Sunday, July 29, 2012


Disturbed Minds

This city stinks,
Of piled up garbage,
And disturbed minds;
Broken pavements,
And attitudes.
Deifying  posters on the wall,
Gods and goddesses,
You have seen them all.
This stifling heat,
This sweat drenched body,
Moist hands and burning feet
People growl, they do not talk.
I see all this as I walk.
Oh! where can I see,
That speck of green,
I see only walls,
They fill this scene;
So I seek refuge on the shore,
To sit and listen,
To the waves roar,
But here I find the crowds throng,
As the sun sings its evensong.

Oh! where will I find my Solitude,
In the midst of all this multitude?

Then in the distance I could see,
An old couple staring at the sea,
Enveloped in peace and serenity.
Oblivious of the world around,
They sat in silence,
As the sun went down,
And I watched as they rose,
Hand in hand they walked away,
Into the twilight,
And the silence of the night.

The turbulences in my disturbed mind,
Slowly died at this sight,
And my Solitude, it was there,
That I had searched for everywhere.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012



In my previous posting I had mentioned that  “Duality as a subject has given rise to great works of literature. It has been man’s never ending quest to come to terms with the various forces working within him. It is the realisation that without darkness, there is no true appreciation of light”. In this posting I intend to explore the recurring theme of duality that characterises the works of Hermann Hesse, one of the greatest German novelists of the twentieth century

Long ago I read Hermann Hesse’s ‘Narziss and Goldmund’ and to this present day it still remains one of my favourite novels. In fact I love all of Hesse’s works. Throughout all his works one can sense his attempts at bringing about a balance between the two opposing forces of asceticism and the world, so that we reach a better understanding of the world and on towards self realization. In fact one senses that life is incomplete without experiencing both the states. Like in ‘Narziss and Goldmund’, the theme of duality is dealt with in ‘Siddhartha’ and ‘Demian’ effectively, one of disillusionment and the other of Order verses Chaos.

Siddhartha leaves home full of hope; asceticism fails him, so he turns to the Buddha. The Buddha fails him, so he turns to worldly life. That fails too, so he becomes a ferryman. The river flows on. Siddhartha ends on a powerful note, Hesse says that there is no ultimate success or failure; Life is like the river, its attraction is the fact that it never stops flowing.

The conclusions arrived at in ‘Demian are clear. It is question of self realization. It is not enough to accept a concept of order and live by it; that is cowardice, and such cowardice cannot result in freedom. Chaos must be faced. Real order must be preceded by a descent in to chaos. This is Hesse’s conclusion. Those who refuse to discriminate might as well be dead.

In ‘Narziss and Goldmund, Narziss is the structured and stable priest, an individualist and Goldmund is an artist and wanderer, of a passionate and zealous disposition. The book highlights the harmonizing relationship of the two characters. Narziss retires from the world into a patterned order of prayer and philosophy while Goldmund quits the monastery and to plunge into a sea of blood and lust always chasing artistic perfection. The book ends with the death of Goldmund with Narziss holding him in his arms. Golmund leaves behind the sculptures that he had been commissioned to make by Narziss for the monastery. Looking at the statues Narziss realises that Golmund without being aware of it had discovered the image of the permanent and spiritual.

In this novel and so with his other novels one is able to discern the strong influence of Nietzsche’s theory of the Apollonian and the Dionysian which he explored in his first major work ‘The Birth of Tragedy’, where he declares that Greek Tragedy achieved greatness through a fusion of Apollonian restraint and control with the Dionysian components of passion and the irrational.

In the ‘The Birth of Tragedy’ Nietzsche says “the continuous development of art is bound up with the Apollonian and Dionysian duality: just as procreation depends on the duality of the sexes, involving perpetual strife with only periodically intervening reconciliations.”

I have only spoken of Hermann Hesse here because he has always been foremost in my mind whenever I think of all the forces that we are subjected to while leading our lives and our attempts at bringing about a harmony amongst them. It is in ‘Steppenwolf’ that he brings out the multi-dimensional nature of the human being. The hero Harry Haller believes that two opposing forces, a man and a wolf, are in constant conflict within him. While he wants to live as a wolf free of all social norms, he lives as a bourgeois bachelor, which isolates him from others. The other character is Hermine, a socialite, an ideal foil to the isolated bachelor. The climax of the book culminates in the Magic Theatre where Harry is seen to murder Hermine. But whether the murder actually takes place is a puzzle.

I guess one would be reminded of an earlier work by Robert Louis Stevenson ‘Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde’ while reading ‘Steppenwolf’, where the split between Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde can be said to represent the civilized and the animalistic version of the same person.

Of course the greatest of Hesse’s works is ‘The Glass Bead Game’ which I feel is beyond the scope of this posting, a book of great intellectual and epic proportions, which ultimately won him the Nobel Prize for literature in 1946.

