Sunday, November 24, 2013

Going round in circles - going somewhere or going nowhere ?

Thomas Mc Evilley makes the point in his book,  'The shape of Ancient Thought, Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies' that for the ancients in both East and West, time and space were circular. On Page 91 and 92 he says: 

What shape is ancient thought? Round. At least in the Mesopotamian lineage, which includes Greece and India, it was round. The spherical cosmos rolling in cyclical time - wheels within wheels,  Parmenides showed with his goddess-the Great Wheel of the Processional Year, united with the pitch wheel of the song that reaches back to the beginning- the twelve tone chromatic scale like the twelve -spoked-wheel - these round constructions of the real gave birth to others, greater and smaller wheels some inside them, some outside them, some linked axially, some touched and spun peripherally. The wheel of cycling time sets going a smaller wheel within itself: the wheel of the transmigration of souls. How do these two wheels relate to one another -

Some have thought that the myth of cyclical time was inherently bound up with the re-incarnationist view of human destiny - that the two doctrines form a syntactical complex. Aristotle, for whom all perfect motion was circular, thought the same about the archaic gear construction of the cosmic machine: " In the movement of the heavens and of each star," he wrote, "there is a circle; so why shouldn't  the birth and death of people be circular too, so that they are born and destroyed again (and again) "(Problemata 17.3)

Chartres Labyrinth 
Although there may be no permanent 'soul' or 'self' to be re-incarnated the continuing present moment we experience as reality is both cause and effect of the arising or cessation of conditions, past, present and future in an infinitely complex web of interdependence in which our own actions are agents for which we are responsible to a greater or lesser extent depending on our intentions. 
My mind inclines towards these shapes as I prepare for departure to Delhi on Sunday and travel through Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and just over the border into Nepal to make the round trip of the eight great places and events of the Buddha's life and death, The Astamahapratiharya At the axial point of the trip is The Bodhi Tree, embodying  time and space in cycles of growth and decay in the concentric circles of its tree rings.

Anyone who undertakes a pilgrimage travels inwardly as well as outwardly and the journey is as much about states of mind and heart as it is about crossing borders between geographical, political and cultural states.  Imagine on a clock face the day from 6.00am until midnight as representing the full potential cycle of a human life of around 90 years, in a ratio of five years for each hour.  As I approach my 50th year I am coming to 4.00pm in the afternoon - the 'teatime' of my life. This seems like a good time to pause and actively consider the tiny circle of my own life, breathing and walking within the countless concentric rings of other pilgrims lives as they have traversed over two millennia and continue to traverse the path leading between the key events and places in the Buddha's life, a life which represents an optimal existence, lived across the plains of North India from Lumbini to Kushinagar.  

01st Dec: Arrival / Delhi
02nd Dec: Delhi  Visit Akshardham Temple. 
03rd Dec: Delhi
Visit the Laxmi Narayan Temple, the India Gate, Jama Masjid, Red Fort and the Gandhi Memorial. Also see embassies and the Parliament House, Humayun’s Tomb and the Qutab Minar.
04th Dec: Delhi / Agra   visit Agra Fort and and Id-Mat-Ud-Dauhla’s
05th Dec: Agra / Varanasi 
visit the Taj Mahal 

06th Dec: Arrival / Varanasi
visit Sarnath 

07th Dec: Varanasi
Boat ride on river Ganges - Alamgir Mosque or Beni Madhav Ka Darera, Dasaswamedh Ghat, & The Bharat Mata Temple. Evening visit to the Ganga Aarti

08th Dec: Varanasi

09th Dec: Varanasi / Bodhgaya

10th Dec: Bodhgaya

11th Dec: Bodhgaya

12th Dec: Bodhgaya / Rajgir / Nalanda / Patna
 Drive to Patna en-route visit Nalanda & Rajgir 

13th Dec: Patna
Visit Patna Museum

14th Dec: Patna / Vaishali / Khushinagar

15th Dec: Khushinagar

16th Dec: Khushinagar / Lumbini

17th Dec: Lumbini / Sravasti

18th Dec: Sravasti

19th Dec: Sravasti / Lucknow
Visit Bara Immambara, Chhota Immambara, Rumi Darwaza, Jama Masjid 

20th Dec: Lucknow / Delhi 
visit National Museum

21st Dec: Delhi / Departure

Chrsitian Marclay's The Clock is a montage of thousands of carefully spliced and edited clips of films and soundtrack which reference time either in dialogue or on a watch or clock and are edited to play so they are synchronised to real time throughout 24 hours. Homage to a century of cinema and a memento mori, it reveals our complex emotional and psychological relationship to time and memory captured in moving images and reconstructed into the absurd logic of a numerical rather than narrative sequence, which non the less flows with a kind of logic. Time seems to have no absolute or fixed dimensions appearing to speed up or slow down depending on our own engagement. It recalls for me, in cinematic form, Proust's  great novel of about time 'A la recherch du temps perdue'  

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