Saturday, May 30, 2009

Shriya Saran's meditation

A perfect balance... Times of India - New Delhi, India
28 May 2009, 0008 hrs IST, TNN
Shriya Saran may be scorching the Tamil screen, but on the personal front, she’s more ‘meditative’ than meets the eye.

SPIRITUALLY YOURS: Shriya Saran It’s true, Ms Saran, is these days disposed towards meditation and what took seed in Leh has grown roots in Pondicherry.

“I met a monk at a temple in the Himalayas and told him about my interest in meditation. He told me what to do and when I asked him where I’d get the beads to meditate with, he said that I’ll have to buy it from the market.” But Shriya was in for the biggest surprise in her life when the next day, she was handed a set of meditating beads by a total stranger. “He too was a monk. He just came up to me and handed me these beads and said that these beads shouldn’t be bought, ‘they should be given to you’. I was dumbstruck by the coincidence, but accepted the beads gratefully,” she says.

She’s now gotten deeper into meditation after visiting Pondy. “I spent a lot of time meditating at Matrimandir. It was simply the most fulfilling and amazing experience I’ve had in a while. I was totally at peace,” says Shriya. A spiritual-sultry Shriya Saran — that’s what we call a perfect balance! Way to go, girl!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Some critics opine that only the first eight cantos are original

Kumārasambhava (Canto-VII) / H.K.Meher
from Dr. Harekrishna Meher by Dr. Harekrishna Meher
Kumāra-Sambhava (Canto-VII) Original Sanskrit Kāvya by : Mahākavi Kālidāsa Oriya Metrical Translation by : Dr. Harekrishna Meher (Theme : Wedding Ceremony of Śiva-Pārvatī ) Introduction :

Kumārasambhava enjoys a prominent position among the five great epics of Classical Sanskrit Literature. The word ’Kumāra’ means ‘Kārttikeya’ and ‘Sambhava’ means ‘Birth’. This kāvya contains 17 cantos and treats of the birth of Kārttikeya, the son of God Śiva and Pārvatī. Some critics opine that the first eight cantos are the original writing of Poet Kālidāsa and the rest cantos are spurious. But this opinion does not seem appropriate; because the main theme of this kāvya is ‘birth of Kumāra’ and hence it has been named ‘Kumāra-Sambhava’. Kārttikeya’s birth is described in Canto-X, while Marriage of Śiva-Pārvatī is depicted in Canto-VII and the union of the couple in Canto-VIII and IX. Birth of Kumāra is meant for killing of the demon-king Tāraka. So the remaining cantos after Canto-VIII do bear significance for completion of the main theme.

Tortured by Tārakāsura, all the gods prays before Brahmā, the Creator God, for the solution. Brahmā tells that Kumāra, the son of Śiva-Pārvatī would slay the demon Tāraka and protect the heaven. Advised by Brahmā, the gods make necessary arrangements to attract Śiva’s mind towards princess Pārvatī. Contextually Pārvatī by her severe penance becomes able to propitiate Mahāyogī Śiva for marriage with herself.

Canto-VII, bearing 95 verses, deals with the topic of Śiva-Pārvatī’s marriage ceremony. Lord Śiva weds princess Pārvatī, the daughter of the mountain-king Himālaya and Queen Menā. In accordance with social customs, from Śiva’s side, Saptarshi, the seven rishis place before Himālaya, the proposal of his daughter Pārvatī’s marriage with Śiva. After heartiest consent given by bride’s parents, the wedding is accomplished with much pomp and ceremony in the royal palace of Oshadhiprastha city, the residence of the mountain-king.

Just before marriage, decorations with ornaments and costume-design of princess Pārvatī are performed as per social and traditional customs, as seen in human society. Brahmā, Vishņu, Lakshmī, Sarasvatī and all the gods headed by Indra with enthusiastic and hilarious hearts, attend the wedding celebration. The priest performs the marriage function. Goddess Lakshmī holds white lotus-umbrella above the heads of the bride and groom. Sarasvatī, the Goddess of Speech and Learning, congratulates the couple with bilingual greetings ; she offers homage to Śiva in Sanskrit language and to Pārvatī in delicate Prākrit language. All other gods heartily extend their salutations and prayers to the newly-wed couple.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chekhov’s Three Sisters from 26-28 May 2009 directed by Dinesh Khanna

National School of Drama, the second year students’ new production
Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters
Adaptation & Direction: Dinesh Khanna
Set & Props: Rajesh Bahal
Costumes: Dolly Ahluwalia Tiwari
Music: Kajal Ghosh
Lights: Souti Chakraborty
Video: Amitesh Grover
from 26th to 28th May 2009 at 6.30 pm daily with two additional shows on 27th & 28th May, 2009 at 3.00 pm. at Abhimanch auditorium, Bahawalpur House, Bhagwandas Lane, New Delhi. For more information please contact 23073236. news contact Home

Friday, May 15, 2009

Obvious purpose of the epic is to attune us to the timeless world of the vertical

Post-Human Language and the Dreary Fate of Homo Numericus
from One Cosmos by Gagdad Bob
Vanderleun has a piece today that really got me to thinking about language. I'll see if I can weave some of it in as we continue our reflections on Balthasar's analysis of The Word...

Back to language. Vanderleun talks about how, in order to begin to enter the world of the epic poem, we must "make a leap of imagination from the present day to the night gatherings around bonfires and flickering torches in which these tales of love and death were told."

