Archives for posts with tag: The soul
Credit: ISKCON

Credit: ISKCON

” If the soul could have known God without the world, the world would never have been created” – Meister Eckhart, sermons.

This is an amazing quote from the great 13th century controversial Christian mystic and theologian which is so relevant to the subject of my post. Was the world then created so that souls could understand the problems of an earthly existence and thus graduate to a level bringing them closer to God?  The concept of the soul and its purpose in embodiment on the physical plane has been discussed at length in Hindu scriptures also. The soul is said to be a fragment of divinity embedded in the body and obliged to remain entrapped for successive rebirths until the personality-ego-body complex shrouding it evolves to perfection, It is only then that it gets released from captivity to merge back into its divine origins.

Meister Eckhart echoes this Hindu assertion of the presence of God in the individual soul and its divinity, when he says: ” man should consider the great aristocracy which God has set up in the soul, such that by means of  it man may wonderfully attain to God”, He goes on to say :” there is something in the soul that is so akin to God that it is one with Him…. it has nothing in common with anything created.”

New Age thinkers have also examined the concept of the soul and sought to give their own interpretations. Their inspiration comes from the emerging mysteries of Quantum Physics which has transplanted the Newtonian world of mechanical certainties on which science heretofore relied. They have also been influenced by the investigation of paranormal phenomena outside the framework of orthodox religion by the scientific establishment and reputed institutions of learning in the West. Their views formulated on the soul are pretty close to that of Hinduism though with some unique and far-reaching modifications in the concepts. The Hindu view and the New Age view agree that the experience of material existence is important for the soul and for achieving its purpose and it is for this reason that it gets embodied.

An ethereal eternal entity of light and energy, the soul is too boundless to have limitations. Experiencing the limitations, confinement and mortality even through the proxy of the personality-ego-body complex becomes essential to understand the ethical secrets that the physical plane holds. Restricted mobility, imperfections, disabilities, disease, consumption, renewal, reproduction and competition can only be fully understood from within. This then is Earth School where souls get educated on need and want, competition, confrontation, or conflict invoved in survival, all manner of inter-relationships and the complex ethical issues thrown up. The soul also acts as a compass on the ship of life providing guidance and direction to the personality-ego-body it is attached to, helping it to evolve. In some unexplained manner this experience in the Earth School  also serves to help in the evolution of the soul. This is not clearly mentioned anywhere but it appears as Meister Eckhart explains, that the experience is a ticket so to speak for being ushered into the divine fold or presence, which the soul yearns for. This needs further research for confirmation whether the soul is there to help only or to get help as well?

The concept of the soul however gets modified by New Age thinkers and answers  the second part of the question. It is no longer as distinct from the personality as conceived in Hindu scriptures. While the Hindu view is that the soul is a fragment of divinity, perfect, eternal and unblemished, the New Age view is that while the soul is eternal and ethereal it is capable of developing negativity and blemish. It is like a radiant sun that can develop sun spots and in order to heal it chooses to incarnate into a personality of its choosing to undergo a physical experience which would heal it. This descent to the physical plane through a massive reduction of its unlimited power and force into the incarnated personality is for the purpose of healing itself.

The term Earth School where the healing through experience takes place has been coined and used extensively by Gary Zukav in his book ‘Seat of the Soul’, which I consider the New Age bible on the soul. Thus we see that New Age thinkers have made a fundamental modification in the concept of the soul and its purpose in incarnation. The other major modification which follows is that of choice in reincarnation as opposed to the premise that the Law of Karma leaves no choice and the soul willy-nilly has to inhabit the next incarnation determined by the Law of Karma based on the actions of the personality in the just completed life. This modification with far-reaching implications I shall seek to examine in the next post.

The foregoing may appear esoteric and academic but is important for researching the theme of my blog. Furthermore, concepts as they evolve, in my view, begin to have a fundamental effect on human behaviour and thinking.

Credit: artoprecision.com

Credit: artoprecision.com

The state of total satiation where every need has been met in full measure, every urge satisfied infinitely, every growth potential achieved, every desire fulfilled, all goals reached, looks attractive but would  be a vegetal state like that of the non-living or dead.

