Friday, December 30, 2005

The Folly of a Diamond

My music teacher, "Guruji", told me something quite interesting just yesterday. He said, a diamond implies the greatest level of "agyaan" (Sanskrit for the absence of knowledge).

To illustrate what he meant, he gave me the example of a man who comes to possess a huge diamond. The man immediately takes it away to the safest, darkest location he can think off and shuts it away. He spends time and resources in devising a protective concealment for the stone...a strong safe, alarm systems, a room with an unbreakable door and a lock that cannot be picked...the works. The diamond is then as safely guarded as is humanly possible for him. However, a little feeler of doubt gnaws away at him constantly. When he is away from his precious possession, his thoughts are with it constantly...he wonders, "Did I lock the safe properly?" "Did I turn the combination lock on my way out?" "Did I remember to turn on the alarm system?" etc. etc. Thus, in a short while, it is not the man who possesses the diamond, but the diamond that possesses the man. He hides his precious secret from his friends and his family. He does not take it to get valued because he cannot trust the intentions of any jeweller. All he does is visit the stone, to gloat over its marvellous shine, shape, cut, clarity etc...his visits are made furtively, with him looking frequently over his shoulder each time he makes the trip to worship his wondrous but idle and inactive treasure. When his life comes to an end, the precious jewel sits locked up in its prison, until it is somehow found by some other unfortunate man.

The diamond, despite it's rare and marvellous nature, was of no use to the keeper. It magnified his greed and suspicion and leeched away his time and intellect. Could there have been a greater folly? The diamond served no purpose, did nothing for anyone while it was in his keeping. It's useless nature continued even after his demise. Where did the man's wisdom go, what happened to his invaluable life that could have been spent in a thousand other profitable and fulfilling ways? All of these truly important elements of his existence were reduced to "Shunya", the absolute zero or null and void condition.

So what then, is truly the greatest of all jewels? Which possession can be more valuable the the diamond and yet be kept out in the open, for all to see, without fear of its being stolen. The answer, Guruji smilingly gives, is "Gyaan" (Sanskrit for knowledge). Gyaan is the mightiest of all jewels, a treasure that nobody can steal and a resources that increases with its distribution and use. Knowledge is power; an energy that can be channeled in thousands of different ways, it can elevate the lowliest of beings to a more evolved state and can help the individual ascend in this path to self realization. Knowledge, when disseminated freely raises the consciousness of entire is the only way of ensuring constant progress. It is a seed that must be shared, nurtured and loved.

Today, people talk about stealing knowledge...but that only happens because people want proprietorship over some knowledge that they think they have created and have the right to control. This is folly. New knowledge is a gift from the Divine. It comes in bursts of creativity and intellect. It is given to a few who are chosen as channels for it...the vessels that are meant to take this treasure and spread it far and wide, providing growth and development for many. Unfortunately, some of the vessels are tainted and can either pervert of hoard the knowledge that was given to them. They wish to patent the knowledge in the hope that when the knowledge is used, their names will be remembered and that they will benefit from it. In the process they retard the true use to which the knowledge can be used or else cause others to steal and pervert it. Then there emerge wars that are just aimed at stealing from one another and hoarding, amassing. Such knowledge becomes inert and eventually its potency is destroyed until it becomes like the beautiful, but useless diamond.

Think about it...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Third

I find the mystique of Shiva, the third component of the Hindu trinity of Brahma (lord of creation), Vishnu (lord of preservation) and Mahesh/Shiva (lord of destruction) absolutely fascinating. I see him not as the part of God that brings about the end of the world, but as the part of God that shatters delusion and helps the soul break through the cloak of materialism that shrouds it. I think of Shiva as the silent force that makes the entire Universe vibrate in a cosmic dance...the dance that is embodied in his incarnation as Nataraja (lord of dance and rhythm) and I believe that his energy is invoked to help the consciousness of a devotee ascend to greater levels. This poem is a tribute to this energy and inspired by the awe-inspiring dance of Nataraja, the Tandava.

In the Presence of Maheshwara

Rhythm is in your breath, and its frenzy in your dance,
Dark locks sweep through the cosmos.
The everlasting fire, is but a flame on your finger,
Ignorance and greed are forever lost.

The life-giving elixir falls from your brow,
The deadliest of venoms you drank long ago.
Constellations vie with the moon, to adorn your matted tresses,
The light of your eyes, they can never hope to know.

The Eye has opened, and Illusion flees in terror,
In the swirl of change, you alone remain unvaried… pure,
In the meantime, I fade into nothingness,
Only to find that in you, I am everything and more.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Evolution? HAH!

