Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Locus communis. Some pages from my 'Commonplace book'

Some years ago, perhaps in 2004, I started maintaining a commonplace ("Commonplace" is a translation of the Latin term locus communis which means "a theme or argument of general application".) in a spiral bound notebook and a year later in a Moleskine notebook.

That moleskine was misplaced somewhere in Tokyo in March 2008, thought to have been lost. I found it in a coat pocket yesterday, and thought that it would be a good idea to post some of the stuff here. So here goes.

The last entry in the book goes:
This too shall pass. And that too.
Not always so. This is one accurate, though simplistic model of life.
But must this too be always so?
Bah! Words are lies. And so is this.
Caveat lector.
-Aalhad Saraf ;)

We have a great deal more kindness than is ever spoken... the whole human family is bathed with an element of love like a fine ether. How many people we meet, whom we scarcely speak to, whom yet we honor, and who honour us! How many we see in the street, or sit with in church, whom, though silently we warmly rejoice to be with. Read the language of these wandering eyebeams. The heart knoweth.

The ideal sage does not even cross a stream for fear of breaking its serenity: he moves slowly, as a crane treads the surface of water lightly or as a bee tenderly alighting on a lotus, lest its movements spill the pollen. He regards the very atom as a part of life and walks gently as if by compassion.
-Saint Dnyaneshwar

Gently he spreads his life below other beings feet, so that he may be a source of happiness to them and he treads the earth tenderly like a cat holding its kittens with its teeth so as not to injure them. He raises his hands only to afford protection. Never would he even dream of playing with or tossing garlands of flowers. Such a man is gentleness itself, humble and with an intense regards for all living beings and things as parts and parcels of the one and same Infinite Self.
The realized man is never affected by sorrow or by other afflictions; like the great boundless ocean, he can find room for rivers of grief without being disturbed by them. He is friendly with the whole world to the point where he cannot distinguish between himself and others.
-Saint Dnyaneshwar

The narrow minded man thinks and says - 'This man is one of us' this one is not, he is a stranger.' To the man of noble soul, the whole of mankind is but one family.
-the Hitopadesha

Beware of having an over concern for money or position or glory. Some day you will meet a man who cares for none of these things. Then you will know how poor you are.
-Rudyard Kipling in an address at McGill University, Montreal, Canada

The body is insentient and hence can neither enjoy nor suffer. Nescience gives rise to heedlessness and unwisdom; hence it is nescience alone that enjoys or suffers.
It is indeed the mind alone that is born, weeps, kills, goes, abuses others etc. , not the body. In all experiences of happiness and unhappiness, as also in all hallucinations and imaginations, it is mind that does everything and, it is mind that experiences all this: mind is man.
-III, 115, pg 97, commentary on the Yoga Vasishta by Swami Venkateshananda.

Work - not to rouse pity, win sympathy or adoration; only this -
as the logos of the state requires.
-Marcus Aurelius

All that you see will soon have vanished and those who see it will vanish themselves, and the ones who have reached old age will have no advantage over the untimely dead.
- Marcus Aurelius

To feel affection for people even when they make mistakes is uniquely human. You can do it if you simply recognize: that they're human too, that they act out of ignorance against their own will, and that you'll both be dead before long. And above all, that they really haven't hurt you. They haven't diminished your ability to choose.
- Marcus Aurelius

There is nothing more mechanical in a persons life than negative emotions.

Study the nature of wakefulness, dream and sleep states and maintain a single state of awareness in all three.
-Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, BKS Iyengar

'Sit down. Look and you will see that your thoughts come into you from outside. Before they enter, fling them back' Sri Aurobindo followed these instructions exactly, with the result that in three days, or more accurately in one day itself, his mind was filled with an eternal silence.
- introduction to the Penguin Aurobindo reader

I am made up of substance and what animates it, and neither one can ever stop existing, any more than it began to. Every portion of me will be re-assigned as another portion of the world, and that in turn transferred into another. Ad infinitum.
I was produced through one such transformation, and my parents too, and so on back. Ad infinitum.
This still holds good, even if the world goes through re-current cycles.
-Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

Start living your ideals.
Now is the time to get serious about living your ideals. Once you have determined the spiritual principles you wish to exemplify, abide by these rules as if they were laws, as if it were indeed sinful to compromise them.
Don't mind if others don't share your convictions. How long can you really put off who you really want to be? Your nobler self cannot wait any longer.
Put your principles into practice - now. Stop the excuses and the procrastination. This is your life! You aren't a child anymore. The sooner you set yourself to your spiritual program, the happier you will be. The longer you wait, the more you will be vulnerable to mediocrity and feel filled with shame and regret because you know you are capable of better.
From this instant on, vow to stop disappointing yourself. Separate yourself from the mob. Decide to be extraordinary and do what you need to do - NOW!

As a careful mother teaches her child to walk carefree, so the careful mind of the Yogi teaches the senses to be carefree. By continued practice of pranayama, the senses become free of obsession for the things they once pined for.
-Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Sri BKS Iyengar

Don't defend your reputation or intentions.
Don't be afraid of verbal abuse or criticism. Only the morally weak feel compelled to defend themselves or explain to others. Let the quality of your deeds speak on your behalf. We can't control the impression others form of us and the effort to do so only debases our character.
So if anyone should tell you that a certain person has spoken critically of you, don't bother with excuses or defenses. Just smile and reply - "I guess that person doesn't know about all my other faults, otherwise, he wouldn't have mentioned only there."
-Enchirdion, Epictetus

On character -
Of Prince Albert - 'He had the greatest delight in anybody else saying a fine saying , or doing a great deed. He would rejoice over it and talk about it for days; and whether it was a thing nobly said or done by a little child or by a veteran statesman, it gave him equal pleasure. He delighted in humanity doing well on any occasion and in any manner."

Concentrate every minute on doing what is in front of you, with precise and genuine seriousness; tenderly, willingly and with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions. Yes, you can - if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable. You see how few things you have to do - to live a satisfying and reverent life? If you can manage this - that is all even the Gods can ask of you.
-Book 2, verse 5, meditations by Marcus Aurelius

.... more later.

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