Krishna dancing on a lotus, c.1825. Gouache on watermarked paper.
Tiruchchirappalli. Tamil Nadu
Life guidance from the Bhagavad Gita. Translated with commentary by Ravi Ravindra
The Bhagavad Gita, part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata, was composed more than two thousand years ago. In the text, the Hindu god Lord Krishna advises the prince Arjuna about his duty as a warrior and responsible spiritual being. In Professor Ravindra’s new translation and commentary, the Bhagavad Gita is considered as a universal guide to navigating the battle of life.
Many Are Called but Few Are Chosen
The Blessed One said: Hear, O Pārtha, how by practicing yoga with your mind fixed on Me, and with Me as the base and the refuge, you will know Me completely and without doubt. I will speak to you, without omission, of the essential sacred knowledge [jnāna] and of comprehensive discernment [vijnāna], knowing which nothing else remains to be known. (7.1–2)
Among thousands of human beings scarcely one strives after perfection, and among those who strive and attain perfection, scarcely one knows Me in the full truth of My being. (7.3)
Krishna urges Arjuna to practice yoga, fixing his mind more and more on the essential nature of Krishna, and he promises Arjuna that he will teach him jñāna (sacred knowledge) and discriminative discernment (vijñāna), knowing which nothing else remains to be known. At the same time, he is quite clear that out of thousands of human beings only a few will strive for perfection, and out of those who come to a perfection of character, very few will know Krishna’s real nature. As we look around at the general human situation and see what largely occupies humanity, any notion of striving for spiritual perfection seems very far away and quite rare. This is not new; even at the time of the Buddha or of Christ, or at the time of Krishna’s human incarnation and before, very few people seem to have had an interest in searching for the Real. Like the author, the readers also need to ask themselves periodically about the quality of their search for the Truth.
Furthermore, any serious contact with the Real is not only a matter of human effort, however strenuous. Grace of the devas is also needed. Even among those few who strive, still fewer seem to be chosen to attain Truth. It is the same everywhere and at all times “for many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)
Just a few lines today with some garden photos to share with you. Given the events in London yesterday, I have no wish to dwell on such sadness violence brings to our world. So I will just pass this little quote along hoping it will be useful to a few of you.
“When somebody provokes your anger, the only reason you get angry is because you’re holding on to how you think something is supposed to be. You’re denying how it is. Then you see it’s the expectations of your own mind that are creating your own hell. When you get frustrated because something isn’t the way you thought it would be, examine the way you thought, not just the thing that frustrates you. You’ll see that a lot of your emotional suffering is created by your models of how you think the universe should be and your inability to allow it to be as it is.” Ram Dass.
“Your days pass like rainbows, like a flash of lightning, like a star at dawn. Your life is short. How can you quarrel?”
In the Jewish mystical tradition, one great Rabbi taught his disciples to memorize and contemplate the teachings and place the prayers and holy words on their heart. One day a student asked the Rabbi why he always used the phrase “on your heart” and not “in your heart,” and the master replied, “Only time and grace can put the essence of these stories in your heart. Here we recite and learn them and put them on our hearts hoping that some day when our heart breaks they will fall in.”
But when our heart breaks—in love, in friendship, in partnership—it is always a very difficult experience. Modern neuroscience has even discovered that the emotional suffering we experience registers in the same areas of the brain as physical pain. So when we’re feeling abandoned and rejected, we don’t want to eat, we can’t sleep, we have difficulty breathing, our bodies feel as if we have the flu or we’ve been run over by a truck.
So, what can we do when we have to accept the loss of a friend, a lover, or a loved one? What truth can we find beyond the stories we tell ourselves about how they’re wrong and we’re right, or that we’re wrong and they’re right? What can we do besides spending fruitless hours trying decipher everything they said or did? Can we do something more useful than justifying to ourselves what we said or did, or wishing that we had said or done something else? And what can we do when the story spreads to nearly drown us in despair over feelings that there’s something wrong with us, that we’re unlovable, that we’re the reason things didn’t work out?
Like a sandcastle, all is temporary.
Build it, tend it, enjoy it.
And when the time comes
let it go.
