Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I have learned so much from God
That I can no longer call myself a Christian,
a Hindu, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jew.
The Truth has shared so much of Itself with me
That I can no longer call myself a man, a woman,
an angel, or even a pure soul.
Love has befriended Hafiz.
It has turned to ash and freed me
Of every concept and image my mind has ever known.
- Hafiz, 1320 c.e to 1389

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mysticism in Dune

New Scientist recently polled its readers for their favourite Science Fiction works. Frank Herbert's classic Dune came in first. It's the best selling SF novel of all time, but it's a little surprising that scientific types chose a book that is so mystical. One could argue that Herbert used a speculative distant future chapter in the history of humanity in order to make a critical analysis of the effects of mystical experience on geopolitics, but, though this may have been part of Herbert's motivation for writing the book, one also gets the sense that he was personally influenced by, and sympathetic to, mysticism.

"Early in his newspaper career, Herbert was introduced to Zen by two Jungian psychologists; ever after, Zen and Jungianism influenced him. Throughout the Dune series and particularly in Dune, Herbert employs concepts and forms borrowed from Zen Buddhism as a further religious influence on his characters; the Fremen are Zensunni adherents, many of his epigraphs are Zen-spirited."

"The future remains uncertain and so it should, for it is the canvas upon which we paint our desires. Thus always the human condition faces a beautifully empty canvas. We possess only this moment in which to dedicate ourselves continuously to the sacred presence which we share and create."
— Frank Herbert, Children of Dune

"What do you despise? By this are you truly known."
— Frank Herbert

Its a well known fact in psychology that the ego projects its own unacknowledged failings onto 'others'.

"The person who experiences greatness must have a feeling for the myth he is in. He must reflect what is projected upon him. And he must have a strong sense of the sardonic. This is what uncouples him from belief in his own pretensions. The sardonic is all that permits him to move within himself. Without this quality, even occasional greatness will destroy a man."-Frank Herbert

"the sleeper must awaken" — Frank Herbert (Dune)

There's another film version of Dune in the pipeline. The plan is to make it more faithful to the book than the David Lynch version. Lynch's film was visually interesting but probably incomprehensible without having read the book.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Blog on Art

We've added a new blog which gathers many of the posts from Ownerless Mind concerned with the Subtle/Spiritual aspect of world art through history. Plus some new stuff. See links.

City of Joylessness

Yesterday I listened to an interview on the National Broadcaster with a doctor who spent many years in Mother Theresa's order. She has written a book that describes why she left the order. She had not been comfortable (I'm not surprised) with the self-torture (wearing barbed belts etc), extreme, cult-like submersion of personality, and the fanatical prohibition of birth control even for women in situations of abject poverty for whom more children would mean intolerable suffering. But the turning point came when she was censured for admitting a critically ill child during the nuns' prayer period. She wrote to headquarters in Calcutta, saying that even Christ healed on the Sabbath, and that this strict rule meant the death of many children. The letter she got back was a dry enforcement of the rule of obedience, and a warning that "the Devil can quote scripture" (This is also a quotation from scripture; why do the people who use it against others never see the irony of this?). She was told that she was proud and conceited for listening to her own conscience. She recalls Mother Theresa saying that any joyfulness one might display was only a cover for the fundamental misery at the core of one's being. Her remark points to the danger of surrendering oneself to any organisation that is not based on the ideal of Self-realisation. Those who experience the Self experience It as Joy.
A friend once told me of his own experience of going as a volunteer with a group of friends to Calcutta to work with the order. Of the dozen or so who went, several have killed themselves, and others are deeply scarred by their experience. It should be said that this is not the case in general with people who work with the poor.

True egolessness means obedience to the universal Self, not to an organisation or hierarchy. Humility does not mean erosion of personality and Self-esteem.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Black Stone

Self, Martin Puryear
Martin Puryear (born 1941) is an African American sculptor. He is considered one of the foremost sculptors of the present day, and the leading African American sculptor. He works in media such as wood, stone, tar, and wire, and his work is a union of minimalism and traditional crafts. The work shown above is called 'Self'. The Washington Times describes it as "a smooth, black monolith, [which] suggests the unknowable truth within a person."

For thousands of years black monoliths have been seen as sacred symbols of the mystery of the Self, from the black Shiva lingam stones of India to the black stone in the Kaaba at Mecca (MukteshwaraShiva).

