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Yearly Archives: 2007

The day the gods go on holiday

shrineIn the Indian spiritual tradition, mahasamadhi is the state of leaving one’s body consciously—a willful, self-caused death that is not really a death, but a permanent union with the limitless consciousness realised while inside the body. One can only enter mahasamadhi it is said, if the non-dual state of nirvikalpa samadhi has been attained, a state of consciousness which sees the duality of subject and object, “I” and “you,” body and surrounding world, finally and completely resolved. With spiritual masters said to be fully in control of their own passing, it is at the very least a grand, elaborate coincidence that Sri Chinmoy’s departure from our world concurred with a highly significant spiritual date—the day the gods in Japan go on holiday. October in Japan is known as Kan'na zuki, literally “the month when there are no gods," for on October 11—the beginning of the month according to the traditional Japanese lunar calendar, the eight million kami or gods of the Shinto tradition leave their more than eighty thousand shrines for a 30 day holiday, obeying a heavenly summons to Izumo Taisha—the oldest shrine in the nation. Like the gods of Japan—a country he repeatedly stated his reverence and fondness for—Sri Chinmoy also went on holiday on October 11, only his holiday was somewhat extended, and without a return ticket—a permanent vacation in the sunny climes of the inner worlds. And with eight million gods in the air, it would have been an extremely busy day traveling... * * * Of course in leaving our world, Sri Chinmoy didn’t really go on holiday, and as a spiritual master he didn’t really leave this world—a spiritual master is first and foremost a master of the spirit, and lives on in that realm, which pervades and is the true source of this physical one, eternally. As Sri Chinmoy wrote in his final poem, published on the night of October 10:
My physical death is not the end of my life I am an Eternal journey.
* * *

The Samadhis

What is savikalpa samadhi? Savikalpa samadhi Is The experience Of Purity-sea And Integrity-sky. What is nirvikalpa samadhi? Nirvikalpa samadhi Is The experience Of loftiest Self-transcendence. What is sahaja samadhi? Sahaja samadhi Is Reality's message simplified: Ignorance lost Forever And Immortality won. In the Cosmic Game You discover That you eternally and supremely are What all along, From time immemorial, You have been Helplessly and desperately Aspiring to become. —Sri Chinmoy, The Dance Of Life, Part 15
* * * With more than eighty thousand shrines and eight million kami, or gods, Japan has an awful lot of divine beings to go around admittedly rather a lot of shrines, so it is just as well said deities are presiding over a land famed for its harmony and order—it would not be Japanese to let a little disagreement over living quarters lead to fighting words or, heaven forbid, flailing swords. One does of course assume that these figures are accurate—but then precision and accuracy are very Japanese qualities, and more than likely a team of monks spent decades counting every shrine and associated kami, from A through to Z, cataloguing them all together in a multi-volume work bearing a highly poetic name of exactly seventeen syllables.

