Sep 30, 2008

soul's horizons

How boundless might his soul's horizons be,
How vast, yet of what clear transparency.

Matthew Arnold, A Summer Night

Sep 28, 2008

you yourself

You can search through the universe for someone who is more deserving of love and affection than yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anyone in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.


I thank this photo and quotation to Rick Gunn and his beautiful, heartfelt photos, and inspiring travel journal, to be read at:

Sep 27, 2008

but there indeed it is

Chandogya Upanishad

There lived once Svetaketu. . . To him his father Uddalaka . . . said: "Svetaketu, go to school; for no one belonging to our race, dear son, who, not having studied, is, as it were, a Brahmin by birth only"

Having begun his apprenticeship when he was twelve years of age, Svetaketu returned to his father, when he was twenty-four, having then studied all the Vedas,conceited, considering himself well-read, and stern.

His father said to him: "Svetaketu, as you are so conceited, considering yourself so well-read and so stern, my dear, have you ever asked for that instruction by which we hear what cannot be heard, by which we perceive what cannot be perceived, by which we know what cannot be known? "

"What is that instruction, Sir?" he asked. . .

"Fetch me . . . a fruit of the Nyagrodha tree."

"Here is one, Sir."

"Break it."

"It is broken, Sir."

"What do you see there?"

"These seeds, almost infinitesimal."

"Break one of them."

"It is broken, Sir."

"What do you see there?"

"Not anything, Sir."

The father said: "My son, that subtle essence which you do not perceive there, of that very essence this great Nyagrodha tree exists.

"Believe it, my son. That which is the subtle essence, in it all that exists has its self. It is the True. It is the Self, and you, . . . Svetaketu, are it. "

"Please, Sir, inform me still more," said the son.

"Be it so, my child," the father replied.

"Place this salt in water, and then wait on me in the morning."
The son did as he was commanded.

The father said to him: "Bring me the salt, which you placed in the water last night."

The son having looked for it, found it not, for, of course, it was melted.

The father said: "Taste it from the surface of the water. How is it?"

The son replied: "It is salt."

"Taste it from the middle. How is it?"

The son replied: "It is salt."

"Taste it from the bottom. How is it?"

The son replied: "It is salt."

The father said: "Throw it away and then wait. . .on me.

He did so, but the salt exists forever.

Then the father said: "Here also, in this body, . . . you do not perceive the True, my son; but there indeed it is.

"That which is the subtle essence, in it all that exists has its self. It is the True. It is the Self, and you, Svetaketu, are it."

The Upanishads are the principle texts of what is often regarded as the Hindu religion. Compiled between 800 and 500 BC, they are the result of meditations on many of the themes found in the Vedas, but brought to a new philosophical and spiritual level through the introduction of the concept of Brahman or universal spirit (India, the Vedic Era).

Sep 26, 2008


magic carpet
flying me
in and out of pain
in and out of bliss
I surrender

Sep 24, 2008

what do Hindus teach their children about God?

In many Hindu families children are taught about one supreme God who is in everything. They are shown a glass of water and told the following story:

Svetaketu always came proudly home from school each day.
One day his father asked him about God but Svetaketu didn’t know anything. His father sent for a glass of water and asked Svetaketu to put some salt in it. The next day he asked where the salt was. Svetaketu could not see the salt but he could taste
it in the water in the glass.
‘That’s a bit like God in the world’, said his father. ‘God is invisible, but is there in everything.’

Photo ©Superhero Journal

Sep 18, 2008

when will it ever end?

To me the goal or destination of a trek, or the spiritual path for that matter, is of secondary importance. Each step, the journey itself, is the interesting part, the important part, the crucial part, the practice. If our mind is in the future, if we are unmindful, careless, any step could mean disaster. Only thinking about the goal will not get you there. It helps, it motivates you, but you have to keep walking. When you are struggling up a steep section, tired and hot, muscles aching, heart pounding, the thought, “When will it end?” is the distant future. It is not real.

Each step is real; the aching of bones, the sweat, the shortness of breath is real, the present moment. Wanting it to end, the jump to the future, is like a mirage; it can bring more suffering. When you finally reach the top and rest a bit, soon the misery of the climb disappears, like the mirage, and the pain is forgotten. You now have the next destination, the path in front of you, until the next up hill. On the Himalayan trails there is always another hill – when will it ever end?

It is important to pick a trail, a destination that is not too easy, which is just beyond our reach, to stretch our limits. Otherwise we will not increase our stamina, develop our strength, or know what is possible, what lies beyond. It is like the carrot and the stick edging the donkey forward. To face our fears, loneliness, to go without our creature comforts, not knowing what is around the corner, stretching the threshold of pain, even to face death. This brings us face to face with our deeper self, to deal with it right there, not avoiding it, not masking over it with superficial amusements that make us feel comfortable.

Choosing a guide, knowing the right path is important in the beginning. It is a necessary help to get our bearings, become familiar with the terrain, and learn how to detect dangers. However, ultimately, especially on the spiritual path, no one can take us there. Moreover, this is where the metaphor breaks down. We have to walk alone, leave our companions behind, because it is an inner journey, not an outer journey; a journey of the mind, and not of flesh; an individual journey, not a group trip. No one can come with us. Everyone must go on their own way according to their karma. Guides only point the way.

The Himalaya are your own mind. When you have traversed the peaks and valleys, going beyond pleasure and pain, gain and loss, like and dislike, explored the caves of sadness, loneliness, fear, unfulfilled hopes, walked the slippery slopes of desire and lust, pride and conceit, and ultimately crossed the glacier of the ego, this is the end of the trail.

Preface from Traversing the Great Himalaya, a Photo Documentary by Yogavacara Rahula, published by Bhavana Society, 2001 -- though the photos in this post are not from the book.

Sep 13, 2008

on a trek

For a Buddhist, spiritual practice means purifying the underlying forces of attachment/greed, aversion/hatred, and the selfish ego/delusion in one’s mind. It is weakening the habitual patterns of clinging to security (as the known), of fearing the unknown, on of protecting the ego’s boundaries. It is also cultivation of compassion and loving kindness for oneself and all beings. I know of no better place to do all that than on the trails of the Himalaya in India.

A Himalayan trek is a metaphor for life itself. On a trek we are searching for a majestic peak or high plateau, a beautiful stream or waterfall, or a shrine or monastery. The destination or goal serves to quench our thirst, our desire. It provides a short respite from the rigors of the trail, a brief “One Night’s Shelter”. Then we have to descend, to move on. We cannot stay there.

Preface from Traversing the Great Himalaya, a Photo Documentary by Yogavacara Rahula, published by Bhavana Society, 2001.

Photo below © Delwa, more from this traveler to be read and seen at

Sep 11, 2008

the law of our being

There are times when you have to obey a call which is the highest of all, i.e. the voice of conscience even though such obedience may cost many a bitter tear, and even more, separation from friends, from family, from the state to which you may belong, from all that you have held as dear as life itself. For this obedience is the law of our being.

Mahatma Ghandi

Photo (top) of Ladakh's 16th-century Phyang Monastery and (bottom) Puja call at Ladakh's 15th-century Tikse Monastery ©Steve McCurry/National Geographic; to see more photos please refer to:

Sep 9, 2008

to conquer

It is not the mountains that we conquer, but ourselves.

Sir Edmund Hillary

Sep 6, 2008

the same water

Rain, hail and snow,
Ice too, are set apart,
But when they fall, --
The same water
Of the valley stream.

from Zen and Zen Classics - Volume One by R. H. Blyth, The Hokuseido Press/Heian International, San Francisco, 1982

if you would like to read more excerpts from this book please refer to:

Photo: trekking in Ladakh

Sep 4, 2008

man's stripe is inside

The inhabitants of 'Little Tibet," who have turned the wasteland like the elephant's skin into the oasis like a bright green gem. The way that they express time is also peculiar like this: 'after the sun sets,' 'when the sun is suspended on the mountain top,' 'at the singing time of the birds before the sun rises.' Helena Norberg-Hodge, a Swedish linguist, writes in as following:

"The most important thing for Ladakhi people is to build community without avarice and to coexist with nature. They brew the beverage from food left out after a meal, feed the animals wash water, use the animal excrement as compost, and help others after finishing their own work."

Tzering Dolma, a country girl asks the author,
"You said that other people are not happy like us?"

Ladakh lacks a lot of things. It is short of natural resources, oxygen, and water. Nevertheless, they have turned the shortage into abundance by practicing a simple and plain life in insufficiency. So they are poor but their minds are not poor. There is a famous saying in Ladakh: "The tiger's stripe is outside, while man's stripe is inside." It means that one's inside or personality is more important than one's appearance.

excerpet from Delwa's travel journal; more to be read at:

Photos: top, fields and mountains around Leh, Ladakh ©Oriental Travels; bottom, young monk ©Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre in Ladakh

Sep 2, 2008

use your imagination...

can you spot me on the terrace shown above, mindfully drinking water (for that is all you should drink here, due to the high altitude...) and looking at the mountains? Or practicing walking meditation in these beautiful gardens? Use your imagination, because that's what I did to get here, at this Shangri-lah on Earth...

if you'd like to see more of Omasila Hotel, please refer to:

Sep 1, 2008

I see that instant I fall in love with

The night is black and the forest has no end;
a million people thread it in a million ways.
We have trysts to keep in the darkness,
but where or with whom- of that we are unaware.
But we have this faith- that a lifetime's bliss
will appear any minute, with a smile upon its lips.
Scents, touches, sounds, snatches of songs brush us,
pass us, give us delightful shocks.
Then peradventure there's a flash of lightning:
whomever I see that instant I fall in love with.
I call that person and cry:
'This life is blest! For your sake such miles have I traversed!'
All those others who come close and
moved off in the darkness -I dont know if they exist or not.

On the nature of love - I see that instant I fall in love with by Rabinder Nath Tagore, translated from Bengali by Ketaki Kushari Dyson from Chaitali (1896)

If you'd like to read more by this author, please refer to:

Photo: rush hour in central Delhi -- where I am today...

If you'd like to see some more pictures of India and its people (though not the one above) you can check those by Karen Glassford at: