This group discusses the practical applications of the theosophical philosophy and the therapeutics of the wisdom of the ages.
The art of living study group intends to discuss the relevance and connection of theosophical ideas to the challenges and hurdles of daily life. This group will focus on the ethical issues, psychological challenges and artistic applications of theosophy to the daily round and the common task. While the other three groups freely move back and forth between the universal and the particular, the theoretical and the practical, this group will make an attempt to stay focused on the practical side of the art of living equation.
Weekly Theme for Contemplation: Vibhuti Yoga
November 20, 2016 at 5:16 pm #3835
Theme for Contemplation: Vibhuti Yoga
“To meditate upon the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is to restore one’s sense of the ontological plenty of the spiritual realm.”
— Aquarian Almanac
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Weekly Theme for Contemplation: Vibhuti Yoga
ModeratorTN November 20, 2016 at 5:24 pm #3838
November 19, 2016 Theme for Contemplation: Vibhuti Yoga
“I bow down to that Mahatma who has passed beyond the states of light, darkness and dream, and is established in brilliance and tranquility amidst supreme bliss.”
“We may offer Him that transcends all things the praises of transcendent hymnody.”
—Dionyius of Areopagite
ModeratorTN November 20, 2016 at 5:25 pm #3839
November 20, 2016 Theme for Contemplation: Vibhuti Yoga
” I am the source of all. From Me everything emanates. Thinking thus, the wise worship Me, absorbed in ecstatic contemplation.”
“The aim and object of all initiation is to ascertain His attributes, His connection with humanity, and realize His sacred presence in every human heart.”
— Bhavani Shankar
ModeratorTN November 22, 2016 at 6:30 am #3840
November 21, 2016 Theme for Contemplation: The Vibhuti Yoga
“Transcendent Beings move variously over the earth.”
“On every atom is found a Buddha,
Sitting amidst countless sons.
In this infinite sphere of mystic beings,
I gaze with eyes of faith.”
Kirk MarzuloParticipantKirk Marzulo November 23, 2016 at 5:06 pm #3844
Vibhuti (there should be an overline over the ‘u”) is a Sanskrit word with many meanings. “Ash” is one of them. According to a Sanskrit dictionary I consult it also means: “Divine excellence, sovereign power; magnificence, splendour.”
Chapter 10 of the Gita is Vibhuti Yoga: “Devotion by means of the Universal Divine Perfections” (Judges translation)
“…I am the origin of all Gods and the Adepts…” verse 2
Also, Chapter 3 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is “Vibhuti Pada,” sometimes translated as “Progressing.” Among other things, chapter 3 explains how sanyama is used as the tool to remove the subtler veils of ignorance–that concentration by which “the true nature of the soul arises in the ascetic.”
James November 24, 2016 at 2:39 am #3847
Hi Grace, A couple of helpful English translations; Vibhuti
( 1 ) : Manifestations of divine power or glory ; might ; prosperity ; welfare ; splendor ; exalted rank ; greatness ; miraculous powers ; superhuman power resembling that of God ( Ishwara ). The quality of all-pervasiveness (omnipresence ).
( 2 ) : Sacred ash from a fire sacrifice : sacred ash worn by many Hindus on forehead ; said to remind themselves of the transient nature of life ; also glories .
The latter presumably represents the internal purification one has to go through to reach the former, or evolve beyond the reincarnation process. Sometimes called ‘the burning ground’.
Gerry Kiffe November 24, 2016 at 10:39 pm #3865
It is interesting that divine perfections and sacred ash are connected. You get the impression that divine perfections are possible only when the separate sense of self is burned out. Chapter 10 of the Gita points to all these excellences, “among the Vedas I am the Sama-veda, and Indra among the Gods; among the senses and organs I am the Manas”. To gain excellence in anything you need hard work, struggle, practice, burning out excesses. Ash is to the ascetic of the East perhaps what perspiration is to the Olympic athlete.
- This reply was modified 6 months ago by Gerry Kiffe.
Gary BarnhartParticipantGary Barnhart November 24, 2016 at 6:17 am #3849
It seems pretty common to read about reincarnation as something to eventually transcend , but until you actually live in a supposedly nervanic state, how do you now know that the nervanic state is the ideal estate to reside.
