Beauty is Everywhere. Sitting Quietly, Waiting To Be Seen.

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“How do you define beauty?” my friend asked.

“I don’t. I experience it”, I answered.

That still is the best I can say – I don’t define beauty, I experience it. Nevertheless, I see her question as gently asking “tell me more about beauty”.

Beauty emerges from the womb of awareness. Beauty is a seeing. When it happens, it brings with it a sense of expanse. ‘Vani Murarka’ blurs away somewhat and unseen I penetrate the ‘thing’ being seen as beautiful and drink in the beauty a bit. A certain oneness occurs, a feeling of having been nourished.

“I love you.”

Love is a verb in this sentence. This means that love involves some action. What action does love involve? Seeing beauty. To love someone or something is to perceive beauty in that person / thing. Seeing beauty is to perceive the very being of that thing / person, and by that seeing we are expanded.

What have I loved in the purest way in my life so far?

The sky.

Whenever I have loved the sky, I have never wanted anything from it. I did not ask it to acknowledge my love for it. Nor did I want to make it my own. I have simply been enamored by it. I have wanted to be immersed in it and by that wanting itself, felt expanded.

I have loved some people deeply too. There are times when I perceive the person I love deeply to be existing in every atom of this universe. At those times the same thing occurs, I am enamored by their beauty, by their very being. The result is, I feel expanded and grateful for being able to perceive that way.

To see someone somewhere (say 19 Park Street for example) requires us to go there (to 19 Park Street) – either physically, or by technological means such as the television, or simply by our mind. When I have seen the person I have loved in every particle of the universe, that seeing has taken *me* to every particle of the universe – and by that I have been blessed.

Beauty is a blessing. It is a blessing that exists everywhere, every moment, available to us to partake of. When we are not feeling expansive, our mind is focused on something where we do not perceive beauty – but right beside that something, beauty is sitting quietly, ever present to be seen.

So here we are on Facebook, reading posts about cow slaughter, or protection, or Donald Trump or Modi or whatever else that disturbs us – and right beside that post, in that post, beauty is sitting quietly waiting to be seen.

For the screen on which we read is beautiful – lit by its numerous tiny bulbs hidden inside and all its wonderful technology and science, every aspect of which is *so* grand, which powers the screen and the whole internet. Be enamored by the screen – the material it is made of, the manner in which text and images are transmitted to it for display, the collective human action present past (and future), and every atom and every zero and one that dances together to make it all happen. Sublime.

And beauty exists in the text that we read. Every letter is beautiful. See one letter carefully. Its shape is beautiful. Its typography is beautiful. That letter encapsulates a sound – that is so fascinating. Each word of the post you read, *whichever* post, is beautiful. They may have been strung together to convey a thought of hate, but each of those words can be used to convey a thought of love too. What we choose to receive, the thought of hate or the seeing of beauty, is our choice.

Pause a second. See a letter. This last one – “e”. Look at its shape – e. The way it loops around and then points us to the next letter. Feel that movement and its sound – ee. See the word it was in – one, or shape. Each word so fascinating and wondrous –

one

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Ponder a second on the meaning of those words, “one”, “shape” – each has the capability to take us to a wide open place in our mind. I just happened to pick these two words at random. They came my way as I was writing. Any word that we may pick up holds within itself a wide open expanse, if we enter it.

Within letters and words the stream of humanity itself is hidden – all our forefathers, known unknown. For how does language evolve and emerge? These letters and words just got made, naturally over time, organically, by the power of a great natural collective mind. No law was passed, “one” shall mean this, and it shall be pronounced thus, for which these letters that hold these sounds will be used. No law was passed. It evolved under the skilled chisel of a grand collective mind that flows across time. This same grand, wondrous, sublime mind has been gifted to each one of us too.

And these words created by this grand mind empower me to reach out to you. These words empower you to receive my thoughts. And in this moment, we are one.

What did I do here? I saw the beauty of the screen on which I see what I type. I saw the beauty of the letters and words I use. Pause a second and see anything, there is beauty sitting quietly in there.

What is beauty, but a seeing.

What is beauty, but a receiving.

No Longer Scared of My Mind

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Life and this world is beautiful and wondrous. Actually, how would I know. The only thing I ever experience really is the vast wondrous universe of my mind. Even if I get up and go somewhere – to some other city, country whatever – the only thing I am experiencing is my mind and all it is presenting to me.

I was in Seattle once – a beautiful city, lakes, parks, houses in a row each one adorned with flowers, gorgeous healthy food in the grocery store near Tableau’s office. Even then, the only thing I was really experiencing was horror – for that was the state of my mind then. I could see the beauty from the corner of my eyes but the only thing I was experiencing was horror.

