Friday, February 05, 2010

Ami Shunechi ... (I have heard)

A heart wrenching Bangla song sung beautifully by Moushumi Bhowmick. The words, the pathos, the visual imagery and the melancholy touches you even if you don't know the language. Here are the words and a translation by Ritwick Banerjee.

Ami shunechhi sedin tumi,
sagor er dheu e chepe, neel jol digonto chhuye eshechho ...
Ami shunechhi sedin tumi,
nona bali teer dhore, bohu dur bohu dor hete esechho ...
Ami kokhono jaini jole, kokhono bhashini neel e,
kokhono rakhini chokh dana mela gangchile ...
Abar jedin tumi somudro snane jabe, amakeo sathe niyo, neboto amay ??
Bolo nebe to amay???

I heard that the other day you went to touch the blue horizon
riding the waves
I heard that the other day, you walked along the salty shores

for miles and miles
I have never seen the sea
, never glided on blues
never caught a glimpse of the seagull's wings

Next time, when you'll go to the sea
will you take me along?

Will you?

Ami shunechi sedin naki
tumi tumi tumi mile, tomra sodol-bole sobha korechhile ...
Aar sedin tomra naki onek jotil dhnadha,
na bola onek kotha, kotha tulechhile ...
Keno shudhu chhute chhute chola,
eke eke kotha bola, nijer jonne bnacha, nijeke niye ??
Jodi bhalobhasha nai thake, shudhu eka eka lage,
kothay shanti paabo, kothay giye ??
Bolo kothay giye ???

I heard that the other day, you, you and you
in an ensemble, discussed many complex conundrums
and unspoken words.

Why this eternal rat-race?

Why endless series of monologues?

Living on, this self centered life

if there is no love
only empty loneliness

Where can I get a dollop of peace?

Where can I?

Ami shunechi tomra naki ekhono swopno dekho,
ekhono golpo lekho, gaan gao pran bhore ...
Manusher bacha mora, ekhono bhabiye tole,
tomader bhalobasa, ekhono golape phote ...
Astha harano ei mon niye ami aaj,
tomader kache ese du haat petechi,
Ami du chok er gohobore shunnota dekhi shudhu,
raat ghum e ami kono shopno dekhi na ....................

I have heard that you still dream, still write stories, and
chant music from bottom of your soul

The Saga of human existence
still makes you think
Love still blossom like a rose in your heart.
Today I am here at your doorstep
with this faithless soul, open arms
and bending knees…

Only emptiness in deep of my eyes,
there are no dreams in my nights

Tai swopno dekhbo bole ami duchokh petechi,
Tai tomader kache eshe ami du haat petechi,
Tai swopno dekhbo bole ami du chokh petechi...

To dream I opened my eyes
to dream I opened my arms
towards you.

An MP3 version of the song is available here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rumi's Seven Advices

Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi is the universal mystic whose work 'The Mathnawi' is regarded as the Persian Quran. His words and timeless message reached the people through several translations and now has a devoted audience.

In one of his poems, Maulana Rumi seeks to distill his teachings into seven advices. These are:

1. In generosity and helping others...
Be like the river.

2. In compassion and grace...
Be like the sun.

3. In concealing other's faults...
Be like the night.

4. In anger and fury
Be like the dead.

5. In modesty and humility...
Be like the soil

6. In tolerance...
Be like the ocean.

7. Either appear as you are or...
Be as you appear.

The simplicity, yet profoundness of these verses show that that these feelings are borne out of deep introspection and experience, not mere observation. The choice of similes encompass the essence of the qualities that one should aspire;

1. Generosity and Helpfulness - Be like the river which gives water to all, and all its produce from that water (fish etc.) to the world. It helps transporting silt throughout its journey. It always flows, for stagnancy is death. And finally, it does all this with the sole objective of being able to meet its source - the sea. Hence, generosity should be unconditional, all Comppervading and laid as a tribute at the door of the beloved for after all that IS the source of all giving.