The first thing you need to do when you’ve suffered loss or betrayal is to find a way to regain your wise heart so that you can let it hold the aching of your heart. The Zen teacher Karlfried Von Durckheim speaks of the importance of the need to go through our difficulties in a conscious and clear way.
The person who, already being on the way, falls upon hard times in the world, will not as a consequence turn to those friends who offered them refuge and comfort and encourage their old self to survive. Rather, they will seek out someone who will faithfully and inexorably help them to risk themselves, so they may endure the difficulty and pass courageously through it. Only to the extent that a person exposes themselves over and over again to annihilation and loss can that which is indestructible be found within them. In this daring lie dignity and the spirit of true awakening.
Sometimes suffering the losses and the unexpected betrayals and break-ups that befall each of us becomes the places where we grow deepest in our capacity to lead an authentic and free life. Here is where the heart grows in dignity and care. By grieving honorably and tenderly and working our way through our difficulties, our ability to love and feel compassion for ourselves and others deepens, along with the trust that will help us through similar problems in the future.
Breathe. Remember, there are countless others who have suffered in this way and gotten through it. We are not alone. Learning how to survive our present difficulties is one of the few things that will help us to know the right things to say and do when others whom we love suffer as well.
New Age “translations of jalaluddin Rumi’s works have become a type of ‘spiritual colonialism.’ We in the West have been bypassing, erasing, and occupying a spiritual landscape that has been lived and breathed and internalized by Muslims from Bosnia and Istanbul to Konya and Iran to Central and South Asia.” Extracting the spiritual from the religious context has deep reverberations. Islam is regularly diagnosed as a “cancer” by people today and we are loathed to think that the greatness of Sufi Poems are based on the Islamic faith.
In the 1800s, colonialist-minded translators found it difficult to reconcile Rumi’s poetry with their preconceptions of Islam as a “desert religion,” whose followers were forsaken with “unusual moral and legal codes.” In the twentieth century, prominent translators, such as R. A. Nicholson, A. J. Arberry, and Annemarie Schimmel, made limited headway into producing versions that stayed more true to the original Persian prose, but these translations have not been the most widely circulated among Western readers.
by R.A. Nicholson
That title is held by Coleman Barks, the American poet and interpreter responsible for re-introducing Rumi’s poetry for English-speaking audiences in recent decades. Barks, who does not speak Persian and is not trained in Islamic literature, has recast earlier translations of Rumi’s works into “fluid, casual American free verse,” according to Christain Science Monitor.
For his part, Coleman Barks sees religion as secondary to the essence of Rumi. “Religion is such a point of contention for the world,” he told me. “I got my truth and you got your truth—this is just absurd. We’re all in this together and I’m trying to open my heart, and Rumi’s poetry helps with that.” One might detect in this philosophy something of Rumi’s own approach to poetry: Rumi often amended texts from the Koran so that they would fit the lyrical rhyme and meter of the Persian verse. But while Rumi’s Persian readers would recognize the tactic, most American readers are unaware of the Islamic blueprint. Some have said, compare reading Rumi without the Koran to reading Milton without the Bible: even if Rumi was heterodox, it’s important to recognize that he was heterodox in a Muslim context—and that Islamic culture, centuries ago, had room for such heterodoxy. Rumi’s works are not just layered with religion; they represent the historical dynamism within Islamic scholarship.
Rumi used the Koran, Hadiths, and religion in an explorative way, often challenging conventional readings. One of Barks’s popular renditions goes like this: “Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field. / I will meet you there.” The original version makes no mention of “rightdoing” or “wrongdoing.” The words Rumi wrote were iman (“religion”) and kufr (“infidelity”). Imagine, then, a Muslim scholar saying that the basis of faith lies not in religious code but in an elevated space of compassion and love. What we, and perhaps many Muslim clerics, might consider radical today is an interpretation that Rumi put forward more than seven hundred years ago.
Such readings were not entirely unique back then. Rumi’s works reflected a broader push and pull between religious spirituality and institutionalized faith—though with a wit that was unmatched. “Historically speaking, no text has shaped the imagination of Muslims—other than the Koran—as the poetry of Rumi and Hafez,” it is said. This is why Rumi’s voluminous writings, produced at a time when scribes had to copy works by hand, have survived.