Maybe chopping wood and carrying water and dancing is not so bad, especially with a few friends.
Personally I think it’s to easy for folks to get carried away with the ideal when one misses enjoyment of just being alive!
Plus, how do you really relate with others while being in a nervanic state ….for crying out loud …they are carrying water while the one in the nervanic state or if you like the Samaria state is in La-la land.
Give me some feedback please.
Odin TownleyParticipantOdin Townley November 24, 2016 at 7:51 am #3850
W. Q. Judge in Echoes from the Orient says of the Theosophical Adepts that “by
using their natural powers, they every day influence the world, not only
among the rich and poor of Europe and America, but in every other
land, so that what does come about in our lives is better than it would
have been had they not had part therein.
“The other class referred to — Nirmāṇakāyas — constantly engage in
this work deemed by them greater than earthly enterprises: the betterment
of the soul of man, and any other good that they can accomplish
through human agents. Around them the long-disputed question of
Nirvana revolves, for all that they have not been distinctly considered
in it. For, if Max Müller’s view of Nirvana, that it is annihilation, be
correct, then a Nirmāṇakāya is an impossibility. Paradoxically speaking,
they are in and out of that state at one and the same time. They are
owners of Nirvana who refuse to accept it in order that they may help
the suffering orphan, Humanity. They have followed the injunction of
the Book of the Golden Precepts: ‘Step out from sunlight into shade, to
make more room for others.’”
Gerry Kiffe November 24, 2016 at 8:47 pm #3861
Gary for starters I think it is fair to say that we don’t know too much about what being in a nirvanic state is like. In other words we hear and read about it but from a certain point of view it is outside the range of our normal experiences. To use a James Taylor expression from one of his songs: “Roll all my golden moments into one” might be pointing in the direction of nirvana. So yes like you say we have little tastes of it along the way in ordinary living. But I am sure you would agree that something keeps getting in the way of having more golden moments. And like you say we tend to miss the opportunity for them in the small events of our lives. The question then has to be why? What is getting in the way of more joy, more golden moments, greater appreciation, more gratitude?
Nirvana is kind of Buddhist equivalent to the idea of enlightenment but you could equate it with perfect knowledge, or supreme joy, or a profound sense of unity and connectedness or many other descriptions. These are the kinds of phrases great beings use to refer to an experience that really is beyond words. When we love someone or something the word does not go very far in expressing what we are actually feeling.
People that are “blissed out” are often just trapped in a personal emotional experience that separates them from others in various ways. Real Nirvana I believe would go the other way. It would be a state of higher empathy towards others, a more profound compassion, a higher awareness of what is really going on, an ability to see the line of succession in cause and effect.
So the more nirvanic one would be, looked at this way, the more practical one would be not the opposite.
Think of a football or baseball game. When there is a close play who has the most honest view of what happened? Certainly it is not the players or the fans. The referee or the umpire is the only person who does not have a dog in the fight and therefore is most able to judge the truth of what happened. That is the kind of detachment suggested in nirvana not necessarily some dreamy condition. It has to do with clarity not confusion, with truth and not dreams.
Meditation, which is a necessary discipline in moving towards nirvana, is a withdrawing of oneself from the picture in a manner of speaking, is a necessary practice in gaining greater control of our lives. Why you may ask? Because we are constantly editing stuff out or changing the story to fit our likes and dislikes. And like the umpire we have to gain some objectivity if we really want to grow and move forward.
James November 25, 2016 at 12:42 am #3868
There is a regular succession of death and birth caused by our enjoyment of physical life and its pleasures. When we eventually desire a release from the sorrows of these successive rebirths we have to destroy the reason behind them (Karma). Those who have fully obtained this are called Arhats.
An Arhat is one who has reached the highest Path; he may merge into Nirvana at will, while here on earth. CW 14
At his death, the Arhat is never reincarnated; he invariably attains Nirvana — a word, by the bye, falsely interpreted by the Christian scholars and sceptical commentators. Nirvana is the world of cause, in which all deceptive effects or delusions of our senses disappear. Nirvana is the highest attainable sphere. IU1 347
barbara November 26, 2016 at 4:46 am #3870
It is very nice to hear from you again.
