Posted by: Harold Knight | 01/30/2011

A Crystal Bowl, a Prayer Shawl, and Things Which Have No Value

In my living room is a large bowl-like object made of material that appears to be tiny crystals pressed miraculously together, polished on the inside and rough on the outside (see photo). I’ve owned it for six years and only once has anyone who saw it known what it is. I’ve forgotten. It’s somehow a vital component of our ubiquitous electronic communication systems. My bowl is a cast-off part of the production process.  I hope the person who knew what was reads this and will remind me. 

In the picture below it rests on an Indian prayer shawl woven by a Swami whom I met. I won the prayer shawl in a raffle—a wonderful anomaly: I placed a (materialistic) bet that I’d win a materialistic object I wanted because it’s beautiful to help raise money to pay the plane fare of a spiritual leader who came to teach us to forsake our attachment to material things. I won the bet over three hundred people. 

I have the crystalline bowl because I heard a lecture, concert, and guided meditation by a woman whose purpose was to lead us (the crowd over whom I won the bet) into a meditative state making music by setting in vibration a large collection of similar bowls of different sizes. We were to meditate, to reach a spiritual reality by hearing music made on instruments created for the most scientific (thereby non-spiritual) purpose. 

The meditative state escaped me, but the sound of those bowls vibrating sent chills down my spine. I had to have one and paid a great deal more for it than my budget warranted. If you come to my house, I will “play” it for you. The sound is amazing. 

OK. You’ve caught me in a lie. Perhaps. All of this took place at the Light of Christ Community Church (see yesterday’s posting). 

I ended my last post with a quote from Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986). As a member of various peace organizations over the years, I knew Krishnamurti’s writings before I became aware of New Age thought. One might think I was criticizing New Age thinking in yesterday’s post. If my writing came across that way, I must set the record straight: I don’t understand New Age thinking well enough to criticize it. My only observation was that it seems to me to be centered in the self—in such a way that it is self-centered (!)—as, it seems to me, most religious thought is. I don’t know if people adhere to New Age thought these days, but Krishnamurti was a favorite of New Age adherents twenty years ago.

Krishnamurti inspired people world-wide. In 1985 the United Nations awarded him the Peace Medal. I don’t know if the United Nations awards medals to people on the fringe or not. Some Americans, I’m sure, would think the award means he’s part of the New World Order, so he’s evil and part of the ubiquitous conspiracy to destroy the United States. 

Krishnamurti is the spiritual leader who wasn’t. In 1909 he was hailed by the Theosophical Society of India, of which his father was a leader as 

. . . the “world teacher” (Lord Maitreya, a prophesized spiritual teacher that would be as influential as Jesus and Buddha) upon being discovered by Charles W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant, who were struck by his aura and complete unselfishness (1). 

[“Theosophy holds that all religions are attempts by the Occult Brotherhood to help humanity in evolving to greater perfection, and that each religion therefore has a portion of the truth.” You can know as much about Theosophy as I do by Googling it and reading the (Shudder!) Wikipedia article.] 

Krishnamurti had more sense or was more highly evolved than I would have been—just think of being regarded as important as Jesus and Buddha! He rejected his position as Lord Maitreya in 1925 saying, 

Friend, do not concern yourself with who I am; you will never know. I do not want you to accept anything I say. I do not want anything from any of you. I do not desire popularity; I do not want your flattery, your following. Because I am in love with life, I do not want anything. These questions are not of very great importance; what is of importance is the fact that you obey and allow your judgment to be perverted by authority. Your judgment, your mind, your affection, your life are being perverted by things which have no value, and herein lies sorrow (2). 

Once upon a time I was dabbling with the possibility that I had a vocation to the religious life. Right. A monk who doesn’t believe in God. A Christian Brother who can go to church for the music but can’t read the Creed even simply as part of the form of the liturgy.

I find more peace in Krishnamurti’s writings than I would have participating in the Eucharist as a monk. My ”judgment, [my] mind, [my] affection, [my] life are being perverted by things which have no value.” I know that. It’s something of an aberration that I own a prayer shawl and a musical meditation aid because I think they are beautiful. I don’t meditate. 

But I can see a slim glimmer of truth in writings like Krishnamurti’s. Or the Dalai Lama’s. 

Reflect upon the fact that all prosperity. . . ends in some kind of misery and frustration. As the texts say, the end of gathering is depletion, the end of high status is downfall, the end of meeting is separation, and the end of living is death. In short, all experiences, pleasure and happiness within this cycle of existence, no matter how forceful and how great they appear, end with misery (3). 

When I was dabbling in thinking about a vocation to the religious life, I (dutifully, I thought) began reading St. John of the Cross. Surely any would-be monk ought to know the most important mystical writing of the Christian tradition. I didn’t get it then, and I don’t get it now except for snatches of his writing that make sense to me in the same way Krishnamurti and the Dalai Lama do. 

Ink, paper, and time would be exhausted were we to describe the harm which beleaguers the soul because it turns its affection to temporal goods. A small beginning can lead a person into great evils and destroy notable blessings, just as an undistinguished spark can enkindle immense fires capable of burning up the world. . . The measure of the harm is the intensity of the joy and affection with which the will is joined to the creature, for in that proportion is its withdrawal from God (4).

Bowl, prayer shawl and . . . what?

Bowl, prayer shawl and . . . what?

So my heading says this is not a blog about religion. It’s not. Neither am I trying in my ignorance to make some important statement about Eastern religions and Christianity. I’m thinking out loud in public for anyone who wants to read stuff that’s becoming daily more important to me. Trying to figure out just what that bowl and prayer shawl are all about.  _____________________________ (1) Ogletree, Aaron Peron. “Peace Profile: Jiddu Krishnamurti.” Peace Review 19.2 (2007): 277-280. (2) “About Krishnamurti.” Krishnamurti Link International. 2010. Web. 30 Jan. 2011. (3) Dalai Lama. The Essential Dalai Lama: His Important Teachings. Ed. Rajiv Mehrota. New York: Viking, 2005. 78. (4) St. John of the Cross. The Ascent of Mount Carmel. In The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross. Trans. Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D., et al. Washington, D.C.: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1979. 242.


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