The Aesthete

There’s an aesthetic pleasure

Awaiting us in every circumstance

In every human condition

 

In emptiness, in ambiguity

In the naive and the silly

In the silent and the unsaid

 

Even the repulsive

Is pervaded by a grace

Over and above its own character

 

Perception depends on the perceiver

Wisdom says

The seer and the seen are one

 

Truth by virtue, can belong only to the truthful

And beauty too, can belong

Only to the truly beautiful.

 

The aesthete is not simply

A cultivated man

He is a realized man

 

A man at first

With good sense

And therefore, with good taste.

 

He is beautiful

Because he is unconcerned

About how beauty ought to look.

 

A seeker of the true

He is attentive to every detail

But disinterested in crafting effects.

 

The aesthete can sense

Much before an average man can

The gifts that remain imperceptible to common taste.

 

 

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Work

All work is about facilitating…

Making easy…

Making possible…

Making a difference…

 

I look at myself…

Small…limited…

And confined

Within myself.

 

I wonder…

How do I make easy,

Make possible

My own freedom?

 

By what means will I make a difference to me?

Understanding Change

Change is not only a fact of life, but also a power and privilege bestowed upon intelligent life. We can change according to our will- this we intuitively know. However, what invariably baffles us is our own inadequate understanding of what exactly is that thing called ‘will.’ By what actions is it characterized? Generally, ‘human free will’ is loosely understood as being a conscious, determined and individual effort. If that were so, then why do almost all our individual resolutions to change end up being so short-lived and prone to failure? How often, even our most sincere attempts to ‘reform’ our selves, or others, or our circumstances are met with difficulty, frustration and failure. If we agree that change is a natural fact of life, why then, must our ‘will to change’ be such a challenge?

We can look back into our lives and clearly see that none of us have remained the same- unchanged; neither have we really resisted change. What then about introducing our will to the process of change, complicates it? Perhaps, the problem lies in our poor understanding of both the process of change and our will. Change occurs in our life-that is certain. But what are the mechanics of change? How does it work? It’s important that we know; for when a deep change is required, we hope to be able to distinguish between a superficial reformation and a fundamental transformation.

On careful examination, one can see that change is a process and not a planned event. And what exactly is the action of such a process?Even as we- a group of friends- discussed ‘change’, I noticed that the conversation progressed in a slow, lingering mood. We ‘saw’ our ideas of change; we ‘listened’ to what the others had to say, we ‘watched ‘ our own individual experience of ‘change’; we ‘defended’ some ideas, we ‘adopted’ new ones and we ‘shed’ or ‘let go’ of others.

Whenever we have witnessed our selves changing, we have seen our selves surrendering, trusting and moving with faith. Also, when we have, in our relationships with others been expected to change, to step out of old patterns and comfort zones, we have successfully done so only after we have carefully ‘examined’ and ‘watched’ our own cherished ideas vis-à-vis their point of view. And it is then that we have realized that we cannot truly allow in change by merely posturing a charitable stance towards another. We must first understand and be forgiving and charitable towards our selves. Analyzing another’s motives and reasons is futile if it is not accompanied with a careful analysis of ones self.

Our will i.e. our freedom to change- on close scrutiny- is most weak when handled and provoked by our thought, but most powerful and potent in our subtlest capacity to wait, to watch, to surrender, to trust and to believe. It is by way of these subtle actions that change, in its proper scale and proportion, effortlessly weaves itself into our lives. These, in fact, are nothing but the many aspects of that privilege we call our will- our capacity to bring in true reform by allowing in the actions of transformation.

Not Yet There…

I’ve read about people

Who have swum

The expanse of oceans

And experienced its dark

Murky depths

And emerged victorious

And grateful for being alive.

 

I muse about the aptness

Of its metaphor

For the experiences I’ve had…

 

I’ve plumbed my own depths

Straddled in a nowhere space

Neither here nor there

Neither up nor down

Chiming to an external rhythm

Of day and night

But swimming in a dark expanse within.

 

I still haven’t emerged victorious.

I wonder what I should do

With my aliveness.

Where in Heaven’s Name Is God?

‘I looked for God and found only myself. I looked for myself and found only God.’- Sufi Proverb

That there are forces or a force encompassing our lives is a common feeling, but what its attributes are or what the extent of its powers are vis-à-vis our individual lives, is a matter of opinion. While most of us believe that we have adequate reason or sufficiently strong intuition to believe in the existence of a power called God, we also admit that our understanding of such a power is limited by our own capacity to understand. Our concept of God, His powers and His plans- we muse- is colored by our upbringing; and very often, because of a dormant, unquestioned acceptance, which we mistakenly think to be our faith. It’s no surprise then that our faith is so easily shaken, so easily abandoned for baser reactions that seem to get the job done.