I think we need to recognize that some people do not relate to life as an enjoyment. Rather, life is suffering. The emptiness of the seemingly full in the phenomenal realm offers no appeal. With this in mind, one is driven to look for answers to the meaning of existence. There are many teachings and religious practices showing the way to Truth.
Although we do not know much about a nirvanic state, as Gerry aptly pointed out, yet we do know that there are states of consciousness much higher and loftier than ours. We can call it any name we choose, nirvana, Samadhi, enlightenment, etc. Explorers follow maps to locate unfamiliar areas, they verify every landmark and terrain on the map they encounter throughout their journey. Students use instructions by the revered teachers to discover the hidden truths, and every glimpse of new reality becomes a testament, which reaffirms the veracity of the sacred teachings.
In the Ageless Wisdom, some of the indicators of interior growth are a more sincere empathy towards others, a keener perception of truth, and a broad universal outlook of life. It is carrying water and chopping wood with others, but one with a much deeper understanding.
- This reply was modified 6 months ago by barbara.
Kristan StratosModeratorKristan Stratos November 27, 2016 at 12:43 am #3878
“I think we need to recognize that some people do not relate to life as an enjoyment. Rather, life is suffering.”
I think this is probably true for the majority of people. It is rare, I find, to encounter an individual beaming with enthusiasm and zest while slugging through mundane affairs, which are often soul crushing to some degree. I think it is important that we recognize that life is full of constant struggling, opposition after opposition which in turn will be seen as one adjustment after another- though none are essentially “good or bad,” however, suffering is always present in one shape or form (physical, emotional, psychical etc.)
As Jon pointed out- the habit and tendency amongst some students to view Nirvana as being a region of “blissful enjoyment,” and escapism, just leaves the personality more and more solidified in this habitual tendency for retreat. There are many grades of consciousness, but perhaps only one is fundamentally important?
Jon FergusModeratorJon Fergus November 26, 2016 at 11:38 am #3874
Just to add one related thought to the replies above, I’ll include a quote from the Chohan’s letter:
“… that curse known as the “struggle for life,” which is the real and most prolific parent of most woes and sorrows and of all the crimes? Why has that struggle become the almost universal scheme of the universe? We answer, because no religion with the exception of Buddhism has hitherto taught a practical contempt for this earthly life…”
To my mind, if we fall into the habit of viewing “nirvana” as “enjoyment” we likely glue ourselves to this very same “struggle for life”. After all, what’s the difference between the personal ego seeking enjoyment here on earth or seeking enjoyment in heaven, or nirvana, or elysium, or anywhere else the (lower) mind tries to imagine? It still ends up as a little “me” trying to find some enjoyment for itself, which I think just keeps the bonds of karma tight.
In my own experience, I’ve come to feel more and more a kind of “practical contempt” for this earth-life as I’ve gotten older and explored more and plumbed the depths of myself and this world a little more. The suffering on this globe is immense and unceasing, and though some find little fleeting enjoyments, it’s never lasting. From what I can see, enjoyment in this world always comes at the cost of turning a blind eye to some form of suffering (i.e. we enjoy this life only if we can create a kind of bubble for ourselves and ignore (even if just for a time) the suffering all around us). Viewing Nirvana as “enjoyment” also seems to breed this very same thing: an attempt to find an “escape” from this world of suffering for oneself. I suspect it takes some high degree of surrender to suffering to really begin to walk the “path of woe”, as the Voice of the Silence calls it.
Odin TownleyParticipantOdin Townley November 26, 2016 at 2:28 pm #3875
Another HPB bottom line:
ENQUIRER. Why, then, the need for re-births, since all alike fail to secure a permanent peace?
THEOSOPHIST. Because the final goal cannot be reached in any way but through life experiences, and because the bulk of these consist in pain and suffering. It is only through the latter that we can learn. Joys and pleasures teach us nothing; they are evanescent, and can only bring in the long run satiety. Moreover, our constant failure to find any permanent satisfaction in life which would meet the wants of our higher nature, shows us plainly that those wants can be met only on their own plane, to wit — the spiritual.
