Tibetan Democracy Day

One of the monks I sponsor makes sure to send me some packets of incense in time for September second each year.  Like many of the Tibetan lamas at Sera Je Monastery in Tibet-prayerflagsSouth India, Lobsang has an interest in Tibetan history.  Since 2011, Lobsang has included photos of His Holiness the Dalai Lama taken during one of his lecture appearances at Sera Je each year.

2011 was a big year for the exile community of Tibetans in India and elsewhere.  The Dalai Lama officially stepped down from all political duties.  There was also the launch of a renewed campaign for autonomy for the Tibetan homeland.

International governments have had to be very careful regarding Tibetan foreign policy because every statement they make or every appearance by the Dalai Lama in their countries is followed up by negative responses from Beijing.

The Communist Chinese “People’s Liberation Army” asserted Chinese authority in Tibet in October of 1950. The technologically and numerically superior PLA overwhelmed the less advanced Tibetan defenses to begin Chinese occupation of Tibet.

From 1951 until 1959, the Chinese kept a tight rein on traditional Tibetan structure.  Some modernization was implemented, including running water and electrification of the population centers.  Chinese educational rules and methods were also put in place.  “Land reform” was instituted as well.  PLA agitators arbitrarily picked out landlords for public humiliation, torture, and killing.Tibet-Map

U.S. CIA sponsored Tibetan guerrillas ambushed PLA convoys throughout 1956 to 1957. Overseas, another CIA front organization, “American Society for a Free Asia”, pushed a campaign of Tibetan, anti-communist resistance.  Several Tibetan agents and commandos undertook ill-planned parachute returns to Tibet.  Nearly all of them were likely captured and killed. Even though the operatives were lost, several thousand rank and file Tibetans participated in the anti-Chinese rebellion.  The PLA retaliated with their own commando raids and aerial bombing of monasteries and Tibetan outposts.Tibet02

The Chinese actions and subsequent martial governing of the capital in Lhasa led to the Lhasa Uprising.  Common, unarmed Tibetan nationals formed a human shield ring around the Dalai Lama’s palace.  During the turmoil, the Dalai Lama was urged to flee his country in 1959.  The leader made his way to India and was officially granted assylum.  A government-in-exile was formed in the hill-station city of Dharamsala, India.  India also began accepting the diaspora of Tibetan refugees.

1965 was the year the Tibet Autonomous Region was formed from one of three former Tibetan provinces.  The land that had been administered by the Dalai Lama government from 1910 until 1959 came under the control of a regional committee of the Chinese Communist Party.  The official head of the autonomous region was a figurehead ethnic Tibetan.

Ever since the Chinese occupation began, several human rights organizations, including “Human Rights Watch” have kept track of severe human rights violations in the Tibetan homeland.

Since 1991, the Dalai Lama has planned and worked towards creating a framework for democratic rule in Tibet and for the government-in-exile.  At first he enabled the formation of a constitutional assembly that, in turn, authored the current constitution. As part of the reforms, the Dalai Lama introduced the “Charter for Tibetans in Exile”. The charter expanded the Tibetan People’s Deputies (Parliament).  It also directed that the executive Cabinet be appointed by civilians.

In 2000, the Dalai Lama required exile Tibetans to directly elect the Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister).  The following year, 80-percent of the exile community elected professor Samdhong Rinpoche as the first Kalon Tripa by direct vote.

During this period, the Dalai Lama has also advocated for the “Middle Way” form of government that will acknowledge Beijing’s authority, but will also allow Tibetans to have a voice in the day to day operations of their region. Ever since the Dalai Lama’s retirement from government, there has been no real progress for the “Middle Way” policies.

There remains a large, vocal segment of the exile community who call for Tibetans to Tibet01achieve full independence.  They say that the Chinese regime will never agree to any form of actual autonomy or the peaceful return of exiles to Tibet. The pro-independence advocates believe any positive outcome will take exceptional skill and patience on both sides.  There needs to be a major domestic policy shift by Beijing.