Why is it that something our religions proclaim as the most powerful attribute of humanity-faith-is so easily shaken and frustrated by simple, secular problems in our day-to –day lives? Why is it that we find ourselves doing irrationally disproportionate feats in a bid to appease the Gods, for simple day-to-day challenges and for the fulfillment of small hopes and desires? Why do we claim to have unshakable faith in a God we don’t see, but not enough faith in our own efforts or friends, family, co-workers and other fellow human beings? Why do we seek extra- terrestrial intervention for simple terrestrial problems? Why is it that we lack the perspective to see the simple as the simple and not the fearful, complex monster we make it out to be?

Rabindranath Tagore’s famous elucidation of faith is: ‘Faith is like the bird that sings when the dawn is still dark.’ Why is it that what we refer to as our faith doesn’t transport us beyond the immediate?  If faith is the link that connects a man with his furthest, subtlest intuition- God; that God being a presence we sense, or the many auguries of a higher destiny that seems to await us, or a Silence that seems all- knowing; does one really need to look for the repository of such a faith outside of themselves?

An old Sufi fable tells us of an old woman who lived alone in her hut in a village. The woman seldom ventured out and would occupy herself with her hobby of sewing. One evening, curious neighbours found her outside her hut desperately looking for something. Wondering what the problem was, the neighbours went up to her offering to help look for whatever she was searching. She said, “ I’m looking for my needle. I seemed to have dropped it somewhere and can’t sew without it.” “Where did you drop it or where were you last working,” they asked. “Inside,” she replied.  Perplexed and suspecting her to be a little senile they asked: “Then why are you looking for it outside?” The old lady looked at them with sparkling eyes that reflected a profoundness found in simple wisdom, and asked: “Why is it that when you’ve lost God within you, do you look for Him outside?”

Before we unthinkingly proclaim ourselves to be either theists or atheists, seekers of a Higher Truth or Pragmatists who believe that there’s nothing to be found and life is nothing more than an exercise in survival, let’s set out to examine our beliefs not only empirically, but also through the observation of our own minds. After all, there is no objective reality without a subjective presence; no outside without an inside.  Whatever we have seen, heard, remembered, felt or intuited hasn’t been without the presence of our minds. Unaware of the inside we tend to look for proof and answers only on the outside. We’ve lost the needle within, but look for it outside.

Also, our idea of God and our faith in him arise together. There’s no one without the other. That’s probably because everything the mind observes, it observes in duality- that is, it experiencing that. When we perceive, we always perceive something; when we experience we always experience something. When we sense the working of a faith within us, we’ll also find its God. It is our faith that creates its own God.

Unacquainted with our own spirituality, blind to the power of our faith and unaware of the subtle layers of our existence, we live our lives with a perpetual sense of depreciation. Having severed ourselves from our own metaphysical existence, we live like spiritual pygmies- forever feeling small, miniscule and insignificant. And so, by default, we are enamoured by the grandiosity of Religion and its rituals. We believe that its prescribed prayers hold the key to eternal happiness. But what in essence is prayer, if not the silent expansion of our consciousness. Our thoughts are prayers. Whatever we repeatedly think, in turn becomes a recurring reality for us. Your prayers therefore, will only provide you what your thoughts allow in.

Such is the power of Thought. Such is the power of Prayer. Such is the working of Faith. Such is the working of God.

We’re One

How strange

That love must have rituals

That elaborately and

With excessive pomp and show

Declare on a fixed date

Year after year

The design of our love.

Of course, this works beautifully

When one has to live up to the lie

Of words and sentiments

That were, in the first place,

Exaggerations of plain feelings

That would otherwise go unnoticed

And unheard

In the loud and garish spectacle

Of a theatrical world.

Love is essence, not feeling

It’s not a hope, or an ideal

Neither is it a needy prayer

It’s there in our midst

When we speak through silence

Needing nothing

To decorate our being

Or to celebrate our love

(It’s not an accomplishment)

We’re no longer together

We’re one.

It’s Not a Small Thing

To be given the chance

To learn something

Isn’t a small thing

It means that your heart and mind

Have qualified to receive

The gift of knowledge.

 

They’ve gone through

The treachery

Of phony knowledge

And paid a heavy price

For ignorance…

And survived it!

 

A humbling experience

At some point

Has earned you the merit

Of this moment

The realization that

Knowledge can only be received, not claimed.

 

That moment

When your receptive heart

Is sitting at the feet

Of a knowing preceptor

And listening intently

To words that make perfect sense…

 

That moment is not a small thing.