“Your flaw is to seek convenient explanations, explanations that fir you and your world…The explanation is not what you would call an explanation; nevertheless, it makes the world and its mysteries, if not clear, at least less awesome. That should be the essence of an explanation, but that is not what you seek. You’re after the reflection of your ideas.”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power

Kasmir Saivism – Tattvas

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The transcendental aspect of nature is called Parasamvit (“vid” = to know) which means Pure Consciousness. Since something cannot come from nothing, Pure Consciousness is a logical necessity that must contain all things in their fullness.

Caitanya is used to describe the eternal substance in which all things inhere. It is defined as Sat-Cit-Ananda (Being-Consciousness-Bliss). It represents the perfect condition of the supreme ideal, when Nature rests in Herself, when there is no feeling of a want to be satisfied, when there is no feeling of a need to go forth. It is by definition without parts and therefore unproduced, indestructible and motionless. It must also be eternal, all-pervading, with no inside or outside; it is without attributes (Nirguna) and therefore beyond space and time; it is beyond the mind and therefore no a subject of knowledge. It is a principle of pure experience and realized only by spiritual illumination.

To manifest means, by definition, to appear or become evident – which implies the perceiver and perceived. Consciousness becomes visible to itself as subject (Aham = I) and object (Idam = this). These two aspects of consciousness appear simultaneously and are eternally related. During the period of universal dissolution, they are in a condition of equilibrium. When the balance is upset and the process of cosmic evolution begins their duality appears. These are the first two Tattvas – Siva Tattva & Sakti Tattva.

Siva Tattva

Siva Tattva is the first factor in the process of cosmic evolution. Consciousness in this condition is called Cit (there is no English equivalent for it) – the static aspect of consciousness in the manifest world. The Siva Tattva accounts for the Subject (Aham) of dual relationship of universal manifestation – it is the subject, knower, experiencer. It is pure consciousness – the ideal universe of perfect equilibrium has vanished and consciousness has begun to stir. It is dependent upon the active aspect of consciousness to bring it into being.

Sakti Tattva

Sakti Tattva is the second factor in the process of cosmic evolution (“sak” = to be able, to be capable of). It is the kinetic aspect of consciousness. It accounts for the Object (Idam) of the dual relationship of universal manifestations. It is the universal stream of consciousness that brings all things into being and destroys all things at the end of each cycle of time. It it the universal energy that brings all things into being, and as such is considered as the feminine aspect of Nature, the Mother of the universe.

Sakti it said to have three principle modes that follow in logical succession: the power of will (Iccha); the power of knowledge (Jnana); the power of action (Kriya).

Sadasiva Tattva (Will-aspect)

Sadasiva Tattva is the third process of cosmic evolution (“sada” = always; “siva” = happy/prosperous). This stage is also called the Sadakhya Tattva – the state in which there is the first notion of being. It is the first evolute (a produced thing) of consciousness – therefore it must have parts – those parts are the dual relationship of “I am this” – emphasis is placed on I (Aham).

I AM THIS

The subject (Aham) is said to become aware of itself in relation to its object (Idam). Sadasiva Tattva accounts for the Will aspect of Sakti – it is the condition that precedes any determinate action. It is destructible, and therefore not eternal. As the first evolute produced in the process of the evolution of consciousness, it is the last evolute dissolved in the involution of consciousness.

Isvara Tattva (Knowledge-aspect)

Isvara Tattva is the fourth process of cosmic evolution. This tattva is postulated to account for that condition when the Subject (Aham) recognizes the object (Idam) – here the relationship is “this I am” – emphasis on This (Idam). It is the stage of self identification.

THIS I AM

It is the Knowledge-aspect of Sakti. It is pure awareness without reaction. There is no desire to go toward or away. It is the knowledge that precedes ultimate action.

Sadvidya Tattva (Action-aspect)

Sadvidya Tattva is the fifth process of cosmic evolution – it means to have true knowledge (“sat” = true; “vid” = to know). It is postulated to account for the complete unity in the dual relationship of “I am this” – without emphasis o either the Subject (Aham) or Object (Idam).

I AM THIS

It is the Action-aspect of Sakti. In it consciousness was lost in the ecstasy of divine wonder while embracing Itself as the subject (Aham). Consciousness has been overcome by exaltation while gazing as Itself as the object (Idam). Consciousness looks first at Aham (I) and then at Idam (This) – which necessitates movement – and is therefore said to manifest that aspect of universal consciousness that creates all things.

The first five Tattvas from Siva to Sadvidya are called Pure because the dual relationship of subject and object is a single unit – the object is seen as part of the subject.  In the condition to follow, the subject and object are separated, so that the object is seen as something separate and apart from the subject. The force that separates them is another form of Sakti – called Maya Sakti – the power of consciousness to separate and divide.

Maya Tattva and its Evolutes

Maya Tattva is the sixth process of cosmic evolution, it means “delusion” and is used to mean the veiling and obscuring force of Nature. It displays universal consciousness as a duality. It accounts for the manifestation of form out of formless. The same principle was mentioned in Vedanta but there it was not real nor not-real. In Kasmir Saivism is it considered the gross aspect of consciousness. During Pralaya (universal dissolution) it is in its subtle aspect – dormant. At no time is it ever non-existent.