Life on the contrary is like the action of a spring, a dynamic coil with inbuilt tension. The tortured coil produces movement, as our needs propel us forward. Total fulfilment equals uncoiling the spring. We would have no volition without need, no emotion if we were entirely self-sufficient, no mobility without deprivation, no joy without the experience of sorrow, no ability without challenge, no substance without shadow.

As the spring  is coiled, so too are we constituted of needs, psychological in the brain, respiratory in the lungs, nutritional in the stomach, reproductive in the loins. Needs which, even as they are  satisfied,  renew afresh with unmitigating vigour till the very waning of needs in old age is regarded as being symptomatic of the decline of the form we inherit, rather than an indication of the salvation of that form. It is from the repetitive and ordinary rotary motions of need and fulfilment, the motor activity of  consumption, that arise the hum of great and glorious achievements, noble thoughts, superior emotions, refined sentiments, ethereal qualities, outstanding creations, remarkable feats and extraordinary cooperation. Without need-based efforts and striving, would there be a churning out of this butter, a maturing of this wine?

 We fail to value an asset whenever there is over-supply. For instance an insensitivity may develop in the very rich and self-indulgent who have never known hunger even voluntarily from fasting, the philanderer who has never experienced the pangs of a lover’s longings, the spoilt child smothered by affection who successively becomes more and more self-centred, the quality of a person who has never suffered any deprivation, want or pain. What may such a person be like –  smug, self-centred, self-indulgent, impatient, self-opiniated, snobbish and selfish, possibly, if you believe in reincarnation, a first birth after reincarnating from an inferior, say animal existence, to make the experience of earthly life more tolerable without challenge.

It is ‘want’ then that teaches us understanding, need that inculcates appreciation of  like needs in others, pain that induces humanity, loss that develops care, hunger that refines taste, thirst that allows savouring of water’s true calibre, failure that spurs effort, absence that indeed makes the heart grow fonder, sorrow that arouses sensibilities, a restless quest that engenders great movements in art, challenge that produces evolution, toil that brings discovery and invention.

Insufficiency is motivating, anguish is humanizing, the coil of the spring powerful,  the tensing of a hungry cat’s muscles is a latent force, the heavy compact budding before bursting forth in a flower is blossoming. Then is not the ‘negative’ only another necessary side of the coin, sorrow and pain as necessary as joy?

But we cannot conclude that a painless state only arises from indulgent fulfillment. According to the Gita pain in the mortal world terminates with the termination of desire or greed! That is possible if the need is curbed and desire sublimated. Then follows equilibrium and peace, not the temporary kind resulting  from gratification but the more permanent one arising from restraint, simplicity in life style. discretion in consumption, unattached action, altruism, compassion, forgiveness, charity and consideration etc. In other words in giving rather than in receiving.

Need then is the great motive force, the civilizing energy, the secret impelling mechanism, the hidden spring, the cause of volition, the suction of vacuum, the lower threshold into which heat and electricity flow, the low pressure area attracting storms into its vortex, the problems that demand solution, the helpless infant that induces motherhood, the want that induces charity, the suffering that creates compassion, the striving that produces ability, the colours,aroma and nectar of flowers that attract bees purposefully, the twisted coils which spring into action, the pull of the catapult that activates the missile, the empty universe into which creation fills. The Universal Essence implanted need everywhere to animate, civilize and evolve  his creation.

James Cameron's movie Avatar - floating soul blossoms

James Cameron’s movie Avatar – floating soul blossoms

Over the last  century the cleavage between science and spiritualism has stirred a reaction. The stark materialism engendered by secular science has begun to reach a point of saturation like the spiritual stagnation of the Middle Ages. A new urge is thrusting itself  in a spiritual direction, not necessarily towards organized religion. Even without the vehicle of religion, spiritualism has been active in the human psyche, manifesting itself in the most unlikely quarters – Science Fiction.

I have always found Science Fiction fascinating and elevating because its scientific fantasies appear to reach out and touch an ethereal force. It has become a genre where  spiritual  and scientific impulses appear to merge. In Sci.Fi. the human psyche and imagination have created not only scientific fantasy but mingled it with the spirit and the supernatural.

Arthur C. Clarke‘s ‘Childhood’s End’ is an outstanding example of Science Fiction postulating the evolution of man into a spiritual being, moving out from the pale of mundane existence into the higher realms of the spirit, albeit with the help of an alien. I never enjoyed a book more –  stunning, hair raising and  elevating. Furthermore let us not forget that Clark was in fact a scientist turned to writing fiction.

