The Mirror in Indian Art and Literature

I recently read a fascinating article by Christopher P Jones, ‘Decoding Reflections: The Meaning of Mirrors in Art’, where the author talks about some important European paintings featuring mirrors, and explains the role and symbolism of the mirror in each painting.  After reading it, I thought of the depiction of mirrors in Indian art and how these might reflect Indian ideas (pun intended!) about the symbolism of the mirror in religious thought and practice.

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Poetry for the G20

This year India holds the presidency of the G20, and is hosting high-level diplomatic and ministerial meetings which are now in full swing.  The theme of this Indian presidency is the Sanskrit phrase “वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्” taken from the Mahā Upanishad, or, in English, it is ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’.

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Indra driving the chariot

The chariot race was one of the most important competitive sports in Greece, Rome and many other ancient cultures. In the Iliad, we read a description of a chariot race held as part of the funeral games. The energy and competitive spirit of the racers is vividly described as follows

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Animals and the sacred

How did humans first acquire language?  It’s is a fascinating and important question.  The ancient Egyptians believed that that speech and writing had been taught to humans by the deity Thoth, alternately conceived as an ibis-headed god or a baboon-headed god.

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Haruki Murakami and Buddhist philosophy

Over Christmas I read ‘The Wind-up Bird Chronicle’, a novel by Haruki Murakami, in the English translation by Jay Rubin.  The strange tale of the protagonist, named Toru Okada, seemed to have a loose affinity with concepts and themes from Buddhist philosophy, which I briefly sketch out here,  but whether or not this affinity is the intention of the author or not I can’t say.

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On the moment of insight

This description nicely illustrates something about how the brain works to generate new ideas, alternating between periods of focused intensity of thought and stillness in order to arrive at a sudden moment of insight or intuition.  A similar process is behind many such ‘eureka moments’, where the would-be inventor or discoverer sets aside his or her work and allows their conscious thinking to clear, seemingly so that the unconscious mind can do its own distinctive work.

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On poetic understanding

Just as scientists strive to crystallize deeper truths about the world, so too do poets.  However, whereas scientists further our understanding of reality through a process of abstraction, poets develop insights that resists abstraction and stays at the level of ordinary things.

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