Friday, 14 March 2014

Can We Celebrate The Stains of Being........?

In all the years that I have lived, from when I started becoming aware of and trying to understand life – the last thirty years or thereabouts, I have realised that life is not about getting anywhere. There is no destination; there is nowhere that one needs to get to. It is about the journey and that journey is a rich tapestry woven through the way that we experience people, places and things and as such a tapestry of our emotions.

For me the sense of joy is a great feeling but, the things that have kept me more than fully occupied are those uncomfortable feelings - when someone has angered me and when I have felt insecure or upset. These feelings have been the ones that have taken me deeper and deeper into myself, compelling questions that have been impossible to answer. And, in a bid to understand and share my dilemmas and wanting to know how others around me experience life, has arisen the need for creative expression.

Stains, for me, were some of those thoughts and feelings that did not allow me to share freely. And in exploring the idea of stains for the last 4-5 years now, in various ways, I have realised - and it seems really silly when I say it as simply as this because in just saying it so, the profundity of the realization is diminished. But the truth is that for years, feeling uncomfortable and carrying around this burden and with it anger and resentment and more, wanting to find that pristine space where I felt good about being, I began realising that the stains of being were inevitable.

I have started looking at these as the marks of experience that are proof of having lived. And the larger the gamut of emotions, the more full one’s life has been. They were the marks of winning and losing and of falling and failing.

And the other day, just thinking about the stains in my tea-cup which had encouraged this exploration, I suddenly had a thought:  when I look at the saucer with the spilled tea and the cup with the dregs inside it, I am fascinated by the marks but when I look at my life, there are regrets, there is a sense of loss and also a need to erase some experiences from my mind - I want to be rid of them and there is a sense of shame for experiencing those uncomfortable feelings. 

The saint-poets advocate non-judgement. The new age teachers suggest controlling the mind by putting an impenetrable shield around yourself of happy memories, gratitude and acceptance. All of this, at some level, seems to suggest that one should endeavour to shut out the experiences and their emotions so that we can live at a level of such power to create our lives consciously - to be what we want it to be. While the idea intrigues and tempts, it also bothers me.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a great learner of all of this and feast on this kind of literature - fascinated with the power of the mind that one can harness with the wealth of techniques out there. But as an artist and writer, I feel that there is such richness in our human feelings and wonder, what would the world really be like without the arts – the poetry of love and longing, of separation. And, what about those films depicting terror and violence - of battles men have fought since time immemorial? What would we do without these and other reminders of what people in ages before us have thought, felt and experienced – the solace of it all - the inspiration and more that emerges from knowing what life has been and can be?

 If you really think about it, then trying to work upon things - this whole concept of control and re-programming of the subconscious mind, would make us all into sages.  And what a monotonous, self-righteous world that would be!  I don’t disagree entirely with the concept and do a lot of this work myself, daily. But as an artist, I revel in the colour of emotions. And difficult as some of them are, they are what I have as proof of the extent I have lived. They mark my experience, my foot-falls towards that pinnacle of self –realization.

Much like watching one’s thoughts through the process of meditation, the creative process is also such a mirror. It reveals the inner reflections and feeling and thoughts. Which then also makes this a way towards achieving the same goal  - of finding the capacity to see and understand what the mind is computing and desiring, to  create our lives with greater consciousness.

For me this is a rich and sensual process that embodies words and images. And ironically, greater connectivity with the spirit/soul has led me to find greater acceptance of this as the way that I choose to watch my thoughts and feelings – through expression, rather than control. Transcending those that create emotional blocks by experiencing them fully. This in effect, leads to transformation through the very process of expressing. But, having also learned many of  the techniques advocated by spiritual masters, I find myself doing so with greater awareness.
My embroideries and my writings, become a tapestry of threads that I have chosen not as a tool to narrate,  but to live my life through. And with this understanding, the stains have taken on an altogether different meaning.

They may well be the means by which I grieve but, in giving them another life  through these embroideries - expressing and sharing, it seems that we can celebrate the stains of being........

