Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Shivaya

Aug 26, 2016

10 Tips on Writing Haiku - Story Mirror Creativity Workshop

I have had recently shared my “Ten Tips on Writing Haiku” in Story Mirror Creativity Workshop which was organized in association with Story MirrorApparao Galleries and Aspiring Authors Group along with the famous Author, Timeri N Murari, who shared his insights on Writing for Plays. As many of aspiring authors and writers present in the workshop asked me to share my thoughts and tips on Haiku, I am writing this one post so that it is convenient for all to read and share.

Poster : Story Mirror, Haiku by Shashi

What Haiku means to me...?

I have been reading and writing Haiku for a long time and over the period, I have realised that it has more depth than some interplay of words, seasons or cutting words known as Kigo etc. For me…

It is painting pictures with words…
It is also a way of living with awareness…
It is also a kind of Meditation for me….

But before I go on to elaborate the above statements, let me give you a brief historical perspective on Haiku. It will help you to appreciate the beauty of the world’s most popular poetic form.

Haiku - A Brief Introduction
(For a detailed discussion, please read ‘UnderstandingHaiku - A Beginner’s Guide’)
As per The Haiku Society of America, a dictionary definition for Haiku is that these are the world’s smallest poems, consisting of 17 syllables arranged in sequence of 5-7-5. But for me the Haiku has a larger meaning…

The classical poems were known as Waka meaning ‘Japanese poem or song’ in the 9th century which were mainly of two types – a long form called Choka and a short form known as Tanka. The opening 17 syllable stanza of Renga Session was known as Hokku which, later19th Century poet, Shiki gave the name as Haiku.

Basho - acknowledged as the supreme master of Haiku, believed to have said to his Zen Teacher that “Haiku are description of what is happening at a particular ‘haiku moment’.

Finer Points…
There are many elements that interwoven into a beautiful haiku. Some of the them are…

Mystery and elegance (Yugen)

Stillness and solitude –
Sinking into stones,
The trill of cicadas
- Basho

Melancholy sadness and tranquility (Sabi and Shori)

On a withered branch
A crow has settled.
Nightfall in autumn.
- Basho

Or in the spirit of poetic madness (Fukyo)

Let me show you,
You market people,
This hat filled with snow.
- Basho

After Basho, there have been many great poets who took Haiku to the greater heights …

The bite of my axe.
Sudden revelation –
There is life in this tree!

As Buson accepts his death quietly in this farewell poem

White plum blossoms,
Night turns to dawn –
The time has come

Masaoka Shiki
A river in summer
There’s a bridge here, but
My horse prefers water

Now coming back to what Haiku means to me…
I believe that everything that comes in a flash of insight is potential Haiku. Holding on to that seed and then putting words around it in order to paint a picture; to make it a complete thought which forces a reader to reflect upon it, is what I feel ‘writing’ a Haiku is.

Here is a Haiku that I have had written years back, when in the backwaters on the outskirts of Chennai, I saw Herons, standing for hours together…

Under my feet
Path disappeared
Am I the destination?

Painting pictures with words…

Pain is
When you feel like
Stopping the sunrise

-This is the first line from my book “Songs of the Mist”, where Ashutosh, having lost his brother’s entire family to an epidemic and then as he went deeper into despair, love of his life also leaves him one night on the banks of Ganges. And as he opened his eyes, half submerged in the sand and silt of the banks of the river, he wanted the night not to end…

Living with awareness…
Over a period of time, Writing Haiku changed me; it gave me a deeper sense of things all around…

In the process of writing Haiku, I move into a deeper level of awareness, just like in Zen Meditation or by Mantra chanting


TIP 1: Be aware of your surroundings and the little happiness’s in life. Experience it fully and then the words would form automatically.

TIP 2: Look deeply and then with what you see as well as feel within, you should find words to paint a vivid imagery.

TIP 3: A Haiku becomes more powerful if it contrasts or aligns the nature with your own thoughts and feelings.

TIP 4: Use simple words. Words those come naturally to you. A haiku reflects your own personality in a vivid way.

TIP 5: Write, whenever a thought or words come to you as you are going about your daily life.

TIP 6: Write daily. Haiku for me works like a mantra chanting. Over the years it has slowly transformed me. So I write daily.

