in the India I grew up in; and long consigned, to the pages of history. Modern Indian politics of Independent India, has been turned towards a new national identity. I had stood with my back resting against the pillar, preparing myself. I looked up at the beautiful carved stone archways, left over from a past kingdom. Vainly I tried to reach around my back, and grasp both hands. Soon I knew that there was no hope, as I was short. Maybe if I had been two feet taller with longer arms, then it may have been easier as the pillar did seem to taper slightly, from the broad base where I stood, reaching our blindly.

The one thing Ashok and Buddha consistently talked about was that compassion and contentment are noble attributes. The sooner we acquire them the easier is our trip to Nirvana. We must not follow our desires as like Lucy in the Sky with diamonds they can never be satisfied in our lifetime. We can take a strange trip of chasing all our desires in a distorted reality, or one with all ones lucidity and love. Just contentment stops a lot of things from happening – mostly with positive results. We do not seek, so are not disappointed, and also do not have any guilt of missing the next high. Desires continue to flourish in our imagination as human beings desire more and more as the world unfolds before us. Every new vision or revelation makes us children again reaching out for a newer shinier toy.

Some seek God and salvation in narrow beliefs and blind faith, while others like the Isa Upanishad say God is in everything so nothing is ours and it is all His, so renounce and enjoy. Buddha did not destroy desires but he found a path we could follow, which would help us overcome becoming trapped in this world of Maya and endless rebirth leading to a state of Nirvana. Great saints have all proclaimed the supremacy of their God and shown paths to serve Him as in the prayer of Saint Francis to his Lord to, “make me an instrument of your peace.”   The end result of many of these learned beings is the concept of Sangha or society that is equal and everyone works for its betterment. God does not dwell in Churches. Temples or Mosques but in each of us and his laws do not differentiate between rich and poor. Follow your Dharma or beliefs and you will find the right path.

So to conclude we remain largely the slaves of our desires. We indulge in more ways to enjoy them and seek the company of those who are followers of the same path. The Germans did not start off as evil under Hitler but they took his beliefs to an extreme and became evil. Similarly we need to ensure we seek contentment versus the fulfillment of all our desires. Desires come and go and we need to be in harmony with nature. The universe has forces far larger and stronger than us puny men trapped on this blue planet. We are only as great as our belief and so seek higher living and thinking. When we destroy whole species of flora or fauna, we are destroying a little bit of ourselves. We have the power to create a new world, full of goodness and hope. Seek to live righteously, as in the end all of us must die.

The Path in the Woods

There is a path in the woods, which I believe leads to change. We must all seek this path, as to stay stagnant is to slowly die away. We do not know what we will find on this path, as we are not sure what we want. We must seek the path and follow it to where it leads, as that is why we are here. We were not given this life to only rot in our internal turmoil, and not seek what is freely given. We are free to explore and find the meaning of life in our own way. We must change to find love, compassion, balance and life itself.

There are many paths I have walked on and many more left for me to explore. I am angry about many I have taken in the past, as they took me to misery and pain. I am anxious about the ones I have to take in the future, as they are unknown and may lead to even more pain and sorrow. The one I am on now is the best, as I know exactly where I stand and also know, where it is taking me. I know my love is with me and I have compassion in my heart for all creatures, on this path. I am blessed to feel this passion for life, as it drives me to move faster and seek more. Love is boundless and compassion expands our hearts even more and we attain happiness, when we experience joy in even the smallest of happenings.

As we change so does our life and our path to joy. This path of happiness is so subtle that we have to experience it, to understand the true meaning of life. Many a year has gone by when we did not know what our life was meant to be. Many a day I was lost and many a night I cried that this meaningless life, was better off without me. Pain and suffering surrounded me and all that was dear was forlorn, and all that was near, was just a reminder of my past failures. How could I continue to live and I withdrew into my skin and dared not look, feel, or reach out around me, afraid of human emotion and touch.