“Language isn’t just a means of communication,” the writer and translator Sinan Antoon has said. “It’s a reservoir of memory, tradition, and heritage.” As conduits between two cultures, translators take on an inherently political project. They must figure out how to make, for instance, a thirteenth-century Persian poet comprehensible to a contemporary American audience. But they have a responsibility to remain true to the original work—an act that, in the case of Rumi, would help readers to recognize that a professor of Sharia could also write some of the world’s mostly widely read love poetry.
Jawid Mojaddedi is now in the midst of a years-long project to translate all six books of the “Masnavi.” Three of them” have been published; the fourth is due out this spring. His translations acknowledge the Islamic and Koranic texts in the original by using italics to denote whenever Rumi switches to Arabic. His books are also riddled with footnotes. Reading them requires some effort, and perhaps a desire to see beyond one’s preconceptions. That, after all, is the point of translation: to understand the foreign. As Keshavarz put it, translation is a reminder that “everything has a form, everything has culture and history. A Muslim can be like that, too.”
Have we hi-jacked Rumi and moulded him to our own understanding – Yes indeed, is that a bad thing? No! Indeed no. We have not destroyed the original Rumi and who would want to? We have expanded on his wonderful poetry and by so doing, opened him and his works to an international audience and an entirely new generation. I think we have done good!
Excerpted from Rozina Ali’s recent article The Erasure of Islam from the Poetry of Rumi
What happens, then, when the guru dies or goes away? How do disciples cope with the absence of the one whose living and loving presence has opened for them the door to their own heart, the one through whom all reality has been filtered, and their own self understood? The disciples of Jesus, Palestinian Jews living at the beginning of the Common Era, and the disciples of the Indian Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba, both Indians and Americans in 1970’s India, were both forced to negotiate the absence of the guru. These two groups of devotees, separated by almost 2,000 years in time and more than 2,500 miles, in land mass, inhabited very different cultures. They told stories about their gurus that help us understand the evolving meaning of the body of the guru—both in its presence and its absence. It is an interesting tale of sameness.
In looking at what devotees have chosen to recall we come to see what the disciple community finds destabilizing in the guru’s physical absence as well as how that absence can be overcome; how the pain of loss of the “non-dual reciprocity” of guru and disciple is eventually transcended through a new understanding of the body of the guru. A process that many people face today while recovering from the loss of Sathya Sai Baba, who many worshipped and adored.
In the Absence of the Body: Discipleship When the Guru Has Gone
An ancient axiom holds that when the disciple is ready, the guru will appear. Much less is said about what happens when the guru disappears—and for this, disciples are rarely ready. It is often a more traumatic event than the death of a parent or spouse or child, because the relationship between disciple and guru is of a different nature than relationships with parents, lovers, friends, or one’s own children. While all these relationships can involve deep and selfless love, the love of the guru (in both the genitive and objective sense) becomes the lens through which the disciple understands the self, the other, and the world. And at least initially, the locus of this love is the bodily presence of the guru.
The guru not only shows the way, but is that very way. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” is how Jesus’ disciples remembered him.
Abhishiktānanda, a modern Roman Catholic monk initiated into Indian advaita by his guru, Gnānānanda, writes that “Guru and disciple form a dyad, a pair, whose two components call for each other and belong together. No more than the two poles (of a magnet) can they exist without being related to each other. On the way towards unity they are a dyad. In the ultimate realization they are a non-dual reciprocity.”
How and Why We Remember
Gospel scholars talk about the “messianic secret” that describes how Jesus in the Gospels tells his disciples not to talk about his deeds of power or identity as the Christ, but to keep these things silent. Scholars often interpret this “secret” as a literary device (especially in Mark) employed to explain why, if Jesus was working all the wonders reported in the narrative, all of Israel did not come to believe in him, or at least know of him in his lifetime.3
In collecting the early stories of Neem Karoli Baba, Ram Dass encountered a modern corollary of the messianic secret. He writes that it took a number of years for Neem Karoli Baba’s Indian disciples to openly share their stories of Maharajji (as Neem Karoli Baba was known) due to his own directive that he should not be spoken about to others. There are stories of Maharajji ordering the burning of a collection of stories about him and of his tearing up a manuscript of an article on him. Neem Karoli, much like Jesus, ordered those who witnessed miracles effected by or through him never to speak of them. In the case of Neem Karoli Baba, this reticence is certainly not a literary device. Can it be that for Jesus, too, the “messianic secret” was real—and not a device of the Gospel authors?
