The True Value of Beauty

O how much more doth beauty beauteous seem,

By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!

The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem

For that sweet odour which doth in it live.

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 54

In this poem, Shakespeare was arguing his belief that there is a strong link between truth and beauty. This may not be the most famous sonnet he ever wrote, but it’s one of the best poetic meditations on the meaning of beauty.

Prince Nanda, also known as Sundarananda (handsome Nanda), was the younger half-brother of the Buddha. It was seven years after his Enlightenment that the Buddha, at the request of his father who missed him, returned to his home city. On the third day of his return, after his meal, the Buddha silently handed his bowl to Nanda. After that he stood and left. Thinking that the Buddha would take his bowl back, Nanda followed him until he reached the Park where the Buddha was staying.

When they arrived at the Park, the Buddha asked Nanda if he might become a monk. Although Nanda had just wedded the beautiful Janapada Kalyani, that same day Nanda took ordination and joined the community of Monks.

However, Nanda enjoyed no spiritual happiness. His thoughts were constantly directed towards his beautiful wife and his heart pined for her. Learning of this, the Buddha took Nanda on a journey to Tavatimsa Heaven. On the way Nanda saw a she-monkey that had lost her ears, nose and tail in a fire, clinging to a charred stump as if she couldn’t bear to let go no matter how ugly it was.

When they reached the heaven abode, Nanda saw beautiful celestial nymphs. They have long ago obtained their enlightenments and were blanketed by the glow of their happiness and compassion. The Buddha asked Nanda, “Which do you consider more beautiful? Those nymphs or Janapada Kalyani?” Nanda replied, “Venerable Sir, Janapada Kalyani looks like the scalded she-monkey, compared to those nymphs.” The Buddha then said, “Nanda, can you now see that what you thought to be exceedingly beautiful now pales in comparison to greater beauty?”

Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.

Kahlil Gibran

You might wonder what then happened to Nanda’s beautiful wife. Some time after her husband left to become a monk, the princess Janapada Kalyani, also known as Rupananda, pondered, “My elder brother who could have become a Universal Monarch has renounced the world to become a bhikkhu. Rahula, the son of my elder brother, and my own husband Prince Nanda have also become bhikkhus. My mother Gotami has also become a bhikkhuni, and I am all alone here!”

So she went to the monastery and became a bhikkhuni herself. But there was a problem, she had become a bhikkhuni not out of faith but only in imitation of others and because she felt lonely. It soon became obvious that Nanda was not fully focused on her life as a nun. Nanda’s thoughts were mainly directed centred on her own beauty and her popularity with the people.

She had heard from others that the Buddha often taught about impermanence and earthly dissatisfactions. So she thought that, if he should see her, he would talk deprecatingly about her good looks. Therefore,  with this thinking, she kept away from the Buddha. But other bhikkhunis coming back from the monastery kept talking in praise of the Buddha. So one day, Rupananda decided to accompany other bhikkhunis to the monastery.

The Buddha saw her and reflected, “A thorn can only be taken out with a thorn; Rupananda being very attached to her body and being very proud of her beauty.” The  Buddha called her explicitly, and when she presented herself in an ashamed and anxious demeanour, he appealed to all of her positive qualities to make her feel a bit more joyful and calmer to receive his teaching. Since Nanda was so preoccupied with her physical beauty, he caused an image of a very beautiful lady to be seated near him, fanning him. This young girl was visible only to Rupananda and the Buddha. When Rupananda saw the girl, she liked her very much but she realized that compared to that girl, she herself was like an ugly old crow compared to a beautiful white swan.

Then, she looked again and was surprised to find that the girl had grown older. Again and again, she looked at the figure beside the Buddha and every time she noticed that the girl had grown older and older. Thus, the girl turned into a grown-up lady, then into a middle-aged lady, an old lady, a decrepit and a very old lady successively. Rupananda came to realize that there was a continuous process of change and decay in the body. With the coming of this realization, her attachment to the body diminished. Finally, the figure near the Buddha died – her body became  bloated, pus and maggots came out of every openings on her body until crows and vultures tried to snatch her.

Having seen all these, Rupananda pondered, “This young girl has grown old and decrepit and died in this very place under my own eyes. In the same way, my body will also grow old and wear out; it will be subject to disease and I will also die.” Thus, Rupananda gained a deeper understanding of the nature of her beauty.  Then the Buddha spoke to her:

This body is built with bones which are covered with flesh and blood; within this dwell decay and death, pride and detraction

Dhammapada Verse 150
Janapadakalyani Rupanandatheri Vatthu

Later, when he saw her again, the Buddha recognised Rupananda as being the foremost amongst bhikkunis. Rupananda had spent time meditating on the impermanence of her body and soon found her inner peace.