The Seeker-Writer, and expressing God in words

Sumangali Morhall of recently wrote a fine play in rhyming verse, The Seeker-Writer, based on a short story of the same name by meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy—“a humorous story with a spiritual lesson behind it” as she describes it. Despite my being a few days late in responding—not to mention several months late in updating what was once a regularly tended web diary—late is better than never in the case of this particular talented author, whose small, divine army of writing, poems and plays are worthy all of further attention and readership—Krishna’s Supreme Love and Music and Religion among them. In Sumangali’s play come masterpiece, one rhyming couplet come brilliantly crafted jewel stood out for me from many:
“God told you to your face your words were all perfection. You became disgusted, but you missed His true Inflection!”
To me, this line says much about the art of writing, the art of poetry, and even reading. Some may claim a writer’s greatness is as readily apparent as the page their words appear upon—as though a book, page or poem is itself a finished product, and while of course they are correct in one sense, such a conception misses the fact that writing is meaningless, even useless if it is not read, understood or appreciated by a second and third party. If it is not appreciated by a reader. And here begins something of a philosophical treatise. Forgive me if I have been doing too much thinking... To me, a writer’s greatness is, just like God himself, mostly hidden from ordinary human sight. Like casting pearls among swine, to partially quote a famous carpenter’s son, the art of great writing is only able to be properly, truly appreciated by those with a trained, refined eye—an eye for correct, true “inflection”—the depth, meaning and intention of the author, the breath behind their written word. Understanding great writing, just like the foolish writer protagonist of The Seeker-Writer—a vain, foolish sycophant who completely misses the truths, true context of the appreciation much sought for his efforts—is a matter of “inflection”—a matter of being able to appreciate what are often ordinary, lifeless garments—words—in the true context and depth which they were written—wear them as they were intended by their author to be worn. Here I am reminded about a point, more personal anecdote about Sri Chinmoy’s poetry and writing. I must, somewhat red-faced, admit that when I first began to practice meditation as a student of Sri Chinmoy, I was overburdened with intellectual knowledge, in the midst as I was of a university degree, and while I hope it is to my credit that I immediately recognised this state of being, in the face of true knowledge, knowledge of the Eternal, Immortal and Infinite, for the weakness and (spiritual) deficiency that it is, and took (long, sometimes arduous) steps to rectify it, I did find the apparent simplicity of Sri Chinmoy’s words—in poetry or in writing—initially hard to fathom. But not any longer. The longer I have been meditating, the wiser I grow (which is just a little I do hope), and the deeper Sri Chinmoy’s words appear; even a single sentence enough now to transport this little mind to a vast place of wisdom and understanding—a place where the mind is truly no longer needed. But Sri Chinmoy’s words haven't changed—rather I have changed. I am reading and re-reading the same books I read when I was a new member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre, some twelve years ago now, only now I am seeing new depths, new “inflections” in them, like an echo or resonance within that I never could have imagined then. Inflection, hidden meaning, hidden depth is what writing and poetry are all about for me. Not obliqueness, willful obscurantism, plain sophistry or outright confusion, but meaning larger, grander, deeper and more beautiful than words themselves. True writing and poetry, ultimately, is about expressing God in words.

ABC News on the passing of Sri Chinmoy

A video and news story from ABC on the passing of Sri Chinmoy on Thursday, 11th October, 2007. Download link
Oct 12, 2007 WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Spiritual guru Sri Chinmoy, a peace activist who inspired his followers to feats of extreme physical endurance, has died at the age of 76 at his home in New York, a statement from his organization said on Friday. Chinmoy, who suffered a heart attack, died on Thursday. Chinmoy was born in India and in 1964 immigrated to New York, working in the Indian Consulate. He later started a meditation center that eventually spread around the world. A statement issued on behalf of Chinmoy's followers said he had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize that was awarded to former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Friday. He was a strong supporter of the United Nations and his charities sent food and medicine around the world. Chinmoy's followers were said to take on a regimen of vegetarianism, humanitarian service and extreme physical challenges as a way to inner peace. He set an example by running ultra-marathons before switching to weightlifting. Acolytes said he was capable of lifting airplanes and had written more than 1,600 books of prose and poetry in his quest for world peace.
Read more: ABC News: Peace activist Sri Chinmoy dead at 76.

Sri Chinmoy Will Shine Forever Still

Sri Chinmoy

A tribute to meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy, who passed from this world on October 11th, 2007, aged 76.

