Spirituality

Bach’s Seagull meets Shelley’s Skylark

Jonathan Livingston Seagull and his students.
Image from Pixabay.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull wanted to master the art of flying. Soaring up in the sky, above the white ocean of clouds, he felt truly free.

Though very unlikely of a seagull, Jonathan flew high ever so high, he practised and failed umpteenth times, but he never gave up.

An outcast, he lived alone and happily spent his time in his quest to achieve perfection.

On reaching a higher level of existence, he meets gulls like him who wanted to enhance their flying skills. It was not heaven for everyone there were learners.

Chiang, the guru of them all, teaches Jonathan how to let go of the concept of time and space so as to travel freely in the Universe.

“Begin by knowing that you have already arrived”, said Chiang.

Wondering if someone else, one who dares to question and take risks, needs guidance on Earth, he returns.

“Devil” for some and “angel” for others, Jonathan teaches a few eager ones. Practising, failing, practising again, Jonathan’s students rise above the Flock, the mundane.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull then continues his journey to guide other gulls who must have been waiting for him somewhere else in the Universe.

The fable. [Source – Wikipedia]

Richard Bach’s fable is soothingly clear, and thus, appears too simplistic to many. Just like flying looks simple only until we give it a try.

He equates perfection with freedom, emphasising on practising and a thirst for knowledge as the golden path to it; a path where you walk ahead passionately and not cumbersomely.

Every little bud in nature rises high, soaking in sun rays, moving towards it. Rising high, shedding the old self, stepping forward to explore the unknown, dwindling before making a firm stand is what life’s journey is all about.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, “a one-in-a-million bird”, if appears to be too perfect and his ideas if sound too far-fetching then you should look at your on-going journey and answer these questions – what are you looking for in life – perfection in some form or maybe a balance?

And what is balance if not a proportion of perfect this and perfect that?

Even better, you should meet Shelley’s Skylark.

Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!

Bird thou never wert,

That from Heaven, or near it,

Pourest thy full heart

In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

*

Higher still and higher

From the earth thou springest

Like a cloud of fire;

The blue deep thou wingest,

And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

*

The invisible bird.
Image from Unsplash.

‘Blithe Spirit’ calls Percy Bysshe Shelley a Skylark that is soaring up in the sky (or Heaven, or near it), singing beautifully and gloriously that to him it is nothing but unprecedented ‘unpremeditated art’.

The Skylark, invisible to his eyes, has such power in its voice that the poet likens it to ‘a cloud of fire’.

Shelley beseeches the Skylark to teach him what it knows; a divine secret it must be for nothing on earth could outshine it. Joy so true, Shelley calls it ‘a star of Heaven’.

Nature’s bounty, the golden glow worms, the rainbows, the playful wind, a young maiden’s love and a poet’s grand verses, Shelley says the Skylark’s song, that flows in a ‘crystal stream’, is above them all.

What thou art we know not;

What is most like thee?

From rainbow clouds there flow not

Drops so bright to see

As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.

*

Like a Poet hidden

In the light of thought,

Singing hymns unbidden,

Till the world is wrought

To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:

*

Like a high-born maiden

In a palace-tower,

Soothing her love-laden

Soul in secret hour

With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:

*

Like a glow-worm golden

In a dell of dew,

Scattering unbeholden

Its aëreal hue

Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view:

*

Like a rose embower’d

In its own green leaves,

By warm winds deflower’d,

Till the scent it gives

Makes faint with too much sweet those heavy-winged thieves:

*

Sound of vernal showers

On the twinkling grass,

Rain-awaken’d flowers,

All that ever was

Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass.

*

Rain-awaken’d flowers.
Image from Pixabay.

The Skylark, above these mortal dilemmas, sings with pure love and delight. And in contrast we, humans, are locked in the past or the future.

We look before and after,

And pine for what is not:

Our sincerest laughter

With some pain is fraught;

Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

Shelley urges the Skylark to teach him just half of what it knows, this ‘harmonious madness’ so that he could capture it within and share it with the world.

The Skylark if not a gleaming reflection of perfection, then what is it? If its song is not a song of freedom, then why is the melody ‘a flood of rapture so divine’?

It must be that just like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the Skylark returned to Earth, to guide and share its knowledge, to remind the poet that ‘freedom is the very nature of his being’.

Unlike a miracle, both took time to convey what little they knew of the truth. The Seagull stays to make his students practice and the Skylark sings till the chosen one – the poet in this case – hears its joyous voice.  

Showing what doors can perseverance open and how patience leads to strength, the Seagull and the Skylark leave it up to the individual to unfold the story further.

Birth and death are timed then and a fully lived life, with all its imperfections, aims for a balance, for perfection that guides it to fly high and well.

*

Fly high and well.
Image from Pixabay.

