Category: Tales of India


E-invite-lecutre on 20-7-2019

1024px-Corvus_corax_tibetanus

 

Where the essence of the rain echoes

 

The magic beyond time,

 

There, as anyone knows,

 

There is no time.

 

Only the bluebirds that flit quickly

 

From branch to beaded branch; only

 

The far, jasmine-flowered eyes

 

Of the deer that trails beyond the tree;

 

Only the elusive tower

 

In the clouds where that ancient spirit stays

 

To watch and then simply to remain.

 

Only the One who is all,

 

Only the breath of the boat of the moon,

 

In misted shawl,

 

Mother of the silver pathways,

 

That run along the creek-enchanted stones

 

Of greening moss and deepening mystery.

 

Soon,

 

With the fleet

 

Ears of the listening hour,

 

Ever-perceptive,

 

Those black-robed ravens

 

(Who live,

 

Long,

 

In joy, where we do not,

 

In the bitter knocking wind of winter’s bones)

 

Will hear the exultant wail of the coyote,

 

(Who has never been wrong

 

Yet always was held ever, in

 

The bright-leaved essence of the rain)

 

Will hear now, so clearly, the tumbling power

 

Of the dawn over the rain-sung mountains,

 

Where the ringing song

 

Is heard to rise

 

Then wane,

 

Beyond the rock-encircled climb

 

To the fire-striking feet

 

Of Hamsa, the knowing swan

 

And then, anon,

 

Will chime

 

In peace the single mystic gong

 

That folds up the wandering wings of being.

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2019

 

Photo: Pkspks / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.”/ Wikipedia

 

 

E-Invitation.jpg

 

Phoenix_detail_from_Aberdeen_Bestiary

 

Out of the ashes of the end

 

Arises the Phoenix.

 

Who is this Phoenix

 

Who flies through flashes

 

Of burning embers,

 

Who extends

 

Her black-enchanted wings

 

From the horizon

 

To the wind-streaked high plateau,

 

This one who ever dies,

 

Yet flies

 

Again

 

With golden beak

 

And brown-laked eyes

 

That seek

 

Only those stories, spoken lore,

 

True and raven-wandering?

 

Mountain air gleams;

 

Glittering stars talk

 

And walk,

 

And wend their way

 

Among the hidden crannies of the skies

 

And know

 

Where eagles slip through time’s illusion,

 

Eagles who remember every eon

 

And recall the wisdom

 

Of the glad-winged Hamsa

 

Who hears,

 

Even now, the dawn-invoking, distant drums

 

Of long-gone dreams.

 

After the flames of desecrated towns

 

Leave strange, fossilized soils,

 

After the blanched wicks

 

Of all the candles have been snuffed,

 

And volcanic plumes fluffed

 

Aloft in sobering winds,

 

After the great ending,

 

The air clears

 

Of dim, smoke-laden whiffs.

 

Then Adi Sesha of the thousand, bright-singing,

 

Emerald crowns,

 

Older than all the many worlds before,

 

Older than the trees of time, ever ancient,

 

Floats again

 

On the timeless mist

 

Of eternity,

 

Lifting, on his linked coils,

 

The light form of Narayana,

 

Radiant,

 

Who slumbers,

 

Resting.

 

Then the Phoenix

 

Rises through the amethyst

 

Height,

 

Over the land where lilies still grow

 

In the backwaters

 

Not far from the rainbowed sea,

 

In the rain,

 

In the truth where only

 

The innocent curlews, nesting,

 

Play by the rocky shore

 

On a gray, moon-bent day

 

There the waves crash, exuberant,

 

Against the granite cliffs.

 

 

©Sharon St Joan, 2018

 

Illustration: Phoenix detail from Aberdeen Bestiary, Public Domain, Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nataraja

800px-An_ephemeral_waterfall

 

Their lives are cast in shadows,

 

They who will not see you,

 

You who no one knows,

 

Not hearing your voice in the grass, talking,

 

Or in the pale wintry call

 

Of the tern,

 

Not hearing your voice of ashes,

 

Unaware of your presence in the flames

 

Of the waters that run,

 

That turn over the stones.

 

Still there is only you,

 

No one else anywhere,

 

You who stand behind all;

 

Within all.

 

With only a billion names

 

You are one.

