Archives for the month of: March, 2013
Krishna and GopisCredit International Society for Krishna conciousness - ISKCON

Krishna and Gopis
Credit International Society for Krishna conciousness – ISKCON

The Avatar ( Reincarnation of the Universal Essence) Krishna, is dark, blue as the thunder clouds, slender and mischievous, the one who has stolen the hearts(souls) of all the cowgirls (Gopis), climbing the trees to secretly cast pebbles at the earthen pithcers balanced on their heads as they troop to the pond to fetch water, clambering down to steal their clothes (their egos) as they bathe, then playing on his flute a bewitching melody ( the song of creation) drawing every being, man/woman, animal, bird or beast, to where he may be. Meera, like the Gopis now pines for him (soul for the Supersoul) and with these images Meera composes her song:

I SEARCH FOR YOU DEAR LORD

(KUNJAN BAN CHHADI RE MADHO)

In groves and forest

I searched for you O Lord

Where should I look now?

If I were a fish in the river

Where you were bathing,

I would swim down

And touch your feet,

If I was a cuckoo in the forest,

Where you would come

Grazing your cows,

I would call out in song,

If I was an oyster’s pearl,

I would be strung on  your neck,

Resting on your bosom,

Alas, now where should I go,

For you I long,

If you want us to meet,

Meera’s thundercloud dark lord,

If you want our union, come

For without your fulfilling vision,

I am inconsolable, desolate,

then how can I sing my song?

Krishna & Gopis Bathing in Eternal MoonlightCredit: ISKCON

Krishna & Gopis Bathing in Eternal Moonlight
Credit: ISKCON

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kabir 2

Kabir in this poem mocks those desperately seeking the divine far and wide when all they need to do is look within in self realization:

DEEP IN THE WATER A THIRSTY FISH

( PANI BEECH MEEN PYASI)

thirsty fish

It makes me laugh to think
That a fish in the water
Thirsts for a drink.

From forest to forest he sadly roams
In search of a jewel
Lying at home.

It makes me laugh to think
A musk-deer is seeking
The very fragrance
Which emanates from him.

Without knowledge of the Self
What use O pilgrim,
At Mathura or Kasi
To go looking for him?

It makes me laugh to think
That a fish in the water
Can thirst for a drink.

The perfect pilgrimCredit: The Met. New York

The perfect pilgrim
Credit: The Met. New York

Painting - Raja Ravi Varma / Wikipedia

Painting – Raja Ravi Varma / Wikipedia

Shankaracharya ( Shanker + Acharya – sage,seer ) is regarded as one of India’s most eminent and brilliant philosophers of the post-Vedic age. He lived in the early 9th century A.D. His brief career of 31 years was remarkable for consolidating Hindu thought contained in the Upanishads ( primal musings of sages in the forest on the nature of reality) the Bhagawat Gita (India’s most sacred religious text ), the Yoga Sutra (treatises on meditation) and Vedantic thought ( post-Vedic philosophy) in his  philosophy of Advait (non dualism). At the time Hindu thought and practices had become disparate, ritualistic, conflicting and full of superstition with the fringes even adhering to  atheism and gross materialism. The genius of an earlier age which had created great religious movements reaching out to far corners of the world had lost its dynamism, clarity and momentum and was beset by confusion and strife. His writings and debates turned much of this around breathing new warmth and life into thought, belief and practice and having a far-reaching influence in rejuvenating Hindu Philosophy and beliefs.