Spelberg's movie, Close Enconters of the Third Kind

Spelberg’s movie, Close Enconters of the Third Kind

Steven Spielberg’s runaway box office hit  ‘Close Encounter’s of the Third Kind’  likewise represents  the urge to encounter a higher more spiritually evolved species. The encounter is like a 20th century scientific encounter with the ‘angels’ of yesteryear. ‘Star Wars’ is a modern myth replete with ‘the force’ of good and the character Yoda can easily be identified with the sages of the Upanishadic forests. Contact by Carl Sagan was another in the same genre linking science and a journey through space with spiritual communion with a higher order of being on a beach beyond time and logic.  Again Sagan was an astronomer, astrophysicist and cosmologist who expressed a spiritual urge in fiction.

soul treeJames Cameron’s Avatar is the latest in the same genre. On the one hand is science and exploration of the cosmos, on the other the mystical planet Pandora where all beings are connected by a mysterious force represented by the mother tree making all beings on the planet act as one organism. The chimera of floating soul blossoms unite in a central soul tree. It is evident that  Cameron wishes to juxtapose science with the mystical. What is notable is not merely that Science Fiction tends to link science with metaphysics in its sagas but more importantly the kind of universal and frenzied response that such mingling produces at the box office. The mind of man clearly is crying out for  a union of science and spirit not merely from the erudite and intellectual elite but equally from the adolecents teens and youth. 

Yet to be released, ‘The Host’, an adaptation of Stephenie Meyer‘s book of the same name, depicts the soul as a benign alien lodged in the human body, much like the Hindu concept of the soul.

Clearly, spiritualism is back like a butterfly that left its empty chrysalis of traditional religion on the twig of the past to reunite in the present with the flower of science.

To use a Science. Fiction analogy, the Soul is perpetually concerned to communicate with the ‘Mother-Ship’, trapped as it is in its awkward space suit. The signals are weak, given the inclement weather and heavy atmosphere on earth. The space suit and equipment are also not technically very advanced. Often the weak signals are lost in space. There is also much static noise at base, but the effort continues to communicate, in the hope of a response. It will take time to modify the suit and make it worthy of good communication. The Soul tries hard to work on it, but the hard metal is often unyielding to any change. Occasionally, on a clear day, when the equipment is fully operational the signal goes through and the awaited response comes to the Soul’s delight. My poem on communion employs yet another analogy, that of Alice in Wonderland:

the touch

                                         THE  TOUCH

In a moment of pathos

Pensive,

I perceived like Alice

A diminutive link

Growing from me

As I shrank into the corner.

 

 

Its golden extending

Beyond the room

Beyond

Like a rainbow

Transmission

Of my unexplained sorrow’s

Force,

Connecting in a powerful

Floodlight’s extended beam

Into the star-flung, far-flung night.

 

 

The other

should have felt me connect

As I released

Myself

Unhindered uninhibited.

 

 

And quite simply I think

I learnt

that sorrow

Is not in injury

Or pain or want of bread,

Or death or any such circumstance.

 

 

Is a force which moves

The itch to unite.

An attribute of our need

To extend our finger

And await

The touch.

Krishna enlightens ArjunCredit: International Society For Krishna consciousness - ISKCON

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

The Krishna of the Hindu epic the Mahabharat is no longer the adolescent, mischievous  romantic who stole the hearts of the village maidens and companions. The Avatar has now assumed kingship and matured into an astute diplomat. He is here engaged in playing the role of mediator between estranged cousins, each representing on the one hand the forces of clarity and on the other ignorance and darkness. When his mediation fails he joins the ranks of clarity and good against those of injustice, arrogance, hauteur, deceit, subterfuge, atrocity, brutality, rape, intemperance, intolerance, wrath and perverted wisdom.

On the battlefield he is the charioteer of the hero Arjun, the embodiment of righteousness and virtue. The image of Arjun, the upright and humble warrior on his chariot with his divine charioteer holding the reins, is etched indelibly in the popular Hindu psyche, with allegorical connotations: Arjun is the individual Soul(Atma). the chariot is his body, the horses are his senses, the charioteer is his conscience, the Universal Essence, the Super-soul (Paramatma), incarnated as the Avatar Krishna. The forces of good and evil are arraigned against each other on the battlefield of earthly existence.