For they also represent experiences, which when distilled, that give us the wisdom to live each day.... happier and more fulfilled....


  1. as i was reaching the end of your piece,i was just thinking how when i am quite happy and the journey not so harsh, my works are able to reflect conflict and passion better and how when I am actually troubled the works refuse to reflect immediate emotions and usually come out strangely serene. or maybe not always any case this give and take between our lives and art is the strongest propelling force and sharing it is often imperative because its healing...

  2. Totally agree with you Saba. This body of work has evolved very slowly over the last 5 years and for me it is just about beginning to articulate itself. When I started I really didn't understand, I was very intuitively driven. It has been process of expressing and sharing, then reflecting on the responses, at all levels, which has allowed it to unfold to this level. Because in the process - doing and expressing and examining what I am doing and saying - reflecting and experimenting and all of that which goes on, healing occurs. And acceptance of what one is doing - both from self and others, allows for greater courage to keep exploring it for oneself. For me art has always been a great healer - the process as much as the sharing. And I am so glad that you mentioned that part about it being serene at first - I also relate with this idea that when the mind is more affected by what is going on, then things appear more serene. It has been my understanding that the serene phase is when the mind is not really doing the work, but it is coming from a level of soul, where in any case everything is serene and accepted and this then enables the mind to grapple with it to achieve that level of serenity through the expression - cleansing it of the toxicity or negative feeling, as it were. At least that is what I have observed in my own practice... Do you agree?

  3. Comment 1/2: Self discovery is good, but can lead to partial truth. Those who in a permanent state of enlightenment (moksha/nirvana), convey the complete truth. That which can then heard/listened, pondered upon and experienced as witnessing the Self.
    * At some point in the past the consciousness/Atma that descended drew a curtain from the Oneness, Self/Atma an illusionary identity separate from the whole - the Jiva - the Ego! Jiva exists over many life times.
    * This brought forgetfulness, ignorance - Avidya. The root cause, the first knot (granthi), ignorance.
    * The causal layer of existence, the subconscious, perpetuates the creation of subtle and gross levels. The mind and other related, is the subtle layer of existence, and body the gross. Over time the identity with the mind and body became very strong with time.
    * The illusionary separateness from Self, the veil of ignorance, made the individual soul unaware of it's own nature, Sat Chit Anand, the infinite eternal existence all-knowing blissful Atma. This feeling of lack, the ignorance that one is bliss, caused desire (Kaama - the 2nd knot or granthi) to acquire happiness, which leads to all desires.
    * These plethora of desires drove thoughts, feelings and actions (Kaama based Karma - the 3rd knot).
    * These desire based thoughts, feelings, actions, from the limited self or ego, creates side effects or impurities. Eg. the desire for perfection may cause anger. Not knowing that Oneness, that I am everyone-everything and everyone/everything is in me causes dislike (Dvesh) therefore anger (Krodh). And forgetting that everything is me already, causes craving (raaga) therefore desires (Kaam). The other impure emotions of lust, jealousy, greed, hatred, fear, grief, anger, are from this limited self. These patterns of thoughts, emotions, experiences cause stains, impressions, tendencies, called Vasanas. Over millions of yrs these have accumulated in the causal layer that then creates the corresponding subtle layer (mind, subconscious) and physical. Each impurity blocks the flow of energy, life force and evolution in particular chakras - energy centers in the ladder of evolution. In fact is sensitive to observing, about 80% of our thoughts, feelings, behaviors are based on tendencies, patterns, impressions from deep within. These Vasanas in the causal layer create the effects in the mind and subconscious. Our dreams are also based on these.
    * The other effect of our desire based actions is the perpetuation of a cause and effect account, Karma. The seeds we sow, the seeds that have sprouted (Prarabdh karma), the seeds which may sprout (Sanchit), and what we are sowing now (Agami). That account is also is stored in the causal layer that creates the subtle body, physical body (in DNA), and events/experiences in our lives.
    * The divine plan is for us to fall from our true divine nature, to the ignorant, and then to ascend again to our divine Self. All wisdom traditions of the world are infact about erasing the accumulated stains, Vasanas, and not acquiring any more. I have personally learned and experienced several wisdom traditions. For me there is only one universal timeless wisdom and man has drawn boundaries and given identities and separated it into fragments. This time I'm born into the Vedic tradition.
    * The Vedas that were not from human mind, were revelations given to enlightened souls from the divine consciousness.
    * In the Vedic methodology of purification there is a very intelligent and scientific process. It is the same in Christianity, Buddhism, and other traditions as well. However; Christianity has unfortunately been ruined by the Roman emperors and won't get into that now.
    * The Vedic methodology in the Vedas and Gita talks about Karma Yoga, Raj Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnan Yoga.
    * It systematically purifies the muddy, turbulent waters so then we can see our reflection. Bring back the Oneness, and return to Sat Chit Anand.

