Monday, July 8, 2013
Mandala is Sanskrit for a circular representation of the totality of the universe. Traditionally a mandala is a complex, symbolic work of art used as a meditative aid designed to enable one to attain a unitive state of consciousness.
The cathedral ceiling and flower are in a sense, both mandalas. How are they also "portraits of the Self"? A self portrait is a picture of one's individual personality. If the mandala allows us to peek into a space where distinctions disappear, then we are left with a vision of the One Self.
Sunday, July 7, 2013
Yesterday I went to see a play, "The Secret Doctrine", by Patricai Gruben at Simon Fraser University's Woodward's Campus in downtown Vancouver. It was about the life of Madame Helena Blavatsky, the enigmatic 19th century Russian spiritualist and founder of the esoteric group, The Theosophical Society. Among her gifts, she claimed an ability to mysteriously channel the Wisdom of the Ages through her psychic connection to a discarnate Tibetan teacher. To this day, followers of these teachings can be found worldwide. The international headquarters of the Society is in India.
It didn't take long for the play to stimulate an earlier interest in Eastern mystical traditions and destinations and forcefully thrust this aspect of my life back into my consciousness.
The life and travels of the Hungarian mystic, pilgrim and founder of Tibetology, Korosi Csoma Sandor (or as he at times referred to himself to English speakers, Alexander Csoma de Koros ) has played a big role in my imagination over the years. Searching for the origins of the Hungarian People, at the age of 35, in 1819 he set out - on foot - on an astonishing journey that eventually took him to a remote Himalayan meditation cell where he learned Tibetan, studied Tibetan Buddhism, and wrote the world's first Tibetan-English dictionary. An extraordinary life for a penniless seeker traveling on his own.
In Csoma's footsteps, my travels have taken me to his birthplace in his namesake locale, Koros - a remote village in Transylvania - now a part of Hungarian Romania and to Aleppo, Syria. Later I trekked to where he studied in isolation in monasteries in the Indian Himalaya at Zangla and Phuktal and on to Sikkim in the eastern Himalayas. Inspired further by Csoma Sandor, I traveled to Xinjiang (East Turkmenistan) in what is now far western China. This is the land of the Uigars - the ancient Turkic people, Csoma believed were the ancestors of the Magyars - the Hungarian people. My pilgrimage sadly included Csoma Sandor's final resting place in Darjeeling, India - where he tragically died of malaria before completing his final goal of reaching Xinjiang. Years earlier, my father had introduced me to the life of Csoma Sandor, and as he was unable to make this journey, visiting the legendary pilgrim-scholar's grave had an added significance for me.
Alexander Csoma de Koros' accomplishments are enormous. Single-handedly he created the scholarly approach that opened the eyes of the West to Tibetan mysticism and established himself in the heart of all Hungarians as their own itinerant mystic hero.
The selfless quest for knowledge of this legendary pilgrim-scholar continues to inspire seekers to travel further and deeper.
The magnificent Brazilian giant was irresistible. Cool and yet so very beautiful. This photo was accepted for publication, whereas my shot of Kailash, Tibet's sacred mountain, was not. Curious how Life seems to speak to us. It's almost as though what we are drawn to in Nature is reflective of an aspect of ourselves yearning to be expressed. Different facet, same Self.