The Wisdom Tree film… a spiritual journey that traverses farther yonder!

On a dark, stormy night, driving on an empty road in Northern California, Steve Hamilton, a self-conflicted quantum physicist meets with an implausibly bizarre car accident! Dr. Trisha Rao, a compassionate but unwavering neurologist attending to Steve’s injuries, and an anguished FBI Agent, Mike Parker, attempt to untangle this baffling accident. The mystery deepens as the trio stumbles upon clues rooted in fine art, music, mysticism, spirituality, and science. The confounding clues trigger a cascade of questions; before long, the troika foresees the inevitable — the human race is at risk! With twists in the plot, this sci-fi drama progresses to avert a looming catastrophe.  A haunting background score with ethereal vocals, integral to the story, lends to the timeless dimension of The Wisdom Tree film, essentially a fiction story.

The Wisdom Tree melds quantum physics with eastern mysticism in a riveting mystery that swirls around human desires and their latent fears. The knotted plot of this sci-fi drama tangles around an exquisite backdrop of fine art paintings, Indian classical music, and new age elements, alluding that the universe is multidimensional, strange, and harmonic; and, as some eastern spiritual traditions have long maintained, “All is One”. Amidst this harmonious confluence of colors, shapes, shadows, light, space, time, mystery, math, music, and the mystical, lurks a profound question, “Could this be true?”

Recently, did you watch the film première at AMC Metreon in San Francisco? Or, their next screening in Orinda, East Bay, California? Well, if mysticism, mystery, sci-fi, spirituality, art, music are your scene, you may not want to miss this film. Ever since its private screenings earlier in 2013 at Emory University, Atlanta, and at the Science and Non-Duality Conference, San Jose, audiences and invitees have been intrigued by this indie. Here’s the small catch… it isn’t mass-distributed. Hence, you may want to sign up to request a screening in your town. If this subject excites you, you may even want to volunteer and get your friends, family, like-minded folks near you at your Meet Ups or Groups to sign up. The sooner you all sign up, and the more number of folks express interest, the sooner it will be screened in a town near you. Well, I’ll make this easy… watch The Wisdom Tree film trailer. 😉

Oh, I almost forgot to mention… the ravishing Sheetal Sheth is in the key role as neurologist, and Patrick Alparone, a fine theater actor you may know of already, plays his first film role as quantum physicist. Check them out. There are many fine actors this film has drawn. The crew also includes some eminent Oscar winners and other award nominees. Personally, it all speaks well of Writer/Director Sunil Shah, and the co-producers of the film, Laura Techera Francia and Renu Vora. There are many names you may recognize. Visit their facebook page, or join their growing number of followers on twitter… indeed, they’re active.

Explosions at Bodh Gaya!

My tympanic membrane is tired, and hardened from the continual onslaught of explosive news. Not only tired of the terrorism, I’m sickened by the endless rapes that women suffer mercilessly. Add to that the helplessness one feels, reading about the pointless deaths of hundreds, thousands – en masse!

Now, worse, am defeated by the mindless attempt at destruction of something sacred… not merely from a religious perspective; but it’s the sanctity of a brick structure that withstood the test of time, and weathered the elements for over two millennium – The Mahabodhi Temple! By using explosives, miscreants shook the foundations of an edifice that is symbolic of ‘ahimsa’, non-violence, and is sacred to millions of people across the globe.

A while back I posted photographs from a visit to the ruins of Nalanda, not far (56 miles) from Bodh Gaya in Bihar; also an institute of higher learning in Ancient India, particularly for Buddhist monks. I dread to think of the damage that depraved minds are capable of doing… and shudder at the thought of the pain they are causing those who are perhaps the few among the peace-loving people remaining in this world.

“Magaj”… cake-like dessert… from chickpeas!

This isn’t some crazy joke… I’m not kidding.

Yesterday, the god with aplomb – Ganesh ji – arrived with pomp, song and dance, at many households. In my home, he doesn’t arrive, he’s just there! Seated in several spots… Ganesh in photo frame; as art d’objet; on a Majolica-style decorative plate; as an acrylic painting … he’s settled in, oblivious to the dust settling on him. You know, Ganapati, as we refer to him endearingly, is a family member of sorts; although very fond of him, I play no special music in his honor.