This is not about Seattle or that experience. Yet, it is clear evidence to me that the only thing I am ever experiencing is my mind. That I can experience horror and ecstasy both (sometimes even simultaneously), boredom and everything in between itself is so fascinating.

There was a time I used be scared of my mind. I could see that it contained so much energy – energy that can engulf me. I felt it had the ability to destroy me. Overwhelmed by the rush of thoughts I used to want to wrap it in a newspaper and throw it out of the window.

I do not feel scared anymore. I feel fascinated. Our mind is so wonderful, so worthy of being explored with love, not fear.

It might seem like if I am focused on my mind I am too self-centered. Well frankly I have been self-centered all along. Might as well accept the truth. Maybe all people are (self-centered). The question is just how expansive or limited we make our self to be. Despite my self-centeredness, sometimes when I do see and sense the beauty of another being, that too happens via my mind. That light enters my mind and that is how I receive that message of beauty in a fellow-being.

It is a tremendous gift that has been given to us – our mind. And we really can choose what we want to plant there. There really is no need to be slave to our mind. I think we never are. When we are not consciously experiencing our mind, we are just being numb. I used to be that way all the time before. I did not know any better. We are not taught to “experience our mind”. Even in that setting, while we are numb, our mind works for us, on our behalf. Our mind always works on our behalf, as per our bidding as we have tuned it, irrespective of whether we are conscious of our bidding or not.

At the same time, our mind is our connection point to the world and the universe and the energy force that powers it all. The first thought that occurs to me, the first “idea” that I get, to build something (say Kaavyaalaya way back in ’97, or Geet Gatiroop for example) – that idea, that thought sure came from somewhere beyond me – I cannot take credit for that first seed thought. At the maximum I can say that I caught the thought and acted on it, but the first thought surely came from “beyond”. And that is the case even as I continue to work on a project – there does seem to be a greater force that directs operations – keeping on sending next step directions to me via the wondrous phenomena of the mind and thoughts.

Absolutely fascinating! So worthy of careful study and observation. So imperative too. For like it or not, we all have been gifted by this super-powerful thing called the mind. Even if you want to, you *cannot* throw it out of the window. And so we *have to* be observant of our mind, know it better and tend to it. It is a must. And when we do that, fascination and rapture is inevitable. Along with terrifying and exhilarating roller-coaster rides, that is. Talk about adventure!


Image Credit: 95C / 92 Images. Pixabay.com

The Guide And The Demon

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Write *because* you are depressed. Write precisely because self-confidence is romping in the deep dark negatives. Even if you have nothing to say, write because you want to feel connected to yourself, your guide…

There is a guide and companion in me who is a friend. He has never failed me. There is also a demon in me who loves to hold me in it’s grips and thrash me about like a rag doll. Somehow, writing makes me feel more tangibly in connection with my guide-companion-friend. Most other times the mind is busy waltzing with the demon.

He, my guide, is very quiet. He does not order. He does not rage. He does not get excited at dreams coming true and other sundry candies. He does not keep presenting a report card on how I am doing every few seconds. The way to learn from my guide is simply to sit with him. His peace and equanimity simply relaxes everything. And then the demon storms in again…

And so it goes.

And so I have written. Some x number of words. Is it worthy of you dear reader? Here, in the midst of cacophonous internet, cacophonous Facebook, and our cacophonous mind. Raw and half-baked that it is. Without any “10 easy ways to go from demon to guide” guide?

Maybe it is worthy. For I am not unique. This guide and demon saga is playing in at least one other fellow being I would wager. Millions you say? Well then, millions it is. Together, we might as well intersperse this saga with a few chuckles when we can. And the more we can keep coming back again and again to our guide, in whatever way works for us, the better it gets (maybe), or the more challenging it gets (maybe). Whatever it gets, at least for those moments it gives a sense of ease (sometimes), similar to, quite simply, drinking water.


Image source: A puja pandal from the Kolkata 2016 Durga Pujas

Riding on Amazing Technology

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A piece of writing has to be about something. But why?

I and my wrist just like going for a trot on paper, riding on a pen.

Some like to have an array of shoes, some, an array of cars. I cherish the array of textures of pen moving on paper. My favorite being smooth, but not too smooth. Thick, but not too thick. With a hint of resistance from the paper that generates an interesting rustle.

