The New ‘Avatar’ of Mysticism

Neyetri from Avatar 3D, with bioluminescent points on her face.

Look carefully. The Na’vi people portrayed in James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ sit cross-legged on the ground, hold hands, and rotate their bodies from their bellies in a circular movement. All this in a deeply-meditative trance under the guidance of their chief Shaman and High-Priestess.

Mandala Meditation

The sequence closely resembles an actual technique of meditation, devised by Osho called Mandala. From its official website:

“Mandala means circle. Every circle contains a center. The aim of this technique is to create a circle of energy so that centering results naturally. At the end, one is left in absolute stillness, absolute silence.”

The specific technique is in the second stage of this meditation, described as follows:

“Sit with your eyes closed and mouth open and loose. Gently rotate your body from the belly, like a reed blowing in the wind. Feel the wind blowing you from side to side, back and forth, around and around. This will bring your awakened energies to the navel center.”

Meridien Points of Acupressure

As darkness falls, or during moments of dramatic stress, the beautiful blue-toned bodies of the avatars gently glow with tiny points of bioluminescent light. In some scenes these points appear on the face, in other scenes on the forearm, or on the torso. These points are reminiscent of ‘meridien points’ from traditional Chinese acupuncture. According to wikipedia:

“The meridian … is a concept central to traditional Chinese medical techniques such as acupuncture, and to martial arts such as tai chi and qigong. According to these practices, there are channels along which the energy or qi of the psychophysical system is considered to flow. Such techniques are said to achieve their effects by manipulation and, ideally, balancing of the energy running through a network of complex bodily patterns.”

Deep Forest

While immersed in 3D, keep your ears wide open. You will hear several types of tribal instruments playing soothing, calming, and rather evocative tribal music, even during the call for war. Pay attention to the didjiridoo, which plays for a short while but at the most pertinent moment. Something uncannily familiar about the music kept haunting me, like a fading memory. A few days later, in the silence of the night, I suddenly remembered! This music reminds me of my favourite album from 1998, ‘Deep Forest’, an album on which I’ve danced and meditated through several years of my life, all the way till 2006-ish. Early the next morning I rummaged through my collection, pulled it out, and danced for an hour in my room, delighted to have re-discovered it through a regression into my past from a 3D-conjured future.

The movie has several other allusions to mystical concepts and practices, but I leave the joy of more discovery to your search. At a more basic level, the film also alludes to many Hindu philosophy and religious concepts, starting from the obvious concept of the ‘avatar’. The astral-body and astral-travel of hinduism and buddhism is re-invented by Cameron as a DNA-mutated 10-feet tall living organism. Plugging into other living beings through the ‘queue’, which are the neural strands within the hair-braid of the Na’vi, is a creative interpretation of the ‘hara’ point in zen and buddhism.

The genius of the film lies not just in its technological-marvel, but in James Cameron as a shaman of our new age, channeling truths through a conjured world, unplugging us from the rigor-mortis of mankind’s decaying religions and spirital-values, navigating us in 3D back to our present-day world to our eternal truths.

This is the mark of genius, the revolution of consciousness over computers and CGI.


Are Words Empty Vessels of Sound?

A zen brush-stroke defines an empty bowl. Using typography, I carefully placed the following words near it: “words: nothing but empty vessels of sound.” You may check the calligraphy and design here: writing.
words: nothing but empty vessels of sound

I must have authored the original design somewhere in 2001. A few hours ago today, in 2008, I received the following email from a complete stranger called Ian. I immediately wrote back to him, and sought his permission to share this email with you. Says Ian:

“Words cannot be empty vessels of sound. Words work fine in written form, yet no sound is heard. Words are not the vessels for sound – Sounds are the vessels of words. Words have an idea behind them. They represent realities that we grasp in our minds as ideas. God made a physical universe that has true reality because He is REALITY and was able to communicate reality to His creation. Reality is lent by Him. He made this creation by WORDS. He communicated the reality by speaking (in infinite power) it into existance. Its reality existed first with Him, and He communicated it with “let there be..”. He gave the gift of words and language to man. We cannot “speak-create”, but we can transmit the ideas behind things by sending and receiving words.”

Hmmm. Here’s a question, Ian, though it’s a little more like a zen-koan: Can the deaf, especially those born with total-hearing impairment, learn to read and write? The answer is a surprising yes. Discover more here: Raising Deaf Kids. You may find something even more fascinating here: Deaf People’s Inner Voice.

The essential point, is that even the deaf create an ‘inner auditory’ sense equivalent, or maybe equal, to what we experience as sound. You may search the web for more case-studies and research into how the deaf learn to read and write, and often so eloquently and with much better grammar and style.

Magic Moment: The word, then, is indeed a sound. Words to me, are vessels of sound. When you learn to read a word, you learn to say it loud to yourself. Soon, the subtle and magic moment arrives when your parent or teacher recommends you read the word ‘silently’ to yourself. The sound then becomes internal. As humans, we impart thought, and soon, abstract thought, to words. For example, the word ‘apple’ makes you think of the tangible fruit. The word ‘innovation’ is a pure and abstract thought. Beyond thought, as humans we impart emotions and moods, and even cultural and other connotations to the words we use. Nevertheless, each word has first to be a sound heard in the mind.

Empty Vessels: Students and participants to my various workshops have almost always asked me why I describe words as “empty vessels”, especially when I earn a part of my livelihood and name as a professional author and editor. I leave that for you to ponder over, but I do hope you find inspiration in the sufi poetry and lyrics sung in this exotic music video. I especially love the sequence with the sufi-whirling:

And inside,
We’re all still wet.
Longing and yearning.

How can I explain how I feel?