Friday, June 29, 2007
Morphing into a Travelogue
I am back to blogosphere after another long hiatus. This time my blog is morphing into a travelogue. Over the last few months, we visited quite a few states and this is my last chance to scrape and present what is left of my observations before they altogether merge into the doomed oblivion that my memory is.
Portland Oregon, Chicago Illinois, SFO California, Kansas City Missouri, Las Vegas Nevada. Spiritedly we visited these states - some leisurely and some pretty hastily.
We sojourned for two months at Portland. Wet, old and green is how I would describe the place. We visited the Multnomah Falls, the Hindu temple at Tigard, the Downtown Chinese Gardens, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) and the coastal city of Astoria. I liked the visit to Astoria the best. As you all probably know, it rains incessantly most of the year in Oregon and the landscapes are green and lush all around. There was so much moisture in the air that surface moss is a problem there. On the day that we visited Astoria, it poured (no, not purred!) cats and dogs (so cliché, I know!). We drove across the Columbia River on the 4 mile long bridge between Astoria and Megler, Washington. With the misty rain hitting our windshields and water all around and below us, I must say it was a pretty spooky experience.
| ||We also climbed the 164 spiraling steps to the top of the Astoria Column, a monument that celebrates the history of the city. So that sums up our taste of the Oregon coast. Next to that, the OMSI was a pleasant experience, where we watched a couple of Omni max movies and planetarium shows. The next day, we actually made a second visit to the museum – no! that still does not make me a nerd. It just means that the rain kept us from adventurous outdoorsy activities. Just kidding, the museum was a lot of fun too. The Multnomah falls and the hike around the place was enjoyable too. The Hindu temple at Tigard was a community temple complete with Mother Velankanni and the revered Buddha.|
How does Portland fare against Phoenix? Well, the DVD collection in the Indian stores at Portland was better updated than Phoenix. And Portland was good to my skin, Arizona will never be! But when I go rain versus heat, heat wins!
My next camp was Kansas City. I did not get around visiting places in Kansas but the farm feel was pretty inviting and since the visit was to receive the darshan of Sri Sri, the trip turned out to be a great one! We are pending another trip to Kansas and this time we will visit the Balaji temple at St.Louis.
|Chicago - the city of shivering chills. We were there in April, but we were still subject to the chilly winds that the city is quite characteristic of. Withstanding the biting chill (pardon my exaggeration here, but we are from the desert!), we walked the Magnificent mile, viewed the city from atop the John Hancock tower, visited the Ghirardelli and Hershey stores, lazed at the Millennium park, admired the Chicago skyline by the night, browsed the shops in Navy Pier, witnessed the artistic stained glass museum, and dined at the Pizzeria Uno, the birthplace of deep dish pizza. We also visited Devon Street, the Chicago version of the NJ Patel Street and dined in Indian restaurants at both Devon and downtown Chicago. We watched Namastey London at the local theater with friends. We stayed at the Hyatt and got a pretty good feel of Chicago Downtown. The best part of the trip though was the biking around the lakefront all the way from Millennium Park and back. Chicago vs. Phoenix? Heat wins over chill for me - any day!|
|Our visit to San Francisco was a fleeting whisk. We were back even before we realized it. But it turned out to be a good one. The highlight of the trip was the visit to the Livermore Shiva-Vishnu temple. Authentically South Indian! We have decided to make day trips to SFO to just visit this temple and be back! We also waded through the California traffic to ride on the Golden Gate bridge and drive around the Pier. We never got around to figuring where the Crookedest Street was, we kept going around the place in circles and missing it every single time, until eventually we decided to give up! Saved it for another trip, I guess. SFO against Phoenix. Now, that’s not even a fair comparison. Well, okay, I cannot side with Phoenix this time. Other than the crazy traffic and the high cost of living, I do not have any complaints about the place. Pleasant weather, the beautiful temples, the tasty Indian food and all the latest Tamil movies - guess that is all that I need. SFO wins over PHX :-( |
|Vegas - technically what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, definitely does not go on a blog! But I will make an exception here. We visited Vegas with my brothers and parents - now you know why I made the exception. It was a bright and cheerful trip to Las Vegas, aptly reflecting the spirit and energy of the city. The fountains and gardens at the Bellagio, the Volcano outside The Mirage, the show outside Treasure that we never got to see, the New York casino, the towering Eiffel tower, the walk down LV Blvd – we had fun everywhere. We had the amazing view of the city from atop the Stratosphere – we did not take those insane rides, no we did not! We loved Venetian the best – we shopped, dined and took the Gondola ride. We also visited the Star Trek convention center and went on the two 4D attractions - the Klingon Encounter and Borg Invasion - they were awesome. I should say that they were the best virtual reality rides that I have even been on. We also had a quick snack at the Quark’s Bar. I should confess here that I am not a Trekkie, but I still had a good time. Lag Vegas, fun to visit. Phoenix, best place to live in!|
Now we are back to sweet home and planning our next trip to...!