 

In the night soul of the forest, oaken,

 

In the stalking

 

Of the insistent leopard,

 

In the power of the sea, cresting

 

Blue,

 

In the word

 

Of the wind that so long wandered

 

By the bleak

 

Runes.

 

Now there dawns the dancer in the sky overhead,

 

About whom none may speak,

 

And nothing may be said,

 

Not ever spoken.

 

There rise the flames of the names,

 

Unbroken,

 

Standing still by the tall

 

Reeds in the lake of the sun,

 

Hearing your voice in all the rains

 

That ever were,

 

Singing.

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2018

 

Photo: Vince Reinhart/“This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.”/Wikipedia/ Waterfall on the Chagrin River, Ohio

 

1599px-Kailash_north

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

Inextricably intertwined with the animals of the forest, with the rivers, the mountains, and the rocks, since time immemorial, has been the spiritual life of India, as Dr. Nanditha Krishna writes in her very beautiful book, Hinduism and Nature. The spiritual traditions of the East tend to have a kind, gentle, and reverent approach to the natural world.

 

The gods of the Vedas, the earliest books ever written, were all linked to nature. Indra is the god of rains and storms, thunder and lightning. Shiva lives at Mount Kailas, a great mountain in the land of snow and ice. We are all the children of Mother Earth.

 

God himself comes to earth in the forms of the animals. Lord Vishnu incarnates first as a fish; then as a turtle; then a wild boar; then a half-man, half lion; and only then as a human. Everything in nature is sacred. All animals and all of nature belong to god, all are in fact manifestations of god, and all, ultimately, are a sacred part of god.

 

Human beings are not given dominion over nature, but rather are expected to protect and care for the natural world, living in harmony with it.

 

As we struggle today with the reality of climate change, this is a book with many lessons for the times in which we live. Despite the grave concern that so many of us have about our destructive approach to nature – progress in changing human behavior just limps along, and so far, the destruction of the natural world seems to be not just continuing, but by some accounts is winning and gaining momentum.

 

Unfortunately, we tend to put climate change at the bottom of our collective list of priorities, and when we think of it at all – we think mainly in terms of benefit to humans. How many carbon footprints can we count – how much energy can we get from wind and solar?  Really, this is a far cry from seeing ourselves as a part of nature – we are a long way from worshipping the trees, the mountains and the rivers, as our ancestors once did, even in Europe.

 

Some of us are appalled at the thought of worshipping anything at all (and this also is a western mindset). Heaven forbid that we should honor the sacredness of animals and plants. Instead, we objectify nature. We remain alienated from the earth and the beauty of all the living beings of the earth. Yet, if the earth is to survive, we will need to make an about-face. We need to acknowledge the intrinsic beauty and value of all life.

 

The most ancient books of Hinduism were composed in the forests, where sages and wise people lived.

 

Every village in India once had a sacred forest – maybe two acres, or maybe two hundred. Within the boundaries of this sacred grove, all life was sacred. Within these forests lived the gods that people worshipped. The trees and the animals were not to be harmed for any reason, though, in recent decades, many of these forests have fallen into disrepair. One of Dr. Nanditha Krishna’s foundations, the CPR Environmental Education Centre, has restored 53 of these sacred groves; and their upkeep is now being managed by local villages.

 

Most of one of the two great epics of India, the Ramayana, takes place inside forests, as the hero Rama travels throughout India traversing all the many different kinds of forest; there are spectacular descriptions of flowering trees and plants, and the graceful beauty of the wild animals.

 

6_Śiva_and_Pārvatī_seated_on_a_terrace._1800_(circa)_BM

 

Every river in India is a goddess – except for two who are male gods. Beautiful stories are told about these river goddesses. Because the river Ganges did not want to fall straight down to the earth out of fear that her great power might destroy the plants and animals below, she sought the help of Shiva. When she fell down from heaven to earth, the water power was caught in Shiva’s hair, in order to break the fall, then it fell gently down, from Shiva’s head, to the earth below. It still does today.

 

The land of India, north and south, is filled with sacred lakes, and sacred ponds known as “tanks”, which are artificial bodies of water, some created many centuries ago. These sacred bodies of water hold large amounts of rainfall to protect against droughts. Seeping from these ponds and tanks into the surrounding soil, the stored water is available to the plants and trees during times of water scarcity. Many of these tanks were built in times past by kings whose engineers understood the value of conserving water.