Shanker revived and reasserted with renewed vigour the Upanishadic premise of a grand unity underlying everything. The Upanishadic aphorism ‘thou art that’ (Tat tvam asi) became the central slogan of his Advait (non-dual) philosophical teachings which were contained in a systematic and consistent doctrine. The self (Soul – Atma) and the Universal Essence (Brahman) were the only reality, the rest of phenomenal existence and the world was illusory. The apparent reality of the ego and the cosmos was the result of ignorance. But ‘Ignorance’ indeed was a positive force with the power (Shakti) to create a grand illusion. The ego and the sheaths covering the Soul, together with the phenomenal world were like a mirage in the desert. Like a cloud covering the sun so too did ‘Ignorance’ cover up the Soul. To overcome the ‘Ignorance’ which produces the magic of phenomenality, the weapon was self-realization – getting to know the Soul

The practice begins with adopting a stern morality in life (ethical behaviour – Dharma), altruistic action without attachment towards results (dispassionate action of the Gita), Yogic practices to cleanse the mind and body (Yoga Sutras). To prepare himself he must first acquire knowledge of the scriptures, have unshakable faith and adopt a Guru to guide him and draw the road map.

According to Advait interpretation God with attributes is like a mask upon the sublime Universal Essence (Brahman), which is without attributes. The adept Vedantin seeker is warned that a stage will appear in his quest for truth and spiritual evolution when the vision of God incarnate will finally appear resplendent before him. This is the final stage of phenomenality and duality. The feelings of ecstasy and euphoria arising then have to be contained and the adept has to resist the temptation to remain in that state of bliss. For he has to move on in his search for the real truth, beyond the splendid vision, towards the sublime. silent, featureless one without attributes, one who cannot be an object for a subject. When he goes beyond this penultimate stage he finally dispels ‘Ignorance’ and attains enlightenment by realizing that ‘he is that’; there is no subject any more nor an object, there is only the One.

According to Advait, Brahman (Universal Essence) is ‘the one without a second’, the one which alone exists (Sat), which is pure consciousness (Chit), and is in a state of bliss(Anand). The Soul (Atma) does not merge with it because it never really separated from it. Brahman remains the one without a second (Advait) and the Atma’s separation is an illusion, the result of ignorance which when dispelled, produces enlightenment. The influence of Shanker’s doctrine of Advait on Hindu belief systems to this day remains far-reaching. Yet, succeeding philosophers like the sage Ramanuja in the 11th century dissented from this interpretation of Vedant philosophy, holding that the incarnated Souls were separate from the Divine Essence and only finally merged with it after the cycles of birth.

Likewise thinkers and poets of the Age of Devotion (Bhakti) of the 16th century believed in a God with attributes who became very tangible when incarnating as Avatar,  and was attainable simply through love and devotion rather than scholastic and intellectual meditation.  For them the Gita became tha main vehicle of inspiration with its qualified and deistic Monism, rather than the scholastic and esoteric path shown by Advait doctrine. Shanker never rejected devotional prayer (Bhakti) or denied its value for he held that it was a necessary but intermediate stage for the adept on his journey to the ultimate realization of the true nature of the Universal Essence.

Shankeracharya’s philosophy and doctrine was enshrined in four monastic centres (Maths) which he set up in different corners of India  surviving to this day at Sringeri (South), Govardhan (East), Kalika (West), and Jyoti (North). The heads of the four monasteries are revered in India, much as the Vatican’s Pope is in the Christian world.

In addition to his philosophical treatises Shanker wrote numerous brilliant poems which are sung and recited to this day. One of his most popular songs is recited as an aid to meditation by disciples and seekers.

SONG OF ENLIGHTENMENT

(NIRVANSHATAKAM)

At dawn I dwell on the essence

Of the shining self in my heart,

Truth, consciousness and bliss,

That Supreme Essence am I,

Indivisible, without parts,

Neither body, senses nor mind,

Not the vital breath nor intelligence,

I am not my ego

I am neither male nor female

Nor am I sexless,

Indeed I am the witness

Neither born nor ever dying

I am eternal,

The inner Self,

The blissful one.

(abridged)

A related inspirational Upanishadic riddle showing the relationship between the Soul and its host the body with its senses is cited below:

The blind one found the jewel;

The one without fingers picked it up;

The one with no neck put on;

And one with no voice gave it praise.