TIP 7: Try to write haiku in 3 lines, 5-7-5 syllable forms as it is generally accepted as the norm.

TIP 8: Count your syllables; there are many sites that will count the same for you.

TIP 9: There is a list of Kigo, known as Cutting word as well as seasonal words to be used in classical Haiku, available on the net. Use them as often as you can.

TIP 10: In the beginning, write with a picture. Try to capture the essence of it in words as I usually do. It helps.

ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya

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Understanding Haiku - A Beginner's Guide                                  

My book "Songs of the Mist" journey across India...

One of the reasons, I am writing the three book series, "The Monk Key" of which "Songs of the Mist", is the first part, is to share the story of one young man's journey to 'find the divinity within'. As the series was conceived on the banks of holy river Ganges, in 1987 and firmed up across my travels to Rishikesh  Varanasi, Ganga Sagar. So it has been my deepest desire to offer it to that divine sources from which it draws its stories, energy and its blessings. 

The another purpose of writing this book has been to reach out to the young generation who, in my opinion are alienated from the deep source of our culture, heritage and thoughts - our ancient scriptures. When asked, if they have read our Vedas, Purana's and Upanishad's etc., they typically reply "What is the point of reading them" due the certain biases rooted in modernity. The book "Songs of the Mist" is one such attempt to share the knowledge and thoughts of Karma Yoga, based on Bhagwat Gita; in order to inspire them to connect proactively with our cultural heritage. At the book's launch at Chennai's famous book store, I shared my thoughts on the same.

My book "Songs of the Mist" was published in Dec, 2016 and within 9 days it reached two thousand ranking amongst millions of books at Amazon. In April 2016, it breached double digit ranking. Within a period of 6 months, I have been blessed with opportunities to fulfil my desire to dedicate the book to its sources of inspiration. From the Himalayas to plains of India, I have had few opportunities to dedicate the book to Holy Ganges, at Rishikesh, Varanasi, Kolkata; Goddess Durga of our ancient temple in the eastern UP village and Buddha Shrine at Kushinagar - a place where Buddha attained Nirvana. Through book readings and launches, I have also been blessed to reach out to the readers of young India.

It gives me a great pleasure to share some of the images and few video clips, chronicling my book's journey across India. Hope you will enjoy it.

Parmarth Niketan - Rishikesh
Sivananda Ashram - Rishikesh

Durga Ji, Buddha at Kushi Nagar and friends from Varanasi...

Book Reading at Leela Palace Hotel organised by
Apparao Galleries

Here is an introduction to my book by the Famous Author, Journalist and Writer, Timeri N Murari at the Leela Palace Hotels, organised by Apparao Galleries in an event called "An Evening of Art, Music and Writing".

"Many of us here yearn for something more in our life. Shashi has provided a spiritual release in beautiful book, Songs of the Mist. It’s unusual and thought provoking book. The book answers questions that we struggle to frame in our daily lives. Shashi’s descriptive beauty of the mystic nature of Himalayas interwoven with sufferings and the heartaches, and struggle of each protagonist, provide eloquent and thought provoking read. Not a book to browsed at glance and to reach books full potential demands commitment and investment of time to savor its subtlety and do grows." - Timeri N Murari
Odyssey Book Launch

At the Odyssey Book Launch, the popular Rapper - Blaaze (Baba Rap, Hosanna Rap, Slum Dog Millionaire, Delhi 6 etc.) and Keshav Ji - The Famous Cartoonist of the News Paper Group Hindu, who is foremost Krishna Bhakta echoed my thoughts about our ancient Indian Heritage and culture...

“When you just listen to it (Shlokas etc), …the sanskrit syllables are enough to get you positive energy, without knowing anything about it. … it can only bring peace in a world like this”. – Blaaze

“Our Purana’s (Ancient Vedic Scriptures etc.) give you how to deal with life, how to deal with situations and predicaments, as they have already analyzed and laid it out on platter so that you don’t have to think.” – Keshav ji

Chennai and Kolkata Book Fair
Hope you have enjoyed the journey with me amongst holy places of India as well as my thoughts shared within the video clips. If you would like to read my book "Songs of the Mist" it is available at the following places. || || Amazon.UK || Flipkart || Google Play || Kindle ||

ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya

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Hindu Lit for Life 2016                                    

Jul 31, 2016

On Vedic Culture - Hindu Phobia is not the right way to look at it....

