Wednesday, February 25, 2015

NEWSLETTER YOGTANTRAGAMA

Often while discussing aesthetics concepts in class I witness an uneasy silence and sudden introspective behavior which lends a serious demeanor to usually playful and naughty faces. Somewhere in our ‗will filled consciousness‘, to borrow a term from Schopenhauer we are so caught up with our mundane lives and desires that there is a total disconnect from the real self. Such discussions often take us away from our concocted comfort zones and bring us face to face with uneasy questions pertaining to existence and purpose of life. Many of us feel threatened and evade such uncomfortable situation by getting more and more enmeshed in the surrounding noise. But a time comes when one no longer can neglect the inner voices and its questionings. It is then that the seeker starts his/her journey usually by delving in philosophy where they hope to find answers to ever troubling questions. It is this unending quest which once started catches you by hand and leads you from various labyrinths opening multiple vistas and introduces you to a mysterious world of spiritual awakening. It is this door that we hope to knock at and enter with the blessings of our guru and mentor Swami Parannad Tirth, a door which ultimately opens to our own hearts. With myriad contributions from scholars and seekers we at YTA try to assimilate various thought processes and put them forth for the benefit of our readers.

Read the entire newsletter at  http://yogtantragama.org/Yogatantragama%20Newsletter.pdf

Monday, January 5, 2015

Ramblings

The man jumped on the crocodile and deftly covered its deadly mouth with his strong arms followed by his assistant who injected a sedative in the thick skin. After a while the animal gave up the struggle and fell unconscious. She was not the one to get disturbed usually by such imageries but this time she was in absolute rage to see the animal lying motionless on the tv screen.

Don’t worry your crocky is alive’ said he, ‘Just sleeping for a while till they fix a small machine on its back.’

The explanation angered her more.

‘Who has given them any right to harass the poor creature’

He retorted, ‘ It is done for its own betterment. They are going to find out how to make it  live a longer and healthier life’

By now she had fire in her eyes

‘Who  gave them the right to decide on its behalf. Isn’t it inhuman? Doesn’t such behavior reek of while man’s burden? Didn’t  all the colonizers project themselves as saviours of the colonized people.?

‘People are different but animals have to be controlled for the  sake of science'

This was going nowhere. There was no use arguing. She got up and went to her room. Lying on her bed her thoughts wandered to her house, how it meant nothing to her but a comfortable dwelling place where  her loved ones lived. But it wasn't so always.
………………………………………………………………………………………………
‘Papa, I want a bathtub and also a tennis court.This small patch of land here, I will grow flowers on it'.

Papa smiled and next she knew he got fitted the bathrooms on all the three floors with luxurious bath tubs.She was very happy. On the day of the pooja she proudly hung an automatic camera in her neck and went on clicking every nook and corner of the house.People as always she was least interested in.
……………………………………………………………………………………………………
How she hated radios!. Her parents always had one by their side and they were always listening to the news.Though Iran-Iraq war had cooled down Kashmir was going from bad to worse. Catching some hints from the stray conversations between her parents and their friends she could make out that there was no house to return back to. Her childish heart kept thinking of the bathtub and the flower garden. Meanwhile her father booked a two bedroom flat in Delhi which again they never lived in but probably which gave them a feeling of owning a house.

‘Where will you go now when you return to India this time’ an innocent question by her Persian friend with whom she had discussed everything ranging from films to Bermuda triangle.

She had no answer. Her friend cam e up with an ingenious idea that she may marry one of latter’s cousin, a good looking boy from a very well off family.

‘Your life will be made and you will not have to leave Iran, leave us ever’

For a moment her eyes brightened but soon she realized it would mean leaving her parents and changing her religion, both of which she couldn’t do. She got up suddenly and changed the topic of conversation.

She had suddenly grown-up after the first air raid on Malayer.Their miraculous escape and events following that matured her too early in life. She would often wish the enemy air planes to vanish somewhere in Bermuda triangle. She developed a keen interest in history and philosophy to make sense of this absurd world and constant chaos which was part of her growing up. Yet questions kept arising.

‘Who had given them any right to bombard hospitals? Who had given them any right  to send young boys on the border to simply act as canon fodder? Who had given them any right to force people out of their homes and all this for sake of which science?



