the perils of being a vegetarian

Self styled Indophiles and western and westernized authors propagate the myth that an ideal Hindu is an idol worshiper, a snake charmer, a fatalist, a peace-loving tolerant compromiser and above all, a vegetarian. Of course, it is a statement of half truths.

When it comes to vegetarianism it can be said without being politically incorrect that Hindus are selectively vegetarian. Contrary to the practice of the pro-genies Abraham, non-veg foods are absolute no on religious occasions for the pro-genies of Brahma, the exception being certain festivals and rituals connected with shakti and tantra.

South Indians who have never come in close contact with the Brahmins of Odisha, Bengal, Bihar or the Kashmiri Pandit, may generalise that a Brahmin has to be a vegetarian. This again is far from the truth, the exception being the Bengali Brahmin for whom fish is a vegetarian delicacy.

Rather I should say that among the Hindus some are vegetarians, some are selectively vegetarians and some are selectively non vegetarians. When I say selectively non-vegetarian it is applicable both across the spectrum of time and the spectrum of non-plant based foods. This again is region specific.

I come from a family of Odiya Brahmins where some of the elders did not believe in the practice (not in principle) that a Hindu, that too a Brahmin, has to be selectively vegetarian. For them it did not matter whether it was a Thursday or the Janmastami. Without some kind of non-veg sides their stomach refused to accept any kind of food.

Now I am a converted vegetarian.  The transition from being a selectively vegetarian to a pure vegetarian happened when I became a certified yoga teacher. I was supposed to warn my course participants about the perils of non-veg foods and the related issues like cruelty to the animals. There was no way I was not going to practise what I preached. Frankly speaking my transition was not a difficult one. I am not a foodie and before becoming a full time converted veggie it was only on rare occasions that I used to take non veg food.

So now, having adopted vegetarianism as a way of life I am not looking back in spite of the fact that it has now become an expensive lifestyle choice for a city dweller who does not have the luxury of a kitchen garden. I remember that during our childhood days in the village half of our vegetable needs were fulfilled by our own vegetable garden in the backyard. Even half of our non-veg needs were fulfilled by the river flowing by.

On a sleepy Sunday morning you go to the local vegetable market to wake up to the fact that today tomato has decided to act pricey and hence out of reach. Some other day you get exhausted chasing the onion that is playing catch me if you can. This does not  happen with the prices of non-veg food items that do not go through seasonal fluctuations even though they are subject to normal market inflation like any other item. Forget about mutton and chicken, these days, the transportation networks ensure that even fish never goes out of fashion.

You may safely eat fish salad, but unless your vegetables are cleaned by a Hema Malini recommended scientifically sophisticated vegetable washer you would be eating raw vegetables at your own risk. Same goes for the carbide laced fruits available in the market. After getting mouth ulcers on a number of occasions, these two items – uncooked vegetables and ripe fruits –  have entered my not-to-eat list along with non-veg items, further narrowing down my to-eat list.

To avoid the ill effects of the chemical and colour laced fruits and vegetables, now a days, you have the choice of upgrading your status (both real and Facebook) from being a simple vegetarian to an organic vegetarian. That again comes with its own price tag further increasing your cost of maintaining a vegetarian lifestyle. Further, there is no way of ascertaining, if someone is taking you for a ride in the name of organic food.

Indian hotels too give the vegetable lover a raw deal. The word vegetarian has a close connection with vegetables. When you go to a south Indian veg Hotel, the only item containing vegetables sometimes could be the pickles.

In a north Indian pure veg hotel when the waiter sings the menu starting from various combinations of paneer and mushroom I feel like shouting at the top of my voice, you *** let me tell you paneer is not a vegetable and mushroom is a controversial vegetarian delight as my friend from Andhra testifies that in their family it is considered a non veg item. By the way, someone following the vegan philosophy would not certify paneer, which is of animal origin, to be conducive to a vegetarians lifestyle. Now, tell me about a dish containing vegetables. Then his answer would be,  ‘Sir there is mixed veg, veg kolhapuri, ……’ Being allergic to over-spicy dishes I opt for the mixed veg highlighting the fact that it should be less spicy.