Maya is that which limits the universal conditions of consciousness and produces the state of limited experience. Maya appears due to a law of Nature that every period of action (in this case Sadvidya) is followed by a period of rest. When Nature goes to sleep after experiencing Universal Manifestation, the five evolutes of Maya (Kancukas) appear – therefore the world of limited experience is the cosmic dream of nature.

Kancukas

Kancukas (“kanj” = to bind) come into being as a result of contraction (limited aspect) by the Power of Maya of the five universal modes of consciousness (the first five Tattvas mentioned above).

  1. Siva Tattva  >>> Kala (Time)
    Kala limits the universal condition of Eternal Existence – therefor it is the origin of Time.
  2. Sakti Tattva >>> Niyati (Space)
    Niyati (“ni-yam” = to regulate/restrain) is the power that limits the universal condition of All-Pervasiveness – therefore it is the origin of Space.
  3. SadasivaTattva >>> Raga (Desire)
    Raga (“ranj” = to color) is the power that limits the universal condition of All-Completeness; therefor it is the origin of Desire.
  4. Isvara Tattva >>> Vidya (Limited Knowledge)
    Vidya (“vid” = to know) is the power that limits the universal condition of All-Knowledge – therefore it is the origin of Limited Knowledge.
  5. Sadvidya Tattva >>> Kala (Limited Power)
    Kala (=a small part of anything) is the power that limits the universal condition of All-Powerfulness – therefore it is the origin of Limited Power.

The result of Maya and it’s evolutes (Kancukas) is the production of Purusa and Prakrti. At this stage the Subject (Aham) and the Object (Idam) are completely severed and look upon each other as mutually exclusive. Here the dual world of the mind and matter is permanently established.

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Matt Mullenweg’s Bank

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It’s a great article by a visionary person about a future bank. There is one phrase that I couldn’t figure out:

SafeBank couldn’t raise VC or anything like that because having any sort of exit expectations would completely kill the safety story

Though I agree with the statement I  am not sure why/how it applies uniquely to safety. It seems to me that Venture Capital inherently threatens any interest that does not directly align with making a substantial profit – which pretty much squeezes the heart out of any VC funded undertaking. Granted Matt’s company Automattic seems to be doing good even though it’s VC funded. Matt knows something!

Read and enjoy

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Yoga & Breath – Movement in Breath

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There is wonderful potential for refinement of the relationship breath and movement. One concept that opens up endless potential for refined practice is to place movement within the breath. Breath becomes a sheath, a kind of wrapping in which movement takes place. To demonstrate the idea we will use the simple posture that has brought us this far – lyign on the back, feet standing and the focus of movement is  in the arms.

motioninbreath

When we begin to inhale there is still no movement in the arms – there is only breath. Then movement begins in the arms (while breathing, of course, continues). Then movement ends but breath continues – we are still taking in air. Then the inhale is completed. The return journey is similar – breath begins before movement and ends after it.

You may notice that practicing in this way creates a space of physical stillness. This can be a great opportunity to place all your attention on the breath, to observer the qualities of the breath and to pay attention to the transitions between inhaling and exhaling.

Consequently, the time during which there is movement is shorter. If, for example, an inhale lasts for 6 seconds, then movement will now be 4 seconds because 1 second is spent in stillness when movement begins and 1 second when movement ends. This means that we may need to move faster then before – we have less time to execute the same range of movement.

Try it and see what happens 🙂

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Four Parts of Breath

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This series of articles is a preparation for a series on Pranayama – Yoga’s breathing practices. Before we delve into Pranayama we need to get acquainted with a few general qualities of breathing and a few personal qualities – things that are unique to every individual. This article assumes you are familiar and capable of breathing using Ujjayi technique.

Your Breath

Let’s start with a short practice to determine your breath capacity. This will give the ideas in this article a personal context – something that is unique for you. The practice is to sit comfortably and count the number of Ujjayi breaths you take over a period of 5 minutes. To do this practice you will need a timer to time 5 minutes with some kind of audio signal when the time is up (or use this – do a test to make sure your speakers are working and the volume is set).

Welcome back 🙂 Now we will do a little basic math:

  • The duration of the practice as 5 minutes = 300 seconds.
  • Divide the 300 seconds by the number of breaths you counted.
    For example – if you counted 28 breaths – then 300 divided by 28 = 10.7. This is the average length of your breath – almost 11 seconds.
  • Then divide that number by 2.5.
    For example: 10.7 divided by 2.5 = 4.3.
  • Round that number down to the closest even number.
    For example: 4.3 seconds is rounded down to 4 seconds.
  • This will be your base breathing duration (which we will soon explain further and put to good use).

There are two numbers to take away from this practice:

  • The length of your breath – in this case ~ 11 seconds.
  • Your base breathing duration – in this case 4 seconds.