Monday, July 14, 2014

Poetry Thread: Doomed Life

 A poetry thread started on May 21st led to this creation by AjiteshBohra and me, alternate lines by each one of us.and the last four paragraphs by Ajitesh. Putting it together to make a coherent read.

Chill setting in a heart full of warmth
A desolate gloom 'midst laughter swarmed
doomed to a deathless life for ever
Love and joy, I have known never
Trying in vain to lessen the agony

Writhing in clutches of Fate's tyranny
Ah that perpetual wait for the end
The end, O Death, to thee befriend!
Alas you will never knock at my door
My wait is condemned to be a frivolous stupor
I die a thousand deaths a day, to recover in a minutes sway
But this perpetual oscillation never goes away.

Rosy youth to a corpse pale
O death, 'twas a tragic tale
Broken hopes and dreams stale
Oh the curse of life does ail!

Lo! For the Fates are truly worded
Death to one and all awarded
Peace and eternal sleep rewarded
Our memories by friends guarded.

Death and doom on me impending
My time here slowly ending
My heart, it stops, unto sleep descending
Into thine arms, o death, ascending.

'Tis a toast unto thee, Death!
Solemn prayers, a floral wreath
Silent tears, my friends weepeth
As peacefully in my grave I sleepeth



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Inklings: Story Thread No. 1

I am going to start a story thread...feel free to add to it..let's see what we will come up with

Walking past that dense forest of humanity there was only one thought that lingered in his/her mind.

 - as far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being..!!

 But how does one do that? Even 'mere being' involves a huge amount of running around to simply deal with the painfully banal yet basic needs of food, shelter and clothing. But many have found their way of finding their passion with all these banalities. Or have they...?

or they have, may be. Trying to work around the available options only make people suffer in silence. Without much to 'change' individuals dwell in their own systematised life style. Only few stand out moving on the path their souls yearn for!

 Or Maybe the systematised life style is what their souls yearn for but due to humanities pressure there is an illusion of more!!!

With such existential ponderings she kept walking as if in a dream. Coming to her senses she realized the place where she had landed up, where her feet had carried her on their own accord looked quite familiar...

surprised a little, she realised she had come that little marketplace where she last saw 'her'. The woman who had so intrigued her. What had been about her that first caught her attention? She tried to recollect...

'She' had come to her out of the crowd and whispered in her ears, in a voice that reminded her of a flowing brook "I can take away you pain." Then, as strangely she appeared, as strangely she disappeared. Bewildered, she had searched for her the whole evening. Questions screamed inside her. Who are you? How do you know of my pain? How can you take it? Why will you take it? Who are you!?
But her search was futile. It was as if she had been in a dream, and somebody woke her up, and she woke up thinking of her dream to be true; but was disappointed when she saw the world around her that her dream had ended. A dream, was but a dream.
Today again she stood there, looking at the world around her. The people, their noises; just like an unruly sea tempest, trying to drown her, sink her deep, to some frightful place from where there's no coming back.
And suddenly all that tempest, all the storm, all the noise of sea waves clashing and the windy cacophony ceased. It all changed into a familiar, peaceful, mysterious sound. That of a flowing brook.
She startled.
'She' had come.


She' had come to calm her soul. She followed 'her' like a river which flows consistently to merge in the ocean. Unstoppable!
She could feel her spirit alive after a very long time.
She knew it was 'her' soothing presence which was moving here soul...


She did nothing every time she met 'her'. She just listened to 'her' speaking, her brook of a voice wielding gems from its depth. Every evening, she went there and met 'her', every evening 'she' spoke, sitting there in her immaculate white clothing and she just listened to her voice, and on and on until the night overcame their little tryst. She never asked who 'she' was, and 'she' never told. Instead, she told her of places she had never heard of, of some kind of promised land, of happiness and magic, and fairies and angels and someday 'she' would take her there with her. And miraculously, all this took her pain away. She didn't question her life anymore. Instead, she became a dreamer. She didn't know if it was good or bad, but she liked dreaming. Of 'her' and her promised land.
One day 'she' told her that she was her mother. She had never been so happy before. 'She' told her that soon she'd take her with her to that land she spoke of. This evening was the time 'she' had promised. She eagerly reached that marketplace. Finally, she was going with 'her', her own mother, to her place. She looked for 'her' in the crowd, afraid that 'she' might not show up. She saw all the people and loathed them suddenly. She talked about her mother to them and they mocked her for talking to her mother . She hated them all. 
Ah! There 'she' was finally. She was afraid 'she' would not come, that 'she' would be late. Her mother, with her voice like that of a flowing brook, calling her to come. She went to her, running. Tearing that crowd apart and those people. She hated them all. She hated them all for calling 'her' her "late" mother; but 'she' was never late.
'She' was always on time for her.
Always.