    1. Dear Vinita

      Thank you for taking out the time to write such an elaborate comment. I have read it again and again but fail to really understand the point that you are making in relation to the post.

      Are you saying that because the soul is divine that it cannot be stained? if you are then may I please clarify that it is the stains of the mind that I refer to.

      I also find that you are actually contradicting yourself in this comment where you start out saying that those in a permanent state of sat-chit-anand [ if there ever can be a permanent state of this and still be a human being] convey the whole truth and that self -discovery is only partial truth and then end with something that implies that the muddy waters reflect back what we are and bring us back to the state of sat-chit-anand - which infers that the being is not in a state of permanent oneness. And truthfully can there ever be a permanent state of one-ness when the fundamental aspect of being or life as we know it as human beings is all about duality - of being fragmented and representative of the whole together rather than as one.

      Frankly I find philosophy for the sake of philosophy obfuscates rather than illuminates and I would request you to kindly paraphrase this very dense comment and all that it contains in reference to what I have written in the post, because I do wish to understand what you are saying. I hope you will do so.

      Many thanks for reading and writing in.

    2. Dear Gopikaji - my apologies for such a looong comment which even I find difficult to read now, yet it flowed when I wrote! Perhaps brought some emotions while reading my comment :-)

      I really liked your blog and many profound things you said there so simply.

      For me it's not philosophy for philosophy's sake, but to understand myself, my life, the world, and the divine, from those who have mastered it. Just as you, I believe, are a teacher and master in the arts. So students have faith in you and what you teach.

      What am I trying to say! :-)
      Here's a quote that helps and is from Holi a few days ago:
      "Holika stands for the past burdens that try to burn Prahalad's innocence. But Prahlad, so deeply rooted in Narayana Bhakthi could burn all past impressions (sanskaras) and joy springs up with new colors. Life becomes a celebration. Burning the past, you gear up for a new beginning. Your emotions, like fire, burn you. But when there is a fountain of colors, they add charm to your life. In ignorance, emotions are a bother; in knowledge, the same emotions add colors."

    3. Vinita, I like the idea you have presented of emotions that once were a bother adding colour to life, because this is precisely what I see the whole human experience as being. It is about the resilience of the mind and body - through which the power of the spirit manifests. It is about burning or cleansing of stains or marks of judgment - being a bother is a kind of judgement is it not? Thank you for that interesting reminder through the example of Holi.

  4. Comment 2/2
    * Karma Yoga removes say 30% of the impurities and Vasanas by the reduction of desires (kaama) and desire driven thoughts and actions. This removes the mud from the muddy waters. The 2 knots. Karma yoga is not to have desire for the result of what you do. To dedicate everything you do as a service to others, and an offering to divine. To then know that you are not the doer, but the Self, this brings dispassion and detachment (Vairagya). When operating from the Self one cannot get new stains. Therefore dispassionate Karma will not get you new stains. The Atma can't be stained - it is the Jiva that accumulates stains.
    * Without this purification if one gains knowledge, or spiritual powers, or has spiritual experiences, the evolution or growth is distorted. Many go to the next phase of meditation, and other yogic methods without this initial purification step. That's why it's a methodology. Therefore one sees a lot of spiritual aspirants, yogis, masters with still the same desires for things, ego, anger, judgement etc.
    * The Raj yoga of dhyan, pranayam, asanas, etc. is to still the turbulent (Vikshepa) waters of the mind after removing the mud. The amount that one would gain from meditation is the amount of purity brought about by Karm Yog. Raj yoga reduces the vasanas (stains) by say another 30% and also reduces potential karmic effects. Therefore meditation etc can keep certain genes off and also bring about changes in DNA and the mind/brain. Meditation also is used later in Jnan yoga for experiencing what is the nature of the Self. Raj yoga brings purity and clarity
    * Bhakti yog purifies emotions. Unconditional love. It brings in surrender, faith, and reduces the negative side of ego. This is a very important step before gaining Self knowledge. Because to dive into the unknown, the unknowable one needs to surrender the ego and have faith. Unconditional love is also the canvas upon which the pillars of knowledge are painted.
    * When the preparation is of purity and clarity are complete then the fruit is ripened naturally for Jnan - witnessing the Oneness - the Self. Other times one can have limited experience, or powers, or limited knowledge, only to the point one has purified and calmed the mind, the mud has been removed and the surface has been stilled for you now to see your true reflection and deep of the ocean. The process of Jnan is first to know about the nature of the Self before diving into the ocean, know the territory as indicated by realized beings who have witnessed. It's the unknowable so there are only pointers. This is Sravanam. Then one has to ponder and clear doubts, have questions answered so that the intellect is purified. This is Mananam. The mind and intellect are tools to take the leap. The knowingness, the witnessing, Being the Self, is the removal of the 1st cause, or knot, of ignorance. The ultimate is the annihilation of the ego (Jiva) to only have a functional ego (self-respect), mind, body to fully realize the human potential while living. The full return to the divine Self, which is permanent, which cuts all limitations, bondage, it is liberation. Then there is unlimited bliss, wisdom and existence (Sat Chit Anand) which is the Atma. When operating from the Atma there is no accumulation of stains.

    This is only a very limited version of the universal and timeless wisdom (Ved). I would encourage everyone to read the Gita with implied and deeper meanings from an evolved soul such as Swami Chinmayananda. This is also the subject of my book Eternal Way to Bliss. This is the topic you have addressed here, Vasanas (sometimes called Samskaras) as stains I believe.

    1. Vinita

      . The process that I have referred to in this post, speaks about a personal dimension of my work as an artist which enables me to transcend through watching and observing what experience throws up as my sense of self. This blog is a journal - it does not prescribe a way of life. I just share my thoughts. I would request you once again to address your question or phrase your comment in a way that it relates to something that I have said for that makes it easier to understand and respond to. I would like to have a dialogue with you about the philosophical dimensions you present but philosophy without a context makes it difficult.

      I think that everyone lives to the best of their ability, given the knowing they have then and as they grow they find whatever else is needed. There is no right and wrong and everyone must find their own way. I don't believe there can be any prescribed path for when you are living one prescribed by someone else then you are not really being true to yourself. There can be many teachers along the way, but the real guide for each of us lies within so how can the path be prescribed in its entirety?

    2. Yes absolutely! It's not a prescribed way. It is wise guidance from those who have found solutions and bliss, it's about knowledge on man, world and divine.

      Here are the lines I loved from your blog:
      "It is about the journey and that journey is a rich tapestry woven through the way that we experience people, places and things"
      "feelings have been the ones that have taken me deeper and deeper into myself,"
      "feeling uncomfortable and carrying around this burden and with it anger and resentment and more, wanting to find that pristine space where I felt good about being,"
      "They [emotions] mark my experience, my foot-falls towards that pinnacle of self –realization."
      and this one: "I choose to watch my thoughts and feelings – through expression, rather than control. Transcending those that create emotional blocks by experiencing them fully. This in effect, leads to transformation through the very process of expressing. "

      and isn't the goal to gain "wisdom to live each day.... happier and more fulfilled...." :-)

      Thanks for expressing your soul !

    3. Dear Vinita, you have picked out sentences which become very abstract without the context - you seem to be drawn to that kind of thinking.....:-)