Structure of Breath

Two parts of breath are fairly obvious – inhaling (taking air in) and exhaling (pushing air out). The two others are always there but we are not used to acknowledging them – these are the holds or stops that come in between the inhale and exhale. In Sanskrit they are called Kumbhaka. The hold after the inhale is called Antah Kumbhaka (or A.K. for short) and the hold after the exhale is called Bahya Kumbhaka (or B.K. for short).

partsofbreath

We will use this structure to communicate breathing practices. For example: inhale 4 seconds, hold 2 seconds, exhale 7 seconds, hold 2 seconds. A shorter way to communicate this would be to simply say breathe 4 – 2 – 6 – 2.

breathpractice_num

The limitation of this notation is that it indicates a specific length of breath. What if we wanted to communicate the same idea – but in a way that you can apply the practice to your breathing capacity. Fortunately there is a way to do this. We communicate the breathing practice in multipliers instead of numbers. Like this:

breathpractice_mulThe base duration in this example is 4 seconds. The inhale is “1” meaning [ 1 x 4 seconds = 4 seconds]. The A.K. hold is 0.5 meaning [ 0.5 x 4 seconds = 2 seconds] and so on. So the same breathing formula, in this example “1 – 0.5 – 1.5 – 0.5” will result in different durations – depending on your base breathing duration. You can try to apply this formula to your breathing duration.

Posted in Breath, Pranayama, Uncategorized, Yoga | You are welcome to read 15 comments and to add yours

Sitting in Yoga

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Having a good seated posture is very useful in Yoga. As your practice develops you may find yourself sitting for breathing and meditation practices. In this article we will work our way through a series of sitting variations – starting from a classic seated pose and then progress through more accessible variations. You may use this to find a posture that is relevant for you. How will you know you’ve reached a relevant posture?

  • You should have a strong and stable base – no wobbling around – legs fixed on the floor.
  • You should be able to keep your spine straight and shoulders relaxed.
  • You should be able to relax your stomach muscles (if you are using them to hold the posture – the posture is not relevant for you).
  • You should be able to sit comfortably for a duration of 10 to 20 minutes (as a starting point).

One of the key obstacles to choosing a seated posture is a stubborn ego. I’ve seen too many people insist on sitting in postures they cannot hold because they are too stubborn to relax their conceptions of what sitting should be. As a result:

  • They sit in postures that are beyond their capabilities
  • They place unhealthy strain on the spine
  • They are so busy maintaining the  seated posture that they can barely pay attention to the breathing or meditation practice. Choose wisely.
  • Their sitting doesn’t improve

Choose your posture wisely!

The classic sitting pose is called Padmasana – the Lotus pose.  For most beginning practitioners (and many advanced practitioners) this pose is not accessible. If you want to you (though not everybody) can train intensively to make it accessible. People tend to work the ankles and knees when actually the pose is strongly affected by the hip joints.
padmasana
The first variation is releasing one of the legs down to the floor – this is called a half-lotus.

ardvapadmasana

The next variation is releasing the second leg – so that you are sitting cross-legged on the floor. Check that you can both keep your spine erect and have a solid base. If you find your knees are raised high above the floor then keep trying the next variations.

sitting_crosslegged

The next variation includes using a support accessory – sitting blocks. There are sitting blocks made of all kinds of materials and sizes. First make sure that the block is wide enough for you to site comfortably. Then you may find it useful to get two relatively short blocks which you can stack one on top of the other – so you have an option for two positions – one block high and two blocks high.
sittingblock
Another low sitting variation you can try is with a meditation stool. The sitting position is as if you were sitting on your knees – the legs are tucked in below the sitting surface of the stool. The stool takes pressure off the legs & provides better support for the spine.

stool

Last but definitely not least – there is the option to sit on a raised chair. Though this doesn’t have the appeal of the classic Lotus pose it is just as effective if this is where you experience a quality sitting experience.

sitonchair

By choosing a sitting option that is relevant for you, your are creating a positive and spreading affect on your practice. Your breathing and meditation practices will improve and in turn affect your physical-asana practice. This in turn may affect your spine, hips, legs, knees and other muscles – which in time may improve your sitting further.

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Kasmir Saivism – Introduction

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Kasmir Saivism is a system of idealistic monism based on the Sivasutra – which was supposedly revealed in Kasmir by Siva himself. The purpose of the Sivasutra was to preserve man the principles of monism which had existed in the literature called the Tantras. According to tradition these principals had existed sine time immemorial in the minds of the ancient rsis (Seers) who were the repositories of all spiritual knowledge. With the appearance of the new age, Kali Yuga, came the disappearing of these enlightened minds and the vanishing of their knowledge.

Kasmir Saivisim accepts the fundamental premise that pure consciousness is the spiritual substance of the universe. However it differs from Samkhya and Vedanta in its interpretations of the three basic problems: (1) What is the nature of ultimate reality? (2) What is the cause of its first movement? (3) What is the nature of its manifest form?

What is the nature of the Ultimate Reality?

Samkhya postulates two independent realities: Purusa and Prakrti – and thus creates a dualism. Vedanta postulates a single ultimate reality – Brahman and then supports this through the principle of Maya – which is neither real nor unreal – so it too is tainted with dualism.

