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Dance: The Living Spirit of Indian Arts
Published in April 2006
In Indian tradition dance was...a divine dimension of the man's act... The dancer...sublimated his own self...and united with the supreme Self... The ancient Indian mind...had unique reverence for dance... it conceived its gods as dancers discovering in dance the accomplishment of their assigned functions, ranging from creation to annihilation, and the divine grace - an essential attribute of gods... The tradition...acclaims Shiva as both, the first exponent of dance and the first linguist... Vishnu...is revered as the 'Adi-nratya-guru' along with Shiva and Kali... Dance has been classified under four categories...secular; ritual; abstract; and, interpretive... India's art imagery and sacred architecture found...in dance its most natural and intimate idiom...
Lotus: From a Pond to a Palace Dome
Published in March 2006
(The) lotus...has more symbolic applications - material and spiritual, than has any other symbol in India's arts, religions and systems of thought... lotus as a flower had an early presence, at least during the Indus days if not before... (The) lotus attained great significance in Buddhism even before Buddha was born, and emperor Ashoka must have been acquainted with it when he chose a lotus motif for his pillars... (The) mystic character of lotus inspired the Buddhist mind...to bow to it in reverence... Puranas discovered its many new dimensions... lotus stood basically for the divine element in which were manifested fertility, prosperity, fruition, and riches, and hence when associated with a divinity, it multiplied such divinity's power also to propitiate... lotus represented the unfoldment of creation and upheld Brahma to effect it... Lotus defined the form of many of the 'yantras' and 'mandalas' - cosmic diagrams and graphics, revealing definite process of cosmic laws and energies which acted alike on sensible and supersensible levels... The symbology of lotus extends also to Indian music and dances... In classical temple architecture, the entrance to the 'garbhagraha' was defined by an elaborate lotus motif... The lotus...was thus conceived as the instrument of light and spiritual realization...
Cultivating Loneliness: The Ethical Fragrance of Yoga
Published in February 2006
...'When an individual is firmly established in non-violence (ahimsa), all beings who come near him also cease to be hostile'... Patanjali is the author of the de facto text of yoga - 'The Yoga Sutra.'... Patanjali's scripture not only provides yoga with a thorough and consistent philosophical basis, but in the process, also clarifies many important esoteric concepts (like karma), common to all traditions of Indian thought... Patanjali's is a far-sighted vision of universal humanity... The desire not to harm others is an essential ingredient in cultivating a mental state recognizing the essential unity underlying all living beings, leading towards ultimate mystical union, envisaged as the final goal of yoga...
The Forms of Shiva in Visual Arts
Published in January 2006
Shiva's...is the imagery and iconography that evolved over a period of five millennia - perhaps the longest period for an image, or worship tradition, to have evolved and sustained through... Shiva's imagery reveals wondrous unity and unique growth perspective... there is absolute unanimity in regard to the fact that he had iconic presence much before the Vedas came into being... Shiva has been conceived in visual arts as timeless youth, though sometimes with moustaches defining an advanced age and sometimes without them close to juvenescence...
I am God: Autobiographical Fragments from the Bhagavad Gita
Published in December 2005
The Bhagavad Gita consists of seven hundred verses. Out of these, a massive 574 have been uttered by Krishna himself, giving us an unparalleled insight into the true nature of divinity... (It) is in many ways God's picture album filled with self-portraits... The Great Teacher knows that human intellect is but naturally attracted to what it perceives to be extraordinary. This is made explicit when he defines himself to be 'the brilliance of all that is brilliant and the splendor of all that is splendid.'... God is present in all that is good and bad. The choice however remains ours... That is the reason he points out to us various specific and temporal manifestations of his otherwise endless and eternal glory. By following their biographical narratives to their logical conclusions, expressed through an autobiographical discourse in God's own voice, we gain a clearer roadmap for identifying, and making the correct choices in our own lives...