The Dhammapada is a Buddhist text that is believed to record the actual words of the Buddha who lived between 563 and 483 BCE. His words were passed along orally until they were written down in about the first century BCE. 

NEW RELEASE – Time Maps: Gods, Kings and Prophets

The whole story of Egypt has taken about 7000 years. This roughly translates to about three hundred generations, or a hundred average human lifetimes. The Ancient Egyptian culture meets its natural end around the time of Alexander the Macedonian. However, it is such a magnificent flowering of the human spirit that we turn to it for reference to this day to lead us into understanding many other cultures around the world.

The rise and fall of empires, dynasties and cultures are patterns that we find in the recollection of events, but the patterns in ancient Egypt are repeated throughout human history, and in the mythology of many nations – the king murdered by his brother, the old king with a young wife, the assassination of a saintly king, the attempt by courtiers to take control of the kingdom, the king brought down by his ambition or pride, and many others, all very Shakespearean. On a larger scale there are social upheavals, cultural revivals, wars that lasted for generations, superb technical achievements, works of art that stimulated the ancient Greeks and hence influenced the world, as well as religious inspirations that helped shape the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition.

Written with a Mathematician’s precision and a Historian’s curiosity, Time Maps covers over millennia worth of developments & impacts of civilizations, migrations, leaders and continents. Illuminating concepts of societies, dynasties, heroes, kings and eras through incisive and thorough research, looking at ideas, theories & world views with a sense of wonder and delight.

I am reading a small section of our new book, Time Maps: Gods, Kings and Prophets. It is now available through Amazon.

Time Maps: Gods, Kings and Prophets is now available on Amazon.

Message from Martini: “I have a YouTube Channel – I would Love for You to Join Me”

Hi everyone,

I have recently started my own YouTube channel. The reason behind this decision is that I want to share my views, insights and knowledge on this blog as well as in video format. There are many topics that I am very excited to discuss on video as well as in written form in this blog.

The goal of my YouTube channel is to be a place where we can discover more of ancient culture without the boring bits. If you have been following my blog or buying my books, you would know that I am very passionate about world mythology and how we can take lessons from them in the modern world. This channel will be focused world myths and legends which are simple and relatable. You can also access some of my favorite videos on my video page on this website.

I will be very happy if you would like to follow me along on this journey. If you are interested, do come to my channel, watch my videos and comment on it on YouTube or below this blog post if you like. I rely on feedback to improve the quality of the content, and I also would like to choose topics for future videos according to your feedback when possible.

Last, and most importantly, thank you for all your support and friendship through the years. I hope you know that appreciate you very much, and I look forward to taking you on this new adventure.

With love,

Martini

Death, Impermanence and Knowing that You are not Alone

Though one should live a hundred years
not seeing the Deathless State,
yet better is life for a single day
seeing Deathlessness.

Dhammapada, Verse 114 – Kisagotami Vatthu

Long time ago, there was a lady. She had had a happy life. She grew up as daughter of a rich man and eventually married to a rich young man. She lived happily with her husband and bore him a son.

Then the other side of life caught up with her.  Her only son died. He was only a toddler. The lady was overcome with grief.  Carrying the little dead body of her son, she went everywhere, asking everyone she met for medicine that would restore her son to life. Of course, no one could help her and people began to think that the poor woman had gone mad. But one wise man thought that he should be of some help to her. So, he said to her, “The Buddha is the person you should approach, he has the medicine you want; go to him.” Thus, she went to the Buddha, told him her story and asked him to give her the medicine that would restore her dead son to life. The Buddha listened compassionately to her story. He then said to her, “lady, go and ask for five mustard seed from a house which has never experienced death.”

Feeling hope for the first time, still carrying her dead child,  she went from house to house, asking if perhaps the house is free from death and they could spare five mustard seeds for her. Although everyone was willing to help her and readily provided her with five mustard seeds from their house, she could not find a single family that has not experienced death.

Then, as she went from house to house with her dead son refusing to give up her quest, she started to realise that hers was not the only family that had faced death. As she continued her search, she felt the grip of pain in her heart and her attachment to her son’s body loosened.

At last, she was ready to let go. She understood what the Buddha had wanted her to find out for herself — that suffering is a part of life, and death comes to us all. Once she accepted the fact that death is inevitable, she could stop her grieving. She left her son’s body in the jungle and returned to the Buddha to pay her respect. She reported that she could find no house where death had not occurred. Then the Buddha said, “death comes to all beings; before their desires are satiated death takes them away.” On hearing this, she fully realised the impermanence of life.

