Looking beyond

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Look beyond the fence. You will meet the scared little kid who longs for a playmate. Go play with him.
Look beyond the border. Make friends with equally beautiful humans who live a different life.
Look beyond countries. They all contain humans who need understanding, compassion and love.
Look beyond religion. Everyone has the right to have their own beliefs. We can still be good and kind to one another.
Look beyond the colour of skin. Every human being is beautiful.
Look beyond the barriers of States. Don’t we belong to the same country?
Look beyond gender. We are all equally capable individuals.
Look beyond language. We don’t need words to communicate most of our thoughts.
Look beyond age. Sometimes the best wisdom comes from little children.
Again look beyond age. Do not underestimate the power of experiences from the old man.
Look beyond money. The best things in life are priceless.
Look beyond the false compliments. Beware of fake individuals.
Look beyond criticism. Your well wishers do that for a purpose.
Look beyond profession. Dedication and hard work is what matters.
Look beyond makeup. The beauty of the soul makes all the difference.
Look beyond gadgets and wifi. The look in the eyes of your loved ones will speak volumes more.
Look beyond Instagram and Snapchat filters. The original picture is the more real one.
Look beyond Facebook. Noone lives a life as secure as the one that they post.
Look beyond the quirkiness. The woman’s past will explain her idiosyncrasies.
Look beyond the shyness. An introvert often has the most elaborate stories to share.
Look beyond the words. The poet’s mind will open up an avenue to you like none other.
Look beyond the words. Get a glimpse into the author’s life.
Look beyond failures. Learn and rise high from them.
Look beyond your own past. What you do and are today is what matters.
Look beyond. Open a new world. Do not be scared of updating your concepts.


In the end, look beyond looking beyond. Interpret, think and then perceive 


We are all forming opinions too strong and too fast these days. We could do with some more openness of mind what say? 

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Udaipur city as seen from the city palace (Rajasthan, India)

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The Buddhist Prayer Flags

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Buddhist worship places (monasteries) as also homes are characterized by the presence of Prayer flags found tied to rooftops. They bear the mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ written on them, and are considered to bring good luck, peace, health and harmony. These appear extensively in photographs and movies. The sight of these colourful flags fluttering against a clear blue sky, always makes for a very soothing and positivism inducing photograph. I have had a fascination for these since a long period of time.

I always wanted to hang these at home for all the positive vibes and good luck that they bring; and of course for the beautiful colour filled sight they create. There are several Buddhist regions in and around India and many of my friends who have visited these places have gifted me these prayer flags as souvenirs from their trips. However, something always stopped me from putting these up at home. I always felt that I needed to experience the sight of these flags in person to really bring back a part of it home. And so, despite having many sets of these flags, I decided that I ll hang them up at home only when I get an opportunity to truly experience the sight of these and have a memory to go back to, upon looking at these at home.

I was fortunate enough to visit the Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh earlier this year. Spiti Valley is a cold desert area in the Himalayas, composed of small Buddhist villages. The place is home to some of the highest villages in the world and has very old monasteries that have tremendous historical significance in the Buddhist culture. And thus I finally got to witness many pretty sights of the prayer flags at the Buddhist villages in Spiti! Through discussions with the local people, I learnt a lot more about these flags and the Buddhist prayers on this visit, making it one of the memorable aspects of this trip.

To briefly update on the prayer flags and the mantra written on them, these flags are in groups of 5 flags; with either the format Om Ma Ni Padme Hum or Om Mani Pae Me Hum. Each alphabet is written on one flag and bears one of the fixed colours blue, white, red, green, yellow (symbolizing the five elements of Nature). Some flags may have more elaborate descriptions written as well. These sets of 5 flags appear in repeats along the string which is used for hanging/tying these to doors or roof tops. Sometimes these are also present in a vertical way, arranged one below the other along a rod/stick. These vertical kind of prayer flags are often found at monasteries, stupas and places of worship.

The mantra written on these flags symbolizes a way of transformation of one’s impure self to the pure self of Buddha. I love this underlying philosophy of the Buddhist way which acknowledges that no person is born without any flaws. Every person has his or her own impurities and flaws. All good qualities are also contained within us itself; which can be emphasized upon and built up to attain the pure self of Buddha. Chanting these prayers is a way of invoking our inner compassionate self, overcoming our impurities and connecting to Buddha.

