Monday, December 29, 2008

Bliss - Verses inspired by Thirumandiram

29 December 2008

Senses five draw down the blinds
Unceasing waves of thoughts slow down
The pond still, sounds of the forest pervades the being
Soothing winds calms the inner universe
Stars unfold as the being finds connections and relatedness
Quest leads to the place where six paths meet
Illumination at this junction helps see the treasure within
Knowledge merges with the Knower
Impregnating the Knower with Divine Silence
An act of Grace, this Bliss

Inspired by verses from Thirumandiram

In that
Jnana (Divine Knowledge)
The Six Ends merge;
That Knowledge in the Knower (
Jnani) merges;
When Knowledge in the Knower merges;
Then dawns
Mauna (Divine Silence)
That is Siva-Bliss.

Tantra 8, 2382, Thirumandiram)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thirumandiram - Keys to Consciousness - Being with Shakthi

28 December 2008

Sounds of the enchanted inner-scape is lit by Thirumandiram, a Tamil Scriptural classic. The infinite possibilities of inner transformation and emancipation is what this book is all about. Here are a few words of wisdom from it.

Knowing not your Self
You deemed body as Self;
When in Turiya you entered,
You realized the Self;
Even though you realized Self,
Birth's cycle will leave you not;
Therefore, ascend further upward
And unite in Lord,
Pervasive and Pure.

(Tantra 8, 2279, Thirumandiram)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Art & Peace - Exploring Structure

19 December 2008

Structure is another concept that is becoming more widely used in peace & justice work. In capacity building workshops facilitators often use the "conflict tree" to help people see the connection between belief, structure and manifestations. In other words ideology, institutions and outcomes. Participants are then encouraged to explore how certain beliefs have created structures and mechanisms that consistently delivers expected desired outcomes (until challenged).

In one of the workshops that Che and I co-facilitated we began to think about taking this "conflict tree" idea a bit further. What if we acknowledge that the field, the environment in which decision making happens on type of structures to nourish -is seen as a chess field in which multiple actors strategically work everyday to protect their life, livelihood, interests, profits, accumulation, consumption, and control over the rules of the game.

The field when it is part of the chess board of neo-colonialism or market-fundamentalism for example has already transformed itself into a predatory field. Just as farms becoming sites in which the cycle of production happens using seed, fertilizers, pesticides, and water purchased from the market the arenas in which decisions get taken have come under heavier influence of forces whose general principle is "greed, over-consumption & accumulation trumps over justice, human rights & human dignity." This general principle though morally and ethically wrong has many rewards and compensations. It allows us to be part of a game of high-stakes from exclusive clubs catering to every possible want, and the club rules are clear that it is okay to flaunt. Warnings are often whispered about the need to invest in building bigger walls and gates to keep the victims and agents of change out of sight.

Through a complex process of law-making, law-interpretation, adjudication, arbitration, agreements, schemes and manufactured consent the power elite work on changing rules wherever they go. The broad strokes of the rule is that it ensures that the top 10-20 percent can obtain legitimacy to desire to take and hold control over 60-70 percent of resources, even at the cost of impoverishing, displacing, and denial of fundamental rights to billions of people worldwide.

Apart from excessive and obscene consumption, efforts are taken to change peoples knowledge and understanding of things. People are taught and trained to value certain things, possess certain things, consume certain things. They are taught to remember certain things and forget certain things. While media assaults their senses 24/7 there is much that is also not-told. Their right to know what they consume, to know how much toxins are present in what they consume and how much growth hormones are getting into their system through what they consume - are denied. Such knowledge is not released into the common domain, such knowledge is often privatized and held in secret. It is the cost, the externalization of costs that is often buried deep and very difficult to dig out.

The old owl sitting on the tree seems to ask:

How many have to pay with lifetimes of dispossession, displacement, destitution, hunger, malnutrition, dehydration, loss of habitat and livelihood - so a few can live as kings and queens once did?

How to overcome this deception, this betrayal?

