The beauty that remains

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Over Christmas I saw quite a few beautiful rainbows. Their short-lived transience makes the thrill even greater.

However as a photographer, I was caught between living the moment and trying to capture on film. The momentary arrival of a rainbow can come with a tinge of sadness that everything soon passes on earth. Part of you wants to hold onto the rainbow’s beauty before it slips away.

The world is in a constant state of flux. Everything is fleeting – nothing lasts. The rainbow exemplifies this birth and death – all within a few minutes. It lifts our spirits, but then is gone.

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The sweet rainbow comes and goes,
But its beauty remains.

The dear sun comes and goes,
But its duty remains.

The faithful day comes and goes,
But its sound remains.

The restful night comes and goes,
But its silence remains.

Sri Chinmoy
– Wings of Light, part 11, WL-529

In this poem, Sri Chinmoy reminds us of the beauty which is everlasting. It echoes the immortal words of John Keats.

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever”

We love the outer rainbow, not just for its unique light, but because it also – consciously or unconsciously – reminds us of the soul’s world and the inner beauty.

In the poem, Sri Chinmoy suggests we should not mourn the fading of the outer light because its Source is eternal. The outer beauty is a just reminder to seek the inner light.


Photo top: Tejvan (Wharfedale, Yorkshire, 25th December, 2016)

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A simple truth to be shared

Buddha Maitreya (Koji Takeuchi) has spent the last 35 years of his life transforming a two-acre plot into traditional Japanese garden. He uses the garden to teach meditation and offer a path of inner peace.

I like this video for its simplicity and example of practical spirituality. To work and create a beautiful garden – with the aim of offering the peaceful surrounding to others – in the hope of providing a catalyst for people to find their inner peace and happiness within.

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Spending less time online


My spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy is very keen on New Year’s Resolutions. He advocated both making a few personal resolutions and a few resolutions for achieving things outwardly.

In the past, I have been very poor at making New Year’s resolutions, but this year I am following one resolution, almost by accident.

In 2016, I spent a lot of the time wishing I didn’t waste so much time reading online news, opinion and comment. I would have a good meditation in the morning but, before I’d finished breakfast, I was back in the world of opinion and judgement.

It was like eating a healthy breakfast of fruit and oats, only to finish it off with a chocolate gateaux cake and cream. The point is you can’t lose weight by eating chocolate cake and cream, no matter how much fruit and vegetables you also eat. Similarly, if you want real inner peace, you need to meditate – but also be careful of where else you spend your time and energy.

The problem is that the easy accessibility of online news means there is a never ending stream of things to read. You start with the intention of just seeing the headlines, but then I found myself reading more than I intended. Time can pass by – you haven’t done anything productive, only filled your mind with more opinions.

There is an addictive quality to browsing the internet – a spare one minute appears in the day and, before you know it, 15 mins have passed. I noticed that it is usually when bored or unhappy that I often sought refuge in online browsing, but this didn’t help. Continue Reading →

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Concentrating on good qualities

Concentrating on the good qualities of other people helps to bring forward these values in ourself, and also gives real encouragement to others.

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Over the New Year I heard an audio talk from my spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy, which offered one simple suggestion for the New Year.

“In the New Year, instead of focusing on people’s bad qualities, concentrate only on their good qualities. For the New Year, make it your resolution to always see good qualities in others and forget about their bad qualities.”

This was the essence of the talk as I remember. A very simple message, but repeated several times, I felt the idea sinking into my mind.

The idea behind this message is highly relevant for everyone.

Whoever we are, it is the nature of the human mind to hold onto the flaws and failings of people around us. It is their undivine qualities – ego and jealousy, which irritate us. When we are displeased with someone, it becomes hard to value their good qualities, which may lie hidden underneath. But, even the most irritating acquaintances and work colleagues will have at least a few good qualities.

Why is it important?

The first benefit is that it will help us to be happier. If we concentrate on people’s bad qualities, we may gain a little feeling of superiority, but this does not give real happiness. If we can appreciate other people’s good qualities, it will give us a sense of satisfaction and self-giving. Continue Reading →

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Dag Hammarskjold and Chou En-lai

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On Nov. 24, 1954, Radio Peking (in mainland China) announced that eleven US airmen, as well as two other Americans, both of whom were described as special agents of the CIA, had been convicted of espionage by a military tribunal in China and sentenced to prison terms from four years to life. The eleven US airmen, serving under the United Nation’s Unified Command in Korea, were crew members of a B-29 which had been shot down on January 12, 1953, while conducting leaflet-dropping operations over North Korea. The question before the US government was how to secure the release of the airmen imprisoned in China as Washington did not recognize ‘mainland China’ as a country and so did not have any diplomatic ties to Peking. “When in December 1954 the US – after trying many other approaches in vain – brought this question to the Ninth session of the United Nation’s General Assembly, the UN was faced with an apparently insoluble problem. It seemed unlikely, to say the least, that an organization that had excluded and rejected the government of the largest nation on earth would have much success in prevailing on that government to release hostile airmen who had landed in China and had already been convicted as spies.”(1)

