Thursday, December 22, 2011

Esoteric symbolism of Aditya Hridayam

The Aditya Hridayam of the Ramayana could be a reference to the heart lotus that Ramana Maharishi refers to as the seat of the soul. The heart lotus is on the right side of the body (and corresponding to the left brain) which is the solar side in yoga physiology, thus it is aditya in nature. Hridayam is of course the heart. So the lotus heart Ramana Maharishi that laid so much emphasis on in his teachings could well be understood as the aditya hridayam.

This heart lotus according to Ramana Maharishi is the supreme seat of the self, the consciousness from which everything else emerges. Once this is realised the ego is eliminated. If the Ramayana be read as a an allegorical tale of the supreme awakening of the infinite I consciousness (Ram) eliminating the limited, contracted egotistic existence (Ravan), then the Aditya Hridayam which the sage Agastya teaches Ram in the Yudha Kandha of the Ramayana can be read as a symbol for the awakening of the lotus heart and the supreme I consciousness after which the yogi remains immersed in the infinite consciousness-energy field and ceases to identify with the conditioned egoistic existence. Ram is the knowledge of the cosmic self that removes Ravan, ignorance born out of egotism.

There are also references to this in the Bhagvad Geeta, ‘Cutting this doubt in the heart, born out of ignorance by the sword of knowledge of the Self, arise, O Arjuna, and engage in Yoga, ‘ and again, ‘Spilt is the knot of the heart; the doubts are removed.’

The Sri Ramana Gita published by the Ramana Ashram explains the significance of the heart lotus, ‘The body is the embodiment of ignorance, conditioned by time and space and characterised by inertness. It is suffused with the light of the notion of ‘I’. Its dealings of knowledge and action, like I know, I do etc. result only from the origination of the I activity. Therefore it is proper to infer that the place of the I-activity, the root of all activities of knowledge and action, pertaining to the body should also be somewhere, pertaining to the body....

Although egoism is surpassed by the I-activity, and all activities having their root in egoism resulting in the culmination in the I-activity, there is nothing wrong in indicating a location as the practice of tracking down to the root of the I-activity culminates in the accomplishment of the Brahmanic state in the form of the throbbing I. As regards the I activity, the bodily site conditioned by time and space, called heart is pointed out. As the true form not being conditioned by time and space etc., being the supporting base of the origin of the I activity is self accomplished there itself, in the groundless, in the unsupported, it becomes established that the same is also the location of knowledge, in the form of the I-throbbing. Thus become appropriate the authoritative statements that proclaim that the knowledge located in the heart itself destroys the ignorance located in the heart....

The place is on the right portion of the chest; not the left side. From here effulgence flows through Sushumna to the Sahasrara.’

One can see that this is a reference to the realization of the atman removing all limited thought constructs which obstruct the same.

- Swetha Prakash

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Storytelling as a ritual

What is a ritual? It is established or prescribed procedure for religious, magical or other rites, a system or collection of religious or other rites, and observance of set forms in public worship. Basically ritual means certain action or set of actions which gives certain results. Man believed that if certain action or series of actions are performed in a correct sequence certain results follow. A ritual is explained by myth. Myth is incorporated in a ritual and gradually the myth-ritual unit grows and evolves further together. - M.L. Varadpande in a History of Indian Theatre.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

'This search led to the mystery of a ubiquitous power that worked like a supreme faculty of self-transmutation. It was called maya. It was then understood as a supernatural force, magical force with the power to change form and appear under innumerable deceiving masks producing illusionary effects.
During the period of Brahmanas, the task of fathoming this mysterious maya was approached through pictographic reasoning of mythology and theology. Superhuman gods and demons were believed to be wielding this magical power and directing the world. Soon, the whole series of masks that could possibly be assumed by this magical power was identified and comprehended and a vast pantheon of gods emerged.' - Rajarshi Muni in Yoga - A synthesis of Psychology and Metaphysics.

Monday, October 31, 2011

This atman, which is eternal and indestructible, is present everywhere and in everyone; hence, give up all grief O Bharata.

- Sri Krishna in Bhagvad Geeta

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nachiketus! The fulfilment of all desire, the conquest of the world, freedom from fear, unlimited pleasure.. all were yours, but you renounced them all.. - From Katha Upanishad in The Ten Principal Upanishads translated by Shree Purohit Swami and WB Yeats.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What thoughtful person would ever tire of drinking the nectarine tales of Sakti?
Death comes even to those who drink divine ambrosia, but not to one who hears this act of hers.

