Archives for posts with tag: devotional worship
Credit ISKCON

Credit ISKCON

The popular saying goes, to see is to believe. We all want and need to have a vision, be it at the cinema, the TV, a photograph, or best, in real just looking around at the beautiful world and its beautiful inhabitants. Like, if the subatomic world is a reality, I must look at it through the microscope to satisfy myself that it is. It is through the telescope that we get a vision of what the galaxy and the solar system and beyond may be like.

When all the discourses were done, knowledge imparted of the here and beyond, Gita’s  hero Arjun turned to his dear friend Krishna and expressed a simple but fundamental wish. The abundant information, wisdom and insights remained somewhat academic to him. All the metaphysical, philosophical and poetic explanations failed to satisfy the urge to experience the truth by being afforded a grand vision of that reality –  we cannot blame him for his childlike desire to see it. In such a circumstance we would too.

Arjun here is being real cute and careful in his pleadings. first with a hint of flattery, he expresses his profound gratitude for the discourses. He acknowledges this lovingly, by calling Krishna ‘lotus eyed’ , then summoning courage he blurts out: ‘yet I desire to see your sovereign form’. then he is afraid he may have asked too much and qualifies it by adding: ‘ if you O lord think it possible for me to see it, then do… show me your eternal form.’

”But you cannot see me with these eyes of yours” replies Krishna.

Here I am reminded of ‘The Black Cloud’, a Science Fiction novel by astrophysicist Fred Hoyle about a mysterious cloud that arrives above the Earth. Scientists struggle to decipher its message and finally receive from it the technology to communicate with it. They set up the apparatus as instructed. It wishes to communicate knowledge about itself and the mysterious universe to any representative. A volunteer is seated before the instrument panel and he is connected to it. As the information comes in, the volunteer’s brain cannot handle the complexity and overload, resulting in his brain short circuiting into insanity.

Likewise, limited by our mental capabilities, one can only absorb so much of reality and make sense of it. Scientists are familiar with the mysteries of Quantum Physics but can they truly comprehend it to make sense of it for us in our daily lives? Astronomers can conceptualize Black Holes and Supernovas but can they comprehend them in their totality? When a concept goes beyond our understanding we seek to symbolize it mathematically as a convenient way of simplifying the ultra-complex. A simple equation, E=MC square, makes us feel we have understood the inconceivable.We need giant telescopes to look at distant cosmic phenomena, electronic microscopes to look at the subatomic world, computers to engage in complicated math to understand Quantum facts.

No wonder Krishna realizes the severe limitations not only of human vision but of the human mind as well. He alone ‘knows Himself by Himself’ as Arjun puts it. But Arjun is a dear disciple and friend and his request has to be honoured. Therefore through his generosity and magical Yogic powers (Yoga Kshemum), Krishna confers divine sight on him – celestial eyes (Divyam Chakshuhu).

 Then, before him, now looking through the divine protective facility of celestial eyes, Arjun sees his friend and companion the charming Avatar Krishna begin to metamorphose into a cosmic colossus with hundreds of thousands of shapes glowing with a myriad colours. He sees the whole universe and everything else there is to see integrated within the form. One of the most beautiful passages of the Gita follows:

” If the splendour of a thousand suns were to blaze forth all at once in the sky, that would be like the splendour of that mighty being. There in the body of the God of Gods he then saw the whole universe with its many divisions drawn together into one” (Ch. XI- 12/13)

 Even the one sun in our world is so brilliant that were we to stare at it we would be blinded, though we like to bask in its light and warmth. The radiance of a thousand suns shining at once is beyond conception – it would be death to look upon such brilliance. Therefore Arjun was fortunate to have the filter of divine sight to sustain the experience and enjoy such mind-blowing brilliance of the Super Conscious Essence.

 The form adopted to show Arjun the universal vision was necessarily anthropomorphic, with eyes, mouths, heads, hands and legs, the multiple colossi stretching all ways. Doubtless to safeguard against jolting him into insanity like the one suffered by our Science fiction volunteer with the mysterious cloud. But in fact a form was not relevant to the content which conveyed the substance of the message of divine reality. Arjun remarks that he sees an infinity of forms on all sides without a beginning a middle or an end. We cannot then think in terms of one form only. He sees the ‘sun and the moon in the eyes’, in other words the planetary systems and the physical universe. He sees beings flowing into him in the fires of dissolution and beings flowing out in the catharsis of creation.

 Arjun is overwhelmed and fearful and his hair stands on end (Romanchit). Trembling, he confesses that looking upon this awesome reality he is bewildered and fearful. Yet he is courageous enough to ask:

”Who are you, I know not your purpose and desire to know you”. The vision has not sated his curiosity, rather he now dares to ask that cosmic colossi ‘without beginning or middle or end’ and planetary systems orbiting in what must be His eyes, who He is! Like a courageous soldier he demands to know Him. For that mighty eternal colossus the impertinence of the puny but brave soul must have been endearing.

