Selections from the Upanishads

He knew that Brahman is bliss. For truly, beings here are born from bliss. When born, they live by bliss. And into bliss when departing, they enter.

-- Taittiriya Upanishad 3.6.1

The face of truth is covered with a golden disc. Unveil it, O Pushan, so that I, who love the truth, may see it.
O Pushan, the sole seer, O Controller, O Sun, off-spring of Prajapati, spread forth your rays & gather up your radiant light that I may behold you of loveliest form. Whosoever is that person (yonder) that also am I.

-- Isha Upanishad 15-16

I have overcome the whole world. I am brilliant like the Sun.
He who knows this, knows the secret wisdom.

-- Taittiriya Upanishad 3.10.5

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Fan Kuan's masterpiece

Only an object of sublimity
Can stir the deepest depths within man's soul;
In narrow confines men grow narrow,
But greater when their goals are higher set.
-- Friedrich Schiller, Prologue to Wallenstein (1799)

Chinese monumental landscape painter Fan Kuan's "Travelers amid Mountains and Streams", one of the most magnificent depictions of the grandeur of Nature. One of the greatest works of art to come out of China, and the prime example of Taoist art. Typically, the interpretation is on the bigness of Nature compared to the smallness of man, given the diminutive figures of men & animals at the bottom right corner of the painting. I think a little differently. I'd rather suppose we, with our highly limited dreams, in our actual physical smallness, are being called on to look at a vision of greatness which we are compelled to grasp, aspire to, and attain. Hindu philosophy says: Praano Viraat: Life is Immense. God, the Light & the Life of All, is Immense. Man is fundamentally & ultimately Immense. He has to KNOW that he IS Immense. For me, this painting is a depiction of man's intuitive grasp of the presence of God in Nature. Because it is a projection of IMMENSITY: of the unshakable & enduring - the mountain being a symbol not only of spiritual ascension & height, but also of permanence, magnificence, and eternality. It is in such aspects of the universe, as projected in this painting, that man grasps - at once, immediately & directly within himself - the Call to Union with the Immense. He kneels in reverence at the glory of Creation - not to acknowledge his smallness as the final word on himself - but in his longing & love for greatness, which indicates HIS greatness - and grasps that it is not an impersonal world of abstractions & indifferent laws, but an intensely PERSONAL universe where our soul truly belongs - that Existence itself is a Revelation. And that we see the meaning of our lives with luminous clarity only when we realise that Nature's message is the call to revere & to love - to adore the pinnacles of possibilities, to rise, to EXPAND - & to grasp the "greater than the great" - the Creator behind the Creation. Beauty & magnificence exist - in Nature - as depicted in this painting - and that they exist takes man to the heart of the secret of existence, of life, of Self. In his adoration of immensity, lies the secret of his own (spiritual) immensity. Herein lies the source of the impulsion to seek & get, the catalyst, the fuel, a symbol of the ultimate. This painting gives an immediate vision of the Immensity of Creation, & hence, of the Creator - of God - and through our rapturous adoration of this Immensity, an insight into our own spiritual grandeur. Symbolically, it gives a direct glimpse of all that we seek to be - all that we aspire for - & evokes a forceful longing to attain it.

(This painting was obtained from Wikimedia Commons. I have altered the original slightly, by increasing the brightness & contrast.)

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