Obviously the Bible is an epic, and I think we need to pay attention to Vanderleun's advice when entering its world. First of all, it is a world -- a sacred world, or the world of the sacred. Although the epic must be told in a horizontal manner, the obvious purpose of the epic is to attune us to the timeless world of the vertical, which is always present but unnoticed unless we do the noticing -- similar to quantum physics, whereby we decide whether the fundamental reality is particle or wave. Only we can decide whether words are just digits or something more.

The Bible is obviously based upon an oral tradition that was eventually reduced to written form. This is fine, but I wonder if, because we live under the Reign of Quantity, this doesn't render the Bible a closed book for many people? Consider what Vanderleun says about the epic poem:

"Part story, part panegyric, part worship, the reciting of an epic was an event that could span days, even weeks. How the earliest bards held all of the poem in memory is still somewhat of a mystery,"

but he cites the analogy of jazz, which relies upon an underlying fixed structure, over which the soloist freely improvises. Just like human freedom, this musical freedom is not absolute but relative, as it is constrained by the underlying structure.

Again, I cannot help wondering if this isn't the manner in which we are supposed to engage revelation. Because this is exactly what I try to do every morning, which is to say, "riff" over the cosmic chords provided by the Creator. It's really a kind of singing, just singing about this sacred world I find myself in. It is not the world of Darwin, or of matter, or of colliding physical forces. I know it's a real world, and in fact, I also know that it is the cause, not a meaningless effect, of lower worlds. But I have no inclination whatsoever to argue with someone who insists that he is simply the expression of his selfish genes. What can I say? Your genes won. Now go away.

Here is the takeaway point. Vanderleun writes of how contemporary poetry is, "for the most part, deeply embedded in the secular culture, and there is no affirmative available to that culture, since the affirmative depends on a belief in something other than, larger than, the self.... Poetry can't matter as it once mattered because the base ground of being has been yanked out from under the culture, leaving it stranded in mid-air, unable to ascend, having only the fall before it."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Rang Dhuli directed by Tripurari Sharma from 12th to 19th May 2009

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At present there are no productions being staged at the School. Please keep checking the website for latest information.

In May the National School of Drama will be staging performances of two new productions. These are as follows: • Second year production directed by Dinesh Khanna from 15th to 20th May. • The NSD Repertory Company will be presenting its play Sadarame from 21st to 24th May '09. Written by Ballave Narahari Shastri, the play is designed and directed by B. Jayshree. Shows will be at the Abhimanch auditorium at 6:30 p.m. daily. Additional shows will be held on 23rd and 24th may at 3:30 p.m. Please keeping checking this space for further details Enquiries: 23073236, 23389402, 23387916 © Copyright 2004 National School of Drama. All rights reserved. Diploma Production Final Year Productions Second Year Productions Repertory Production

Current Happenings
Third year production Rang Dhuli directed by Tripurari Sharma will be performed from 12th to 19th May 2009. Synopsis - Rangdhuli

This play is being presented keeping in mind issues of the upliftment, downfall and identity of the Biden community. The plot of the play revolves around and provides glimpses into the unique and unpredictable realities of the women, girls and boys of the community, who traverse the journey from singing and dancing in local festivals and weddings to creating a niche fro themselves on the stage, and finally ending up in beer bars. In search of a pinch of sindur, the sanction of their fathers’ names and a recognition of their social identity, these women and children have been struggling relentlessly from the tenth century till today...

The play also aims to throw light on the struggle of the Biden women to win respect and recognition of their identities. Despite the difficulties in the way, these brave and resilient women do not give up and do not hesitate even in going to court, where they finally win their battle for identity and respect. Having faced disappointment from the Thakur’s side, Leela once again raises questions before society and goes on to celebrate a colour-drenched Holi.

Sanskaar Rang Toli invites applications from children between 8 to 16 years of age as of 1st May, 2009 for participation in its Summer Theatre Workshop 2009. The workshop aims at the social integration, of children to sensitize them towards themselves and their surroundings through theatre activities in a play-way method... 23389054 (Direct), 23382821, 23389402 Ext.: 37 E-mail: Enquiries: 23389402, 23387916 News Archives © Copyright 2004 National School of Drama. All rights reserved.

The oral quality of Mukhopadhyay’s poems is notable

Sketchbook Review of Aju Mukhopadhyay's Poems Contact: Aju Mukhopadhyay: - Book Fair Featured Books of the Month the Book Fair - Aju Mukhopadhyay's Poems on Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. ISBN 978-81-7977-326-0 Prakash Book Depot, Bara Bazar, Bareilly 243 003, India. Contact: Aju Mukhopadhyay:

Aju Mukhopadhyay is a bilingual poet, essayist, feature and fiction writer. He is a member of the Research Board of Advisors of the American Biographical Institute and many other renowned institutions and international poetry societies. He has been awarded by various institutions like The Writers Bureau, Manchester, The International Library of Poetry, USA , Poets International, Bangalore and others for his creative works. A devotee of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Aju Mukhopadhyay has permanently settled in Pondicherry where the Sri Aurobindo Ashram was established. He has studied and researched, has written a large number of essays on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in daily newspapers and magazines in both Bangla and English. He has translated them, written poems on them and has edited some compilation of their works. He has a book on the Mother in English, Mother of All Beings, and an essay on Sri Aurobindo titled Sri Aurobindo's Ideal of Freedom and Human Unity, besides their biographies written by him in Bangla.