Chickpea flour|Amul Ghee|Sugar|Almond Flakes|Cardamom|Slivered Almonds & Pistachios
Laddoos or Chickpea cake… they taste yummy… on Ganesh ji’s Birthday!

However, it was his birthday – in a manner of speaking – so I decided to make his favorite dessert – laddoos. Except, that I just got lazy about rolling them into little spheres; instead, poured  chickpea batter into a flat, deep steel plate (a thaali) — basically, chickpea flour roasted on low heat with dollops of Ghee warmed first in a heavy-bottomed pan; stirred continuously until the aroma fills your senses (but before it burns, naturally); then allowed to cool… then sugar & cardamom powder added, stirred in well. This then poured in thaali, as I started out to say…  note this entire viscous batter is still rather hot. This birthday boy is young; we take care of the cooling while he cools his heels.

Making Magaj… Gujarati style! ヅ

Once cool enough to eat, we then cut the ‘cake’ into cubes… nah, no candles required. If he tries to blow the candle, who knows what would happen… you see, Ganpati has an elephant-head with a trunk (yeah, he’s not exactly the normal boy from next-door… he’s special)! So… here’s the recipe for it… if you’re really interested in learning the detailed “how-to” in English, holler… if not, just enjoy the pix. Have fun… I assure you, this is made from chick-pea flour… Yummy… utterly, butterly, delicious… ummm Amul (Ghee)!

Buddhist Monks at Nalanda


Buddhist Monks at Nalanda
by chitralekhan

Modern day monks… at the ancient center of learning, in Bihar, India.

When I visited Nalanda in November of 1996, it was the Chinese Year of the Monkey… 4694 Bing-Shen! So, “What’s the context?” you may well ask… well, among the Buddhist Jataka Tales, is also a delightful but profound story about The Monkey King, stressing upon the importance of self-sacrifice.  🙂

Much of what we know today about Buddhism can also be attributed to the accounts written by renowned Buddhist monk, Xuanzang (Hsüan-tsang)… scholar & traveler sans camera! 😉 🙂

Chitralekha vs Chitralekhan… the distinction.

On a Google search for ‘chitralekhan‘, I always encounter this question: Did you mean chitralekha?

NO! I meant what I typed… gee, doesn’t Google get it! The following popped up as one of the search results… it’s fascinating. So I’m reproducing it here for my own future reference. (Not plagiarizing, please.) Incidentally, juggernaut , derived from Lord Jagannatha, holds a special place in my life.

Thank you, harekrsna.com; thanks, Wikipedia… and thanks, Google. 😉

Scroll Paintings in Lord Jagannath’s Orissa

BY: ASIS K. CHAKRABARTI

Pataua Folk Painting, West Bengal

Feb 20, KOLKATA, WEST BENGAL (SUN) — A two-part review of the tradition of scroll paintings with special emphasis on Lord Jagannatha.

Folk art is an indivisible part of folk culture. The study of folk culture in the subcontinents of India dates back to the 19th century. Some eminent personalities or connoisseurs began to study folk culture absolutely to quench their personal interest. In this respect, the names of Dinesh Chandra, Sen. Reverend Lalbehari De, Ramendrasundar Trivedi, Rabindranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore and Gurusaday Dutt should be always mentioned. Of them, Gurusaday Dutt is the foremost pioneer in the field of collection, consequation and deliberation of folk art and culture in Orissa.

As quoted by the famous Bengali historian Nihar Ranjan Roy, Gurusaday Dutt had revealed the origin and flow of folk art and culture with the insight of an expert jeweller, who can easily identify a real stone.

Folk art has been defined in various ways and words. A thorough observation of the social, historical, geographical and cultural remains of the Indian subcontinent suggests that folk art is the art form created by the rural people for the rural people, which is centered round different kinds of folk and tribal religious rites, customs and festivals. The creation of folk art needs no grammatical norms set up by any ancient author of folk art and culture. The art form that is created by the spontaneity of a rural artist in the simplest possible way with the help of natural colours and ingredients may rightly be termed as folk art.
Antiquity of Scroll Painting: Historical Backdrop

Generally speaking, ‘pattachitra’ refers to an art form or painting created on paper or cloth. The literal meaning of the works ‘pattachitra’ or ‘drawing of a patta’ seems quite absurd, and this term might have been added later on, which is why, we find even in Tagore’s songs – the words –

    Tumi Ki Kebol-i-chobi,
    Shudhu Patte likha”
    “Are you just a painting written only on a scroll?”