How to build peace when we are sowing greed?

(Art work by Che, from Process & Structure series)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Art & Peace - Perspectives on Process

18 December 2008

The word process can be understood more deeper when we do something with what we know. This doing gives the needed experience for learning, unlearning, reflection, initiative, and a better sense of the micro-level things that needs to be done to bring about macro-level changes.

Che and I feel that process is often compartmentalized, boxed to such a degree that people often miss the big picture and turn themselves into specializing within certain compartments or boxes. Facilitating process aimed at non-violent social change can be a very rewarding and fulfilling experience (frustrations are a big part of it too). And at times it can jail us in a golden cage. It is only consciousness and intent to be free from many chains, that help us to see the bigger picture and act with wisdom.

Imagine how much human intervention has changed the habitat of the tortoise/turtle. It is a slow process: every second, minute, hour and day effluents affect the habitat of many species. Many of the changes are irreversible and many species are affected adversely. The rate at which we are polluting, degrading and destroying land, water, air and atmosphere - is a process in which we are all participants willing, unwilling or ignorant. A crisis of such magnitude requires process clarity on part of all governments and all people.

If humans become indifferent to conducting a slow genocide on all species that in the opinion of "experts" is not economically viable, valuable or profitable or even worse seen as a pest - our children and great grand children will read about our life times as the era when Crimes Against Earth & Diverse Life Forms was done at an industrial/global level. We would be the equivalent of the Nazi sympathizers and supporters who tolerated and allowed the injustices to increase and unfold.

"Let them Be. We are all inter-related. Proclaiming victory from a mountain of skeletons or the void left by extinct species is ugly, shameful and foolish."

A piece of art has the capacity to evoke thought processes - the structure, perspective, colours, strokes, framing, highlights, backdrop, icons, cultural symbols found in Che's work is an amazing feat in balancing, layering with room enough for anarchical impulses that sometimes takes over an artist upon completion of the work. What do we do with what we have created? More recent painting of Che highlights the blood-spill that occurs all around that often goes unnoticed. Che felt that violence has reached a saturation level in our societies. It is so obvious that it requires distraction from reality to not see it, he often remarked.

When i first saw the painting it evoked in me images of how fast i have been running in comparison. It helped me slow down. For long i have held the tortoise/turtle as characterising wisdom, endurance, instinct, adaptability and many other significant qualities. The slowing down also helped ask a more important question of what i was running after, and was it necessary and important enough?

Many months after asking that question the introductory class with Rashid Omar where he had asked all students to introduce themselves using only 7 words, came into my consciousness. Two years after that class session, i feel what those 7 words are for me.

Question, Devotion, Wisdom, Justice, Peace, Love and Harmony

These words carry hope for me in re-inventing and evolving. As i said before, some processes take time, and they become almost invisible, but then as some wise woman from Manipur once said to me,"Necessity is a Mother of Evolution."

(Art work by Che. From Process & Structure series)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Self, Dialogue, Conflict, Mastery

11 December 2008

Passion fuels, lures
Desires and often wrath
Self endures a storm within
Leaving behind a feeling, a question
"What compelled me to be swayed?"
And the learning begins
"Can resistance rather than quiescence be the way forward?"

Sin, when a stranger to the Soul
Endears itself, little by little, through the senses
Taking deeper roots in crevices within
Transgressions of thought, word and action follows next
Heart weeps at this change
The soul-flame lends a listening ear

Winds of mind - restless, strong and unceasing
Disturb and often defile the sacred space
Samurai then awakens within
Contextual clarity, training and practice unfolds
A new sword is born and unsheathed

"Giant trees start as tender shoots,
As thoughts germinate, leading into action, so beware!"
Then it proclaimed, "Under the heavens, let Peace prevail,
Face the sword of Justice or earn Grace."

Yet the mind wanders, distracts itself
"One small transgression, once in a while seems okay," it justifies
"A small step in the wrong direction is just that," replied the Soul

"I am just going with the flow, why single me out?" mind reasoned
"It is of Love, through Love and for Love," the Soul embraced.

