Sunday, March 31, 2013

Making yourself an island where you can take refuge

"Look not to the faults of others, nor to their omissions and commissions. But rather look to your own acts, to what you have done and left undone." The Buddha

This is one of my many favorite quotes of The Buddha. Infact all his quotes/ sayings are so true and inspiring. Nevertheless, they are sometimes a challenge to put into practice. With regular practice of meditation living by these quotes become a little more easier as you clearly see the wisdom behind it.

Recently, I did get rattled by what I read online. It was a review of a play/dance- drama called "Yashodhara"  -Siddharth Gotama's wife, of what she would have gone through when Siddhartha left her to seek the truth. It was based on a poem written by a well-known Hindi poet Mitilisharan Gupt. Somewhere in the review it said that although everyone knows The Buddha as a Great spiritual leader little is known of his wife who has been left in the sidelines.

I do accept that plays, poems and other works of art have a lot to do with an artist's imagination and therefore has to be appreciated from that standpoint. But it did unsettle me. Because it seemed to suggest that there is a flaw in the life of a person whose teachings I revere.

This is not an isolated case. Many a time, other spiritual leaders' lives have been examined and flaws highlighted or fictionalized. I wish people with artistic imaginations leave Spiritual Leaders outside of their creative works. Because by fictionalizing their lives, it  hurts the sentiments of those who revere or live by their teachings. Well, why should they care about that? Afterall a lot of people do appreciate plays/dance/dramas which is the artistic expressions of writers and performers.

Granted, but would anyone like it if their lives or relationships were to be fictionalized by people whom they have never met?  As someone said to me--its a celebrity culture, where you look at people who are well known and see what's negative or not so good in their lives and gloss over it.

Well, be that as it may, I returned to examine my own self and see clearly what was it that was going on inside, in my own body and mind. And it was the teachings which helped me see clearly.
"Those who speak much are blamed, those who speak little are blamed. In this world there are none who are not blamed. Try not to blame."
"Find out for yourself what is truth, what is real. Discover that there are virtuous things and there are non-virtuous things. Once you have discovered for yourself give up the bad and embrace the good."

And finally the invaluable final day discourse in the 30-day course:

 Nobody is truly your friend. Everyone you have met in this life, you will leave at the time of death--and that includes your mother and father, brother/sister/ friend. What is truly your friend which never leaves you  life after life is your own mind--the four parts of it : your consciousness, your perceptions, your sensations, your reactions. Constantly work on these and keep realizing the impermanence of sensations which will free you from the bondage of repeated births and lead you out of suffering.

And in Hindi he (Goenkaji) sums it up: Apne Karm suddhar le

In the words of The Buddha "All beings are the owners of their Kamma"

These recollections and reminders helped me to let go of what was not true and continue my practice for greater clarity and wisdom.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


It's been a long, long time since I wrote here. I have re-discovered my interest in art after many years and have been gong about it with quite a bit of zeal and enthusiasm. Consequently my days are quite packed with 2 hours of meditation, cooking & keeping house, working 4 days a week at the University and creating works of art.

I wondered at this obsession with art. Yes, I was always interested in it in my younger days but apart from doing some sketches, a one-off oil painting, I did not produce this many as I am currently. Maybe I had lesser opportunities in India or child-rearing and academic pursuits took away most of my time then. Whatever the reason I am quite enjoying what I do now--it gives me a satisfaction never experienced before.

I also recalled one of the discourses in the long course of Vipassana meditation. Goenkaji cautions us that as one progresses on this path, there are many challenges that a practitioner would have to face from time to time. He speaks of Mara who he says can be seen in two ways. One, as a personification of our own impurities, our negativities which block us from doing good deeds ( such as meditation). The second way to understand Mara is as a Deva putra, who feels a kind of jealousy towards people who meditate and attempt to come out of their defilements and thereby suffering. He (Mara) feels that there is nothing wrong in people enjoying sensual pleasures and will therefore do things to hinder a persons' development on the path. No matter how we want to view this, it is important that we recognize the challenges or obstacles that we may encounter as some can be very deceptive and subtle.

For instance we may have some weakness ( which seems like our strength in disguise) such as we may have a talent for public speaking. So all the time when we ought to be meditating, we start imagining giving a lecture to an imaginary audience informing them about the virtues of meditation... and in the mean while stop meditating totally. Its difficult to tell which way this negative force would keep us from doing what we should be doing--especially regular meditation.

I am so thankful that I attended the long courses and have been quite careful that no matter how interested or enthusiastic I am in creating works of art --my new passion, I do not give up on my meditation practice. And as long as I follow the path and the practice, I have not lost touch with the sense of balance that is needed for a dharmic life.