When the waiter brings me the dish of mixed veg, do I hear the poor vegetables singing:

"dhondo dhondo re sajna.. 
bits and pieces of us
in this ocean 
of gravy and spices"

When it comes to parties- official, unofficial, formal and informal- it is not a nice feeling these days to belong to the disadvantaged minority. In our family we have this ritual called the sacred thread ceremony where the son of a Brahmin is certified to have known the Brahman and become the twice born after not understanding a single word of what the purohit was chanting for three hours. Now a days even such a religious occasion demands at least a fish dish. Like any other buffet party here also your area is quarantined.

When I was a neo convert to the cult of vegetarianism I would go to any such party with the airs of moral superiority over the people who are directly or indirectly responsible for heinous cruelty to animals. It would take some time for me to realise that actually I was looked upon like a criminal there as someone would remark with a disdainful look, ‘Oh! You are a vegetarian’. Even some well wisher friends would bestow me with tons of sympathy for what I was missing in life.

So, with chemically conditioned and artificially colored vegetables and step motherly attitude of the hoteliers and party organizers, the tribe of vegetarians will continue to face the existential crisis for years to come.

It is said that Budhha had fixed a maximu limit  of  begging for his bhikhus. Those days it must have been simple – A few handful of anna and vegetables. I think if Budhha were alive today the limit would be something like this:  150 grams of rice and vegetable (both organic) and two liters of mineral water. Alternately, he might have set a limit for daily cash receipt with an inflationary component factored in.

Mad charvak says that in this ghor kalyug even a monk needs money, a lot of money. After all,  he has to purchase the water to drink and maybe,  after a few years, the air to breathe.

P.S.: To be fair even though occasionally the price of a particular farm product sky rockets, the farmer hardly gets anything out of it. Rather, in some seasons we come across the phenomenon when tons of rotten vegetables are thrown away or vegetables are sold at throw away prices. Over the decades, food prices have not been subject to the same rate of inflation like other consumer items. In spite of the compensatory measures like fertiliser subsidy and other slogans, the overall condition of the Indian marginal farmer continues to deteriorate.

 ‘Teach Me To Dream’ – Book Review

My illustrator friend Sailaja Anand ( who is also an eternal optimist) has put up her perceptions of my poems on her blog.

ETERNAL OPTIMIST

‘Teach Me To Dream’ has been written by Mr. Durga Prasad Dash whose work I always have admired. It is an anthology of poems that celebrate life in its myriads of aspects: love, longing, pain, illusion,beauty and ugliness, freedom, bondage, war, politics, enlightenment.There is no sphere of life that is left un touched by the author. Each emotion is conveyed beautifully and every reality is expressed with conviction. Each stanza is a beautiful piece in itself, touching the deep core.

In part I, the way the author has connected seasons and emotions with his web of words is so heartening.
”there is a rhythm in the sun,
melody in air, and
dance in water”
Through words the author is indeed celebrating the nature with beautiful expression.
In poem ‘your sweet absense’
In the following lines
“In my lack of discretion
hoping to rise with you
I fall again and again”

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Educating India (part-2): Specialisation

 

This week’s Indispire prompt suggested by blogger Neha Tambe is about Indian Education Scenario. The exact prompt is: ‘What kind of changes do you wish to see in the education system in India? Learning cannot work like an assembly line. Why can’t children choose in high school their focus subject and graduate with that? Share your ideas and vision about education.’

The prompt asks: why can’t children choose in high school their focus subject and graduate with that. Well, in my opinion high school is too early a time to go for specialisation.

In High School (upto class X) let the children taste all the different branches of knowledge. It will help them, first of all, to know for themselves where in lies their strength or weakness. It will also help them to discover their own inclination for particular fields of study.

Secondly, specialisation cannot happen in total isolation. It can happen only after a certain degree of generalistion. An engineer needs to express his thesis in proper language. All subjects are somewhere interconnected. A scientist should have a little background in humanities and ethics so that when she goes for scientific inventions she does not ignore the potential harmful effects of the inventions on the civilisation.  The scientist also lives in society hence must know the basics of social sciences to be aware of what does it mean to be a responsible citizen. And without history we would not know why a particular group of people behave today in response to different situations.

