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)
“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
“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.
This article originally appeared last year in Rhythm of the Home Magazine. I’m reprinting today in honour of the Spring.
When we align ourselves with the primary action of each season, we can harness the energy that permeates the natural world and, thus, facilitate our own transitions. During autumn, as we witness the falling of leaves, we open to the energy of shedding and ask ourselves, “What is it time to let go of?” In winter, as we watch the stillness settle over the land and notice the hibernation of our own soul, we ask, “What arises in my quiet and solitude?” In spring, the literal and metaphoric seeds that lay dormant for several months tentatively poke their heads through the warming earth then burst into full bloom. And in summer, we celebrate the fruits of our labor and enjoy the days of water and sunshine, asking ourselves, “What is it time to celebrate?”
On the threshold of spring, we begin to notice a quiet awakening within. The intentions that we set during the long days of winter, both for ourselves and our children, may have lain dormant these past months, but now we see the first green heads pushing through and realize that the dawn of something new is upon us. Spring is the season of hope and renewal when, encouraged by the increase of light and warmth, we find the energy to take the necessary action that can push the tentative new beginning into full awakening. Now is the time to ask yourself: “What is longing to be born? If I set intentions on New Year’s, how can I draw upon the energy of renewal and call those intentions into action? What changes and rebirths do I observe in my children? What seeds of new beginnings were resting in the underground caverns of my child’s mind and are now bursting into fruition?”
Spring is green, tender, and alive. It’s the childhood stage of the seasons of transitions where innocence and purity permeate the atmosphere. As nature wakes from her winter slumber and you observe the first pale green leaves unfolding out of the buds, ask yourself, “What is childlike inside of me that wishes to come out? What is it that is longing to be born? What do I see in my child that is aching for release?”
The early weeks of spring often bring a restlessness. As hopeful and optimistic as this season is, there’s always an element of discomfort in the world of transitions. Said bluntly, change is hard, so even when the change is positive – like birthing a new part of yourself or watching your child master a new skill – there’s an itchiness of psyche that occurs when the old self or skill level falls away and the new one hasn’t fully emerged. In summer we celebrate with joyous abandon, but spring is still tentative, and there may be days when winter settles her snow over the land and we’re pulled back into the silent, underground world. When we understand these natural cycles of death and renewal, we can make space for them in our inner lives and help our children make sense of the process of change.
If winter was a season of sorrow, allow the light winds of spring to wash away the residue of grief. If winter was a season of sickness, let the freshness of spring restore you to health. If winter was a season of loss, notice the new life and rebirths that surround you. If winter was a season of silence, invite the birds of spring to bring song back into your life. If winter was a season of hopelessness, connect to the perennial signs of hope that rise up in the natural world as if to say, “Today is a new day. Today I can start something new and find that place of beginning within. Today I am alive and for that I am grateful. Today I see love manifest in the miracles of nature and I whisper a quiet but certain ‘Yes.’” Photography by Eve. Photos taken with a Lumix LX7 camera.
Ah, how wonderful is the advent of the Spring!—the great annual miracle…. which no force can stay, no violence restrain, like love, that wins its way and cannot be withstood by any human power, because itself is divine power. If Spring came but once in a century, instead of once a year, or burst forth with the sound of an earthquake, and not in silence, what wonder and expectation would there be in all hearts to behold the miraculous change!… We are like children who are astonished and delighted only by the second-hand of the clock, not by the hour-hand. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Kavanagh, 1849
Winter is behind us now. This brings a feeling of light, hope and openness. We can look out of the window at trees and see them forming leaves. Golden Daffodils adorn our gardens once more. The snowdrops and crocuses are also bountiful. This year more than most! I like to think it is not only a new beginning but also a time to ponder on what lies ahead. Although in the quiet moments of a Spring day, reflection on what has past is often more on our minds. Dare we expect more from this new year than the last? In the old Pali dialect, the language of the Buddha (upanijjhāna), “reflection” has the self-same meaning that it does in English—it means to be like a mirror or the surface of a deep pond, to receive an impression and hold it without adding anything else. It also means to contemplate or consciously consider. To listen to the inner voice of reason.
Years ago, at Chuang Yen Monastery in Carmel, New York, Bhikkhu Bodhi spoke of this, and of the Buddha’s advice to his 7-year-old son Rahula. The Buddha told his son about the importance of honesty, telling young Rahula to practice reflection—to reflect on the inner and outer consequences before, during, and after doing something. Please consider trying this. The results are subtle but quite amazing. Consider how you feel before you perform an act of generosity, during, and after. Also consider how it feels to do something less than noble or not do something. Let’s say, not to eat or drink too much or be angry or stingy, to un-grasp the hand of lifelong habits. What is amazing is that this type of practice of reflecting on the quality and consequence of our lives is a way to expand time by opening and deepening and enriching the time we have to spare.
In meditation or just being alone with our thoughts , we allow ourselves to reflect on something that has already happened. We can allow a memory or experience to arise within us, and like the surface of a deep pond, reflecting the moon without fighting it or fleeing from it or freezing it or adding anything at all. Remember that the ancient root of the word, “understand” means to stand under, to allow the truth of something to soak in. It also suggests holding and supporting, standing under our own experience, receiving it. Think of the lake under the moon.
Crocuses in the garden
Re-written from an article published in Parabola magazine.
Might be a good idea to subscribe. They need supporting.