It is in such a setting that Arjun is suddenly overcome by remorse, doubt and confusion ( as we all do from time to time) over the ethics of confronting his cousins in warfare and refuses to fight when the bugles (conches) have already sounded. He begins the dialogue by questioning the Avatar. Through the dialogue emerge Krishna’s seminal discourses on numerous themes, including the myth of creation, the nature of the soul, the attributes of the Universal Essence, reincarnation, the theory of karma, the role of Nature,  righteous action, the purpose of life and the path to liberation and enlightenment.

Below are only presented those verses which explain the nature of the Universal Essence (Brahma), the so called Godhead (Ishwara) and its counterpart the individual Soul (Atma). When Arjun asks his ‘friend’ and mentor the Avatar, time and again in the course of the dialogue, who He may indeed be, Krishna tells him all. The Gita (Song) is composed in exquisite verse in Sanskrit.

                                THE  BHAGAVAD  GITA

                              (THE  SONG  CELESTIAL)

                                          – excerpts –

Arjun, the world is made up of the perishable and the imperishable,

Perishable are living creatures, the imperishable is the Self,

I am beyond both, the Supreme Self 

Pervading the worlds as God.

 

The whole universe of the moving and the unmoving

Are joined together in Me,

The whole universe undivided, yet appearing divided

In its manifold diversity,

Are drawn together as one in Me.

I am therefore the same in all beings,

The imperishable  in the perishable,

He who sees me everywhere and sees all in Me,

He is never lost.

 

I am the same towards all beings, 

For me there are none hateful none dear,

But those who worship Me, I am with them,

And they are with Me.

 

 The one who applies the same measure for all,

For pleasure and for pain, as he applies to himself,

That one is the best of men.

 

I am the origin of all, from me all things evolve.

After an age, all beings return to my nature

And issue forth again with another age.

I animate my Nature and creation occurs under her laws,

Nature produces the moving and the unmoving

Thus the worlds revolve.

 

I am Time, mighty and world consuming.

the supreme Universal Essence,

Neither Being nor Non-Being.

If the light of a thousand suns,

Should suddenly shine in the heavens

It would be like the light of my Being.

 

I am the father of the world, the mother,

The grand-sire, and the friend,

I am the goal, the supporter, the witness, the sanctuary, 

The origin, the dissolution, the foundation

And the seed imperishable.

 

I am the taste in water, the radiance of the sun and the moon,

Manhood in man, the life force,

I am sweet fragrance in the earth, the brilliance of fire,

Austerity of the ascetics, intelligence of the intelligent,

Splendour of the splendid, might of the mighty.

Of secrets I am silence,  I am wisdom of the wise,

Of sciences the science of the Self,

I am glory, fortune, memory and patience,

Of meters I am the beat of the universe,

Of seasons the season of spring, I am victory I am resolution,

I am the goodness of the good.

Of waters I am the ocean, of mountains the Himalayas,

The seed of all existence am I.

 

Whenever there is decay of virtue

And rise of anarchy, I embody Myself.

For the protection of the good,

 Destruction of the wicked

and the establishment of righteousness,

I am born from age to age.

 

I am the Self seated in the hearts of all beings.

An eternal portion of Myself becomes

The eternal souls in the living world

Drawing to itself  Nature’s five senses and the mind.

The soul is neither born nor does it die,

Unborn, eternal, constant and ancient.

When the Soul leaves the body,

It takes along the acquired qualities of a lifetime.

As a man casting off worn out garments, puts on new ones,

So the embodied one, casting off worn out bodies,

enters others that are new.

The Soul is  stable, immovable, everlasting

It is not manifest, is unthinkable,and immutable, a marvel.

 

When the disciplined mind is fixed on the Soul,

Free from distraction of objects and desires,

Like a lamp which does not flicker in a windless place,

Attaining stillness, it beholds the Self

And is filled with joy.

Thus constantly holding the spirit in harmony,

It eventually senses the infinite Universal Essence

And with contact attains bliss.

He then sees himself, the same in all,

 Sees me everywhere and all in Me.

Arjun and Krishna into battle against evil, confusion resolvedCredit ISKCON

Arjun and Krishna into battle against evil, confusion resolved
Credit ISKCON

                                                             

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

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.

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