Read P. B Shelley’s full poem To a Skylark here.

Listen to the Jonathan Livingston Seagull’s audio book version here.


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Amir Khusrau and the Mustard Flowers

Sufi poet and singer, Amir Khusrau (1253 – 1325), famously known as the ‘Voice of India’, was an expert in unifying the mundane with the divine. His poetry presents the mystic in him and the mystical world around him.

Reading his verses, seeing through his eyes, one gets a chance to experience the transcendental self.

Here is one of his most famous poems on Basant (spring) –

सकल बन फूल रही सरसों।  

बन बिन फूल रही सरसों।।

अंबवा फूटे, टेसू फूले

कोयल बोले डार-डार

और गोरी करत सिंगार

मलनियां गेंदवा ले आईं कर सो।  

सकल बन फूल रही सरसों।।

*

तरह तरह के फूल खिलाए

ले गेंदवा हाथन में आए

निज़ामुद्दीन के दरवज्जे पर

आवन कह गए आशिक रंग

और बीत गए बरसों।

सकल बन फूल रही सरसों।। 

Mustard flowers blooming in glory.
Image – Pixabay.

Literal translation –

The yellow mustard flower is blooming in every field,

Not a forest, yet like a forest of mustard flowers.

Mango buds are clicking open, and other flowers are blooming too;

The Cuckoo bird chirps from branch to branch,

And the maiden does her make-up,

The gardener-girl has brought marigolds.

The yellow mustard flower is blooming in every field.

*

Colourful flowers bloom everywhere,

With marigolds in hand,

Waiting at Nizamuddin’s door

For the beloved who had promised to come

In spring, but hasn’t turned up – it has been many years since.

The yellow mustard flower is blooming in every field.

*

A burst of yellow joy.
Image – Pixabay.

My Take –

The delicate mustard plants are ruling the world and the forests are shying away from their glory, what a splendour, a burst of yellow joy this is.

Seeing the blossoms, the cuckoo bird begins singing, its melody though familiar, fills every heart with delight.

And with a delighted heart one beautiful young girl is dressing up, she is hopeful.

And the gardener-girl has brought marigolds for joy has chosen a ‘colour’ and it is yellow, the yellow of the delicate mustard flowers.

Myriad coloured flowers everywhere and marigolds in hand, I am waiting as promised at Nizamudin’s door for the colours of love, waiting here since ages.

And the delicate mustard plants are ruling the world. It is spring.

*

The Sufi Touch –

In love, the whole world appears to be one with us, in this state of ecstasy every atom resonates with us and here ‘mustard plants ruling the world’ is a metaphor for it.

Further, the blooming flowers, the singing bird, the beautiful young girl, the gardener-girl and marigold enhance this feeling, this thought.

Then at the great Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya’s door, one awaits, with marigolds in hand and yellow lustre all around waits for the beloved for years and years.

Here, the poem transcends from the transient to the eternal, from passionate love to soulful love.

It becomes then about the devotee waiting for the supreme light, for the union with the ultimate soul, waiting with flowers in hand, forever in joy, waiting to attain absolute bliss.

*

This Sufi poem/ song has been performed by classical/ folk singers all over India and other Hindi/Urdu speaking countries.

Check out the powerful performance by Rizwan and Muazzam Ali Khan –


Also, read my post Dama Dam Mast Qalandar to get enthralled by another soulful Sufi song.


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Another Moment

What this moment has to say is the truth…
Image from Pixabay.

In this moment, I am a little bit of this and a little bit of that, I am complete and incomplete, I am pleased and uncertain, I wish for nothing and I know I have to wait.  

Because the distance covered reminds me of the hurdles I have crossed and the ones I could not, it reminds me of a throbbing past and a dreamy future and it reminds me of how much time is left.

Riddling the riddle, puzzling the puzzle, I walk ahead.  

The memories made, the dreams fulfilled and the forgotten ones merge to make me smile, to make me cry. The voices locked in the chamber of my heart can sing, it can make me time travel.  

The visions are laced with hopes and surprises and successes and miracles… is it not magical enough?

Promises are magical too, especially if fulfilled.  

And in this moment, I wonder how did it begin, how will it end, how much have I understood and how much have I measured, how to define and how to let go.

What this moment has to say is the truth… the truth that quietly then slips away into another moment.

*


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The Journey

Amongst the clouds… yes, this is how the journey began. Mushy clouds, mushy dreamy clouds all around her. Whether she walked or the white dreams floated around her isn’t something the music ever revealed.

The music was busy playing and she was busy colouring. The sky and earth colours participated and turned rich.

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, someone took a flight, landed, took a cab, halted for a coffee break, laughed with her friend and continued the road trip.

Warm waves of velvety starry blanket covered the existence and hushed those who listened into happy silence. She stayed awake for a while just to witness it all. A simple melodious note filled her ears and she swam to sleep.

