The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. - Friedrich Nietzsche
No Single Thing Abides – by Lucretius (c. 99-55 B.C.) – translated by W.H. Mallock
No single thing abides; but all things flow.
Fragment to fragment clings–the things thus grow
Until we know and name them. By degrees
They melt, and are no more the things we know.
Globed from the atoms falling slow or swift
I see the suns, I see the systems lift
Their forms; and even the systems and the suns
Shall go back slowly to the eternal drift.
Thou soo, oh earth–thine empires, lands, and seas–
Least, with thy stars, of all the galaxies,
Globed from the drift like these, like these thou too
Shalt go. Thou art going, hour by hour, like these.
Nothing abides. The seas in delicate haze
Go off; those moonéd sands forsake their place;
And where they are, shall other seas in turn
Mow with their scythes of whiteness other bays.
Lo, how the terraced towers, and monstrous round
Of league-long ramparts rise from out the ground,
With gardens in the clouds. Then all is gone,
And Babylon is a memory and a mound.
Observe this dew-drenched rose of Tyrian grain–
A rose today. But you will ask in vain
Tomorrow what it is; and yesterday
It was the dust, the sunshine and the rain.
This bowl of milk, the pitch on yonder jar,
Are strange and far-bound travelers come from far
This is a snow-flake that was once a flame–
The flame was once the fragment of a star.
Round, angular, soft, brittle, dry, cold, warm,
Things are their qualities: things are their form–
And these in combination, even as bees,
Not singly but combined, make up the swarm:
And when the qualities like bees on wing,
Having a moment clustered, cease to cling,
As the thing dies without its qualities,
So die the qualities without the thing.
Where is the coolness when no cool winds blow?
Where is the music when the lute lies low?
Are not the redness and the red rose one,
And the snow’s whiteness one thing with the snow?
Even so, now mark me, here we reach the goal
Of Science, and in little have the whole–
Even as the redness and the rose are one,
So with the body one thing is the soul.
For, as our limbs and organs all unite
to make our sum of suffering and delight,
And without eyes and ears and touch and tongue,
Were no such things as taste and sound and sight.
So without these we all in vain shall try
To find the things that gives them unity–
The thing to which each whispers, “Thou art thou”–
The soul which answers each, “And I am I.”
What! shall the dateless worlds in dust be blown
Back to the unremembered and unknown,
And this frail Thou–this flame of yesterday–
Burn on, forlorn, immortal, and alone?
Did Nature, in the nurseries of the night
Tend it for this–Nature whose heedless might,
Casts, like some shipwrecked sailor, the poor babe,
Naked and bleating on the shores of light?
What is it there? A cry is all it is.
It knows not if its limbs be yours or his.
Less than that cry the babe was yesterday.
The man tomorrow shall be less than this.
Tissue by tissue to a soul he grows,
As leaf by leaf the rose becomes the rose.
Tissue from tissue rots; and, as the Sun
Goes from the bubbles when they burst, he goes.
Ah, mark those pearls of Sunrise! Fast and free
Upon the waves they are dancing. Souls shall be
Things that outlast their bodies, when each spark
Outlasts its wave, each wave outlasts the sea.
The seeds that once were we take flight and fly,
Winnowed to earth, or whirled along the sky,
Not lost but disunited. Life lives on.
It is the lives, the lives, the lives, that die.
They go beyond recapture and recall,
Lost in the all-indissoluble All:–
Gone like the rainbow from the fountain’s foam,
Gone like the spindrift shuddering down the squall.
Flakes of the water, on the waters cease!
Soul of the body, melt and sleep like these.
Atoms to atoms–weariness to rest–
Ashes to ashes–hopes and fears to peace!
Oh Science, lift aloud thy voice that stills
The pulse of fear, and through the conscience thrills–
Thrills through the conscience the news of peace–
How beautiful thy feet are on the hills!
Moksha or Nirvana or Enlightenment, is known to many as the state of perfection and a condition of absolute stillness, stagnation and death.
‘Understanding Moksha’, is an attempt to explore and understand the meaning of Moksha. Through a documentary, a group of students intend to explore the different paths people have been taking to attain that state of perfection, of absolute peace.
For example, it is believed by many Hindus, that a person who dies in the city of Varanasi (also known as Benaras) shall attain Moksha or Salvation. In Varanasi, lined along the banks of a holy river Ganga, there are many salvation spaces, one of them famously known as Mumukshu Bhavan, where people check-in with the objective of having a peaceful death and attaining Moksha. The documentary intends to study these spaces, understand the meaning from the many people living there waiting to die.
The documentary also wishes to explore the path Aghoris take to attain the same state. The Aghoris are ascetic Shaiva sadhus. The Aghori are known to engage in post-mortem rituals. They often dwell in charnel grounds, have been witnessed smearing cremation ashes on their bodies, and have been known to use bones from human corpses for crafting kapalas (skullcups) and jewelry. Because of their practices that are contradictory to orthodox Hinduism, they are generally opposed by other Hindus.