Opinions of some poets and well known critics
Mukhopadhyay is an intelligent, daring and emotionally charged poet and his poems deal with many aspects of modern life. —Patricia Prime

Aju Mukhopadhyay is an Aurobindonian scholar, the spiritual strains in his poetry are much inspired from Sri Aurobindo and his philosophy. —Dr. Shaleen Kumar Singh

He is already a renowned poet and poetry lovers will draw inspiration from him to write poems on Nature in the future. —Damal Kannan

Aju possesses heart, therein fair feeling. Athenian eyes and as cool as a cucumber. He is a prominent figure in Indian English poetry. The author and publisher of several books, he has emerged as an eminent poet in the field of poetry and a writer whose work defies categorization. —Dr. Shujaat Hussain

Aju Mukhopadhyay’s Poems on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Aju Mukhopadhyay. Prakash Book Depot, Bareilly, India. 2009. 48 pp. ISBN 978-81-7977-326-0. Rs. 50; US$3
Reviewed by Patricia Prime

Aju Mukhopadhyay’s new collection of poems on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, are grounded in the beauty and energy of the physical presence of these two people, and in the bafflement of the human predicament. This work is breathtakingly immediate, redemptive, and wise, as we see in the short opening poem “Fireborn” about the birth of Sri Aurobindo, and the foretelling of his future:

With a fire glowing within he was born
Consumed in his own fire bright
Destined to emit a brilliant light –
Who could stop it?
The light shall shine for ever
Like a polestar
To guide the eager traveller
Towards a morning yet to be born.

Mukhopadhyay’s familiar themes are here – the voice of truth, Indian Freedom, the revolution, Pondicherry – in addition to some of his oft-explored themes: the natural world, the violence of history, the power and limits of the seer; and, as in his other books, spirituality, inspirational thoughts and the ideas of freedom and unity. New themes emerge as well: the essence of memory and time, personalities and the presence of goodness. The personality of the seer is captured in the second poem “Sri Aurobindo”:

Like a tree he was peaceful, unhurried and calm with perseverance
Among the thousand resounding words his existence was silence
In his body sat the God, his face revealed the eternity
Out of intense love for men he sat away from humanity.

The works here look at the birth of Sri Aurobindo, the birth of Indian Freedom, the seer’s life as poet, revolutionary, yogi, journalist, writer and thinker and his death. The poems dwell too on the Mother, comparing her with a “many faceted diamond with myriad moods.” We are offered glimpses of a vibrant post-war India; of modern Indian politics; of the “cusp of a road,” a white lotus, and a “seed of light,” all brought into a vivid present and with a passionate meditation on what it is and has been to be alive. It is Mukhopadhyay’s aim to get into his poetry the whole man and woman, head and heart and hands and everything else. “A Date in Mother’s Life” explores how the Mother came to her own spirituality through the example of Sri Aurobindo:

The idea of Sri Aurobindo
And its relevance to her spiritual agenda
Percolated into her through all pours and strata
Her divine love for Sri Aurobindo
Guided her choice of India as the venue
Helped her path to set, it’s true.

The poems follow the lives of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The story dives in and out of childhood, often pausing and expanding on situations: reflections on the quiet intellectual man and the equally fascinating woman; their relationship and their discoveries about spirituality. As we see in “Golden Mother,” the poet himself is influenced by a revelation of the Mother that appeared to him one night. She is more beautiful and radiant to him then any picture can portray:

Your images that appear umpteen numbers
are no more pictures;
they are you in flesh and blood, victorious –
flesh and blood wrapped in gold.
Mother of infinite love and grace
Golden Mother with a joyous face.

The narrative moves forward, pauses and reflects. So it develops, not in a singular, linear way, but with a sense of strangeness and unpredictability – the sense that you’re living within the narrative. It’s not just to tell a simple story, although there are many of them, but to explore the divine spark, that these stories are told. In “Mother the Divine Spark,” the poet illuminates us as to what happened after the Mother’s death, when she became part of everyone:

Your body spread itself into innumerable beings
like lightnings during ecstasied dreams;
the Divine Spark lives in us and vibrates
as each of us lives and sleeps and eats and ruminates.
The Mother is indeed always present in us.

Each of the poems has its contribution to make to the larger flow of the narrative, but they also have a stand-alone quality, like little performance pieces or stories embedded in the book’s landscape. The effect is to draw us in and take over our thoughts and feelings. The advice the Mother gives is embodied in “Her Advice”:

‘No words – acts.’ You said for
in peace and calm and silence
the world is born
to fulfil its divine essence.
Stirring water in a cup, you compared
to all rush and busyness,
not conductive to any real access.
We bow to your kind advice
all fulfilling divine devise.

At his best Mukhopadhyay has an idiosyncratic, unassuming transparently honest voice – one which brings out important concerns without affectation – and he can be adept at putting this to work in a range of modes. Many of his more sophisticated poems, with their political momentum, say something profound or significant. Mukhopadhyay, a lively, intelligent, erudite writer, has a timely sense of the need for poets to make their work reflect the exigencies of the times, as we see in “November Seventeenth” where, after the Mother has left this world:

Time stood still bewildered the moment you left
The reality humans could not penetrate
Hands stopped moving in a time piece
One committed suicide, confused by this
Some were struck by the time
Some were blinded by the sublime.