Later, she became a bhikkhuni. One day, early in the morning, she put on her robes and, taking her bowl & outer robe, went into the city for alms. When she returned from her alms round she went to the Grove of the Blind and sat down at the foot of a tree for the day’s meditation.

Then Mara the Evil One, a demon, wanting to arouse fear and terror in Kisagotami to ruin her concentration, approached her and addressed her in verse:

          Why,

with your sons killed,

do you sit all alone,

          your face in tears?

          All alone,

immersed in the midst of the forest,

          are you looking

          for a man?

Kindly, she replied to him in verses:

I’ve gotten past

          the killing of sons,

have made that the end

to [my search for] men.

I don’t grieve,

I don’t weep —

          and I’m not afraid of you,

          my friend.

It’s everywhere destroyed — delight.

The mass of darkness is shattered.

Having defeated the army of death,

                    free

          of fermentations

                    I dwell.

Sad and dejected, Mara the Evil One vanished, and she was free to continue her quest for enlightenment.

The Therigatha (or “Verses of the Elder Nuns”) in the Pali Canon recounts a version of the story. The Therigatha is  a collection of short poems of early women who were elder nuns. The poems date from a three hundred year period, with some dated as early as the late 6th century BCE.

Free Life Lessons from Myth and Legends with Martini Fisher

It is summer time and therefore it is usually my time of the year to release a new course.

So far, I have released a few courses on Udemy. If you are interested, they are:

Introduction to Mahabharata: Lessons on Life and Business

Image result for introduction to Mahabharata: Lessons on Life and Business

And

Ancient Marketing Practices for the Modern World

I recognize that I am privileged to be able to do this. So I would like to share some of the most beautiful things I get to learn with you. Therefore, this year, I would like to do something different and offer a free course through Youtube, Free Life Lessons from Myth and Legends

I have uploaded six videos on youtube, each of them will contain a mythological story and what lessons we can take away from them.

You can head over to my Youtube channel to view the videos.

The videos are:

  1. Introduction: Why Myths are so Important 

Changes in the world often comes from strong emotions such as empathy, hunger, or even anger.This recognition of humanity is the reason people study mythology.

Often, when we force ourselves into a relationship, we end up feeling even more alone.

I find the story of the Pandava brothers to be very liberating. Their weaknesses are lessons for the rest of the world and, if even the great heroes are not perfect, who am I to demand perfection from myself and the world?

Semar is is a rather unattractive, short man with breasts, a great sized butt, and uncontrollable urge for farting. However, underneath his peculiar appearance, Semar plays a major part in the Indonesian creation myth as the elder brother of the supreme god Batara Guru.

When you laugh, you become stronger, you create, you comfort. So, if you can, I highly recommend laughing.

Heroism is much more than just punching monsters. We know that. But it seems that we get somewhat preoccupied with this part and forget all the other parts of being a hero, such as sincerity, independence and fortitude. Luckily, we have ancient heroines to remind us of this.

I hope you enjoy the course!

M

New Release – Time Maps: Matriarchy and the Goddess Culture

book cover 6x9 goddess culture

What happened when women ruled the world?

There are many questions about the Old Culture – a culture even before history was written. Whatever happened to the Great Goddess? When did patriarchy start? How did women become objectified? This book is about the Journey of ancient women with their many glories and challenges. It talks about the gender partitioning which still survived in some cultures today, women as warriors, advisers, goddesses and properties.

Chapters included are:
•The Goddess Paradigm
•Women Warrior
•Dethroning the Queen of Heaven
•The Queen in Exile

Written with a Mathematician’s precision and a Historian’s curiosity, Time Maps covers over millennia worth of developments & impacts of civilizations, migrations, leaders and continents. Illuminating concepts of societies, dynasties, heroes, kings and eras through incisive and thorough research, looking at ideas, theories & world views with a sense of wonder and delight.

Set to publish on 1 January 2018

Now available for pre-order here

Martini

 

Now on Kindle: “Introduction to Mahabharata: Lessons on Life and Businesses”

Following the successful launch of the online course by the same name, “Introduction to Mahabharata: Lessons on Life and Businesses” is now available in eBook form.

We seldom look at mythology as something that has practical lessons to make our life easier. Yet, it is closer to real life than we imagine. The Five Pandava Brothers of the ancient Hindu Epic Mahabharata represents many facets of ancient and modern lives from imperfections to ideal business leaders.

Martini Fisher introduces a different way to look at the Ancient Epic Indian Literature that is Mahabharata and presents its practical lessons for the modern audience.