Mind

Avicenna and the Turning Wheel

Spinning starry time wheel. [Image from Pixabay]

Thinking… the activity of using our mind to consider something; the process of using our mind to understand matters, make judgments and solve problems… that is what the dictionary says and says more and then sites many lovely examples:

“I had to do some quick thinking.”

“She explained the thinking behind the campaign.”

“Thinking, for me, is hard work!”

Our mind, coloured by a plethora of this and that, happy and sad, a sea of information, thinks in isolation, yet always a part of the collective unconscious. And how wonderful is it that this tinted mind, nevertheless, is fully capable to create something novel.

The thinking mind turns the wheel, knitting the society tighter. The juggernaut of sociocultural norms, in turn, fabricates the yarn for such a mind.


Avicenna or Ibn Sina (980 AD – 1037) was a physician, philosopher, astronomer, theologian, poet – a polymath – who greatly contributed to the Islamic Golden age. His book Al Qanun fi al Tibb or The Canon of Medicine, a medical encyclopedia, was studied as a textbook for medical education in many universities, also in Europe, up till the 17th Century.

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1950 “Avicenna” stamp of Iran. [Source – Wikimedia Commons]

Philosophical encyclopedias like Kitab al Shifa or The Book Healing and Kitab al-Isharat wa al Tanbihat or The Book of Directive and Remarks presented Avicenna’s take on the Aristotelian and Platonian philosophy through the lens of an Islamic theologian.

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Avicenna’s The Canon of Medicine, Latin translation, dated 1484 CE. [Source – Wikimedia Commons]

A well-known physician, Avicenna got support from most of the rulers of his time – some made him a vizir or an advisor in their court – and the opportunity to access the royal library. Highly influenced by Aristotle, Avicenna also disagreed with the Greek polymath on many points.

That the soul is not just ‘body’s form’ (Aristotle says that a soul is the actuality of a body that has life) but it has an existence, he came up with a thought experiment, famously known as the floating/ flying man thought experiment. He argues –

One of us must suppose that he was just created at a stroke, fully developed and perfectly formed but with his vision shrouded from perceiving all external objects – created floating in the air or in the space, not buffeted by any perceptible current of the air that supports him, his limbs separated and kept out of contact with one another, so that they do not feel each other. Then let the subject consider whether he would affirm the existence of his self. There is no doubt that he would affirm his own existence, although not affirming the reality of any of his limbs or inner organs, his bowels, or heart or brain or any external thing. Indeed he would affirm the existence of this self of his while not affirming that it had any length, breadth or depth. And if it were possible for him in such a state to imagine a hand or any other organ, he would not imagine it to be a part of himself or a condition of his existence.

Avicenna

While this blogger will definitely take a lot of time to grasp these theories in entirety, she would like to appreciate the art of thinking that moulds the world in such a steady and grandiose manner.

The art of thinking, in which we participate daily and, most importantly, in the times of despair, is running the show as we then stand face to face our true being and raise questions, refute the botched theory and create a new one.

Avicenna wrote the floating/ flying man argument when imprisoned for around four months as a result of a political debacle – an argument that was later termed weak by the other thinkers.

But this is how the thinking mind works, it continues to question, argue and turn the wheel.


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Enlightenment Pocketed

Lotus Koan.
Image by Marek Studzinski from Pixabay.

“The enjoyment of art is an act of recreation, or rather of creation in the reverse direction, towards the source of intuition, i.e., an act of absorption, in which we lose our small self in the creative experience of a greater universe.”

Anagarika B. Govinda

I happen to have a small sweet book titled Art & Meditation (actually a few years back I took it from my brother), written by Lama Anagarika B. Govinda – an artist, a Buddhist monk, traveller and writer.

Sharing his paintings, poems and thoughts with us, he talks about the ineffaceable, elusive yet real, sublimely beautiful link between art and meditation; how true art merges with true religion and vice-versa.