Kasmir Saivism postulates a single reality with two aspects – one Transcedental and the other Immanent (existent). Both are real – but final proof of them can be had only by the spiritual experience of Samadha (union) attained through the practice of Yoga.

What is the cause of it’s first movement?

Samkhya sais that it is due to the association of Purusa and Prakrti without giving any reason for what causes this association. Vedanta claims that only an intelligent agent can set universal consciousness in motion and postulates Brahman to account for it. Neither explain the cause.

Kasmir Saivism teaches that consciousness eternally alternates between two phases – rest (transcendental) and action (immanent). The transcendental phase is a period of potentiality called Pralaya (dissolution and absorption). It is the passive phase of consciousness. During Pralaya all manifestations are dormant in the same way that the characteristics of an oak tree are dormant in an acorn. After a latent period, the universal seeds of potentiality begin to  germinate and consciousness becomes active.  The active phase is called Srsti – the creation of the universe, also referred to as Abhasa (“bhas” = to appear or shine). A complete cycle of Srsti  & Pralaya is called a Kalpa and is said to last 4,320,000,00 years – after which another cycle will follow – a periodic rhythm of consciousness without beginning or end. The movement is governed by the Law of Karma (for every action there is a reaction). Brahman (the Ultimate Principle according to Vedanta) is governed by Law of Karma – cause of the initial impulse.

What is the nature of it’s manifestations?

Samkhya contends that there are two independent realities – Spirit & Matter – the manifest world is the appearance of unconscious matter as an independent reality. Vedanta contends there is only one ultimate reality which never changes – therefore the manifest world is merely an appearance.

Kasmir Saivism contends that there is only one reality, but it has two aspects, therefore the manifestation is real. The world of matter is only another form of consciousness.

Kasmir Saivism postulates 36 categories to explain the process of cosmic evolution. The first 24 (Matter -> Earth) are the same as those postulated by Samkhya. The remaining 12 show how Purusa (Spirit) is derived from higher principles. The stages are called Tattvas – thatness, truth, reality.

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I Shakuhachi – August 19, 2009

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Another Shakuhachi recording – this time from late at night. When the initial phrase came out it completely took over me.

click to play

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Vedanta – First Motion

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Introduction

Vedanta means “the end of the Vedas” – “anta” = end. The central topic is the Universal Spirit (Brahman) – so it is also referred to by the names Brahmasutra and Bhramnamimamsa. The central them is the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads concerning the nature and relationship of the three princinples – God, world & soul.

It is an effort to balance all knowledge – and contends that we have no right to disregard the findings of any seer; we are morally bound to examine the teachings of all minds that have attained enlightenment and find what is common – for that is likely to be the Ultimate Truth. Differences are due to various viewpoints, different stages of development and training, as well as social and hereditary backgrounds; therefore, the same Truth will vary according to the capacity of each individual for insight.

Vedanta accepts every though, idea and concept as a step forward. It evades nothing, and encompasses everything; it discards nothing and collects everything that is within the realm of human experience. However it does not accept anything as final, dogmatic, or as the last word; instead it investigates, analyzes and criticizes all alike, forcing every proposition to verify and substantiate itself according to the rules of logical inquiry.

Vedanta maintains that the human intellect can never fathom the nature of the Ultimate principle – it can only be known by direct intuition never logical inquiry and analysis. The laws of logical inquiry are only to be used for removing apparent contradictions in the Upanishads but never to reveal the Ultimate. Reasoning can only be used with certainty in secular matters to remove doubt, never for transcendental matters .

Never can there be certainty, doubt always remains. Study of the Vedanta can remove these doubts. The teachings are said to fortify the mind with the necessary arguments and reasons so strengthen our position until we grow firm in our understanding. To do this we are required to pass through a discipline which consists of:

  1. Viveka – right discrimination between the eternal and non-eternal, the real and the unreal. This comes from proper study.
  2. Vairagya – right dispassion and indifference to the unreal and transitory. This consists of renunciation of all desires to enjoy the fruit of action both here and hereafter.
  3. Satsampat – right conduct which consists of:  control of thought, control of conduct, renunciation of all sectarian religious observances, endurance of opposites, faith & balanced mental equipoise (freedom from too much sleep, laziness and carelessness).
  4. Mumuksutva – right desire – earnestness to know the Ultimate Principle. This will come when one dedicates his life to this single goal.

Philosophy

The principal question raised by Vedanta is “What is the cause of the Primal Motion in Nature?” – it pushes the cosmological inquiry one step further then the other systems. It postulates an Intelligent Agent the guides and directs the workings of the subtle forces of the universe – it is called Brahman. It is translated in the west as God when placed in the context of religious worship, but it is advisable to use the term Brahman or Ultimate Principle until the concept is firmly rooted.

Vedanta indicates two problems with the Samkhya system:

  1. How is the process of evolution started?
  2. How do we account for the phenomenon of Pralaya (annihilation of the world at the end of each cycle).

