A most essential question
What convergence is there between the journey of the ascetic Tibetan yogi Milarepa and that of the little-known great French mystic of the Seventeenth Century, Madame Guyon ? between Ramana Maharshi and the famous sufi Al-Hallaj ? What is the common denominator between these extraordinary beings who, in such apparently dissimilar ways, climbed the rungs leading to the ultimate realization ? Is it not a question of the greatest importance, to conjecture about what is essential and what is of incidental value, about what is truly the core of a practice and what relates to a cultural context and epoch ?
A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive. (Albert Einstein, 1954)
“The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion…. He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness….one cannot help but be in awe when (one) contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. Albert Einstein
So that the seeker is assisted in his efforts to remain profoundly present and conscious of himself inside—a particular manner of being to which he is totally unused, but which proves to be necessary for what he seeks to accomplish in himself—the sense of mystery must remain alive in him, accompanying him everywhere and in everything he does: the mystery of this enigmatic silent call which makes itself felt in him at the most unexpected moments and which eludes him, the mystery of the Cosmos, the mystery of the aim of Creation, the mystery of his own life, of his consciousness, his mind, and so on.
Essentially, everything that exists in the manifested world is a mystery.
Is the world studied by science the only reality, or does it point to a deeper reality? Is nature a random and chance process, or a project with purpose? Can people be fully understood in terms of the natural sciences, or is there a transcendent dimension to human existence?
Jean Staune Science and the Search for Meaning
Jean Staune has degrees in the philosophy of science, mathematics, paleontology, political science, computer science, and management. He is the founder and general secretary of the Interdisciplinary University of Paris and an assistant professor in philosophy in one of Europe’s prominent business schools, the MBA program of the HEC. He has been an invited teacher in two Pontifical universities and in China’s Shandong University.
As the organizer of some of the most important meetings in science and religion in Europe, Jean Staune is in a core position to report on the dialogue between science and religion, primarily from the views of scientists
Ram Bahadur Bomjon (born c. 9 April 1990, sometimes spelt Bomjan, Banjan, or Bamjan), also known as Palden Dorje (his monastic name) and now Dharma Sangha, is from Ratanapuri village, Bara district, Nepal. Some of his supporters have claimed that he is a reincarnation of the Buddha, but Ram himself has denied this, and many practitioners of Buddhism agree that the Buddha has entered nirvana and cannot be reborn.
He drew thousands of visitors and media attention by spending months in meditation. Nicknamed the Buddha Boy, he began his meditation on 16 May 2005. He reportedly disappeared from the hollow tree where he had been meditating for months on 16 March 2006, but was found by some followers a week later. He told them he had left his meditation place, where large crowds had been watching him, “because there is no peace”. He then went his own way and reappeared elsewhere in Nepal on 26 December 2006, but left again on 8 March 2007. On 26 March 2007, inspectors from the Area Police Post Nijgadh in Ratanapuri found Bomjon meditating inside a bunker-like ditch seven feet square.
On 2 August 2007, Bomjon addressed a large crowd in Hallori jungle in Bara district of southern Nepal. The Namo Buddha Tapoban Committee, which is devoted to looking after Bomjon, assembled the meeting.
« When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and when I see not one ray of light on the horizon, I turn to the Bhagavad Gita, and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. My life has been full of tragedies and if they have not left any visible and indelible effect on me, I owe it to the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita.” (Young India: June 8, 1925)
Gandhi Bombay 1944
I am prepared to die, but there is no cause for which I am prepared to kill. Gandhi
Albert Einstein said about him :
“Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”
Become like a child,
become deaf and blind!
Your own ‘I’
must be destroyed
Every ‘something’ and every ‘nothing’ must be lost!
Let go of space, let go of time,
get rid of any image!
Tread, without a way,
The narrow path:
then you will find the trace in the desert.
Oh my soul,
get out, God in!
My entire ‘something’ may sink
into God’s ‘nothing’.
Although, on a spiritual path it is often necessary to speak of a goal to achieve in order to attempt inadequately to explain the inexplicable, a serious seeker must nonetheless remember that, as far as his spiritual practices are concerned, the goal is always located in the present.
In a certain manner, one can say that once he has embarked upon the Path, it cannot mean for him scoring a final goal one day and then everything stops there – as is the case for ordinary things or activities in this world – because that would mean the goal would be an “end” in a sort of eternal death and that there would be nothing afterwards ! In spiritual work, the goal and the present are actually inseparable; for the aspirant, each instant must become the goal, otherwise he runs the risk of giving himself all sorts of excuses; of dreaming of a goal in a far-off future and, in the interim without being aware of it, only carrying out a half-hearted spiritual practice which will lead nowhere.()
The goal repeats itself every time this movement of return to oneself or special introversion occurs in the aspirant, even if it is only for a short instant. It is the level of his being as well as the intensity of this state of presence within him which determines the level of the goal achieved. In a certain manner, there can be no end for the goal, but instead a sort of strange pilgrimage or constantly repeating adventure. If the seeker does not wish to skew his approach to this unusual quest, he will need to remember on a continual basis that the goal is a perpetual renewal, always in the present, and not a special state which he may attain in the future and in which he will settle forever.”
I had discovered this “inner sound” many years before but had never heard or read any reference to this in the Pali Canon. I had developed a meditation practice referring to this background vibration and experienced great benefits in developing mindfulness while letting go of any thoughts. It allowed a perspective of transcendent awareness where one could reflect on the mental states that arise and cease in consciousness.