Gerry Kiffe November 28, 2016 at 9:43 pm #3894
Good points Jon and nirvana is I believe crudely translated as a “blowing out”. That blowing out is perhaps a blowing out of a separative sense of self. But I don’t think we should fool ourselves as to how hard that will be. That is a pretty crusty shell at this point in human evolution. I think they did a good job in the Matrix movie portraying the escape from one form of existence to another.
ModeratorTN November 24, 2016 at 8:13 pm #3857
November 23, 2016 Theme for Contemplation: Vibhuti Yoga
“He alone knows how to revere who never confounds the dignity of those he honours, who offers himself first as a pure sacrifice, who renders his soul the image of Deity and who prepares his mind as a temple worthy to receive the divine light.“
ModeratorTN November 24, 2016 at 8:15 pm #3858
November 24, 2016 Theme for Contemplation: Vibhuti Yoga
“There dwell also the congregations of the Blessed, in bliss they dwell, with the True One in their hearts.”
— Guru Nanak
“Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.”
— Benedict Spinoza
ModeratorTN November 24, 2016 at 8:15 pm #3859
November 25 2016 Theme for Contemplation: Vibhuti Yoga
“The Universal Form; for that whene’er I do but speak of it, my soul dilates
Beyond her proper self.”
— Dante Aligheri
“My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds.”
— Albert Einstein
James November 24, 2016 at 10:55 pm #3867
Fire purifies; The fires of lust that burn within can be purified with Spiritual fire.
Desire for physical pleasures when purified are transformed to Aspirations for the Spiritual life.
“The fire or knowledge burns up all action on the plane of illusion,” says the commentary. SD1 88
James November 27, 2016 at 12:25 am #3877
Good question Gerry,
By development of the ‘Will’ which is probably best understood by those approaching the return path who have developed a “practical contempt” for this earth-life as Jon puts it
We have two types of Will, Spiritual Will, an offspring of the Divine in man, and Personality Will fuelled by desires. Both create according to the image made by man himself. Therefore every time a lower desire appears replace it with a suitable divine aspiration. This is a Raja Yoga technique and requires constant use of the Will.
HPB Quote; ‘His task is twofold: to awaken the will, to strengthen it by use and conquest, to make it absolute ruler within his body; and, parallel with this, to purify desire.
Knowledge and will are the tools for the accomplishment of this purification.’ CW 8 109
barbara November 27, 2016 at 4:58 am #3880
Ok, that is helpful. Then the natural next question is how do we transform lower desires into spiritual aspiration?
I think the key lies in the law of attraction and repulsion. We all could think of something in our life that once captivated all our cravings and, subsequently, the luster vanished because we had outgrown the attraction, like an adult who is no longer drawn to play children’s toys. The process of transformation involves dying (or transcending) to the old and born to the new. In this regard, through purification, devotion, and right thinking, one is no longer pulled by earthly desires because one knows the illusory nature of phenomena and sees through its emptiness. More importantly, there is nothing in one’s character that resonates with the lower elements; the attraction is gone. Hence, shifting the focus to the loftier planes comes very naturally.
Kristan StratosModeratorKristan Stratos November 27, 2016 at 12:53 am #3879
Someplace HPB mentions the two fold astral body… I think it is in the SD Dialogues… I cannot recall exactly where this line I am thinking of is.
Though it has already been mentioned, desire of the lower aspect of astral body has specific languages of its own, working though the specific vehicles. The higher aspect of the astral body, Desire, or as James pointed out, is Aspiration/Desire.
I am supposing that it would only be natural to shift the language of the lower to more refined vehicles corresponding to “subtler” side of things.
Peter November 27, 2016 at 5:10 pm #3881
On the subject of ‘desire.’
Is the problem we attribute to desire due to the nature of desire or has it to do with the object of desire?
If the problem is the nature of desire itself then whatever the object of that desire (good or bad, material or spiritual) then the inherent problematic nature of desire will simply remain regardless of which direction we ‘point’ that desire.
Is desire in itself a neutral force which we say becomes ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending upon the object of desire – for example, the desire to harm others being seen as morally bad, while the desire to help and do good for others is regarded as morally good?
One person may aspire to have material wealth or power over others. Another person may desire to lead a life serving and helping others. In these examples it is the object of our desires or aspirations which appears to set the tone, not the terminology.