The Vaisesika system taught that the original impulse was caused by the Adrsta (unseen, invisible, unknown) of the soul. For example: when we indulge in some particular form of pleasurable activity, there remains within us a latent desire to repeat that form of action another time; as soon as the environment provides an opportunity, we shall repeat that form of action. There are some forms of this latent energy that remain latent for a long period of time before manifestation (as some seeds must remain latent for several years before they are ready to germinate).

Vaisesika says the primal motion originate in the anu when it comes into proximity with the soul. Vedanta contends this is not reasonable since both any and the soul are, by definition, without parts; and there can be no contact between things having no parts. During Pralaya the souls are dormant, so they cannot originate motion; therefore there could never be a first beginnig.

Vedanta accepts the of cosmic evolution as outlined in the Samkhya and explained in the Vaisesika. These systems were presenting an interpretation of nature for minds who were not interested in inquiring into the nature of the first cause. The outstanding contribution of the Vedanta system is Brahman – that which causes the initial impulse in nature.

Brahman

The Ultimate Principle (Brahman) is the creator, maintainer and destroyer of everything in the universe. It is the instrument and material cause of all manifest phenomena. It has two conditions:

  • Pralaya: Asat (Non being) the universe it is at rest. This is the subtle condition of nature when the infinite energy of forms have become submerged into the eternal source from which they came. This is a time of universal dissolution, re-absorption, destruction, annihilation of all manifest phenomena.
  • Sat-Cit-Ananda: the universe  is active. In this period it has three attributes: universal being, consciousness & bliss. It has two inseparable forms: Nirguna – pure spirit, Saguna – pure matter (these refer to the Gunas explained in Samkhya).

At no time is it ever non-existent.

Atman

The term Atman is frequently used in Vedanta – it is translated as “Soul of Self”. It is identified with Purusa (Pure Spirit) and is the instrumental cause of the manifest world. It is also known as Cit – in the sense that it is Universal Consciousness, in contrast with Acit – universal matter which is “without consciousness”.  When a part of the Universal Consciousness settles in Universal Matter which it animates – it is called Jiva – personal soul. Therefore, the only difference between man and God is only one of degree, for ultimately they are one in the same way that the space inside a cup is the same as the space outside. Man is a spark of the infinite.

Maya

“Maya” = delusion. It is the dividing force in nature which measures out the immeasurable and creates forms in the formless. It has two functions – to conceal the real and to project the unreal. It pervades the universe, but it’s presence is only inferred from its effect.

When nature is in a state of equilibrium, Universal Matter is called Prakrti; but the first disturbance, the first conceived motion away from that original equipoise is called Maya, because there has been no change in substance, but only in form – therefore, it is an illusion. When the universal force called Maya operates in the mind of an individual it is called Avidya (ignorance), especially in the spiritual sense. It is the subjective aspect while Maya is the objective aspect. It is called Avidya (without knowledge), because knowledge will dissipate all the illusions of perception.

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Cash for Clunkers

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A great perspective by Philip Greenspun on money flushed into the American auto industry

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-08-16

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Powered by Twitter Tools

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Dance

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We had just finished final preparations of this space in Barcelona for Shahar’s Tune project during March 2008. Sonia, the owner of the studio who was also a key collaborator in this project, had just brought in for Shahar the CD (the soundtrack of a wonderful movie The Life of Others) and it was playing in the background. We didn’t have a video camera so I used my cellular to capture this movie.

After this I sat down with tears in my eyes. It was a divine experience not many people will get to witness in person. I was also in pain – I remember thinking to myself “I love photography, where my heart expands and I experience joy & fulfillment”. Even though I was in Barcelona, completely immersed in creation, I was experiencing friction and difficulty – my freedom to pursue this work felt (and still feels) threatened. Over the past year I have done very little creative work. When this video was taken I wished I had a decent video camera to work with, now I am simply hoping to find a way, a space and a capacity to get back to the studio.

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Mimamsa – Right Action

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“man” = to think, consider, examine or investigate = “desire to think”. Mimamsa is divided into two systems:

  1. Purvamimamsa  (“purva” = earlier ~ the earlier part of the Vedas)  – an interpretation of the actions leading to freedom of the soul. Also called Karma Mimamsa.
  2. Uttarmimamsa (“uttara” = later ~ the later part of the Vedas)  – an interpretation of the knowledge leading to freedom of the soul. Also called Jnana Mimamsa.

The basic premise of Mimamsa is that action is the very essence of human existence. Without action knowledge is fruitless, happiness is impossible and human destiny cannot be fulfilled. The purpose of Mimamsa is to inquire into the nature of Right Action (Dharma).

All actions are said to have two effects – external and internal. The external is gross, manifest and transitory. The internal is subtle and eternal. Actions are the vehicles for planting the seeds of life to come (aside: the word seed caused me to wonder if this relates to the idea of Vasana). In this light Mimamsa examines all the actions mentioned in the Vedas and offers a general summary of rules for the interpretation of Vedic texts.

