Sunday, July 25, 2010

Here a chirp, there a chirp

Slow down, take a deep breath. Listen to the birds and let the melody relax you.

Just listen: Sweet sound of music.

Who wouldn't love to listen to bird song? Stop and listen to the liquid notes that come floating through the trees. A composition with bird songs or bird calls is nothing short of a beautiful creation.

A. J. Mithra, the music teacher, at the M.C.C. Campus Matriculation School, Tambaram has put together songs of birds to make a composition that would be the envy of any composer.

While downloading music, he says he came across bird calls that got him interested in the beauty of the sound. "It was like walking in a jungle," he smiles. Later while travelling on his bike, he heard a bird song and thought it was the ringtone of his mobile phone. From then, he took to bird watching and "bird hearing".

Sing a song

The MCC campus is a bird watchers' paradise and the school is situated inside the campus. Mithra got the school kids involved — they listened to the birds and this eventually led to bird watching. The kids often go on many bird walks and now are able to identify the bird by the call.

"When we go on a bird walk, we have to be very, very quiet. We can hear them but we can't see them most of the times. We first heard the sound "cu, cu cu" and then we saw the cuckoo," says R. Steffi Jones Evangeline of Std. V.

The students are also on the lookout for wounded birds and have tended a hurt crow back to "health". Bird feeders and water spots are soon to be installed.

The birds they see: Beulah Praise Kathryn, V; Alex, V; Sarah Jacob, IV - MCC Campus School Oriental magpies are a melodious species, says Mithra. They literally "sing" and are believed to sing around 15 to 20 tunes improvising on it all along.

The Black Drongo is aggressive, they fight and suddenly seem to make up — their call sounds like a hiss, with something of a mocking tone.

The common Iora carries on a kind of trilling conversation, which is also a territorial call. Mithra has composed a piece of music with 15 different bird songs titled "Walk through the woods".

There are more than 90 species on campus he said and when the lake is full, migratory birds and waders are frequent visitors.

Constant listening to the song of birds and watching them, learning about their habits and their "lifestyle" will help us understand our feathered friends.

Bird box:

The dawn chorus is important as it shows that they are alive. So they sing lustily.

Females imitate the males, to scare predators or to inform the male about the predator.

Birds are important as they are sowers, pollinators, scavengers and pest controllers.

Take care to keep water to drink not overfeed them. They get too heavy to fly and the next generation might have smaller wings.

Gift a bird friendly tree to your school.

Do not prune trees as birds do not come to pruned ones.

Links to listen:

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/celebration/community/aj-mithra

http://www.youtube.com/user/ajmithra

http://www.bnhsenvis.nic.in/Kids%20corner%20-%20AJ%20Mithra%20videos.htm

http://www.welovebirds.org/profile/ajmithra

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Kamashastra or Art of Love - Sex and Hinduism

By: Nithin Sridhar

Mar-27-2008

Ivarta


 

"Her lap is a sacrificial altar; her hairs, the sacrificial grass; her skin, the soma-press.

The two labia*(lips) of the vulva are the fire in the middle." [Brihad-Âranyaka Upanisad, 6.4.3]

"This man (ama) am I; that woman (sâ), thou!

That woman, thou; this man am I!

I am the Sâman; thou, the Rig!

I am the heaven; thou, the earth!

Come, let us two together clasp!

Together let us semen mix,

A male, a son for to procure!" [Brihad-Âranyaka Upanisad, 6.4.20]1

Whenever the issue of Love, Nudity, Sex and Hinduism comes into picture, we usually get any one of the following reactions-

1] The Westerners in general and Western scholars doing South Asian studies [for example RISA 2] in particular, and their Indian counterparts who consider Hinduism to be mix of voodoo and pornography.

2] The Hindu orthodox which thinks sex is a taboo.


 

Now I will examine, how valid is both of these perspective.

Hindu Purusharthas:

Purusharthas means objectives of a human being. They are the canonical four ends or aims of human life. They serve as pointers in the life. The four Purusharthas from lowest to highest-

Kama - pleasure or desire

Artha - wealth

Dharma - righteousness or morality

Moksha - liberation from the cycle of reincarnation

According to Kama Sutra, "IN the beginning, the Lord of Beings created men and women, and in the form of commandments in one hundred thousand chapters laid down rules for regulating their existence with regard to Dharma, Artha, and Kama." 4 Further it says- "MAN, the period of whose life is one hundred years, should practise Dharma, Artha and Kama at different times and in such a manner that they may harmonize together and not clash in any way. He should acquire learning in his childhood, in his youth and middle age he should attend to Artha and Kama, and in his old age he should perform Dharma, and thus seek to gain Moksha, i.e. release from further transmigration.."