Shankaracharya statue

credit: pradip.com

Surdas the Indian mystic-poet composed volumes of verse in praise of Krishna, the incarnated blue Avatar of the Universal Essence. One of his most popular songs seeks the Lord’s help and intervention in a moment of adversity.

The poem seeks to recapture a popular Puranic (ancient) myth about the king of elephants, Gajendra, bathing, as elephants love to do, on the banks of the Indus river. But he is caught by a monstrous croc. and slowly dragged to the depths. The elephant calls out to Lord Krishna, whose devotee he is, to come and free him from imminent death by plucking a lotus and holding it aloft as a gesture of supplication and prayer. Krishna hearing the call hastens to his devotee on a golden eagle and saves him. The story is allegorical. The river is material existence, the elephant, the individual soul and the croc., temptation dragging it under. The soul cries out for help to be liberated from the tribulations of its material incarnation and rebirth and duly receives grace. Surdas identifies with the elephant and seeks the Lord’s grace to overcome his failings.

credit: ISKCON

Credit: ISKCON

 

LORD SAVE ME

( Hey Govind rakho sharan ab to jeevan hare )

 

O Lord save me for I am sinking

I came to these waters to quench my thirst

On the banks of the river Indus

But in these waters lurked a crocodile,

My leg in its jaws it has caught,

I thrashed out and with all my might fought

But it has dragged me deep inside,

I am now submerged, right upto my ears and trunk

So I call out to you for help as life ebbs,

Sur says O Lord I beseech you,

Have mercy I am drowning.

The Lord’s mind then filled with the entreaty

Of a sinking elephant’s shouts,

And he swiftly arrived on his great golden eagle

And plucked the drowning elephant out,

At last free of the evil entity,

To be at liberty.      

( the suffix Das means disciple / devotee – the poets name is Sur)

gajendra moksha sculpture

credit: India-Forums

surdas

At Indolink.com

Surdas was born blind, the younger of many siblings in a poor family, in 1478. His disability, rather than creating sympathy, resulted in his mother neglecting him, as she saw no future for him. She began to ignore him to the point that she failed to even acknowledge his existence. The privations he suffered provoked him to run away from home when he was barely six. He began to sing songs as he wandered, surviving on the charity of those who felt drawn to his soulful singing. His melodious voice and natural musical talent soon attracted the attention of an eminent Guru, Vallabhacharya who adopted him as a disciple in his monastic order. His musical abilities soon won the appreciation of all. As time passed he rose in favour with the Guru and became his chief disciple.

Like Mira he became an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna, the maverick, cupid like Avatar whose melodious flute had captivated the souls of all the maidens of the glade of Vrindavan and  enraptured every man. He transferred eventually to that Vrindavan of legend and myth, singing songs of the beauteous blue Avatar. Legend has it that once straying close to a well he fell into it, remaining there for several days, till giving up all hope he sought divine help by calling out to his Krishna. A youth appeared suddenly and pulled him out of the well but when he turned to thank him there was no trace of him. Convinced that it was none other than his Krishna he began composing heart-rending verse in his praise and adoration. His Sursagar (Lake of Melody), is a collection of thousands of songs covering the legend of Krishna from childhood to kingship, the Machiavelli of the Mahabharat epic and the voice and soul of the Indian bible, the Bhagawat Gita.                                                     surdas stamp

His fame as a mystic poet and musician spread across the land far and wide, even reaching the Mughal court. Legend has it that the Emperor Akbar a connoisseur of music wishing to hear him is said to have joined the ever-present congregation of admiring disciples, incognito. Later revealing himself he asked him to join the musicians at his imperial court. Surdas declined averring that he sang for Krishna alone.

Krishna among Hindus is regarded as the incarnated Supersoul (Paramatma) into which every soul (Atma) merges after its long and arduous journey of numerous lifetimes, experiencing mortal trials and travails to learn the lessons of temptation and limitation to which the physical form of the mortal is subject. The process through which the  evolution of the material shell the souls inhabit takes place The ubiquitous presence of divinity in the physical world harmonizes it, balancing furious materialism with the calming and healing spirit of the soul.

