A Siva story: Do what you want

As Sivaratri winds down, here’s a story — with Nandi, of course — for you:

Once lord shiva and his consort, Parvati, were travelling with their vehicle – the Bull. The Lord had taken the form of an old man, while, Parvatiji remained young and beautiful. On the road all passers-by looked on with amazement at this odd couple of an old man and a young woman.

On the way, Shiva said, ”Parvatiji, my dear, please sit and ride on the bull durig this journey.” She obeyed and mounted the bull while Shiva walked alongside. The village folk and other strangers bitterly criticised, ”What a selfish woman! She is young and healthy and yet she chooses to comfortably ride while forcing the old man to walk.” Shiva changed his mind. ”Parvatidevi, the people are mocking you. It is wiser that I sit and you walk.” So saying, Shiva sat on the bull’s back. Further along, other strangers came with sharper comments, ”O look at this mean, bully of a man. He’s fat and robust, and evil too. He enjoys the ride while forcing this young and gentle lady to walk on foot.”

Hearing this both of them climbed the bull. At least, this would ward off the criticisms. But they were gravely mistaken and no sooner had they come to the next village, people sneered and jeered. ”Look at this nasty couple. Both of them have mercilessly climbed upon the bull. They’ll kill the poor creature!”
Now there was only one option left. They dismounted and allowed the bull to walk freely. They accompanied it on either side. While they walked, they met new people with new bitterness. They laughed at them, shouting ”What foolishness! They have taken a bull as a vehicle and neither of them is using it.” Straight away Shiva told Parvati, ”Come let us do what we think is right, and live the way we want to. The world will never appreciate or see what we do as correct.”

In this world, even if we perform a good deed not everyone will like it and support it. The problem lies with the nature of our world. If a Sadhu shows miracles people say, ”He’s into black magic and possesses evil powers.” And if a Sadhu avoids miracles, some will mutter complaints, ”O! He shows no miracles. He’s ordinary and is of no use.” This is the line of thinking our world works on. It is crooked from both ends and whatever you do, the world will never see you straight. Therefore, pay no attention to the words of the worldly people and continue to devoutly worship God.

That’s from a website, 101 Tales of Wisdom. You can find more — including, I’d suspect, 100 other stories — at this link. (Also here, I think, more generally about BAPS.) The moral — to frame this in the traditional Western way — of this one, though, can’t be beat.

For another take, here’s a tale as told by Tim Miller.

Posted by Steve

$5-million Siva at center of huge, alleged art smuggling ring

Via the LA Times

A bronze dancing Siva statue at one point put up for sale for $5 million is among the dozens of art and artifacts that authorities believe were smuggled from their countries of origin and either sold or donated to major worldwide museums.

The Los Angeles Times has details, in part because two of the museums, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Norton Simon, are in LA County. Here is some of the story’s information:

Subhash Kapoor, a 64-year-old American citizen, awaits trial in India, where he is accused of being part of an antiquities smuggling ring that American and Indian investigators say spanned continents. U.S. authorities have issued their own arrest warrant for Kapoor, saying they have evidence he supplied stolen art to leading museums around the world.

In a series of raids on his Manhattan gallery and storage facilities last year, investigators with Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized dozens of artifacts along with Kapoor’s business records. Among the objects seized were a 2nd century BC pillar sculpture valued at nearly $18 million and a 5-foot tall head of Buddha weighing approximately 1,600 pounds, investigators say.

Authorities claim Kapoor falsified documents about the art, and they say they have evidence showing that items were shipped to American within the past few years.

In total, there may be about $100 million worth of art involved.

The Siva statue is at the heart of the investigation:

The National Gallery of Australia is the first museum to publicly grapple with its ties to Kapoor, in part because American and Indian investigators revealed last July that they had traced a costly stolen sculpture of dancing Shiva to the museum.

Last month, museum director Ron Radford told a committee of Australia’s senate that he was confident the Shiva and some 20 other objects acquired from Kapoor had not been stolen because the museum had ownership histories dating to before 1970.

But detailed records on several objects that Kapoor sold to the National Gallery of Australia show that they were photographed in India and exported from there years after the ownership histories indicated they had left that country — and long after India’s 1972 law prohibited the export of cultural artifacts.

Kapoor’s attorney did not respond to the Times’ questions. The museums are being pretty hush-hush, too. The sources of such artifacts is an ongoing issues for many — whether the origin is Greece, Italy or India.

Posted by Steve

A little more detail on the next Namarupa Yatra

We already provided some details about the next Namarupa Yatra: Yatra Divine. We’ve now got our hands, virtually anyway, on an early map-based itinerary — you know, just to prove what we said before: This is a can’t miss trip.

I know there was some concern about the heat during the late June to mid-July time frame for this trip (reminder: June 14 to July 16, 2014). But a good chunk of it will be in the north and in the Himalayas. Yes, Kolkotta might be a bit close.

(Click to enlarge.)

Yatra Divine 2014

A bit close shouldn’t stop you, right?

Posted by Steve

Mercury Day poetry: Lord Byron’s ‘Darkness’

If you saw any Facebook or Twitter updates from me on Tuesday, you might know it was a chaotic day at work.

When I walked into the office, there was a crew of workers standing around. That wasn’t unexpected. Other parts of the floor I work on are being taken over by a different company, and it is installing Internet cable and doing other work.

Problem was, our offices were supposed to be let alone. They weren’t. Our phone and Internet lines literally had been cut. In some ways, even worse, our offices had been de-wired. There was no taping together a T1 line.

Result: chaos. At this point, there’s still only Internet — we’ll see if the phones get fixed tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

And so, as a reflection of this Tuesday at work, one of my favorite poems: Lord Byron’s “Darkness.” I think it is pretty self-explanatory; if I have to shove a yogic perspective on it, think of it was a view — perhaps one that doesn’t understand what’s happening — of Shiva’s dance.

Or just enjoy the Romance, capital R, as in Romantic.


I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguished, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went -and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chilled into a selfish prayer for light;
And they did live by watchfires -and the thrones,
The palaces of crowned kings -the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consumed,
And men were gathered round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other’s face;
Happy were those which dwelt within the eye
Of the volcanoes, and their mountain-torch;
A fearful hope was all the world contained;
Forests were set on fire -but hour by hour
They fell and faded -and the crackling trunks
Extinguished with a crash -and all was black.
The brows of men by the despairing light
Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
The flashes fell upon them: some lay down
And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smiled;
And others hurried to and fro, and fed
Their funeral piles with fuel, and looked up
With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
The pall of a past world; and then again
With curses cast them down upon the dust,
And gnashed their teeth and howled; the wild birds shrieked,
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawled
And twined themselves among the multitude,
Hissing, but stingless -they were slain for food;
And War, which for a moment was no more,
Did glut himself again; -a meal was bought
With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left;
All earth was but one thought -and that was death,
Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
Of famine fed upon all entrails -men
Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
The meagre by the meagre were devoured,
Even dogs assailed their masters, all save one,
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
The birds and beasts and famished men at bay,
Till hunger clung them, or the drooping dead
Lured their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
Which answered not with a caress -he died.
The crowd was famished by degrees; but two
Of an enormous city did survive,
And they were enemies: they met beside
The dying embers of an altar-place
Where had been heaped a mass of holy things
For an unholy usage: they raked up,
And shivering scraped with their cold skeleton hands
The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
Blew for a little life, and made a flame
Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
Each other’s aspects -saw, and shrieked, and died –
Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
Famine had written Fiend. The world was void,
The populous and the powerful was a lump,
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless –
A lump of death -a chaos of hard clay.
The rivers, lakes, and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirred within their silent depths;
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal; as they dropped
They slept on the abyss without a surge –
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
The Moon, their mistress, had expired before;
The winds were withered in the stagnant air,
And the clouds perished! Darkness had no need
Of aid from them -She was the Universe!