Not just the Mars rover, and self-driving cars – there is amazing technology everywhere. The way the ink flows through the nib, just the correct amount. It is not all liquidy, yet it flows. It does not all just plop down like water from an upturned bucket. The way its drawn out in a steady controlled stream is not just amazing technology, it is miraculous. Just because this technology has been around for eons and is so easily available does not mean it is any less fabulous.

So also the ceiling fan, and my breathing, and water…

Unnecessary Happiness

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“I am a solidarity person”, she said. What a beautiful thing to say and be!

I had rung her up only because I needed to hug someone. When I am feeling “unnecessary happiness”, my natural way to express it is to hug someone. Normally my Mom is the recipient of these hugs. She is used to my quirks. I come smiling wide and hug her and she asks, “क्या हुआ?” (What happened?) and I reply grinning, “कुछ नहीं” (nothing happened) – which is true. I am just feeling happy, no reason. That is the definition of “unnecessary happiness”, a term coined by a friend. Just happy, no reason.

But this time Mom was sleeping. I felt like waking her up simply because I needed to hug someone, but I didn’t. I rang up Seeta.

Seeta is wise. We hadn’t spoken for long but that doesn’t matter. I knew if I rang her up and straight away said, “मैं तुमको hug कर रही हूँ” (I am hugging you), she would immediately receive it. And then I could simply say, “That’s it. और कुछ नहीं बोलना था” (That’s it. I have nothing else to say.) and I knew that would make perfect sense to her too. So that’s what I said.

Of course our conversation continued. We exchanged notes as we hadn’t spoken for long.

Seeta is also a person of love. We all are (people of love), but some people are just a bit more so. They are people who just know that we are all one.

Seeta works in the field of “human development”. She has worked for international agencies that fund projects for the deaf and dumb, for example. These days she is working for the UN in the area of human trafficking and immigration, helping frame policies in partnership with governments.

Seeta is also a person of solidarity who likes to give of herself in direct human action and touch, in places of strife – be it the Andamans torn by the tsunami or the Middle East torn by war.

When we know that we are One, however, it doesn’t matter what work we do. Whatever the area of work, the Unnecessary Happiness just flows.


Image credit: Tigger Hugs Pooh – Cartoon Bucket

An unusual friendship with a zinda-dil lady

bhartiThere is a lady in Udupi who happened to be my maid there. We also happened to become friends. We used to go around together – she, her daughter and son (if he was in town) and I, sometimes to the beach, or Venugopal temple, or Manipal Lake, or Domino’s Pizza. Piggybacking on my friendship with her I got to eat sumptuous meals in temples at a lady’s god bharaai (baby shower), or when a respected man of the locality passed away – events that otherwise I would have had no inkling of.

When I was packing up from Udupi-Manipal, Bharti (my friend) asked for my fridge, so I gave it to her. We are still in touch over phone, for which the credit goes largely to Bharti. We were talking on New Year’s eve and she related – her son had been saying, ‘If Vani Aunty was here we could have gone out somewhere.’ (my car being the advantage) and her daughter pitched in, ‘We wouldn’t have the fridge then!’

I burst out in laughter when I heard this. Bharti’s daughter is such a straight-speaking darling and Bharti is a lady of such gumption! Her husband committed suicide so now she is a single mother, who lives by working as a maid in several homes and by cooking the mid-day meal at a school.

“I cannot bear physical pain”, she says “but finances don’t trouble me. I know I will manage somehow.” This I have seen first-hand – her fantastic ability to manage her finances. She was building a pakka bricks and cement home for herself to replace her mud house and for this she took sundry loans from the various households she works for, in addition to some loan from the bank. As construction progressed, she had complete clarity of things without the aid of any pen or paper – expenses incurred, expenses to be incurred, loan amounts repaid, still to be repaid – everything – with no mistakes, no confusions at all! As I used to watch her loud think her calculations I used to marvel, ‘wow! Pa would love to see this’. “You should always have a decent ballpark idea about your finances without having to look at records”, my Dad says. Dad asks only for a ballpark idea, Bharti had it down to the rupee, all in her head.

“I need to build my house, I need some money please” (or its my daughter’s wedding, or someone needs medical treatment, or whatever) – when domestic help asks for financial support there is invariably a beseeching in their voice and expression, a deen bhaav. Not so with Bharti. She just stated to me, “You give me three thousand rupees.”