2. Compassion and Grace - Compassion is the ability to understand and empathise with others troubles and grace is the ability to relive their pain without their asking for it. In this, be like th sun, for it thoroughly understands us - it is just that distance which does not burn up or freeze the earth, it recognises that man needs rest and hence makes way for night - and is fully grace - giving to all without their even needing to ask for it. It gets taken for granted, but it doesn't reduce its grace which flows to all. In a way, the sun personifies the love of God - deep understanding of our needs and abundant grace, even without asking.

3. Conceal others' faults - The night is not just the absence of light - it is a cloak which covers the world and allows it to rest. It is the peace which allows man to prepare himself for another day. Be like the night in concealing others' faults - don't just avoid mentioning it, rather cloak it with the quietness, serenity and peace which would make that fault even hidden from you. Allow the person to grow without the baggage of his faults and let him prepare for a new day, with your blessed concealment of his faults. This is preparation for the Lord to conceal our faults on the day of judgment.

4. Avoid Anger - In this Rumi provides a reverse similie - in anger and fury, he says, be like the dead. That is, do not respond, be unaffected by it and remain in your state of bliss for nothing that that person does can hurt you. This is the philosophy of being in the world, but remaining unaffected by worldly things. True life comes only when you are so dead - absorbed in your situation and hence unable to react to the temporal demands of the world.

5. Be modest and humble - Soil gives life. It nourishes, feeds and helps plants grow which eventually become our food. Yet, despite its signifcant role, it is perfectly happy to be below your feet. This is the annihilation of the ego. An egoless person does not have to be 'modest' - he does not fin any reason to be 'proud'. Whenever you think that you have achieved something, look at the soil and ask yourself - have I done more than the soil does? So what permits me to be at any level higher than the soil? Perhaps this is the message we are taught when soil is spread on our graves after death. Find this death in your lifetime; and you will have everlasting life.

6. Be tolerant - This is the quality of balance. An ocean is constantly moving, shaking, experiencing waves and storms all the time. Yet, it maintains a sense of calmness and balance. you are intolerant, look at the ocean and learn how this sense of balance leads to calmness and serenity within - just like the ocean floor.

7. Be what you are - This is the last message from Rumi and perhaps the most important. In fact even if the other six had not been there, this seventh one would have sufficed. This quality is about truth and integrity. Its about being honest to everyone, more so to yourself. It says 'Either appear as you are... Or be as you appear'. Man is caught up in trying to be like what others want to see him as. We are constantly changing masks losing our true self in the many faces that we wear. This largely arises from fear - fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of not being loved. If you can rise above these fears, you will be your own authentic self. And if you cannot do that, then atleast be what you appear to be - either way, be integrated!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Evolution of Love

Love begins with reason: 'I love you because...."

All of us have this reasoning imbibed within us - love is like any other commodity we dispense and hence should have a quid pro quo. Often these reasons are wordly, or even spirtual such as 'I love her because she loves me' or 'I love him because he can take me close to the divine'. In all these cases, there are two things worth noting - i) love exists for a reason and ii) the love is specific to the person who identifies with the reason. The lowest form of love - Stage Zero.

Love progresses to: 'I love you....."

Unconditional love goes beyond all reasons and loves for the sake of love itself. It is 'love without reason'. This is the foundation for further stages of love. In this stage, we may reason 'I love you inspite of...." - this would again move into the Stage Zero since even 'inspite' is a reasoning. True 'love without reason' just gives - without any thought, without any expectation, without any fear. The next stage of love - Stage One.

Then it moves to: "I love...."

Even in stage one - the love is 'specific' i.e. to the object of love. Although without reason, this love is bounded - a distinction between the 'loved one' and other no-so-worthy ones. In the next stage, man annihilates the differences and bestows the universal love on everybody. Without reason and limitations, love becomes unconditional, universal - Stage Two.