 Surdas, in one of his most famous songs, addresses his beloved Lord, the Supersoul Krishna to be patient and tolerant of the shortcomings, failures and frailties of the physical condition that the soul is experiencing through its host, for eventually they will be overcome and healed by the power of the spirit, merging eventually with the Supersoul in enlightenment and bliss.

LET NOT MY FAULTS EFFECT YOU  SO

( Prabhu more avagun chit na dharo )

Lord let not my faults affect you so,

You are called the discerning one,

Then forgive and help me go

Across this ocean of life,

For metal can take any mould,

 As a devotee’s lamp,

Or shaped also

To become a butcher’s knife

But the Philosopher’s stone never discriminates

In turning both lamp and knife to gold.

Here is a river

There a drain, filled with defiling waters

But in the holy Ganges,

As one they flow.

One is called an incarnate soul,

The other,  Supersoul

But when they merge

As one they glow,

So help me cross to the other shore

Or your honour as saviour forego.

Memorial Statue of Surdas

Memorial Statue of Surdas

Tulsidas.

Tulsidas: Sri Ganga Publishers, Banares / Wikimedia commons

Tulsidas is easily the foremost among the mystic poets of India, a veritable Indian Milton. His remarkable achievement was rendering the epic Ramayan into verse, a feat which elsewhere only a Shakespeare could match in the volume and excellence of his verse. The Ramayan is the story of Ram an epic hero and Avatar (human incarnation of the Divine Essence – God), incarnated to save the world from ever-growing perils of evil. Tulsidas became such a fountainhead of spontaneous inspiration that people averred that it could only have come to him directly from the great Indian god of literature and learning, Lord Ganesh. Indeed in his opening verses he attributes his voluminous epic poem entirely to divine inspiration if not intervention. This prodigious work became all the more extraordinary as heretofore the epic could only be read in Sanskrit, thus debarring the masses from access. Now composed in Avadhi the language of the ordinary folk, suddenly the epic came alive in every humble home, reinvigorating faith as never before, much as Dante’s Divine Comedy made Heaven, Hell and Purgatory real for medieval Europe. Today Tulsidas’ melodious verse is sung or chanted daily, virtually in every Hindu home, acquiring the stature of a scripture. His ‘Ramcharitmanas ( The Holy Lake of Lord Ram’s Character and Career) has become gospel for the common man, the most quoted of Indian religious texts.

Tulsidas, aside from the Ramcharitmanas also composed numerous hymns, prayers and devotional songs which are today sung  and recited at congregations, temples and homes, virtually daily to enthrall and uplift quite ordinary people to spiritual ecstasy.

Tulsidas born in 1533 A.D. however began life as an ordinary householder, totally infatuated with and inseparable from his wife. The transition to sainthood came with a chance rebuke from his wife that were he to devote half of such passion and energy towards God, it would surely bring him instant salvation. Struck like a thunderbolt by her remark, to the horror of his wife, Tulsidas’ metamorphosis was effected in that very moment. He promptly left home and hearth, never to return, commencing his wanderings in search of the truth. Later when his sainthood was universally acknowledged, she meekly joined his congregation of followers, not as a wife but as a disciple, who had inadvertently enabled the unleashing of his true spirit.

Tulsi’s infatuation thus transformed, now focussed on Ram, the reduction of the Supreme Essence on the earthly plane as Avatar – the ideal man, the ideal son, the ideal spouse, the ideal adversary, the ideal King of Kings, God incarnated as man –  but equally subject to every conceivable indignity, affront, suffering and misfortune that every other mortal faced. Ram never flinched in facing adversity with honour, courage and conviction setting an example for all. He showed man how to act in adversity with a sense of sacrifice much like Jesus had on the cross. People call him Maryada Purushottam, the most honourable ideal man.