The poems ostensibly structure Mukhopadhyay’s concerns: India’s historical struggle for freedom, and how to negotiate this struggle personally and spiritually. As he addresses the Mother in “A Prayer,” we see his reverence, devotion and attitude towards her:

Let the flower-soft petals of your feet touch my chest
Let the fragrance of your lotus-presence perfume the rest
Let the ruby of your eyes illumine the depths of my being
Let the melody of your myriad sounds keep me vibrating

The oral quality of Mukhopadhyay’s poems is notable, and where he reins in sentimentalism or diffuseness he can structure this into fine work. “Talks about Immortality” is a lovely paean to flux: a chiasmus of central phrases, all evident in the first stanza, in which we learn that immortality can only be a distant dream for humans, because their lives are tied to things of the flesh:

Everything nascent we know, is destroyed
Everything is in a flux in this world;

Lord Buddha realized it as Unreal
To great Sankara it was a Divine Maya.
The yogis who lived for incredible years
Drew their breath of life from different planes
As they realized the divinity within
Beyond their corporeal frames.
They never adored the body, shunned it.
So the immortality seems to be
A distant dream to humanity.

The poem suggests some sort of faith in the notion of immortality. The last poem, “Lift us up,” uses prayer-like phrasing to bring out the plea to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to enable people to overcome their failings and reach their goal in life:

Lift us up dear father
Sweet Divine Mother
From the world’s quagmire
To your secret bower.

The book is constantly playing with images and ideas built around the unexpectedly rich theme of two people with a single idea in their minds – trying to make each piece self-explanatory and beautiful, and then moving on and trying a different approach.

Friday, May 08, 2009

The book leaves you shaken and stirrred, to use a famous James Bond line

Shantaram from The Big Picture by T T Ram Mohan
I finally finished reading Shantaram. I say 'finally' because I am a slow reader and the novel runs into over 900 pages.

Shantaram, which came out about three years ago, is penned by Gregory David Roberts, an Australian who was serving a jail sentence for armed robbery in his country. He escaped from jail, landed in Mumbai, spent several years there as part of the local underworld, was recaptured in Germany and, after serving the remaining sentence, got his novel published. He needed to write it thrice because his captors destroyed the first two versions when they found out. Roberts has since made Mumbai his home.

The novel is an epic. And it's more than a novel, it's a soul-stirring experience. To think that a man could go through all that, retain his humanity and find the reserves to write a splendid novel! Roberts's mother taught him to appreciate literature and he spent his time in the Australian jail devouring first-rate fiction. It shows in his own writing.

It's impossible to capture the splendours of the novel in one short post. Roberts has said in interviews that the events are real, only the narrative is fictional. There is a charming account of Roberts' six month stay in a village in Maharashtra's interior where he is given his name; a moving description of life in the slum near Cuffe Parade where the locals adopted him as one of their own; great encounters with Abdel Kader Khan, the underworld don, who combines a fine command of the English language with a fondness for philosophical speculation (every week, he and his comarades meet for lofty discussions); and, then, Roberts' embroilment in the war in Afghanistan when he accompanies Khan and others on a journey through Pakistan to arm the Taliban in their war against the Russians.

I won't narrate more. I will leave you to find out for yourself. Shantaram is being made into a film by Tara Nair. I can't wait to see it. Let me just say that the book leaves you shaken and stirrred, to use a famous James Bond line.

I had a post some time back on another book on Mumbai, Suketu Mehta's Maximum City. That is also about the seamy side of Mumbai. But the philosophical approaches are very different. Mehta is appalled and outraged at the violence and corruption that lie beneath the surface in Mumbai. Roberts writes with empathy and affection for those on the seamy side. There is understanding and love, an underlying humanity that comes from having experienced the worst of it. Roberts is now off smoking, drinks and drugs and leads the life of a celebrity in Mumbai.

For Baudrillard, seduction is a sort of metaphysical striptease, a play of revealing and concealing

A Brief History of Celebrity (with special reference to Asia Argento)
from The Pinocchio Theory by Steven Shaviro

Asia Argento is a post-cinematic celebrity, and she inhabits movie and video screens in a far different way than older generations of actresses did. A classical female movie star, like Greta Garbo, is an image of purity and perfection. She is an object of infinite desire; she seems “descended from a heaven where all things are formed and perfected in the clearest light (Roland Barthes). She keeps us away from her at an infinite distance — a distance out of which we worship her. It is no wonder that Garbo concluded her career by withdrawing entirely from public view.

Coming to the screen several decades later, Marilyn Monroe is unable to match Garbo’s transcendent perfection, or to maintain the same degree of distance. Instead, Monroe supplements her beauty with her performance as a comedic ingenue. Her seeming unconsciousness of her own sexual allure gives us permission, as it were, to approach the mystery of this allure. Even as Monroe retains a definite aura, she also — unlike Garbo — brings this aura down to earth. This descent from the heavens to the earth is what allows Monroe to commodify her image, to multiply it and make it signify — as Andy Warhol so clearly understood.

In contrast to both Garbo and Monroe, however, Asia Argento no longer retains even the slightest trace of transcendence. She is directly carnal, directly present in the flesh. And her ferocious intelligence cannot be separated from this carnality. Argento collapses the seductive distance between star and audience, and instead offers us her own hyperbolic presence. Her performance is excessively immanent and embodied. Even her irony is too immediate, too close for comfort.