And finally: "Love...'

The annihilation of the self, where the lover merges with the object of love. The stage where he drops the "I", the ego and even the acknowledgment of his own existence. There is nothing indeed except the universal whole and the "I" is only a part of the whole. In this stage, the realisation occurs that only love can exist; nothing else. In this stage, he starts personifying love - everywhere he goes, he merely loves- unconditionally, universally, unknowingly. This is the final stage that man must aspire to reach - Stage Three.

May all of us be guided to these progressive stations in the journey of love. Amen.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Gayatri Mantra

I am surprised to note the similarities between the 'Gayatri Mantra' and the first Chapter (Surah Fatiha) of the Quran. Despite its allusion and common understanding of reference to the 'Sun God', the Gayatra Mantra is an ode to the 'divine light'. This is perhaps why allama Iqbal also traslated it to Urdu by the name 'Aftaab'.

Unfortunately lost to each other by religious divides, both the Gayatri Mantra and Surah Fatiha are, in fact, an assertion of and complete submission to divinity. Note the following comparative translation:

We meditate on the glory of the Creator;
Who has created the Universe;
Who is worthy of Worship;
Who is the embodiment of Knowledge and Light;
Who is the remover of all Sin and Ignorance;
May He enlighten our Intellect.

A sufi exposition of the Gayatri Mantra is here.

Praise be to Allah
Lord of the Worlds, the Compassionate, the Merciful.
Master of the Day of Judgement!
You alone we worship,
and to You alone we look for help.
Guide us to the straight path,
The Path of those upon whom You bestowed favours,
not those who have invited Your wrath, nor those who have gone astray.

An explanation of the Surah Fatiha is here

What is surprising is that these commonalities among the spiritual paths have been lost in the haze of 'organised' religion. There have been some efforts by interfaith scholars like Maulana Naved Usmani who wrote the celebrated 'Agar Ab bhi na jaage to', which claimed that references in the the Quran to prophets include Lord Krishna and Rama. It also said that Vedas could be the divinely revealed books to Prophet Noah. The book also identified the similarity between Gayatri Mantra and Surah Fatiha as well as other aspects of these religions. Read an article about this here. The hindi version of the book is available here.

Wikipedia article on Gayatri Mantra is here and Surah Fatiha is here

A rendition of Gayatri Mantra is here and of Surah Fatiha is here

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Beware Of Lurking Near Enemies

From the Times of India Nov 3 2009

In Buddhist teachings, the four Brahmaviharas, translated as the Immeasurables, Divine Abodes, or Divine Abidings are:

i) metta or loving-kindness ,
ii) karuna or compassion,
iii) mudita or sympathetic joy, and
iv) upeksha or equanimity.

These are not just emotions we may or may not feel; they are states that we cultivate on our journey to being truly awakened.

The Buddha taught his son:
"Rahula, practise loving-kindness to overcome anger. Loving-kindness has the capacity to bring happiness to others without demanding anything in return. Practise compassion to overcome cruelty. Compassion has the capacity to remove the suffering of others without expecting anything in return . Practise sympathetic joy to overcome hatred. Sympathetic joy arises when one rejoices over the happiness of others and wishes others well-being and success. Practise equanimity to overcome prejudice. Equanimity is looking at all things openly and equally Do not reject one thing only to chase after another. I call these the Four Immeasurables. Practise them and you will become a refreshing source of vitality and happiness for others."

Although each of these states is a mark of wakefulness and evolving, each can be confused with a condition that mimics the true state, but actually arises out of fear, and is aptly referred to as a near enemy.

When we strive to follow a path like the Brahmaviharas, we may not find it too difficult to identify and perhaps steer away from their absolute opposites sometimes referred to as far enemies which are anger, cruelty, envy and bias. Much less easy to notice are the near enemies, as they cunningly masquerade as a spiritual quality, being subtle, disguised versions of what we might ordinarily see as pure and wholesome. One thing that makes these distinct from The Four Divine Abodes is that this path is essentially about connecting to the deepest parts of ourselves as well as to other beings. The near enemies end up being about compartmentalisation or separation, and moral arrogance.

