Si­lence & the art of med­i­ta­tion

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LET US ap­proach these sub­jects as if we are look­ing at the lives of two strangers who board a one-way train which doesn’t re­turn. One of them has a ticket to the last sta­tion and the other takes him be­yond the fi­nal des­ti­na­tion, on a jour­ney with no known end­ing.

They sit hap­pily in their si­lence but are aware of ev­ery­thing hap­pen­ing along the jour­ney.

They are both rare pas­sen­gers as one is go­ing to the last sta­tion which is not a des­ti­na­tion favoured by any­one — maybe be­cause no one lives there or it is sim­ply the fear that if you miss it then the train may never stop or re­turn. But, pos­si­bly, there’s an­other rea­son — that you need to be alert to get off the train or else you are lost to the world for ever.

It takes a cer­tain con­fi­dence in your own alertness to buy the ticket to the last sta­tion.

And we aren’t sure if the other pas­sen­ger is for real or hu­man be­cause he has a ticket to nowhere. He will go wher­ever this train goes; no one knows where the tracks are headed to af­ter the last sta­tion and no one knows for how long that jour­ney will be as no one has ever come back to tell the story.

The train it­self is a write off. We don’t know who made the tracks or what hap­pens there. All we know is that the train never re­turns.

These two pas­sen­gers I al­lude to are an artist — the leg­endary Paul Cezanne — and the spir­i­tual colos­sus Sri Ra­mana Ma­harshi.

Ma­harshi means ‘the great seer’, one who can ‘see’ the truth and is there­fore con­sid­ered a cre­ator in the sense of “you cre­ate what you see.” The word ‘rsh’ also means to flow, to be in a state of ec­stasy.

Cezanne has said “art has a har­mony which par­al­lels that of na­ture. Peo­ple who tell you that the artist is in­fe­rior to na­ture are idiots. He is par­al­lel, un­less of course, he de­lib­er­ately in­ter­venes. His aim must be si­lence. He must si­lence all the voices of prej­u­dice within him and for­get. Then the en­tire land­scape will en­grave it­self on the sen­si­tive plate of his be­ing.”

On the other hand, Ra­mana Ma­harshi has said that when one re­mains with­out think­ing one un­der­stands an­other by means of the uni­ver­sal lan­guage of si­lence.

So, are art and med­i­ta­tion any dif­fer­ent? What were the dif­fer­ent drives of the two who boarded the train? What made them choose their re­spec­tive des­ti­na­tions?

Both Ra­mana Ma­harshi and Cezanne lived at a time when a new era of speed and ac­tion, of rapid ad­vance­ments in sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy was tak­ing birth. Three new in­ven­tions hap­pened then which changed the way peo­ple per­ceived the world — the lo­co­mo­tive, the cam­era and the cin­ema.

For Cezanne the train was an eye that could cap­ture an image of an ob­ject from many an­gles at the same time.

But an eye he seems to have in­ter­nalised in his many so­journs be­tween his home and Paris.

He could see the beau­ti­ful Mont Sainte Vic­to­rie, a moun­tain he would have an en­dur­ing at­tach­ment to and he would paint over 60 times; never sat­is­fied and al­ways in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

Mas­ter­ing per­spec­tive, pro­por­tion, il­lus­tra­tion, colour and com­po­si­tion seem to have been enough for the best of the painters at that time. But not for Cezanne.

And that’s what we ex­plore next week.

Bharat Thakur is a yoga guru and spir­i­tual men­tor who delves into his

vast as­cetic and worldly ex­pe­ri­ences to bring life to

his can­vases. will

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