Mimamsa accepts the philosophical concept of the other systems and does not enter any philosophical analysis of the nature of Reality, Soul & Matter or their relationships to one another. The sole concern of Mimamsa is salvation, not liberation. It argues that salvation cannot be achieved by knowledge alone, for the soul must first exhaust its potentialities through action (no amount of contemplation will enable man to arrive at the ultimate goal of human destiny). All arguments are based on the premises that the soul by definition must survive this earthly manifestation.

Mimamsa has a strong effect on the daily life of Hindu’s. All rituals and ceremonies depend on it, all moral conduct is guided by it; all Hindu law is founded upon it.

Mimamsa defined Dharma  as “an object distinguished by a command”. “dhar” = to hold, maintain, preserve. When used in the metaphysical sense, it means those universal laws of Nature that sustain the operation of the universe and the manifestation of all things, that without which nothing could be. When applied to the individual, it has reference to that code of conduct that sustains the soul and enables man to fulfill his divine destiny.

All rituals and ceremonies in the Vedas are said to lead to the enlightenment of the mind and the spiritual evolution of the soul.  On the surface they appear to be fruitless injunctions; therefore Mimamsa endeavors to show how they are all based on dharma and lead to the spiritual welfare of man.

Mimamsa claims that knowledge of dharma can only be attained by Verbal Testimony (Sabda) – every word has in an inherent power to convey its eternal meaning and teaching. There are a few refutes offered to the challenges made against this claim for example:

  • Claim: the word is a product of utterance therefore not eternal. Refute: the word must have  existed previously otherwise it could not have been pronounced.
  • Claim: the word vanished after its pronounced. Refute: only the sound disappears, the word remains.
  • Claim: the word can be modified. Refute: changes of letters are not modifications, they are new words.

Mimamsa classifies the Vedas under five categories:

  1. Vidhi – Injunctions (do’s)
  2. Mantras –  Hymns – texts which help to remember the procedures of rituals.
  3. Namadheya – Names – which define matter.
  4. Nisedha – Prohibitions (dont’s) that protect a man from doing things which may be injurious or disadvantageous to him.
  5. Arthavada – Explanations – which praise Vidhi’s and blame Nisedha’s.

Mimamsa can be understood from the way it defends objections that are raised against Vedic mantras. For example:

  1. Objection: Vedic mantras do not convey meanings because they stand in need of other passages to explain and support them. Defense: All Vedic words have significance just as they do in ordinary language.
  2. Objection: Vedic mantras are held useless because they describe what does not exist. For example “It has four horns, it has three feet, two heads, it has seven hands; the bull being tied threefold, cries: the great god entered amongst the mortals”. Defense: this is figurative speech that use symbols.
  3. Objection: Vedic mantras are held to be useless because they are learned without understanding their meaning. Defense: this is no fault of the Veda which deals only with the performance of sacrifices. It is assumed that meaning will be learned.
  4. Objection: Vedic mantras are held to be useless because there are many mantras the meaning of which cannot be known. Defense: every mantra has a meaning. Our ignorance is due to careless and indolence.

(Further details are provided on the Mimamsa approach to the Vedas – I chose to stop at this point).

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Sense of Space

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A special TED talk. I felt Olafur hooked into and transmitting wonder, so wonderful that my mind couldn’t quite follow it. Enjoy 🙂

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Yoga for Depression – Taking a 1st Step

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In a Yoga-perspective depression can be viewed as a manifestation of Tamas Guna. Tamas is an inhibiting and tricky force, it is hidden, you can’t experience it directly. It’s kind of like a black hole that swallows everything – you know it’s there because of the absence of other things. Depression is also it’s own “survival” mechanism – by preventing you from doing anything at all it also guarantees that you won’t do anything to alleviate it’s affects on you. It is very effective in keeping you down. So what can you do to work with depression? Apparently very little – which is a great place to start.

With that in mind here is a very simple practice you can do lying down in bed, on a carpet or if you’d like  – on a yoga mat. Yes, this means that you don’t even need to get out of bed to do  this practice.

A recurring pattern in the practice will be your breath – and for that I would suggest focusing on two things: try lengthening your breath and try introducing a short break (1 or 2 seconds) after every inhale (holding the air in). Using this pattern of breathing – count 6 breaths in every step of the following practice. The practice is incremental – so each step is a slight modification of the previous step – so it should be very easy to follow.

  1. Place one hand on your abdomen and one hand on your chest – feel your breath moving your body. Count 6 breaths.
  2. Bend your knees and place both feet on the bed (or floor) – leave the hands as before. Count 6 breaths. supine_feetstand_hands
  3. Place both hands on your abdomen and focus on the word “That”. Count 6 breaths.
  4. Place both hands on your heart space and focus on the word “That”. Count 6 breaths.
  5. Place both hands on your eyes (covering your eyes with your palms) and focus on the word “That”. Count 6 breaths.
  6. Place both hands on your heart again and focus on your breathing. Count 6 breaths.

That is all for now – 6 easy steps – 6 breaths each – it only takes a few minutes (you can do it whenever you feel like it).

If you wish to take another step forward – you can this same practice using Ujjayi breathing – Ujjayi is a simple technique that will enable you to lengthen your breath even more.

Practice this for a while, then we will explore a few more things you can add to this.