The near enemy of loving-kindness is attachment. Attachment may feel like love, but as it grows is revealed as insecure clinging, fear and the desire to control.

The near enemy of compassion is pity; a superior attitude, setting us above or apart from suffering around us, turning it to a kind of unhealthy spectator-sport .

The near enemy of sympathetic joy is comparison, checking whether we have or are more, the same, or less than another. Manifestations range from hypocritical humility to even overidentifying with success of others, especially those near to us.

The near enemy of equanimity is indifference. True equanimity is about balance and acceptance in any situation; indifference is withdrawal and not caring, often numbing us to the need to stand and act for justice.

Without examining these near enemies that create separations, our spiritual life stagnates and our awareness cannot continue to grow. Wise teachers suggest that we need to work on near enemies not as something to ignore, or roughly discard, but to first know as intimates after all they are termed near ones by drawing on our inherent gifts of self-reflection and self-awareness. This we do mainly by applying loving-kindness , compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity to ourselves first and then to others, enabling us to become those refreshing sources of vitality and happiness for others that the Buddha taught of.

- By Marguerite Theophil

Saturday, August 08, 2009

When the headscarf becomes a death sentence...

There is shocking article in Mint Lounge today by Mukul Kesavan. It is about an Egyptian lady, Marwa el-Sherbini (picture alongside with her family) who was killed in a German courtroom on 1 July 2009 because of a headscarf!!

Marwa was a pharmacist and handball player from Egypt residing in Germany with here family. While with her son at the playground, there was an altercation with a German man about use of the swing for her son. He insulted Marwa for wearing a headscarf and called her, among other things, 'a terrorist'. Marwa brought charges for insulting behaviour and he was fined 780 € by the lower court. The Public Prosecutor appealed for a higher penalty because of the openly xenophobic character of the incident and since he openly said “You don’t have the right to live here” to Marwa in his statement.

At the proceeding of the trial on 1st July 2009, the man leapt from his seat and openly stabbed Marwa 18 times with a knife. Her husband was shot in the leg by the security guards when he tried to save her. And Marwa was three months pregnant at the time of here death. Amazing that we have cases like this even today!!

Also shocking is the way this news was ignored by the mainstream world media. As Mukul says "The moral of Marwa’s murder is that the Western hysteria around veiling is not about the emancipation of Muslim women; it’s about Europe’s visceral intolerance for visible difference" Read the full article here

Another article on Marwa says: "There was a shameful silence on the part of all the "liberals" and human rights activists who are so ready to condemn the misdeeds of Muslim extremists anywhere in the world...."

Is this a new hate trend in Germany? "European secular “liberalism” is being defined increasingly in terms of... racist bigotry that still pervades in Europe – only now the Muslims have replaced the Jews as the bĂȘte noirs....

Read this article here

Wikipedia's entry on the event is available here

A photo-essay of the event is available on youtube below:

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Poverty, the greatest asset

He who knows how to be poor knows everything.

- Jules Michelet

Letting go is one of the simple yet profound spiritual tasks taught by many of the world's religions.

Knowing how to be poor means knowing how to have a full and rich life without a dependent relationship with material wealth, food, chemicals, or sex.

It means not relying on the props in life like expensive clothes, a prestigious job, or a sporty car, but relying only on the basics.

Knowing how to be poor is knowing we are not in control and not wasting our serenity in trying.

It means being completely honest in all things.

It means knowing life is neither easy nor free of pain.

Learning how to be poor is learning how to let go of all the essentials and appreciating the simplicity that endures.

We don't automatically know how to do that, but we can learn.

Courtesy: Text - Email from Tom Hickcox today, Picture: