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This moment of happiness is brought to you by Coke

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“A moment of happiness has the power to bring the world closer together.”

Those marketing geniuses at Coca-Cola have done it again, making us feel all mushy and happy despite our better judgement, with this commercial about a Coke machine bringing everyday Indians and Pakistanis together.

Which reminds me of a quote by Sri Chinmoy that is remarkably similar in sentiment:

One happy moment
Can erase the bitter frustrations
Of decades.
Sri Chinmoy

Well done Coke. Whatever the merits of your product, I can wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment.

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Review: Auspicious Good Fortune by Sumangali Morhall

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Article first published as Book Review: Auspicious Good Fortune: One Woman’s Inspirational Journey from Western Disillusionment to Eastern Spiritual Fulfilment by Sumangali Morhall on Blogcritics.

Auspicious Good Fortune by Sumangali MorhallAuspicious Good Fortune is English writer Sumangali Morhall’s first published work, a novice author and student of an Indian spiritual master writing more than adeptly of her lifelong journey from spiritual novice to adept. Or as such things are put on lush, inviting book covers, “One woman’s inspirational journey from Western disillusionment to Eastern spiritual fulfilment.” For once you really can judge a book by its attractively designed, accurately described cover.

Morhall is from an arguably unique generation in history, a generation which grew up taking the fruits and freedoms of feminism for granted. Coming of age in the late 1980s, she literally had the world at her feet, and like few women before her, was able to study, travel and work in almost any field of her choosing. In the pages of her autobiography, she literally does.

To borrow the mantra of Joseph Campbell, completely unhindered in the ability to follow her personal bliss, Morhall seeks happiness and satisfaction in multiple jobs, countries, relationships and experiences: gaining an art degree, lead singer of a band, teaching English in Thailand, partying in London, scuba diving and nearly marriage in Mexico, shoplifting and retail store manager, business degree from a prestigious university, job in a London fashion house; she tries it all and willingly walks away from it all, including a model-musician boyfriend, to wear a sari and join what is traditionally one of the most patriarchal, male dominated realms — a spiritual community — where by her own compelling account, she undeniably blossoms.

Amongst the near horizonless flotsam and jetsam of our internet age, the sea of world-weariness, cheap cynicism, aimlessly drifting intellectualism and obscure speculation, the sincere, affecting, beautiful words with which Morhall describes her sometimes stumbling, sometimes running search for enlightenment are like a life-raft floating far beyond, and the depth of wisdom on board, pearls from deep beneath.

Auspicious Good Fortune is potentially an instant classic of the world of spiritual literature. Like the writing of Christopher Isherwood, an English author better known as the father of modern gay writing, but also a lifelong member of the Ramakrishna Order, and author of several seminal works on spirituality, Morhall’s book possesses the rare distinction of being the product not just of an authentic devotee and spiritual insider — Morhall a student with a rare close access to the recently belated New York guru Sri Chinmoy — but a genuinely talented writer as well. Also like Isherwood, Auspicious Good Fortune surprises with its candour and willingness to throw back the cloister curtains, the search for inner truth speckled equally with tears of frustration and jewels of bliss.

Heart on sleeve and on page, Morhall writes directly from the heart, with endearing honesty and captivating charm. Hers is the pure, unaffected voice of child, but a child who has meditated for over two decades, and whom possesses piercing insight and depth of both spiritual and worldly experience. Morhall may be a novice author, but in Auspicious Good Fortune she is no novice of the spiritual realm. If Eat, Pray, Love were to become serialised, this would be concluding edition.

A subtly emotive, poetic writer, with a keen eye for the delicate and minute, so well written and metaphorically masterful is Auspicious Good Fortune, it is as if Emily Dickinson herself has entered the realm of biographical prose. By her own admission more adept at poetry than prose, Morhall is at her lyrical and transcendent best when discussing her genuinely inspiring — and at times genuinely miraculous — experiences with Indian meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy, whom on the basis of this heart-felt account, one can’t help but want to know better.

Morhall presents us with a conclusion that echoes the wisdom of ancient sages quoted within her very pages: to find a spiritual master and to follow the life of inner truth is the most auspicious path of all. Auspicious Good Fortune is the highly recommended tale of that search, and furthermore, the tale of what is found.

Read more

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Richard Nixon’s Meaning of Life

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History hasn’t been kind to President Nixon, and were you looking for insight into the meaning of life, his door would not be the first you would open.