In ancient days, in the western civilization, all kinds of knowledge were bundled as philosophy which literally means love of knowledge. Of course now a days the word philospher indicates to someone who is devoid of all types of practical knowledge. There was no rigid partition. The greatest Greek philosophers wrote about science, poetry, drama and rolled out self help literature all at the same time. Pythagoras was not only a great mathematician, but also a great mystic. The works of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and others have stood the test of time.

In ancient India knowledge was divided into two broad categories: the para vidya and the apara vidya – the knowledge of the inner and the knowledge of the outer. While we need certain skills to make a living, we also need to learn certain skills to manage our own life, its ambitions and emotions. In the Gurukula both the branches of knowledge were taught to the children to make them complete human beings. Of course subsequently students moved onto their area of higher studies either on their own or under the guidance of specific masters. The universities at Taxila and Nalanda were famous for higher education.

Let me here clarify that para vidya is not religious knowledge which is all about a set of beliefs and rituals. Para vidya is more of kindling in the student a spirit of inquiry into the existential issues of life and giving them the tools to discover them.

In fact I would recommend that the curriculum of high school becomes more broad based to include subjects like elementary economics and accounting. It will also be good to introduce the students to alternate versions of History, rather than changing the history syllabus to suit the ideology of the party in power. 

Maybe, the time has come in India now to go for cross-specialisation. I come across the profile of US or European students with a diploma in Art History and graduation in electrical engineering. Of course In India also students also go for cross-specialisaton after Engineering or medical they go for an MBA degree in Finance or Marketing. It is still not a culturally acceptable thing in India that someone is pursuing a serious academic course in a University in aesthetics after a post-graduation in  in anesthetics.

Mad Charvak says cross-specialisation is the mother of all creativity. 

 

Let the Gregorian New Year make us more Gracious

As one of the blogger friends has mentioned in the comments of the previous post, this time around the wish was not a simple new year. Some wished a great English New Year, Some a great Christian New Year, and some a prosperous Gregorain New Year. In fact, in my previous post, I myself was wondering why we do not name it as the Christian New Year.

However, at this point of time, 2017 years After Christ,  I think we should not be so fussy. The Gregorian calendar has now become the international standard for dating (no pun intended). So be it.

In fact, unless we are specifically reminded that celebrating the Gregorain new year is endemic to our cultural values, we will not start thinking seriously that it has the potential to uproot us from our native culture and religion.

Now imagine what would happen if every country, every region, every religion, and every sect  rigorously started using its own version of calendar rejecting all other versions. In India itself we would have more than hundred types of calendars. If you boarded the train at Bareilly on 07.02. 2032, you would wake up in Bangalore after two days on 05.04.2130.

And imagine how difficult the life of the air traffic controllers and the pilots would be. Even Google and Microsoft will have a hard time to construct special algorithms to match your religious and cultural sensibilities and sense of time.

At the same time the same generosity should be extended to many other practices. Reservations have been expressed about the International Day of Yoga. A couple of years back clerics in Egypt issued edicts against yoga terming it as un-islamic. Even though yoga is more widely practiced in the Christain majority countries of the west than the country of its origin, Churches have expressed their disapproval.

Maybe, to avoid confrontation with the church, some yogic practitioners came up with a theory that yoga originated in the West. But I don’t think even such a theory will pacify the people who think yoga is a type of a subtle invasion to uproot people from their cultural and religious roots.

People who object to yoga on religious grounds should read the primary treatise on yoga: Patanjali’s yogasutras. To be a yogi you do not need first of all to believe in any particular concept of God, or heaven, or origin of the universe.

Mad Charvak says that this is the very reason religious leaders are afraid of yoga. Religions are driven by faith. When people follow reason and experimentation based on cause and effect there are chances that they will see through the various schemes they propagate in the name of religious faith.

Last year I did not want to wish my loved ones A Happy New Year. Let me assure you it was not for any religious reason. I was alarmed going through what some leading thinkers over the ages had said about happiness.