Tulsi’s love and adoration of Ram knew no bounds and he sang with ardour of his life of sacrifice, renunciation and tragedy making every eye in the land fill and flow with tears and in every heart arose a conviction that if God incarnate could thus experience and endure a life of earthly trial and travail, so could they. Tulsi became India’s greatest poet, saint and healer. His verse thus overtook all the wisdom and metaphysics of the Vedas and scriptures, transferring them from the mind and intellect to the heart.

The hymn below is one of his most popular expressions of his love for Ram and concludes by asserting that he resides in his heart and is his true essence. The message of the divinity of the soul, this time as the resident Lord Ram, comes through again as with all mystic poets of the age – internalizing the experience of external divinity, turning the objective divinity into a subjective one.

Ram

Painting by:Raja Ravi Varma / Wikimedia Commons

O MY MIND SING OF RAM

( Shri Ram Chandra Kripalu Bhaj Mana….)

O my mind, sing praise of gracious Ram

Who overcomes our every fear of life and death and harm

Whose every aspect charms

Like a new blue lotus in heady bloom,

The perfection of his dark strong form

With limbs long,

In a yellow robe worn

Like blue thunderclouds

With lightening’s garb adorned,

Even the beauty of  a cupid

In comparison deforms –

 To such a glorious vision of him

 With my heart so full, I bow.

My mind sing, sing praise of Ram

Resplendant like a sun,

Humble friend of the poor and downtrodden,

This son of the solar race of Kings,

This bliss for  his parents born,

This virtuous Sita’s spouse

I see him adorned with a golden crown,

And ear drops,

And on his forehead the sacred mark,

Holding aloft a bow and arrow,

 Forever all evil to overcome.

Such a Ram, the beloved of angels and saints,

Tulsi declares resides in his heart

Arisen like a lotus (in muddy waters)

All evil desires there, to graciously thwart.

(modified in translation to English)

English: Stamp by India post on Gosvami Tulsidas

painted by:Raja Ravi Varma / Wikimedia Commons

Meera Bai and her Lord Krishna
painted by:Raja Ravi Varma / Wikimedia Commons

One of the most extraordinary personalities of the age of devotional worship in 16th century India was princess Meera Bai. Born in the royal house of Merta in 1498 and married into the exalted principality of Udaipur to the heir apparent, she was destined to be a queen. But she was the spirit of the age of devotion and had only one love, her god – the Supreme Essence incarnated as the blue Avatar, Krishna, the voice of the Gita. This obsession earned the displeasure of her in-laws. After her husband’s premature death, her growing association with seers and saints in public places, particularly the mystic cobbler Raidas, who became her mentor, aroused their unmitigated wrath. After several unsuccessful attempts to dissuade her and later to kill her with poisons and cobras, she eventually left the confines of the palace to become a wandering mendicant, singing songs of love for her beloved Lord from hamlet to hamlet across the land. Finally she disappeared without trace at a temple, according to legend merging with the god she adored.

Her poems are all love songs; looking over the ramparts of the castle for the caravan of her beloved; telling her mother that she dreamt that she had married her Lord; speaking of the cup of poison which she cheerfully drank, turning into nectar; hearing the footfalls of her Lord in the rain.

Worship through love was now the new language of the mystical experience raging across the land. The ultimate path for communion between the physical self and the spirit within.

While superficially giving the impression of being sensuous, Meera’smeera-bai 1 songs are allegorical. Pining for the lover was spiritual yearning to turn inwards to find the divinity within. Spiritual communion took place when the final gate of the ego stood ajar and the third eye of conscience opened, to show God standing resplendent before you as your innermost essence. Thus when she says, ‘come to my house’ she means, reveal yourself from within.

COME TO MY HOUSE DEAR BELOVED

( Mhare Ghar Aao Preetam Pyara )

Come to my house

Dear beloved,

Mind, body and wealth

All I shall offer you

And hymns of praise will I sing of you.

You are perfection incarnate

While I am worthless

Full of faults

But I know, in your presence

All my failings will dissolve.