Then one day I met a person who had nothing and was happy and laughing at the world. He was ugly, poor, disabled and had no economic future, yet he was happy to meet me and laughed at me, for what I had become. He had known me when I was young and lively and the whole world was within my grasp, and he had been the same. Now I was morose and even though I had everything, he told me I did not value what was given to me. I looked into the twinkle in his eyes and realized I was looking in a mirror of time, and wondered why I would let myself become him.

I learnt a lesson that day and now every day, I walk fearlessly on a new path and find all that my heart desires and more….

“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die.”- Friedrich Nietzsche

 

Life of meaning and value

 

We are here only because of our desire for being. Our egos are satisfied only if we live for ourselves.I have always admired Sartre and Bertrand Russell for their existential philosophy, as their writings first opened up my mind to a life lived with meaning and having values. In our life we have the choice to live in a manner deserving of our aspirations. If we have very high aspirations our life is a little more complicated, than if we have lower expectations.  This choice is critical for the life, we are about to lead. Thus it is clear that the more we live our aspirations, the more meaning our lives have in the end.

The second more important truth is the value in our life that we seek. If we seek a higher purpose and always strive to achieve that high moral ground, bound by our inner conviction, then we cannot go wrong. The value of our life increases exponentially, the more creatures we help around us. We have to start small and walk along this path of eternal values, as only by following the laws of nature, can we be successful. Evolution of our species has allowed humans to evolve, into a higher life form on earth, but we still remain but specs in this universe. There is much still for us to explore and much around us, that we still have to understand.

The merging of meaning and value in one life are a beautiful creation. The greatest achievements in our human evolution, have been done by these great thinkers and doers, who have come before us in this realization. We have a collective memory of survival and prosperity from our Parents and Grandparents and what they achieved. Their values and meanings have now become ours and we have to bring fruit, to those aspirations. Those of us who rise socially, economically or spiritually all live our own value system, which gives meaning to our life. We are all individuals but are tied up in this world wide web of human endeavor, and achievement. Some are of course more successful than others like me, in achieving a state of perpetual awareness and serenity..

It should not stop us from striving for betterment. We still have time long as we live, to adhere to our values and to add meaning in our life. Since infinity is available, we can strive for that. That is the most beautiful piece of truth in our our life that nothing is in our way to achieve, our goal, except ourselves. Existence is only for us to live to our potential. Do not short sell ourselves as all that is here, is ours; and all that we seek, is at hand. Pick the right values, and the true meaning of a compassionate and peaceful life will emerge. The greatest men have always emphasized human equality, and the rule of law. Enjoy walking on their path as it leads to greatness, and gives us a a freedom from unneeded action and strife. Live life as the great gift, where we will leave a better universe; for all our succeeding, generations!

Life has no meaning a priori. … It is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose. -Jean-Paul Sartre, writer and philosopher (21 Jun 1905-1980)

Rig Veda – First Verse

Today I spent time studying the first verse of the over 1,200 verses in the first of our four Vedas, commonly known as the Rig Veda. When in doubt, wise men have told me to try and go to the source of the doubt. So I sought out the most ancient chant in our tradition. What could an ancient verse that survived many millennia in a spoken tradition, chanted by priests and their families, till writing was invented, tell me? Ancient Sanskrit has changed and one has a problem understanding it, but the message of the verse; is a bedrock of Hinduism and clarity shines brightly through in an intensity, that shows the clear thinking, of the ancient mystic who wrote it.

Agnimile purohitam, yagyasya devamrtvijam, I hotaram ratnadhatamam II

A learned mystic Sri Aurobindo translated it as, “I adore the Flame, the vicar, the divine Ritwik of the Sacrifice, the summoner who most founds the ecstasy.”

One of he most ancient of Mantras to survive in human existence is also translated as: “I venerate Agni, the priest (lit. who is placed on the seat of honour/in the East), divine ministrant of the sacrifice, bestower of treasure, par excellence.” 

