Meditation Blog : Culture Archives

Canadian Conservation

The New York Times reports on a landmark agreement that was reached after years of negotiation to protect 15-million acres of the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia. The Nature Conservancy describes the deal:

The Great Bear Rainforest is part of the largest coastal temperate rainforest remaining on Earth and supports some of the oldest surviving cultures in the Western Hemisphere. Its preservation is one of the most compelling conservation visions of our time. Today’s agreement — and the unique partnership between industry, environmentalists, governments and local communities that made it possible — marks a watershed event for both conservation and industry.

Grist Magazine has a slide show with pictures of the rainforest. Tidepool has more detail on the announcement.

February 8, 2006 | Culture | Permalink

Krishnamurti on Nationalism

Speaking in Argentina in 1935, J. Krishnamurti responded to a question from the audience about nationalism:

To love anything beautiful in a country is normal and natural, but when that love is used by exploiters in their own interest it is called nationalism. Nationalism is fanned into imperialism, and then the stronger people divide and exploit the weaker, with the Bible in one hand and a bayonet in the other. The world is dominated by the spirit of cunning, ruthless exploitation, from which war must ensue. This spirit of nationalism is the greatest stupidity.

Every individual should be free to live fully, completely. As long as one tries to liberate one's own particular country and not man, there must be racial hatreds, the divisions of people and classes. The problems of man must be solved as a whole, not as confined to countries or peoples.

July 4, 2005 | Culture | Permalink

Krishnamurti in the Press

The Travel section of the New York Times recently highlighted Ojai, California, a town twenty miles inland from Santa Barbara, and the place where J. Krishnamurti made his home when in the United States. Among his stops in Ojai, the writer visits the Krishnamurti Library, but unfortunately refers to Krishmanurti in the article as:

...the guru who was labeled the ''vehicle for the reincarnation of Christ in the West and of Buddha in the East.''

I'm guessing that the writer took the "vehicle for the reincarnation..." phrase from the Krishnamurti Foundation of America's biograpical note on Krishnamurti. However, the phrase is misleading because it is taken out of context. The designation of Krishnamurti as a new Christ or Buddha was made by the Theosophical Society, a Victorian spiritual organization, which took custody of him as a child and prepared a worldwide religious organization for him, the Order of the Star. However, as the biography notes, at the age of thirty-four, Krishnamurti repudiated both the role and the organization: 1929 after many years of questioning himself, he dissolved the Order, repudiated its claims and returned all the assets given to him for its purpose.

When disbanding the organization, Krishnamurti made his most well-known statement:

Truth is a pathless land. Man cannot come to it through any organization, through any creed, through any dogma, priest or ritual, not through any philosophic knowledge or psychological technique. He has to find it through the understanding of the contents of his own mind, through observation and not through intellectual analysis or introspective dissection.

Krishnamurti went on speaking to people for the rest of his life, but never claimed the mantle of guru or teacher. In fact, he made a regular point of criticizing "gurus" as deceivers of themselves and others.

Upon his death in 1986, the New York Times obituary of Krishnamurti presented him more accurately. An excerpt:

Jiddu Krishnamurti, the religious philosopher and teacher, died of cancer yesterday at his residence at the Krishnamurti Foundation in Ojai, Calif. He was 90 years old.

Failing health last month forced Mr. Krishnamurti to cut short his final visit to India, where he gave his last public talk Jan. 3 in Madras, the place of his birth. His last appearances in New York were at a gathering at the United Nations in April 1985 and two talks before capacity audiences at Carnegie Hall in March 1982.

Mr. Krishnamurti continued to draw young listeners as well as elderly admirers who remembered the years when many revered him as virtually a new messiah, a notion he firmly renounced more than 55 years ago.

His teaching — he was distrustful of the word — was based on self-reliance and unflinching self-knowledge. People, he said, must understand themselves without delusions, a challenge that only they can meet and that they must meet to change society for the better.

Mr. Krishnamurti renounced all organized religions and ideologies in 1929, saying that religions with their prescribed teachings and worship services, retarded self-awareness. In that spirit, he carried his message to audiences in many countries.

Later in 1986, John Russell, the longtime respected art critic at the New York Times, favorably reviewed Pupul Jayakar's biography of Krishnamurti for the paper:

Alike in this country, and in his native India, Krishnamurti (1895-1986) was for generations the epitome of the unaligned spiritual teacher who founded no sect, never tried to collect disciples and successors, and regarded the craving to "belong" as a weakness, if not positively an aberration....

But the fundamental value of the book lies primarily in its day-to-day and often word-by-word record of what Krishnamurti said, year after year, both in public and in private, and how he dealt with people who went to him for straightforward answers on fundamental questions. When enjoined simply to "be tremendous — be awake," they were bemused. Late in life he said the idea of teacher and taught was basically wrong. "It is a matter of sharing, rather than of being taught," he went on to say. Fundamental questions had to be answered, but it was for each person to find the answer within himself.

It was not, therefore, by telling people what to think, but by telling people how to think that Krishnamurti impressed himself on people of every age, outlook and nationality as one of the last bright hopes of mankind.


Krishnamurti's talk at The United Nations where he was presented with the 1984 Peace medal

The British newspaper The Guardian reported on Krishnamurti's talk at Madison Square Garden in 1984

May 17, 2005 | Culture | Permalink

Martin Lefevre on the New Pope

Martin Lefevre recently wrote about the new pope in his weekly column at Scoop:

The Catholic Church could have embraced worldwide ecumenism. Instead it is, in Pope Benedict XVI, reasserting its medieval claim to supremacy over all faiths....

At a time when humankind is facing unprecedented challenges, and the world is undergoing unparalleled change, upholding the primacy of any faith, even with a velvet glove, feeds global conflict....

Ratzinger has often been described as the power behind the throne, the purifier of the church’s doctrine. One can only deduce that in him the world is getting exactly what the instantly canonized John Paul wanted. This new pope decries “the dictatorship of relativism,” but exalts in the decrepitude of dogmatism....

It all boils down to one’s orientation to truth (including whether one even feels there is such a thing). Truth is a living movement that emerges with the unforced stillness of the mind. Truth therefore cannot and does not lie in any doctrine or dogma, and is indiscernible when people are anchored in texts rather than in the insight that comes from self-knowing.

May 12, 2005 | Culture | Permalink

A Sideways Look at Film

The first time I saw "Sideways" was in the theater, shortly after it was released last year. I enjoyed it a lot, thinking it almost pitch-perfect.
However, there was one part I found fault with — an intimate backporch scene in which Paul Giamatti and Virginia Madsen discuss their love of wine. When Giamatti's character, the struggling Miles, explains his passion for pinot noir, an underdog grape, his speech seemed to act as a too obvious metaphor for his character's life. Friends of mine had a similar response.

Watching the movie a second time last night, I was a little apprehensive when that scene arrived. Aware of my previous reaction, I tried to stay with the characters as they spoke, entering the scene in a fashion, rather than analyzing it from the outside. On this occasion the scene turned out to be plausible instead of hackneyed.

It seems that when we watch a film we're simultaneously thinking about it, reacting one way or another. We form opinions that solidify — it was a good film, or a bad one — and we identify with them, though they may be shaped by expectation, mood, or who we're with. To one degree or another, when watching a movie we suspend disbelief, becoming involved in a world constructed at twenty-four frames per second. But perhaps now and again, we can take a step back, and observe the process of watching itself — investigating how the mind experiences and responds to the moving image.

April 14, 2005 | Culture | Permalink

Worldy Baggage

From today's New York Times, can the director of a meditation center maintain his cool when an airline loses his luggage?

April 12, 2005 | Culture | Permalink

Meditation in Literature: Olaf Stapledon

Olaf Stapledon (1886-1950), one of the most important figures in science fiction, taught philosophy and psychology at the University of Liverpool. Like his contemporaries, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, Stapledon explored his ideas in novels of the imagination. While writing, Stapledon wasn't aware that science fiction existed, though he became a formative influence on the genre. His greatest works, "Last Men and First Men" (1930) and "Star Maker" (1937), he termed "histories of the future." In "Last Men and First Men," Stapledon tells the comprehensive story of humanity from the present time until a future two billion years from now. "Star Maker" takes on a broader scope — the history and future of the universe itself. The science fiction writer, Kim Stanley Robinson, eloquently describes these two books:

There is nothing else in all of literature like Stapledon's two cosmological novels. Every few pages contain all the material of an ordinary science fiction novel, condensed to something like prose poetry; and their profound view of our place in the scheme of things is a joy to experience.

At the core Stapledon's works focus on moral, spiritual, and religious evolution. In his future histories, he measures the success and failure of a species by the degree to which it attains an awareness of an underlying unity in the workings of the universe. In "Star Maker," which Arthur C. Clarke called, "Probably the most powerful work of imagination ever written," one of the many creatures Stapledon documents is the plant-men. Half-human, half-vegetative in nature, they are mobile workers at night, then sink roots and rest by day. Stapledon describes their resting period as a rejuvenating, meditative state of communion. The following excerpt contains Stapledon's literary description of their meditation, and a feeling for the moral purpose in his writing:

Briefly, the mentality of the plant-men in every age was an expression of the varying tension between the two sides of their nature, between the active, assertive, objectively inquisitive, and morally positive animal nature and the passive, subjectively contemplative, and devotedly acquiescent vegetable nature. It was of course through animal prowess and practical human intelligence that the species had long come to dominate its world. But at all times this practical will had been tempered and enriched by a kind of experience which among men is very rare. Every day, throughout the ages, these beings had surrendered their feverish animal nature not merely to unconscious or dream-racked sleep, such as animals know, but to the special kind of awareness (we learned) belongs to plants. Spreading their leaves, they had absorbed directly the essential elixir of life which animals receive only at second hand in the mangled flesh of their prey. Thus they seemingly maintained immediate physical contact with the source of all cosmical being. And this state, though physical, was also in some sense spiritual. It had a far-reaching effect on all their conduct. If theological language were acceptable, it might well be called a spiritual contact with God. During the busy night-time they went about their affairs as insulated individuals, having no present immediate experience of their underlying unity; but normally they were always preserved from the worst excesses of individualism by memory of their day-time life.

[Star Maker, p. 118.]

On the following page, Stapledon further describes the quality and content of this meditation:

And this experience afforded him an enduring ecstasy whose quality was almost sexual, an ecstasy in which subject and object seemed to become identical, an ecstasy of subjective union with the obscure source of all finite being. In this state the plant-man could meditate upon his active, night-time life, and could become aware, far more clearly by day, of the intricacies of his own motives. In this day-time mode he passed no moral judgements on himself or others. He mentally reviewed every kind of human conduct with detached contemplative joy, as a factor in the universe. But when night came again, bringing the active nocturnal mood, the calm, day-time insight into himself and others was lit with a fire of moral praise and censure.

[Star Maker, p. 119.]

March 23, 2005 | Culture | Permalink

Kyoto Story

Tokyo resident Jeff Eager makes a meditative visit to Kyoto, and takes some nice pictures.

January 21, 2005 | Culture | Permalink