It is not digressive or sluggishly cumbersome, this thought, rather it is stimulating for the one who is not in a hurry.

The author wishes his essays and artwork to serve as koans i.e. ‘meditative problems’ for his readers that churn our thoughts and act as an impetus for continuing the search.

I have gone through this insightful book twice now. What struck me this time was its size, how come Lama Anagarika Govinda’s lectures on art and meditation along with his artwork were capsuled in such a tiny book?

Of course, there must be other collections of his essays and pictures, surely in not-so-tiny a book.

But here I would intentionally turn this coincidence into a grand undertaking and happily say something ambitious.

This beautiful book holds, yes-yes it does, the secret to enlightenment and simply because of its humble, calm and forgiving nature, affordable price, elucidations of the artwork and colour schemes given and the profound ideas shared.

With these balmy thoughts, I will read this book again in the near future for then it will reveal a new secret to me.

Leaving you with an edifying thought –

“Art in itself is a sort of a paradox, a Koan in the deepest sense of the word, and that is why the followers of Zen prefer it to all other mediums of expression. For only the paradox escapes the dilemma of logical limitation, of partiality and one-sidedness. It cannot be bound down to principles or conceptual definitions, because it exaggerates or abstracts intentionally in such a way that it is impossible to take it literally: its meaning is beyond the incongruity of the words.”

Anagarika B. Govinda

Enlightenment, Pocketed-

Calm mind beams

Together with the heart.

Haiku – Jagriti Rumi

Also read other posts on art and meditation –

Buddhahood

I wish to SEE Tibet

Thunderous Applause… And the Warli Drama Unfolds

कलाकार/ Artist

Transient Permanence


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Raga Pranayama

When the Music is Good by Dr. Kirell Benzi.

Playing the Raga Pranayama in my heart and soul I am sitting inside this quiet room for so many days now and slowly this world has stopped reeling.

The shrivelled old self shed off its glories and achievements and regrets all at once, it was painful and I did die a little. Then all I did was to look up and breathe, close my eyes and breathe again.  

Now brighter, with no desire to compete with light or a sharper mind or the maestro musician, I sit simply playing the Raga Pranayama.

Yes, often my memory makes me feel overwhelmed, and yet something allows me to accept it all that too with a smile.  

And softly the wind brings a message from the meadows that the dandelions are gushing with joy and beaming for one and all; that the butterflies are coming carrying colours for you and me; that the stream is singing, sparkling sibilantly, shy at first, vibrant then. Oh it is lovely!

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It is a new beginning, I am sitting in my room and everything has changed as I play the Raga Pranayama.

Dispelling the emaciated fears that had spread and frolicked in my mind, dispelling with the truth of this life force running lightly within and without… the fears just succumbed in the end and this I will remember, always, so that I too can share and struck a happy peaceful note.  

Voices together, singing this happy note, playing the Raga Pranayama will eventually rise above the gloomy cry of this malady.

Together we will rise and break that wall which was once built greedily by us. Hold on, hold on for it will pass.  

Play with me the Raga Pranayama in your heart and soul and let the life energy guide you.

That hazy glow you see when you close your eyes and breathe, that dot, it is the one that surmounts, it has and it will, sometimes with and sometimes without the shell.    


Raga (Sanskrit for “colour” or “passion”) is a melodic framework for improvisation and composition in Indian classical music. Read more here.

Pranayama (prana, Sanskrit for “life force” or “vital energy” and yama, Sanskrit for “restraint” or “control”), is a set of meditative practices designed to control pranawithin the human body by means of various breathing techniques. Read more here.


Also, listen to the magnificent Ragas that inspired me to write this post –  Raga Rasia by Pandit Ravi Shankar

Raga Brindabani Sarang by Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia


Learn more about Data Art by the fantastic Dr. Kirell Benzi, click here.

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Unpack Your Destiny

The journey within…
[Image by Victoria Borodinova from Pixabay]

In a green velvety suitcase inside a wooden trunk she packed it nicely, neatly, firmly forever.  