And that is when realization dawned on her. 'she' had never been away, had always been with her through thick and thin. It is just that she lacked the vision to see 'her'. This revelation was like a cool shower on her otherwise burning soul and it bestowed her with an inexplicable sense of fulfillment..



Participants: Aastha Manocha, Edha Jain, Ajitesh Bohra, Divya Balaji, Shubhra Joshi, Geetika Kaw Kher

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Role of Buddhist Siddhacaryas in expansion of Vajrayana Art and Iconography

ABSTRACT

This paper aims at critically looking into the origin and development of the Order of the Buddhist Siddhas and their role in shaping the Vajrayana art and iconography. The impact of Theory of Dhyani-Buddha, their consorts and series of emanations as propounded in the Guhyasamaja Tantra had been immense. The appropriation and sharing of the semiotics of new pantheon with the parallel evolving sampradayas like Natha and Kapalika created a veritable multi-hued imagery of deities that has enriched Indian art and culture for aeons.

KEYWORDS:
Dhyani-Buddhas, Guhyasamaja, Karuna, mahasukha,Manjusrimulakalpa, Natha, Padamsambhava, Praj├▒a , sahaja, Sunyata ,Upaya.

Paper published in Journal of Indian Research

http://mujournal.mewaruniversity.in/JIR%202-1/8.pdf


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Random

az golestan begu, az bostan begu
barayam az insaan o shaitan begu
ke jaan bar lab shodam baraye kessehat
begu az mah o kehkeshaan begu

az anal haq e mansour, az nei rumi
az shakh-e-nabat e hafez, az shahan e firdausi
az simurgh o rustom, az shams-e-tabriz
begu az in o oun, begu az hamecheez


These are just some random thoughts I had few days back about the deep desire to lose myself  in the world of stories..let me try to translate.... 

Tell me of Golestan and Bostan (two important works by Saidi, an important Persian poet ,quite popular in Kashmir too), 
Tell me about people and evil (Satan) 
I am craving for your stories, 
Tell me about moon and constellations, (heavenly bodies)
Tell me about Anal Haq of Mansour, Rumi's flute, Hafez;s sweetheart and kings of Firdausi (the  painting is illustrating a scene from Shahnama of Firdausi), 
Tell me about simurgh (an imaginary bird found  in persian mythology) and Rustom, tell me about everything under the sun.
..

Ponderings

In that inner solitude
where nothing dwells  but eternal peace
Lost all sense of desire
Desire that burns body and soul alike

Alas! It was a momentary feel
The desire hasn’t been really killed
How it hurts to desire now!
Now it comes with a feeling of guilt.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lecture based on Dr Raffaele Torella’s recent work on Isvara Pratyabhijna-vivritti of Utpaladeva organized by Ishwar Ashram Trust on 23-10-2013 at 6:00pm

Dr. Torella a renowned Indologist and an exponent of Kashmir Saiva tradition delivered a lecture on Utpaladeva’s work on Pratyabhijna. Before embarking on the main topic he delved on the  various currents of philosophical thoughts prevalent during Utpala’s time especially focusing on Buddhist Mahayana Tantricism. Dr. Torella suggested that Tantricism provided a break from the Absolutist Buddhist philosophy and that is why Buddhists incorporated it in a big way in their belief system and soon came up with a complex system of Tantrik iconography. Also interestingly Dr. Torella sees this change as Tantricism coming out of the shackles of Asceticism and entering a world of a householder and altering it for ever. One of the examples is the inclusion of mysterious Non dual Bhairava Tantras reserved earlier for ascetics, in the religious and ritualistic life of a common man.