Posted by Bharani - 03:35 pm -
Thursday, February 22, 2007
It is better to do some things without knowing why it is being done. You see, then there is no expectation about the fruit of that action. Well, if not always, atleast most of the times. This thought crosses my mind whenever I try to reason out the science or logic behind a tradition or religious ritual. While it is good to know why we follow some of these traditions, it is also good at times to 'blindly' follow what elders say. They have tried it and nothing ill befell them after all.
When we know what comes out of an action, the attention shifts from the action to the result of the action. Dissecting the action to discern the reason behind it almost kills the spirit of it.
I am sure many of you will not agree with me on this. Superstitions are something we all want to rid our mind and lives of. But when we come across religious practices that we cannot comprehend with our mere intellect, shouldn't we give the benefit of doubt to our ancestors ? Just because our finite mind is unable to find a logical explanation, it doesn't mean one doesn't exist, right ?
I am definitely not talking about blind beliefs that have sprung up in the last few centuries. I am talking about practices that have come down from Vedic times. While it is important that we discriminate between the sensible and unsensible, we also need to ensure that we do not miss out on things which are in fact good to us, but have been lost because of the mind's endless need to reason.
Posted by Bharani - 02:52 pm -
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
As I take on different roles in life and encounter different situations, what keep flashing most in my mind are the proverbs that my father and grandfather used to quote, either casually or during the process of 'instilling discipline' in us.
These old sayings, be it from the Thirukural or something the grandmothers of yesteryears coined, seem to educate me now and most importantly, they remind me gently that I am not the first one to face something like this. People have in the past and thats how they came up with proverbs in the first place!
The other thing is how these proverbs come to me at the right time, just when I need them. When my parents used to quote them, we were just kids - either we never understood some of them, or whatever we understood, we never took them seriously.
But now I do! I guess the cycle will be complete when we try to instill the next generation with the same stuff despite similar resistance :-)
Posted by Bharani - 12:49 pm -
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Last week, we wound up watching a whole lot of movies. Here is a super quick review of the movies -
Ghosla ka khosla - decent
Corporate - pretty good
Monster house - fun
Devil wears prada - okay
My super ex-girlfriend - pathetic
E - horrible
Umrao Jaan - boring
Varalaaru - dont watch it
Other than these, we watch 'Nenjinile' on sun tv - hopelessly hopeless. And also 'Comfort and Joy' on Lifetime channel - it had a funny start to it, but we could not figure out the end at all.
Posted by Bharani - 02:30 pm -
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Enlightenment and Happiness..
"Enlightenment is a rare combination of innocence and intelligence, having words for expression and, at the same time, being very silent. In that state, the mind is fully in the present moment. Whatever is necessary is revealed to you in such a natural and spontaneous way, you just sit and the song of the nature flows through you".
-- Sri Sri Ravishankar
Happiness as a Practice
Being happy is a practice. Being unconditionally happy is a practice - "Come what may, today I'm going to smile. Anyway, everything is going to die! Everything is going to vanish and disappear - so what! Who cares! Let me at least be happy, smile this moment, enjoy my very breath."