This year let me wish everyone to start the new year on a poetic note. To help your poetic journey, my anthology of poems – teach me to dream– will be available for free download from 3rd to 5th Jan 2018.

teachme to dream book cover

Educating India (Part-I): Secularism

“Re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul.” – Walt Whitman

On one hand, we cry foul that our nation is becoming less secular and more polarised. On the other hand, we encourage religious institutions to expand their empires of education. So we want the patient to recover from fever and at the same time encourage him to take cold showers regularly.

The trend was started by the Christian Missionaries as part of their strategy to harvest overpopulated souls in developing and underdeveloped countries. Other strategies included opening hospitals and providing charity to the needy and underprivileged. These three strategies have something  in common. The sick, the needy, and the under-aged are at their vulnerable worst, thus making their mind ripe to be instilled with a new form of God.

Slowly, followers of other religions woke up to the potential. Of course, these schools and colleges did not have any covert agenda to harvest souls. Some educational evangelists discovered the potential of harvesting millions (in hard unaccounted cash) by running educational institutions under the banner of religious organisations or by stoking the religious pride.  Some of these institutes were established to counter the expansionist agenda of the Church.

You allow your children to study under the supervising eyes of a particular set of jealous Gods, who don’t see eye to eye with other sets of Gods (Or a God, Or the God) and expect them to emerge secular or religiously broadminded when they grow up.

For any such flaws of serious nature in our society, usually, the immediate response is to bring in new legislature. By the way there is no need for any special laws to be enacted now to cleanse our education system of things non-secular. The CBSE bylaws mandate that in order to get recognition schools must propagate secular mindset. Now the question is : who will bell the cat? (Mad Charvak says, ‘After all, dear brother, who would risk losing such a chunk of vote bank?’)

 Vested interests (that includes parents) want that people spend their early part of life in heavily conditioned religious setups that emphasize ‘ours’ is the only way,  so that they become protectors of their great cultures and religions when they grow up.

At the same time society should not go to the other extreme of banning all kinds of spiritual education. Let the students learn a little bit of history and essence of all faiths, including non-religious faiths like communism. That will prevent them from becoming chauvinists, and in the extreme case from becoming terrorists.

By the way, as 2017 is coming to a close a strange question is coming to my mind. Certain day is called a Hindu New Year, another as a Jain New Year, and so on. Why not call this one starting from tomorrow as the Christian New Year, which in fact is a Christian New Year?

Mad Charvak is warning me – Shsh…… a trade secret.

(In response to Indispire#202)

Teach Me To Dream by D P Dash

Deeply honoured by this review.

One Grain Amongst the Storm

teachme to dream book coverJust as I thought I was done with the ash-berries tossed at me by the departing year, suturing up my tattered ego with a ghazal in the reigning obscurity, Mr D. P. Dash ruffled the quiet of my languid existence. Dash is a blogger who writes at ‘One Life is Not Enough’, but he didn’t stop at that and went ahead to self-publish his oeuvres, the latest being a book of verses so refreshing the droplets are still sticking to my mind.

Teach me to dream’ is a collection of jaunty poems written in a workaday diction that is blithely lucid. Unlike many practitioners of poetry, Dash doesn’t adorn the stream of his thoughts with symbols and motifs often. His is a candid style, crisp and direct, but it has none of the jarring monotony plaguing a host of present day poets. The movement of his…

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the cart of clay and Rumi in a traffic jam

I will write about Rumi towards the end of this blog post and try to connect it to my recently released book. After all I have a book to promote. Gone are the days when the Hero’s or heroine’s role ended with acting in the movie (and collecting the pay check). Now he/she must take part in an extensive film marketing. So is the case with the authors these days, whether you follow the self publishing route or the traditional route.

Now, talking about books, today is the birth anniversary of Mirza Ghalib.  I come to know of this from the Google Doodle. Many of my readers must have the experience of coming across his shers and shayiris. He is like the old mischievous gentleman of the next street who you bump into every now and then during your random walks. But this year I read one of the books outlining his life and his wisdom. It was after I was gifted with a Kindle by my daughter on the occasion of my birthday. Many of his couplets have stuck and refuse to go out of memory.

Haathon ki lakeeron pay mat ja ae ghalib, 
Naseeb unke bhi hote hain jinkey haath nahi hote 

Hum ko mallum hai jannat ki haqiqat lekin 
Dil khush rakhne ko ghalib ye khayal achha hai

I go into periodic lunacy of binge reading. Those are also the periods when I end up reading a lot of bullshit stuff. During such a period of lunacy this year I read Paulo Coelho and Eckhart Tolle. I came across Coelho for the first time from a newspaper column and was under the impression that he was a self help Guru of some sort. But he and his bio in a number of internet sites claim he is a novelist! I was also amazed at the way these two guys (worldwide bestselling authors in their own right) clothe ancient wisdom in new words and metaphors and never give any credit to their source, thus giving the impression that they are the inventors of such life changing wisdom.

Some of the interesting books I have read are associated with their own stories about how I came across the book or, in what circumstances I read the book. While helping my father-in-law arranging his home library some months back I came across an Odiya version of Mritchhakatika. Does the word sound a little complicated?

This is a Sanskrit  word combining two words (sandhi) –  mrit (soil/mud) and sakatika (cart). Do you remember the movie utsav starring Sekhar Suman and Rekha? The movie was based on this ancient Sanskrit drama- The Cart of Clay. Some English translator use the title – The Little Clay Cart.

During school days, one of our teachers – Sri Surendra Das- used to teach us both Odiya and Sanskrit. His way of teaching was to tell stories. We used to wait eagerly for his classes. Over a month he told us the entire story of Mritchchakatika in episodic manner during his classes. Those were the days when TV soap opera had not colonialised our country.

I had read the book once during the college days and watched the movie during its year of release in 1984. But reading it again this year was like relieving those moments of my school days in the 1980s.

A book I have recently picked up for reading is -Never Let me Go – written by the latest Nobel Prize winner for literature, Kazuo Ishiguro. I had read a review of the movie adaptation long time back and I liked it so much that I wanted to see the movie or read the book immediately. Those were the days before Amazon and I could not lay my hands on the DVD or the book in our local stores.

Another book worth mentioning is Ulysses by James Joyce. It took me three months of frequently interrupted reading to finish it. In between I had to read a lot of reviews and notes about the book to understand all the layers of the theme. But it was worth it.

Ulysses is one of the all time great novels in the history of fiction, consistently being voted as one of the top ten novels in polls after polls. However, our dear best selling novelist Paulo Coehlo could hardly find anything remarkable in this masterpiece. Coelho faced a lot of flack for his criticism of Ulysses. Of course, we can hardly blame Paulo for all this. Loved by the masses from Iran to India, after all he is a novelist of a special class.

Now I remember of the time when I was rescued by Rumi when I was on may way to the airport and was stuck in a traffic jam. Thankfully, I was not going to catch a flight but to receive someone. Thankfully again, I had borrowed a book of Rumi’s poetry from a library in the morning and it was with me. As it rained outside, sitting in the car backseat, perhaps at that time I was one of those few commuters who did not curse the rain or the traffic Jam. Of course, by the time I finished the book, I was yet to reach the airport. Thankfully yet again, I was able to compose a poem – of traffic jam, rain and Rumi, which has been included in my recently released anthology of poems: teach me to dream. There are a couple of poems – one dedicated to rain and another to typical everyday traffic jam – that find place in the anthology.

cloud of gentle rain, pour down 
come, let us friends get truly drunk 
and you, the king of tricksters 
befuddled with drink we all greet you (Rumi)

By the way, when I started to write this post I noticed that teach me to dream has jumped to No.2 position on Amazon ranking of New Releases and No.10 in Poetry category. As Amazon ranks fluctuate by the hour, I don’t know what will be the ranking by the time you read this. Anyway, I hope it continues to be one of the top twenty books in poetry category.

With a little help from you, of course, my dear reader. 😀

amazon rank1

 

 

 

teach me to dream – an anthology of my poems

Well, finally I was able to nail my poetic muse. It is such a great sense of relief. Whether my book reaches its destination of readers or not it is a great sense of relief. It is like delivering the baby after a prolonged pregnancy.

