Sunday, 18 August 2013

Seicho-no-Ie – The House of Growth

I wanted to sit quietly on the backbenches and watch the whole proceedings from there. But that was not possible in a big hall filled with just eleven people. Japanese priest welcomed me and I have to introduce myself. Then in his halting English, he talked about this new age religion and philosophy. This Japan based movement was started by Dr. Masaharu Taniguchi in 1930. It combines the basic elements from Buddhism, Christianity and Shintoism (which is the ancient spiritual tradition of Japan).  Seicho-no-Ie or the house of growth puts emphasis on gratitude for nature, the family and ancestors. Above all, they believe in one universal God. This facility is located just a few steps from where I live. After watching it day after day, finally curiosity got better of me and I ventured in. 

The atmosphere inside this Japanese style wooden temple was that of calm and serenity. After the service, every one thanked and hugged me as I was some long lost friend or a family member. This was rather a strange and moving experience for me. There is such an infinite variety of human beliefs and faiths. Just a different set of believing can change one’s whole perspective about this world, life and fellow beings.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

What I remember is what I am

The world begins and ends in memory;
what I remember is what I am. 

Did that blade of grass I plucked
as a boy to vibrate with my breath 

really burst the air with shrillness?
A remembered world holds truth 

and realities far clearer than echoes.
In the cupped hands of remembrance 

the thin green reed of what we are
trembles with a sound so rare. 

(Aide Memoire by Glen Sorestad from Leaving Holds Me Here: Selected Poems)

I came across this beautiful poem while riding TTC Public transport. A cultural initiative places such short verses on every TTC subway car, bus and streetcar in the city. It is a wonderful idea. Sometimes small things like that can have a profound effect on a reader.

... I would like to add to the poet that we are only alive until someone remembers us in this world. We are truly gone when the last vista about us fades away in a person's mind. On this account, being a writer, philosopher, thinker, inventor or any other kind of creative talent is a path to eternal life.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

A day in ROM

Main entrance – The Crystal building
Last time when I was in Toronto, I visited Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) twice. But still there was so much to see and discover. This time I arrived early in the morning and tried to cover the whole museum in a day. A lot has changed in the past three years. New collections have been added and the old ones have been rearranged. Despite all the effort, when closing time was announced in the evening, nearly half a floor was still there to be explored and my knee joint pain was off the charts.

A huge skeleton of Futalognkosaurus now adorns the main lobby. This tongue twisting name actually means “giant chief lizard”. Despite their imposing structures, these were plant eating Sauropods dinosaurs. I don’t need to tell you that now a days even pre-school children know all about Sauropods. These are at number three in favorite dino list by my little nephew Shaheer after T-Rex and Triceratops.

 Chinese, Korean and Japanese civilization sections are at ground level.

Mithras was a god of light, truth and promised word in Persian Zoroastrianism.
To me, visiting a museum is relevant and quite a humbling experience on two accounts. One, its natural history sections tell us that human life and civilization covers just a tiny bit when measured against the immensity of time on this planet. Secondly, relics from different civilization are testament of the fact that ours is just one of the many possible ways of being. Names of once powerful gods and god like rules are now just restricted to few reference in books and displays.

Islamic and Middle Eastern sections are at level 3. This is a kind of sight that made our Allama Iqbal quite depressed actually when he was visiting Europe. Nevertheless I would like to differ with him at this point. I think that these artifacts are much better preserved and cared for here than in the native countries.

A section on the same level is devoted to Gandhara Civilization. According to museum plaque most of the works were purchased in 1930s by the first director of the museum, from a single dealer in Peshawar named Ram Das.

Flight - Nature section
This T-Rex doesn't seem too happy about this photo op with the author.
It is said that Rome was not built in a day. On the same note, this ROM also needs more than a day, may be a full month to be explored in totality. I plan to buy its annual membership on the next visit.