Argento acts in a double register. She turns acting conventions inside out, at once stylizing and naturalizing her performances, entirely inhabiting her roles, while at the same time distancing herself from them with a deep, who-gives-a-fuck irony. She manages to radiate sexuality in an entirely unselfconscious way; yet this unselfconsciousness is a deeply knowing one, not in the least bit naive, and “completely without innocence” (as Donna Haraway says of the figure of the cyborg). Argento’s knowingness ‘alienates’ us from her sexiness, but also allows it to remain intact. Argento is able simultaneously to display a method-acting intensity of commitment to her role, and at the same time to put her entire performance into postmodern “quotation marks.”

Argento fearlessly and knowningly exemplifies what Jean Baudrillard rather hysterically denounces as the “obscenity” and “transparency” of postmodern society. Baudrillard seems caught in the throes of heterosexual panic, as he describes, with great unease, the way that

“the body is already there, without even the faintest glimmer of a possible absence, in the state of radical disillusion; the state of pure presence.”

In opposition to this, Baudrillard much prefers the old-style feminine mystique and rituals of seduction, as exemplified by the older-generation movie stars. Seduction is “simply that which lets appearance circulate and move as a secret”; it “makes things appear and disappear.” Garbo and Monroe are seductive, therefore, because they are never simply and wholly present; they allure my gaze, beyond visibility, into the realm of that which is secret and hidden.

But Baudrillard is not seduced by someone like Argento, because she is self-demystified, and all too fully there. For Baudrillard, seduction is a sort of metaphysical striptease, a play of revealing and concealing. In opposition to this, consider Argento’s own performance of striptease: in a cameo appearance as a stripper in Abel Ferrara’s Go-Go Tales, her character’s pole-dancing act culminates in an artfully provocative French kiss she exchanges with her Rottweiler. Here, the play of seduction is itself detourned into a literal “obscene transparency.”

Auroville is 2,000 people from a multitude of social and religious backgrounds live together through embracing their differences

“Journey to the City of Dawn – Auroville, India”

A timely and inspirational film about human unity and critical issues of environmental sustainability. Follow along as we sail across the Atlantic from the US towards India and the answer to one question – “Can the blueprint for the future of mankind be found in a tiny community in a developing country?”

This film tells a timely and inspirational story of human unity and critical issues of environmental sustainability. At its core, the film asks one question – “Can the blueprint for the future of mankind be found in a tiny community in a developing country?”

The story is a journey, both literally and metaphysically, that begins in the US and culminates in the small community of Auroville, India. Ann and Ali, two young post graduate students from the US, will embark on a tremendous adventure from their home in Massachusetts half way around the world to Auroville. Their goal is to learn from a place they believe is undeniably important to human existence. Embracing the opportunity to live a more eco-friendly life-style, Ann and Ali decide to sail from the US to the UK, and then continue on by any means necessary to Auroville. It is this journey that will drive our story and move the audience closer and closer to realizing the importance of learning from a contemporary social experiment with a 40-year history.

We begin in 1968 with the realization of the inspired vision of Sri Aurobindo, an Indian philosopher whose teachings are the foundation of Auroville’s goal of achieving human unity and realizing the future of humankind. We will relive the original journey to a desolate, barren region in southern India by a handful of people. Many of those original settlers are from the US. Frederick, who still lives in Auroville, shares the unimaginable hardships undertaken to transform a place unsuitable for human life into a tropical, self-sustainable township. This may be one of the only times in history when people settled in an area where they first had to provide everything essential for human existence including water, the means to create shelter and the ability to grow any type of food. Today that handful has grown to 2,000 people, representing 40 countries, living together for the common good. The ties that bind the residents are the teachings of Sri Aurobindo as well as the founder and spiritual leader of Auroville, referred to as The Mother. Both are long since deceased but the community carries on with their vision intact.

The people of Auroville are our story. They have undertaken incredible initiatives including extensive use of solar energy, an emphasis on organic farming and the positive influence they have with the impoverished villages that surround them. Our cast includes a musician who leaves his native Canada in 1968 at just 16-years-old, and somehow finds his way to Auroville. And Alok, who at 41 years old, was raised in Auroville. After 40 years of development it’s time for the world to hear their stories of progress, setbacks, and their role as an evolving example to the world.

The Past. The Beginning. Auroville 1968: If there is a blueprint for the future of mankind, perhaps some attention should be given to a social experiment, 40 years in the making, in the small community of Auroville, India. Cracked earth and a hot dry wind are all that exist on a 2-kilometer square patch of barren desert near the southeastern coastline of India; a fitting foundation for an ambitious plan to transform mankind’s realization of its future. An extensive collection of photos from this time period will illustrate the story of Auroville’s beginning as we hear from Frederick, one of the city’s original settlers. This may be one of the only times in history when people settled in an area where they first had to provide for all the essentials of human existence including water, the means to create shelter and the ability to grow any type of food. On that hot day in 1968, a caravan of 5,000 people from 124 countries around the globe could be seen approaching on dusty roads as far as the eye could see. Here, where nothing grew and no one lived, they gathered to commence the experiment known as Auroville, literally the “City of Dawn”.

Unity Through Diversity: Auroville is 2,000 people from a multitude of social and religious backgrounds, choosing to live together not by conforming to an accepted normalcy, but through embracing their differences. This is the uniqueness that is Auroville – achieving unity through diversity. It is this quality that most embodies their role as an example to the world.