From that radiating cosmic vision comes a deep sonorous reply:

”I am the mighty world destroying time”

 He doesn’t say much more. In the Gita, rather than the universal form speaking of His infinite greatness, it is Arjun who overawed, begins to describe Him. Wide eyed he calls out: ” You are the primal cause, abode of the universe, the imperishable, the being and the non-being, the primal god, the ancient one, the one who pervades the universe, the adorable, the greatest Guru and implores his forgiveness for his inadvertent transgressions and presumptuous behavior as a friend, asking the Lord to be compassionate ”as a father to a son, a friend to a friend and as a lover to his beloved”( not overawed enough to give up friendship and love).

 He admits that while he ”rejoices” at having seen what has never been seen before he is confounded with fear at what he is witnessing and can no longer bear to look upon such immense glory and fearful splendour and pleads that he would once again like to see his mortal friend. How very touching the melodramatic scene must have been.

 Thereupon the Great Lord, as it were, collapses in a moment the ‘Virat’ form with the brightness of a thousand suns resuming his mortal form of the Avatar, the gentle Krishna, touchingly consoling and comforting the terrified Arjun. The wonderful Arjun, quite like a Greek hero, courageous and righteous, rejoices on seeing his own familiar gentle friend Krishna once again.

The cosmic vision may appear weird to those not brought up in Hindu culture, but we must remember that it was explained in an indian scripture for an Indian audience over 2000 years ago. The vision would have been different, say like Michelangelo’s Last Judgement, painted at the Sistine Abbey, if a disciple of Christ had asked him the same question. In the Gita Krishna clarifies this in a simple verse:

‘In whatever way men seek me, in the same way do I carry out their desires, men pursue my path O Arjun, in many ways.

‘Whatever divine form any devotee with faith wishes to worship, the same faith in him I make unwavering.’

‘Endowed with that faith, he engages in the worship of that form and from it obtains his desires, which are actually ordained by Me.’

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Credit: artist Vishnudas – his link – http://www.krishnaland.com/the-art#!__divine-all-attractive-couple

Among the cowgirls (Gopis) of the glade of Vrindavan, there was one really special -Radha, Krishna’s beloved. Their love affair is now part of Indian legend and mythology, inspiring poetry, song, literature and even devotional hymns and prayer. Krishna went away to become a king leaving all the village maidens, especially Radha love-lorn. Krishna never married Radha, yet their love was so special that in all temples where there are statues of Krishna, they are invariably with Radha beside him. She is considered the embodiment of female energy (Shakti) and love and prayers offered to Krishna alone are considered inauspicious. One is only blessed when they are worshipped together. On the astrological day deemed to be the birth day of Krishna, at the celebrations at temples devotees open the chanting with fervent calls to Radha to grace the occasion before the chanting of Krishna’s name.-the worshippers tribute to her eternal love.

My poem is an abstraction of the primal Krishna in his traditional yellow garb, across the expansive universe:

          

                       T R I B U T E    TO    K R I S H N A 

 

Blue hued

Like a peacock feather,

Phosphorescent primordial dawn.

 

A ray of light

Before the sun,

Spun yellow worn.

 

In the cosmic night

Alone,

A smile

Adorns.

 

Flute song

At the edge of time.

Original sound

His lips upon.

 

 In his primal mind

A rare companion

Playmate

Born.

 

Standing together

Now grown

In the temple

Into stone.

radha krishna statue

krishna arjun xxx

Krishna & Arjun
Credit: International Society For Krishna consciousness – ISKCON

 

In a few beautiful verses in the Gita, the Avatar Krishna tells Arjun his disciple and friend, who among poeple are dearest to Him. I read out the translation from the Sanskrit once to a friend from Australia, a ‘Lady’ of national standing whose husband was also a scholar, philosopher and mystic. She then asked me if she could quote the verses in her New Year’s greetings to her friends. I received her card with the following verses to my delight.

 

He who hates no being,

Who is friendly and compassionate to all,

Who is free from the feeling of ‘I’ and ‘Mine’,

Even minded in pain and pleasure

And forgiving, ever content, steady in meditation,

With mind and intellect fixed on Me,

He My devotee, is dear to Me.

He by whom the world is not afflicted

And whom the world cannot afflict,

He who is not overwhelmed by joy,

Free of anger, fear and anxiety,

He is dear to Me.

He who has no wants, who is pure

Skillful, impartial, untroubled

And who is selfless in all his undertakings,

He who is thus devoted to Me, is dear to Me.

He who neither rejoices nor hates nor grieves

Nor desires, who renounces alike fair or foul,

Full of devotion, he is dear to Me.

He who is the same to friend and foe

And also in honour and dishonour,

who is the same in cold and heat,

In pleasure and pain,

Who is free from attachment

Who is neither moved by censure nor praise,

Who is silent, content with whatever comes his way,

Detached from home, steady minded

Full of devotion, that man is dearest to Me.

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

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

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