Kuan Yin, The Compassionate Rebel
Published in November 2005
...karuna is central to the entire Buddhist tradition. It is frequently described as a love for all beings, equal in intensity to a mother's affection for her child... the defining symbol of...the Chinese assimilation of Buddhism...is the goddess...Kuan Yin...who with her sweet and merciful disposition, has won the hearts of not only the Chinese, but also profoundly affected even those who, belonging to a foreign tradition, have only had a fleeting interaction with her... Kuan Yin is the Chinese version of the male god Avalokiteshvara, whom the ancient texts eulogize as the patron deity of compassion... (She) is a symbol...of the many hued flavor of karuna, expressed through the softer wisdom of a woman... Though often images are encountered, which show her sporting a moustache, emphasizing masculinity; this is negated by the softness of her demeanor... Can anything be more subtly female than her graceful poise - modest and inward looking, yet potent enough to generate and compassionately nourish the whole outside world?
Delight of Senses: The Indian Way of Seeing It<br>(A Discourse on Indian Theory of Rasa in Relation to Visual Arts)
Published in October 2005
Senses delight all and have delighted always, but Indian theorists were perhaps the earliest to perceive the delight of senses as the essence of being - a phenomenon of mind sublimating spiritually... man's 'bhava-jagat'...(emotional world)...alone comprised the theme of poetry, drama, sculpture, or painting. The spectator - 'rasika', as he is called, witnesses a dramatic performance for the enjoyment of 'Rasa'... This 'Rasa'... - the delight which the spectator experienced when witnessing an emotion enacted on the stage, or represented into a medium, is the core of Indian aesthetic thought... As Bharat had it, a subject's instinctive nature comprising all sentiments and emotions - inherent and inborn, as well as concurrent and passing, alone could be the theme of arts... Bharat averred that arts were arts only when they excited the senses and aroused emotions, and created 'Rasa', in which the mind perpetually rejoiced. He prescribed ten conditions of good writing - 'gunas' as he called them; ten faults - 'doshas', a good writing should avoid; and, thirty-six characters of a literary writing. Bharat's perception was thus broad as well as minute and analytical...
Love, The Living Spirit of Khajuraho
Published in September 2005
Kapalika tantrikas believed that...instinct to love, Kama, was body's...enlivening strength...which charged in sexual union prepared body...soul and mind for harbouring all pleasurable sensations which finally led to parmananda...when...self united with and merged into universal or cosmic self...Khajuraho (was) its best laboratory... Khajuraho temples have hundreds of sculptures portraying various positions of coition and love making... which the modern mind would consider obscene and vulgar... (Khajuraho) temples were always thronged by crowds of mahantas and common devotees. Obviously, people those days thought of sex and love differently... (khajuraho temples are) amongst the finest works of art that man's creative genius might claim to have ever created on the earth... Whatsoever human imagination conceives, it will fall short of the magnificence that these stone structures breathe...
Serpents, Spirals and Prayers - A Journey Through Symbolic Forms in Jewelry
Published in August 2005
...notwithstanding the injunctions to the contrary, the moon as a symbol continued to fascinate humans... the appearance of the new crescent was often greeted with joy as a return of the moon from the dead... It is...auspicious to craft the crescent out in silver... (The) active engagement of the two principles...(of) opposites in dynamic harmony...was given visual form in an ingenious diagram known in Chinese as the Tai Chi Tu (Yin Yang)... The spiral is one of the oldest pagan symbols in existence. It represents the perpetual motion of life, with the spring-like coils suggesting latent power, presenting a picture of life as an endless, evolutionary process bound within the cycles of time... The cross is also a cosmic symbol, with its vertical and horizontal lines spanning the universe...
Healing Through Faith and Love - A Case Study of Sri Ramakrishna
Published in July 2005
Girish's...intellect continued to refuse to accept (Sri Ramakrishna) as a guru... (He) asked...What is a guru? (Sri Ramakrishna replied)...A guru is like the matchmaker who arranges for the union of the bride with his bridegroom. Likewise a guru prepares for the meeting of the individual soul with his beloved, the Divine Spirit... Ramakrishna...asked a disciple to sing...Go into solitude and shut yourself in a cave. Peace is not there. Peace is where faith is, for faith is the root of all.... It was (the) transformed soul (of Girish) who began the practice of paying homage to Sri Ramakrishna...