This was supposed to be my first book, as I have mentioned while writing the blog post announcing the release of Idle Hours. But my poetic muse has been so elusive that neither did it help me complete a few half written poems, nor did it assist me in clothing a few concepts wandering in my mind with lyrics, sometimes escaping some time arriving unannounced to be gone in a moment.

After Amazon took care of the post delivery issues of teach me to dream, it is now live and kicking, waiting to be picked up and hugged  by loving readers.

 

Meanwhile, I thank Sri Uma Shankar Pandey, Sri M Gopalakrishnan, Sri SK Pathak, Sri Srikant Jha for putting your thoughts about Idle Hours on various forums.

Also worth special mention in connection with the anthology of poems are the following:

  • Sri Sailendra Narayana Tripathy, my first mentor of poetry and my professor of English Literature during my graduation at Khallikote College Berhampur. Coincidentally, these days he is a regular guest speaker on numerous Odiya TV channels. Famous Actress Leslie Tripathy is his daughter who carries on the legacy to revive the international poetry magazine Poesy where my first poem was published way back in 1987.
  • Ms. Sailaja Anand – Blogger and Art of Living Teacher – for providing the illustrations.  I am not able to do full justice to her efforts as I am not able to utilise all her illustrations in this e-book version. Maybe, when I go for the print version I use all her illustrations at appropriate places.

At present the book is also part of Kindle Unlimited.

I request all my readers ( including my blogger friends many of whom are great poets themselves) to share your thoughts on Amazon/Goodreads/your blog.

teach me to dream cover

 

Monica Lewinsky and the Trolls of our Times

A couple of days back a woman of acquaintance committed suicide. The usual story : alleged extra marital affairs, a society that loves to take figments of weird imagination as the gospel truth, rumour, lack of emotional support from near ones, stress, depression, and fear of facing alone an antagonistic world. Remember, there were male parties to the whole issue. But, it was the woman who faced the majority of the insults and finally paid with her life.

Coincidentally, perhaps at the time when the woman was preparing to hang herself, in the comfortable surroundings of my home I was watching a series of TED talks, one of them being a talk by Monica Lewinsky about the trials and tribulations she faced after the news of her inappropriate actions in the White House became public. Well, those who were of news digestible age by 1998 need no introduction to her.

 

She recounts that it was an internet site that first broke the news. The president of the United States of the America had been caught pants down with a young intern in the white house. Within no time news spread like wild fire all over the world. The internet was full of nasty comments about her. All sorts of editors from the main stream media to the yellow press wanted to outdo one another in dishing out juicy details. And shaming her.

Bill Clinton was effected too. Of course, he was not as devastated as the lady. Nor was he trolled and shamed both offline and online, as vigorously as Monica was done. He was let off after the public was fed up with inventing banters about him. Ultimately, the US public did not want him to lose his job. His wife stood by his side and after a decade, she  was vying for the top post of the world.

Meanwhile, Monica was having a hard time reconciling with the nasty world. She recalls that at some point she too thought of committing suicide. Her mother stood by her. Her mother was so cautious, she insisted that Monica should keep the door open while taking her shower.

In India we have the idea that women are in the receiving end and the bearer of the bigger brunt only in orthodox countries like ours. We think women are better off in such matters in free, modern and progressive countries of the west.  But it seems whether it is in the west or in the east, society has been grossly unfair to the fairer sex.

Monica also recalls an incident of a girl committing suicide after someone filmed her intimate moments with  a boy friend and made it viral. These are some of the flip sides of the social media.

The talk also raises deeper issues of freedom and citizen responsibility. How can we demarcate a line when commercial interests (more visitors to the website/ more readers of the newspaper) override media ethics and an individual’s right to privacy?  Should freedom of expression push every humane consideration to the sideline?