To save on transportation costs she asked me for help to get cement and floor tiles in my car. Some cement powder fell and soiled the back seat. Had it been someone else, with remorse painted on the person’s face the person would have ardently apologized, “Oh! I am so sorry!” Friends had helped me with their car when I was in US and I would have had that same remorseful pitiful demeanor and self-consciousness if I had spilt something in their car. Not so with Bharti. What a wonderful literal demonstration of ‘don’t cry over spilt milk’ – she laughed out and said, “aap bhee kyaa yaad rakheinge – Bharti kaa cement meree gaadee mein giraa thaa” (One more sweet quirky memory for you to have – Bharti’s spilt cement in my car). That was so refreshing! The very natural self-worth and total absence of being pitiful.

When her husband passed away her in-laws made every effort to push her out of the house (that is her side of the story) but she stuck her ground and even got the police to intervene for her rights. Now she lives independently in a small house adjacent to her in-laws’ house and continues to maintain complete relationship with her in-laws and their extended family – be it daily interactions or festive occasions. All this when she does not even belong to that region natively. She is a Maharashtrian whom her Kannadiga Tulu speaking husband had wooed to come to Udupi. She taught herself Kannada and Tulu from scratch and made herself blend seamlessly in the local culture and customs. The pleasure of having someone to converse with in Hindi is one of the basis of our friendship.

She talks wistfully of her childhood in her village near Bombay and speaks of visiting Bombay and her village someday. Ever since her marriage, she has not gone back even once and it seems to me that maybe she never will.

This Expansive Silence

What do I have in me that is of value, that I feel is worthy of being shared with the world?

All that I feel is of value in me, a bouquet of thoughts and experiences, ever taking shape, ever fading away, some staying longer than others, they all distillate into a single feeling – a feeling of expansive silence.

This silence is not the oppressive suffocating kind which occurs out of deadlock and frozen communication. This silence is deeply nourishing and loving. It permeates the being and expands into a gentle sense of awe and gratitude. A sense of wholesomeness, of being connected to the universe itself.

It is this expansive silence that accords value to every thought, every experience that I find worthy of being cherished. It is the essence of every speck of beauty that I encounter.

How do I make an offering of expansive silence to the world?

Will you sit quietly with me at the edge of a lake?

To sit quietly with someone is an intimate sharing.

Can A Poem Be Lonely?

A poem can be about loneliness but can a poem be lonely?

Yes. A poem is lonely if it is not read. A poem is lonely if it is not acknowledged. A poem is lonely if it wants to be read but does not give of itself to be read.

Poems are often introverts. To ask, ‘did you like my poem?’ is to do disservice to the introvert poem.
For a poem to hold itself back, to not give itself to the world, to its intended reader is to do disservice to the world, to its reader.

But poems born of vulnerability tend to be scared. Poems are often born from a center of vulnerability.

Poems are concentrated emotion, raw yet refined. For an emotion to not be received, having given itself, is an emotion’s biggest dread.

But the emotion needs to acquire wisdom too. The recipient may not have the bandwidth and tuning to receive. At such times, the emotion must patiently wait without letting it’s tenderness shrivel up.

Whatever the emotion, when held with tender love, is a poem. Anger, when held in the palms of tender love, is also anger but also becomes a poem.

For love is beauty. And whatever the ras, a poem has to be beautiful. A poem of vibhats ras must also be beautiful, while remaining vibhats. Without intrinsic beauty, a poem is a malformed poem. A poem expressing bitterness, to be a poem, must be beautiful, refined in its expression of bitterness.

This does not mean that to be refined a poem should be oblique and aristocratic in form and language. No. But a poem needs to carry self respect without indignation. A poem can be direct, simple, matter of fact, in the true language of the poet (not a pretentious acquired language) – but standing with self-respect the poem will be refined.

And that is how it should be presented to the world. Not in a snobbish manner. Not in a grovelling manner beseeching acknowledgement. Just matter of fact self-respect. This is me. Then if the poem is acknowledged or not, does not matter, for the poem would have acknowledged itself.

Experiencing Durga in Others

It is easy to be judgmental of the world and people around us. Often we have strong opinions – this is what he/she should do/think. Well then, so here we are. another very fertile opportunity.

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In the last post, I talked of an opportunity to experience the force and movement of Durga within ourselves. Here is a wonderful opportunity to experience Durga in others.

There is a line in the “yaa devee sarvabhooteshu …” Devee Stotra

या देवी सर्वभूतेषु भ्रान्तिरूपेण संस्थिता।
नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः ॥
(yaa devee sarva bhooteshu bhraanti roopeNa sansthitaa
namastasyai namastasyai namastasyai namo nama(h))

To that devi who is present in all beings in the form of ‘bhraanti’
salutations again and again.

भ्रान्ति (bhraanti) means misguidedness, misunderstanding, delusion.