Somananda’s ‘Siva Drsti’ was the first philosophical text of Pratyabhijna school which has sown the seeds for later philosophical and metaphysical treatises to come. According to Abhinavagupta Utpala’s works are reflections on Siva Drsti. Hence we can see Abhinavagupta, Utpala and Somananda as Pratyabhijna triad out of which Abhinavagupta became most popular for his elaborate commentaries , compilations and brilliant works like Tantraloka.

The dry logic of the Epistemological schools of Buddhist philosophy was soon countered by this very dynamic and vibrant system of thought  which focused on the Svatantriya sakti of Lord Siva.Utpaladeva took some linguistic ideas from Bhartrhari whom Torella calls as his ‘grammarian ally’. The thought that the language has the potential to reveal the nature of universe opened vistas for symbolic significance of language, including omnipresence of Siva.

He further went on to focus on universal appeal  of Pratyabhijna philosophy saying that Utpaladeva’s work is a blend of both rational and emotional side of man and hence deals with an array of subjects comprising metaphysics , epistemology , aesthetics and philosophy. He also suggested that the concept of Chamatkara which later was developed as an elaborate theory by Abhinavagupta was initially introduced by Utpala. Talking about the interdependence of scholars Dr. Torella said, “ Without Utpaladeva no Abhinavagupta would have been possible and to  understand Utpaladeva completely one needs to know about Dharmakirti”  hence  suggesting that to understand various ideas and concepts of so called Kashmir Saivism it is necessary to understand the Buddhist thought at that time. He was even of the opinion that we can consider Sankarananda, oten quoted by Abhinavagupta as an authority as a Buddhist which I am not quite sure about but reserve my comments as I don’t know much about the scholar.

In the end he stressed on the fact that texts should be understood philologically and not in isolation but in context of other texts written around the same time. This lucid and basic lecture was followed by a question answer session where the queries were more about his interaction with Swami Laxmanjoo than what he spoke. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Review: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Discovering Murakami has been one of the most enigmatic literary experiences I have had recently. Early in the year while browsing through my brother’s books, I spotted a collection of short stories titled ‘After the Quake’ by the author. The appealing title and equally engaging description at the back of the book saw me reading it in no time. Two stories down, I realized that the narratives were not actually about the physical devastating earthquake but much more about the psychological tremors and emotional turbulences triggered by a natural calamity, stories giving an insight into the minds of people rather than in their lives.


Full review published here:
http://mujournal.mewaruniversity.in/JIR3/book%20review.pdf

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

'Refugees in their Own Homeland : The Travails of Kashmiri Pandits'- On 20th April, at Vivekananda International Foundation


The event organized by the ‘Patriots Forum’ on the theme ‘The Travails of Kashmiri Pandits’ at Vivekananda International Foundation on 20th April for the most part tried to externalize the issue of exodus of KP’s and see it not only as a crisis for  a bunch of people but as a serious threat to the sovereignty of the entire nation.

Emphatic speaker Dr. Subramanian Swamy stressed the need for revoking Article 370 in Kashmir and also explained patiently how this can be achieved simply by Government provided there is a political will to do so. After bursting the myth of Article 370 he went on to explain how an entire nation and especially KP”s, the minority community, has been compromised by  decisions taken by leaders like Nehru and likes of him.

Taking over from there Prof. R.K Ohri’s slide presentation titled ‘Kashmir: Nehru’s Self Inflicted wound’ historically contextualized the problem and brought out various incidences of political mischief played to suit vested interests.
The point was stressed by Dr.Ajay Chrungoo who quoted relevant passages from government documents suggesting that right from early days Indian State was well aware of the magnitude and intensity of the problem but decided to look the other way. Moreover serious efforts were being made to deny the reasons that led to the exodus  and the people who were forced to leave their home and hearth were simply termed as ‘Migrants’ , clearly a shrewd misnomer. The denial by none other than the Indian State amounts to betraying of a group of people and Dr.Chrungoo equated such a callous attitude with ‘double killing’,

After the down right denial of what had happened in 1990’s efforts were made by the scholars in the valley to distort history in a hope to wipe out vestiges of hindu past from Kashmir. This was the theme taken by Dr. Shashi Shekhar Toshkhani who talked about ways in which the efforts were being made to deny the civilizational connect Kashmir had with rest of India. He aptly used the term ‘Cultural Genocide’  to explain the situation and he stressed  the need to stop as well as counter this serious misinformation campaign.