Posted by Steve

Eddie Stern takes ‘The Economist’ to task over India article

In a bit of a break from our Ashtanga-focused posts here and, more importantly, among the Confluence teachers, Eddie Stern’s latest blog post picks up a controversy over an article in The Economist magazine.

Here’s the link to Stern’s blog, and the opening part:

The Economist ran a bizarrely derogatory article on India and the Kashmir conflict on July 21st. Among the things that jumped out were

1. The subtitle of the article: ‘A Brighter Mood Brings an Opportunity. Expect India to Squander it.’

2. A photo caption below pilgrims that facetiously read: ‘Oh look, a five star military checkpoint’.

Amazingly, that’s not the worst part. You’ll have to head on over to the blog to find out.

(I’ll wait. I just took a lesson on “long tone” vocal warm-up so I’ll do that for a bit.)

OK, back? Surprised by what you read? I hate to say, I’m not.

Now, first, as both Stern and the person from the Hindu American Foundation note, The Economist is a top-flight publication. (There aren’t many left.) But — speaking as a former journalist — I can tell you that not a single journalist I’ve ever known wouldn’t go for the cruder description of the piece of ice. It doesn’t help that it’s also a very short, quick one, which is music to a journalist’s ears.

I’ll also be the downer who says that the campaign HAF has started won’t do much good. “Astroturf” campaigns to the media do little other than annoy, infuriate or humor journalists. And if people aren’t even giving the chance to personalize their letter a bit, it will be all to clear that the (same) letter from a different person is just more of the same.

That said, if you really are upset by The Economist piece, I’d urge you to write the magazine on your own. It’s easy: “To share your thoughts about anything you have read in The Economist or The Economist online, please e-mail letters@economist.com and include your mailing address and a daytime telephone number.”

A handful of original letters will go much further than hundreds of the form one.

The ‘yoga capital of the world’?

Statue of Shiva, in Rishikesh, via the Seattle Times.

A trip to India is, not surprisingly, on Bobbie and my itinerary. Nothing solid yet, but the call of that country grows louder and louder with each Shavasana.

We don’t really have a sense of where, precisely, we will go. Mysore? Sounds like an obvious one, but we all know that things are different there since Guruji’s passing, and we have our teachers here in Encinitas and Los Angeles.

Plus, one of Bobbie’s students in her writing classes at our not-so-local University of California campus, who is from India, perhaps gave us pause with this comment when she mentioned that Mysore was where the Guru was.

“Mysore,” he sneered (according to the version of the story I’ve heard), “that’s like the Arkansas of India.”

So, noted.

What may be the pull, then, is less the yoga — or, precisely, the Ashtanga — and more the spiritual heritage of the country. Does that, then, mean we have to go to Rishikesh?

According to this Seattle Times piece, maybe:

TUCKED INTO a town in India’s Himalaya foothills sits a statue of Lord Shiva, one of Hinduism’s most venerated deities.

Shiva’s legs are crossed as he peacefully meditates, unlike the eager yoga students who clamber up and around the bigger-than-life statue to drape him with garlands.

Yoga and spiritual devotees of every nationality flock to this northern Indian town of Rishikesh along the banks of the Ganges, India’s holy river. The Beatles set off the flow of Western spiritual seekers after their stay in an ashram here in the 1960s.

Now billing itself “the yoga capital of the world,” Rishikesh brims with ashrams, temples and yoga schools, mixing New Age trappings such as juice bars and healing crystals with ancient Hindu teachings.

Actually, that sounds a little like Mt. Shasta, truth be told.

But, we’re very open to suggestions, if anyone has them. (And, if you have specific thoughts on travel agents/guides/etc., we’ll take any comments there, too!)

I assume the Confluence will have “vendors” who will be all about this kind of trip.

Posted by Steve