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Living Like Trees: The Hindu and Buddhist Ideal of Sharing
Published in November 2006
With a guest come all the gods. If a guest is honored, so are they; if he goes away disappointed, they are disappointed too. The Bhagavad Gita calls such an opportunity a direct gateway to heaven. The householder dutifully bowed before the god arrived in the form of the dogs and their master. Buddhism lays special emphasis on placing oneself in the position of others. Dana is not only the act of giving, but the mental state of liberality as well.
The Psychology and Practice of Pleasure: Explorations in the Kama Sutra
Published in October 2006
Brahmin Shvetaketu... decided to unravel before the world an authoritative scripture channelising man's animal instincts into a disciplined practice of pleasure... he undertook to rearrange the text originally presented by Nandi, the bull of Shiva, in a thousand chapters... Vatsyayana, the celebrated author of the Kama Sutra, condensed it further into the thirty-six chapters that exist today... the intention of the Kama Sutra is to link pleasure with virtue, and it is all about not being a slave to sensual desire... The pleasure that arises at the time of the physical senses and the mind and the heart enjoying their natural objects, is Kama... In Dharma, Artha and Kama, the preceding one is better than the succeeding one... Vatsyayana establishes Kama as an independent branch of study, declaring physical desire to be an integral need of the body,... in ethical rhythm with Artha and Dharma.
From Heaven to Household: The Many Tales of Shakti
Published in September 2006
A virgin blooming with fresh youth, the luster of her body was like the rising sun. Three-eyed, her face was endowed with the beauty of ten million cupids (Kamadeva)...Blossoming breasts which surpassed even the buds of a lotus (in softness)...Wishing to pay obeisance to her, the gods then got down from their chariot and approached the goddess. No sooner had they done so than she transformed them all into beautiful, young maidens....A weak man is declared to be without any Shakti, nobody says that he is without Shiva, or without Vishnu. They are all called Shakti-less; no one says that this man is Shiva-less…
Ajanta: A Journey Into the Religio-Aesthetic Kingdom of Buddhist Art
Published in August 2006
Coleridge is not known to have ever seen Ajanta but in his words reverberates the same mystique as one experiences when visiting Ajanta....imagery at times was closer to flesh rather than spirit....Even the figure of the monk Mahajanaka has been modeled much on sensuous lines.Ajanta sculptures reveal a conscious attempt at capturing the grace, sublimity and spirituality....Ajanta sculptures are mostly reliefs. The Mahayana variation of Buddhism promoted polytheism in Buddhism and with it the cult of worshipping Bodhisattvas emerged with an irresistible appeal. Endowed with humanistic qualities and spirit of self sacrifice, Bodhisattvas comprised more popular theme of Ajanta sculptures. As much significant is the presence of the child-eating evil spirited-goddess Hariti with a child in her lap. Most magnificent and glaring aspect of Ajanta is its mural art, which been the fountain-head of the entire painting tradition in India.
The Narrative Essence of Buddhist Art
Published in July 2006
The Buddhist art, which... revolutionized the art scenario of the entire ancient Indian sub-continent, was essentially a narrative art.... In that age with little literacy... oral and visual narration... was the traditional tool of... stimulating a mind to know; and, the Buddhist art seems to have best exploited it... Narration... was thus the prime or perhaps the only mode of communication in the entire ancient world, not India alone...Buddhist art was conceived thus more or less as a visual alternative of its scriptures, and narration was the essence of both...The legend of Buddha's life, in this birth as also in previous births, is the main subject-matter of Buddhist narratives...The events emerging...might belong to more than one story. This Buddhist model of narrative visual art...is the proto-model of India's visual narrative art.
Krishna's Dance with the Female Cowherds - A Joyous, Spiritual Narrative
Published in June 2006
After having returned the clothes of the unclad maidens bathing in the sacred waters of river Yamuna, Krishna congratulated them for their unflinching devotion towards him and promised that he would sport with them during the forthcoming autumn nights...The gopis' escape from the shackles of worldly life was not however without event...Truly, Krishna is the ultimate attraction, much like a magnet draws iron files towards it...whatever emotion is directed towards god, it should be intense and continuous...the gopis puffed up with pride and each regarded herself as special...the gopis forgot their agony of separation (viraha), and on physical contact with him (anga sanga) felt all their desires fulfilled...
Lord Mahavira and His Philosophy
Published in May 2006
Born in an era of social disparity, killing and violence ....Lord Mahavira emerged as a reformist, thinker, law-giver and guide....re-defined sanctity and potentialities of individual self - 'jiva' ...in attaining salvation - 'nirvana', by its own doing...the ultimate aim that he set before all 'jivas' was: 'parasparopagraha jeevanam'...Lord Mahavira was the last of the twenty-four 'Thirthankaras' of the concurrent eon...At about 30 years of age, he renounced the world after duly seeking his parents' permission...For over twelve years... he moved from one place to other, moving, knowing and meditating - all in simultaneity...Gautama with his ten Brahmin disciples was the first to convert to Mahavira's path...Mahavira's philosophy has eight principal cardinals...He also talks of Tri-ratnas - three gems, which are both, the means of the above as also their goal...
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...
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...
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Prakash
A few years ago I purchased a carved necklace fm Tibet with all these symbols and it called to me today to find out what they all mean since I am immersing myself in practical Buddhism, such a noble and radiant way of Life!!
Barbara Lowell
Your monthly articles on philosophy and iconography are some of the best I've been able to find since searching over the last few years. Always very clearly and logically explained in their spiritual significance and deep philosophical upderpinning rather than just superficial and sentimental devotional tracts any New Age shop has. Look forward to them every month and print them off to save.
Gerard, Australia.
YOUR ARTICLES ARE EXCITING, ENLIGHTENING AND EAGERLY AWAITED. I HAVE SAVED THOSE I HAVE RECEIVED IN A SPECIAL BINDER AND REFER TO THEM WHEN NEEDED. THANK YOU MANY TIMES OVER.
Anonymous
Just a short note to say that i really enjoy all the articles i recieve from you in my mail box....absolutly wonderful to learn more about Indian culture, very interesting....dont stop sending them! I also enjoy going to the web page to see whats new....always something beautiful to see and marvol at. Have to compliment the webmaster for keeping the page fresh and exotic! What a beautiful web site! Regards
Michelle
It is already a few months, I have been getting these monthly articles from you. I appreciate them very much and enjoy reading them again and again. Through these articles I am attached to my Indian roots. They are very poetic, nicely written and always have a lot of interesting information. Though, I do not have any talent for writing, but reading I enjoy most. I feel myself very lucky that I am subscribed on your site. I sincerely appreciate your talent and wish you success in your work. Thank you very much.
Pankaj Sharma, Israel
I just wanted to say that I find your scholarly knowledge to be amazing! I am familiar with many of the authors in your bibliographies and am amazed at your extensive readings. I enjoy your articles so much..even tho they are meant to promote sales, that aside, it is nice to read 'religious' articles that are full of the love, goodness and compassion that we should all strive to practice in our every day lives. I always look forward to your artilces. You must be a very learned and wise person.
Carol Cone
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