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Production by © 2009 Storytellers International
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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Sri Aurobindo sought to present his insight of the Supreme through the medium of epic poetry

Mythoworlds Wednesday, May 6, 2009 m alan kazlev
I'm an eccentric esotericist, futurist, armchair paleontologist, animal and nature lover, vegan, creative writer, and geek. Here's my website. I also have a creative writing blog and a a Gaia com blog and profile. Those fully Enlightened Beings I know of include are Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Ramana Maharshi, Yogi Ramsuratkumar, Andanamayi Ma, and Nityananda, among others. What matters is not the words, but the Presence. I am currently working on a book which will provisde a new interpretation of the Integral Paradigm, comparative Esotericism, Spirituality, sentient rights, and more. View my complete profile

Writing a modern Epic
One theme I am interested in exploring in my creative writing is higher consciousness presented through mythos in a manner that is easy to read.

Stories and movies in areas of my interest - fantastical fiction (on Wikipedia this is called Speculative fiction) - tend either to be very bleak and dark (horror genre in various forms), rationalistic (hard SF), pseudo-medieval (fantasy), or scientifically ridiculous (superheros). While I have no problems with any or all of the above genres, which can certainly be included to add spice and tension to the story, none constitute the themes of gnosis and empathy that are central to my present book The Integral Paradigm. A third theme, evolution, is certainly part of hard SF and especially transhumanist and singularitan philosophy, which is why these things interest me. But what about Divinization, as taught by Sri Aurobindo?

In short, mythos in popular culture tends to be at the level of the surface consciousness, the emotional being (romantic and wish-fulfillment), the mental being (especially rational as in SF), and the lower and most grotesque aspects of the astral (as in horror, crime, and other morbid subjects).

In the old days, attempts to describe the Transcendent through mythos (story-telling) rather than logos (philosophy) involved epic poetry and mythological tales of gods and so on. Good examples are the Hindu Mahabharata (which includes the Bhagavad Gita, the most revered work of mystical literature in Hinduism) and the Christian Bible. All of these were presented as objective fact. Hence it was believed as literal truth (and often still us) that Krishna picked up a mountain, Jesus ascended bodily to heaven, and so on. Since then, human consciousness has moved on, and religious fundamentalism is no longer credible (except to fundamentalists)

Sri Aurobindo sought to present his insight of the Supreme (and Divinization - the Supramental Transformation) through the medium of epic poetry, taking the old Hindu legend of Savitri and updating it. The result is a profound work, considered by many to be Sri Aurobindo's greatest, but, like almost all of his material, written in a heavy 19th century style of Romanticism that makes it almost impossible for the non-devotee and non-scholar to read, especially if, like me, you don't have an aptitude for poetry.

Are there then examples of epic mythoi that are accessible to the modern, attention-deficit, early 21st century mind?

Well, here we should distinguish between two types of mythoi, the old, cyclic Myth of the Hero (Joseph Campbell), and the newer form of evolutionary and Integral transformation (Divinization) described in Transhumanism (on the secular level) and by Sri Aurobindo (on the sacred level)... Posted by m alan kazlev at 5:01 PM 0 comments

New blog New blog! Whoopee! :-) First, a few words of explanation.

This is my third blog, and will probably be the most active one. As I'm mostly working on my nonfiction philosophical book The Integral Paradigm, it feels counterproductive at the moment to post anything on my second blog, called Integral Transformation. It's also hard to post much on my original blog (at Gaia com, formerly called Zaadz), mostly because the community I was in touch with there seems to have moved on, and I don't have the impetus to get involved in other projects and discussions there. I'd rather put the energy into the book.

At the same time, I'd like to explore creative writing ideas. This is an area I've been interested in on and off for years, but, as with my esoteric projects, no published books ever came of it. As my non-fiction book finally comes closer to completion (following many rewrites) I figured it would be good to also start thinking about fiction writing as well.

The two in a sense complement each other. In terms of archetypes, non-fiction is logos (rational and intuitive mind), and fiction mythos (imaginative or daydreaming). Both are different ways of telling a story.

Hence the title of this blog - mythoworlds. It is about worlds of the imagination, which will complement the worlds of intuition that esoteric philosophy refers to... Posted by m alan kazlev at 8:53 PM 0 comments

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Ballard was a greater social theorist than Adorno

May 5, 2009 Belatedly, Ballard
from The Pinocchio Theory by Steven Shaviro
I was greatly saddened by J. G. Ballard’s death, but I didn’t get a chance to write about it, and him, until now. I am sorry that there will not be anything more; but Ballard did live to be 78, and he left us a lot of extraordinary works...

Ballard’s great subject, in his final four novels, is the hollowness of this dream, the emptiness and inevitable disappointment of any fidelity to the Event, every bit as much as of any loyalty to the ruling order. This is the way that Ballard remains unassimilable (despite the reverential treatment that he received in death from portions of the literary Establishment, such as it is, or from fans of Steven Spielberg). He casts a bleak light upon any naive optimism and hope for change (but what optimism or hope for change is not “naive”?); while at the same time corrosively destroying any sort of faith in rational norms or in the worthiness of the ruling order. His fiction is equally antagonistic to utopian idealizations, and to those (all-too-common) disgustingly fatalistic assertions that There Is No Alternative, or that the Eternal Human Tragedy is something that we must bravely and grimly bear. [Though he did write one sort-of utopia: an odd and somewhat neglected novel, The Unlimited Dream Company].