- From Chapter 1 (The appearance of the Great Goddess before the Mountain King Himalaya and the Gods) of the Devi Gita - The Song of the Goddess translated by C Mackenzie Brown.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

When thus the non-existence of the mind is realised, it is seen that the ego-sense, etc. do not exist. One alone exists - the infinite consciousness. All notions cease. The falsity which arose as the mind ceases when the notions cease. I am not nor is there another, nor do you nor do these exist; there is neither mind nor senses. One alone is - pure consciousness.

- The Supreme Yoga - Yoga Vasistha by Swami Venkatesananda

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Me or my army?

Krishna, however, has long been a presence more mysterious and powerful than any role he has assumed. His decision to accept a subordinate place for the battle, as Arjuna's suta is the result of wager in which Yudhishthira the Pandava and Duryodhana the Kaurava were offered either Krishna as non-combatant or the force of all of his armies. When Yudhishthira chooses Krishna for his counsel, friendship, and companionship over the mighty armies he might have chosen in alliance, Duryodhana believes he has received yet another boon from the choice of a foolish idealist who places false hope before realpolitik. But there is never anything false about hope and with Krishna, who then chooses to be Arjuna's charioteer, the Pandavas know they cannot lose: by having chosen from the heart than from the mere exigency of practical reality, they have chosen the divine. –

Douglas Renfrew Brooks in Poised for grace: annotations on the Bhagavad Gita from a Tantric view
In Pranatoshini, Kali being blue-complexioned has been named Tara. Truly speaking, Sati being born at Daksha's abode has been known as Eka Jata owing to her divinely benevolent nature. She is ever called Tara as she is famed for giving salvation or moksha. She also spontaneously awards Vak sakti; hence she is befittingly called Nila Sarasvati. She is Ugra Tara due to her rash nature and is known as Ugratarini by way of saving her devotees.

- Dr Vishnu Datta Rakesh in Dasamahavidya Mimamsa.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

O daughter of the mountain king, the seers have said that the world is dissolved and created with the closing and opening of your lotus eyes. I suspect that you never blink and always keep your eyes wide open; keeping this universe, that has sprung up with the opening of your lotus eyes, from pralaya, dissolution. -

Adi Shankaracharya addressing the goddess Kameshwari in Saundarya Lahari.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

This book gave a possible answer to a core question of mythology - where do stories come from and why do they take the shape they do? They come from Inner Experiences, from strong visual imprinting. This is not just another version of archetypes though it is certainly connected to it. Not just archetypes, but all mythic thinking seems to exist in what Joseph Campbell called the 'inner reaches of outer space.' What this book seems to demonstrate is that such mythic structure is inherent in the condition of being human, which is why tales of Man are so similar all over.
The differences in stories are due to differences in personalities and cultures - they are differences in interpretations of what is fundamentally the same set of inner visions. - Rohit Arya in the Preface to Kundalini Dairy by Santosh Sachdeva

Ardhanarishwara - By Swetha

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

To collect popular stories is either a most difficult or a most easy task. Everybody who finds nothing better to do thinks he is able at least to write down the stories which his nurse has told him. But this, you know, is a great mistake. First of all, not every story that an old woman may tell deserves to be written down and printed. There is a particular earthy flavour about the genuine home-grown, or, if I may say so, autochthonic Marchen - something like the flavour of the dark-red wild strawberry - which we must learn to appreciate before we can tell whether a story is old or new, genuine or made-up; whether it comes, in fact, from the forest or from the hothouse. This is a matter of taste; but, as tasters of wine or tea will tell you, even taste can be acquired. - F Max Muller

Thursday, August 4, 2011

'The picture showman has thrived throughout Indian history..We know the social (namely, low), economic (poor), and religious (lay) status of Indian picture reciters. ..More important, we have learned that they are normally illiterate, that the shape of their narratives is determined by various oral and pictorial formulaic devices, and the printed versions of their tales are the products of local scribes and publishers.' - Victor H. Mair in Tʼang transformation texts.
'One of the most common critiques of folktales once they are written down is that they lose their vibrancy as stories because they have been taken out of an interactive sphere. Oral, performed renditions of tales contain elements that written tales cannot possess.' - Amie A. Doughty in Folktales retold: a critical overview of stories updated for children

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Dastan means story and dastangoi means to tell a story. It is a unique form of Urdu storytelling that uses no musical instruments, no props or other visual stimuli. Only the story is told. The tradition was very popular during the Mughal era and Akbar was known to patron dastangos in his court. The stories were about magic and sorcerers...Dastangoi remained popular till the early 20th century. Dastangos would recite stories in public squares and on the steps of Jama Masjid in Old Delhi. - Parul Khanna Tewari in 'Once Upon a Time' published in Hindustan Times Brunch, June 26, 2011.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