अ॒ग्निमी॑ळे पु॒रोहि॑तं य॒ज्ञस्य॑ दे॒वमृत्विज॑म्। होता॑रं रत्न॒धात॑मम्॥१॥

Well any of us who have invoked Vedic Mantras while lighting Agni in the Havan kund know the ritual well. We start with (water, samagri, ghee and samidha) dry wood kindling and special mixture of natural items found in nature, to purify the air and raise the sacred flame of Agni within and without. We know that its a homage to the fire of creation, which burns in each and every one of us. It is only now when I have had the pleasure of reading the first verse of (our strutis) or knowledge passed down, by the invokers of the devas. The ancient sounds have not changed much from when they were first spoken, to express human ecstasy, while conducting the fire sacrifice (Havan or Homa). It is we who have forgotten them, and the ancient rishis still lead us to the righteous path.

It is rumored that when Edison asked his friend Max Muller to do the first recording in human history, he recorded this first verse for posterity.  This first recorded sound kept up an ancient Indian spoken tradition, unbroken in recorded time and still alive as originally spoken. So the ancient seer spoke these words and passed them on to his progeny, generation after generation, from the time the Arya arrived in India, and made it their own home. I am a product of these settlers in the rich valleys of the five rivers in the northern plains of Hindustan, in a region now known as Punjab.   The Indo-Aryan migrations started in approximately 1800 BCE, after the invention of the war chariot, and also brought Indo-Aryan languages into India.

In the Epic Mahabharata Arjun rides a war chariot and Krishna is his charioteer who drives and protects him and pulls the chariot up in between the warring cousins on the ancient battlefield of Kurukshetra. The sun reflects off of the bronze protective plates of the war ready warrior, as he throws down his great bow and questions why he must bring death on his near and dear ones. The chariot stops and we hear the Bhagavad Gita from the mouths of Arjun and Krishna (as described to the blind king many miles away by the seer Sanjay). The Gita is considered a condensation of the Vedas in some ways, as it lays out men’s duty to society, religion and knowledge.  So while the first verse of the Vedas spoke so much about internal ecstasy, the Gita gave us a whole new religious philosophy, showing many paths.

We in the Arya Samaj strongly believe, that the Vedic tradition is one of the most noble ways of life, and those who follow it will become Arya, or the enjoyers of inner peace and contentment . We will always strive to become learned, and do this by hearing from others and also passing on what we learn, to teach others.  We study the ancient texts and my mother used to do a daily Havan for man years, even in the worst of times, when she became a refugee in India, after the partition. The internal light in her lived on through life’s ups and downs, as it did in my father who was also a karma yogi. Their joint reciting of the Sanskrit verses during festivals and social occasions was a reminder to us that the pursuit of knowledge, would bring its own rewards.

My translation, “Oh Agni! Thou does’ light my inner being and I adore thee and the one (male\female) who sits on the East and hosts this great ceremony. By this great yagya flame we do the divine Ritwik of our traditions, for conducting this sacrifice. This sacrifice brings us closer to the Devas and the priests who have invoked them for millennia. As we raise our voices to the divine it is you Agni who causes the flame of our efforts to rise and lead us to greater ecstasy. We discover a treasure from the fruits of our Havan, a treasure so exquisite that we consider it par excellence. Finally we call out the summoner who is within us this day, who has mystified these words, and has invoked the eternal ecstasy, by his recitation of the ancient texts as they should be read He is the bestower of the greatest treasure called life, as we gather here to sing this hymn to its glory.”

We have lost our way in the current age of Kalyug or dark times,and Satyug or Truthful times will come again in our future, when we are free from Maya. Till then we can recite the verse and have faith that the promised treasure awaits us, and it is we who are wanting. Our ancients gave us such a powerful message of hope in the opening verse itself, that if none other had followed, Hinduism would have still lived to its modern form. The power of the tradition where an ordinary conductor of the ceremony becomes the raiser of our inner faith is so powerful a construct, that it needs no other external support. Hence Hinduism has lived through the ages largely unchanged, often reformed; yet the work, never quite completed.