Since the Dalai Lama’s authority was transfered to a constitutional leader, His Holiness has continued his life as an “ordinary” citizen.  He has continued to advocate for the peaceful conversion of Tibet’s rule to a democratic form of autonomous administration.

It’s interesting to note that the transformation to democratic administration from theocratic rule of the government-in-exile was achieved without an armed struggle.  Each year, on Tibetan Democracy Day, Tibetans and world citizens are encouraged to contribute to the success of full Tibetan democracy.

Tashi Delek
Tibet-iconThe Blue Jay of Happiness enjoys this Dalai Lama quote: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

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Happy Labour/Labor Day

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Perhaps you are fortunate enough to have the day off today, in order to celebrate Labor Day, the misunderstood holiday that we celebrate on the first Monday in September.

Americans are vaguely aware of a sanitized version regarding the roots of this holiday in the United States.  Most of us don’t know that a very similar holiday is also celebrated in Canada, Labour Day.

In both nations, inhabitants are told that Labour/Labor Day was created by the workers’ movement to celebrate the social well-being and achievements of working people.  We may know that trade unions managed to convince our respective governments to declare a national holiday as a nod towards those of us who work in industry and business.  We aren’t generally aware that Canada and the US are the only major nations that don’t celebrate Labour Day on May first.LaborDay-04

This much background is neglected as people, in Canada and the United States, take in the “last holiday of summer” with  day trips, picnics, shopping, or sporting events.

If we take a little time to investigate, we learn that Labour/Labor Day began with the struggle of the “Chicago Anarchists for the eight-hour workday.  Sweatshop factory conditions were the rule, rather than the exception in the nineteenth century.  Efforts to change these conditions were violently opposed by industrialists.  In fact, to organize workers or to protest harsh, hazardous conditions was against the law.

The beginnings of labor/management communication, if you could call it that, were marked by suppression and violence.  One of the many infamous events happened on May 3, 1886 when Chicago Police opened fire with live ammunition on strikers at the McCormick Harvester Machine Company.  One worker was killed and another six were seriously wounded.

In protest, a mass meeting took place, the next day, at Haymarket Square in Chicago to protest the police brutality.   At the end of the meeting, most of the protesters had already left, leaving around 200 behind.  Suddenly about 180 policemen marched into the crowd and ordered the meeting to disperse.   Someone, threw a bomb that killed one of the officers and fatally injured six more.  Police shot into the crowd and killed an undetermined mass number of workers.

Immediately afterwards, police raided offices and homes of supposed activists and arrested hundreds of people without being charged with a crime.  Police continued a terror campaign the next few days with the aim of arresting all anarchists and leftists.  There were many more similar violent incidents around the country involving industrial, agricultural, and mine workers.

LaborDay-02Meantime, Labour Day activity in Canada had earlier, similar, less violent beginnings.  Five years following the Confederation of Canada, the Toronto Trades Assembly organized the first large -scale workers’ demonstration on April 15, 1872.  The march was in direct violation of British legislation against unions that had been passed against so-called “criminal conspiracies” to disrupt trade.  Even though most of those laws had been abolished by the 1870s, the prohibition against organized labour was still in force.

The motivation for the April demonstration was to exact the release of 24 officers of the Toronto Typographical Union.  They had been arrested because of a strike to obtain a nine-hour workday.  27 unions representing carriage makers, construction labour, metal workers, wood workers, and several others decided to march in solidarity of the typographical workers.  The date was Thanksgiving, which was then commemorated in the Spring.

On that day, more than 10,000 citizens gathered on Toronto streets to support and watch as trade unionists marched to the accompaniment of bands.  Groups of people later gathered to hear speeches from union leaders demanding freedom for the typographical workers.  Many of the leaders went on to advocate in favor of improved conditions for all workers.

