Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Quotes from Ka

Ka: Stories of the Mind and Gods of India

by Robert Classo, translated by Tim Parks

Vintage Books, New York, New York      © 1998      448 pp.

"A giddy invasion of stories -- brilliant, enigmatic, troubling, outrageous, erotic, beautiful." -- New York Times Book Review

"All is spectacle and delight, and tiny mirrors reflecting human foibles are set into the weave, turning this retelling into the stuff of literature."  -- The New Yorker

[After reading a few pages of the CSS copy of Ka, I knew I needed my own copy of this literary retelling of Hindu and Buddhist myths of India.  If you enjoyed Mary Renault's novelized accounts of Greek myths as a young adult (or adult), give Roberto Calasso a try.  -- Jennifer K.]


"Suddenly an eagle darkened the sky.  Its bright black, almost violet feathers made a moving curtain between clouds and earth.  Hanging from its claws, likewise immense and stiff with terror, an elephant and a turtle skimmed the mountaintops.  It seemed the bird meant to use the peaks as pointed knives to gut its prey.  Only occasionally did the eagle's staring eye flash out from behind the thick fronds of something held tight in its beak: a huge branch.  A hundred strips of cowhide would not have sufficed to cover it.

Garuda flew and remembered.  It was only a few days since he had hatched from his egg and already so much had happened.  Flying was the best way of thinking, of thinking things over.  Who was the first person he'd seen?  His mother, Vinata.  Beautiful in her tininess, she sat on a stone, watching his egg hatch, determinedly passive. Hers was the eye Garuda held in his own.  And at once he knew that that eye was his own.  Deep inside was an ember that glowed in the breeze.  The same he could feel burning beneath his own feathers."  (p. 3)

"Prajapati was alone.  He didn't even know whether he existed or not. 'So to speak.' iva. (As soon as one touches on something crucial, it's as well to qualify what one has said with the particle iva, which doesn't tie us down.)  There was only the mind, manas.  And what is peculiar about the mind is that it doesn't know whether it exists or not. But it comes before everything else. 'There is nothing before the mind.'  Then, even prior to establishing whether it existed or not, the mind desired. It was continuous, diffuse, undefined.  Yet, as though drawn to something exotic, something belonging to another species of life, it desired what was definite and separate, what had shape. A Self, atman--that was the name it used.  And the mind imagined that Self as having consistency. Thinking, the mind grew red hot.  It saw thirty-six thousand cups, and these too were made of mind."  (p. 20)

-- submitted by Jennifer Knight

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Sacred Landscape and Pilgrimage in Tibet (book and DVD)

Sacred Landscape and Pilgrimage in Tibet (book and DVD)

by Geshe Gelek Jinpa and Thomas L. Kelly, photographer

Abbeville Press, New York, New York      © 2005      204 pp.
Do you want to travel in Tibet? In the Pilgrimage & Travel Section of the Center library is a book and companion DVD (#670) called Sacred Landscape and Pilgrimage in Tibet. Through this film and book Geshe Gelek Jinpa, a young monk of the Bon faith, narrates for us his pilgrimage to the Bon homeland of Zhangzhung in western Tibet. I have traveled close to the border of western Nepal and the Tibetan plateau and suggest you see the DVD first . . . before you read the book.

All of our senses are involved as we experience the film and book . . . listening to the words of the storyteller, catching the space, the silence . . .  I was curious about Tibet and the Bon faith, and I learned more than I could imagine. Below are the gist of comments from fellow travelers about the land of Tibet and its relationship to its people and their faiths.

In the book, fellow pilgrims describe Tibet as a land of potent sites of power, places of immense natural beauty and inspiration. A pilgrim says,

I know of villagers of my homeland who prostrate all the way to the Jokhang in Lhasa or Mount Bonri in Kongpo. The greatest of all has always been pilgrimage to Gang/Tise in Zhangzhung. It takes pilgrims from my village two years to cover the distance by performing prostrations—extending themselves full-length on the ground and repeating the process from the point reached by the fingertips.

Waves of pilgrims, generations of sweat and aspiration, have worn these trails of devotion into this earth’s stark, desolate terrain. These trails crisscross Tibet, reaching these sites of power from all directions, like veins reaching arteries in the body. The Chinese may possess our territory politically, but we have been able to reclaim our sacred terrain by virtue of walking it, singing the prayers of our ancestors, keeping our tradition alive. For us Bonpos, the very heart of our tradition, synonymous with the territory, is the mountain/lake triad at the center of our ancient Zhangzhung kingdom.

-- reviewed by Barbara Goldberg

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Quote from Nurturing Spirituality in Children

Nurturing Spirituality in Children

by Peggy Joy Jenkins

Beyond Worlds Publishing, Hillsboro, Oregon     ©2008       192 pp.

A goal of this book is to help young people start believing the things that are true about themselves as children of the Creator. When they know these truths, fantastic things begin to happen to them and to their world.

Someone once said "Woe to the man who has to learn principles in the time of crisis." The principles children learn from this book will help prepare them for whatever they may encounter, because they will understand that theirs is a mental and spiritual world and that whatever is in their lives is the material expression of their beliefs.  (p. xiii)

-- submitted by Jennifer Knight

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Quote from The Gnostic Gospels of Jesus

The Gnostic Gospels of Jesus: The Definitive Collection of Mystical Gospels and Secret Books about Jesus of Nazareth

Edited and translated by Marvin Meyer

HarperCollins Publisher, New York, New York      ©2005      368 pp.

