Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mystic Holi

This Holi, a most wondrous spectacle opened which left me with an ineffable poetry of feeling and a joy of thought. I had decided not to celebrate Holi this time because of my increasing preoccupation with pollution and my desire to avoid synthetic colors. However, being in a Delhi University hostel, I didn't have much choice. In the morning, as I came out of my room, my hostel buddies were ready with the gulal. I didn't protest much and let them rub it on my cheeks though i was apprehensive of its effect on my skin and hair. i especially wanted to avoid any gulal on my hair for after coming to Delhi, I have developed a morbid obsession with protecting my hair form premature greying, something I have noticed is distressingly common in this city. I thought this was due to water pollution and have ended up using purified water for my hair. However as the spirit of holi got the better of me, I was open to one day of polluting gulal and wet colors. The next half an hour or so was fun with victims being made to lie supine and sprinkled with water-hoses. As I was enjoying the colors and the joyous mob, some of my nasty friends repeatedly persuaded me to drink thandai( a traditional North Indian drink made of milk, water, almonds and spices) and assured me it did not contain 'bhaang'(hemp). I was not really taken in by their protestation but I carried the unfounded notion that 'bhaang' would taste bitter like liqour. When I tasted the 'thandai', it was sweet and delicious. I thought it couldn't be bhaang and drank it with gusto. Indeed, after a while I even took a second helping even after I had grave doubts about it being just 'thandaii' by then. I reasoned if it is bhaang and I have already had one glass, why not enjoy a full experience of losing control. Yet, I wanted to be aware as long as possible and to witness the intoxication so as to transcend it. For a while, I enjoyed the mingling of color and bodies, but soon retired to my room. It was the end of holi form my part but my friends had different ideas. Some of them banged open my door and sprayed me with aerosol, which i particularly dislike and which seemed toxic going by the smell. i asked them to stop it but they were too merry to listen. After they had left, I bolted the door and went in the verandah for fresh air. As, I was standing there, leaning against the wall and gazing at the badminton court immediately below, a most wondrous thing happened. Not only did I lose awareness of time and self, but everything became thick with life. It is very difficult to explain but let me make a sincere effort. As I was standing in the verandah, everything became thick with awareness, everything became an ocean of awareness - a dense coscsiousness. There was no Aman, no badminton court and no sunlight or sky, except as barely perceptible modifications of a beautiful intelligence, an all pervading consciousness. I was emerging out of and again merging into a unity; when in the unity, there was no 'I', and the emergent 'I' was very profound and yet frail because it was, as if newly born. When aware of 'I', I was astounded at the wonder of the all pervading awareness in which I was only a point of consciousness. The physical world around me, the sunlight, the badminton courts, the shouts of the holi mob, seemed unreal, a play of images and shadows. reality seemed a wondrous unity of awareness, a thickness of consciousness. An ocean of awareness was I, and everything was awareness. Everything was oceanic, a wavelike sea of concsious vibrations. In this coean of reality, my body was a pattern of conscious light, a pattern ogf vibration with a distinct frequency which made it appear as distinct form the surrounding physcial reality. I was not aware of physical movement, but of a kind of light or a pattern of energy drifting across a denser light as I came inside my room.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Random lines

I dream of Lucifer

the prince of darkness

and the mirth of night

is revealed

the solitary rock

and the broken glass

I see my shadow

and weep

dry leaves fly in the dust

and hurricanes dream their death

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Love for Form

This essay seeks to unravel the links between a predisposition to a particular idiom of religious expression and personality. It looks back to a history of psychological research on religion. The primary focus of this inquiry is to look into the interface between the gender of the chosen form of deity and the inherent personality disposition of the devotee. A liberal view on important religious systems is called for before a psychological examination. With the exception of Hinduism, which affords considerable space to the veneration of feminine goddesses wihtin its mainstream practice, all the other major world religions come across as patriarchic at first glance. Indeed Freud saw the idea of God as a version of the father image. Allah, the Christian God and Christ, his son and the Jewish Jehowah are all masculine. Buddha, Mahavir and the Sikh gurus too are men. However a deeper inquiry would reveal the valence of the feminine idiom of the divine in all these seemingly patriarchic religions. In Islam, we have Fatima. Besides Sufism, which can be seen as the mystic face of Islam extols the beloved and seeks raptures in the ‘Ghazal’ or conversing with one’s beloved. The Sufis frequently see the divine in their earthly and feminine beloved. The Virgin Mary is accorded an iconic stature in Christianity. Besides Dante seeked salvation through the grace of Beatrice, his earthly beloved. Similar submission before a feminine figure is seen in Christian mystics from the early centuries after Christ. The feminine ‘bride of goddess’ is important in Kabbalistic Judaism too. And ‘Bhagwati’ or the Goddess is invoked in precedence to the male gurus in Sikhism, an outwardly patriarchic religion.

In the eastern worldview, the samkhya school of philosophy attributed to Kapil, contains the seeds of one of the first psychological inquiries into religion. Samkhya rests on a fundamental dichotomy between Purusha ( Consciousness) and Prakriti ( phenomenal realm of matter). This dichotomy is taken as universal and its successful resolution is seen as enlightenment. For a psychologist, Kapil’s views on the divine form are significant. While Samkhya saw pure consciousness as individuated, nonattributive, absolute and formless, Kapil wasn’t against devotion and meditation on a ‘divine form’. Although meditation on form was considered a step to meditation on the formless consciousness, it was neverthless a highly significant step as Samkhya saw mind as ‘material’ and hence incapable of perceiving or meditating on the ‘immmaterial’ essence of consciousness. Thus seeing the manifest forms rather than the unmanifest absolute was in keeping with the material nature of mind. On the same note Patanjali saw meditation on the ‘form’ as a way to merge into the ‘formless’. Now, Patanjali advised the seeker to meditate on the form which was pleasing to her or him, whether or not such a form existed in the cultural memory of the individual. Thus while meditation on Krishna or Durga was common, a seeker could also conceive of an entirely personal deity to concentrate on. The divine form to be meditated upon could be masculine or feminine depending on the inherent propensities of the seeker. Buddhist psychology too emphasized the significance of meditation on form when complete faith in Buddha was equated with the knowledge that liberates.

Tantra is even more emphatic on the significance of meditation on the form of the deity. Tantra is derived from an etymological root which is close in meaning to ‘interwoven’. On a philosophical level, it sees spirit or consciousness as permeating matter due to being ‘interwoven’ with it and not merely transcendental. Hence Tantra is seen as life-affirming as opposed to the more contemplative systems of yogic meditation. All major Indian religions have their own versions of tantra and it exists in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism in explicit idioms. Sikhism too shows considerable effect of Tantra on its insistence on long unshorn hair and iron bangle which are derived from certain forms of aura meditation. The culture of sword in Sikhism too derives from Shakta Tantra. For a psychologist, tantra’s conceptual unserstanding of sublimation is striking. The celebrated Bengali Tantrik Chandidas held that to love a divine ideal is almost an impossibility for a human being wedded to material nature while to love another human being is natural.. From this, he points that the best way to cultivate love for the divine was to love the transcendednt in another human being. He extoled the spiritual merit of love for a person from the opposite sex. However for it to be sublimated, such love had to be unrequitted. Hence he looked at love for an unattainable woman, say one married or from the prohibited caste as a means for spiritual tansformation of the earthly passion. This clearly indicates sublimation.