The Toronto demonstration inspired labour leaders in other Canadian cities to stage their own events.  On September third of that year, seven unions in Ottawa organized a huge, mile-long parade featuring military bands and the city’s firemen.  As the parade passed the Prime Minister’s home, P.M. Sir John MacDonald boarded a carriage to City Hall.  At an evening event, MacDonald gave a rousing speech to the demonstrators, urging that anti-union laws should be completely abolished.
Indeed, before the year end, the anti-labour laws had been revoked from Canadian statute books.

Labour Day was celebrated annually, in the Spring, by Canadians until it was declared a legal, national holiday by Parliament in 1894.  The holiday was moved to early Autumn and has been celebrated at this time ever since then.

It was the initial success of the Labour Day organizers in Canada, that inspired labor leaders in the United States to have a labor day of their own.  Officials of the Knights of Labor and the Central Labor Union in New York City promoted the idea of saluting the victims of the Haymarket Massacre.

The leaders originally advocated the celebration to coincide with May Day of 1887.  Unfortunately, President Grover Cleveland disagreed.  The President believed the May Day commemoration would become associated with the budding anarchist, communist, syndicalist movements.  The States and DC had already made International Workers’ Day an official holiday on their calendars.

President Cleveland negotiated with the head of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), Samuel Gompers and other leaders about the date.  It was then decided to use the date proposed by the Knights of Labor.  In 1887, the first Monday of September was officially selected to celebrate Labor Day.LaborDay-03

Further efforts to officially commemorate the victims of anti-labor violence in the United States were unsuccessful until President Franklin Roosevelt appointed Francis Perkins as his Secretary of Labor.  She was not only the first female Presidential Cabinet member, she was also a friend of working people.  It was through her work that the Federal Government prohibited child labor, normalized the eight-hour workday, and enabled other workplace employee safeguards.

In subsequent years, retail store owners have decided to take advantage of the fact that large numbers of shoppers have an extra day off of work.  Many store owners then decided to remain open on Labor Day, for an extended holiday weekend sale period.  Labor Day has now become a major shopping day.  The laborers employed in the retail industry not only must work on their holiday, but they’ll also work a longer day.  This means that almost a quarter of the American workforce will be working today on their “day of rest”.

Of noteworthy interest, only about three percent of retail workers are represented by organized labor. In many instances, generally, Labor Day has become less concerned about labor and more about a recess for owners and management.  Labor Day has become a more intense day at work for many laborers.

Ciao
mini-meThe Blue Jay of Happiness wishes all workers a happy Labour/Labor Day. He also will not be doing any shopping of any sort, today.

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Is The Observer The Observed?

The man and the youth sat at the empty picnic table in the small town park. The sound of distant lawn mowers, laughing children, and twittering birds filled the pause in conversation.  I was probably all of sixteen years old when a friend’s father and I had been discussing the serious illness of that pal. The father was  light-hearted and had a philosophical mindset.

He understood that I was just then, embarking on my life’s journey and made it clear that many people in the world will try to recruit me to their ways of thinking.  There will be observer-02advertisers aiming to create brand-name loyalty in my head.  The same will happen in the field of politics. They will wish to instill brand-name loyalty to the Republican, the Democratic, the Libertarian, or some other party.  The man said that I probably had already established brand-name loyalty to my family’s religion.  If I ponder the why and the how of brand-name loyalty and then come to an understanding of this phenomenon, I’ll be able to better understand society.

As he turned to the topic of individual understanding, the father asked me, “Is the observer the observed?” He admonished me not to quickly answer the question.  He explained that the question is one that I will encounter frequently during the quiet times of my life.  My friend’s father said that he first saw the question in print while reading an article about the philosopher, Jiddu Krishnamurti.  Krishnamurti implied that if you can understand this question, you can begin to understand yourself.

I don’t remember much else about that conversation from many decades ago, but those points have stuck in my mind.  The man was correct, about the question, “Is the observer the observed?”  Some form of that query still shows up from time to time in my readings and my meditations.