Shiva Lingam from the Narmada River, India
In the 1968 Kubrick Science Fiction film 2001 A Space Odyssey, an apeman touches a black monolith that has mysteriously appeared in a prehistoric landscape, and this sparks human consciousness. Aeons later, Bowman, an astronaut, comes into contact with another monolith near the planet Jupiter, and receives a state of cosmic rebirth. Before he can reach it however he must overcome Hal, the spaceship's self-conscious computer. Hal represents the ego and the paranoia and fear that comes with it. "I'm afraid" it says just before Bowman finally shuts it down, after it kills the crew it's supposed to be looking after.
Each time a monolith appears it is accompanied by scenes of planetary alignments. The black screen at the beginning and end of the film is the viewer's own close encounter with the monolith of Self.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Net of Indra

Endlessly Repeating Twentieth Century Modernism,
2007, Josiah McElheny, American, born in 1966
You would assume that this image was created using computer graphics, but it's not a virtual reality.

The American artist Josiah McElheny created this installation which comprises an array of hand-blown glass objects which he has coated with silver on the inside so that they become mirrors, each reflecting those around them. Additionally he has housed the array within a box mirrored on all sides (even the pane through which we view the objects is one way glass) to create infinite reflection.
Conceptual art is often too theoretical and ideological, and not enough about the sheer enjoyment of vision; this is not only a very clever concept but very interesting to look at. This visual attractiveness is one of McElheny's stated aims.
It reminds me of the Net of Indra from Buddhist philosophy, a model for an infinite Self comprised of an infinite number of gems in a multidimensional lattice, each reflecting all the others.
McElheny has said that he uses mirrors in his works because he recognises that the act of looking at an art object is also the act of looking at oneself.
The metaphor of Indra's Jeweled Net is attributed to an ancient Buddhist named Tu-Sun (557-640 B.C.E.) who asks us to envision a vast net that:
at each juncture there lies a jewel;
each jewel reflects all the other jewels in this cosmic matrix.
Every jewel represents an individual life form, atom, cell or unit of consciousness.
Each jewel, in turn, is intrinsically and intimately connected to all the others;
thus, a change in one gem is reflected in all the others.
This last aspect of the jeweled net is explored in a question/answer dialog of teacher and student in the Avatamsaka Sutra. In answer to the question: "how can all these jewels be considered one jewel?" it is replied: "If you don't believe that one jewel...is all the jewels...just put a dot on the jewel [in question]. When one jewel is dotted, there are dots on all the jewels...Since there are dots on all the jewels...We know that all the jewels are one jewel"
The moral of Indra's net is that the compassionate and the constructive interventions a person makes or does can produce a ripple effect of beneficial action that will reverberate throughout the universe or until it plays out. By the same token you cannot damage one strand of the web without damaging the others or setting off a cascade effect of destruction.
A good explanation of the Hindu/Buddhist myth of Indra's net can be found in
The Tao of Physics, by Fritjof Capra: "...particles are dynamically composed of one another in a self-consistent way, and in that sense can be said to 'contain' one another. In Mahayana Buddhism, a very similar notion is applied to the whole universe. This cosmic network of interpenetrating things is illustrated in the Avatamsaka Sutra by the metaphor of Indra's net, a vast network of precious gems hanging over the palace of the god Indra." In the words of Sir Charles Eliot:
"In the Heaven of Indra, there is said to be a network of pearls, so arranged that if you look at one you see all the others reflected in it. In the same way each object in the world is not merely itself but involves every other object and in fact IS everything else. In every particle of dust, there are present Buddhas without number."
The similarity of this image to the Hadron Bootstrap is indeed striking. The metaphor of Indra's net may justly be called the first bootstrap model, created by the Eastern sages some 2,500 years before the beginning of particle physics.
Read more about the Net of Indra here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indra

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Market

Paul Stiles is a former Merrill Lynch bond trader and the author of "Is the American Dream Killing You?", a passionate outcry against the ravages that the pace and pressure of the market can wreak upon life and society. In particular, he cites urban sprawl, obesity, and depression as the collateral damage of the American addiction to the helter-skelter rhythms of the stock market. Now living in the Canary Islands, Stiles is part of the American diaspora of those fleeing what they see to be a great cultural implosion caused by over-inflated self image, ruthless competition, and the polarisation of a society divided into predatory sellers and passive buyers. Seven million Americans live outside the US at the moment and much fewer of them than one would think are expats for work related reasons.
Stiles is not attacking 'Capitalism' per se. Capitalism and the Market are two different things. The former is an ideology, the latter an emergent property of human economic activity.
"The Market" is an elusive entity, difficult to define. Stiles compares it to an immaterial "mind" belonging to the physical body of the economy. Like the human mind, the Market does not exist in any physical sense; it is a poor basis for identity and the allocation of 'value' to things.
He argues that the Market has caused many of the major disasters of modern times: in its Great Depression form precipitating fascist reactions that led to WW2, polarising East and West into the Cold War, and by its corrupting influence on traditional cultures, contributing to the reaction of Islamism that brought about 9 11.
One reason people are moving away from areas dominated by the Market is that they are tired of feeling that they're being driven by it. Like the mind, there is no doubt that we need a market, but we should drive it, not let it drive us.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Out of Many, One. Out of One, Many

E Pluribus Unum!!!
Out of Many, One.
And out of a single Self
the richly variegated people
that are America,
the Visshuddhi Chakra of the World.

