This is a story birthed as a result of two visionary and powerful poems written by Rabindranath Tagore, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. He is an individual I admire much for his creative talents and ideals. The breadth of his work ranged from fiction, poetry, songs, dramas, stories, literary criticism, philosophy and social issues. An extensive list it has to be said! Tagore was awarded the Prize for the following reasons, which I would like to quote in full:
Prize motivation: “because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West”
My creative ideas are gestated and birthed through a myriad of ways, much of it emerging as stream of consciousness. Poetry has an especially powerful influence on the mind and heart, generating quite profoundly emotional responses as in this case. Tagore’s poems, Unending Love and Brahma, Visnu, Siva, sum up for me the mystic’s relationship with the Cosmic Principle, God, the One, whatever we like to call the source of all creation. The twin poles of union and separation occupy quite a central part of the journey toward our chosen god-head, and as such bring with them quite intense emotions. The mystical experience often seems to be couched in the language of love (just think of the Sufi poets), and why not, love is the strongest force in the universe and this elixir of the heart, when poured into the chalice of the soul, is capable of bringing about quite astounding transformations.
Love is manifestly present in Tagore’s works, especially his poetry and I allowed myself to become beguiled, bewitched and bewildered by what was in these two pieces. I became the pilgrim who was undertaking this epic journey through the land of my ancestors; their memories, desires, hopes and fears became mine. As did the ultimate consummation. One cannot help but become overwhelmed by such beauty. These poems are included in a book of Tagore’s poetry translated by William Radice, Selected Poems, Penguin Books, 1985
Well, I think it’s time we walk through the veil and face the mysteries waiting on the other side:
Now my journey starts in earnest. I sleep the sleep of eternity, from a time before the universe sprang forth from the abyss and so shall I continue long after the flames return it to Brahman’s embrace.
Many forms have I taken to walk this material world, one face melting into the next, but always the “lotus of my heart” has remained constant. I have been the smile glimpsed in a crowd, sunlight raining through the forest canopy, sacred incense rising to the heavens, the kiss of a loved one, and the sensuous scent of roses filling the evening air. What takes your fancy? I am all and nothing.
My soul has pondered endlessly on the meaning of existence – from its beginning to its ending and will carry on doing so until the very last beam of our star gives up its light and we return to the eternal night once again. The sum of all my knowledge has been poured into your soul yet the spring never seems to run dry. Why do you think this is so? Your smile tells me that you do, so I shall keep my silence.
What is it that you seek beloved? What inflames your spirit and keeps that flame burning steadfast on the sacred altar. Your words have often caused me to stir from the shadows and seek you who has touched my heart – in response my answers have flowed free in the silence of the temple. I am that gentle whisper in your ear, the caress of the wind against your cheek and the warmth of the sun against your skin. Can you not sense what is being given to you? Who do you think I am? Look at the world around you. Shall I say more?
No, you do not need to say more. For eons it seems I have sat by the banks of sacred Ganga praising the One until this moment, when you emerged from her waters and captured me in your eternal embrace. You lead me into the Void, that place within which lie the deepest desires of the heart and soul. With my hand in yours I fear neither the darkness nor the emptiness.
All is empty, limitless, eternal, as great Brahman stirs and his joy causes the first utterance. The Word resounds throughout the Universe, all life unfolds before me and I am overcome with the majesty of this spectacle. Cycle after cycle creation flows and flowers within me, I am at one with the Absolute Reality, the unknown becomes known.
Eons pass and all of existence grows weary, this age must give way once more, ready to return to the darkness. Siva return us to our original state! Faint thunder echoes from all corners as He awakens from his trance and then all falls away into a sea of fire. Oh how my very being has moved to his rhythm time after time. Siva’s feet beat out the dance of life and death and I readily follow his lead. Sun, moon, stars, all fade as the candle flame that is starved of life giving air. I too dissolve into the great Ocean of Unbecoming,
Finally my journey has ended and I have come full circle, once more to enter through the gates of Brahman’s city.