Or, perhaps the word ‘desire’ is simply a generic term under whichmany different kinds of desires or wanting may be listed? In which case, do we need to clarify what we mean by the term desire whenever we use it?
Peter November 27, 2016 at 5:26 pm #3882
On the subject of desire (cont):
When the Buddha gave his teachings on the Four Noble Truths he referred to a particular kind of desire which is usually translated as craving. He saw this as the origin of suffering which is the second Noble Truth.
’It is this craving that leads to renewed existence, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there, that is craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence, craving for extermination.’
In the teachings which expand on the above – the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination – the Buddha says that such craving turns into grasping (an even stronger attachment to the object of craving), which in turn leads to existence. By craving and grasping leading to existence, the Buddha appears to mean that craving and grasping generate the kind of consciousness (imprinted with karmic afflictions) that becomes the basis for a renewed round of birth, old age and death in the realm of samsara. Sometimes this ‘craving’ is called tanha, the craving or thirst for sentient existence.
The Mahatma KH made a point of translating these verses on “Dependent Origination’ for A.P. Sinnett. Here, the Mahatma translates it as “thirst from which comes attachment”. (See Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett, no.10, Barker edition.)
In a further letter, the Mahatma defines Tanha as ‘the thirst or desire to sentiently live – the proximate force or energy, the resultant of human (or animal) action, which, out of the old Skandhas produce the new group that form the new being and control the nature of the birth itself.’ (Letter 16.) The problem implicit in this process is that so long as our lives are governed by craving and grasping, then so long are we re-born with personalities (the five aggregates, skandhas) that are largely constituted of that very craving and thus subject to the ongoing cycle of grasping at pleasure and the consequent experience of suffering that follows in its wake.
To free ourselves from that ‘thirst for pleasure and existence’, to free ourselves from our ignorance, craving and grasping (i.e. the primary causes of suffering as outlined in the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination) is to become liberated from the cycle of samsara, according to Buddhism. That liberation or cessation of those causes is referred to as peace or nirvana.
The Dalai Lama points out that there is still a great difference in development between the realisation of an arhat, who has achieved this first stage of liberation, and the Buddha, whose realisations and.accomplishments allow him to continue helping all sentient beings. (see ‘From Here to Enlightenment’) The desire or motivation for a person on the Bodhisattva path of development is to achieve the kind of liberation and realisations that results in Buddhahood in order to be able to help and liberate all beings.
barbara November 28, 2016 at 4:32 am #3883
I assume we were discussing about the objects of desire and ways to transform them from material to spiritual. As James wrote, “nothing in the Universe dies, it just changes form. Hence Desire evolving into Aspiration.”
I view desire as a driving force stemmed from Kama, which could be directed to many different objects. Are there different types of desires or are they just different objects of desires? Buddha teaches in the Four Noble Truths, tanha, the craving or thirst for sentient existence. It seems that he is pointing to this particular object of desire, which is sentiency, that binds us.
Peter November 29, 2016 at 11:11 am #3899
Good thoughts, Barbara. I was thinking out loud, so to speak, and starting from a more general place in wondering about ‘desire.’ I’m not quite sure we can say that desire evolves into aspiration. Isn’t an aspiration simply ‘a strong desire, longing, or ambition’? Aspirations can be material as well as spiritual. That said, you and James are obviously right to point out there is a process in which we may lift our focus from a ‘lower’ to a ‘higher’ object of desire. That’s why I think James is also right when he says that the injunction “To Kill out Desire” needs looking into and shouldn’t be taken at face value.
Let’s say that desire is a neutral force and it is the object chosen that determines whether this neutral force is regarded as a material or a spiritual desire. (Your view is more complex than this, of course). The difficulty here is that many of our objects of desire are also neutral in themselves – particularly material objects and possessions? The golden necklace, the cash of coins, a naked body, the fast car, the large house & so on – in themselves they are just objects in the world not objects of desire. The same object may be desired by one person, loathed by another, while yet another person feels indifferent towards it.
Is the problem, then, not to do with desire per se, nor with the objects in themselves, but more to do with our views about ourselves, others and the world around us? I think this is why the great teachers such as the Buddha, Tsongkhapa, and Sankaracarya say that Liberation relies on the removal of ignorance. We have a false view of ourselves and of the world and this is the root of all suffering and bondage.