Maybe however it should be, for when he gives his version of the oft-ignored truism that money will not buy you happiness, you would be wise to listen. And remember another frequently overlooked fact while you’re doing so — one can’t always judge a book by its cover. Even a book covered by dust, and hiding at the back of a library.

…the unhappiest people in the world are those in the watering places, the international watering places like..uhhh..the south coast of France and Newport and Palm Springs and Palm Beach; going to parties every night, playing golf every afternoon, then bridge. Drinking too much, talking too much, thinking too little. Retired. No purpose.

And so, well I know those who will totally disagree with this and say ‘Gee, boy, if I could just be a millionaire that would be the most wonderful thing; if I could just not have to work everyday, if I could just be out fishing or hunting, or playing golf, or travelling, that would be the most wonderful life in the world’ …they don’t know life, because what makes life mean something is purpose. A goal. The battle. The struggle. Even if you don’t win it…

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Nowhere Else on Earth

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New Zealand sheep

It seems I’ve been away from New Zealand long enough now that I am beginning to experience New Zealanders as the rest of the world does. That is disarmingly open and friendly — even innocent — and not the less charitable qualities I might once have assigned.

My debit card expired, and so I called my Auckland based bank to get a replacement sent to the United States. Barely a minute later I was speaking with “Janine”.

Ooohh, there’s a Jamaica in New York, I didn’t know that… Is it like the other Jamaica?

Sadly no,” I respond to this cheery call centre operator, who sounds not a day over sixteen. “Not at all!

I wonder why it’s called Jamaica then?

A moment of silence follows as Janine ponders the enigma of a Caribbean namesake in the New York borough of Queens, and I ponder whether I am really on the phone with a high powered banker. Randomly but endearingly she then adds,

I do like Jamaican music though!

And that’s New Zealand right there in a single phone conversation. So down to earth you couldn’t be anywhere else on this Earth.

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Hero Rabbit Saves Humans From House Fire

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super rabbit bugs bunny

Proving that man’s best friend may sometimes have a twitching nose and cute button tail, a pet rabbit is being credited with saving its owners from a house fire in southeastern Alaska.

The not at all rascally rabbit woke the owner of both house and pet early in the morning by scratching on her chest, the Ketchikan Fire Department said in a statement. Realising that the house was full of smoke—and not the kind that makes carrots even more delicious—the homeowner woke her daughter and fled.

The fire was brought under control fairly quickly, and while damage to the house was considered moderate—and damage to humans non-existent—the heroic house pet was not so lucky, succumbing to smoke inhalation at the scene according to the fire department.

Source: Reuters

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Walt Whitman: Make no puns

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Make no puns
funny remarks
Double entendres
“witty” remarks
Only that which
is simply earnest
meant, —harmless
to anyone’s feelings
nothing to
excite a

–Walt Whitman instructs himself in an 1855-56 notebook about the Second Edition of Leaves of Grass.

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Tribute to Pranavanta

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Australian Sri Chinmoy Centre member and painter Pranavanta John Montefiore passed away recently. Art critic, university lecturer, illustrator and exhibited seven times, Pranavanta was also an author 30 years in the making—his magnum opus on painting The Making of Paintings published in 2007.

Like spirituality in today’s unashamedly material world, Pranavanta the author remains mostly unappreciated… for now. Although yet to find a publisher, his voluminous self-published work received the highest possible praise from Sydney Morning Herald art critic John McDonald, who said that “If everything on the planet were destroyed, some future race could reconstruct the practice of painting from this volume alone”. One suspects that like the famous painters he wrote about, Pranavanta will be better known by generations yet to come.

The following obituary for Pranavanta was written by Mark Juddery and appeared in the June 16 Sydney Morning Herald:

Profound painter and teacher

For his last 22 years the artist John Montefiore was known to many of his friends as ”Pranavanta”, a name given to him by his meditation teacher, Sri Chinmoy, meaning ”full of life energy”. You didn’t have to be a spiritual giant to know that this was a particularly apt designation. Even as he lay in hospital suffering from cancer, he couldn’t wait to leave and return to his painting.

Such enthusiasm resulted in epic works. His 18-metre-high, multi-panelled Life Series painting took him more than 20 years to complete – and was worth the wait. It won the Sir John Sulman Prize in 1993, awarded by the Art Gallery of NSW, and is now permanently at Macquarie University.

