Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Temple Dome

My first trip to Sri Jagannath Puri was in November 2018. It was an unforgettable experience and inspired a couple of poems. This is one of them. 

The  Temple Dome

As I walked out of the narrow lane, there I saw:

Rising into the bright sky,

Majestic presence, stunning sight,

I gasped, and let out a loud cry,

Attained I had the success of life.

A storm of thoughts raged within,

Down I went, I gave my heart,

No end I found to my good fortune, 

I was in front of Lord Jagannath.

As if a burden of countless lives,

Had been lifted from my heavy heart,

I felt light, I roared and roared,

Jai Jagannath Jai Jai Jagannath!

For there it rose, the Temple dome,

It's intricate beauty captured my heart,

The Wheel atop of infinite fame,

The dancing flag doing its part.

Let them be my constant meditation,

The Chakra, the flag, the Temple dome, 

O Lord give me this benediction,

And Your Holy Names to take me Home.

Knowledge is to know Jagannath!

My first trip to Sri Jagannath Puri was in November 2018. It was an unforgettable experience and inspired a couple of poems. This is one of them. 

Knowledge is to know Jagannath!

-- Nov 6 2018. Late night at Sri Jagannath Puri Dham

Knowledge means the knowledge of Bhakti,

Because the highest knowledge is to know Bhakti,

Knowing Bhakti means knowing the Lord,

Knowing the Bhakta, and the process of Bhakti. 

Knowing means to know the complete Truth,

Not just what is not, but also what is so,

The Supreme Person is the Absolute Truth,

Knowing anything else is to not quite know.

To dismiss Bhakti in the name of knowledge,

Is the mere arrogance of the pseudo-knower,

His childish grudge against the loving Lord,

Keeps him bereft of knowledge forever. 

Knowledge is to know Jagannath,

The highest knowledge is Lord Jagannath,

The process is to serve Jagannath,

By chanting His name Jai Jagannath!

Sunday, August 16, 2020

O Resplendent Lord (Janmashtami Prayer - 2020)

O Resplendent Lord!

-- A Janmashtami prayer, 2020.

O Resplendent Lord,
To relieve us of our plight,
You appeared that frightening night,
At the stroke of midnight.

O Mysterious Lord,
For missions big and small,
You appeared that momentous night,
Bewildering one and all.

O Tender Lord,
To soothe our aching heart
You appeared that auspicious night,
Enrapturing pastimes to start.

O Affectionate Lord,
For your love for everyone,
You appeared that thunderous night,
To soon lift dear Gowardhan.

O My Dear Dear Lord,
Will You ever appear in my heart?
I sincere pray that you might,
To never ever depart?

Rappelling – Faith over Fear

Rappelling – Faith over Fear

Rappelling is a mountaineering technique used for a controlled descent off a vertical drop, such as a rock face, using a rope. To descend safely, rappelled use a variety of techniques to increase the friction on the rope to the point where it can be controlled comfortably. I recently got an opportunity to rappel down a 40 feet wall when I had gone for a team outing with colleagues. Those fifteen minutes gave me emotional experiences and philosophical insights enough to pen down this poem.

As I climbed up the stairs,

No one but my mind with me,

My throbbing heart fluttered wild,

A raging storm no-one could see.


Heavy legs, a step at a time,

Felt like ages, but it came to soon,

Moment of dread, you have come?

Will you shove me to my doom?


A chill ran down my spine,

My heart stopped, I gasped for life,

Paralyzed I was by the stroke of fear,

Only a moment, but horrifying strife.


Don't look down, the captain said,

Trust me, you are fastened safe,

Calm the mind, a task at hand,

Look up, and keep the faith. 


I turned around, and stepped back,

Onto the edge of the precipice wall,

I leaned back and took position,

Only the ropes now would stall my fall.


A step at a time, a simple technique,

Calmed the nerves and lifted the heart,

Thrill at first, then peace and joy,

Even a jump or two quite smart.


As I touched down, there was relief,

But this taught me something deep,

Fear of the unknown is overcome,

Faith in the knower if we keep.


Faith opens the doors of our mind,

Rich experiences it does bring,

Remember this next time you face,

Fearful situations or just rappelling!

This poem is a short story about faith over fear. It's short, but it says a lot. Just like going down rappelling is a choice, going down the spiritual path is a choice. The initial steps could be full of turmoil due to fear. What will my life look like if I go down this path? What about my worldly life and attachments? Family? Job? But there is also the longing for experiencing something sublime, something that the heart longs for and that is promised by the spiritual path - peace, purpose, love. At some point in the journey, one comes at a juncture where we need to make the decision. And that's when the fear completely captures the heart. At these times, faith comes to the rescue.