As one of my favorite Czech Author, Milan Kundera once said that every act of creativity, writing or novel should have a purpose. I had decided to write my story in year 1987, when I first visited Rishikesh, finished writing all three parts of "The Monk Key" in 2010 Nov. But still had no reason to get it published other than my ego, I.e. to get to be known as an author, which was actually not on my priority list. But last year, one day I asked my son, have you read Bhagwat Gita and he said, no - what’s the point of reading it. This gave me a purpose, i.e. to make our Vedic / Upanishadic / Poranic scriptures come out of obscure depths of dogmatic beliefs and rituals and become main stream and interesting for young generation. This book "Songs of the Mist" and "The Monk Key" series is my one small step towards that goal.

You see, our conscious mind works on only two things - logic and language. And our ancient books and scriptures are treasure troves of both Language as well as knowledge and the extremely deep thought processes. Reading these ancient books can easily ignite a spark a new idea, a new search for meaning in your mind, specially young minds. Yes there are things written in these books that usually don’t go with modern and prevalent scientific thoughts. But the fact is that some people cherry-pick only the negative things about our culture and heritage, and in the process creating a narrative, which is not actually in the sync with the grand reality of our heritage and culture. This ultimately has created a bias against our vedic heritage and culture and alienated young generation. This saddens me to a great extent and with this post I am trying to put things in certain perspective, with hope that it will inspire you to reach out to our heritage and culture.

Almost 3000 years ago, Pythagoras came to India, (Albert Burk in his book Das Apstamba Sulba Sutra 1901 says he came to Kanchipuram) to learn from Indian sages, masters and went back to his city. Apart from the Pythagoras theorem that he is famous for, which is now proven to be the direct takeaway from Shulabha Strotra, he also took our methods of teaching, which was famous at the time. - The Gurukul system of learning. The alumni were the likes of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle.

Image curtsy Wikipedia

Let me tell you another story, which I have talked about in my blog post earlier discussing the Big Bang (Click here to read). Lemaitre - An ordained priest in 1931 observed the night sky over the years and realised that the nebulae’s he was observing are going farther away. He then proposed that the Universe must be expanding. Then as he retraced this expansion back in time as thought experiment and proposed a theory that as the Universe in the past must have started from a single point. In a BBC interview in 1949, George Gamow another scientist, gave this theory a name - The Big Bang Theory. In 1970, Stephen Hawking and his colleagues proved mathematically that the Universe indeed started from a single point with the Big Bang.

Now the reason I am telling you this story is that almost 3K years ago, in Mandukya Upanishad, it is also said that the Universe was formed from a point with the Pranava Naad which literally means A deep Sound, and if I may paraphrase - from the Big Bang. But if we go out and say this to a scientist, they will laugh.  Though this is exactly what the priest Lemaitre proposed in 1930s too. Why?

Because some one took Georges Lemaitre’s words seriously and did continuous research over decades and finally Stephen Hawkins proved it. But unfortunately in India, we don’t do it. We don’t take the thought experiments of our ancient sages to its logical conclusion by research and experiments. Almost 3K years ago we had abandoned the experimental part and only took forward the ritualistic part of our Vedic culture. I feel sad about it.

But slowly things are changing now. There are people still working on those obscure knowledge somehow or the other to make it acceptable to the world. Yoga is one such example of our knowledge being embraced by the world now.

There are people who do get inspired by those ancient shloka, for example a young mathematician of Indian origin in USA- Manjul Bhargava. He is a fields medal winner - which is considered to be a noble prize for mathematics. His grand father in Rajasthan gave him a set of ancient shloka’s. The Fibonacci sequence embedded in the shloka triggered his curiosity and he developed a method that won him his PhD in an US University too.

And I am happy that there are people like Manjul Bhargava from USA, and still more closer to us in Chennai cool people like my friends here, the youth icon and Singer Blaaze and a great Krishna Bhakta, Painter and famous Cartoonist of Hindu Sh. Keshav and music director Paul, with whom I am trying to bring out Songs of the Monk from my book. When I hear them collaborate and sing ancient Shloka’s, I feel that all is still not lost.

ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya

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                                 Creation and the eternal Sound OM

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