Krishnamurti’s statement that “The observer is the observed” is one of the most profound propositions ever made by anyone on Earth.  The assertion is not easily understood if you only use the intellect or analysis.  Conventional thinking is largely dualistic and hampered by traditional concepts.observer-01

Superficially, the statement, “The observer is the observed” seems absurd and a bit nutty.  Seemingly crazy statements and questions are special tools that jolt the mind out of mundane, conventional life.  If we ponder them, we can take advantage of the opportunity to think, not merely parrot what we’ve been taught.

The observer statement is similar to the questions, “What was your name before you were conceived?” or “How would you describe yourself if you couldn’t use conventional labels?”  That is, you couldn’t use your name, your race, nationality, your profession, your religion, belief system, educational attainment, favorite foods, and so forth.

There is something that is not a concept, or faith, or belief, or intellectual theory.  There is something that is best framed by saying what it is not.  This something is not rational.  This knowledge is not spiritual.  We can only mentally and physically dance around it. It is unsettling for both the scientist and the religionist.  It is this uncomfortable aspect that makes it especially valuable.

After my friend’s father asked me if the observer is the observed, I couldn’t help but think about it.  I wondered how I might see the world if I had been born somewhere else.  What if I had been born in Hungary?  Would I feel the same as I do now?  The Hungarian language and culture would shape my beliefs in different ways, but would I still feel like me?  Would the beliefs and culture alter the concept of myself?  Is there really a “me”?

To find out if the observer is the observed, a person needs to know oneself.  The awareness of oneself does not require scholarly or theological knowledge.  There does not exist any book or document that will give us a full understanding of ourselves.  In fact, books can impede our journey along the path of self-awareness.

This path can be difficult, but in its difficulty, comes a feeling of fulfillment and inner joy.  When we start to question and examine life, we discover extraordinary depths of awareness.  If one allows the freedom of thought to open our minds, the inner view is breathtaking. The observer is someone who asks questions in order to find understanding.

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Contemplation and meditation are like the grammatical concept, the question.  If we are not interested in the mere solution of a question, we can more closely examine the problem, itself.  If we examine a question, we understand that the question contains the seed of its own answer.  It is during the examination of the question, that the mind becomes focused, clear, and effective.

The key is that we not greedily pursue the solution to the question; we only scrutinize the question itself.

When we dare to set aside the social-economic-religious belief system for awhile, we wipe away the cobwebs of the mind.  When we don’t look to established systems and concepts, we become less mechanical and more fully human.  When we begin to see how little we know ourselves, we begin to see how little we know our families, our lovers, and life itself.

As we understand ourselves more and more, we see how interconnected everything and everyone is.  As we observe ourselves we start to understand the unnameable. Then, as we let go of observation, itself, we begin to understand the observed.

Namaste’
moi1988bThe Blue Jay of Happiness remembers that self-observation leads to self-knowledge, the highest form of timeless knowledge.

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The Hotline

Truth is often less amusing than fiction.  The 1964 dark-comedy movie, “Dr. Strangelove” utilized the newly installed hotline between Moscow and Washington.  President Merkin Muffley confers with his counterpart in Moscow during the height of the nuclear crisis.Hotline-DrStrangelove

The movie’s telephone setup was only a dramatic device.  On the actual hotline, there is no direct voice line between the two capitals.  The actual, original hotline was basically, just a dedicated Telex system intended as a means to exchange written communications and data between the governments of the US and the USSR.

On August 30, 1963, President John F. Kennedy became the first US chief executive to have a direct link to the Kremlin.  The stated purpose of the hotline was to enable communication between the White House and the Soviet Premier.

The system was promoted as a way to reduce the risk of war by accident or Hotline-KennedyKhrushchevmiscalculation.  It was agreed that the system would only be used in the event of a tactical emergency but not for routine diplomatic communications.

The hotline was installed following the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. The two superpowers had edged towards all-out nuclear war.  After the Kennedy administration discovered the Soviet Union had installed missile systems on the island nation of Cuba, a highly intense diplomatic exchange between Washington and Moscow ensued.