'With great wit he described the dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna, which comprises the entirety of the Gita, as being similar to a Broadway musical, when suddenly the cast freezes in position while the two main characters break out into a long song in the spotlight. Both armies effectively stand still, facing each other in silence, while Krishna and Arjuna have a profound discussion over hundreds of verses!' - John Friend in the Foreword to Poised for grace: annotations on the Bhagavad Gita from a Tantric view By Douglas Renfrew Brooks

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Postmodern fairy tales

postmodern fairy tales reactivate the wonder tale's 'magic' or mythopoetic qualities by providing new readings of it, thereby generating unexploited or forgotten possibilities from its repetition....Semiotically speaking, the anti-tale is implicit in the tale, since this well-made artifice produces the receiver's desire to repeat the tale anew: repetition functions as reassurance within the tale, but this very same compulsion to repeat the tale explodes its coherence as well made artifice. Finally, and perhaps most simply, the postmodern fairy tale's dissemination of multiple versions is strangely powerful - all re-tellings, re-interpretations, and re-visions may appear to be equally authorized as well as unauthorized.

- Cristina Bacchilega in Postmodern Fairy Tales: Gender and Narrative Strategies.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Vajra

In the Vajrayana ("Diamond Vehicle") of Tibet, the vajra, or lightening bolt (called dorje in Tibet) is the central image of gnosis.

The dorje is the symbol of the clear, immutable essence of reality that is the basis of everything. Its immaculate transparency, which nevertheless gives rise to a profusion of manifestations [i.e., the phenomenal world], corresponds to the concept of shunyata stressed by Nagarjuna. . . . Padmasambhava [writes]:

The secret mind of all the buddhas, Omniscient wisdom
Transmitted by the symbol of eternal strength and firmness
Clarity and emptiness, the dorje essence
Like heavenly space --
It is wonderful to see the true face of reality!

(Fischer-Schreiber, et. al., 1989).


Thursday, June 23, 2011

' The sacred tremor, the very place of creation and return, is completely limitless because its nature is formless.' - Daniel Odier in Yoga Spandakarika

Sunday, June 19, 2011

' Creation comes from avyakta (the unmanifested) and leads to avyakta (dissolution). Avyaktam is brahmajnanam (knowledge of the absolute), devoid of creation and dissolution.' - Jnana Sankalini Tantra translated by Paramahamsa Prajnanaanada

Sandhya Bhasha

In the itihasas and the puranas, the characters move through ‘forests of symbols’ that reveal deeper and deeper levels of meaning. Much of the Indian oral tradition starting from the Vedas has been composed in the Sandhya Bhasha or twilight language. As David Frawley says in Gods, sages and kings: Vedic secrets of ancient civilization, 'The Vedas are filled with mantras, symbols and cryptic statements and codes. They do not reveal themselves readily to those who don't look deeply. It is not enough to have records of the ancients if we do not know how to read them.'

Saturday, June 11, 2011

'Although the significance of sound and speech as the primordial stuff of creation is primarily a post-Rg-vedic concept, it is apparent even in the Rg veda that sound, and especially ritual speech, is powerful, creative, and a mainstay of the cosmic ritual order. The goddess Vac, whose name means speech, reveals herself through speech and is typically characterized by various attributes of speech. She is speech, and the mysteries and miracles of speech express her peculiar, numinous nature...She is the mysterious presence that enables one to hear, see, grasp, and then express in words the true nature of things.’ - David Kinsley in Hindu Goddesses: visions of the divine feminine in the Hindu religious tradition.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The esoteric Ramayana

Robert Svoboda's brilliant book Kundalini: Aghora II presents a unique esoteric interpretation of the Ramayana. Here, the entire epic is read as an allegory for kundalini awakening wherein Sita (Kundalini Shakti), stuck in Lanka (Mooladhara chakra), is reunited with the Rama (the cosmic consciousness at Sahasradal padma) with help from Hanuman (the power of prana, the life force), Sugreev (the power of the throat chakra) and Lakshman ( the power of will power and concentration on the self). The entire epic is thus re-enacted with the body of the awakened yogi. The interesting thing is that the narrator of this version, the Aghori Vimalanada was a great sadhak of the Mahavidya Tara, the goddess who saves by giving the highest knowledge. The Mahavidya Tara is, according to tradition, identical with Ram. – Swetha