‘Nada Yoga’ (meditation on the inner sound) is a practice that is known in Vedic, Buddhist and other traditions to be a powerful and liberating spiritual discipline and is also one that I have used for over twenty-five years, to great benefit. »
Ajahn Sumedho’s disciple, abbott of Amaravati monastery in the Forest lineage of the Theravada Buddhist tradition
The seeker requires concentration aids. Bodily sensation and attention to breathing comprise two excellent methods of returning to oneself in a continual now. In addition to these two aids, there is a particularly effective one to reduce inner chatter: it is the inner sound, the Nada as it is called in India, which can be heard inside the ears and head.
Meditation helps concentration of the mind. Then the mind is free from thoughts and is in the meditated form.
Meditation is sticking to one thought. That single thought keeps away other thoughts; distraction of mind is a sign of its weakness; by constant meditation it gains strength.
The mind of one meditating on a single object becomes one-pointed. And one-pointedness of mind leads to abidance in the self.
“Attention is the origin of faith, hope, and love, according to to Nicephorus the Solitary, a fourteeth-century monk of Mt. Athos,
Having banished every thought from this inner talking (for you can do this if you want to). give it the following short prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me––and force it, instead of all other thought, to have only this one constant cry within. If you continue to do this constantly, with your whole attention, then in time this will open for you the way to the heart which I have described. There can be no doubt about this, for we have proved it ourselves by experience.
Nicephorus the Solitary, Writings from the Philokalia On the Prayer of the Heart, pp 33-34, Nicephorus the Solitary was a monk who lived in the 13th century, in the troubled years of the Byzantine Empire’s slow decline. He authored a brief but invaluable text of spirituality that has become a classic, On Vigilance and the Guarding of the Heart.
The French philosopher Simone Weil said,
Vigilance is the path to Life Eternal. Thoughtlessness is the path to death. The reflecting vigilant die not. The heedless are already dead.
Internationally acclaimed conductor Gustavo Dudamel continues to share his magnetic enthusiasm for music with audiences of all ages around the world. As he begins his twelfth year as Music Director of the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, in fall 2010, he enters his second season as Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and his fourth season with the Gothenburg Symphony. Armed with unparalleled passion, energy and artistic excellence, Dudamel is dedicated to leading these orchestras, as well as to increasing his commitment to opera.
Coming from a background where being involved in music from a young age was a life changing experience, Gustavo Dudamel is devoted to investing in classical music as an engine of social change. The message of his ongoing work in Venezuela through El Sistema, which influences hundreds of thousands of children each year, is being carried now into the United States through Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA). This program for children targets underserved Los Angeles communities and continues to grow and expand under Dudamel’s leadership and that of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He is also involved in advising on pilot programs in Gothenburg, Sweden and Raploch, Scotland.
”If he attempts to grasp what happens so enigmatically in his being when he listens to certain symphonic music which conjures up in him a feeling of mystery—such as the monumental work by Gustav Holst entitled “The Planets,” or “The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian” for choir and orchestra by Claude Debussy, or “La Peri” by Paul Dukas—a refined man, endowed with acute sensitivity, will notice that an inner descent occurs in him, representing a true change of place in his being’s inner space; a change of place which will prove to be a valuable indicator of what he must try to regain during his spiritual practices.
Consequently, these great artists help listeners by the feelings of mystery that their music evokes in them, giving them, as previously said, the opportunity to be placed somewhere in their being that they never ordinarily find themselves. In fact, they cause a change of place in the inner space of the person listening to their works without his necessarily noticing what is happening within him. In this way, a great composer’s creations help mankind in a manner it could not imagine.
However, it must be emphasized that contemporary man’s intellect has developed to such a dramatic point that it has managed mercilessly to destroy any aesthetic and higher feelings in life. This phenomenon has not spared the various artistic (and even spiritual) spheres of today; it is for this reason that contemporary works of art which are created from an intellectual idea and not from an aesthetic feeling, are nothing but mere degenerate abstractions totally devoid of meaning. By abandoning tonality and the laws of harmony, symphonic music in particular has become a series of ridiculous, cold, dissonant and morbid sounds.()
When channeled, man’s attention can become a powerful instrument. It can either harm people when it is employed by someone devoid of scruples, or elevate human beings to the heights of the gods when it is used by a great artist or a saint.
It is always man’s attention which is involved in what is happening within him and in everything he does in external life—whether it be for good or bad. Only through his extremely well-developed attention does a great composer manage to produce such prodigious musical works that they uplift listeners to the point of enabling them to experience very unusual feelings which would have been impossible for them to sense otherwise—feelings which belong to a sublime world, inhabited by “Devas” (gods) and their “Gandharvas” (heavenly musicians )” .
33 years ago in a parking garage in Caracas, Dr. José Antonio Abreu gathered together 11 children to play music. El Sistema was born. It now teaches music to 300,000 of Venezuela’s poorest children, demonstrating the power of ensemble music to dramatically change the life trajectory of hundreds of thousands of a nation’s youth while transforming the communities around them.
El Sistema USA is a support and advocacy network for people and organizations inspired by Venezuela’s monumental music education program. It will grow to provide comprehensive information on the El Sistema philosophy and methodology, and host a variety of resources that will aid those building, expanding and supporting El Sistema programs in the US and beyond
ebuting the Abreu Fellows Program …
The first initiative of El Sistema USA is a one-year postgraduate certificate program for accomplished young musicians and music educators who desire to become ambassadors of El Sistema and who are committed to developing the music education miracle outside of Venezuela. Housed at New England Conservatory, Abreu Fellows will spend a year studying between Boston and Caracas, and leave with the tools to return to their communities to implement the El Sistema model.
The curriculum, teacher training materials and documentation of the Abreu Fellows Program will be freely available on ElSistemaUSA.org as a resource for all to support local El Sistema programs being developed around the country and internationally.