The message exchange was hampered by inefficient communications.  Encrypted conversations had to be telegraphed or radioed between the Pentagon and the Kremlin.  The transmission and reception was sluggish and unwieldy.  Thankfully, the two leaders resolved the crisis peaceably.   Still, as one result, officials feared that another misunderstanding could escalate to crisis level if the nations had to rely upon the outmoded technology of the day.

The original idea for a hotline between Washington and Moscow was born in 1954 when officials realized some sort of direct communication was necessary.  They understood that the huge nuclear arsenals were in a state of constant readiness.

Bureaucratic sluggishness and procrastination on both sides of the Atlantic stalled the hotline.  Even though both the US and the USSR attended the “Conference of Experts on Surprise Attacks” in Geneva, Switzerland in 1958, few efforts were made to develop a system.  In fact, military advisors in both Washington and Moscow were dead set against any direct communication between the President and the Premier.

When the 1962 missile crisis erupted, the existing communication roadblocks seriously hampered the negotiation process.  Shockingly, it took about twelve hours to receive and to decode the first settlement message in Moscow. When the communique’ was finally decoded, interpreted, and a reply  prepared, another, more threatening message had been sent from Moscow.

Only because Kennedy kept a cool head was the situation salvaged.  The President tactfully ignored the second message by pretending he never saw it.  Kennedy answered only the first message.  In the process, the Cuban Missile Crisis simmered down. Once relations had normalized, officials in both nations decided to step up work on a direct communication link.Hotline-equipment

The first version of the hotline system used four “full-duplex” teleprinter link-ups.  Washington and Moscow had one each of the devices. One utilized the Latin alphabet, the other the Cyrillic alphabet.  Because of the use of Cyrillic and Latin telex machines, each staff could write in their own languages.

Each telex machine was protected by a cipher machine, as well. In an effort to maintain objectivity, the cipher equipment was manufactured in Norway.  That nation was considered to be neutral and impartial.

The two stations were linked via Transatlantic Cable to London, then by landline to Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, and finally Moscow.

In the summer of 1984, the US and USSR agreed to upgrade with fax machines.  Identical “Group III” fax machines, running at 4800 baud were connected at both capitals.  By the next year the upgrade was operational.

Due to increasing rates of technological obsolesence, another upgrade was initiated in 2007.  The fax link was replaced by a computer network.  The old cable was replaced by a fibre-optic link with a redundant satellite link. The improvements became operational the following year.  That technology comprises the current hotline system.

Even though a conventional “red” phone is not an actual componant of the hotline, there is a separate voice link that was installed in the 1990s.  The current “red” phone is used for normal diplomatic and routine communications between Russia and the US.  Of course, the “red” phone could possibly be used by special arrangement during a crisis.

До свидания  (Dasvidania)
Hotline-iconThe Blue Jay of Happiness notes the first messages sent over the hotline. “THE QUICK BROWN FOX JUMPED OVER THE LAZY DOG’S BACK 1234567890″ In reply, the Soviets wrote a romantic description of the setting Sun in Moscow.

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Matériaux …Floral Friday

Artists have long known that the nature of a substance affects the outcome of a project.  On the surface, this seems obvious.  After awhile, this fact finds its way into the recesses of

Images are clickable.

Images are clickable.

memory and is not consciously resourced.  It becomes reflexive or automatic.  I was reminded about this relationship between material and outcome, this week, during a discussion with an architect.

I gave this a little thought, then decided to purposely choose some containers and contents, strictly by what they’re made of.  I was surprised at the final results of the compositions.

I began by sifting through some storage containers in the basement, to see what they might yield.  First, I stumbled across some old souvenirs from Amsterdam that I’d forgotten about.  Right away, I knew that wood was going to be one of the materials.

Certainly, I was also influenced by the artifact, itself.  The wooden shoe triggered memories of a bike ride through the Dutch countryside.  Small, delicate flowers, like those I remembered, would complete this arrangement.