The talks were summed up by Mr. K.P.S Gill by suggesting that KP’s should demand a separate Union Territory status in Kashmir. He further stressed that there are so many countries in the world whose population in less than displaced Kashmiris. To achieve such an end he emphasized that KP need to first acquire a serious intellectual space which will ultimately lead to a much desired political one.

Overall it was a thought provoking session with a common thread going through it and for us probably the lesson was to be united and demand unanimously a serious political space if we seriously want to undo the wrong done.





Thursday, February 21, 2013

Figuring Out?


Figuring out isn't  that easy
as easy as one would suppose
A formidable treasure hunt
with multiple clues scattered
Yet each  clue fluid and floating
as it goes

Figuring out what needs to be figured
Why isn't the figure clear enough?
Why put figure on a figure
Isn't figuring its own end?

Figuring is a conscious task
Building, dawning bit by bit
Yet figuring out a constant dilemma
With absolutely no end to it

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Excerpts from my paper on Surrealism: A plunge in Subconcious through Art and Literature


Surrealism is considered as one of the most influential cultural movements of 20th century having pervasive influence on both visual and literary arts. Surrealist works primarily focus on the element of surprise and unexpected juxtapositions to create an imaginary world of their own. The movement started as a reaction against the ‘Age of Reason’ which had gripped the western world .It flourished between World War I and II when gradually the artist and literary community was completely disillusioned and disgusted with the ‘Rationalism’ which they believed was the prime cause of mass scale distruction. This contention is substantiated by a declaration by Andre Breton, the major spokesman of the movement :


“Intellectually, it was vulgar rationalism and chop logic that more than anything else formed the causes of our horror and our destructive impulse” (Andre Breton)

For Breton, who published "The Surrealist Manifesto" in 1924, Surrealism was a means of reuniting conscious and unconscious realms of experience so completely, that the world of dream and fantasy would be joined to the everyday rational world in "an absolute reality, a surreality."He believed that there lurks a wealth of imagination in ones unconscious mind and if an artist was able to tap it somehow it would result into pure works of genius. With this declaration started this conscious journey into the realm of subconscious by a group of artists and writers alike.


One of the most iconic works of literature produced by this movement is Breton’s second novel titled ‘Nadja’,published in 1928 and which interestingly starts with a question “Who am I”.

The novel is based on the relationship between the protagonist, who is nothing but the alter ego of the author himself, and a woman, Nadja,whom he meets randomly on a street and gets obsessed with. More than the woman herself it is her vision of the world that entices him and forces him to meet her daily.Her understanding of existence defies the rational logic and has a peculiar irrational charm to it which makes him continue the relationship till he realizes that she is actually mad and is admitted in a certain sanitorium.As this reality dawns on him, he breaks up with her but finds himself completely taken by her thinking and her vision which seems to have direct access to her unconscious and artistic mind. Interestingly it is her absence which creates a mysterious and a stronger bond between both of them and he finds her constantly present in both his conscious and unconscious thoughts. Here Breton interestingly plays with the concept of absence and presence and hence raises important questions about the workings of our unconscious mind.


The importance of dream like imagery somewhere points at Breton’s fascination with Sigmund Freud’s focus on subconcious mind and its workings. Not only Breton but most of the Surrealist artists were keen readers of Freud and well versed with his major theories. According to Freud when a certain desire cannot be represented conciously it takes an absurd form which helps in disguising the desire. He suggests that two objects that could never be juxtaposed in reality become so in the dream and hence dream has a logic of its own which makes virtually no sense to the dreamer himself/herself after waking up.

This idea of ‘disguising a desire’ which might not have been socially or culturally acceptable by distorting the reality became a tool in the hands of Surrealist artists.

The horrors of war and the fearsome aspect is reflected deeply in Salvador Dali’s painting ‘Face of War’ and can be felt in these lines by Breton:


a mouth opens within another mouth

and within this mouth another mouth

and within this mouth another mouth

and so on without end

it is a sad perspective

which adds an I-don't-know-what

to another I-don't-know-what (The domestic Stones by Breton)





Excerpts from my paper on Surrealism: A plunge in Subconcious through Art and Literature presented at Amity Institute of English Studies and Research