On December 6 the permanent US representative to the UN, Henry Cabot Lodge, informed the United Nations Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold, that Washington would like him to be personally involved in negotiating the release of the US airmen “since it was believed that he was more likely to get results than anyone else”…(2)

Hammarskjold had an all-night discussion with a trusted Swedish colleague, Sture Petren, before he made up his mind to accept the assignment if he was requested by the General Assembly to undertake a mission of this kind. He also decided that he would personally travel to Peking and approach the Chinese premier Chou En-lie directly. In doing this Hammarskjold was taking a very big diplomatic risk and putting himself in a very delicate position. As Lodge put it six months later, in offering to go to Peking Hammarskjold “put his life’s reputation as a diplomat on the chopping block”.(3) But Hammarskjold had come to the conclusion that only a bold move had any chance of success. “In the days just before passage of the General Assembly resolution on December 10th, he met with senior diplomats privately and saw to it that the resolution included language that gave him considerable latitude. Those key words authorized the secretary-general to undertake the mission “by the means most appropriate in his judgment””.(4) Continue Reading →

Dag Hammarskjold – ‘Markings’

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‘Markings’ is Dag Hammarskjold’s private journal. It was found in his New York apartment on a bedside table. This journal was written in Swedish and the title on the front page was ‘Vagmarken’, which translated into English means ‘Trail Marks’. In one of his journal entries, Hammarskjold provides an interpretation of the origin and intention of his writing. He said: ‘These notes? – They were signposts you begin to set up after you had reached a point where you needed them, a fixed point that was on no account to be lost sight of’. Dusen explains, “The figure is from Hammarskjold’s experience in climbing…They were recorded to provide guidance for the author should he pass that way again.”(1) Hammarskjold also described his journal as “a sort of white book concerning my negotiations with myself – and with God.”(2) When publishing the English translation of this journal, the title ‘Trail Marks’ was modified to ‘Markings’. Markings was published in 1963, first in Swedish and a year later in English.

Markings contain a little over six hundred individual ‘notes’, These notes are of varying length, anywhere from a single phrase to a page and a half at most. Most of these notes were written in prose and some in blank verse. Towards the end of the journal the form of the notes was similar to that of the Japanese haiku. Commenting on the nature of these notes Dusen writes,” the collection in its entirety treating of the whole gamut of themes which claimed his interest – from delight in natural beauty and excitement in hazardous sport to merciless scrutiny of interior motives, from caustic exposure of unreality and hypocrisy in others’ conduct to unflinching confession of his own inconsistency and self-concern, from direct comment upon events of world import to a charming ‘Elegy’ on the death of a pet monkey. And yet, with all the wide sweep and variety of these meditations, they are held in unity by two dominant objectives: the achievement of absolute self-honesty and of a life-commanding faith.”(3) According to Roger these notes “revealed a person whom scarcely anyone had known: a religious seeker taking his lead from Albert Schweitzer for ethics and from medieval Christian mystics for the conduct and direction of inner life. He proved to be Pascal-like in his critique of self and society, Montaigne-like in his questioning, Augustine-like in his need and willingness to chronicle his hard journey.”(4)


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Dag Hammarskjold – Background

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Dag Hammarskjold came from one of the oldest and well-known families in Sweden who for more than three centuries provided the nation with civil servants and soldiers, many of whom attained high rank. Dag’s father, Hjalmar Hammarskjold, was the Prime Minister of Sweden, through the tense war years, from 1914 to 1917.

The Hammarskjold family lived for more than a quarter of a century in a massive Castle in the city of Uppsala. Dag lived with his parents in this castle from the age of two through his student days at Uppsala University. In the fall of 1930, when his father retired, he moved with his parents to an apartment in Stockholm.

For young Dag the massive ancient castle of the Vasas was a wonderful playroom where mysterious passages ran between massive walls; in the towers were circular banquet-rooms and, at other places there were dark dungeons. Dag often led his young friends on thrilling explorations into the winding passages of the fortress. But it was the grounds and the gardens of the castle that became young Dag’s botanical-zoological workshop. “Beginning to learn the Latin names of plants by the age of six, as one of his brothers admiringly reported, he became a clear-eyed explorer of all things that grew or padded, hopped or crawled within sight of the castle.” (1). Often Dag spent his time collecting animals from ditches and making cages for larvae & feeding them greenery. Because of this habit of taking care of larvae, his mother, Agnes, fondly started calling him “my little larva”.