-- Sri Sri Ravishankar
Posted by Bharani - 03:26 pm -
Thursday, December 14, 2006
As a child, I grew up in an atmosphere of South Indian Carnatic music. I thought it was the best music form ever. The 'krithis' (songs) had deep spiritual connotations to them (Nadopasana). They were composed by perfected composers and they seemed to wash out all fears and doubts from the mind. It was definitely a 'pranayama' (breathing exercise) when those songs were sung in their correct 'Swara Sthaana' (notes), and it was particularly surreal when those Sanskrit syllables vibrated in the physical and subtle layers of our being. When the teacher would explain the meaning of a krithi, it would usher in more bhakthi and it did make music an positively emotional and religious experience. And as a child, I would feel cheerful and fresh after a 'paatu' (music) class. It does bring in a discipline in young children, who otherwise are so distracted.
I still have the same reverence towards the great composers, the same awe at the incredibly structured form of the music and the same calm and peace when I listen to those auspicious notes. But, I no longer seem to think it is the only best form of music. Last week, I was listening to Smooth Jazz on local radio. And suddenly I felt so light and lifted. The deep strains of the saxophone and the passion with which it was being played seems to strike a chord deep within me. I realised it is not in the music, it is in the musician. It is the passion and devotion that the musician lends to the music, breathing it out from his soul to the soul of the listener. And when the musician brings out the notes from the very core of his existence, they are 'perfect' notes, the most soulful notes and such a rendition reaches the listener at a different level. The music made by Carnatic composers is still so resonatingly divine because of the perfected state that they were in when they composed these eternal pieces.
It is the same 7 notes that are used in all forms of music. The way they are put together makes it the form of music that it becomes associated with. And the passion with which it is rendered makes it the perfection that it turns out to be. It took me so long to come to this. Well, isn't life a continuous learning process ?
Posted by Bharani - 02:23 pm -
Monday, October 30, 2006
Which one is the right thing to do ?
Is relaying one's desires to God through prayers the right thing to do ? Or is taking in everything that comes by one's way in life the right thing to do ?
I think both these ways are right. When you take every simple thing to the Divine and seek God's help in obtaining it, it is called Surrender. And when you take in everything that comes your way without wanting to 'ask' God for anything in particular, it is called Acceptance.
Truly, Truth is spherical. There are just innumerable dimensions to just about everything in this creation. All I can do, as always, is 'wonder'!
Posted by Bharani - 05:35 pm -
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Silent Music and Celebrative Dance
Silent Music and Celebrative Dance Pure, divine,
toucheth the chord
of inner meaning
even windy chimes,
bestir in it
a celebrative being
Oh God! I revel in
all that You make,
Yet, it is in the harmony
That my soul doth wake.
The intent of music is to lead us to silence. Melodious, contemplative music should take us to the depths of silence within us. The cause is sound, the effect: tranquil silence.
Many times, when we are at a temple - amidst the clatter of cymbals, percussions, bugles and the humdrum of a frenzy crowd, we feel the calm peace within. It is almost like the 'noise' outside forces us towards the quiet inside.
While listening to music that resonates pleasantly with the mind, the mind is progressively mellowed down and ultimately calmed to a state of 'no-mind'. We just let the musical energy take over us. It finally overrides the mind and touches a part of us that is beyond the mind. It is only then that the music actually ‘reaches’ us.
There are times when a mellifluous classical concert brings out involuntary tears to our eyes. Those are moments when the music actually touches us, moments when the soul understands the universal language of music emanating from the depths of another soul. Every note of the composition seems to reach us distinctly. Those are moments when we merge with the vast expanse of space within and feel an inexplicable connection with the outer cosmic space, moments when we feel light and heavy at the same time, cheerful and sober at the same time, open and judgmental, all at once. It almost feels like we have conquered the mirage of duality that governs the entire creation. Most importantly, those are moments when we feel that we have glimpsed ‘something’ within us, and that ‘something’ was nothing close to what we thought we were made of.