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The next item needed a lot of extra effort, but I still wanted to use it.  The silver vase required a generous amount of polishing compound and plenty of elbow grease.  As I rubbed away, the idea for material and composition came to mind.   Steam-formed wood provides a perfect counterpoint to the shiny, industrial nature of polished metal.

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A stoneware vase with an aboriginal theme triggered the immediate vision of a blend of the traditional with the avant-garde.  There was no hesitation as the composition came together intuitively.

I learned an important lesson with these experiments.  That is, I need to pay closer attention to the nature of the materials, themselves, when I take on a project.

Ciao
J 7-1-01The Blue Jay of Happiness remembers a quote by Aesop.  “Beware that you do not lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.”

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August Is Romance Awareness Month

During his last visit, my friend Jorge weaseled out a confession from me.  Jorge mentioned that he regretted throwing out all his old love letters.  My friend had come across the idea Romance-01that he wanted to write a book or at least some short stories.  The letters could have provided inspiration for at least a few best sellers.

Jorge paused and looked into my eyes and asked if I had ever wanted to do the same thing.  Did I bother to keep any of the old letters from my former lovers?

I mentioned that I had given a passing thought to writing a story or two for someone’s anthology, but I don’t feel confident enough to author an entire book.  I cautioned that was not fishing for encouragement, either.

Jorge flashed a smile and asked, “But did you keep any of the letters?”

A few moments later, I told him I have every single one of them.

“Do you ever read them?”

I said, “A few years ago I could only get through a dozen or so of them before I stashed them away again.”

The cat was out of the bag.  I’m more of a romantic than I’d previously let on.  It was time to discuss past loves and lovers. What about romance?

Our culture is obsessed with romance.  Romance is a mixed bundle.  There are entire industries based upon romance.  There are publishing houses that distribute nothing but romance novels and collections.  Film and television thrive on romance stories.  Most of popular music regards falling in love or breaking up.  Florists, confectioners, and restaurants derive much of their income by way of romantic design.  You can probably think of other examples of how romance is encouraged.

However, some “experts” aren’t so enthusiastic about romance.   We’re told that romantic love is superficial and can lead to heartache.  Romance is attachment.  Romance can lead to fear of loss.  Romance is based on pleasure.  We’re told that romance is not “real” love.oldcouple

It’s good to have a communication about love and romance with a friend like Jorge.  A good friendship is based on love, but is not mawkish and sentimental. Romance is maudlin, emotional and totally subjective. Friends can objectively examine topics like romance without worrying that subjectivity will ruin the discussion.  In fact, personal experience can be used during the give and take.

Romance leaves us vulnerable.  We can yearn for the beauty of romance of new-found lovers.  We often reminince about past loves.  Sometimes we want more romance in a current relationship.  This strong desire leaves us vulnerable to crass commercialism, too.  We open ourselves to marketing of commodities for weddings, Valentines Day, and other commercial “events” like national romance month.

It’s easy to become cynical about romance if one is not currently involved in a romance or during the aftermath of a breakup.

Romantic love is nothing to sneeze at.  Romantic love stems from a deep, biological drive.  It’s a drive that social institutions have attempted to regulate and sublimate, to some success, albeit temporarily.  Many of us believe that society can control expression of biological drives through legislation or religious fiat.  The enforcement of such rules has caused a great deal of suffering and persecution. Such implied and overt rules have created social categories based on ideas and idiology.

It’s important to remember how much we take for granted that human relationships are based upon ideas.  Can a relationship really be based upon an idea?  Do we use ideas to enforce other social ideas about categories?  How does the emotional drive towards romance reinforce the mental concept of social relationship?

Can we have romance without demands, ownership, and possession of another person?  Deep down, inside, can we really pigeonhole human, biological drives?  Volumes of religious and political laws, dogma, and studies have been written about each of these singular questions. None of these are likely to be fully resolved anytime soon.

