Dec 09

Jodhaa Akbar – Bollywood on a Grand Scale

Hindu Princess at Krishna Shrine in Jodhaa Akbar film
Hindu Princess at Krishna Shrine in Jodhaa Akbar film

While discussing how much I liked the Korean TV mini-series Dae Jang Geum with some of my friends, they answered with a recommendation to watch Jodhaa Akbar – a Hindi film about the Muslim Emperor Akbar and his marriage to a Hindu princess during his reign in India in the 16th century.

The film opened in Feb. 2008 and is directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, the director of Lagaan, a Bollywood musical which received an Academy Award nomination. Gowariker created this latest film on a grand scale. He spent several years researching it, then a couple of years in pre-production before finally filming. There are musical scenes with 1,000 dancers and 100 horses, 55 camels and more than 80 elephants were used in the production of the movie. It took 4-5 hours to dress the extras in costume.

I was especially interested to see the film because my meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy wrote a book about Emperor Akbar and many times I have watched and acted in short play productions based on stories from Akbar’s life. The book entitled, The Moghul Emperors, is available full-text online at SriChinmoyLibrary.com.

Granted, even though Gowariker did extensive research for this historical period piece, he admits that 70 percent of the film is all imagination. The love story portrayed between Emperor Akbar and Jodhaa, one of his Hindu wives feels mostly cliche. However, the scale of the movie and the visual splendour more than compensate. As a spiritual seeker, I particularly liked the themes of the movie that emphasized religious tolerance.

This YouTube clip shows my favorite scene of the film when Akbar watches Sufi dervishes dance and joins them. The music in the film is fantastic. This song performed by the Sufis in the film is about the saint Kwaje.* A. R. Rahman, the composer of the scores in the movie has sold hundreds of millions recordings making him one of the top selling composers in the world. Richard Corliss wrote about him in Time Magazine, “Rahman doesn’t even write what’s thought of as world music. He writes a world of music — so broad and deep, so instantly likable and lastingly satisfying, it is the whole world.”
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/3dG2FK3_NfQ" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Be sure not to miss this Bollywood epic that the New York Times called, “Filmmaking on the grand scale of Cecil B. DeMille, with romance, stirring battles, a cast of thousands and enough elephants and gold to sink the Titanic.”

*Lyrics and unofficial translation:
Khwajaji, khwaja (O saint khwaja)
Khwajaji, khwaja, khwaja ji (O saint khwaja) ; (O saint khwaja)
Ya gharib nawaz (The one who cherishes/soothes the poor)
Ya moinuddin, ya khwaja ji (O moinuddin chisti), (O khwaja saint)
Khwaja mere khwaja (O saint khwaja)
Dil mein sama ja (Reside in my heart)
Shaho ka shah tu (You are the king of kings)
Ali ka dulara (Ali’s beloved)

Khwaja mere khwaja dil mein sama ja (O saint khwaja); (Reside in my heart)
Beqaso ki taqdeer, tune hai sawari (The destiny of the ones in despair, you have changed for the better)
Khwaja mere khwaja (O saint khwaja)

Tere darbar mein khwaja (At your door, o khwaja)
Door toh hai dekha (Ive seen it from far)
Sar jhuka te hai auliya (Your confidents/protectors/confessors bow down to you)
Tu hai Hindalwali khwaja (You are the hindalwali Khwaja)
Rutba hai pyara (Your status is glorious/great)
Chahne se tujhko khwaja ji mustafa ko paya (By wishing/worshipping you Khwaja, I have found muhammed [the chosen one])
Khwaja mere khwaja (O saint khwaja)

Dil mein sama ja (Reside in my heart)
Shaho ka shah tu (You are the king of kings)
Ali ka dulara (Ali’s beloved)
Mere peer ka sadka (The alms of my old age)
Hai mere peer ka sadka (It is the charity of my old age)
Tera daaman hai thama (That I have come in your refuge)
Khawajaji
Tali har bala humari (All my problems/crisis have been averted)
Chaya hai khumar tera (Your trance is all over me)
Jitna bhi rashk kare beshak (No matter how much one may envy(rashk) be jealous)

Apr 17

Nothing Missed Nothing Unheard – Sri Chinmoy’s Bird Drawings

Each heart-bird of mine
Is a passport to the world
Of peace-blossoms.
-Sri Chinmoy

Soul Bird Drawing by Sri Chinmoy
Soul Bird Drawing by Sri Chinmoy

Last night a little miracle happened in my living room. I had returned from a few days of spiritual retreat and was trying to remember where I might have put a note written on a small piece of paper. I walked across the room over to where I have some files of papers, etc. and as I walked past some files stored vertically in a wire basket bought at an antique show, I looked down from above it and saw a square piece of paper inside a file folder slightly gaping open. I reached down thinking it was the note I needed.

