Evenings, I close myself off, draw the curtains against the dark, and put myself into a capsule removed from the world outside. I float through the ether, crawl across the glowing laptop screen in black words, or creep through layouts, options, displays, WordPress webs. More bot insect than human, I am caught up in discussions on Al Jazeera, You tube, blogs, feeds, the web.
Where am I now? The ashram lies outside my window, but I live spaces inaccessible to the time before. Before the unthinkable happened and my Merlin died. (Reading sagas of Merlin as a child, I used to wonder even then how Arthur carried on.) When people outside my window bustle along to bhajans, routines, preoccupations of their own, I am journeying into nebulous spheres, inner and outer. The darklight of inner vision impels me to re-discoveries, past memories of a quicksilver being, into webs of interconnected worlds. Paradoxically, that inner urge leads me outwards, out of safe communal haven, into realms often anti-social, chaotic, anarchic, miraculous.
People taunt me, rebuke me,
they call me crazy
but I see
the whole world is crazy–
Yes, friends, I am crazy.
The agony is now insufferable,
I am driven to destroy all
like the thunder and lightning,
torment and energy.
O friends, I’m crazy.
Saved from years past, the yellowed scrap attests to a time that I sat in the big hall, morning and evening, to have darshan, a word now reified, empty of meaning. In Sanskrit ‘darshan’ means sight, although Indians, especially Hindus, use the word to connote seeing the divine. Visiting temples, we receive darshan of the particular idol (god) present. Often the devout see the symbols as real, possessed of miraculous powers. To visit one Shiva temple is not enough, another may offer different benefits. Ideally and philosophically, of course, the icon is only symbol for a God (a form describable in words) endowed with particular attributes. But,that God or form (Rama, Krishna, Lakshmi etc) offers a bridge to the formless, through faith. Outside the pale of human cognition, that formless Other is unknowable through reason or language. A three step process, Hindu worship moves from idol/icon to idealized form to formless Other outside the bounds of language.
The intricacies of Hindu philosophy are beyond me and this blog, but I suggest that acts of worship are never simple. Swami, living breathing body, was himself a symbol. Unpredictability and mystery framed his life, but so did massive social projects such as supplying water to outlying villages, relief to drought/famine victims, institutions like free hospitals, free schools and colleges. The paradox unsettles easy formulas for his followers. Though people remake his daily utterances into prophecies, their human reason writes these narratives. We sit secure in the confidence that we are the Chosen, privy to divine mysteries. World religions are constructed on such premises, why not particular communities?
In seamless social transition, the devout receive darshan of the marble tomb, now the center of the big hall. Tomb=avatar=god=formless brahman? But, what if one step (the initial step) of the process is enough? For the good devotees, the marble tomb is now harbinger of miracles and signs, a sanctified sight, metonym of the (dis)embodied Avatar. The concrete symbol assuages doubts, affirms the codes of correct spiritual practice. Having lived , fought, cried, argued with, and loved, a Magical Being, I spurn the cold concrete. Societies need to continue along regulated tracks, as do those who require human shelter. Limping, fifty, and menopausal as I am, I do not. I fight the good fight, punk to the last. I struggle to rediscover the adventure of a living Merlin, the uncertainties of a human god.
That god booted me out of the ashram on my mother’s death, but just as inexplicably called me back a few months later. And, years down the line, he packed me off again–to sell our house in Chennai, falling down and decrepit–ten years after my Mum’s death and two years before his own, so ensuring my financial independence when he was gone. Three years before Swami died, I wrote to him (sending the letter as usual by courier, one among hundreds of others) that the games in the hall were too much for me. I’d rather sit in the flat without darshan but in solitude. In reply, he started coming by for drives in the Prius, right by my garden. Standing there, looking down at my Merlin, I found myself surprised often by his secret smiles, acknowledgement of a covert anti-social pact. This, the same god who earlier used to question Mum if I so much as missed attendance in the hall for a couple of days. Process is all, “kaalame devam” or “time is god.” Swami was never static, he danced along with time, never missing a beat, a minute. He danced through life’s different stages, gleeful youth, solemn middle age, painful decay, but through it all those brown eyes darted ironic grace, joy in process, in entropy.
Knowing me better than I do myself, he spoke my unspoken self into being. “You have no use for society, have you?” Merlin observed once, his eyes compelling truth. Bereft of words, I looked back at him, mumbling “nooooo Swami.” He nodded in return. That exchange warms me now as I type these words, disaffected by the world he’s left behind. Who is to say that Swami is not punk? Sacrilegious and far out as it may sound, punk nihilism is an Other face of god that human societies cannot acknowledge–the terrifying Kali of Hindu mythology, the dancing Juggernaut Nataraja destroying all–the dance of destruction contingent on the work of creation. G-O-D=Generation-Organization-Destruction, in my Merlin’s own words.
This post continues in “Spiritual Punk 3″….
- Ambassador of life (quiescentbeing.wordpress.com)
- Only waving, not drowning (quiescentbeing.wordpress.com)
- Religion concern (fijitimes.com)
- Create a Little Homemade Anarchy With a Punk Rocker Costume (anytimecostumes.com)
- ‘Desecration’ of holy book causes uproar in Sikh community (dawn.com)
- Ghana’s unique African-Hindu temple – BBC (guyaneseonline.wordpress.com)