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Combat as Lila

'The Hindu scriptures, especially the puranas, frequently depict the world as being on the brink of disaster...The theme that runs through this ever recurring struggle (between the devas and asuras) is that of combat as play on the part of the gods. At the height of battle for instance the deity will laugh uproariously...In almost every case we are told explicitly, or it is inferred, that Vishnu's avatars are as much bent on amusing themselves as they are on saving the world...The Goddess in her many forms is also a formidable warrior who enters combat with zest. She clearly enjoys it and rarely seems to be in any trouble. For her also it is simply a diversion.' - David R Kinsley in ‘The Divine Player - A study of Krishna Lila.’
“There is in Shiva an aspect of primordial wildness, as his earlier name, Rudra (the howler, from the root rud), suggests. His untamed nature is overwhelming...Siva the mad god is not bound by any of the restricting limits of the rather tedious sane world...The Great Goddess is frequently described as drunken, which well she might be, for she embodies maya, the effect of which is intoxicating...Ramakrsna puts the matter more directly when he says of Kali: ‘She appears to be reeling under the spell of wine. But who would create this mad world unless under the influence of divine drunkenness?’... “- David Kinsley in ‘The Divine Player – A study of Krishna Lila’
'Chhinnamasta, whose image is a severed head, is the goddess who causes us to cut off our own heads or to dissolve our minds into pure awareness. She brings transcendence of the mind and represents the non-mind (unmana) state...As the power of Indra, Chhinnamasta is vidyut or lightning, the electrical energy of transformation (Vidyut Shakti) working on the cosmos at all levels. The electricity in the material world is only one form of this. In the mind it functions as the power of instantaneous enlightenment... As lightning, Chhinnamasta represents direct perception, pure seeing which cuts through everything and reveals the infinite beyond all forms.' - Dr David Frawley.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Theeyattu is a ritualistic folk art from Kerela dedicated to Bhadra Kali or the Kali who brings auspiciousness. A single actor playing Bhadrakali, uses chants and classical dance mudras to narrate the incidents leading to the killing of Darukasura, a demon, to her father Shiva, who in the performance is represented by a flaming lamp.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Telling Tales

Geetha Ramanujam in the Bangalore Mirror

Director, Kathalaya, the only academy globally for storytelling
The belief: The Steiner-Waldorf method of teaching lays emphasis on the role of imagination when it comes to learning and children. And therefore fantasy stories are believed to be a must for young minds.

The reasoning: Fantasy is believed to be the main foundation on which the imagination grows. It involves a suspension of belief — where we tend to believe in fantasy despite knowing it not to be true. This is a trait that children are born with, believes Geetha. She believes that the imagination has to grow with a child as though on a parallel railway track. The Montessori style of teaching says that fantasy stories can affect a child, if the child begins to live constantly in its world. However, children do have the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality. The stories of the Panchantantra have central characters revolving around animals that speak. In the Ramayana, Ravana is referred to as having 10 heads. Children do understand that this does not happen in real life and that these descriptions are merely representational. It’s a convenient and fun way to interpret things. Children largely believe that ghosts don’t exist, but there is a thrill in listening to stories about them.

Taking flight: Every child has an imagination that needs to evolve as a child grows. That should not be curbed in the growing years. There is something exciting about the fish who could talk, the birds who could swim and the boy who could fly. It helps the child relax and allows his imagination to grow.

Monday, May 2, 2011

With the spread of Bhakti movement in India wandering saints retold puranic stories in vernacular languages with many regional variations. The stories were rendered into poems and songs that reflected a personal relationship between a cosmic deity and an ardent devotee.

Listen, sister, listen.
I had a dream

I saw rice, betel, palmleaf
and coconut.
I saw an ascetic
come to beg,
white teeth and small matted curls.

I followed on his heels
and held his hand,
he who goes breaking
all bounds and beyond.

I saw the lord, white as jasmine
and woke wide open.

- By Akka Mahadevi in Speaking of Shiva, translated by AK Ramanujam

Illustrated by Swetha Prakash

Monday, April 18, 2011

Feed Back from Batch no - 23

April 11 to 16
Intensive Course.

Day 1
Monday : Introduction – Book marks / Nyayas / listening
RP: Geeta
Pooja Sagar: Loved the way we were asked to introduce ourselves. Simply loved the whole session.

Sonal Takrar: Learnt a lot about what actually storytelling is and where it lies.
Ambience is warm and homely.

Nanditha Bharat: A complete experience! The session offered a much needed clarity about story telling.

Brindha Shanmugam: It made me a good listener. I understood that story telling haas got different prospective.