What that paper turned out to be instead was a small original Jharna-Kala bird drawing by Sri Chinmoy done on a square piece of paper embossed with floral textured edges. In the middle was a soul bird drawing – on the right a long bird and as if tucked under its wings, two smaller birds facing the bird on the right. To the right of the birds was CKG – the form Sri Chinmoy used when signing his paintings. CKG for his full name – Chinmoy Kumar Ghose.

Sri Chinmoy drew millions of birds. When asked why he favored this theme, he said:

I am a man of prayer and meditation. For me, birds have a very special significance on a spiritual level. They fly in the sky, and the sky is all freedom. So when the birds fly in the sky, they remind me of the soul’s infinite freedom. The soul has come from Heaven. When we think of birds, we are also reminded of our Source, and this gives us enormous joy. I feel that if people come here to view these birds, their inner hunger to fly in the sky of infinite freedom will be fed.
Sri Chinmoy Answers, Pt. 3


No one was more surprised than me to find a Jharna-Kala bird drawing loose inside a folder labeled Christmas Trip Information. While I am pretty disorganized when it comes to papers and their tidy upkeep, it still seemed a remote possibility to me that I would have misplaced a Jharna-Kala bird drawing lost and forgotten in a folder for how long I cannot even remember.

Sri Chinmoy Signs Artwork - Photo by Kedar Misani
Sri Chinmoy Signs Artwork - Photo by Kedar Misani

I felt as if I had just found a rare and precious treasure. And I smiled because it felt as if God Him/Herself was talking to me with the sudden appearance of this original bird drawing by Sri Chinmoy. At the Sri Chinmoy Centre spiritual retreat I had just returned from, it was a tradition to have a sideshow as part of an amateur circus complete with prepared food and all manner of items for sale. Sri Chinmoy would bless certain purchases as part of the festivities. One area of sideshow included some of his art prints and original bird drawings and he would sign them with one’s name, etc. upon purchase.

Since this year was the first sideshow since Sri Chinmoy’s passing last October, I was lamenting that this special part of that tradition would never happen again. Even more so, I was thinking that there would never be another bird drawing or painting created by Sri Chinmoy. Granted, he drew literally millions of soul birds so it is not as if we weren’t blessed with a vast expanse of his artwork. Yet to me it still felt sad.

When I found an original bird drawing that I do not remember even owning, it seemed that my lamentation was hardly unheard or missed. Finding a bird drawing peeking out of a file folder of papers in the room adjacent to my living room made it seem as if a new bird had been created since Sri Chinmoy’s passing on October 11, 2007 after all.

I will certainly treasure this particular drawing with its air of mystery and miracle surrounding it. Most of all though I will treasure the keenness with which God seems to hear our every little thought and the kindness with which He responds to soothe our pangs of sadness.

Download Sri Chinmoy draws soul birds in Guatemala in 1997. Video by Kedar Misani, SriChinmoyTV.

See also examples of his acrylic paintings.

The human artist in me says:
“What is finished is finished.
What is complete is complete.”
The divine Artist in me says:
“Nothing can be permanently finished,
Nothing can be completely complete,
For in the inner world
Today’s destination and
Today’s perfection
Are the starting points to embark on a new journey
And to see the face of a new dawn.”
Here comes the message of my Art:
Self-transcendence is the life,
Heart, breath and soul
Of my Art.
-Sri Chinmoy in Sri Chinmoy Answers, Pt. 3

Photo of Sri Chinmoy by Kedar Misani.

Mar 17

Acts of Kindness Day Revisited – from the Big Give to to Remote Area Medical

The recent prominence of the new reality TV show called Oprah’s Big Give has brought my attention back in time to a blogging initiative from exactly three months ago today. BlogCatalog’s group called Bloggers Unite sponsored an Acts of Kindness Day last December with the intent of bloggers engaging in an act of kindness followed by blogging about it. In part a contest, one of the judges, Richard Becker, has kept the spirit alive by profiling various winning participants on his blog Copywrite, Ink.

Many of the participants weighed in on the contradiction of drawing attention to themselves and the preference for anonymous self-offering. Yet we also discussed how kindness can be contagious and that in talking about it seeds of inspiration for future kindness might grow.