We have similar instances of both teachers rebuking those who would compliment or draw attention to them. When his contemporary, Deoria Baba, said that Neem Karoli was an incarnation of love, Maharaji responded, “Why, that wicked man! What does he know? Who does he think he is?” Jesus, when called “good teacher” by an inquiring outsider, answered, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” Both of them were opposed having their deeds recorded, and yet their disciples felt the need to do so when they were gone.
Both maharaj and Jesus often complained that their disciples did not truly understand their message, or even who they were. Yet, in spite of the guru’s admonitions, the community of disciples feels responsible for interpreting him to one another after his disappearance, and for preserving/creating a body of material through which the guru will become known by others. The gathering together of such stories offers those who experienced them a way to process the events of the past and gives new generations the possibility of experiencing an awakening similar to that of those who lived in the presence of the guru. In theological language this is called anamnesis, a remembering that makes real in the present the being or event that is being recalled. Anamnesis is one attempt at making the disappeared body of the guru present again.
Now we have the same with Sathya Sai Baba, while alive he complained that his followers failed to understand him. He called himself an enigma, one who could not be known. His passing six years ago, came as a surprise to his community and left them in shock. How did they deal with his passing? On the surface, not very well. While some carried on just as before, holding on to their past habits and routines they had build up during their time with the guru, others floundered. Many left to find another guru or to find solace in a former student and imposter. Although, I feel that a certain Anamnesis has taken place and the steadfast following will overcome the humbug following, in making the guru’s Temple and Ashram, the guru himself.
Excerpted from Parabola: Where Spiritual Traditions Meet,Vol. 37, No. 3 (2012).
By James H. Reho
The key is in understanding that the physical body is only an instrument of the divine. It is not forever. What was it that Sathya Sai Baba said so well ? “You are not the body.” “Drop all attachments to the body and its desires.” I feel that includes all physical attachment to Sai Baba’s form also. ~ More importantly He said and I quote: “At first, name and form are essential, that is the reason why Avatars come, so that God can be loved, adored, worshiped, listened to and followed, and finally realized as nameless and formless.” And to end on a happy note, a beautiful video of darshan with Swami to the huanting music of Secret Garden.
“I remember when we first got an automatic washing machine. We all sat on the floor and watched it go round for one full load. It was better than watching t.v. We had only three channels and no way of recording programmes. You watched live or not at all. The audience for the most popular programmes was enormous, in a way that’s inconceivable now except for things like the Olympics and state funerals/weddings.Taping things off the radio when they played the charts on a Sunday night, trying not to get the D.J. talking over the intro.I was trying to explain to my son that there were no mobile phones, no internet, no iPods or iPads, no computers when I was a child. TV only had 3 channels and closed down half the day and all night, and we didn’t have videos in any homes that I knew of, either. He couldn’t begin to get his head around it. With such limited entertainment available, people developed a real fondness for what was on offer. We had lots of good adverts on TV – The Milk Tray man and the man sneaking down in the middle of the night to get R. White’s lemonade out of the fridge.
Those weird foreign children’s serials the BBC put on (although that may have been more in the 60s) – Belle and Sebastian,White Horses and the daddy of them all – The Singing Ringing Tree. I think they dubbed them, as you couldn’t really expect tiny children to read subtitles. But somehow you could still hear the original dialogue underneath – is that right?!”
Calling Swap Shop on 01 811 8055. Or, in reality, watching “Swap Shop” and being really envious of those children that were actually allowed to use the phone.
And where were your Parents? Parenting methods were more laissez-faire. My mum and dad used to drive to the pub and leave me in the car with a bottle of pop and a packet of crisps whilst they sat inside.I always travelled alone on flights, mum and dad went straight down the back to smoke and drink in the rear seats. I saw them at take off and landing.