That someone talked to her friend, they ate pastries and called it a day. That someone, with ‘oh’ look, got up to brush her teeth and then went to bed. Phew!

She opened her eyes, awakened the self and stepped out to see the end of a long search. Birds and buds, earth’s aroma and touch, giant trees’ humble smiles, the sun’s vocals and the wind’s compositions, other human beings, all dancing, and of course, the bicycles… everything she laid her eyes on glanced back at her, welcomed and sang to her.

At bliss, at Auroville. [Images by Jagriti Rumi]

Tring, tring… tring, tring, she replied to them. Crossed leg sitting inside an apple she relished it, sweet, sour, juicy and fresh. When she jumped outside, she gave the left-over bit to a dog. Questioning her about nothing the dog finished the apple.

Tring, tring… she went ahead and met a mathematician’s spirit, who gave her the map that took her to the grand golden lotus with twelve petals. Its beauty struck her hard and she kept standing there for ages in admiration.

Primary and secondary colours, in circles, pyramids and cylindrical shapes all passed by her. She blinked and found herself inside the grand golden lotus.

The grand golden lotus!
Matrimandir, Auroville. [Image by Peter Anta from Pixabay]

Earth, Fire, Wind and Water were there, she saw it, just a glimpse, but they were there in absoluteness. She blinked and she was back outside. Oh! The joy!

She danced all her way, lal-lal-lal-laaa, rotated and laughed, climbed the musical rainbow and listened to what the colours were playing and then surprised herself with her quiet self, quiet but not low, because her eyes were beaming and her soul still dancing.

By the hourglass the journey continued for that someone and her friend, click-click-click, pictures taken, tring-tring-tring on the cycle path, resting, eating and laughing.

That someone’s friend like a darling blue bird sang and danced… unable to resist she also joined her friend. Together they collected memories and both filled their hourglass with it.

Smart! Now time reminds them of those memories all the time.

Auroville… the journey, the destination. [Source – eco-villages.eu]

O journey, when did you start and when will you end?

O journey, can I stop and meet my friend?

The beginning is hazy, but true and the end will be a new beginning for you.

Don’t stop if you want to meet your friend, for she is on a journey too.


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So Far

Two Worlds.
Image by – Jagriti Rumi.

I feel I am all alone in the two worlds. 

Taking a step forward I see lightning as ‘the fast’ meets ‘the slow’. I am not injured; I can endure the lightning but not the confusion.  

A beautiful path lights up as far as the mind can reach. Back and forth between a one-way; crashing becomes a certainty.

Quietly, I sit alive in the present.  

I am understandably forgetful. Myriad revelations slip away like a childhood memory, leaving behind a warm aftertaste. The warmth turns into a glow and the rest I forget.  

Infinity captured in a cage seeps away slowly. It is destined to do so. The two worlds are pulsating with this thought and I, in both.  

But there is only one reality in me. The cube burns into a cylinder and the cylinder burns into a sphere.

The shapes finally unite and the two worlds are annihilated.


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The Thought

So that the brush strokes are fine, so that the rhythm is right, so that the planet follows its trajectory, so that the Universe meets the end, everything has to be done perfectly.

Not the type of perfection that binds you, but the one which leads you to Nirvana. For perfection, concentration is a must.    

One requires such a level of concentration that unites with the soul of the Universe. It then works wonders.

What is otherwise the glory of nature, the majesty of the mountains, the thunder in the sky? And evolution?  

Perfection is nature, nature is perfection.
Image – Pixabay.

Meditation is the key, the answer to everything.

In a quiet mind, the peaceful colours of the Universe shine and bring along the eternal power.

Just a touch of this energy makes the mind sublime and supreme, no matter if only for seconds, the experience is life-changing.  

If this is not Love, then what is? Loving oneself purely and believing that we all are one. The golden thread is common, it is absolute, it is present.  

I remember a folk tale about a fool who once stated that he could see a bright light in everything, in everyone around him. The fool found the brightness overwhelming, he danced until he died.

People did not bother much, after all, who believes a fool, though they later started worshipping the fool.  

Death of the fool became the foundation of a belief. The fool was a juggler, a perfectionist in his art. 


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The Answer

Your eyes are sweetly closed, you are smiling peacefully, and you are meditating…but how? How do you do it?

I am listening to my breath and the music my heart plays. My eyes are closed yet I see all the colours ever so vividly. I feel so light as if I am flying and thus I smile. I am meditating, I am living in the moment, in the second. I can feel the spirit inside me. You are asking me how to do it…but the answer lies within you.

Search for it, not once or twice or thrice, do it all the time, ceaselessly, until you find no further need to explore. When time and space vanish and you are present everywhere.