Day 2
Tuesday: Creativity, How to tell a story? Different aspects of Story telling/ voice
RP: Geeta
Dhanya Magavi: Didn’t know that story telling involved so much of professionalism. What an eye opener !

Neha Bhandari: It is true, when a person wants to do something, the truth follows the person.

Nanditha Bhandari: A fantastic session! The varied examples sprinkled right through really helped to bridge the gap between theory and actual practice. Am in total awe of Geeta madam’s energy and the life that she brings in to each story.

Sonal : It was an intensive round up of how to prepare and tell a story. A very energetic and dramatic session.

Brindha: Story telling not an easy task but you can! – this I understood today.

Day – 3
Wednesday: Childhood stories & session with councilor
RP: Geeta & Varalakshmi.
Rama: The council ling session made me to realize the unknown potential in me.
Nanditha: Varalkshmi held a mirror up to our own self. I am so cought up with routines in life and have got so used to reacting to every situation. It was really so nice to pause and think and simplify things. Thank you for helping me to get in touch with myself.

Brinda: Sharing childhood memories was really amazing. Varalakshmi’s session was really useful and helped us to know about ourselves from other’s point of view.

Sonal: It was a very self knowing session. Very heart warming session, had a peep inside.

Pooja: Sharing a childhood memory was a wonderful experience. Varalakshmi’s session was not just ‘Window Opener’ but “Soul Opener’.

Neha: Felt very nice. Had a deep inside journey. Hope to continue on this journey.

Dhanya: It connecting with oneself and others. A journey begins inside. The teacher inspires and that is what Geeta and Varalakshmi did to me.

Sejal: I learnt to know oneself in a positive way and also think in a positive way .

Day – 4
Thursday – Body Language
RP: Anshul Pathak
Dhanya: Anshul’s energy was contiguous. It brought home the fact of how little we use our body to communicate effectively

Namitha: It made me how little I listen to my body and realize its hidden potential. Our senses are so powerful if we concentrate and pay attention. The session was all the more beautiful for me as it was done by Anshul with whom I grew up.

Pooja: Anshul was very confident, energetic and passionate about his work.

Sonal: Anshul did a great job in helping us to recognize the existence of our body parts and how to use them effectively.

Neha: It’s a very different experience to know your own body parts. Very nice realization.

Day –5
Friday: Puppetry
RP: Ambica Chandrashekhar
Dhanya: Common sense and Art blended well together. Great mentor. Loved it.

Nanditha: The session was enjoyable. It gave me a glimpse of how puppets can be made with such simple things.

Pooja: Ambica thought us some very simple and effective puppets.

Sonal: Puppet making was fun & creative.

Ramadevi: For the first time in my life, made puppets myself and realized that I am ok with it. I can improve upon myself.

Neha: realized that with little glue, paper and colour could do lots of puppets and can be resourceful to my own self. My creativity came to surface.

Brinda: So far I have not done any puppets, but this session gave me confidence that I can also make puppets.

General Comments:
Brinda: It was a holistic approach of story telling.
Quite interactive.
It was interesting and informative.
Gave me confidence and how to go about it.

Neha: Just too interesting. This learning was a different experience.

Ramadevi: The course is extremely useful for everyone. It is just not only about body language and voice modulation. It has been scientifically designed, each session had its own importance and brought out the best in all of us. For us, to become a good story teller, all the fundamentals were given and now it is up to us to improve upon it and make the best out of the workshop. I am really touched.

Pooja: A holistic approach to story telling; in a manner I have never experienced before.
Geeta’s energy and smile is simply infectious. I look forward to work with her some time in future.
The effort in preserving and nurturing India’s rich traditions of story telling is highly appreciable.

Sejal: It was really a wonderful experience. There are lots and lots to learn ahead.

Nanditha: Trying to desire my experience would be like trying to describe the scent of a Rose….. so subtle yet all-encompassing ….. words wouldn’t sufficient !!! Thank you .

Dhanya: Such a wholesome program!!!
I received more than I expected. All the sessions were soul touching. Most enjoyable workshop I have ever attended..

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


“ The Storyteller is deep inside every one of us. We listen to stories to experience that special moment of becoming”
To discover the Storytelling potential in you join our course.