I couldn't sleep on Thursday night. I suppose you could give reason its name—a strange mixture of tiredness, utter wide-eyed awareness, keeping body and mind awake. Some would it insomnia. But oneness is the term I prefer. Half a world away, at the very beginning of the day before, my beloved Guru Sri Chinmoy left the earthy stage. It does not seem strange that I, who likes nothing more than to write, was at the opposite end of the world, already up and with pen in hand. In the early hours of that morning, I was possessed by a burning, shining inspiration to write. It seems now as if I was challenging, with pen alone, the darkness of the night. * * * He had been unable to sleep during his last few days, and for the most part so had I. But, to what would have been his joy, it was not the cruel grasp of pain that kept me from closing eyes. In fact, something completely the opposite. That week, as though new born, I was held within the gentle arms of the most intense, most happy time of my life, spiritual experience after experience raining, drowning upon me, as if waves upon a raw and tender shore. As if the one, true ocean of reality was drawing to and fro, slowly, gently ever-near. The writing of it started immediately, then and there, and will continue on to completion—even if it takes a thousand years. * * * Thursday October 11th, at approximately 7.00am in the morning EST, and the day after my 33rd birthday, my Master passed from this world. Grief, bewilderment, regret aside—for the tears, racking sobs came thick, torrential at first—there were immediate concerns, necessities to attend. I live in a household, modern day ashram of meditation students, and had to wake each and tell them the news; cancel an early morning restaurant shift, for the owner called and, through incomprehensible tears, asked me what to do. “Close, call your staff, go home, wait for more news.” To me at least, what to do was clear enough. I am a brother in a spiritual family. I had a duty to do. But it was the most painful, heart-rending thing that morning, breaking the news to friends—brothers in truth—I the person to tell them the dearest person in their lives, of their Life, had passed away. Far more painful than my own grief, for in one I literally saw something break at the news. Thankfully, there was someone other than myself to take care of the bigger picture, make immediate arrangements and plans, and we were soon on our way to a hastily called meditation. Outside, as though right on cue, the heaven’s opened, and the rain began to pour. The water could not fall any faster, and I could not drive any slower, for the roads, streets, entire land even, were swimming in deepest tears. And yet, two hours later, meditation over and a tender, snow-white happiness beginning to frame grief and despair, darkness passed completely from the sky, and, as it does, always does, the sun began to shine. The sun, like his love in our hearts, continues to do its duty. Inside my, your, our hearts, Sri Chinmoy will shine forever still.
“My physical death is not the end of my life I am an Eternal journey” Sri Chinmoy Kumar Ghose 1931-2007


Daily Blog Tips Blog Writing Contest

With the deadline fast approaching in the Daily Blog Tips Blog Writing Contest, the time has come to submit my own favourites, chosen from the final list of 122 submissions (Disclaimer: I may not have fully read them all). In no particular order I enjoyed reading:

5 Tips to Being Interesting

It might seem obvious, but to stand out from the crowd, be a successful writer and blogger—even a successful person for that matter—you have to be interesting. Pique people’s interest with your words or website and they will definitely come back; bore them and you will never see them again. I've been writing, mostly about myself, for almost a year now—surely the least interesting topic you would think—yet have steadily built readership and traffic, mostly through writing alone. It's simple, self-evident even, but when I write, the interest of my readers is always foremost in mind. In trying to be interesting and relevant to my readership, often writing about things that are anything but mainstream, here are a couple of things I have learnt, some tips to lift your writing above the mundane.

1. Talking about yourself is never interesting

Most of us probably recognise the archetypal bore—the person who only talks about themselves, demands attention but never listens in return. In terms of blogging it might seem like a contradiction, and in the context of my site even hypocritical—is not the very definition of blogging to talk about oneself, an online diary shared with the entire world? Yes, but there is a world of difference between the conversational forms of writing: confession, auto-biography, story-telling, and their paler, water-thin imitations: writing that is all narcissism, self-aggrandisement and self-interest. Even in the form of a diary or autobiography, good writers maintain interest by offering rather than taking, sharing their valuable insight, impressions or emotions—sometime literally spilling blood and tears on the page for the sake of their readers, rather than boring to tears. As an example, you might assume that the life of a restaurant waiter would be anything but interesting, but by sharing the intimate details of his life with others, along with acerbic wit and insight, the writer of Waiter Rant has built a massive readership, landed a book deal and won awards—and is for the most part 100% interesting. Interesting writers don’t just talk about themselves, they share themselves as well.

2. Talk to people, not at them

Are you talking to people, or at them? Are you having a conversation, or instead making a speech? If the difference is not obvious you may have a little to learn, for the art of conversation implies the participation of more than one person. A true conversation is shared communication, listening by both parties. Unlike conversation, a speech is a one way street—in the blogging sense, your readers can either listen or get out of the way. Of course every rule admits an exception—the writer of Violent Acres takes opinion, ranting and unabashed raving to their logical, sometimes illogical extremes—naval gazing with a sharpened seppuku knife if you will, the writing equivalent of “going postal”—but is therefore one of the most interesting, readable blogs around. It's ok to rant and rave, even be offensive and disagreeable if you do it very, very well.