I attended a lecture given by a biologist a few days ago. She had some interesting things to say about specialization of functions in species, but the most interesting by far was that overspecialization leads to extinction. From what I understood, she was trying to communicate to her audience that whenever a creature's function in nature becomes restricted to only one or two particular actions, nature gives those functions to some other creatures who perform other functions as well and eliminates the overspecialised one. She gave some example, but I can't think of any of them right now...if you think of something relevant then please let me know and I'll edit the post accordingly.

Think it's a cruel way to dispose of an entire set of living beings? It's actually quite a practical, economical approach, that appears to be quite ruthless, but involves a sound allocation of resources. And for those of us who would like to disagree, I maintain that we humans, the most evolved beings, the highest on the food chain, the most intelligent and arrogant of all nature's children do exactly the same thing in our own lives.

Consider this little example: At home I require a TV with several channels, a telephone service and an Internet service, amongst a host of other requirements. I subscribe to the local cable TV supplier for my TV needs, I pay a private telephone service for my telephone usage and I subscribe to an Internet service provider for my net connection. These entities perform exactly their single, specified functions, with the only difference being that my cable TV supplier is a dwarf compared to the big companies that take care of my phone and TV requirement. Recently, my ISP informed me that in a short while it will provide a service by means of which, just a single cable connected from its junction box to my apartment, will supply a telephone service, Internet service and cable TV service and all of this at a very reasonable cost. Basically, this means elimination of paying three different bills at three different times each month, saying bye-bye to lots of annoying wires and holding only one large authority responsible for any problems in all these functions. What it also means is the certain downfall of the little cable TV supplier's business. The telephone company will come up with its own counterattack once the ISP get's cracking on its new will baffle or tempt the consumer with all kinds of annoying informative calls (about 'attractive new schemes') from its call-centres (JUST when he/she is about to take an afternoon nap) and will do its very best to give the ISP a run for its money. The cable TV pygmy will run hither-thither for a short while, trying to be noticed, doing its best to survive, hoping and praying that it's consumers are happy with its work and will look out for it, but in the end it will be crushed underfoot as the ISP and telephone elephants battle it out, casually crushing all minor hindrances as they fight.

Fact of the mater: The overspecialised and less resourceful entity will get eliminated and its function will be absorbed by something more resourceful and multitasking. It does not matter how many other lives depended on the former and how many mouths go hungry when it fails to provide its function...these people will just have to find a way or perish trying. That's the way we humans have started treating ourselves...plain and simple.

Does nature seem so cruel now?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Of Water

NOTE: kindly ignore this article if you are hydrophobic...the graphic content may be severely disturbing.

I find swimming a very meditative and spiritual experience. Over the last couple of years the universe conspired to give the building I live in, it's private swimming pool, and I was just delighted. It's an outdoor pool with beautiful tiles in different shades of blue. I go there as often as I can for some quiet-time in the water.

There's something wonderful about the first few moments when you immerse yourself in cold, cold water. No matter what tension and stress you bring to the pool, there is just no room for it in your mind once you take your steps into the icy pool and let yourself be enveloped by it.

There is something inherently comforting about the embrace of water. Water is feminine, the element of nature without which there would be only dust and a lifeless husk in place of a vibrant planet. I think the human affinity for water begins in the fetal stage, when the infant is nourished and cradled by the fluids of the womb. Perhaps it is this impossible-to-remember state of comfort, that a swimming pool reminds people of.

When I swim, it is just me and the's very seldom that a thought strays into my mind...the sound of the water as it shifts and ripples about me, the filled silence that washes over me when I swim below the surface, the rush of breaking through the surface to take a few precious gulps of's all that matters. There is just no place for worries and anxieties in that place. The entire experience become almost sacred...and certainly very personal.

In case you're reading this, I'd encourage you to look out for these sensations when next you go for a swim. You won't regret it.


Have We Met?

I believe that as we progress through this life, we meet many people who were known to us in previous births. Sometimes the person is someone whom we were deeply attached to and when this happens there is a strange but welcome feeling of connectedness, warmth and affiliation, even if we are meeting for the very first time. This little poem is dedicated to such occasions:

- - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - --- - - - - - - - - - - - -- -

Have we met before?
You feel strangely familiar...

I feel at ease in your
Your smile makes old shadows flicker in my mind...dancing to ancient songs and laughter...
Your voice urges me to remember, even though your words speak of other things.