 

Even today, despite the deleterious effects of western influence, which is all too pervasive in India, particularly in the fields of science and education, there is a strong, vibrant love and respect for nature. There remains today, as always in the past, a profound reverence for all life – human, animal, plant, and the features of the landscape – the mighty rivers, mountains, and forests.

 

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There is much that we in the west can learn from this great land, whose wisdom stretches back at least 5,000 years, and probably much, much farther. Dr. Nanditha Krishna’s beautifully written book, Hinduism and Nature, is a very good place to start on this journey to broaden our understanding of the earth and our place in nature.

 

Photo Credits

 

Top Photo: Ondrej Zvacek / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Wikipedia. / Northern side of Mount Kailash

 

Second photo: Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons / The Ganges falling through Shiva’s hair.

 

Third photo: Rbsrajput / Wikipedia: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / The Narmada River.

 

one ID 59266198 © Adriana Maria Leenheer | Dreamstime.com

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

On Friday, November 2, 2018 at 11 pm in Maharashtra, India, a tiger called Avni was shot and killed by the Forest Service, leaving her two ten-month old cubs, who are too young to survive on their own, without their mother. There has been a major outcry against this injustice in the Indian press. For details, you can google “Avni” – beware of numerous fabricated justifications (lies) being given by the authorities.

 

In Utah, in the U.S. (and in other states), hunting native big cats is not illegal. Every year in Utah the number of cougars allowed to be hunted is increased, despite the fact that there is no real data on the actual numbers of cougars left in the wild. This hunting season, the target for cougars has been raised from 581 to 642 – the equivalent of 61 additional, innocent “Avni’s” slated to lose their lives. (Please see the link below.)

 

twoID 39369001 © Belizar | Dreamstime.com

 

A cougar is not a tiger and is not – not yet anyway – endangered. Not being endangered, however, is not a reason to allow the senseless killing of living animals – for the sole purpose of displaying their heads on the living room wall. Both tigers and cougars are astonishing, magnificent animals. And every other animal on earth – from the bright fish in the sea to the squirrels who are gathering their food for winter is a living, sentient being, whose life has worth and value.

 

Connectedness

 

Entirely apart from the consciousness and sentience of each living animal, to whom her life is as precious to her as ours is to us – we, as humans, are all connected to the world of nature.

 

This connectedness is extremely ancient knowledge, still alive in India – and, to some extent, in the west as well. In Hinduism, every God or Goddess is linked to an animal. The Goddess Durga, one of the forms of the wife of the great God Shiva, is also an independent, powerful deity in her own right. She is fierce, a warrior Goddess who fights and defeats evil. Durga and the tiger are inseparable.

 

This ferocity is also the nature of the tiger – powerful and dynamic, a mother who defends and protects her young. Or a male who represents the wild spirit of the forest.

 

The tiger is the essence of the wild – untamable and free.

 

threeID 50336351 © Sonsam | Dreamstime.com

 

Who would want to kill such a magnificent animal?

 

Paleolithic and neolithic people did hunt for survival, but not for sport.

 

Since the beginning of time, animals have been hunted for food by tribal people. For at least 10,000 years Native Americans lived off the land, hunting and fishing, as well as growing whatever vegetables they could. In the sixteenth century, when Europeans arrived on the shores of America, they found a land of unbelievable beauty and magnificence – filled with a vast abundance of wildlife and wild lands which had not been destroyed or diminished – which they promptly set about to demolish. This destruction continues unabated to this day, until there is not much left of the great wilderness that was once here.

 

Europeans, my ancestors and perhaps yours, brought with them a culture of dominance (over other peoples and nature), which is also a culture of alienation from the natural world. It’s a case of “us” and “them,” which proclaims, “I’m a human, and that thing over there, unfortunately, is just an ‘animal’ – just an object to be used for my benefit.”

 

Malevolent intent?

 

We can see this thinking alive and well today in the way that the word “animal” is still being used, endlessly, sometimes to apply to anyone who is simply “other.” The word “animal” is also used for those who demonstrate disgusting or criminal behavior – despite the fact that animals are innocent beings, and no animal behaves, or thinks, like a criminal. The attribute of “viciousness” can logically apply only to humans, because it applies to malevolent intent, which animals simply do not have.