And a whole new journey began.

(Art work by Che, from Envisioning Peace)

Monday, December 8, 2008

An Ancient Tamil Poem

9 December 2008

Recent episodes of violence and despair in India moved me to reflect on what i feel, what others feel in these times. Then the question came up, "How did my ancestors feel in such situations?"

I began to re-read a poetry related book by George Hart (he is a Professor of Tamil Studies in Berkeley, California) and found an apt poetry from ancient times in a Tamil kingdom.

A warrior's grief during the monsoon is captured very eloquently in this poem.

The rattling royal drum sounds in the morning
and the King, fierce in his wrath
has begun the business of war.
On soft lowlands jasmine flowers blossom
and the monsoon has begun
with pattering drops from seething clouds.
And I,
every time I think of her
whose hair is thick
have begun sleepless confusion.

(Ainkurunuru 448)

From The Poems of Ancient Tamil by George Hart.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Is this India's 9/11 - some thoughts

2 December 2008

The terror attacks in Mumbai, India has shaken the subcontinent. India's vulnerability to terror attacks is once again made starkly visible. But is this India's 9/11? That is a question being debated currently in academic, political and civil society circles.

Here is my take on the subject. Terrorism is not new to India. People have suffered different types of collective violence including terrorism from many invasions, colonizations (sometimes in active collusion by some local elites). It has its share of terrorism by different groups as well as the state or political parties. We only have to read history and listen to the voices of the victims to know who all have engaged in terrorizing in different times against different people.

Even the Mumbai attacks can be viewed from different angles. There is the attack at the train station, attack on the Taj, Trident hotels and Leopold Cafe, there is the attack on the senior counter-terrorism officers who were investigating the Hindu terror groups. It would be fair to expect professional investigation would be carried out to find out the actors/organizations/agencies behind the different attacks. I am sure high-powered committees will do their job for lobbying for more unified command over intelligence gathering and analysis; securing of all porous borders; setting up of special and more autonomous units to combat with terrorists; and the ever present possibility of carrying out attacks on some training camps within Pakistan.

Some politicians have turned the heat on the angered and vocal civil society and common people who dare to point out the systemic failure and holding responsible political leaders and bureaucrats who refused to act on intelligence provided or did not have sufficient preparations or equipment despite the terror warnings received. Though the armed forces and the marine commandos did their job well given the constraints they faced, same cannot be said about the collective failure on part of the police, internal security arrangements, port operations and resources available for managing crisis situations. The coming weeks and months will open a can of worms that would be very hard for citizens to digest. The unwillingness to pursue some leads to its logical conclusion will definitely hamper the process of uncovering all actors.

Political parties are busy fighting elections and it would take a mammoth effort and great restraint from all parties to not exploit the nations vulnerability to terror attacks to undermine democracy, secularism, checks and balances and consensus based politics that is required in the age of coalition politics. Any attempts to fast-track procedures that actually require consensus among major political parties and civil society will only serve to undermine substantive and procedural democracy. Action, hot-pursuit and the forces required to handle such situations is definitely a priority issue and much rhetoric and some action are expected. As important to discuss is the need to ensure constitutional principles, rights and freedoms. On this regard it would be foolish to attempt a "War on Terror" approach as outlined, authored and prescribed by the USA.

Many in the civil society are hoping that good sense will prevail. Time will tell if India is able to take its own path in handling terrorism. If India is not impacted as much as some of the Western nations in the economic-tsunami unleashed by the casino-capitalists and banksters - it is due to the good sense that prevailed decades ago to put in checks on banks, insurance firms, and regulations over the market forces and safeguarding of employee rights. A similar measured and balanced approach that is based on sound judgement, strategy, precision and professionalism in action and contextual clarity is the need of the hour, more than buying a blue-print of action from elsewhere, especially the USA.

Currently the military-industrial complex is not a major stake-holder in determining strategies in combating terror in India, and one can only hope that it remains that way.