Music inspires, music invigorates, and music heals. But the deepest spiritual experience is the blissful silence that the self feels amidst those harmonious waves. And in that silence, the soul rejoices, dances and celebrates.
Posted by Bharani - 03:35 pm -
Na Guror Adhikam Thathwam Na Guror Adhikam Thapaha |
Thathwa gnyanaath Param Naasthi Thasmai Sri Gurave namaha ||
There is no penance greater than the Guru. There is no essence beyond him.
Who is a Guru? Do we need a Guru? How does one identify his or her Guru? What is this relationship all about? What is the final destination?
Do I need a Guru? Once this question arises in a person’s mind, it signals the need for a Guru. Because, when we have questions for which we desire earnest answers, the person whom we seek and derive the answers from, becomes our Guru. The Sanskrit word “GuRu” has two syllables – “Gu” and “Ru”. “Gu” means Darkness and “Ru” means Remover.
When we meet our Guru (Master), we need no introduction. Words become superfluous. There is a connection made at a subtler level. After meeting him, seeking stops, blossoming begins; hankering for mundane pleasures stop, contentment fills in; restlessness ends, joy brims; expectations disappear, a service attitude develops; fear disappears, a permanent smile transfixes itself on our face. Every moment of living becomes pristine Bliss in his presence. The key is to feel the Presence of the Master. The Master is the Presence, not a relationship. Relationships can be broken, mended and broken again. There is craving and aversion in every relationship. All relationships go topsy-turvy, whereas the Presence is vast, infinite, stable and centered.
The Guru is there to remove all our imperfections, take in all our silly grievances, calm the restless mind and make us actually experience that - we are JOY, we are TRUTH and we are the pure consciousness that pervades the entire creation (Sat-Chit-Anandha).
The heart always yearns for the Guru’s presence and the knowledge that emanates from him. The abode of the Guru becomes the most enchanting place on earth. Sant Kabir said –
Guru Govind Dhovu Kade, Kaake Lagoo Paai
Balihaari Guru Aapne, Govind Dhiyo Bhathaai
If I had to choose between God and Guru, I would choose my Guru, for without him, I would have never known God.
One of Buddha’s disciples, after attaining enlightenment said that he would rather have remained ‘un-enlightened’, because in that state, he had his Guru and was able to drown in his grace and love, which was no longer the experience after self realization.
The Guru’s timeless wisdom helps us look beyond “small things” and view the world with a broader vision. His Love radiates impartially like the sun, requiring no expression in words and actions. His mere presence touches our inner being, fills us with so much of immeasurable love that tears of gratitude and joy flow continuously, with a smile forever transfixed on our face. There on, life appears so beautiful, charming and wonderful. We start looking at everything in awe, as though everything is a miracle. The quality of living is enhanced. Life becomes a celebration.
A disciple is simply there in the presence of the master, joyful, blissful and full of love. His heart breaks and love flows. And he feels the deep connection with the Guru. And gradually, he feels this connection with every animate and inanimate creation in this universe. He attains love. It is then the final destination is reached.
Mannathah Sri Jagannathah Madhguruhu Sri Jagadhguruhu |
Madh Athma Sarva Bhoothathma Thasmai Sri Gurave Namaha ||
My Lord is the Lord of the entire world. My Guru is the Guru to the entire creation. The SELF in me is the same as the SELF in every aspect of this creation. I salute the Guru who gives me this insight.
Posted by Bharani - 03:19 pm -
Thursday, August 17, 2006
The wind played
by her open curls,
to a dainty fray.
The sun warmed
her oval face,
Glazing it a look,
radiant and gay.
She glided with
the breezy wind
That chimed in her ears -
'Come, lets play'.
She hopped past daisies
that swayed to say
'Hold us in your hands
and make our day'.
She slipped by, reckless,
happy and free,
Over shrubs and grasses,
By ponds and trees.
On the pretty hillock
She beheld her house,
It was her piper
And she the mouse.
She broke into a song
And her feet went faster
As she walked into the open
arms of her doting mother.
Posted by Bharani - 07:25 pm -