 

It is this malevolent intent which is the problem. Not all humans, thankfully, have this trait. And not all cultures either. It is something gone awry in the history of our race. If one goes far back to the time of the Romans, the Europeans, then pagan tribes, were worshipping trees and nature, just like other early peoples.

 

They had genuine spiritual traditions, really not so different from those of India, which were based on peace and harmony with nature. Not that they were entirely peaceful, they certainly weren’t, but there was an underlying premise of being at one with nature – of being part of one overall earth – of not being alienated or superior to this planet – and there was an absence of the desire to kill nature. (Sadly, western religions seem to have little to do now with their own origins, and they have, in large measure, been taken over by the western view which sees everything as a dichotomy.)

 

Inciting fear

 

Killing a tiger, a cougar, a bear, or a wolf, is, in a way, emblematic of this malevolent intent – this destructive, evil force which has, to some extent, possessed the human race. These great archetypal animals seem to incite fear and to have a magical power within them – some sort of force, a will, which is untamed and untamable. They are hunted for no rational purpose – hunted to near extinction. No one in Utah, or elsewhere in the U.S., is in any reasonable danger of being killed by a cougar. We are in far more danger of being killed by our own cars, while we are driving them, than we are of being harmed by any of these animals.

 

There is something vastly irrational about the destruction that we as humans are inflicting on the earth. We have already destroyed 60% of the animals on the planet. We have turned half of the earth’s land mass into farm land, destroying forests and natural ecosystems.

 

fourID 63152963 © Wonderful Nature | Dreamstime.com

 

With our artificial chemicals pouring into waterways, we are rapidly poisoning the ocean – as well as the air and the land. And, as we know, we are destroying the climate.

 

Since we are dependent on the earth for our survival, there is absolutely nothing sane or rational about these human activities. They are like a suicidal madman waving about a bomb that is about to detonate.

 

Yes, of course, there is an element of greed and self-centeredness in the way humans go about taking over and then obliterating all life on the planet. But this, in itself, is really not a rational explanation for the obsessive level of destruction that is taking place.

 

One might posit that there is some underlying, driving, unconscious force which compels us to behave in this immensely self-destructive way. We seem to want to kill ourselves.

 

Why?

 

This major isolation and alienation from nature which has taken hold of us is propelling us toward a cliff, a bottomless abyss — and seems to predetermine our will as a species, and our actions.

 

Yet, although this is, I am aware, profoundly gloomy, there is something else also, a certain light – which lies in the fact that not all of humanity has always behaved in this self-destructive way.

 

Ancient people saw themselves as part of the earth, as, ultimately being at one with the animals, the trees, the rivers, and all life.  Even today, especially among those cultures and countries not altogether swept up in the falsehoods of the modern worldview, there are remnants and in some cases the reawakening of a true realization that we are the earth and the earth is us. We are all one, intertwined and interrelated.

 

There is, moreover, a dynamic, and growing movement, all over the planet, both east and west, to return to, and go forward with, the knowledge and vision of deep reverence for the world of nature and the sacredness of all life.

 

Looking ahead

 

fiveID 102516960 © Avspream | Dreamstime.com

 

This is the great end battle. Nature, of course – even if it takes several millennia — will recover and will win, in this world or in another. The question that remains is — will we join with nature, protecting her as the earth, our mother, or will we, as a species, self-destruct? We shall see.

 

In the meantime, each of us can open our eyes and our hearts — and live, as best we can, in harmony and peace with the natural world and its numinous, alive, wild presence – encountered in the wonderful, fiery eyes of the tiger and in all of nature.

 

Link to Salt Lake Tribune article about cougar hunting:

https://www.sltrib.com/news/environment/2018/09/15/utah-is-putting-more/

 

 

Photos:

Top photo:ID 59266198 © Adriana Maria Leenheer | Dreamstime.com

Second photo:ID 39369001 © Belizar | Dreamstime.com

Third photo: ID 50336351 © Sonsam | Dreamstime.com

Fourth photo: ID 63152963 © Wonderful Nature | Dreamstime.com

Fifth photo: ID 102516960 © Avspream | Dreamstime.com

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2018

 

 

The Rain

113186375 Michael Chatt : dreamstime.com

 

In a portent of misted beauty

 

The rain-wandering hawk

 

Awakens

 

The sleeping

 

Mother of the mountains

 

To ring the standing

 

Bowls of silence

 

There since

 

Before the wings of time took flight,

 

And in ringing, to empower

 

The wild places;

 

The trees, her children,

 

Blossom gold;

 

Bumblebees run races,

 

The stars sail

 

Their tall wooden ships

 

On the bobbing waves of the black, deep sea.

 

Will the antlered elk remain,

 

Even then,

 

Along with the swift falcon,

 

And the barred geese

 

Who rode so bravely

 

Near the fierce night

 

Of the wrath of the wind

 

And biting hail

 

Where the embattled sky

 

Flashed

 

White, unpinned,

 

And armies of air

 

Clashed

 

From outcrop to rocky hill

 

Echoing

 

Echoing

 

Where the old owl blinks?

 

In the aftermath, gray-gowned, shy

 

Rain beings fly by

 

On blue

 

Petals;

 

The band of geese settles

 

On the lapping lake, recalling

 

All the stone-stepped eons told

 

In the unfolding stories – or a leaf-borne tale

 

By the rocks that talk,

 

Voices of the dark red canyons,

 

Of the grass and plants, wind-whispering

 

Of the juniper-guardians

 

Of the all-knowing bear,

 

Of the small-footed mouse, smiling and meek,

 

And the so determined ants.

 

There the rattlesnake slinks.

 

Now only the wise ones who

 

Know the starry ways, by most forgotten,

 

Who tend the earth, will gather

 

Again,

 

Their songs to sing

 

Like the soaring sea,

 

In the bright land of the moon –

 

Gentle as the rain that drips

 

Among the sleeping flowers

 

Of the stars. Now all is connected in these most final holy

 

Hours

 

As it was before the beginning,

 

One in many,

 

Many in one,

 

And if we train

 

Our attention for a moment,

 

Soon,

 

As the gale is done,

 

We will

 

Find the one we seek

 

Standing by the silver tree,

 

Near the old

 

Railed fence

 

Speckled in sunlight.

 

Hear beyond the rivers’ torrent

 

The chant of Om,

 

The lost bells of home.

 

Thank you, blessed rain.

 

Thank you, Parvathi,

 

Ever there, peace

 

Falling

 

On the star-clad mountain peak.

 

 © Sharon St Joan, 2018

Photo: 113186375 © Michael Chatt / dreamstime.com

dreamstime_xs_122429856

 

Do you know the way

That leads to the stream

In the early morning,

Where spotted fawns

Run,

Letting shining droplets fall

From their silver hooves

Like the last shreds of moonlight,

While the owl in the wild oak

Tree shuts her feathered eyes to sleep

At dawn, opening the door of the dream

To a universe of wonder,

In the star-bespeckled sky?

Or else, maybe you might know the way

To where the bright

Grass bends in the cold north wind

And the bison

Rumble by

On nimble feet

Across the wide, flat

Plain, and there

The wolves

Forever run

To greet

The spiraling snow on a white and wintry day?

Or perhaps you might even know

The way to the deep

Sheltering forest where the bear

Waits out with her cubs the hours

Of the squall,

Of crackling thunder

Near the hillside of peace where wildflowers

Cast in a trance

The bumblebee,

And the clay

By the riverbank holds up the saplings,

While dragonflies flit

And execute their wise dance

Of joy?

You see we were looking for the way out –

Out from the cinders swirling,

Out from the center, come all unpinned,

From the ashes of history gone awry

That prophetic ravens rue,

From the sting

Of bitter smoke,

Out into the clear sun-

Begotten waterfall that

Shimmers all the way

Down on to the rocks

Of granite

On to the foundation blocks

Where all the worlds begin anew?

Where is the way,

Narayana,

You who ever walked as a young boy

On the wandering waves of the eternal sea,

In the star-born mists of all the dawns

That ever were or are to be?

Where is the way,

Narayana,

Where is the way

To find the light of your lands

That sing the song of the soul in the sounding sea?

 

 

©Sharon St Joan, 2018

Photo: ID 122429856© Syberyjczyk/ Dreamstime.com

 

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