Journey to the Light and back

I came across this fascinating near death experience (NDE) story recently. I’ve read many NDE stories, been hearing about them since my childhood, but this story goes beyond the typical Christian allegories one finds in NDE parables. There’s no angels, bugles, family members.

An NDE occurs on those rare occasions when a person medically dies, comes back to life shortly after, and remembers the experience during that interlude between death and life.  A but different from most of us who remember our experience between life and death.

It is said that just as in life, so too in death (or near death), our experiences are shaped by our core beliefs. NDE accounts have varied based on the religious and spiritual beliefs of the person who has died. So perhaps, because  Mellen-Thomas was not tied to a particular religious belief and was learning spiritual theories / alternative healing at the time of his death, his NDE is far more abstract. In my case, it was particularly appealing.

The theory that the external world is manifested by the inner set of beliefs and impressions in the sub-conscious finds its place in this account. This is an age old theory in various spiritual philosophies, such as Vedanta, Samkhya and Kabalah. In fact, some of the Pratyahara practices in Raja yoga, as well as the practice of yoga nidra, are aimed specifically at resolving the impressions and conflicts in the inner consciousness.

Recently, this theory is gaining mainstream popularity. While Shakti Gawain’s “Creative Visualization” has been around for a while, various self help books espousing techniques to manifest one’s outer world have become bestsellers in recent years. Some examples are “Ask and it is Given” by Abraham-Hicks and the extremely commercial “The Secret”.

One will find many other commonalities with A Course in Miracles, Advaita, Vendanta, and Buddhism. There is a remarkable similiarity with the first experience of enlightenment as described by many self-realized souls such as Paramahamsa Yogananda, Shri Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, J. Krishnamurthy, and so on…

At this point, I found myself in a profound stillness, beyond all silence. I could see or perceive FOREVER, beyond Infinity.

I was in the Void.

When I say that I could see or perceive forever, I mean that I could experience all of creation generating itself.

Near-Death Experience NDE Story
of Mellen-Thomas Benedict: Journey Through the Light and Back


Poem for the week

One of my favourites, although the author, Sheenagh Pugh, is as sick of it as John Lennon was with Yesterday.


Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail.
Sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war,
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best intentions do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen; may it happen for you.

A step closer to deciphering the Indus Valley script

Many controversies have raged about whether the script on the Indus Valley seals was a language, or just symbols. The Hindu has an article on a statistical study that gives evidence that the script is indeed a language. This is an important break through the thicket of murky conjecture and debate around the Indus Valley civilization.

An example of an Indus Valley seal (Possibly depicting a yogi)
Indus Valley Yogi

Link to the Hindu article

Natural Wonders of the world

Although it wasn’t intended as such, but Earth Day on April 22 makes this posting a happy coincidence.

I came across a link, Fantastic Wonders of Nature , on my monthly pronoia (yes, it is the opposite of paranoia) newsletter. It’s a link to a blog that contains photos of some pretty fascinating occurrences in nature. The pictures below are examples of Mammatus clouds. To quote

True to their ominous appearance, mammatus clouds are often harbingers of a coming storm or other extreme weather system. Typically composed primarily of ice, they can extend for hundreds of miles in each direction and individual formations can remain visibly static for ten to fifteen minutes at a time.

Mammatus clouds

Fantastic Wonders of Nature

A poem to start the week: A Slip of Comet

I was recently gifted a collection of poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins, a british poet of the 19th century. He studied at Balliol College, Oxford, worked in various posts all over England, and lived the last 5 years of his life as a professor of Greek and Latin literature at the recently formed Catholic University College, Dublin. He died very young, in his 49th year, from typhoid.

The poem below is one of his earlier pieces. The first three lines are striking. The subject is as vast as the cosmos, and yet brims with individual humility. The poem is rich in imagery and in its subtle allegory to our own experiences in the journey of life and death.

I am like a slip of comet,
Scarce worth discovery, in some corner seen
Bridging the slender difference of two stars,
Come out of space, or suddenly engender’d
By heady elements, for no man knows;
But when she sights the sun she grows and sizes
And spins her skirts out, while her central star
Shakes its cocooning mists; and so she comes
To fields of light; millions of travelling rays
Pierce her; she hangs upon the flame-cased sun,
And sucks the light as full as Gideons’s fleece:
But then her tether calls her; she falls off,
And as she dwindles shreds her smock of gold
Between the sistering planets, till she comes
To single Saturn, last and solitary;
And then she goes out into the cavernous dark.
So I go out: my little sweet is done:
I have drawn heat from this contagious sun:
To not ungentle death now forth I run.

Satyajit Ray’s Parash Pathar – A review

If you think that Ray’s funny movies are limited to Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne and its sequel Hirok Rajar Deshe, then, to quote Meatloaf, “STOP RIGHT THERE!”

Turn around, find yourself a good DVD store or a city running the First Light festival of Satyajit Ray movies, and watch Parash Pathar.

Ray made this movie during a break in the filming of Jalsaghar (The Music Room), but you wouldn’t know it. Right at the beginning of the film, Ray keeps the camera pinned on Paresh Dutta (Tulsi Chakravarti) as he walks along the sidewalk in front of the Governor’s mansion in Dalhousie. It’s a quintessential Ray scene. As Paresh frets and fumes his way home after being laid off at the age of 55 from his job as a bank clerk, all of his personality is bequeathed to us. It sets the stage for us to understand why Paresh does what he does when he accidentally finds the paresh pathar (The Philosopher’s stone).

Based on a short story about the discovery of a stone that turns everything it touches into gold, the movie is a delightful satire of society success and individual greed. As Paresh transforms his decrepit household into a mansion, his wife mourns their loss of piety even as she desires a beautiful necklace. The pilgrimages to Kashi and Hardwar are constantly postponed, and Paresh dreams of running for office.

When is enough,enough? The age old question sits on the edge of our tongues as Ray guides his characters expertly through the moral crisis of wealth.

Ray supposedly wrote this movie specially for Tulsi Chakravarti, and it shows. The camera lingers on Paresh, we see his eyes bulge, we see his mouth tighten, we see his cheekbones relax. We feel his fears, and we sense his discomfort at having become rich without effort. Tulsi is especially funny while getting to indulge in his love of acting while delivering a public speech on the heritage of Bengal. The language used by Ray is deliciously inane, powered by the exaggerated histrionics of Tulsi Chakravarti.

All through the movie, caricatures abound. The anglicized Bengali, Subodh Percival Chatterjee, softens when he meets his compatriot, Priyotosh Henry Biswas. The Bengalis doctor chants in charming English “Please breathe deep” as he turns on the X-Ray machine. The comedy is blacker than coffee, and sharp.

However, the movie does not have the finesse of Charulata, or Seemabaddha. It has the trademark flashes of Ray in the beginning; the lingering camera, the attention to detail. As the movie progresses, it starts to hurry as if Ray needed to get back to shooting Jalsaghar.

One note of mention: the music. Ravi Shankar, who also composed the music for Pather Panchali, creates some excellent vignettes of music for Paresh Pathar. Music is central to the movie, and to the comedic effects scattered across the film. There seems an evident meeting of minds between two great artists, Satyajit Ray and Ravi Shankar, in the making of this wonderful little gem.

And last, but not least, the movie is a wonderful archive of a different time as one sees the wide streets of Calcutta in the 50s, the open maidans, and far less people, even during rush hour.