Day/Date: Monday 11 to Saturday 16, April 2011
Timing: 9.30 am to 1.30 pm
Venue: Kathalaya, #88, B.H.B.C.S. Layout,
3rd Main, 2nd Cross,
B.T.M II Stage
Bannerghatta Road,
Bangalore 560076

Charges: Rs. 7000/- (Including materials, snacks and Certificate with a hand book for the Story Educators)

For registrations and queries call: 2668 9856, 98452 07073
Or mail to us at,

* We have facilities to accommodate out station candidates too.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Hindavi Sufi Romance

The cultural history of sultanate India is, in part, the history of the enthusiastic participation of Sufis and other Muslims in the formation of the canons of Indian poetry, art, and music. The genre of the Hindavi Sufi romance should be read against this larger background of cultural appropriations, co-minglings, and creative formulations. The Hindavi Sufi poets used Sanskrit rasa theory and the conventions of Persian poetry to create a mystical romantic genre centred around the various meanings of prema rasa, the juice or essence of love. While it is important to understand their poems as aesthetic and mystical creations, this genre can nevertheless be read for marks of historical process and seen as embodying a history of narrative motifs.
The Hindavi romantic ideal of desire and its transformation into Sufi love is set in a fantasy world of marvels and exotic locales, of supernatural helpers and agencies who aid the hero along his way. The poets of the Hindavi Sufi romances articulate their distinctive aesthetics of self transformation through the narrative, the unfolding of a story in a fantastic fictional universe. These narrative universes have four characteristic features. First, inspired by Persian verse narratives (mathnawis), they relate the story of a spiritual quest that proceeds through the deferment of desire and the enticement of the hero/reader further and further on the journey of self transformation. Second, the fictional universe is formulic and episodic, but the poet structures these formulic motifs using abstract characters or narrative options like the different kinds of love,or .. the relative values of asceticism and sensual pleasure. Third, they are not directly allegorical but suggestive of general Sufi values through the ordeals and experiences of the hero. Finally the narrative motifs that the poets use reveal a history of complex interactions between, on the one hand, Persian and Arabic storytelling, and on the other, Sanskrit, Prakrit, and other narrative traditions in the Islamic and pre-Islamic world of the Indian Ocean. - Aditya Behl in the Cultural History of Medieval India edited by Meenaskhi Khanna

Yoga Vasista

Along with the Bhagvada Geeta and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the Yoga Vasista or Maharamayana is a key Indian yogic text which explains how fluctuations of the consciousness can be overcome and the highest self be realised. Yoga Vasista, traditionally attributed to Valmiki the composer of the Ramayana, employs interesting stories to achieve this end. The text is structured as a discourse between Prince Rama as a seeker and his preceptor Vasistha, the enlightened sage. It is believed that merely reading this book leads to self realization. As an Advaita Vedanta text, the Yoga Vasista deals with the knowledge of the all pervasive non dual consciousness and the unreality of the manifest world.

The story begins when the seer Vishwamitra arrives at King Dasaratha’s court to demand the company of Rama for the protection of his sacred rites from the flesheating rakshasas, only to hear that the later is absolutely dejected with the fickleness and meaninglessness of human existence. The court preceptor Vasista, who is also present, guesses that Rama is experiencing vairagya or detachment so essential for spiritual realisation. He offers to guide the prince through the process of enlightenment and does this through the medium of several fantastic stories. As the conversation proceeds, Rama attains enlightenment and discovers a completely new level of meaning and purpose to existence. Yoga Vasista is a vast text which presents varied cosmologies, creation theories, philosophies and tips for daily living as an enlightened being through some immensely enjoyable stories. - Swetha Prakash

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Bauls of Bengal

'There is something very special and appealing about the Bauls, something significant and lasting. Once one's life has been touched by them, they can never be forgotten. Having heard their thrilling songs of passion and ecstasy and experienced their charismatic and spontaneous manner, there can be no turning away,' - Nik Douglas in the forward to the ‘The Path of the Mystic Lover: Baul Songs of Passion and Ecstasy.'

Friday, March 4, 2011

On Myth

'Myth can be defined in two ways. First, it is a sacred idea that is inherited over generations. Second, it is absurd, irrational, and fantastic concepts about the world that appeal to unsophisticated minds. The two meanings are two sides of the same coin.
Depending on one's point of view, a story, an image, or a custom can be sacred or stupid’

- Devdutt Pattanaik in Indian mythology: tales, symbols, and rituals from the heart of the subcontinent.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Zen story

A student went to his meditation teacher and said, "My meditation is horrible! I feel so distracted, or my legs ache, or I'm constantly falling asleep. It's just horrible!"
"It will pass," the teacher said matter-of-factly.

A week later, the student came back to his teacher. "My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive! It's just wonderful!'