Montefiore was an aficionado, someone who could wax lyrical on many aspects of the world: not just the beauty that he strived to portray in his artwork but also the sweet sounds of music, the aroma of a flower, even the joy of a terrible pun.

When people say ”Words can’t express it”, they obviously never accompanied their words with the enthusiasm of Montefiore. His marathon artworks were best accompanied by his own commentary, as he guided you through the story he was telling with his work. Every dot of paint, its position and shape, had profound significance.

Read more about Pranavanta the artist and seeker:
Profound painter and teacher by Mark Juddery, Sydney Morning Herald, June 16, 2011

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Songs of the Soul Concert, Tokyo

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Photos from the recent Songs of the Soul concert in Tokyo, Japan.

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Wave of Beautiful Humanity

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Article first published as Bullet-Train TV Commercial Lifts Spirits in Japan on Blogcritics.

Initially withdrawn because of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, a television commercial for a new bullet-train line helps a grieving nation dare to smile once more.

mundaneusername: tearing up. Thank you.
koy1: why did i cry when i saw this?
mundaneusername: Because it shows you what we can be like.
ioduae: As silly as it is, it makes me feel a little better about humanity right now.
Comments from

When Japan Rail filmed a commercial for their new Kyushu Skinkansen—a bullet train linking the southern-most island of Japan for the first time—all the marketing savvy in the world could not have predicted that it would first air the very day after the greatest earthquake and tsunami in Japanese history.

With the entire nation reeling in disbelief, and out of sympathy for the victims, the bubbly, rainbow-filled 180-seconds-of-celebration was immediately pulled from the air. There can be nobody in the world who by now does not know why.

The earthquake and resulting tsunami left an unimaginably devastating toll: 15,057 people dead, 5,282 injured, 9,121 missing, and its force was enough to move not only the island of Honshu 2.4 metres, but the axis of the entire planet. With the eventual cost estimated to exceed $300 billion, it will be the most expensive natural disaster on record.

But what price to put on happiness?

After a month of near endless, unbearable news, not the least of which was the full-blown nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan Rail choose to quietly return its Southern Line commercial to air. Beyond all expectation, it became an immediate, nationwide phenomenon. Viewers all across Japan literally shed tears of joy at the sight of an island-long, 15,000-person human-wave, and the advertisement quickly achieved something priceless—it made a grieving nation happy.

With possibly the catchiest, Björk-esque J-Pop soundtrack ever by Japanese-Swedish artist Maia Hirasawa, a rainbow-clothed cast of thousands is shown staging spontaneous, unscripted acts of joy as the rainbow-painted train passes with film-crew on board. Far from being inappropriate, the unabashedly happy commercial proved to be unerringly appropriate, uplifting spirits and warming hearts the length of Japan.

Wrote one grateful viewer from Fukushima itself, “I heard this commercial has been pulled off air after the earthquake. They shouldn’t have! It’s good to see so many smiling people, and the united power of a great country like Japan working together for a common purpose. This is a huge encouragement to people working for the reconstruction. Thank you!”

That day,
Thank you for your waving,
Thank you for your smiles,
Thank you for your cooperation.
Kyushu-Shinkansen starts now.
In Kyushu, we are full of new power.
From Kyushu, we should deliver happiness to all over Japan.
With you all, Kyushu-Shinkansen starts now.
Narrator, Japan Rail Kyushu Skinkansen Commercial

Spoken at the end of the commercial by a narrator, seldom have truer words been uttered in an advertisement, for with its island-crossing human-wave of rainbow-coloured joy, Japan Rail indeed did deliver happiness all over Japan.

Related Elsewhere

Kyushu Shinkansen commercial lifts Japan spirits
Kyushu Shinkansen by Japan Probe

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Just a Bubble…

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Morning light reflected in a soap bubble over the fjord by Odin Standal

Just a bubble. Floating out of a Norwegian fjord with the sunlight reflecting in it.

Nothing unusual there… if your definition of “usual” denotates the otherworldly as commonplace. One half expects to see trolls and fairies dancing in the background, or perhaps the reflection of God—probably with a rather self-satisfied smile on His face.

The photographer, Odin Standal, clearly playing down what one suspects are strong powers of sorcery, matter-of-factly describes capturing an image that might just win the internets thus:

We went out early one morning and tried to make giant soap bubbles. The sun was rising above the mountain behind us and I managed to capture the sunrise in the reflection of a bubble floating out the fjord.

You can see more photos by Odin Standal on his Flickr page.

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