The only (very slender) hope that his novels offer is a hope in the value in itself of a disillusioned and demystified clarity of regard — one that his narrators in these last four novels do not themselves attain, but that the attentive reader just might get to. Even the narrator of Kingdom Come, who more than flirts with fascism, ends with the warning that the nightmare of violence that works to reproduce the very social order and social hierarchies against which it is a protest will recur, “unless the sane woke and rallied themselves.” I don’t think that the narrator himself can be included in this “sane,” but the phrase points to the way that Ballard still clings (rightly) to a kind of Enlightenment ideal, even as he tracks the horrific legacy of what Adorno and Horkheimer were perhaps too narrow to call “instrumental reason.”

Ballard is (if anything) far bleaker than Adorno, but he’s also refreshingly free of Adorno’s high-European snobbery. I would want to argue, finally, that Ballard was a greater social theorist than Adorno, or than such contemporary sociological diagnostians of postmodernity as Bauman, Beck, Giddens, or Castells. And Ballard was a great social theorist not in spite of, nor even in addition to, but precisely because of, his aestheticism, or the fact that he was writing novels rather than engaging in empirical research. His four final novels really only deal with a small corner of Europe, and not with the rest of the world. But they rigorously anatomize, and shock us into a deeper awareness of, the social nightmare that, if alien to most of the world’s population, is nonetheless hegemonic over them.

May 4, 2009 God Talk from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects
Stanley Fish has a new post up extolling the virtues of Terry Eagleton’s new book Reason, Faith, and Revolution. [...]

I find this line of argument deeply perplexing. On the one hand, it seems to me that there is something deeply cynical in this approach to religion. It seems to run something like “I don’t really believe these things but my other approach to revolutionary transformation doesn’t work, this seems capable of motivating people, therefore I’ll try this.” On the other hand, and more significantly, I think, this line of argument seems to ignore the fact that the dominant forms of Christianity in the United States have been extremely comfortable bedfellows with neo-liberal capitalism and consummerist forms of life. I am not suggesting that there aren’t, occasionally, revolutionary forms of Christianity. For example, this would be the case with MLK and the way in which Ghandi drew on the teachings of Jesus. But I think these are the exception rather than the rule. All too often Christianity seems to function as a support for reigning ideology rather than something that functions to undermine this ideology. Especially objectionable is the thesis that somehow science and reason are intrinsically linked and equivalent to liberalism and capitalism.

The Monstrosity of Christ from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects
Nathan Schneider has an excellent review of Eagleton’s Reason, Faith, and Revolution, and David Bentley Hart’s Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies over at The American Prospect. For the record, I certainly wouldn’t deny that the Christian tradition has a lot of emancipatory potential within it. I don’t think Zizek and Badiou have been misguided in their appropriations of Paul, though I do think they are wrong in their dismissals of Jesus. [...]

A recent book by Zizek and John Milbank is entitled The Monstrosity of Christ, and there does indeed seem to be something “monstrous” or sublime about Christ in the positive sense of the term. When I look at the tradition of Christianity, much of it often looks to me like a screen-memory designed to defend against this sublime monstrosity. [...]

In short, the social and political vision Christ seemed to envision was that of a form of social life beyond the Lacanian dimension of the Imaginary. The “Imaginary” here does not signify the “illusory” or “imagination”, but rather is the domain of “…wholeness, synthesis, autonomy, duality, and above all, similarity” (Dylan Evans 1996, 82). The Imaginary is the domain of self-identity, of being identical to oneself, and of social relations based on similarity. Moreover, it is the domain where we take ourselves to be masters of what we say, where we think of meaning as being defined by our intentions (psychoanalytic practice being premised on the thesis that our words and actions always say more than we intend and that meaning is bestowed by the Other, not our intentions). Lacan associates the domain of the Imaginary with that of narcissism insofar as the Ego or self-identity is produced through narcissistic identification. Most importantly, it is a realm characterized by rivalry and aggression, insofar as we see our mirror counter-parts as contesting our own identity and therefore threatening or sense of wholeness and completeness or our belief that we are master’s of ourselves and of meaning. Whenever you protest to another “but that’s not what I meant, you’re twisting my words!” you are thoroughly immersed in the domain of the imaginary.

Throughout all of his teaching and more importantly his practice, Christ can be seen as challenging this dimension of the Imaginary. He contests the domain of imaginary identification with the Other in proclaiming that “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Vale of silly sheep

But wishes are not horses, this Annus is not mirabilis; Day breaks upon the world we know Of war and wastefulness and woe... The New Year brings an earth afraid, Democracy a ready-made And noisy tradesman's slogan, and The poor betrayed into the hand Of lackeys with ideas, and truth
Whipped by their elders out of youth, The peaceful fainting in their tracks With martyrs' tombstones on their backs, And culture on all fours to greet A butch and criminal elite, While in the vale of silly sheep Rheumatic old patricians weep. (From New Year Letter)

THIS poem is dated January 1, 1940, when Europe had been at war for four months. The war spread to engulf the world and lasted five more years; it caused a drastic reorientation of national boundaries and a radical change in the strategies of confrontation.
Wystan Hugh Auden (1907-73), writing this, was concerned not so much with practical politics as with the general predicament of humanity. He saw the tragedy in terms of conflicts of the spirit rather than of national aspirations, and stemming from the inaction of ordinary people rather than the actions of statesmen.
It is a poem which is worth reading on such an anniversary as this. How different is New Year's Day, 2000 from New Year's Day, 1940? True, we are not engulfed in a global war of armaments and soldiers. But there are a dozen small conflicts which may blow up at any time. Have our attitudes changed in these six decades? What are we celebrating?