"It will pass," the teacher replied matter-of-factly.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

On the Mahabharata

"The Mahabharata is the creation and expression not of a single individual mind, but of the mind of a nation; it is the poem of itself written by a whole people. It would be vain to apply to it the canons of a poetical art applicable to an epic poem with a smaller and more restricted purpose, but still a great and quite conscious art has been expended both on its detail and its total structure. The whole poem has been built like a vast national temple unrolling slowly its immense and complex idea from chamber to chamber, crowded with significant groups and sculptures and inscriptions, the grouped figures carved in divine or semi-divine proportions, a humanity aggrandized and half uplifted to super-humanity and yet always true to the human motive and idea and feeling, the strain of the real constantly raised by the tones of the ideal, the life of this world amply portrayed but subjected to the conscious influence and presence of the powers of the worlds behind it, and the whole unified by the long embodied procession of a consistent idea worked out in the wide steps of the poetic story." - Sri Aurobindo

Monday, February 14, 2011

Swedish delegation at Kathalaya

The Swedish delegation comprising of Annelie Stark, President,
Lars Nordstrom, Vice President, Cultural affairs Committee, Region Vastra Gotaland, visited Kathalaya on 9th of February 2011. Ylva Gustafsson also came with them. Ola Henricssson, teacher and story teller at Bergsjon,Goteborg along with Geeta Ramanujam and Ambica did a workshop for two days. Three Swedish students of storytelling Maon Jasim, Sabina Krasniqi, Emma Murselovic were the part of the workshop. All the four story tellers along with P.Nagalakshmi and Usha Kolluru (Kathalaya resource people) enthralled the children of 1st and 2nd Standard of Shishugriha school in Tippasandra on 10th. On the same evening, a story space was organized were 25 people exchanged and enjoyed stories. Peter af Wetterstedt, Secretary of International affairs, Region Vastra Gotaland, also joined this Story Space. Academy students Sarita, Lakshmi, Sahana, Arathi, Varalakshmi and Bhuvana, Usha Venkatranman came with their family and friends.
0n the 12th, Ola Henricsson and Geeta Ramanujam did a workshop for adults at the British Council for about 40 people. On the same evening both of them enthralled about 40 children at Easy Library, Koramangala. Both of them told chain stories, which children and accompanying parents enjoyed. Vanishree Mahesh of Easy Library hosted the show.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A vedic hymn

1. He is the first born, born of the golden womb – the Hiranyagarba. He is the lord of everything that was, is and will be. With his sole might the earth and heaven became stable. Unfathomable is this deity to whom all this belongs.
2. He is the lifebreath of the living, he is the might of the strong. His is the command which all the luminous gods revere; his stride is immortality, his shadow is death. Unfathomable is this deity to whom all this belongs.
3. Through his might alone he became the overlord of all these worlds, of all the men and beasts that live. Unfathomable is this deity to whom all this belongs.
4. He through his might wills these snowy mountains and this never ending sea into existence. Everything you see here are his two arms. Unfathomable is this deity to whom all this belongs.
5. He through whom the heaven and the earth were aligned, he through whom space came to be, and the firmament; he who measured the air in the sky. Unfathomable is this deity to whom all this belongs.
6. He to whom heaven and earth, standing firm by his will, look up, trembling in their mind; he over whom the risen sun shines forth. Unfathomable is this deity to whom all this belongs.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sanskrit, which has been aptly described as "the perfectly constructed speech dedicated to literary and religious purposes," is the language of song. These ancient peoples went deeply into the matter: while they sang their praise songs they wanted to understand exactly how the voice produced song, and they studied the breath in a way which had never before been attempted, and certainly has never since been excelled. They thought of it as "the breath of life," not merely as a supply of oxygen to the tissues, but as a direct means of real inspiration and the key to that deeper life which all so much long for. - Lylie Pragnell in The Philosophy of Speech

Originally printed in The Philosopher,Volume V, 1928

Sunday, February 6, 2011

'We have a bequest of stories, tales from the old storytellers, some of whose names we know, but some not. The storytellers go back and back, to a clearing in the forest where a great fire burns, and the old shamans dance and sing, for our heritage of stories began in fire, magic, the spirit world. And that is where it is held, today.
Ask any modern storyteller and they will say there is always a moment when they are touched with fire, with what we like to call inspiration, and this goes back and back to the beginning of our race, to the great winds that shaped us and our world.
The storyteller is deep inside every one of us. The story-maker is always with us. Let us suppose our world is ravaged by war, by the horrors that we all of us easily imagine. Let us suppose floods wash through our cities, the seas rise. But the storyteller will be there, for it is our imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us -for good and for ill. It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed. It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the myth-maker, that is our phoenix, that represents us at our best, and at our most creative.' - Doris Lessing