The motto 'E Pluribus Unum" was chosen by the founding fathers of the United States to mean a single nation formed from the union of various colonies, but it has come to encapsulate the concept of a single nation forged from many cultures and colours. At last the promise of this motto has born fruit.

One of the main qualities of the Visshuddhi, or throat Chakra, is collectivity and inclusion of 'others'. Let's hope, with a new government, the USA will move away from the unilateralism of recent years.

Shri Krishna, the ruler of the Visshuddhi Chakra, is described in the Hindu scriptures as "blue-black". In paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries, He is often depicted as light sky-bluish in complexion, but this may be due to the influence of British rule with it's practice of dividing and conquering India, by highlighting differences in skin colour between north and south.

Below are two black images of Shri Krishna: left - ShriNathji (Nathdwara, Rajasthan), right - Shri Vitthala (Pandharpur, Maharashtra). Note the light blue-complexioned infant Krishna superimposed over the original indigo-complexioned, Self-manifested image type of ShriNathji.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Builder of the House

At dawn, after attaining enlightenment, the Buddha said:

"I have had numerous births.
In vain have I sought the builder of the house.
Oh, the torment of perpetual rebirth!
But I have seen you at last,
O builder of the house.
You no longer build the house.
The rafters are broken;
the old walls are down.
The ancient mountain crumbles;
the mind attains to nirvana;
birth is no more for desire is no more."

Twelve times the earth shook;
the world was like a great flower.
The Gods sang:

"He has come, he who brings light into the world;
he has come, he who protects the world!
Long blinded, the eye of the world has opened,
and the eye of the world is dazzled by the light."

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Owner of the House

The power that has created you, the power that has given you all these three powers: Ida Nadi, Pingala Nadi or Kundalini Shakti, the one which is the desire of all that. We can take a simile just to understand it: the owner of the house... supposing the owner of the house walks into the house with his money and creates everything he wants to do about his house. Now the master goes out, he’s not there, when you see a house, you see the power of all the workmen who have done the job, somebody who has established everything. But you don’t know whose desire it has been. In the same way you have seen your body being created, you even see the mind that you have got, you can see your emotions that are there, of course, you can also see you’re a human being, you can also see you’re much far away from the animals. And if you have some wisdom, you understand also you’re much wiser than anything that is created so far. But the power of desiring, desiring power, or we can say the projecting power, or the one who is the owner of all that, the owning power, He is… And then His power of desire, Maha Kali’s power, is His desire, then manifests everything else. His desire, He manifests, His Maha Kali power, that you see here on the left-hand side, manifested in the human being as Ida Nadi, creates all the rest of the universe and everything later on. But first it’s only the desire. But the one who desires, in us He is placed in our heart, away from all this. And He just desires. We do not know Him, but He knows us. We know one thing, definitely, that He knows us. There is someone who is definitely watching us, as in the Gita, the one who is the Knower of the field. The Knower of the field is that. Once you also become the knower of your field, you are Self-realized. This is Self-realization.
...Till you reach the state of Self-realization you’re not aware of it, you cannot control it, you cannot work it out; it works by itself. That part the doctors call it as autonomous nervous system, and the psychologists as unconscious.
After realization only the whole thing becomes your own, in the sense, you change sides. So far you have been looking at things from there, but this principle of Brahma, It can be in such a mood that It has no duty, It just exists. It has no duty. It is not the duty of an owner of a house to do something about it, it is his whim, if he wants to do it, he’ll do it, otherwise he’ll live like a hermit. He has no duties. I hope you understand the meaning of the owner, because the human laws are funny - whatever, you may be the owner, still you can’t do many things. But if you can think of an absolute owner of the place, absolute owner.
- Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, 1978, England

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Ego and attention

With the ego orientation, with the ego working, the worst thing that has happened to a human being is that his attention is disturbed, is spread out. His attention is not concentrated. The ego orientation has brought about such a disturbed attention, we cannot keep our eyes at one point. Either we look at others, or we want others to look at us. All our attention goes about like this. We cannot look at ourselves, where the attention has to move. And this is the worst thing that ego has done is to spread your attention around.
- Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

This blog has a loose theme: the non-duality of the Self, and the illusory nature of the ego. Therefore the quotations chosen from Shri Mataji's discourses reflect this; however, this topic is only a tiny part of the vast ocean of wisdom she, and other great teachers, have imparted over the centuries.