Much of the scientific progress of this century has gone into making our lives more difficult, our politics more fraught and our pragmatism more unethical. Do we have more leisure than our grandfathers did? On the contrary, we die of stress-related heart attacks in our thirties. Are wars less probable? No, and terrorism has become an easy way out for madmen. We have begun to unlock the secrets of the genes, but are fewer people hungry or diseased thereby? How, when the secrets are patented by corporations whose use of them actually threatens small farmers, while Homo americanus or Western Man wonders if it would be "right" to clone human beings.
What are we celebrating, when culturally and morally we seem to have regressed even since 1940? An entire country burned with napalm; entire populations subjected to viruses or radiation; and now, with gobalisation, an entire world waiting to be taken over by "lackeys with ideas" - a megalomaniac who can peddle software better than anyone else, or another who wants to own all the newspapers and TV channels. And in our own country, we see how the attempted imposition of one "homogenous" culture on all citizens can lead to barbarity.
This crisis of faith is not going to be taken seriously, Y2K or no Y2K. But what is astonishing about "New Year letter" is that Auden not only saw the crisis of his time more clearly than most, he expressed it in words that have lasted. Even now these words sound true; for all I know, they may have expressed the angst of Asoka's age.

The two passages here are taken from different sections of the poem and, even within them, there are cuts. But if you are reading these lines for the first time, I think you will find that they still flow. The first passage uses a geographical metaphor for humanity's confusion about where to go. Another poem by Auden which does this (in a more light-hearted way), "The Labyrinth", was discussed in this column in June 1997.
There is nothing light-hearted here. The last line, "Shudders her future into stone", presents the whole idea of "Progress" more graphically - and geographically - than pages of prose could. Geographical, too, is the beginning of the next passage, whose first three lines are a vivid picture of sunrise over Homo Americanus.
What Western man wakes up to is also concisely conveyed. Of course we'd all prefer to be good, but somehow it's easier to go along... (Earlier in the poem occur these lines: "All too easily we blame/the politicians for our shame.") The last three lines of the stanza define an ideal state, which is immediately confounded by the definition of reality in the next: a reality we are all too familiar with and needs no explication, except to say annus mirabilis is Latin for "a year of wonders", and the last two lines are an acute description of people who dream of a vanished glorious age while doing nothing about this one.

How I wish I could quote the marvellous prayer ("O Unicorn among the cedars,/To whom no magic charm can lead us") which follows these lines and ends the poem. There is so much in "New Year Letter" which applies to our condition. But the whole poem runs into 50 pages and almost 10,000 words; if the less than 300 I have excerpted here strike you with their relevance, all of us will be happy.
Auden has been a greater influence on young poets than anyone else this century. His vision of his times, and of a doubtful future, was exceptionally clear, as this poem demonstrates. Also, he was highly skilled in all forms of verse, and was always elegant without being facile.
I have not chosen this poem for the new year to depress you, but rather to show that our condition is independent of material progress; it depends rather on our spiritual advancement (which need have nothing to do with religion). And to cheer you, for words spoken out of honesty and clarity of sight, free of prejudice, outlive us and make sense to our children's children. "Where there is no vision, the people perish."
VIJAY NAMBISAN The Hindu: What does the signpost say? Saturday, January 08, 2000

Augustinian Auden: The Influence of Augustine of Hippo on W. H. Auden
Stephen J. Schuler, Ph.D.
Mentor: Richard Rankin Russell, Ph.D.
It is widely acknowledged that W. H. Auden became a Christian in about 1940,
but relatively little critical attention has been paid to Auden.s theology, much less to the
particular theological sources of Auden.s faith. Auden read widely in theology, and one
of his earliest and most important theological influences on his poetry and prose is Saint
Augustine of Hippo. This dissertation explains the Augustinian origin of several crucial
but often misunderstood features of Auden.s work. They are, briefly, the nature of evil as
privation of good; the affirmation of all existence, and especially the physical world and
the human body, as intrinsically good; the difficult aspiration to the fusion of eros and
agape in the concept of Christian charity; and the status of poetry as subject to both
aesthetic and moral criteria. Auden had already been attracted to similar ideas in
Lawrence, Blake, Freud, and Marx, but those thinkers. common insistence on the
importance of physical existence took on new significance with Auden.s acceptance of
the Incarnation as an historical reality. For both Auden and Augustine, the Incarnation
was proof that the physical world is redeemable. Auden recognized that if neither the
physical world nor the human body are intrinsically evil, then the physical desires of the
body, such as eros, the self-interested survival instinct, cannot in themselves be
intrinsically evil. The conflict between eros and agape, or altruistic love, is not a
Manichean struggle of darkness against light, but a struggle for appropriate placement in
a hierarchy of values, and Auden derived several ideas about Christian charity from
Augustine. Augustine's influence was largely conscious on Auden.s part, though it was
often indirect as well. Auden absorbed important Augustinian ideas through modern
sources such as Charles Williams, Charles Norris Cochrane, and Denis de Rougemont,
although he was himself an observant and incisive reader of Augustine.s major works,
especially the Confessions. This dissertation demonstrates that the works and ideas of
Augustine are a deep and significant influence on Auden.s prose and poetry, and
especially on his long poems.