Ardhanarishvara in Art and Philosophy
Published in June 2005
Barring a few exceptions, the right half of the Ardhanarishvara images comprises of male anatomy and the left that of the female. A few images, obviously influenced by Shakta cult, have a vice versa placing of the male and female parts also.... Despite a similar anatomy of the two parts, the female part imparts the feeling of elegance and tenderness. An elegantly modeled prominent breast is the essentiality of the female anatomy.... A Greek myth also comes out with a hermaphroditic form. Salamacis, a nymph, falls in love with Hermophroditus, the son of Aphrodite. After Hermophroditus turns down her proposal, Salamacis prays gods to put her into his body. And, thus, the two join limb to limb into a single frame. This Greek hermaphroditic form has mythical dimensions but it is neither divine nor cosmic or procreative, such as is the Ardhanarishvara form.
Forms of the Formless - an Interpretive Study of the Indian Trinity
Published in May 2005
Though by their fundamental nature arts are conditioned to use form even for representing the abstract, yet they perceive this duality- the Formless appearing with a form... the Divines and mortals are just components of the same composite whole, which is existence... It is this perception of the Indian mind...that discovers the Divine in mortals and the aspects of the born ones in the Divine... cosmic activity has three aspects - the creation, the preservation and the dissolution... (the) three aspected cosmic act is the role of the Formless and it is only in such role that the Unmanifest manifests. The Indian tradition conceives the Great Trinity - Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, as representing these three aspects and thereby the Unmanifest One...
Fiction in Mughal Miniature Painting
Published in April 2005
Fiction in Mughal miniatures...are widely considered the couriers of realism in Indian art... the art is as appropriate a vehicle of fiction as the literature. Art does not always have tales to tell but is also not without them. The miniature art inclines to be realistic but even in portraying the real it often takes recourse to fiction... Realism, whether in art or literature, is not fiction's antithesis. On the contrary, it is as much an aspect of fiction as that of the realistic art... the fiction that evolved in early Indian miniatures is incidental to its source material, that is, the texts, which it illustrated... Mughal art continued with the text-based fiction illustrating...Persian classics..., the Ramayana, Mahabharata..and many others...
Sita - The Silent Power of Suffering and Sacrifice
Published in March 2005
people all over India will say approvingly for someone: He is a Rama like son, a Rama like brother, or a Rama like king. It is rare however to hear the following as a compliment Rama like husband or son-in-law.... All of Sita's miseries in the confinement of Ravana pale in comparison...to the emotional trauma and humiliation she was subjected to by Rama himself. In a bitter irony, what was to be her moment of deliverance, turned out to be the beginning of another trial... Sita sets a high standard as an ideal wife who stays unswerving in her loyalty and righteousness, no matter how undesirable her husband's response... She emerges as a woman that even Agni - who has the power to reduce to ashes everything he touches - dare not touch or harm...
Life of Shankaracharya - The Adventures of a Poet Philosopher
Published in February 2005
Shankaracharya's philosophical outlook can be summed up in one word Advaita, 'Dvaita' meaning duality and the prefix 'A' negating it... The goal of Advaita is to make an individual realize his or her essential (spiritual) identity with the supreme realty Brahman... Shankara was not the founder of the theory of Advaita... What he however did was to bring all the various streams of Indian thought...under the common roof of Advaita... In addition to composing numerous texts and verses delineating the essential principles of non-dualistic Vedic philosophy, a significant contribution of Shankara is his commentary on the principal Upanishad texts and the Bhagavad Gita as also the Brahma sutras... Shankara'a purpose is not to intimidate the reader with abstract technical jargon; but rather provide him/her with spiritual insight…
The Many Forms of Mahakala, Protector of Buddhist Monasteries
Published in January 2005
Each of the three forms of Mahakala has some distinctly different qualities and aspects.... The continuous counting of the rosary is a symbol of perpetual activity, which Mahakala achieves on a cosmic scale.... An elephant-headed entity lying crushed under his legs represents our instinctive, primary animal force and urge... The blazing fire surrounding him demonstrates his powerful energy out to consume all neurotic states of minds.... Mahakala's typical blackness symbolizes his all-embracing, comprehensive nature, because it is the hue into which all other colors merge; it absorbs and dissolves them. Just as all colors disappear in black, so do all names and forms melt into that of Mahakala. Black is also the total absence of color, again signifying the nature of Mahakala as ultimate reality.... He is the transcendent-time (maha-kala), absolute, eternal, measureless, and ever present.