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Yoga – Gunas, Mind & Body

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Gunas

In the universal condition of nature, the Cosmic Substance (Prakrti) is postulated to account for the objective side of existence; it is the potential phase of nature without which all things come. It consists of three constituents called Gunas: Sattva, Rajas & Tamas. In the individual manifestation of nature they are the psychological basis of all things:

  • Sattva – illuminates and accounts for qualities such as joy, enlightenment, faith, forgiveness, courage, concentration, modesty, indifference, detachment and compassion.
  • Rajas –  activates (moves Sattva to suppress Tamas, and Tamas to suppress Sattva) and account for qualities such as argumentation, opinion, attachment, jealousy, selfishness, desire to afflict, suspicion and all cravings of the senses.
  • Tamas – obscures and restrains, veils consciousness and obstructs action. It accounts for qualities such as carelessness, delusion, ignorance, laziness, pride and deluded conviction.

The individual proceeds from the universal condition of Spirit and Matter – therefor man consists of a subtle aspect and a gross aspect. the subtle body is the invisible vehicle of the soul, it is constant and does not change through the cycles of life and death; however it is not eternal, for it is eventually reabsorbed into the elements of which it is composed. The gross aspect is the material and perishable body – destroyed at death and another formed at birth. It consists of the 5 gross elements (ether, air, fire, water & earth). All this is the sum and substance of mind.

Mind

(watch for “Mind” and “mind” – they are different entities in Sanskrit but share the same English spelling)

Patanjali uses the term Citta (“cit” = to perceive, comprehend, know) to describe what may be called Mind – and refers to the entire knowing faculty. It is the first manifestation in the world of name and form. It si defined as the organized totality of conscious experience; it consists of all the activities of an organism by means of which it responds as an integrated, dynamic system to external forces, usually in some relation to its own past and future. It’s distinguishing feature is awareness. It has the capacity to know and influence its environment (consciously and unconsciously). For the purpose of understanding Mind is divided into three: intelligence (buddhi), ego (ahamkara) and mind (manas) – each with its respective functions. However they are a single functioning unit and not separate parts.

  • Buddhi (“budh” = to wake up, recover consciousness, observe)  accounts for the capacity of illumination, abstraction, determination, certainty. It is the seat of virtue, non-attachment and wisdom. When the mind (Manas, see below)  is registering the objects of thought, it is the intelligence (Buddhi) that discriminates, determines and recognizes. In contemplation, the mind (Manas) raises objects of thought, and the intelligence (Buddhi) dwells upon them.
  • Ahamkara is ego – it is the vast reservoir of instinctive impulses dominated by pleasure and pain. It is the individuating and arrogating principle, the storehouse of all experiences. It is the first manifestation of individual consciousness, personal position, individual identity. It rationalized nothing, but is satisfied with things as they are. It’s function is the testing of reality, accepting or rejecting the demands of wishes made by impulses emanating from the individual organism.
  • Manas is mind – the group of cognitive processes that have the capacity of discovering relationships and performing mental processes. It is the seat of responsible conscious activity. It accounts for the process of rationalization. It is the seat of desire and functions in association with the knowing senses and working senses. It can perceive but cannot conceive and is continually vacillating between objects.

In relation to the external world, the mind (manas) perceives and presents, the ego (ahamkara) arrogates; and the intelligence (buddhi) discriminates, decides and resolves, after which action arises. These three aspects constitute the Mind (Citta) as a whole.

Abstract Sense Powers (Indriyas )

The knowing senses (Jnanendriyas) are the powers to hear, feel, see, taste & smell. They function respectively through the organs of ears, skin, eyes, tongue & nose.

The working senses are the powers to express (working of ideas, not just production of sound) , procreate (recreation and passive enjoyment, not just the physical act), excrete (general processes of rejection, not just elimination) , grasp (permeating thing, not just handling objects) and move (mentally not just physically). Their physical organs are respectively voice, sex organs, anus, hands and feet.

Existence is tying experiences together into an endless chain; life is the force that holds them.

Tanmatras (5 Subtle Elements)

These are the manifestations of sounds, touch, form, flavor & odor. They are the subtle body – not yet massive.

Bhutas (5 Gross Elements)

These are the last stage of manifestation – the appearance of gross elements: ether, air, fire water & earth. They are the result of the aggregation of the subtle elements. Each gross elements evolves out of the one preceding it. They are transformed states of original nature characterized by the three qualities of Sattva, Rajas & Tamas.

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I Shakuhachi – August 13, 2009

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Today, for the first time, I recorded myself playing Shakuhachi (~ 9 minutes).

Play Recording

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Twilight

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Refreshing movie. Straightforward story, great (anonymous, to me anyway) actors, great direction, great photography, great editing. One of the more enjoyable movies I have seen lately. Enjoy 🙂

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Yoga – What is Human?

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The term Yoga comes from the root “yuj” = to yoke or join. The philosophical basis of Yoga is the Samkhya.  The ancient teachers extended Samkhya laws that govern the evolution of the universe to cover the evolution of the individual, showing that the individual is but a microcosm of the macrocosm.