Source - "Doris Lessing - Nobel Lecture". 6 Feb 2011

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I have always been fascinated to imagine the uncertain circumstance in which our ancestors – still barely different from animals, the language that allowed them to communicate with one another just recently born – in caves, around fires, on nights seething with the menace of lightning bolts, thunder claps, and growling beasts, began to invent and tell stories. That was the crucial moment in our destiny, because in those circles of primitive beings held by the voice and fantasy of the storyteller, civilization began, the long passage that gradually would humanize us and lead us to invent the autonomous individual, then disengage him from the tribe, devise science, the arts, law, freedom, and to scrutinize the innermost recesses of nature, the human body, space, and travel to the stars. - Mario Vargas Llosa

Mario Vargas Llosa - Nobel Lecture". 6 Feb 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

“the vast literature, the magnificent opulence, the majestic sciences, the great realized souls, the soul touching music, the awe inspiring gods….! It is already becoming clearer that a chapter which has a western beginning will have a to have an Indian ending if it is not to end in the self destruction of the human race. At this supremely dangerous moment in history the only way of salvation for mankind is the Indian way “ - Dr. Arnold Toynbee, British historian

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sri Bhagavan become transformed while relating incidents from his vast collection of stories and tales. On one occasion while describing Gautama's joy at Goddess Parvathi coming to his ashram, Sri Bhagvan could not go on, for tears filled his eyes and emotion choked his voice. Trying to hide his plight from others, he remarked, "I don't know how people who perform Harikathas explain such passages to audiences and manage to do it without breaking down. I suppose they must make thier hearts hard like stone before starting thier work."
- From Spiritual Stories as told by Ramana Maharshi

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In South India, the art of story telling is referred to as Kathakalakshepa, which is a Sanskrit term meaning, “Katha” - story, “kala” - time, and “kshepa” - throwing away. In total it means spending time listening to stories. Such performances are held in temples, weddings and other religious or social functions. This is a one-person theatre where the performer has to be versatile in the aspects of exposition, singing and histrionics, and be able to interestingly narrate humorous anecdotes as well. The storyteller is looked upon as a teacher who is a scholar in ancient texts in Sanskrit and other vernaculars. He interprets the religious and mythological texts of the past to the present and future generations.

In the various States of India there are three traditions of storytelling. The first is the Purana-Pravachana, which literally means, “expounding the Purana”. The Purana-Pravachana was narrated by the Pauranika, who was an expert in the exposition. Such expositions are solemn and serious.

The second tradition, Kathakalakshepa is unique because the story is carried through various songs and compositions in different Indian languages like Sanskrit, Tamil, Marathi, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi, which is a peculiarity in the Tamilnadu-style of story telling.

The third is a folk art, prevalent in Andhra Pradesh (a State in South India), called Burrakatha. Burra is a drum that is shaped like a human skull (Burra means skull). In this tradition, gypsies narrate stories beating this drum. As referred to earlier, in Tamilnadu the folk story tradition is called Villu-pattu, viz., the bow-song.

Krteyadhyayato vishnum
Tretayam yajoto maghaihi
Dvapare paricaryayam
Kalautatu Harikeertanatu


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Another thing he sorely misses is the institution of the storyteller, once an integral part of valley life.

"The storyteller would regularly come to our home in the evening. All the village children would assemble in a room as the storyteller started his narrative of princes and fairies and the wooden horse that would fly carrying the prince charming to the far off land where he fought the demon to retrieve his lady love.

"Hot 'kehwa' with saffron to keep the story teller and the listeners awake during the long winter nights was a ritual I still remember vividly," Sheikh said, ruing the end of the charming tradition. - From 'Kashmir: Where have all the icicles and storytellers gone?'

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives. This incredulity is undoubtedly a product of progress in the sciences: but that progress in turn presupposes it[...]The narrative function is losing its functors, its great hero, its great dangers, its great voyages, its great goal. It is being dispersed in clouds of narrative language elements—narrative, but also denotative, prescriptive, descriptive, and so on [...] Where, after the metanarratives, can legitimacy reside?

—Jean-François Lyotard

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Goddess figures and feminine imagery appear in many of the world's religious traditions, but often such goddesses have fallen into eclipse and such imagery has become peripheral or subordinate to the masculine metaphors of the divine. This was not the fate of the feminine in India. From one standpoint, the history of the Hindu tradition can be characterised as a re-emergence of the feminine.

- C. Mackenzie Brown in 'The Triumph of the Goddess'.