“And no-one had a clue when it came to health and safety. Sitting on my mum’s lap in the front seat of the car. No seat belts. Ever. Standing up in the car with head out the sunroof. Or sitting in the back of the car close to the rear window. Our local play park was a death trap. The slide was very, very, very high and there was no padded stuff or even grass – just rock hard concrete or tarmac. The climbing frame looked like it had been constructed using scaffolding poles. Also, 1970s style had a certain ‘je ne sais quoi‘ about it. Dad wore medallions and drove a Firebird Trans Am with an eagle on the bonnet. Mum said you could hear it coming five minutes before arrival. Flicked-out hair-dos done with curling-tongs and before any sort of gel or mousse had been invented. People describe the 70s as the decade that taste forgot. Au contraire. It was massively stuffed with taste. Just not, well…the best.”
A time of simple Pleasures:
It was a time of simple pleasures such as The Blue Peter Christmas lantern that was a tinsel-covered pair of wire hangers with actual candles. Jackie postersthat came in 3 parts so you got David Cassidy’s legs one week, torso the next and his head the next! Queueing up to watch Star Wars (Matinee) aged 7 in Manchester with my brother and parents was a real treat! British gastronomy attained truly dizzying heights.
I remember making my Mum breakfast for her birthday with an orange juice that came in a packet and you added water to it. I thought it the height of sophistication. I can remember the awful orange juice we had that used to stick to the bottle. I’m sure this was not good for us. Rice paper at 1p per sheet – it was a novelty to have paper you were allowed to eat.”Ice Magic” (went stiff when you put it on the ice cream).
The Bad Things:
“Of course, that’s not to say it didn’t have its bad points Those terrifying public safety films they used to show you in schools. Phone boxes – always smelled of pee (you didn’t dare stand on the floor if there was water on it) and the receiver always smelled of ciggies. Buses regularly on strike and having to walk home six miles from school all alone in the rain. I remember getting REALLY horribly burnt in the summer. Kids didn’t really wear sun cream back then. Even the tarmac bubbled up in the 1976 heatwave.”
Now it’s Spring, why not spend time in a flower garden or in a park? An arboretum is a great place to be with trees and often provides a special sort of quiet. In an arboretum you can take a spirit walk. That is to be at one with nature. There among the trees you can listen to the breeze moving through the branches and the grasses. Birds too can be heard in the quiet of a tree-lined pathway. There’s no better sanctury for birds and butterflies than an arboretum. A walk with nature is a healing thing. Stay there as long as you wish, but make sure your visit is long enough to take in the various forms and colours that the world of leaves and petals provides. You can glean so much in such a short time. Nature is ever providing something wonderful to look upon. Look not only to what’s growing around trees or those flowers growing along the way, Look beneath your feet too. What do you see? However you choose to spend your time, be aware that you are a guest in someone else’s home — nature’s — so act accordingly. Eve
“Nature is part of our life. We grew out of the seed, the earth, and we are part of all that. But we are rapidly losing the sense that we are animals like the others. Can you have a feeling for that tree, look at it, see the beauty of it, listen to the sound it makes; be sensitive to the little plant, to the little weed, to that creeper that is growing up the wall, to the light on the leaves and the many shadows? One must be aware of all this and have the sense of communion with nature around you. You may live in a town but you do have trees here and there. A flower in the next garden may be ill-kept, crowded with weeds, but look at it, feel that you are part of all that, part of all living things. If you hurt nature you are hurting yourself.”
Lead me from the asat to the sat. Lead me from darkness to light. Lead me from death to immortality Om Peace Peace Peace.
(Brhadaranyaka Upanishad — I.iii.28)
“Look at the moon, not at the finger pointing to it,” the Zen parable says. A guide points the way but is not the Way itself. He cannot carry the pupil on his back, can only propose conditions that will support the aim. Spiritual teaching is not a one-way process—the guide must also be a student. It’s an essential chain through which higher forces can manifest on Earth. Mutual sincerity will make the relationship fruitful. If the teacher is not also growing, something is gradually lost: the connection to the higher. His role is to enable you to see, as he does, without judgment. Then your conscience or your soul has room to appear and become the real guide.” Sathya Sai Baba was an inner experience that touched the soul not an entertainer!