The literal meanings of the mantra is as follows:

Om        :Body, speech, mind of self and of Buddha

Mani     : Literal meaning ‘jewel’. Represent a method of connection, of enlightenment

Padme  : Literal meaning ‘Lotus’. Represents wisdom required to rise above self

Hum    : Representation of invisibility. Signifies union of methods and wisdom for self enlightenment.

With this amazing philosophical message attached, the Buddhist prayer flags attain a special significance in these villages.  In my visit to the Spitian villages, I noticed that these prayer flags were a prominent feature. You see them adorning the rooftops of almost all houses, shops, and commercial buildings in this area. The composition of the village and settlement in general, has a very soothing and positive look due to these flags. It’s as if the prayer flags are caretakers of that region. With their positive vibes, good luck, and a command over the forces of nature, they make for a security force of the village. For me personally, this was the first experience of looking at so many prayer flags, full and rich with colour, all around me. And I experienced a serenity and peace like never before.  As these flags flutter with the wind, they seem to spread a beautiful sort of positivism towards you. They represent good luck, optimism and above all a path of enlightenment that you may have been searching for or were stuck at.

There are times during travel when all you want to do is pause, look around and soak in the place, close your eyes and make a memory. I call it the creation of a mind photograph. Generally, I end up getting this feeling primarily while being amidst nature. But with the prayer flags, it probably is the first man-made thing that made me stare at it for hours and build up a memory so quiet, so peaceful, almost meditative.

Needless to say, I was completely in love with these flags on this trip. I ended up clicking lots of pictures of these as they sat on every home, every stupa, every monastery, every construction site, every bridge. What will follow here is a photo series of these flags as I captured them at different locations in the villages. I hope through these pictures, I can manage to convey to you at least a fraction of the peace and excitement that I witnessed by looking at these.  I wish you all an opportunity to witness the fluttering of these flags in a native land!!

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En route to Spiti Valley, Kinnaur Kailash range, Kalpa

 

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Spitian home, Tabo

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A stupa at the Dhankar Lake, Dhankar

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Spitian home, Kaza, Spiti

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The Old Monastery, Dhankar

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A random click while driving through Spitian villages

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A bridge near Pin Valley

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A bridge near a contruction site

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Prayer flags at the Stupa at Langza

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Fluttering high above our heads! Komik, Spiti

 

 

 

Doodling to elevate my spirits!

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via Daily Prompt: Elevate

The need to elevate a lowered spirit in life is universal. Across ages, gender, countries, professions, ethnicity – we all face dejection and failures and disappointments and end up losing our positive moods at times. As we go through more of such experiences, we end up making our own formulas for mood elevation when needed. I have several different mood elevation mechanisms – watching a good animation movie, a cup of fresh strong coffee, a walk up the hill and doodle art. I have already written a post about one of these viz; My love for animation movies (https://thecuriouscrackle.wordpress.com/2017/06/17/my-love-for-animation-movies/). Today I will talk in brief about one more spirit elevation method which is doodling out patterns on a blank piece of paper. A blank sheet of paper is very soothing to look at. It’s clutter and mess free. So if I am feeling negative in my mind, looking at it gives me an ‘erasing’ effect on my lowered moods. Further on, it hands over to me a power to create and put up something on the blank sheet. I love to scribble on such pages with different doodling patterns. My favourite ones are the zentangle patterns which I use to either fill up or create new shapes. Most of the times I do this activity in an almost sub conscious way and allow the art to emerge on it’s own. Putting in concentration and focused energy on the zentangle structures acts like a natural and healthy mood elevator. And then after a while as the patterns emerge, it gives me a very satisfying feeling. It also somehow helps me feel ‘sorted’ and helps me gain a better control over my thoughts. Definitely one of the best spirit elevation activities ever.

Zentangle doodle examples

Some Zentangle pattern doodles drawn by me in the process of spirit elevation

The Parijaat Tree

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I try and go for morning walks as often as possible. And when I do so, I notice some elements are common everyday and some highly variable. There are some fellow walkers who are regulars and I see them around the same time that I go. And likewise there are some regular landmarks and places that show a similar state of activity at the fixed time. What I routinely see are the opening of a breakfast joint and a grocery store, a grandfather with his granddaughter at the bus stop waiting for her school bus, street cleaners beginning the sweeping of roads among other things. The route that I take has tall old trees at every landmark turn and I say hi to all of them as I pass by. It’s as if the day is starting out for them as well. Among my everyday regular events these days, is one superbly beautiful thing that I witness every day – a dense carpet of small white flowers below a tree at the turn. These belong to the Parijaat tree, and make for one of the prettiest sights you can ever witness.