In the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination, for example, the Buddha places Ignorance first and traces how it leads to the cycle of suffering. The craving and grasping referred to here are as much about wrong views as they are about desires. In short, it is an ignorance about the nature of Reality which causes us to grasp at a self (the aggregates or personality) that inherently exists and is separate from others, a self that we crave to satisfy through the delights of sentient existence. In the Eight Fold path leading to the cessation of that craving, grasping and consequent suffering, Right View is placed as the first step. (Nirvana in this context refers to the cessation or blowing out of all that craving and grasping at a false sense of self.)
One of the important aspects of the teachings which these great sages point out is that unless we remove ignorance about the nature of the self and the world, then our spiritual desires or aspirations will just take on a more subtler form of craving and grasping – still centred around the notion of a false idea of a inherently existing separate self.
Anyway, just some thoughts and wonderings.
barbara November 30, 2016 at 3:29 am #3905
Your response prompted some thoughts in my mind.
When one is mired by earthly desires, the degree of attraction to the teachings is dim. One may hear the noblest doctrines, like Unity, Atma Vidya, Eightfold Path, karma and others, but they may be too far-reaching and cannot sink deeply in the heart because one is clogged up by ignorance.
There needs to be a bridge, a force that could propel one from a dense to a more receptive state. It is similar to planning a treatment process to wean an addict from his/her addiction. Transforming one’s lower desires to higher ones is a big step and the first for many; this may lead one to an ardent “want” to be liberated from ignorance.
Understandably, some aspirations still could be selfish since one just transfers the desires from the coarser to the finer levels; the term is spiritual materialism based on the separate self. But, aspirations can also be lofty, like the desires to uplift humanity, to help others, to be a follower of truths, to want to be liberated from the false idea of self, to want to alleviate suffering, etc. We are told desires are twofold; the lower and higher. They may have a good purpose in human existence and especially in certain period of one’s life.
I think at certain point, the need for desires (or even aspirations) diminish, like a blind person no longer needs a pair of glasses to see when he/she regains the eyesight. Or there is no need for a bridge when one crosses to the other side. As such, one is no longer swayed by desires. Aspirations have become spiritual instincts. One then stands steady and focused, like a plant which naturally turns towards the sunlight for life.
Peter December 5, 2016 at 4:29 pm #3964
More interesting thoughts, Barbara – thanks. Yes, how to make that transition ‘from a dense to a more receptive state’? It seems to me that we usually need reasons to make a significant change of any kind. Reasons tend to arise out of reflection on experience and on whatever ‘wisdom’ (inner and outer) that is available to us at the time. Ideas shape our beliefs and our beliefs, in turn, shape our desires. Perhaps ‘ideas do rule the world’ as Plato says (or at least is attributed to him). If so, this would be a fertile field in which to labour and help each other.
(ps: apologies for delay in replying)
James November 29, 2016 at 11:04 am #3895
Very much so Gerry, it also colours our aura as HPB pointed out.
CW8 109;.. Both will and desire are absolute creators, forming the man himself and his surroundings. But will creates intelligently—desire blindly and unconsciously. The man, therefore, makes himself in the image of his desires, unless he creates himself in the likeness of the Divine, through his will, the child of the light.
CW12 549;.. Again, the Auric Body will contain much of the colour of the Lower Manas (green) if the man is a material sensualist, just as it will contain much of the darker hue (indigo blue ) if the Higher Manas (blue/indigo) has preponderance over the Lower.
James November 29, 2016 at 1:22 pm #3901
To Add a little to the above, HPB indicates Will as the opposite to Desire while we remain only men. Now I would suggest Will is the Spiritual agent that enables us to overcome our Desires and Transform/transmute that energy into something higher and finer. Hence the word ‘aspire’ to the Spiritual path/laws sounds clearer and more fitting than ‘desire to the Spiritual path. I think as a student, one needs a clear cut division between the two directions. Later as it becomes internalized, one may not need such a verbal description.
Also I am sure HPB’s advice to ‘coin new English words for Sanskrit ones’ could extend to altering her words to clearer ones if needed, always remembering English was her third language and was a struggle for her, with Isis being her first attempt to write in it.