Saraswati: Hindu Goddess of Aesthetics and Protector of the Universe

11 03 2017

Source: Saraswati: Hindu Goddess of Aesthetics and Protector of the Universe





Life is Tough

9 01 2017

trigger-warning





THE YELLOW CROSS by René Weis

20 07 2014

The Yellow CrossThe Cathars flourished in the south of France (and in Corsica and the north of Italy) in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. They were a Christian sect, but they were not Roman Catholics. They did not have a heirarchy of priests, bishops and cardinals: their equivalent of the Catholic priest was the Goodman or Perfect. Also (like the later Quakers) they had no sacraments as such, though they did practise the ‘consolamentum’, a ‘laying on of hands’ when a man or woman was ordained a Perfect or was approaching death.

They had little time for the Old Testament: their Scriptures were the four Gospels (they especially revered the Fourth Gospel) and the letters of St Paul. They were, to some extent at least, dualists, distinguishing between this world, the world of the children of darkness, and the Kingdom of God, the world of the children of light. They identified ‘the Prince of this World’ with the Pope of Rome. They seem to have believed in reincarnation, and were in theory against all forms of killing (including war and judicial execution): the Perfects at least were strictly vegetarian, and wandered the countryside in pairs, preaching their gospel.

The ordinary people had only to compare this with the rich, corrupt Roman Church to decide which they preferred.

During the twelfth century, the Cathar Church grew exponentially. Many of the noble families of the Midi (Languedoc) became converts. A clash was inevitable.

In 1209, Pope Innocent III launched the so-called Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars. Languedoc was not at that time officially part of the Kingdom of France; so the Crusade had the enthusiastic support of the King of France, intent on enlarging his kingdom, and of the French nobles from the north, greedy for land. Slowly the Cathars were driven back to their final stronghold, the hilltop fortress of Montségur. Here, after a long seige, they surrendered. Hundreds were burnt.

It was over. But there were survivors in remote villages and (leading a double life) in towns.

This book is about the campaign against the children and grandchildren of those survivors which took place in the closing years of the thirteenth century and the early years of the fourteenth.

It is immensely detailed because their chief persecutors, the Inquisitors Geoffroy d’Ablis and Bernard Gui (yes, him, the one in The Name of the Rose) and Bishop Jacques Fournier (later Pope Benedict XII), kept records of every word given in testimony during the long trials, and these records have been preserved.

It is really quite fascinating. Many of the people lived in mountain villages and knew their way back and forth across the high passes of the Pyrenees – they took their sheep across to Spain for the winter and brought them back in spring (the transhumance) – and we see them eventually set up home in Catalonia when life in France becomes impossible. But even there – thanks to the presence of a traitor, an undercover agent of Fournier’s – the long arm of the Church reaches out and eventually finds most (but not all) of them, including “the last Perfect”, Guillaume Belibaste, who was burnt at the stake by the Archbishop of Narbonne in 1321 .

History at its very best.

And the “yellow star” of the title? Cathars that the Inquisitors considered unimportant were released after questioning or after a term in prison; they were normally ordered to wear a yellow cross on the back and front of their clothes, just as Jews had to wear a yellow star.





PAST LIVES, PRESENT DREAMS by Denise Linn

28 03 2014

Past Lives Present Dreams coverDenise Linn was one of the first to popularise the whole modern (and I suppose by that I mean Western) approach to reincarnation: learning how to recall one’s past lives and perhaps also undergoing past-life therapy either by oneself or with the help of a professional past-life therapist. She is a writer and lecturer to whom many (if not all) more recent writers on this topic are indebted.

This does not mean that I, or any other student of reincarnation, is going to agree with everything she says. Personally, I take issue with her on several points.

Let’s start though, as she does, with her being knocked off her motorbike by a man in a car who then got out of his car, aimed a gun at her, and shot her. Miraculously, she survived. But the Near Death Experience she describes in detail changed her life, and led directly to her subsequent studies with teachers and gurus as diverse as Zen Buddhist monks, a Hawaian shaman, a Japanese Grand Master of Reiki, and a wise old Native American named Dancing Feather.