Not blind faith, but reasonable faith. Before asking us to rappel down, the instructors had given us a lesson in rappelling - it's purpose, philosophy behind the technique, the strength of the ropes and the anchors, and so on. Then one of the instructors rappelled down himself demonstrating to us the technique and the safety mechanisms that will keep us very safe under all circumstances. Of course, accidents happen, but they can happen at home too. There was no rational reason for fear; but fear is often irrational, arising from forgotten experiences from the past. Faith in in the words and example of the instructors was our only gateway to the rappelling experience.

For some faith comes easily, for some not so. Different people are in different stages of their spiritual evolution - one of our colleagues just couldn’t garner enough faith to overcome his particular level of fear. But to understand spiritual life, one needs to start following it. There is no other way. Spirituality is an experience - it can be truly understood only by having it. The Bhagavad Gita provides a sound philosophical foundation for practicing spiritual life. And the sincere followers of the Bhagavad Gita provide the live examples. The culture of the Bhagavad Gita is of encouragement, not judgement. This provides the conducive environment in which to follow spirituality. This is the safety mechanism. Unless you do something as drastic as cut off the rope, you are safe.

Rich spiritual experiences are waiting for you if only you can tap into the power of faith, based on sound philosophical convictions, to overcome your hesitations regarding spiritual life. Keep the faith, you'll be safe.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Life Before Death

Life Before Death
Life After Death is a popular topic with varying opinions about its possibility. But what about life before death? What characterizes life? The answer to this question heavily influences our opinion about the possibility of life after death. And in fact, it decisively influences our definition of death too.
If life is just about pumping of the heart and activity of the brain, then absence of these two can be called death. But life is more than the functioning of an electro-chemical mechanical system; life is about consciousness – about thinking, feeling, desiring. Life is about the ability to perceive. Consciousness is what differentiates a man from a machine, a live human from a dead one.
No characteristic of matter (atoms, molecules, electrons, etc.) suggests that it can be the source of consciousness or the seat of perception. What, or who is it, that perceives or is conscious? For example, a periscope helps me see beyond a high wall, but I can see not because of the periscope, but because I have eyes that can see. The periscope is merely the medium through which the light rays are reaching my eyes. Similarly, the eyes of my body are merely the arrangements of atoms that allow light to pass through. I see what I see, not because of the atomic arrangement of my eyes, but because I have the ability to perceive and make sense of the incoming light.
That I is the soul. I can see, hear, feel, think, will, etc. only because I (the soul) have these abilities. These perceptive abilities that characterize consciousness are the inherent qualities of the soul. Since matter does not have these abilities, we understand that the soul is unlike matter. The soul is non-material, it is spiritual.
The soul does not depend on matter for its fundamental abilities of perception. In fact, its fundamental abilities to perceive are conditioned by the nature and state of the body that it occupies. For example, going back to the periscope example, how well I can see beyond the high wall depends on how clean the lens of the periscope is. Even if my eyesight is perfect, a dirty lens will hamper my perception. Thus, to define life in terms of a pumping heart and an active brain is like defining eyesight in terms of the condition of the periscope. Just like my fundamental ability to see is not dependent on the periscope, the soul does not depend on the body for any of its fundamental abilities.
Since the soul, characterized by consciousness, does not depend on anything that makes up the body while it’s in the body, we understand that the soul does not need the body for its existence. The body is merely a lump of matter; it is always dead. Life is when a soul occupies a body and animates it; death is when the soul moves on to leave behind a dead lump of matter – the body.
Life exists not because of a functioning body, but despite being in an inherently dead body. If life exists even before death, it definitely can exist after death.

The Joy of Sublime

There's hardly anything remarkably noble in the lives of most of the famous fiction authors whose work we tend to admire. This discovery has been a source of great disappointment for me. But it now gives be double the joy when I discover sublime writing in the works of great souls.

Plug in to the Tree of Universal Principles

The unwise mind thinks in terms of this or that, but the wiser mind thinks in terms of this and that. Wisdom makes us see the interrelationships between all things. Wisdom reveals some principles as higher than others and some principles as adjacent to each other but connected to some higher common principle. Enlightened action requires us to understand our current conditioning and these interrelationships of principles, and then act in our respective capacities fuelled by the highest principles.
The key is to not judge others whose hierarchy of principles is different from ours. It requires deep study and genuine humility and intense desire to find out the truth to arrive at the highest principles. Very few are fortunate enough to encounter, and to actually appreciate, the Absolute Truth.
The Absolute Truth is way beyond the sensory perception and wildest speculations of the typical human being. And his sense of self importance and his illusion about his own intelligence blinds him to any instructions about transcendence. Thus they keep busy with inherently meaningless matters of this world because they are infatuated with the sense gratification and ego satisfaction that they provide.
The transcendalist has answers for all problems of this world in a practical way based on the sound hierarchy of universal principles. It's not about solving all problems in this world, which is utopian, but about how to lead ones life to navigate the practical and philosophical complexities of life in this world. Its about starting from your current set of principles and following a practical process to gradually align yourself to the highest set of principles. It's not about excluding principles, but of harmonizing them with the highest principles.
Just plug in.