Life Codecs Ruminations. Reflections. Refractions. Code.

October 23, 2010

Garudas, Phoeni[xes|ces], Eagles

Filed under: arts,general,philosophy — Tags: , , , — Kamal Advani @ 18:43

Disclaimer: Some of these views are my own, they may not be accurate, they may be downright wrong in fact – they are opinions. Please research accordingly. This article is not meant to be a historical thesis of any sort, just observations and personal inferences.

With the disclaimer out of the way, I can go crazy with fiction or non-fiction as I please, whee.

I got into a discussion about ancient history today with a senior teacher of mine. It reminded me of how much I used to like stories, myths, legends, and associated symbolism. Anyway one link led to another, and I began reading about Prambanan[1][2] – a temple in Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia built around the 9th or 10th century. One of the depicted major gods in Prambanan is Vishnu, one of the 3 major Hindu Gods[3], whose consort/vehicle is the Garuda[4.1][5] – a mythical powerful bird.

In Indonesia, the Garuda is used as a national symbol, a symbol for the Pancasila[6] – the 5 unifying cross-cultural, cross-religious, tenets of Indonesia.

A part of article [2] and article [5] tell of Garuda as being the son of a mighty sage Kasyapa and his wife Vinata. Paraphrasing [5], in short, Garuda had a brother, Aruna, who was born misshapen. Aruna was forced out of an egg (like a real egg, think chickens, not wombs) by Vinata’s (his mother) impatience and overexcitement.

Aruna was angry that he suffered this and cursed his mother. The details of this curse are unclear – [5] says that the mother became a slave to Naga, I’ll let you read up on it. Essentially, the fix to this situation was for Garuda to steal some heavenly ambrosia – a non-trivial feat (we’ll need to trust the myths on this) – guarded by various beings. Garuda was able to do this and save his mother. This virtuous quality of being able to save one from a disaster underlies (among several other things I suspect) the choice of using Garuda as a national symbol.

Article [4.2] depicts various uses of Garuda as symbols in an organisational or governmental setting. Article [5] gives an overview of the use of Garuda in Thailand.

The Greeks (and Romans) revered the Phoenix[7.1] “as a symbol of rebirth, immortality, and renewal”[7.1]. USA uses the Bald Eagle[8.1] as their national symbol. According to [8.1], “The founders of the United States were fond of comparing their new republic with the Roman Republic, in which eagle imagery was prominent”. I suspect that the eagle in turn was inspired by the phoenix in those circles. A phoenix is also most closely associated as being the European mythological counterpart to the Eastern Garuda[7.2].

Furthermore, [8.2] speaks of the role of eagles in Native American culture, an ancient culture with their own series of mythology and belief systems. It is highly likely this also factored into the decision to use the Bald Eagle as a US national symbol.

It’s fascinating (to me anyway) that so many places come to similar symbolism, in spite of the vast diversity, and physical proximities between the lands.

Something to munch on on a Saturday. Speaking of munching, I am starved. Exeunt.


References
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prambanan
[2] http://my.opera.com/akbar_taksisman/blog/2009/03/30/candi-prambanan (in Bahasa Indonesia unfortunately)
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trimurti – Vishnu the Preserver, Shiva the Destroyer, Brahma the Creator. Hinduism is considered to be a polytheistic religion, however, I believe this to be a superficial classification. In fact, many of the older Yoga-based philosophies are very monotheistic. The various divinities and deities being almost individual aspects of the One. In that, it is both monotheistic and polytheistic – the many from the One, and eventually back to the One. It is my personal view, that many of the “modern” groups have, perhaps accidentally, muddled the core essence.
[4.1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garuda
[4.2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garuda#As_a_cultural_and_national_symbol
[5] http://tudtu.tripod.com/garuda.htm – use of Garuda in Thailand.
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pancasila_(politics)
[7.1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_(mythology)
[7.2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_(mythology)#Specific_legends
[8.1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bald_Eagle#The_national_bird_of_the_United_States
[8.2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bald_Eagle#Role_in_Native_American_culture