The word chitralekha has been in use for a very long time. In ancient India, the word ‘chitra’ signified hand-drawn pictures and inscriptions or sculpted out images. In that age, to differentiate hand-painted pictures from smeared or inscribed pictures, these were called written or “lekhya” pictures, and the practice of drawing was known as ‘chitralekhan’. In spite of being unaware of the grammatical authenticity of the word ‘chitralekha’ (writing of a picture), the Patuas have coined the term ‘pattalekha’ (writing of a scroll). The word ‘lekha’ suggests a link of the Patuas with the ancient scroll painters.

According to the concept of folk paintings being executed by the folk painter, scrolls are written rather than drawn or painted by them. In Sanskrit, ‘patta’ means ‘a cloth’. According to the history of Indian art, in ancient ages, pictures were ‘pattachitra’. The creators of ‘pattachitra’ were introduced as the ‘patuas’. On the basis of regional differences, the Patuas are classified as – pattikar, patkere, pattidar, mistry and so on.

However, the Patuas claim to have descended as a class belonging to ‘Chitrakara’, who had taken birth from celestial parents – the celestial artist, Vishwakarma and the celestial dancer, Ghritachi. Nowadays, art formS are not created on cloth, rather all the creations are produced on paper. Gazi Patta and Yama Patta, collected by Gurusaday Dutt, were made on cloth. These are now conserved in the Gurusaday Museum of Bratacharigram, Joka, Kolkata.

The Chitrakaras, or the scroll-painters, were mentioned in the 10th chapter of Brahmavaivarta Purana, written in the 11th or 12th century A.D. At a certain time, the celestial artist Vishwakarma descended from heaven and took birth in a Brahmin family. Simultaneously the celestial dancer, Ghritachi, took birth as the daughter of a gopa (milk producer) family. They got married and gave birth to nine sons: Malakara, Karmakara, Sankhakara, Kundibaka or Tantubayee, Kumbhakara, Kangsakara, Sutradhara, Chitrakara and Swarnakara.

According to the story, Vishwakarma and Ghritachi were the original parents or ancestors of the Patuas or Chitrakaras. In this regard, they are as honourable as any other artist or artisan of the Hindu society. In reality, however, Patuas are considered to be untouchable and ostracized. There is a myth behind this ostracism. An ancestor of the present day Patuas once drew the portrait of Mahadeva, the Great Lord of Hindu religion, without seeking His permission. After drawing the portrait, the artist was naturally very much annoyed and afraid as to what would happen if the Lord were to get angry with him. Incidentally, Mahadeva was just then coming by.

The painter hid the paint brush inside his mouth. Mahadeva asked the artist why had he made the brush unclean by keeping it inside his mouth. The Patua replied that he had done it out of fear. Mahadeva got angry and said that the Patua could have thrown it away. Instead he had made it unclean, so he had to accept the punishment. Then Mahadeva imprecated that from then on, the Patuas would be ostracized from the society. They would neither be Hindus nor Muslims. They would have to perform Muslim rites and work like the Hindus, i.e., they would draw pictures and read or sing.

As far as history is concerned, this is the reason behind the ostracism of the Patuas due to the imprecation of Mahadeva. So the Patuas now go to Mosques like the Muslims and draws the pictures of Hindu deities, sculpt out their images and sing the praises of Hindu deities presented on the scrolls.

The reason for the ostracism of the Patua community has been mentioned in the Brahmavaivarta Purana. Since they had violated the rules of painting directed by the Brahman, the Brahmin society cursed them. As a consequence, they have been outcasted. So, both history and folklore suggest that violation of set up norms led to the ostracism of the Patuas. This fact is further supported by Parasurama’s sloka:

    “Vyati Kramena Chitranang Sadyashchitra Karashtta Patito Brahmo shapeno Brahmonanancho kopata”Deviation from the normal art form has led the Patuas to be outcasted by the curse of the Brahmin society.

Regarding the ostracism of Patuas, Gurusaday Dutt pointed that the form of Bengal’s generalized Hindu religion is quite separate from the scriptural religion devoted only to Brahma. The eternal, independent imaginative Bengali soul could not conform to a fixed regulation set up by the scripture while performing religions rites and creating images of deities. Rather, the Bengali Patuas have formed and moulded the images of deities according to their own imagination and expression. As a result, Bengal has its own forms of Rama, Sita, Laksmana, Shiva and Durga. They bear little similarity to their original historical forms.