Anyone who has fallen in love knows the power of romantic love.  We can use reason and logic to observe it so we can describe it for literature or scientific research.  However, if a person is in the throes of romance, reason and logic are weak tools to use in our efforts to control or halt the strong drive.  It is extremely difficult to escape the incredible emotional influence of romantic love.

To be torn away from a romance is one of the most insufferable experiences a human can endure.  The arts bear witness to the depth of feeling and suffering from heartache following the end of a romance.  Many people who are “burned” in this manner have become gun-shy and reluctant to persue another love affair.  Other people thrive on the thrilling emotional rollercoaster of falling in and out of love.

Romance-02Romance is at the heart of the great historical tragedies and wars.  Among the most famous, is that of Helen of Troy and Paris.  Romance is also the spark that ignites the enduring love that matures into our family lives.  In one way or another, romance serves as the fire that drives our civilization.

Jorge said that “true love” is not attachment nor detachment. Love isn’t fear nor pleasure. Romance does encompass all four of these aspects.  Romance can be a means to find love or it can merely become a means to its own end.  In quiet contemplation, a person needs to sort out the various ideas, concepts, and emotions.  What remains, in the end, is love.

The ancient sages discovered that there is beauty in love; there is understanding in love; and there is freedom in love.

If you have never experienced love, there is no wisdom in hunting for love.  Love is elusive. We cannot judge. We can only observe.  Patient, mindful waiting is required.  Love cannot be willed, it can only be revealed.

Romance may or may not be part of “true” love.  This is only a question that can be resolved by being true to oneself and your partner.

Jorge said the question of romance may be why I keep my ex-lovers’ letters and my reluctance to re-read them. He said that the same question caused him to burn those from his ex.

We both realized we’d touched some nerves during our visit.   The romance question will have to be pondered further alone.

It was time for us to go to the gym for a physical workout to let off some emotional steam.

Ciao
moi1988bThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Nicholas Sparks.  “Romance is thinking about your significant other, when you’re supposed to be thinking about something else.”

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Fascination With Sri Chinmoy

1973 was a watershed year for my inner life.  It was a time of sorting through various occult arts and study.  Personal meditation practice had become more focused.  My musical tastes were expanding into new directions, as well.Chinmoy-LoveDevotionSurrender

Music provides a mental backdrop to our lives.  This has been especially true ever since the proliferation of electronic reproduction and broadcasting of popular music.  Youth, especially, tend to relate to music and musicians to a considerable degree.

The first musical offshoot happened when I became hooked on Carlos Santana’s album “Caravanserai”.  It’s music was a complete departure, in style, from Santana’s earlier music that had energized my youth.  “Caravanserai” set the stage for music that totally captivated me next.

Carlos Santana collaborated with (Mahavishnu) John McLaughlin, on an album titled, “Love, Devotion, Surrender”. The album represented a drastic departure from Santana’s earlier, salsa styled crossover latin rock.  I listened to the new album continuously, in the car, during the long commutes to and from work.

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“Real tolerance is compassion in disguise. When we have real tolerance, the seeker in us sees the expansion of his loving heart, his illumining soul and his fulfilling goal.”–Sri Chinmoy

The obsession with “Love, Devotion, Surrender” caused me to investigate the sea change behind Carlos Santana’s vibe.  It turned out that Santana had become deeply interested in the music of the fusion band “The Mahavishnu Orchestra” and lead guitarist John McLaughlin.  McLaughlin, in turn, introduced Santana and his wife, Deborah, to guru Sri Chinmoy.  Chinmoy accepted Carlos and Deborah as disciples in 1973.  That same year, Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin recorded the album.

I wondered, “Who is this mysterious guru who influenced one of my favorite musicians?”

Sri Chinmoy was the youngest of seven children born in East Bengal (now the nation of Bangladesh) in the village of Shakpura, on August 27, 1931 as Chinmoy Kumar Ghose.  After the death of his father in late 1943 and his mother in early 1944, the Ghose children entered the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry.  Chinmoy claimed that two years later, at the age of 14, he had attained full enlightenment.