December 27, 2008

Passions

Filed under: philosophy — Tags: , , — Kamal Advani @ 01:08

It seems to me that it is important to have more than one passion in life, at least two, but not too many either for that would be way too time consuming, and probably dilute other passions to the point that they’re no longer passions hah. Back to my topic, having a single passion is a little dangerous, especially when that passion is also your full-time job – sometimes, heck it’s almost a certainty, we can burn out. Then what do you turn to? Do you just chill out and get bored? That’ll work for a while. Having completely unrelated passions also allows you to focus different parts of yourself to the activity at hand. For example, I love to code, however when I am depressed or too bored, then working alone on something even if it is very cool software still seems a bit too lonely. I know this firsthand. So my other passion is martial arts. Where in computing I am pretty much just using my mind (except for the occasional epiphanies where I walk around the room and make funny gestures :P), in martial arts I use both my mind and my body. And they’re so different (physically anyway, quite aware of the level of concentration needed for both), that I always have one or the other (or both under normal circumstances) to turn to.

Considering things further, it’s even better if the passions are both individual and allow group participation, this allows you to have some semblance of a social life while providing you with your own space. Ah well, just some thoughts post Christmas. The holiday feels lonelier than usual, alas.

– Kamal

September 30, 2008

Vegetarianism

Filed under: personal,philosophy — Tags: , , , , — Kamal Advani @ 02:06

Way back (okay I ain’t that old) when I was a teenager, I became vegetarian for about 3 months, influenced by a friend who was involved in a spiritual movement that considered the practice crucial. I stopped mostly due to family pressure, and being too young to understand why I did that apart from influence or have any access to material supporting or disagreeing with the practice, I simply succumbed. I regretted it a little, but eventually it was no big deal. Ever since then however, I have read many spiritual references, and come across many movements that promote the practice. And in my mind a struggle began, constantly attempting to justify why I did not think vegetarianism was important for spiritual progress.

Yet, something still nudged me to at some point seriously consider it, I am not sure what it was, whether it was some form of subconscious guilt, an inner guidance, God knows. With the recent events, as my stomach finds it hard to eat anything, I have been eating mostly light green food, except today where I had a veggie pizza at my friend’s. And something has changed in me, it is as if my mind in its state of sadness (or clarity? Bah, the monkey that is the mind!) has explicitly rejected meat-eating, I am not quite able to explain it, nor will I try, but I have decided to be vegetarian once more. I pray that I am able to keep this practice consistently henceforth, I feel it is right for me.

On a more general note, I am not fanatical about it (in the sense that I do not care if others do eat meat, not that I will only adhere to it when I can – the latter would defeat the purpose :)!), never have been, and if those of you who know me find me acting fanatical or preaching – hit me with a rubber duck or something (you know, since I don’t eat meat and all, a peking roast duck would probably be too cruel for me :P).

I have had conversations about vegetarianism with several people, and I have to say I find certain explanations from Caucasians to be the best. In general, vegetarian Indians and Asians tend to have been brought up in strictly vegetarian families, they tend to have a more hardline view on the matter. But people who practice of their own accord, they have a unique, often very personal view of things. An old Caucasian friend of mine, one of the gentlest souls I know (though I have not met him in ages), told me when the time is right, it will happen. An old lady, another gentle soul (whee, I know gentle souls!), who was very active in the Quakers movement said the same. A dear friend I hold in high-esteem, became vegetarian because she took care of different pets including chickens, and the thought of them being killed proved too much. At the time I did not believe I’d have actually voluntarily given up meat eating, and in a way they were right, and I am right – it is voluntary, and yet it is not, it just feels right, like for me personally, there’s no other way to go.

So, on the question of vegetarianism for spiritual progress – is it important? The answer is of course “it depends”, we live in the realm of relatives, nothing is absolute (and yet, there are absolutes that we often must hold on to so we don’t get shoved around… damn all this balancing!). At the end of the day, one has to do what one feels is right. I believe it is right for me, but I certainly do not feel it is absolutely the way to go for everyone. I do believe strongly in one thing though, humane killing (oxymoronic as that sounds) of the animals is vital. If they are to be used to sustain more life, at least they should be treated well while they live, and killed in a respectful way, involving little or no pain. In that sense, I believe the Muslim “Halal” concept to be a great way to go.

Oh well, time to attempt to sleep. Good night, blogosphere.

– Kamal

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