Awakening the Inner Woman - Bhakti and the Doctrine of Love
Published in December 2004
The intense passion of Mirabai, which sought to model itself on the fervent ardor of the gopis of Vrindavana, suggests that the lord can be worshipped very effectively if the devotee imagines himself to be a woman... Chaitanya's mystic-ecstatic form of worship openly encouraged male devotees to imagine themselves in the role of gopis... the female...is the more emotional of the two sexes, and bhakti being a necessarily emotional experience, Chaitanya's 'hyper-sentimentality' found adequate expression in the personality of Radha whose intensity of passion can said to have paralleled Chaitanya's own frenzied devotion to the Lord... The Padma Purana says that when the great lord Rama entered the forest named Dandaka, the virtuous sages residing in its wild surroundings desired to engage in lila with the lord. Hence they were all reborn as gopis in Vrindavana, and through physical passion they found liberation from the ocean of existence... Similar descriptions of divine romanticism are found in the mystical literature of other traditions: the Kabbalah speaks of approaching the Absolute with the divine passion of a lover... Indeed, since between lovers there are no secrets, by approaching divinity as a lover we enter into the mystery of god.
The Iconographic Genesis of Shiva
Published in November 2004
Shiva, the Mahadeva, represents...dissolution or destruction of the cosmos...(among) the functional aspects of God, namely, the creation, preservation and dissolution (of the cosmos)... Brahma and Vishnu have their roots in the Vedas, and not before. Shiva has a pre-Vedic origin, as his worship cult seems to have been in vogue amongst the Indus dwellers, even around 3000 B.C... excavated material includes a number of terracotta seals representing a yogi icon and the phallus type baked clay objects...suggestive of some kind of phallus-worship cult of the non-Aryan settlers of the Indus cities... Shiva's divine perception as well as iconic visualization developed into two directions, one growing out of his serene sublime benevolent Saumyarupa and the other out of his awe-striking Raudra-rupa... The violent jungle god of Vedas and the grim looking horn wearing Yogi of Indus emerges upon the altar of the believing ones, on painter's canvas, in metal casters' mould and in the strokes of hammer and chisel, as the harmless Bholanath, the innocence Lord and the good incarnate, as the supreme auspice, the most formidable of divine powers, the paramount lover and the holiest model of the Vedic family cult...
Exploring Karma - Tales of a Universal Principle
Published in October 2004
The word karma is derived from the Sanskrit root 'kri,' meaning 'to do,' implying that all action is karma. Technically, the term incorporates both an action and its consequence... we...confront a dilemma...namely, the relative impurity and purity of an action... What determines the nature of the karma is the will or intention behind an act... We read in the Bhagavad Gita again and again that we must all work incessantly. There it is also mentioned that all work by nature is composed of good and evil... Good and evil are not constant - they change according to time and circumstance... every act is sacred since we are not the doer but a higher reality is acting through us... Karma yoga is a means for seeking divinity in action and life itself...
Iconographic Perception of Krishna's Image
Published in September 2004
Lord Krishna...is now for centuries the most cherished theme of arts in India... Unlike Lord Vishnu, who he incarnates, Krishna is...an entity beyond time, without end and without beginning... He has been represented in visual arts... but no...form could ever define him... Forms decompose, erode and are subject to transition, Krishna is not... He exists in what he creates, yet is always beyond it. Thus, all are his forms and yet he is beyond them all... This defines Lord Krishna related art vision and the entire creative endeavor, which always fell short of its theme…
The Mystery of Hanuman - Inspiring Tales from Art and Mythology
Published in August 2004
In Hindu symbolism, a monkey signifies the human mind, which is ever restless and never still... Hanuman is symbolic of the perfect mind, and embodies the highest potential it can achieve... Hanuman's name...illustrates his self-effacing character, being made up of 'hanan' (annihilation) and 'man' (mind), thus indicating one who has conquered his ego... Hanuman never threatens the world with his virility unlike say Shiva whose virility often has to be restrained by goddess Kali... He is...a perfect karma yogi since he performs his actions with detachment, acting as an instrument of destiny rather than being impelled by any selfish motive...
Mughal Miniature Painting - An Alternative Source of History
Published in July 2004
The art of painting is often made to face a question: Is it an instrument that calibrates past... whether art is different from history or is only one of its alternative sources...haunt the minds of art critics and as often the conference halls of academic institutions... our mind is always keen to discover in art, whatever its genre, the world that it realizes through its senses or by its intellect and other faculties... Mughal art better reveals the world of Mughal days than do written histories or literary annals... (Indian) miniature art (is) both imaginative and realistic, but it is not imaginative in the sense in which are some of the abstract or symbolic art modes that seek to transform a materially 'existent' into an abstract symbol... The truth of an Indian miniature stands midway, somewhere in between the 'real' and the 'unreal', or imagined, and it is in this dilemma that it discovers its uniqueness...
Conception and Evolution of The Mother Goddess in India
Published in June 2004
The Mother Goddess is India's supreme Divinity... In fury or in frown, she is always the same protective, caring, loving Mother with a benign face and a blessing hand... In her material manifestation, She represents, with absolute motherhood, also the absolute womanhood. She causes life and sustains it, and is also the cause of life, its inspiration and aspiration, and the reason to live... She is the eternal upholder of Dharma and truth, the promoter of happiness and the giver of salvation and prosperity but also of sorrows, grief and pain... As Adi Shakti, She represents Prakriti, which operates in and on all things, the manifest or otherwise, materially present or abstract...
Evolution of the Buddha Image
Published in May 2004
...the first ever image defined by humanity was not a thing chiseled to a likeness, but such likeness was only discovered in it...the image of the Divine, discovered or made, and its worship, were quite in vogue much before Buddha's days...Buddhist themes first make their appearance in...a number of monolithic pillars surmounted with animal capitals aiming at invoking man's reverence for all creatures, which was the prime thrust of Buddhism...the mind of the Buddhist sculptor, which had so far wrestled between the 'image' and the 'non-image', had at last discovered 'one' in the 'other', that is, the motif in man and the man in motif...it is yet a matter of debate whether (the) early...images were sculpted at Mathura or in Gandhara region...Gandhara images of Buddha are more akin to Greek models, whereas Mathura images show a continuity of its own indigenous tradition...During over 2500 years of its emergence the Buddha image has always been growing and evolving and is today the most loved and preferred image for a drawing room, irrespective to whom and to which land it belongs
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I would like you to know how much I enjoy your emailings. Often, the writing reminds me of things I already know but forget to notice day by day as I get caught up in the mundane. Thanks!
Sue
Dear Sir I enjoy reading such stories. Thanks again. Blessings and greetings.
Joop
I found your website while searching for an image of Shiva. When I signed up for your articles, I had no idea how wonderful they would be. Well written, informative, and thoughtful is just the beginning. Thank you so much for putting so much time and effort into what you do. I have love reading them, sharing them, and I look forward to receiving them every month!
Stacie Barbara Flajnik
Your articles are always written so eloquently with Divine Wisdom. Thank you for your work. I look forward to reading it every month. God Bless You. Namaste,
Kimberley Ashley
I really appreciate and want to thank you guys for sending me your articles and information!!!!!
Pilar, Mexico.
Once again, thank you for your wonderful service of sending your monthly "lessons"! I learn so much from them, and they deepen to my practice in so many ways, I cannot express the depth of my gratitude. Your interpretations are always loving and kind, and it is like drinking a nectar of compassion to read them. My only regret is that I am not wealthy and materialistic, so I could contribute to your success in more substantial fashion. Love & Peace
Ana Foscari
I just wanted to send you a quick message saying how much I enjoy reading your background info to each piece of art. Keep up the great work.
Prakash
Namaste! Thank you for your articles which, having travelled around India, I find informative and most interesting. Keep sending!
Claire Wilkinson
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