So, according to Hindu scheme of thing, even though Enlightment is the ultimate goal of life, it encourages people to enjoy everything and fulfill all material desires. Moksha is a long process. It can be achieved only when all material desires are quenched. And hence, Hindu religion prescribes 2 methods, the path of renounciates, the path of householder. There is one more less popular but more maligned path of within "Tantras" which accept everything material, everything condemned as taboo and hence aims to rise above the animalistic desires.

Sex as Yajna:

Yajna or sacrifice is derived from root word "Yaj". It means Worship or offering an oblation.

Max Muller defines Yajna is an act by which we surrender something for the sake of gods".

Sex is worship. It is an act by which the couples surrender their ego, in order to gain pleasure, progeny, eventually even enlightment.

"Her lap is a sacrificial altar; her hairs, the sacrificial grass; her skin, the soma-press. The two labia of the vulva are the fire in the middle. Verily, indeed, as great as is the world of him who sacrifices with the Vâjapeya ("Strength-libation") sacrifice, so great is the world of him who practises sexual intercourse" (Brhad-Âranyaka Upanisad)

These verses clearly shows that, sex was treated as a form of worship, an act to not only fulfill one"s desires and gain pleasures, but also as an act of sacredness.

Sex as Meditation: In Vigyana Bhairava Tantra8, during a conversation between Shiva and Shakti, Devi Asks:

O Shiva, what is your reality?

What is this wonder-filled universe?

What consttutes seed?

Who centers the universal wheel?

What is this life beyond form pervading forms?

How may we enter it fully, above space and time, names and descriptions?

Let my doubts be cleared!

So, Shiva explains her 112 methods of meditation to attain enlightment. He says-

At the start of sexual union

Keep attentive on the fire in the beginning,

And so continuing, Avoid the embers in the end.

When in such embrace your senses are shaken as leaves, Enter this shaking.

Even remembering union, Without the embrace.

These verses clearly indicate how sexual act can be utilized for achieving enlightment.

Enlightment is a state, when all egos vanish. As in a sexual act, the couple leaves behind their ego and unites with each other and achieves sexual ecstasy. This very thing can be utilized to achieve spiritual ecstasy.

Kamashastra:

It is the study of "Sixty Four" arts like- Singing, Playing on musical instruments, Dancing, Union of dancing, singing, and playing instrumental music, Writing and drawing, Tattooing, etc. "Kamasutra" or the "art of lovemaking" only a part of this Shastra.

Is Hinduism pornography and Tantra a sex manual? The straight answer is a simple No. It is Victorian mentality which condemns any depiction of sex. Hinduism recognizes the role of sexual desires in human lives. The sexual depictions in some of the temples were mean to not only educate the people, but also to help those who were involved in sexual sadhanas for enlightment. There is a difference between Nudity and expression of beauty and pornography. What appears in Hindu puranas and Itihasas are the expressions of genuine beauty and not pornography.

"Tantra" is a much maligned word. "Tantra" actually refers to vast body of literatures called "Agamas" which are practical manuals for meditation. There are many Shaiva, Shaktha, Pancharatra Agamas. Using sex for meditation is prescribed in only few of the so many different paths described in Agamas. So, it is very wrong in equating Tantra with Sex.

Some Social Issues:

Sex Education: Sex education had always been present in Hindu history. Vatsayana says, both men and women should learn Kamashastra10.

Pre-Marital Sex and Love Marriages: In Hindu society sex was always considered to be individual choices. There are many instances in our history and scriptures depicting pre-marital sex and love marriages. So, crying out against them as being anti-Hindu is not quite proper. Manusmrithi recognizes 8 kinds of marriages of which "Gandharva Marriage11" is one of them. It is the voluntary union of a maiden and her lover, which arises from desire and sexual intercourse for its purpose.

The same can be said about extra marital affairs. As they are personal affairs, we should let individuals to decide about it. Hindu society has always given this much freedom to its people.

Conclusion: In Hindu society sex is neither a taboo nor pornography. Sex is sacred. Sex is recognized as human desire which should be satisfied and which can be used to attain the ultimate goal of enlightment.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Witness the Opening of Commonwealth Games

Dear Music Lovers,

If you play on Sitar as a hobby and wish to be a part of the Cultural Bonanza on the occasion of the upcoming Commonwealth Games, to be held in New Delhi, India, please contact the following persons:

Dr. Ravi Sharma

Mob: 09873107335

Dr. Vedprakash Sharma

Mob: 9013000251

Or send your queries to:

Vedprakash.sharma@gmail.com

Twenty-five Sitarists with other artists from different sections will be presenting a musical feast at the inauguration ceremony of the Commonwealth Games on 3rd Oct, 2010.