This mental state exists, at some time or the other, in all of us. However, by the very definition of it, we are unable to see it in ourself. At least until we come out of the delusion, and even then we may not realize and accept that earlier we were deluded.

However, it is easy to be judgmental of the world and people around us. Often we have strong opinions – this is what he/she should do/think. At times, it is to the extent of feeling exasperated – “This guy has lost it!”. We experience it in personal relationships, professional interactions, national policies, religious behaviors, social mindsets …

Well then, so here we are. another very fertile opportunity.

Whenever we perceive delusion, misunderstanding, misguidedness, in our fellow being or society at large, it is an opportunity to know that we are perceiving Durga and experience it in its fullness. The dance of Durga. The play of Durga. The power of Durga. Anytime you see delusion, it is just Durga in one of Her myriad hues.

That same Durga who is the embodiment of power and energry of all of the Universe, who is all that is beautiful, divine, comforting – nurturing love, compassion, prosperity, fulfillment. That supreme feminine force is present in all beings in the form of delusion too.

Seeing delusion in someone as the force of Durga at play, enables us to pause a moment and perhaps reconsider the person. We may still not agree with his/her mindset, but we can consider the person at least with a tad bit of softness, a hint of compassion, knowing that it is a force that is at play within us too. At the very least our mind can acquire a tinge of curiosity towards all that is going inside that person.

We, and the people around us, we all have the nurturing motherly instinct, compassion, awareness (all things nice, positive, desirable too) but we tend to focus on the negative more. The negative too is a form of the divine and we can turn our tendency to focus on the negative into an asset.

Any emotion, any feeling, it is She. Positive or negative is irrelevant. All change, it is She.


Image credit: Reaching for the Sky by Carol Herzer

Experiencing Durga Within

So here is an opportunity. Here is a way to actually experience Durga within. It is an opportunity specially because this feeling is so intensely personal and because when it occurs we experience it as a distinct sharp tinge. …

There is a line in the “yaa devee sarvabhooteshu …” Devee Stotra

या देवी सर्वभूतेषु लज्जारूपेण संस्थिता|
(yaa devee sarva bhooteshu lajjaa roopena sansthitaa)
That devi who is present in all beings in the form of ‘lajjaa’.

Lajjaa? Now that is interesting!

So what is Lajjaa?

Lajjaa seems to get associated with “लाज”, “नारी की लाज” (naaree kee laaj) – a woman’s honor that supposedly gets taken away say when she is raped, or feminine modesty, mostly associated just with her physical parts and her social reputation. Or it may be conventionally viewed as sweet bashfulness, shyness, blushing of a woman, often in a romantic sense. However, that is just a tiny tiny part of lajjaa.

Lajjaa essentially conveys a sense of shame, disrepute, disgrace – in any context. Bashfulness, reserve, modesty, these are also words used to translate the sense of lajjaa, because they are attempts to avoid shame, disrepute, disgrace. So when something undesirable occurs, people exclaim, “tumne aisaa kiyaa? kitnee lajjaa kee baat hai!”.

To me, the best explanation of the word lajjaa is – feeling embarrassed.

That feeling of embarrassment can be anywhere in a whole range of intensities. The mild: feeling somewhat silly. The stronger: feeling stupid. The very intense: feeling shame.

And it is in sarv bhooteshu (all beings) – i.e. all of us, all humans – man, woman and all other gender variations possible. In fact all beings, not just humans. So it has nothing to do specifically with women. Embarrassment is a feeling that we have all experienced and would prefer to avoid. It is because we want to avoid this feeling that we are hesitant to ask questions for example.

At times it is mild, and depending on our level of awareness, we do not explicitly recognize it as such but just feel a sense of discomfort. There is a slight internal squirming. At times it is so strong, it feels like a stab in the chest. We are unable to ignore it and are distressed.

That feeling, that stab of embarrassment, mild or forceful, is She. The supreme feminine force. And She exists in everyone. Sarv bhooteshu.

So here is an opportunity. Here is a way to actually experience Durga within. It is an opportunity specially because this feeling is so intensely personal and because when it occurs we experience it as a distinct sharp tinge. Also, we tend to be better at focusing on the negative within us than positive, so might as well use that tendency.

The next time you experience any tinge of embarrassment, experience it fully. Feel it completely, in all its textures. How it invades and gradually unwillingly departs. You will be directly experiencing Durga inside you!

Durga, that is, Shakti – power, energy, force. Emotional energy is the core driving force of our actions and there is energy, power, force in our so-called negative emotions too, if we connect to it. It can be a powerful exhilarating experience.


Image credit: Inner Eye Moon by Carol Herzer.