Is this the ultimate search? Will this solve everything?

When you start looking for something, it becomes the first step. It can take a long time for the search to end but it should not hamper your spirits. This is only possible if the question that you have asked is correct.

I am painting you in different colours…you somehow are choosing the colours for yourself. I don’t know how you are doing it but then it is only making the painting more alive. I don’t want to part yet I’ll have to; you’ll look good in the big palace, not in this old hut. You are almost complete now….

If you believe, truly, that I should stay here with you, you will see me here even if I leave.

*

[Source – Google]

*

[The painter after finishing the painting of the Buddha, sent it to its owner for which he was awarded a good sum of money. He stayed gloomy as he wanted to have the talking Buddha to himself.

He thought about the last words of the Buddha for a long time…days passed and then months.

Sitting quietly and pondering upon those words he felt calm and just then he realised that the mud wall of his hut had an impression on it that looked exactly like the painting of the Buddha… he was entranced!

All the walls of his hut had turned into the painting of the Buddha and slowly the roof and the floor as well.

The painter smiled and closed his eyes, feeling serene and unaware of the fact that his own body was turning into the painting of the Buddha.]


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I Can See Mountains from the Window, I’ll take this Window Along

The mountains are so grand; I realised it that day when I climbed one. The green velvety zigzag stretch left me overwhelmed.

A thought caught my attention and told me how beautiful and majestic the mountains were, how incredibly small I was, how peacefully colourful the surroundings were and how sublime the music played by the wind was.

Portable Window! [Image by AnnaliseArt from Pixabay]

I saw the clouds and they saw me; I blushed quietly. With my feet in the wet green grass, I stood there enjoying the drizzle. I sat on a calm rock calmly and opened the notebook. I couldn’t write for some reason, so I drew the scene instead.    

Have you ever felt the same? Like when you feel something you cannot describe in words or otherwise? When the smell of an old book takes you back in a different century?

As if the leaf that fell near you was meant to fall there so that you could pick it up and feel it? And that the glamorous city lights were talking to each other and the moon was talking to you?

What about the smiley face drawn by a passer-by on a dusty car that reminds you of the one you had drawn? Have you ever felt the still mind?

The drawing that I made took the shape of yin-yang without my knowledge. Opposites complement each other. I sat near the window and thought about it; the sun passed by and the moon came with white light very quickly and in the shadow, I saw light and immediately, I agreed.

I again looked at that drawing, in gratitude but the drawing was no longer the same…there were dark green mountains and blue sky, white clouds and green grass and me, sitting on the calm rock calmly. And I looked through the window…

I can see mountains from the window, I’ll take this window along.


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Hum Along

That feeling of sadness when you realise that you could have done something else, something better but you cannot because time has defeated you, leaving you alone with the mighty Fate.

That moment when your heart is full of love and your mind full of confusion and you hesitate to take a step forward; sometimes you console yourself and sometimes you scold yourself…all you are left with is pain.  

Pain is known to everyone who knows love, hope, desire and ego.

Why don’t we get rid of this pain and live happily ever after?

Maybe because we need pain…just to understand the importance of everything around us, to learn to value every little thing.

Maybe because pain teaches us to move forward, it gives us only one choice which is to change with time.

If seen in this light, pain helps us to realise our transient nature but not to lament over it, rather cherish every second of it and to make the best of it.

Yes, this will mean to be ALIVE always but this is just how we should live, shouldn’t we?

Why be in grief when neither the reason for the grief nor you, the sufferer, will stay forever? What stays is the wish to live life to the fullest.  

Keep walking, keep humming.
Image from Pixabay.

I am walking on a mysterious road… what passes me enters me and then it vanishes, leaving a feeling within me, giving me pain and hope… I walk ahead in the search of love… I cannot see the path, just one step after the other… it is thrilling… the silky air around me is what I can feel and the music of the cosmos that whispers in my ears, telling me to hum along.

So be it! Hum…. 


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You Think You Have Time?

It is time to know yourself.
Image from Pixabay.

“The trouble is, you think you have time”- a straightforwardly true quote.

But listen don’t worry… just take a deep breath. And allow your mind to be empty.

It is true that time is running but that doesn’t mean you have to run with it.

Instead, you should stop and discover your inner self.

Knowing who you actually are is a big question for which you should hurry; being aware of every breath that you take is important, and for this you should be quick.

Time is fleeting and there is a whole universe to explore within and without.

Our soul is something we don’t consciously think much about and rarely do anything special for it, for it to flourish.

So there is no time to waste in any trivial issue when inner peace is all you need.

The solution to this trouble is to be extremely quick in settling your mind without spending the time elsewhere.

A settled mind can make you sit calmly, a calm posture can make you concentrate, you can meditate and what comes next is even better… a mind that meditates can stop Time.


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