Meera asks, when will you meet me

For without you my heart aches,

So come fill my house

Dear beloved

With your glorious presence

And I promise,

My mind, body and wealth

Will all be yours.                                                             

meera statue nagaur

Meera commemorative statue Nagaur

Meera museum merta

Meera Museum Merta

Guru RavidasRaidas was a 16th century mystic-poet who lived in north India. A cobbler by profession, his caste was at the bottom of the hierarchy. He courageously defied the orthodox establishment to lead a reform movement to ameliorate the plight of the downtrodden classes. Many of his songs and poems therefore were incorporated in the the ‘Guru Granth Sahib’ the holy book of the  reformist faith Sikhism, in acknowledgement of their appealing message of equality, truth and devotion.

In the 16th century, a revolution in worship based on devotion, overriding the prevailing ritualistic Vedic practices of orthodox Hinduism, established henceforth in India the supremacy of love as the vehicle for spiritual communion.

Here in a popular and moving song he affirms the inseparability of God and his devotee, the unity of spirit and matter, the indivisibility of the creator and his creation, expressed through unremitting love –  in essence signifying the divinity of the soul within.

 

YOU AND I TOGETHER

(Prabhuji tum chandan hum pani)

 

You are the paste of sandalwood, Lord

And I am water,

 Every limb becomes fragrant

As we mingle together.

You are the deep and dark forest

And I am in it a dancing peacock,

I am a love-lorn partridge looking at the moon

And you are my moon.

I am a wick

On which your flame burns

Making my lamp glow brighter every day.

I am a thread on which you are strung

As a pearl,

I am a bride

And you my golden ornament.

You are my master

And I your loving devotee.

Such indeed is the devotion

Which Raidas feels for you

Each day.

Ravidas' Memorial Varanasi

Raidas memorial at Kasi

English: Kabir with a disciple Italiano: Kabir...

English: Kabir with a disciple Italiano: Kabir con un discepolo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kabir was one of India’s most renowned mystic-poets who lived in the 16th century and was a humble weaver by profession. He imbibed the great Hindu and Muslim Sufi mystical traditions to create soul stirring verse and song which are to this day popular across the land. In the following song he speaks of the divinity of the soul. In translation from the original it looses much of its magic and authenticity, yet conveys the force of the message.

WHERE O WHERE ARE YOU LOOKING FOR ME MY FRIEND?

O seeker,

Where are you vainly looking for me,

For I am neither in your pilgrimage nor in your idols,

Not in your temples, not in your mosques,

Not on the holy river banks at Kasi,

Nor in silent lonely spots in the Himalayas,

Not in penances nor the routine of prayers,

I am not in fasts, nor in rituals,

Nor in renunciation even can I be found.

Do you not see my friend,

Who seeks me so earnestly, far and wide,

That I am here, beside you,

Where are you vainly looking for me

Who am here, close at hand,

Right within you,

To be found in no more than a moment,

If you ever care to believe,

Ever care to look.                                                                          

???????????

I come from a different faith – Hindu – but your post reminds me of one of our great saints – Princess Mira, who so fell in love with God, that she abandoned her home and went singing in the wilderness about her love for him. In childhood she told her mother – O mother i dreamt last night that the lord came as my groom – her royal house disowned her, for her indiscretions, but she bacame one of India’s greatest mystic poets and today her songs of love (for God, Krishna for her) resonate from every corner of the land.

Peg Pondering Again

adoration

Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh…Our Lord came as the new Adam. In my sinfulness, I am fallen Eve and must become Woman so to become one with Him. If I become Him, and share in the pains of the hatred the world had for Him so be it, as He had already become me, on His cross. I must become one with Him in the Eucharist as our Lord truly is there. I must repent. I must confess and I must believe. I must love my Love with all my heart, strength soul and mind. I must love my neighbor as my Lord has loved. I must die to self and live in Christ in order to be in Love. I accept.

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