Of his father and mother once Dag wrote to a friend, “Where the one was light, the other was warmth.”(2). Dag’s father, Hjalmar, contributed immensely towards his development as a political leader and a social thinker. It was from his father that Dag learnt an exacting and unflinching devotion to duty, love for his country, sympathy for small nations, and dedication to the realization of an international order based on justice. His mother Agnes “surely gave Dag the internal basis for a caring emotional life, for sharing with others the good and the bad, for daring to view the human condition with the mind and heart of faith.”(3) Of his mother Dag once said, ‘…She had the qualities I admire most: she was courageous and good.’(4). Reflecting on his relation with his mother many of Dag’s friends have admiringly said, “In all her charitable interests and activities, her son Dag was a loyal, though sometimes amused, companion and lieutenant. ‘Every Sunday he accompanied her to church, and he would patiently wait while she chatted with friends or acquaintances she chanced to meet in the street, whether the Archbishop or a poor shoemaker whom she had recently rescued from bankruptcy’. And he ‘accompanied her on her visits to people in distress’. In European society of that day there was often the ‘stay-at-home daughter’ who remained to look after her parents, which prompted one of Dag Hammarskjold’s oldest and most admiring friends to suggest: ‘Dag was the Hammarskjold family’s stay-at-home daughter. The fantastic thing is that at the same time he could be a boy with the others, pass exams as brilliantly as he did and make a great career’.(5) Continue Reading →

Dag Hammarskjold – an exceptional man highly gifted

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Dag Hammarskjold was the second Secretary-general of the United Nations. He served as Secretary-general for more than eight years (1953-61). A few months after he joined the United Nations as the Secretary-general, while speaking to an audience in New York, he said, “We cannot mold the world as masters of a material thing… But we can influence the development of the world from within as a spiritual thing.” All through his life even in the midst of a brilliantly illustrious career where he was engaged at the highest level of diplomacy in world affairs, in Hammarskjold there was this deep, silent inner space where dwelled the seeker of truth, the student of peace probing the fundamental questions of human identity and the ‘maturity of mind’. It is from this large inner world of his where “new thoughts and glints of possibility could knock around freely and find a pattern that led on”(7) that Hammarskjold drew inspiration and strength to not only understand but also find solutions in highly trying and difficult circumstances. Manuel Frohlich rightly pointed to the two sides of Hammarskjold’s legacy – ‘the externally focused statesmanship and the internally directed inquiry into human being.’ (1)

Dag Hammarskjold’s academic career was amazingly brilliant. At the young age of thirty he was not only the chairman of the Governors of the Bank of Sweden but also the Under-Secretary of the Swedish Ministry of Finance. His work at the Swedish Ministry of Finance was extremely demanding. He worked at the Ministry for almost ten years before he accepted his position at the UN as Secretary-General (Hammarskjold was forty-seven years old). At the Ministry he had the opportunity to develop the necessary self-discipline that helped him enormously, in undertaking the huge responsibility at the UN. Commenting on Hammarskjold’s work at the Ministry of Finance one of his friend Sture Petren wrote: “Thus, for long periods, Hammarskjold was able to manage with very little sleep, he was able to absorb at breakneck speed the content of documents and books and possessed the gift of retaining the overall view of the principle lines in a large complex of problems while seizing on isolated details of it. He was however, also able to screen off what occupied him at a given moment, so that at that time this emerged for him as of paramount importance. Taken together, these traits endowed Hammarskjold with a crushing efficiency, a concomitant of which, however, was a certain disinclination to delegate work to others. The mode of life Hammarskjold had developed also required, apart from unfailing health, the absence of family life. On the other hand, he became the natural center in the circle of his closest collaborators, whose society he sought also for his scant leisure time and to whom he became, by the radiation of his personality and the multiplicity of his interests, a superior and friend of rare inspiration and stimulus. Also in his relations to staff in general, he was an esteemed and even loved boss by virtue of his natural kindness and personal interest.” (2)

Hammarskjold wrote and spoke fluently English, French and German. He was a man whose cultural interests were wide-ranging. He was highly knowledgeable in the history, literature and culture of more than six nations. He was “an ardent and highly literate connoisseur of drama and music, painting and sculpture, both classical and contemporary, himself a poet and translator of poetry, a lover and interpreter of Nature, a mountaineer, withal ‘the best of comrades’, all his life surrounded by admiring companions of the most diverse types and outlooks and cosmopolitan interests – in sum, a Renaissance man at mid-twentieth century.”(3) Continue Reading →

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