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Manikarnika
ManikarnikaGhat from the Ganges.  The terraced buildings to the left and center are pilgrim sheds.  The domed temple to the right, now abandoned, was built in the 18th century by Queen Ahalya Bai Holkar of Indore

ManikarnikaGhat from the Ganges. The terraced buildings to the left and center are pilgrim sheds. The domed temple to the right, now abandoned, was built in the 18th century by Queen Ahalya Bai Holkar of Indore

It’s always six o’clock at Manikarnika.  Squinting through the thick smoke of incinerating bodies, one can see the clock atop the decrepit Birla pilgrim shed which hasn’t moved in living memory.  Shrouded in perpetual twilight, legend states here, at this most holy of Hindu sites on the banks of the Ganges, time never runs down but instead stands still.  And so it does.  Precariously rooted in the ashes of thousands of bodies burned over thousands of years, the site is reverently known as the “cradle of Vishnu.”  Its origins, rumored to extend back to the beginning of creation, serve as a gruesome yet persistent reminder of life’s trembling fragility and temporary essence.  Here within the ancient sacred city of Varanasi, multitudes of the Hindu pious have for millennium brought their dead to this auspicious place for cremation and ultimately their final journey from this world.  Their presence and force is palpably felt within the all enveloping spectral haze.  It is a place of great severity and immense profundity.

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Tags: , ,   |  Posted under Cultural Practice, NewsFlash, Religion, Rituals  |  Comments  2 Comments
Last Updated on Sunday, 5 January 2014 09:33
Preposterous Ponderings

Losing Your Mind Over Zen

If the answers to all the big questions of existence were easy to come by everybody would know them.   There’s good reason why so few hold the most profound secrets of life.  Let’s face it, the path to enlightenment is undeniably a tough and arduous slog.  Those deciding to pursue the weighty issues of our intrinsic Being better strap in for a rocky ride filled with perplexing concepts, torturous reason, an avalanche of bewildering language and endless acres of convoluted conundrums.  Of course, just because the task is formidable doesn’t mean there aren’t many willing to give enlightenment a shot.  For such ambitious souls there’s no end of revered spiritual systems to hitch one’s fate.   While almost all spiritual or wisdom traditions specialize in the esoteric, obscure and impenetrable one in particular raises the levels of confusion, mystification and befuddlement to vertiginous heights.  This asylum of contradiction is the fusion of Taoism and Mahayana Buddhism commonly known as Zen.  Those of saner disposition steeped in logic and reason best turn back now.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 12 March 2017 08:59

As bees suck nectar from many a flower
And make their honey one, so that no drop
Can say, “I am from this flower or that,”
All creatures, though one, know not they are that one.

Chandogya Upanishad

Virtually every spiritual system on earth espouses the existence of an original source.  A source from which all existence emerges and all knowledge flows.  This observation in itself is hardly profound or requires great deductive acumen.  After all, if it’s here it must have come from somewhere.  Both physicists and theologists are in rare accord when claiming everything and everyone must trace back to a singular starting point.  Defining the nature and motivations of this original source has led to a variety of different and conflicting opinions which form the basis of the worlds formalized spiritual systems.   However, closer examination of the description of the essence of the original source brings surprising unanimity.  It reveals an ultimate, singular intelligence of which all are a part; a power whose essence forms and informs all within existence.  Many of the descriptions of this source found in the spiritual texts of our world are exceedingly complex, others breathtakingly simple. 

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Last Updated on Sunday, 1 August 2010 06:25
Losing Paradise
The Torajan village of Kete Kesu outside Rontepao

The Torajan village of Kete Kesu outside Rontepao

The Torajan people on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi are a rarity among traditional cultures.  They possess something capable of holding at bay the inexorable encroachment of modernity.  Something within their cultural essence whose preservation is of great value to the ravenous economic sensibilities of the modern world.  Something allowing them to maintain those native customs, ideals and forms so delicately assembled and maintained over countless generations.  This commodity is neither land nor material resource but rather a unique and dramatic set of spiritual perspectives and behaviors.  The Torajan are a new breed of entrepreneur.  In concert with the Indonesian government, they have parlayed their traditional animist practices into big business.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 12 March 2017 09:01