3. Write what people want to read

Kind of obvious this one, but it can imply something of a mind-shift. To be a good writer you need an appreciation of what others might find interesting, whether that be about yourself or a particular topic, as opposed to what you yourself find interesting. Unfortunately, our own and other’s interest are not always the same thing—a successful, interesting writer always has this point foremost in mind, a semi-critical reader of their own work as they are writing it.

4. Cut the chaff, keep the wheat

Less is often more in writing. Particularly online writing, where attention spans are smaller than they ever have been, competition for attention greater than ever before, it is imperative to keep in mind whether every line is necessary to making your point? Does each sentence, each paragraph further your argument or story? Can you complete your sentence with less words, finish a thought in half the...? You can immediately recognise good from bad writing by the focus of the author; a good writer stays on topic, builds steadily and maintains energy and flow. Their every word, sentence and paragraph is well chosen and appropriate. Fast-paced, brief, more concentrated writing is easier and more enjoyable to read, and therefore more interesting.

5. Be selfless

To some extent blogging is fundamentally a selfless act, albeit perhaps unconsciously so. For most who blog there is little reward, attention or fame—hours are spent creating, offering something to the world for little in return. Being selfless is synonymous with self-giving, which, believe it or not, intentionally or otherwise, is almost always interesting. When we offer something that people truly want—good writing, useful advice, helpful information—we automatically become interesting. We all run a mile when we encounter websites that want something from us without giving anything in return—“sign up,” “complete this survey,” “buy this service;” conversely, the most popular, highly trafficked sites on the internet offer something freely, without explicit reward. Ultimately selfish people or websites are never interesting—they demand our attention, interest, energy but give nothing in return.

But I’m already interesting?

So you already think you’re interesting? Witty, original and creative. Are you tempted to play with fire, dance with the devil and go for broke? Submit a suitably interesting catchphrase (my entry: “Putting the Miss in Misanthropic”) to the ongoing Violent Acres Catchphrase Contest and receive a link from a high-traffic, PR5 site. And maybe a little personal abuse...


The final list of entrants in the Tips and Tricks Contest has just been released,  and it includes entries by Sensitivity to Things friends NetWriting, AllAboutRunning and DontBeShy. Hopefully I didn’t miss anyone as it’s a long list.

Respect the ball

Already at work, early morning here in New Zealand and trying to do a spot of writing before the day proper begins, I had half an eye on the World Cup Rugby, a live game being played between Scotland and Romania—I, the world’s most lukewarm rugby fan snatching a few seconds here and there, eyes raised whenever loud cheering or excited commentary crowded past the corner flag of my awareness. What do you suppose then did I suddenly hear?
“I don't think they respect the ball enough. It's got to become your friend, something you cherish and really look after...”
By which I was reminded of something in character parallel, but form and shape entirely different, tangential flight of imagination embarked, as is often my wont. I am not infrequently reminded to respect meditation more, to make it my friend, cherish its practise and really look after the positive fruits it bears. It is too easy to let meditation become just another part of the day, to sandwich it between sleep and waking, but never snack in between. To not give it it’s due—due respect, gratitude and devotion. To not see the bigger picture that meditation is painting every day, one slow brush stoke at a time.
It is a slow and steady process. We are in the process of consciously becoming in the outer world that which we have always been in the inner world. But this process of growth has no end; we can grow eternally. We need never stop. We have sown the seed, and right now we have a tiny plant. If storms of doubt and hurricanes of jealousy come, then naturally the progress can be very slow. But if there is implicit faith and devoted oneness, the plant will very soon grow into a tree. Previously there was only a seedling, but now it has germinated into a tiny but healthy plant. So there is every hope that it will weather all the buffets and blows of human doubt and weakness and grow into a huge tree.

Excerpt from My Meditation-Service At The United Nations For 25 Years by Sri Chinmoy.

Respect the ball?

Of course, a case can be made that some people “respect the ball” a touch too much. In the following (admittedly cool) video, several New Zealand All Blacks discuss what the “haka” means to them (a traditional Maori war-dance performed at the start of each match).