Yoga techniques and teaching have been accumulated through a ceaseless stream of adepts, self-fulfilled personalities, who have handed it down from generation to generation through a group of devoted followers. Patanjali is credited with having given us the present literary form of Yoga in his treatise – the Yogasutra.

The paramount aim of Yoga is to free man forever from three sorts of pain: pain that arises from his own infirmities and wrong conducts; pain that arises from his relations with other leaving things; pain arising from his relations with external nature. This is accomplished by first achieving non-attachment, then by gaining restraint over the mind and its creations and finally attaining positive and absolute union of the individual soul and universal soul – this condition is known as Samadhi and is the true purpose of Yoga.

The Yogi views nature as a single force working in two directions. From the outside, it struggles to separate; from the inside it struggles to reunite. The inner force is called Life; the outer force is called Death. The purpose of Yoga is to unite these two.

Yoga assumes that the individual is part and parcel of the universal substance, but so involved in the matter of Time and Space as to have lost all recognition of his or her true reality. Yogi’s hold that all in the manifest and unmanifest world comes from one source, the divine and primordial intelligence; that man is but a spark of this intelligence and, by the process of Yoga is able to get a glimpse of it.

The best proof of the practical nature of Yoga and the extent of its influence is the fact that every system of religion in India and every school of philosophy has recognized Yoga as the most scientific means of realizing philosophical truths. The systematic study of Yoga has now been stopped for hundreds of years, having gone into a state of decay on account of idleness, ignorance, and the unscrupulous of the generality of its latter-day followers. Yoga was compelled to retire to secret abodes, until in this day only mere remnants of its are available to the average seeker. Even in India, home of Yoga, supreme ignorance prevails about Yoga in general, and especially is this so in educated circles.

Yoga assumes the same cosmological doctrines as set forth in the Samkhya system. Both are based on the fundamental logical premise that something cannot come out of nothing. Therefor Yoga maintains that the gross individual must have a subtle aspect from which it manifests itself and to which it will return. This subtle aspect is but a spark of the divine and is the sole concern of Yoga. He is constituted of both the gross and the subtle. The gross can be known by perception, but the subtle can be known only by the power of spiritual perception. The subtle aspect consists of the abstract energies of his nature, they are always invisible, for they are beyond the mind, beyond the senses, never to be seen, but to be known only through the practice of Yoga.

The Yoga system is based upon the principle that there si but one law that governs a single force which operates in all conditions of nature, manifest and unmanifest. That force is called Life.  Life is not the creation of something new, it is only an expansion of what is. Death takes away the manifest individual, but the continuance of life is not affected. We see only the middle link in the chain of individual existence and call it life; we utterly fail to take notice of the preceding and succeeding invisible stages.

Man is a combination of self-conscious self and five kinds of matter formed into an organic body. The soul is spiritually present as one’s voice is present throughout the room. It has no inside or outside, but is only a mass of intelligence, just as a mass of sweetness has no inside or outside, but is simply a mass of taste.  The manifestation of an individual is the reduction of the universal force to an individual principle caused by a stress raised in the universal consciousness. This stress is caused by the dynamic energy of the individual’s past actions (karma). As the individual consciousness begins to manifest, it takes on forms and becomes a thinking, speaking and experiencing entity. The more compact and condensed this conscious energy becomes, the more power if manifests.

Jiva (“jiv” = to live) is the individual spirit (as distinguished from the universal soul – Purusa). It is the spark of life, the animating principle, the feeling of persistency experienced by every individual. It is that which produces the feeling of being. It can never be seen, no more then the center of gravity can be seen.

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Launchy

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I found this great tool called Launchy (compliments of @SaraJChipps). It’s a really small application for launching other applications. Once its installed it runs in the background, you summon it by pressing alt+space (though you can configure that to other sequences) and then you start typing in the name of the application you want to run, within just a few clicks it’s there. No need to move the mouse around and go hunting in useless menus. Simple application, works great, excellent design and magical (it knows everything without you needing to tell it anything!).  Enjoy 🙂

launchy

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One Life Force

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As I continue to read and summarize an overview of Vedic Philosophy, I have come across the chapter dedicated to Yoga. Tomorrow I will probably publish the summary of the first part of this chapter, but I did want to share a paragraph that shimmered for me. Reading it gave me hope and support.

The Yogi views nature as a single force working in two directions. From the outside, it struggles to separate; from the inside it struggles to reunite. The inner force is called Life; the outer force is called Death. The purpose of Yoga is to unite these two.

The following paragraph is taken from my “about me” page.:

My life in recent years has been a combination of extreme fulfillment and unprecedented difficulties & challenges. Yet whenever I get tired or down and turn inwards I realize I am doing exactly what I want to do and should be doing. When I turn to face the world in action I face doubts and challenges – yoga? art? photography? technology? startup? business? social? value? quality? private? public? isolate? immerse? Outside there are questions inside there is coherency.

We all tend to pick out “facts” that corroborate our perception of reality. I am happy to find mine in Vedic philosophy, especially since they don’t appear in many other places.

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