Of course the main issue here is the way society treats women and men over similar mistakes. We know that in Ramayana, Sita did not go through the agniparikha (to pass through fire to prove her chastity) voluntarily. It was ordained by the keepers of morality. Same way, our historians who are now too obsessed with the Aryan Invasion theory, should do serious research to find out whether, during the Isalmic invasion and loot, women voluntarily went through the sati ritual or were coerced to do so.

part 3: The Japanese sense of Aesthetics

The concept of mono no aware that I discussed in part 2 finds expression in Japanese art and literature including in the works of the latest Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro. Even though the concept originated in the Heian Era (8th-12th century), it started gaining prominence in Japanese culture with the works of the 18th century scholar Motoori Norinaga.

The sweetest songs are those that tell us of our saddest thoughts (PB Shelly). But songs or no songs, the sadness about the passing of beautiful things and pleasant moments may have an underlying elusive shade of sweetness. Maybe, that is what mono no aware is all about.

The Heian Era also saw the origin of the three art forms of Japanese refinements: kado, kodo, and chado. Kado is the native name for the Japanese art of flower arrangement which is also known as ikebana. Kodo is appreciating the subtle variations of incense and chado is the famous Japanese tea ceremony. The origin and refinement of all the three forms bear the influence of Buddhism.

I am fascinated by the Japanese tea ceremony. It is said that a Buddhist monk discovered tea. While dhyan which traveled from India became a refined form of meditation and culture known as Zen after reaching Japan, the simple act of taking tea to remain alert and ward off cold developed into a kind of religion reaching its Zenith during the time of emperor Hideyoshi and tea master Sen No Rikyu.

Chado can be loosely translated as the way of the tea. Detailed attention is given to the choice of the utensils, the movements of the host and the guests. The decoration inside is austere following the principle of wabi-sabi. There are four basic elements of the ritual: harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility. Care is taken to see that the location of the tea house, its surroundings, its interior and the objects inside are all in harmony. One has to bow down or crawl to reach inside, kneel down and bow to the hanging scroll and sit down in tatami. It is like going inside a temple. A special connection between the host and the guest is made when they honour each other. Purity is obtained when the actions of the host seem spontaneous, not rehashed. The overall effect is meditative, tranquil bringing all participants to here and now.

Another concept of aesthetics associated with Japanese art, literature, and culture is yugen. The underlying principle is that certain deeper truths cannot be explicitly expressed and can only be alluded to or hinted at. Even those that can be explicitly expressed can achieve a sublime and mysterious status by being alluded to thus deepening their effect.

I started this series with a clarification about the poetry form haiku. Some readers have opined that we cannot be too strict about the form of poetry that has undergone change over the centuries. Agreed. However, it should not water down to a lamentation about the low office wage with no reference to nature or with nothing to juxtapose. To end this series, here a few of my favourite haikus:

Come come ! I call ...
but the fireflies 
flash way
into the darkness (Onitsura)

Watching the spring moon
rise
I no longer bother
about the mountains (Kyorai)
(hint: the spring moon is more transient than the mountain)

What does this mean?
Chrysanthemums
and jonquils
blooming together (shiki)

The leaves never know
which leaf
will be first to fall..
does the wind know? (Soseki)

Preach away cricket
it doesn't matter to me
I know 
it's autumn (Soseki)

There goes a beggar
naked
except for his robes
of heaven and earth (Kikaku)

Since I first became 
a hermit
The frogs have sung 
only of old age (Issa)

Day darken!
frogs say by day
at night they cry bring light
old grumblers (Buson)

How can a creature 
be so hated
as a winter fly
yet live so long (kikaku)

Among these lovely 
cherry blossoms
a woodpecker
hunts for a dead tree (Joso)

If my grumbling wife
were still alive
I just might enjoy
tonight's moon (Issa)

Over the ruins 
of a shrine
a chestnut tree
still lifts its candles (Basho)

An old silent pond
into the pond
a frog jumps
splash ! silence again (Basho)
(This seemingly simple haiku has hundreds of translations and interpretations. All I can say is while reading this haiku if you get a feeling of here and now, you need not bother the hundred intellectual interpretations of the poem)

 

By the way, I enjoyed these hilarious haikus written by Sri Uma Shankar Pandey on his blog.

My next book, an anthology of poems which will be released shortly, will include some micro poems. Let me assure you I will not claim those as haikus. 😀