Video with Photos of the Muddenahalli Group while out and about to the catchy rap music
” Human” – artist Rag n Bone Man
Currently, in the darkness of our ignorance, we believe ourselves to be bound and limited (otherwise we would not be reciting prayers or mantras in the first place). But the Guru and the scriptures are telling us that, in truth, we are not, never will be and never have been, bound. Eternally we are Sat-Cit-Ananda. The only thing that can remove our ignorance regarding our true nature is a spiritual education at the hands of a True Master – A Sat Guru. At the culmination of such an education, light floods the room, as it were; darkness vanishes and we become wise. This is exactly what Sathya Sai Baba spent decades teaching us. He said time and time again, we have the source within and the duty of the guru is to point the way. This was his mission.
Sai Baba told devotees during 2006 that His mission was already complete. He also told us that Sat Gurus only leave their bodies once they have finished their missions. He directed us away from being attached to His form and asked us to be attached to the eternal Atma which is the reality of all forms. He said that when He left His body He would remain as the eternal Atma, that He would not come back in any astral form or subtle body. He actually didn’t mention another means of communication through someone else.
Therefore, if we trust what Sai Baba said, we know that He completed His mission and having completed it, He left His body and remains as the eternal Atma, which is His reality. Since Sathya Sai Baba said that illness could not defeat him, we also understand He left His body voluntarily.
Although Muddenahalli Madhusudan claims otherwise that Sai Baba died prematurely leaving him to continue his mission for so many years. He is blatently contradicing all that Sathya Sai Baba said when alive. That Sai Baba failed to complete His mission before leaving His body and that He, Sai Baba, has therefore had to come back in a subtle body to finish it. Madhusudan is now encouraging devotees to be attached to and seek visions of this subtle body through Madhusudan.
But wait a minute! What Has Sathya Sai Baba actually declared?
Sai Baba doesn’t need or use mediums or intermediaries:”I never speak through another. I never use another or possess another physical vehicle to express Myself. I am not a ghost or spirit to do so, to need some medium. I come direct, I speak direct, I come as I am or as I will to come in fresh created Forms. I do not use weak vacillating human vehicles; I confer boons straight and without any intermediary”. (Sathyam Sivam Sundaram Part 2)
However Madhusudan claims that Swami has also gone back on His word that He never uses intermediaries and is now using Madhusudan as an intermediary to convey messages to His devotees. Who are we going to believe? Swami’s own recorded words or Madhusudan’s unverified claims (which contradict so much of what Swami says)? I choose to place my faith in Sathya Sai Baba while in His physcial body!
Madhusudan World Traveller:
Madhusudan, unlike Sai Baba, travels the world. He does so business class! Needless to say his travels are costly. From the travel reports send out to followers, we read about his expensive trips abroad, we gather nothing about them is cheap. He is travelling in style! So what about money? Like everything else, “the spiritual” must be paid for. Rent is due, and gas and electricity aren’t free and plane tickets are expensive and Hotels do not come free! Madhusudan, like so many other self-styled gurus, demand and get huge sums from hopeful followers who somehow believe that the more something costs, the more valuable it is. That standard may apply to consumer goods but “authentic gurus” tend to live simply. If a luxurious lifestyle is given as proof of efficacy, you may have cause to question the teacher and the teaching, and your own values. Do you really value imitations more than the real thing? Sathya Sai Baba darshans was always a deep experience that gave us a radiance that was found nowhere else. With Madhusudan its sheer entertainment! – A mere shadow of what is truly real. While on the subject of the “Real Thing” what about the ancient practice of Tithing? (To give monies for aid.) If a spiritual community supports the helpless and softens the harsh division between those who have too much and those who have not enough, tithing is blessed. But there is no spiritual gain from supporting some charismatic “rascal” who turns spiritual seekers into his own ATM machine by actively engaging in tithing. (Taking donations from followers.)
Be wary of cults, they are easy to join but hard to leave. A genuine teaching on the contrary may be hard to find and harder to enter, but very easy to walk away from. Are you being courted? Cults seek recruits. Speak to followers who left, not just the ones who stayed: how were they treated? Are they grateful for what they received?
To exact a tithe from (a person, community, parish, etc.