We return in the end to the funeral pyre, where the body is disposed off by Agni, but the soul is not burnt; and it rises to either live forever in its ecstasy, or try again in a rebirth. So life begins and ebbs, rises and falls, in the rhythms, of these ancient verses. We have to just stop and breathe evenly, recite the ancient and sacred words, pour the ghee and samgaree on the kindling and pray. If we look hard enough at the fire burning outside and say the right words, our inner fire flames up, and the rest of the day is full of an awareness of love for nature and our universe.Imagine yourself as the Purohit and say the words that will bring you to your personalized ecstatic treasure. Life does not become more intense than this verse in its simplicity and power, so enjoy!.

Shadows of the overhanging granite cliffs

A bright sunny day and the ground next to the lake,

still had the white snow, left by the last snowstorm,

lying in the shadows of the overhanging granite cliffs.

The swans swam in the shallow end diving occasionally,

for their meal, and then sailing gracefully on the water.

The Geese swam at another end with the occasional honk.

My day is busy and the afternoon fleeting away in writing,

Who has come and who has gone is not my concern,

I am busy with my life and imagining tales not told.

Where did that idea go, as I had it in my grasp?

Maybe it is time for a nap and let existence be.

RK

The color of truth is grey. -Andre Gide, author, Nobel laureate (22 Nov 1869-1951)

Love and Compassion

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My consciousness woke up slowly, and I realized that something had changed, and the wholeness of the universe, seemed incomplete. Suddenly I had an empty feeling, as I could not find myself. I lay there with my eyes  and all my senses open, but I could not recall who I am. Where in the universe was I currently? My universe just added billions of previously unknown galaxies, and those include millions of solar systems, black holes and other celestial bodies. Just when I thought I had a good hold, on my place in the universe, the universe changed, and now I have to find my new place, in an ever expanding universe. The enormity of my experience, is now approaching infinity, as space and time, stretch out to eternity. In my universal role, I lie here on my bed, and wonder who am I?

Pardon my thoughtlessness, as sometime I go into this trance; of just being in this moment, which is itself passing. I become alive to the moment, and am one, with my time, and space. I lie naked on the ground and banish all thoughts, except, the thought of consciousness itself. I am, so the universe, is. My cosmic body, is part and parcel of the larger cosmos, and we are all start dust, and the primordial vibrations of existence, dwell in me and all around me. All duality between me, and my universe, vanish; and I am lost, and yet, I am found. Who is this universe? Is it is a breathing living being in my existence, and may it be referred to as our soul, as all I do, is done for this moment. Now I seek, only my being; and name, place, origin, destiny all have no relevance. The universe is, and I am it, and if I change, my whole universe changes. Even a simple change, to a more positive attitude, towards life; and its infinite possibilities, makes our universe, better.

I lie on my bed clothed and in deep contemplation, and think of this glow of contentment that arises from deep meditation. I sweep my body with my mind, and in all its parts; I feel the vibrations, and waves of existence.  I live in this feeling, as the sensations of the rising and falling sub atomic particles, below my nose, bring a subtle sensation, which my existence dwells in.  I am alive to the subtle sensations, and now direct my mind, to change the aura, that I am in. I project compassion and love to those around me. I am no longer me, but have become a living, compassionate and loving being. All vibrations entering me, and being projected by me; become, ones of love and compassion, and I am only this vibration. Somebody calls my name, but I do not know who I am, so I continue with my mediation. Consciousness includes the caller into my present reality, and now I am whole again, and life moves on, for the me is gone, and now only the universe exists. Death is a cosmic event, and the I that exists, is not the one that dies. Just the consciousness of the vibrations of our body, ceases to exist, but the celestial dance goes on, undisturbed.

My love calls again, and I suddenly know who I am, and awake to all the possibilities, as my senses are truly seeking satiation. I answer with the insatiable hunger for desire and lust, that keeps, our existence going, in this celestial dance called life. Who am I, and why is it, that all I want to do, is to dance ecstatically, to these rhythms of my existence? Love and compassion, I remind myself, as I awaken to my new self, the more I give; the more I will receive. We complete each other, and the passion of our bonding is the song, sung in the celebration of life. Love and compassion, I remind myself, is the reason for our being, and kindness and happiness flow from us, and surround us. Our universe is in just being, and not becoming happy.