The generalized form of Bengali Radha-Krishna does not conform to their corresponding historical or lila form. Bengali Patua’s Sita-Rama are different in appearance and nature from their counterparts, mentioned and portrayed by Valmiki or Krittibasa. To reach the masses and to fulfill their heart’s desire and imagination, the Patuas were courageous enough to violate the rules set up by the dominating Brahmin society even at the cost of their identity and existence. They have been bold enough to reflect Bengali sentiment and spirit in their songs, on their pattas and in the moulding of images of deities.

(Reproduced from HareKrsna.com)

Teaching children to apologize… and adults as well.

The ten days of repentance for Jewish people beginning with Rosh Hashanah will conclude with Yom Kippur also considered The Day of Atonement. For the Jains, Paryushan may be somewhat its equivalent… 8 days of atonement through penance and repentance… around August-September every year; in 2009 it ended with Samvatsari on 3rd September.

Reading Lisa Belkin’s piece today, I’m reminded about a little confrontation I had a year ago with a 14-year-old niece whom I was supposed to oversee [in addition to waking her up at 6 a.m. for school, making breakfast, packing lunch for school, 4 p.m. snack,  preparing dinner, doing the dishes, doing her laundry (provided she dropped her clothes off  in the laundry-basket)…] while her parents were traveling outside the country for over two weeks. When simply inquiring why she did not call  to say she’d be late after school one evening, she yelled back at me saying she’s an adult and that I needn’t be concerned or worried about her safety! At the time, I was taken aback by her sudden volatile outburst. I responded saying that no matter what she believed, until her parents returned, I was assigned a responsibility, and the least I expected was a quick phone-call simply to state that there was some unexpected delay in returning home for a specified reason. Well, on a long distance phone call the same evening, I felt I was admonished by her parents. They said that perhaps there was something amiss in their own upbringing of their kids. It was very tiring at the time and the entire episode seemed rather silly. I ached to return home – a thousand miles away!

“But in this rude and raucous age, apologies have become pro forma. People apologize not for being offensive (“I did something to hurt you, and I am sorry”) but rather because someone might have taken offense (“If your feelings were hurt, I am sorry.”)”… quoted from The New York Times.

To all whom I may have hurt, knowingly, or unknowingly, by words or deeds, or thoughts, I humbly say Michchhami Dukkadam.

Sathvaro Radheshyam No… saath chhuti gayo, for now!

Just called up the Thakkars in the US, but Nilesh & Arpita Thakkar’s troupe, who staged the dance-ballet Sathvaro Radheshyam No, has returned to Inda. No shows in the AZ region… sorry!

But they may be back next Spring, around April 2010. Something to look forward to, I guess…

Sathvaro Radheshyam No… brought to you in the US by…

It’s Sunday and in my determination to locate the sponsors/organizers of the dance ballet production, here’s the precise theme information I found:

Gujarati Dance Ballet produced by Arpita and Nilesh Thakkar
Gujarati Dance Ballet produced by Arpita and Nilesh Thakkar
Gokul, Vrindavan, Nathdwara or say, "Shrinathji".
Gokul, Vrindavan, Nathdwara or say, "Shrinathji".

Sathvaro Radhe Shyam No… Nilesh Thakkar and Arpita Thakkar!

Yesterday I heard rave reviews from friends in Los Angeles about this Gujarati ballet.  They drove 70 miles each way on 21st July to see this fabulous production, and said it was worth every penny and every minute of their time. Having never heard these friends utter such superlatives, I was rather impressed. More so, am intrigued and eager to see this highly rated production. Would anyone know of the schedule for Sathvaro Radhe Shyam Nobeing staged in the US any time soon i n 2009? Would really appreciate the information. Thanks in advance

Blogger on Sacred Songs

When I last checked, this blog-spot had 139 songs! These numbers include Buddhist recitations, Sanskrit shlokas, Pali verse, Latin renditions, and even some Chinese & Japanese translations! A very commendable effort, indeed, Nila-Kantha-Chandra. Thank you.

My favorites:

Gayatri Mantra

Yakundendu Tushara

Vaishnava jan to tene kahiye je

Four Great Bodhisattva Vows

Folks, if you’re interested, do visit Sacred Songs to search for your favorites.