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Flowers of the Parijaat tree that have fallen on the ground below the tree

The Parijaat is a shrub like tree found in South and Southeast Asia and in many parts of India. In the Hindu mythology, this has a special importance since it was one of the valuables churned out during the Samudra Manthan. It is a tree that was initially planted in heaven by Lord Indra as per legend. There are several mythological stories associated with it.
This tree bears one of the prettiest flowers ever seen. These are small, white in colour and possess 5-8 petals. The flowers have a bright orange tip at the center and an orange coloured stalk. This combination of milky white petals with an orange stalk is very beautiful and I find the colours in general to be soothing to the eye. Indeed there is nothing more relaxing than looking at the mat of white and orange in various orientations on the ground beneath the Parijaat tree. These flowers are quite fragrant. The fragrance is not very strong; but is extremely sweet and soothing. It’s a reasonably long lasting fragrance and just like the colours and composition of the flower, has a calming effect on my mind.

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The Parijaat tree in my neighbourhood

The most interesting part of this tree however comes from a different aspect of its flowering. The peculiarity of this tree is that its flowers bloom at night (dusk) and begin to fall at dawn. They are short-lived. The fragrance of these flowers also peaks at night and continues up to the wee hours of the morning. This tree is rightly called the Night flowering jasmine. And hence when you look at the tree during the morning, you will see a dense carpet of the flowers that had opened at the previous dusk and have now fallen off at dawn. If you look at it in the very early hours of the morning, you might be able to see the falling of the flowers. It generally falls one at a time, in a prompt way, in the most noiseless way possible. I have looked at this fall several times and have always been so mesmerized by it that despite deciding several times, I forget to record one as an example. If I manage it someday, I will share it here.

A few months back I read that this tree is actually called the Tree of Sorrow by some. Its scientific name is Nytcanthes arbor-tristis which literally translates to night flowering tree of sorrow. I found this somewhat weird. Turns out, there are a couple of stories which describe curses that were bestowed upon this poor tree because of which its flowers will not live long. Another story links it to an anger and sadness associated with the sun because of which its flowers fall off at dawn. Overall, there is a fair degree of sadness associated with this beautiful, rather mysterious tree. Somehow I have always struggled to accept this sadness. I often ask this tree, “Oh dear Parijaat, are you indeed so sad? Is it your sadness that is reflected through these short lived beautiful flowers that fall down at dawn? ” And the Parijaat, like a calm composed warrior; just smiled back.

 

The way I see it, the noiseless shedding of flowers by the Parijaat is more a reflection of its selflessness than sadness. It’s as if the tree can very effortlessly let go of the beautiful things that it possesses (the flowers) once their fragrance is beginning to fade off. It takes over the task of spreading fragrant joy at night; which is not shown by many trees. It’s like the night-duty guard who takes up the task which many will often not take up due to its lack of comfort. The tree has tremendous beauty. To call it one of the most pretty divine creations on this earth will certainly not be an understatement. Yet, the tree is not possessive of these beautiful flowers and lets go of them with ease. The flowers also fall so noiselessly. And tell us how to remain calm and endure your destined falls peacefully.

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Holding the little beauties!

Indeed, dear Parijaat, you represent to me a steady calm mind, true selflessness and a gritty endurance in your own ways. You have a unique class of beauty and some of the loveliest colours in your flowers. The simplicity of structure of the flowers and leaves makes it even more appealing to me. I don’t know if I am right or wrong on this, but I cannot call you the Tree of Sorrow ever 🙂

 

Intricate window structure

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via Photo Challenge: Structure

The intricate window structure at the Udaipur Palace, Rajasthan, India

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This picture shows a window in the famous palace at Udaipur in the state of Rajasthan in India. Intricate patterns on windows are a common feature in palatial heritage buildings in Rajasthan. This one happened to be even more interesting – with several different structural patterns in different sections of one big window overlooking the big city.