The best part of the book is perhaps the chapter on How to Recall a Past Life, which includes a section of Past Life Clues under eighteen different heads ranging from Childhood Games to Food Preferences to Books and Movies, and of course including Déjà Vu Experiences, Personality Traits, Fears and Phobias, and Dreams (as in the title). (If it had been me writing, I would have at least mentioned aptitude for particular foreign languages, which I consider one of the most significant clues.) In the same chapter there is a section on Visualization Technique with a whole series of “different methods that can help you make a successful transition”. Of these, I particularly like the “time tunnel”, the “river of time” and the ‘room of doors”; the method she calls the “mists of time” was new to me as she sets it out but I have tried it and it works – rather more abruptly and completely than the others, so it should be approached with caution (don’t do it alone first time!). This is followed by an actual script you can either record and play back or get someone to read to you while you set about making the transition.

All this is fine, and as I say, indispensable reading even if much of it has been copied and repeated by other authors.

Where I have trouble is with Denise Linn’s concept of changing the past, a form of past-life therapy she seems to particularly favour. Something that happened in a past life is having a traumatic effect on your current life? Then change it. You weren’t drowned, you survived – you didn’t have an abusive step-father, you had a very kind and loving one – and so on. “I believe that you can actually change the past,” she says, but continues “if this is too much for you to accept, then imagine that you are changing the images that are stored in your brain …”

And then there is the problem of Future Lives. Predestination, and its corollary, possible foreknowledge of the future, is a subject on which the great philosophers of the past have disagreed and modern philosophers still do disagree. I obviously cannot begin to go into it here. I would just like to quote one more line from this book and then leave you to read the whole thing for yourself and make up your own mind.

“The future,” she says, “is as malleable as the past.” Surely it should be much more so? No one has any trouble with the concept of planning the future, it is the concept of planning the past which is difficult to grasp – or to swallow.





DIWALI

27 10 2011

Princess Celebrating Diwali

I know! I’m a day late! But I didn’t get a chance to … anyway you can find a great article on Diwali – my favourite Indian  Feast Day – HERE





Mahadeviyakka

4 10 2010

SPEAKING OF SIVA is a book of vacanas, religious lyrics written in Kanada free verse by medieval Virasaivas. As the translator, A.K.Ramanujan, says, “They all speak of Siva and speak to Siva: hence the title.”

Kanada is a Dravidian language spoken today by about twenty million people in the South Indian state of Mysore. The vacana poetry, written between the 10th and 12th, centuries represented a breaking away from the rigidity of classical Sanscrit tradition. It is spontaneous free verse written by ordinary men or women – yes, women – of various castes, some even outcaste, some illiterate.

Their leader was Basavanna, whose poems exemplify both the protesting (“protestant”) stance of the movement and its bhakti devotion to one god, in this case Siva. A perfect example, perfectly translated, is:

The rich
will make temples for Siva.
What shall I,
a poor man,
do?

My legs are pillars,
the body the shrine,
the head a cupola
of gold.

Listen, O lord of the meeting rivers,
things standing shall fall,
but the moving ever shall stay.

The second poet represented in this collection is Dasimayya. Whereas Basavanna always addresses Siva “O lord of the meeting rivers”, Dasimayya calls him “Ramanatha”. When he says that to the true Virasaiva

his front yard
is the true Benares,
O Ramanatha

we hear again the voice of the best of the Old Testament prophets, the truly spiritual man.

But for me the star of the movement, and of this collection, is Mahadeviyakka (you see the address of this website? – and that is why I have made this post sticky). She was initiated into the worship of Siva at the age of ten and from then on considered herself his bride; however, she was a very beautiful girl and men clamoured for her hand in marriage. When the king spotted her, her fate was sealed, and she became one of his wives. Eventually, though, she ran away from the palace (probably to the King’s great relief!) throwing off, according to legend, not just marriage but all the conventions (including her clothes) and spent the rest of her life as an itinerant poet and ascetic.

You can confiscate
money in hand;
can you confiscate
the body’s glory?

Or peel away every strip
you wear,
but can you peel
the Nothing, the Nakedness
that covers and veils?

To the shameless girl
wearing the White Jasmine Lord’s
light of morning,
you fool, where’s the need for cover and jewel?

Or here is another favourite of mine by Mahadeviyakka:

Who cares
who strips a tree of leaf
once the fruit is plucked?

Who cares
who lies with the woman
you have left?

Who cares
who ploughs the land
you have abandoned?

After this body has known my lord
who cares if it feeds
a dog
or soaks up water?

You can find more perfect translations of her poems and those other great Virasaiva poets in this book by A. K. Ramanujan (available from The Book Depository, my favourite on-line bookstore).