20 March 2005
that passeth understanding," was the way T S Eliot put
it, before Westerners were familiar with the word. "Shanti denotes the
capacity to bear success and failure, joy and misery with perfect
equanimity." says Bhagavan
Baba, but "equanimity" is too
insubstantial a word. For one is only truly at peace when there is no desire
for anything to be different from the way it is right now. Imagine a perfect
physical ease and comfort. Then consider that this condition can persist
even in the presence of physical pain, can indeed transcend pain. Next,
translate this physical ease to the realm of the psyche. One can have the
same kind of ease and comfort with the way the world is, and, perhaps more
remarkably, with one’s own relation to the world, and to individual
final paradox of shanthi is that though it embodies a thorough
acceptance of all that is – and beyond acceptance, a living perception of
the world’s perfection – though there is no impulse to change anything,
nor even a sense that things could be better than they are now; though one
may inhabit a frame in which "better" has no meaning... still, the
state of shanthi is no stasis or inertia. Paradoxically, we are most
effective in transforming and improving our world when our actions are
rooted in a deep inner peace.
19 March 2005
Scientist this week has a cover story on ‘13 Things that Don’t Make
Sense’. These are a collection of anomalies, experimental observations
that cross the predictions of theory in areas we though we had down pat. It’s
a reminder that as vast and sprawling and intimidating as scientific
knowledge has become, there are still basic questions unresolved, and
indications that there are profound and delightful surprises in store for
the coming years.
My favorite among the 13
have to do with the missing mass in the Universe, which seems to have
gravitational pull but nothing else. The current version of the Big Bang
theory works fine as long 95% of the Universe is made of some unknown
substance that is not electrons, neutrons and protons like all the matter we
know. Whatever it is, it’s all around us, waiting to be discovered, but so
far the only way we see any trace of it is via its gravitational pull, and
that doesn’t tell us much.
live on an island surrounded by a sea of ignorance. As our island of
knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance."
-John Archibald Wheeler
18 March 2005
the wave of memory, the storm of desire, the fire of emotion pass through without affecting your equanimity."
What can this mean?
Anger, desire, fear, erotic feelings – these passions seem to be incompatible with
equanimity. What's more, we feel that even if we could somehow
"transcend" our passions and achieve equanimity, why then would we
go on living? Our passions are the substance of our response to the
world, and we relinquish them at peril of ceasing to be.
The resolution of this
paradox derives from the perspective of the witness. I can be deeply
engaged in life, and experience a full spectrum of passionate responses to
my own circumstances and the larger state of the world. But I do not
identify myself with the protagonist of my life. I choose a different
vantage, adopting the stance of the observer. I regard with interest
and compassion all that I see, and especially myself: my triumphs and
travails, my folly, my grandeur. I inhabit a vantage of love.
17 March 2005
"We all know how pearls
are made. When a grain of grit accidentally slips into an oyster’s shell,
the oyster encysts it, secreting more and more of a thick, smooth mucus that
hardens in microscopic layer after layer over the foreign irritation until
it becomes a perfectly smooth round, hard shiny thing of beauty...If the
oyster had hands, there would be no pearl. Because the oyster is forced to
live with the irritation for an extended period of time, the pearl comes to
"Life throws at
us innumerable irritations that can be mobilized for pearl making, including
all the irritating people who come our way. Occasionally we are stuck with a
petty tyrant who makes our life hell. Sometimes these situations, while
miserable at the time, cause us to sharpen, focus, and mobilize our inner
resources in the most surprising ways. We become, then, no longer victims of
circumstance, but able to use circumstance as the vehicle of
"Do not pray for easy lives, pray to be stronger men.
Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, pray for powers equal to your tasks."
16 March 2005
"Doubts of all things
earthly, and intuitions of some things heavenly; this combination makes
neither believer nor infidel, but makes a man who regards them both with
15 March 2005
At dawn departing city walls
beneath two hanging clouds
A thousand Yangtze River miles and back before night falls
Along both banks the cries of monkeys sound without relief
My little boat has crossed the valley through ten thousand peaks
- Li Bai (or Li Po) Tang dynasty, 701-762 AD
Legend has it that LiBai drowned while trying to scoop the moon out of
14 March 2005
"At its core, the
process of thinking depends on our ability to tell a good lie and stick with
it. Metaphors R Us. To think is to force one thing to 'stand for' something
that it is not, to substitute simple, tame, knowable, artificial concepts
for some piece of the complex, wild, ultimately unknowable natural world.
Much of the hard work of thinking has already been done for us by those
anonymous ancestors who originated and shaped the earth’s human languages.
Language is surely one of our most useful tools of thought, giving
conceptual prominence to certain things and processes, while relegating the
unnamed and unnamable to conceptual oblivion.
"Besides naming, other
kinds of lying include reasoning by analogy or metaphor and the creation of
legal, mathematical, personal or social fictions such as money, limited
liability corporations, the square root of minus one, enlightenment, and
private property. Each word is a cultural enterprise, a public attempt to
dissect the wordless world in one particular way. The usefulness of these
verbal concepts should not blind us to the fact that a sudden insight, a
change in fashion, or a new perspective may inspire other equally valid ways of
parsing the world riddle."