“I want it to be safe.” While the world rises and falls without any knowledge of it, she feels positive and shielded; her destiny is properly packed and locked.

Sitting cross legged she awaits the change, for the destiny to operate from underneath her crisp, fine, obvious thoughts, packed and placed in a corner.  

“I keep in touch of course, why are you being so sarcastic?” She laughs loudly for she is confident of her victory and rightly so, what will stand in her way when she remembers to keep a check on the package, clean the dust off the wooden trunk and pray that the suitcase does not vanish away magically.  

“Yes I remember, it is my destiny, I know…” She knows it all, yet she is afraid and waits for others’ approval and appreciation. Calculating the possibilities, probabilities, time and years she takes a step forward.  

She did pack a piece of the truth in that suitcase, what is wrong in it?

She forgot to unpack it, she forgot that the truth evolves, our understanding evolves. What is destined for someone is destined and yet it changes, that is the rule.  

The truth, the destiny unfolds when a mind lets it.  


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In Slo-mo Towards the Moon

Poem

A tide of thoughts.
[Source – Pixabay]

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Walking towards the moon

In slo-mo and riding,

Hiding behind a tide of thoughts

In slo-mo, unaware, unconcerned

About the change that is happening

In slo-mo, now and always,

Carrying in bits the old me, turning

In slo-mo, hoping to see

Something better. Living the life

In slo-mo and looking into the future

Where things are picture-perfect, but moving

In slo-mo. Cracks in the present

For it isn’t that dear, until

In slo-mo I sit with patience and

Breathe, see, feel and realise

That everything is beautiful,

That our mind knows the tricks,

That reality simply is, just like the moon,

Towards which I am walking

In slo-mo, beaming quietly. 

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The Answer Is Blowin’ In The Wind – Bob Dylan

The Living Legend. [Source – Wikimedia Commons]

It was her version of the truth and she tried to separate it from mere meanderings of the mind.

She walked ahead unsure if she had succeeded or not. Autumn winds brought along something that made her cry.

Alone, sitting on that bench, she asked herself about right and wrong. Pendulum like, silly, brusque thoughts!

Why did she participate in the parade? For letting the confusion rise and fall? For the questions to disturb and the answers to convey…  

She stopped and listened…       

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Bob Dylan Blowin’ In The Wind

How many roads must a man walk down

Before you call him a man ?

How many seas must a white dove sail

Before she sleeps in the sand ?

Yes, ‘n’ how many times must the cannon balls fly

Before they’re forever banned ?

The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind

The answer is blowin’ in the wind.  

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Yes, ‘n’ how many years can a mountain exist

Before it’s washed to the sea ?

Yes, ‘n’ how many years can some people exist

Before they’re allowed to be free ?

Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head

Pretending that he just doesn’t see ?

The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind

The answer is blowin’ in the wind.  

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Yes, ‘n’ how many times must a man look up

Before he can see the sky ?

Yes, ‘n’ how many ears must one man have

Before he can hear people cry ?

Yes, ‘n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows

That too many people have died ?

The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind

The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

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Blowin’ In The Wind, the song.

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Illusion is the First of All Pleasures – Voltaire

Ocean eyes, an illusion or a reality…
[Image by 愚木混株 Cdd20 from Pixabay]

All that you see, all that is in your mind, all that you have experienced, all that which breathes within you, exists only because you are.

The inevitable change assures gently that illusion is reality and the rest a seeming.

The carousel of life goes on; from the darkest night to the brightest morning, from black and white to the rich spectrum, you pass by. Humming a single note, you pass by.  

The end, the beginning. Remember?  

You created the rainbow as you saw it, you replied to the mountain when you echoed, you walked ahead to make it happen, you looked behind to say goodbye, you stopped to realise and what was beyond came to you with an epiphany.  

Illusion is a friend. Fathomable, it is the reality.


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