One possible window beyond this conflict over intentions and charitable actions comes from Eastern spiritual wisdom. My spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy created an international humanitarian aid organization as part of his spiritual mission but emphasized that a spirit of superiority/inferiority would taint one’s efforts. Instead he taught and expressed a spirit of oneness and universality. He named the service organization run purely on volunteer efforts Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles. Sri Chinmoy states,

“Our humanitarian service is not our self-motivated, condescending act of charity to the poor and needy. It is a gigantic opportunity to feed, nourish and strengthen our own poor brothers and sisters so that they can, side by side, march along with us to proclaim the world-oneness-victory of God the Creation.”

Another renowned figure in India’s spiritual lineage, Swami Vivekananda, echoes the same perspective of viewing all human beings as being important in the eyes of God and that the person doing the giving receives more than the person receiving.

“Do not stand on a high pedestal and take five cents in your hand and say, ‘ Here, my poor man,’ but be grateful that the poor man is there so that by making a gift to him, you are able to help yourself. It is not the receiver that is blessed, but it is the giver.”

Vivekananda also eloquently expresses this concept of the brotherhood and sisterhood of all with his following words:

‘Ask nothing; want nothing in return. Give what you have to give; it will come back to you – but do not think of that now. It will come back multiplied – a thousandfold – but the attention must not be on that. You have the power to give. Give, and there it ends. ” Thus SpakeVivekananda

Since I felt like the Acts of Kindness Day (in my case 9 days of activities) did indeed impart a host of special blessings and learning, I eagerly tuned in to Oprah’s reality television show with the theme of charitable giving. While the three episodes I watched brought tears to my eyes in heart-rending and poignant moments, I ultimately am finding it hard to resonate to a show steeped in some of the structural limitations of so-called reality TV which pits contestants against each other, eliminates them until only one remains and seems to subtly reward outrageous interpersonal behavior over quiet integrity. I guess its value may outweigh these limitations if it spreads a spirit of contagion for giving.

My vote for a recent television spotlight on a charitable organization rather goes to 60 Minutes for their coverage of Remote Area Medical. Watch the episode here:

The nonprofit charity provides free medical, dental and vision care in weekend clinics. The relief efforts began primarily in under-developed countries but lately have concentrated sixty percent of their efforts in the United States serving uninsured or under-insured individuals. The founder Stan Brock, born in England, lives very simply and gives his all to offering health care to those in need. After you watch this video about this amazing spirit of self-giving and teamwork, I think you will agree that this effort is nothing less than heroic and makes you wish you were a doctor just so you could take part in this very worthy cause.

Jan 25

A Taste of the Music of Sri Chinmoy

Spiritual Teacher Sri Chinmoy composed and performed thousands upon thousands of devotional and meditative songs during his life. He wrote several books on the subject of music as well.

Ponder this captivating concept that you and everything in the world around you vibrates in an inner symphony found in his book The Height of Silence:

There are seven higher worlds and seven lower worlds. Each world has a music of its own and a note of its own. The higher worlds have a music that awakens us, inspires us, illumines us, perfects and fulfils us. The music of the higher worlds constantly comes to us as the harbinger of the highest Height, whereas the music of the lower worlds naturally comes to us as a messenger of destruction.

It is not only the higher and lower worlds that have a music of their own; each individual has his music, each movement has music, each action has music. Each time we breathe in and breathe out there is music. When we don’t pay attention to the inner depth of the action, we don’t hear the music. If we do pay adequate attention to each action, then inside the very depth of that action we are bound to hear music. Unless we hear music inside each action, the action is lifeless.
-Sri Chinmoy

Sri Chinmoy’s vast musical output (over 13,000 songs in his native tongue Bengali alone) seemed to tap into exactly what he describes in this quote about the all-pervading and infinite kinds of music accessible to the spiritually initiated. For just a small taste of his unbounded creative expression, listen to Nirab Amare performed by Kusahli Tarantsova and Rageshri Muzychenko, the musical duo Silence and Sound, a violinist and keyboard player from the Ukraine who are both students of Sri Chinmoy.

Recently I found comfort, insight and solace in contemplation of Psalm 139. As I prayed and meditated on this well-known Psalm from the Bible, its message fostered a feeling of increased intimacy with God and trust in God’s unconditional love. The Bengali lyrics of Nirab Amare translated into English resonated with this teaching found in Psalm 139 with its culmination in a close embrace by the Supreme.

Nirab Amare English Translation
Silence me,
O Self-transcendent and Self-amorous One.
Silence me!
I shall before long start worshipping You
Inside the very depths of my heart
And You will keep me always
In Your fond Embrace.