Friday, July 20, 2012


In My Little Room

The flower vase stood alone,
Still and elegant,
The flowers spread all around,
Withered and silent,
My memories lay strewn,
In bits and pieces,
And as I sit at my desk,
The words don’t flow easily.

Desolate days and numbing nights,
Fill the years,
That have passed me by,
The waking hours and in my sleep,
I dig and burrow deep,
To the depths of my soul,
To piece together,
To find my goal.

In the corner the lamp stands,
Dark and a fused bulb,
A lone spectator of the happenings,
Throws no light,
On my predicament.
And the walls watched,
As they joined hands,
Frightened that I may fly away.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Our entire life it seems is spent in dealing with the duality that persists in the conduct and experiencing the world around us. Why do I say this?

It starts with day and night, good and evil, and finally being and nothingness or life and death. Our entire life is a journey through these contrasts. There has to be a potential difference between two points for a flow to take place, be it electricity, magnetism or just the flow of a river. It is only when you taste bitterness that you appreciate what sweetness means. Nothing exists without its opposite.  While we understand ‘day and night’ as an occurrence which is an absolute requirement of the objective world, and a measurement of the period of our existence here, the others are entirely subjective. The mind body relationship has been introspected upon for centuries be it eastern philosophy or western philosophy. Whether it is the Cartesian Dualism or the Dvaita philosophy of Hinduism or the Yin and Yang of Chinese thought, man has had to live through the process of trying to understand the dualism that exists and seeking an answer for a unification of the conflicts within himself and in the course of living in the objective world . We can trace his efforts to relate the external world of physical objects with the internal world of mental objects within himself. Why this quest? He finds an order in the physical external world of objects, they conform to certain laws and are publicly observable, but when he comes into the internal world within himself he is unable to fully comprehend its nature except the fact that it is somehow related in a contingent manner with the external world. This is where the question of mind body relationship occurs.

Duality as a subject has given rise to great works of literature. It has been man’s never ending quest to come to terms with the various forces working within him. It is the realisation that without darkness, there is no true appreciation of light.

Let us first explore the place of Dualism in Hindu Philosophy. We have the three principal schools of thought – Dvaita, Advaita and Visisht Advaita. While Dvaita draws a clear distinction between God (Paramatma the Supreme Soul) and the Individual Souls (Jivatma), Advaita (Monism) at the other end refers to the identity of the Self (Atman) and the Whole (Brahman) and the recognition of this leads to liberation, in other words ultimately it is only Brahman that alone exists and all that dualism we experience is only an Illusion. It is the veil of Maya that has given rise to the illusion of duality. In between we have Visisht Advaita (Qualified Monism). This system of thought also advocates monism but with qualifications. As per this school, we are all flawed souls who are in this world in physical form and are therefore not Gods. To join Brahman is the ultimate goal of all souls, a soul can only join Brahman upon becoming perfect, until such time the soul will have to keep changing bodies and experience events based on its karma in-order to perfect itself and therefore - continues the cycle of birth and death.

We see that all these schools of thought recognise the fact of two entities, one the individual and the other the Supreme being. The differences have been only at the way of bringing about a synthesis. While Dvaitha Philosophy advocates that it is never possible for the Individual soul to merge with the Supreme, the other two do believe that the Individual Soul and the Supreme will ultimately have to be one, either by lifting the veil of Maya (Advaita) or through perfecting the Individual Soul through successive births to ultimately merge with the Supreme. This is a simplistic way of looking at these schools of thought and is only from a laymans point of view.

All the dualities I have outlined above – dark and light, male and female, cold and hot etc are all thought of as manifestations of the Yin and Yang in Taoist Philosophy. When one looks at the symbol the Taijitu by which Yin and Yang are represented we notice how though they are contrary forces are interconnected to form the complete picture. Reproduced below is a description of the Taijitsu symbol and its significance in respect of the Taoist Philosophy,

“At its heart are the two poles of existence, which are opposite but complementary. The light, white Yang moving up blends into the dark, black Yin moving down. Yin and Yang are dependent opposing forces that flow in a natural cycle, always seeking balance. Though they are opposing, they are not in opposition to one another. As part of the Tao, they are merely two aspects of a single reality. Each contains the seed of the other, which is why we see a black spot of Yin in the white Yang and vice versa. They do not merely replace each other but actually become each other through the constant flow of the universe.”

All the great religions of the world whether it be Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity etc converge on the fact that there is an individual and a God or to put it as the Individual soul and the Absolute,  the Atman and the Brahman and spelling out ways of a synthesis between the two to arrive at an understanding of the world and a meaning to life. They give hope to the individual of a liberation from the seemingly endless cycle of life and death.