“Judge nothing, you will be happy. Forgive everything,  you will be happier. Love everything, you will be happiest.”

Chinmoy’s official biography says his next 20-years were spent practicing meditation, work in the ashram’s industry, and studying Bengali and English literature.  Chinmoy said that he translated works of the head of the ashram, Nolini Gupta, into English.

Chinmoy had natural athletic ability, as well.  He was encouraged to hone and enjoy his interests in athleticism by his elders at the ashram.  When he wasn’t meditating, Chinmoy was the captain of the football (soccer) and volleyball squads.  He also claimed to enjoy cricket. In addition, Chinmoy authored essays, poetry, and wrote devotional music.

Chinmoy claimed to “hear a message from within” that he should become a teacher to people in the West who were seeking spiritual attainment.  With the help of American sponsors, Chinmoy emigrated to New York City, in 1964.

Upon his arrival in the US, Chinmoy was employed as a junior clerk at the Consolate of India.  He was encouraged and supported by his supervisors and colleagues to give talks about Hinduism.  By the mid and late 1960s, Chinmoy received invitations to lecture, from universities, and even the United Nations.

“Love of the limited self, the very limited self, is another name for human love. Love of the entire world is another name for divine love.”

Just as youth of the late 1960s and early 1970s had become interested in Eastern and Indian philosophy and religion, Chinmoy attracted the attention of musicians.  John McLaughlin, in particular, was to become very important to Sri Chinmoy.  McLaughlin had a budding interest in Indian philosophy and had been reading the books by different teachers and yogis.  His eventual choice of guru was Sri Chinmoy.

Chinmoy gave McLaughlin the name “Mahavishnu”.  With Chinmoy’s spiritual inspiration, he formed the jazz-fusion group “The Mahavishnu Orchestra”.  Then, in 1972, he introduced his new friend, Carlos Santana, to Chinmoy, as mentioned earlier in this post.  The intro happened during one of the regular, weekly United Nations prayer meetings.  The guru dubbed Santana, “Devadip” or Light of the Lamp of God.  It was at this point that Mahavishnu and Devadip planned the collaboration album.

During this period, Sri Chinmoy expanded his reach by opening more meditation centers and expanded the scope and number of his writings and lectures.  Many of his talks were accompanied by musical concerts.

The lectures and concerts took Chinmoy around the world.  His United Nations resume enabled him to meet with international leaders.  The media described him as an “ambassador of peace”.

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The guru never charged monetary fees for his services nor concerts.  During his tours, Chinmoy taught his contemporary, blended version of yoga and meditation.  Some estimates place the number of his disciples at some 7,000.  What attracted many of his followers was Chinmoy’s departure from the traditional practice of seclusion.  He said that withdrawal from the World is unnecessary for spiritual growth.

McLaughlin and Santana weren’t the only popular figures in Chinmoy’s circle of influence.  The guru also advised Olympic gold-medalist Carl Lewis.  Lewis acquired meditation techniques and was encouraged in his athletic practice by the guru.  In turn, Lewis said that his spriritual growth had been boosted by his association with  the guru.

Chinmoy and his followers became known for their feats of athletic endurance, as well.  In 1977, members of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team swam the first of more than 40 crossings of the English Channel.  Their other accomplishments included ultra-distance running.  One event was the Self-Transcendence 3100-Mile Race.  Long distance bicycling was included in the mix and some mountain climbing events, as well.  One devotee, Ashrita Furman, is the only person in history to hold a hundred Guiness world records.  He credits Chinmoy’s meditation techniques for giving him the inner strength to do so.

The guru was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, by members of the Icelandic Parliament, several Czech professors, and two others.

On October 11, 2007, Sri Chinmoy suffered a heart attack and died at his home in Queens, New York.

Namaste’
Chinmoy-iconThe Blue Jay of Happiness passes along this Sri Chinmoy saying:  “If we feel inwardly strong, we will have no need or desire to speak ill of others.”  

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