Nirab Amare.mp3

The score follows:

Nirab Amare Score
Nirab Amare Score

Jan 20

Psalm 139 and Sri Chinmoy

I recently came across a reference to Psalm 139 that led me to sit down and spend some time in reflection of this Old Testament passage from the Bible. Immediately I was struck by its eloquent expression of God’s omniscience, unconditional love, acceptance and guidance in our lives. Lessons I found in this famous psalm include:

  • God is everywhere and intimately knows the inner workings of my being and thoughts. Psalm 139: 1-6
  • Everywhere I go (heights or depths) God is still there. Psalm 139: 7-10
  • God unconditionally accepts and loves me. Psalm 139: 10-12
  • I am God’s creation. Psalm 139: 13-16
  • God’s countless acts of guidance in my life are more than the grains of sand. Psalm 139: 17-18
  • I wish to stand against all that opposes support of God. Psalm 139: 19-22
  • God knows me better than I know myself and can shape me into a better person. Psalm 139: 23-24

These lessons comfort me when I attempt to intensify my own yearnings for union with the highest divinity. Illustrating that truth is timeless across centuries and religion, I find these same spiritual lessons resonate within my Indian meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy’s writings.

Psalm 139 states, “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.”

Sri Chinmoy describes this concept of God’s omnipotence and intimate involvement in human life in his following words:

God is infinite, but He has entered into this finite body of ours which lasts for fifty, sixty or seventy years. God is infinite, but He houses Himself in each tiny child. Here in the finite, He wants to enjoy Himself and play the tune of the Infinite; it gives Him the greatest joy. It is in the finite that the Supreme in us is aspiring towards the Infinite. Finite and infinite: to our outer eyes they seem to be opposites, but in God’s Eyes they are one.
-Sri Chinmoy My Meditation-Service At The United Nations For 25 Years

His following words expand on the Biblical concept in Psalm 139 that “darkness is as light to you”

What is darkness? Darkness is nothing but very limited light. If you really enter into the inner world, you will see that in darkness also there is a very small, subtle light. Even inside blackness there is some light, infinitesimal light, because God is everywhere. If He is omnipresent, how can He not be inside even the most abysmal darkness? He is there, but He is manifested there to a very limited extent. So, evil, which is very insignificant light, will gradually, in the bosom of Infinity and Eternity, be illumined and grow into light.
-Sri Chinmoy The Hunger Of Darkness And The Feast Of Light, Part 1

Sri Chinmoy has written literally thousands of devotional poems, many of them expounding on the infinite nature of God’s Compassion. The following poem resonates with the part of Psalm 139 that states that God’s involvement in the writer’s life “Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.”

God’s invisible Eye
Observes my visible heart
With infinite Compassion.
-Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 12

Sri Chinmoy’s manner of describing the concept in Psalm 139 that we are God’s creation uses a gardening metaphor:

It is the Supreme who has created love. He has created your very existence. It is like a gardener who has created a garden with many beautiful flowers. If a flower says, “No, no, he does not love me!” is that not ridiculous? The very fact that the gardener has planted and cultivated the flowers – is this not his love? At every moment you have to feel that the Supreme does love you. Otherwise, He would not have brought you into His creation.
-Sri Chinmoy, God Is

The lesson of Psalm 139 that wherever one goes God is there – whether the heights or depths – is a very personal one for me that transcends quotes from a book or Bible. My experiences and inner teachings under the guidance of my meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy revealed this truth to me in a moment of prayer and meditation. I had been struggling for a couple of weeks with an episode of jealousy and it was heartbreaking to me to view this weakness inside myself. I prayed and prayed and meditated to try to see this part of my nature reformed. Instead of a breakthrough, I seemed to just add another layer of self-criticism onto the pre-existing jealousy.

Then a couple of weeks into this process I had a revelatory moment where I heard an inner voice tell me that if I was unable to conquer and leave this troubled place that I did not need to fear God would reject me. The voice silently told me that it would stay with me wherever I was and never stop loving me – even if I was stuck inside unhappiness over my weaknesses. To this day, now at least 4 years later, I cherish this as one of the most profound examples of God’s love. Thus when I read in Psalm 139 that “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there” I immediately think of this personal translation of this lesson made manifest in my life.

My own spiritual inspiration is greatly bolstered by the picture of God seen through the lens of Psalm 139 and Sri Chinmoy’s Eastern wisdom some 2,000 years later. To find these concepts cross over religious boundaries so easily lends credence to their universal truth. If you have never read Psalm 139, I highly recommend it. It will pull God close into your heart – a place He already is – just waiting to be discovered.