". . . Since you are to be called my brother, it is not fitting for you to be ignorant of yourself. And I know that you have understood, for already you have understood that I am the knowledge of truth. So while you are walking with me, though you do lack understanding, already you have obtained knowledge and you will be called one who knows himself.  For those who have not known themselves have known nothing, but those who have known themselves already have acquired knowledge about the depth of the universe. So then, my brother Thomas, you have seen what is hidden from people, what they stumble against in their ignorance.

Thomas said to the master, 'That is why I beg you to tell me what I ask before your ascension. When I hear it from you about what is hidden, I can speak of it. And it is clear to me that the truth is difficult to accomplish before people.'

The savior answered and said, 'If what is visible to you is obscure to you, how can you comprehend what is invisible? If deeds of truth visible in the world are difficult for you to accomplish, how will you accomplish things of the exalted majesty and fullness which are invisible? How will you be called workers? You are beginners and have not attained the greatness of perfection.'

Thomas answered and said to the savior, 'Tell us about these things that you say are invisible and hidden from us.' "

From The Book Of Thomas or The Contender Writing to the Perfect (NHC 11,7)  (pp. 209-210)

Thank you Kathy H. for the gift of this book!

-- submitted by Jennifer Knight

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Calming the Fearful Mind

Calming the Fearful Mind:  A Zen Response to Terrorism 

by Thich Nhat Hanh

Parallax Press, Berkeley, California    © 2005    130 pp.

“Only by calming our minds and looking deeply inside ourselves will we develop the insight to identify the root causes of terrorism. With compassion and communication, terrorism can be uprooted and transformed into love.” 

Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that terrorism is not something that exists outside of ourselves: it cannot be located and then eradicated. It arises from the anger, fear, misunderstandings and cravings in the mind. Through the practice of mindfulness, we find the awareness and strength to look at these and to face our own suffering, and that of others. Out of this process, appropriate solutions to conflicts can arise.

Nhat Hanh looks closely at relevant aspects of war, torture and terrorism, and offers thought-provoking insights based on his own life experience. He then offers practical steps that can be taken by individuals, couples, organizations, and governmental bodies to address the sources of terrorism and instead to nourish communication, connection and peace. One could conclude that these are naïve and idealistic notions, but he offers concrete examples of these being put effectively into practice.

This lucid and beautifully written book invites us to see clearly that we can take steps in our daily lives which can make a profound difference in the world. We can learn to communicate, even with our enemies, in ways that open up understanding and healing. As Nhat Hanh points out, we can’t really be safe unless we care for the safety and well-being of everyone.

-- reviewed by Robin Bundy

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Quote from King Midas

King Midas: The Golden Touch

by Demi

Margaret K. McElderry Books, New York, New York    © 2002    48 pp.

Long ago the ancient Greeks 
believed their gods were in the sky 
and the winds, the seas and the 
mountains--in everything.
The people prayed to the gods
for wisdom and power,
knowledge and generosity,
and moderation in all 
their ways.

There reigned in Phrygia a king named Midas.
He was weak and ignorant, miserly and greedy. And
he didn't think he needed to pray to the gods at all.
Everything King Midas did was backward.

-- submitted by Jennifer Knight

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Sunday, September 4, 2016

Quote from What We Say Matters

What We Say Matters: Practicing Nonviolent Communication

by Judith Hanson Lasater and Ike K. Lasater

Rodmell Press, Berkeley, California     ©2009     192 pp.

"The ancient teachings of yoga and Buddhism have many things in common. They both evolved from the Hindu culture, they both contain techniques that teach us how to live a life of fulfillment free from suffering, and they both offer teachings specifically about speech and its importance in our lives.

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, the ancient sourcebook delineating the psychology and practice of yoga, offers two sutra (verses) on the subject of speech.  The first is in chapter (or pada) II, verse 30. Here Patanjali lists the five yamas, or restraints, that are recommended for the practitioner of yoga. These restraints are ahimsa (nonharming), satya (truth), asteya (nonstealing), brahmacharya (chastity), and aparigraha (nongreed). The second mention of satya is in pada II, verse 36. Georg Feuerstein translates this (in The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali): 'When grounded in truthfulness, action (and its) fruition depend (on him).' This means that as we practice satya on deeper and deeper levels, whatever we say is an accurate reflection of reality. This verse could also mean that when we are grounded in the state of yoga, the state of pure being, then we cannot say anything that is not truth, and so anything we say is true. It is not true because we have made something come true, but rather because there is no separation between our consciousness, the truth, and what we speak.

There are, however, other aspects to the practice of truth. All yamas, including satya, are considered to be secondary to the expression of ahimsa, or nonharming.  I (Judith) understand that we can never 'tell the truth' if we ignore the foundational practice of nonharming.

In the Yoga Sutra, satya is offered in the context of a restraint. This means that we are to consciously hold back speech that will be harmful . . . "
"The Buddhist eightfold path offers teachings similar to those found in yoga. The eight practices are divided into three stages. The first section is about wisdom and includes right understanding and right thought. The second section is about ethical conduct and includes right speech, right action, and right livelihood. The final section is about mental discipline and includes right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
"Right speech is speech that furthers the practice of the speaker and contributes to the well-being of others and the world . . ."
"The practice of right speech is just as difficult to apply as the practice of satya. Both teachings describe what to do, but neither give much guidance on how to do it."  (pp.7-9)

-- submitted by Jennifer Knight

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