The combined and cumulative effort aims to unravel the mystery of human pursuit and create a new interest on the subject.
In Director’s own words –
“I believe that god, if he exists, would never have created a rule saying, “You will attain Moksha if you die in Varanasi”. I am intrigued by how such a belief came into being and intend to understand the reasons why our ancestors must have initiated such rituals.
I want to explore and understand the reason behind why we do what we do. Is it silence and being with oneself that helps one to introspect about karma or is it a dip in the river Ganga that helps one purify a soul?”
This is a not for profit initiative by a team of students from AISFM. The team is mainly looking forward to people’s support to help create this documentary. You could read more about the project here – www.indiegogo.com/projects/understanding-moksha. In case of any queries please feel free to write to the Director, Sameer Kumar here – email@example.com. Any kind of support would be most appreciated.
How poor we are?
One day a father and his rich family took his son to a trip to the country with the firm purpose to show him how poor people can be. They spent a day and a night in the farm of a very poor family. When they got back from their trip the father asked his son, “How was the trip?”
“Very good Dad!”
“Did you see how poor people can be?” the father asked.
“And what did you learn?”
The son answered, “I saw that we have a dog at home, and they have four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of the garden, they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lamps in the garden, they have the stars. Our patio reaches to the front yard, they have a whole horizon.” When the little boy was finishing, his father was speechless.
His son added, “Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are!”
Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great river. The current of the river swept silently over them all – young and old, rich and poor, good and evil, the current going its own way. Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks at the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current what each had learned from birth.
But one creature said at last, ‘I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go, and let it take me where it will. Clinging, I shall die of boredom.’ The other creatures laughed and said, ‘Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed across the rocks, and you shall die quicker than boredom!’
But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks. Yet in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more.
And the creatures downstream, to whom he was a stranger, cried, ‘See a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies! See the Messiah, come to save us all!’. And the one carried in the current said, ‘I am no more Messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure.’
But they cried the more, ‘Saviour!’ all the while clinging to the rocks, and when they looked again he was gone, and they were left alone making legends of a Saviour.
— Richard Bach, from “Illusions”
The poem, ‘Goodbye, Mrs Boa’ was written by Nazrul Haque, a poet from Guwahati.
Boa Sr, an 85-year-old woman was the last member of the Bo tribe, one of the ten tribes that comprise the Great Andamanese People . She was the last speaker of Bo language for at least 30 years. The old woman was very lonely in the last few years of her life as she was the only surviving member of one of the oldest human cultures on earth which lived in the Andaman Islands for as long as sixty-five thousand years. She had no one to converse with as she was the lone speaker of Bo. Her death may go unnoticed but it is a bleak reminder to all of us. She died on 26th January 2010.
Goodbye, Mrs. Boa!
We shall miss you.
The last of a tribe,
a lost language,
and those memories
for the last 65,000 years.
Aren’t you happy, Mrs. Boa?
In death you are reborn.
Just after crossing the bridge,
You shall meet them all.
Won’t you laugh again?
Will you joke about us-
Goodbye, Mrs. Boa!
We shall depart too,
Just like you,
Lost and lonely.
Civilization is a great burden.
So is being human!
On Happiness by none other than Henry David Thoreau 🙂
(taken from Zen pencils)
Along a dusty road in India there sat a beggar who sold cocoons. A young boy watched him day after day, and the beggar finally beckoned to him. “Do you know what beauty lies within this chrysalis? I will give you one so you might see for yourself. But you must be careful not to handle the cocoon until the butterfly comes out.”
The boy was enchanted with the gift and hurried home to await the butterfly. He laid the cocoon on the floor and became aware of a curious thing. The butterfly was beating its fragile wings against the hard wall of the chrysalis until it appeared it would surely perish, before it could break the unyielding prison.
Wanting only to help, the boy swiftly pried the cocoon open. Out flopped a wet, brown, ugly thing which quickly died. When the beggar discovered what had happened, he explained to the boy “In order for the butterfly’s wings to grow strong enough to support him, it is necessary that he beat them against the walls of his cocoon. Only by this struggle can his wings become beautiful and durable. When you denied him that struggle, you took away from him his only chance of survival.”
He suffered for 10 years before deciding to give up his life in November 2014. A year before that he wrote this letter.
Tomas Young, a wounded Iraq War veteran and outspoken critic of war, passed away at the age of 34 on November 10th, 2014, just before Veterans Day, which is also known internationally as Armistice Day. This is the letter he penned to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in 2013, a year before he died.
To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
From: Tomas Young
I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.
I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.
You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.
I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.
Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.
I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion. I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.
I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love. I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.
I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration. I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned. You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian. But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish ambition sins? I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul.
My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.