Why do I feel a bond between us?
You reach out to me like none other can...

When you look at me, I see glimmers in your eyes...older than your human years...
When we find hundreds of little similarities between us, they all seem to fit just so...
And already you seem to know me better than most others.

Have we met before?
You feel strangely familiar...

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Yesterday, to mark my moving into a newly renovated room, I cleared away and discarded a lot of things that I had accumulated over the years. Some of it had deteriorated to such an extent that I no longer even felt good when I saw it...there were some scribbled notes that I had from my school days, loads of coloured crayons and pencils that I no longer needed, pens that had dried up after spending ages in a forgotten case and lots of other things. When I looked at them, I truly felt annoyed at myself for having kept these things for so long...not only had they not been of any use to me for months and months, that had also consumed space that could easily have been given to better, more practical and more useful things. If only I had gone through this cleaning process earlier, I would have been spared the really cumbersome task of going through such piles of useless material all at once. As I type this, I am quite exhausted from the entire process of getting rid of the obsolete and making room for the new...

Somewhere towards the end of this exercise, it suddenly struck me that my unsavoury hoard of useless things was so much like the way in which we humans hold on to the past. I really felt what it is like to suddenly realise how much "emotional baggage" you are carrying (now that you have to set it down). Failed relationships, unresolved quarrels, lost battles, insults, grudges etc. etc. ... these are all the elements of life that we experience almost inevitably. It just that we don't go through the spring-cleaning half as frequently as we could. As I put the junk into little bags headed for the garbage chute, I made a little promise to myself that I will make a conscious and determined effort (starting today) to shed the baggage of the past that I am carrying with me. It's all over and done with...been there, done that...why do I need to haul it along still? Everything has contributed to my learning, my growth...but its ultimately the growth that matters. Carrying around our collections of negativity from the past is really a way of clinging to the past because we feel it has defined us and provides the basis for who we are.

Today, when I cleared out the old junk, I realised that I had been clinging to long after it even stopped mattering to me. I was afraid of what it would be like if I let go...what would happen if I needed it again? The truth is, it felt good to let go...I felt lighter and much more in control. I have memories of most of the things that shaped me, for better or for worse...but now I won't let those recollections retire into the repository of my unconscious from where they will try and control my actions. I relinquish my grip on them...and in doing so I embrace a new life.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Narrative Therapy...I think

As a student of Counselling Psychology, I need to learn about therapies, both well-established and upcoming. Yesterday in an attempt to learn about something new, I attended a 3-hour workshop on narrative therapy. The 'international speaker' was not the most impressive orator that I have met, I'm assuming this was because he was addressing a bunch of Indian psychologists and students for the very first time. Unfamiliarity with a culture can be most disconcerting...

Nevertheless, I was charmed by a few aspects of the therapy (although I have reservations about the range of problems that it can be used to address). The first thing that strikes me as special about this approach is that is attempts to externalise the problem that the person is facing...its not about removing and ignoring the problem; its about giving it a name and making giving it a place that is removed from the core of who the person is (because the person's inner strength and innate good is at the crux of his/her personality and best not overshadowed by the negativity that is generated by having issues/problems to deal with). For example, a person going through narrative therapy would not be described being an alcoholic; instead the quaint language of NT would describe him as having a problem in resisting alcohol or knowing when to stop consuming it. There is a difference...the first statement makes the behaviour a shroud that covers the totality of the person, whereas the latter makes the problem something that is outside the core of individual.

The next impressive thing about NT is that is makes the therapist look for and value the tiniest glimmers of positive actions/thoughts/feelings that the client may speak of in the process of narrating his/her story. It could be something as mundane as helping your mother clean up after dinner or taking your pet out for a walk. Using these little sparks, the therapist goes on the identify and paint a spectrum of more enduring personality traits that the person has but had forgotten or ignored in the face of his/her dominant problem. The result of creating a picture of all that is good in the person is in itself a therapeutic experience and will help the person to overcome the pain of facing the main issue which brought him/her to therapy.

These two elements of NT are fascinating to me, because the cover to of the core principles that I believe make a world of difference to our lives...firstly, there is a core of goodness in everyone, something that lives beyond traumas, atrocities, pettiness and conflicts. It gets hidden by such things, but endures nevertheless, and it is never too late to help a person to reclaim this inner light. Secondly, it is the little things in life...small, seemingly inconsequential things that people do, that make the world go round. Just a simple, artless smile from you could change the way someone feels for the rest of the day (I speak from experience)...try it sometime!

Peace and joy to everyone!