May we be kinder, better in the new year: Shebaba by Renuka Narayanan
The start of a new year is a good time to think of the deep questions about life and the mystics who have attempted answers. There is a tribe of seekers who look for ‘God’ in three places – up in the sky, around them on earth and within the human heart.
The English poet William Blake (1757 – 1827), born the same year as the fateful Battle of Plassey in Bengal, said, “To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love / All pray in their distress.”
His words ring ironically in Indian ears, but seen independently as a spiritual statement, his thoughts are inspirational: “For Mercy has a human heart / Pity a human face / And Love, the human form divine / And Peace, the human dress.”
It’s another way of saying that ‘God-love’ is meant to be translated as human kindness. As Blake also said, “Great things are done when men and mountains meet / This is not done by jostling in the street.”
Blake sought out God in the world around him too, for it was only natural to look at a Creatrix or Creator, or both, as the case may be, through their creation. Here one can readily sympathise with those who insist on a Supersoul or God as the Creatrix-Creator, for it robs existence of romance to think that we’re merely a concatenation of atoms and odours or something as depressingly prosaic.
Blake’s dark side found expression in scary drawings of ‘God’, ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ but he wrote movingly of the wonder of existence, “To see a world in a grain of sand / And a heaven in a wild flower / Hold infinity in the palm of your hand / And eternity in an hour”.
Such thoughts sound familiar to us Indians since they are quite Upanishadic in their flavour and they uphold adhbuta rasa or wonderment, which is the key, according to Indian gurus, to accomplishing life with optimism, gratitude and good resolve.
Moreover, Indian religious tradition sees God as a playwright and an actor, and existence itself as a divine drama or leela that the Creatrix-Creator plays for her-his own amusement. Devi and Deva come from the Sanskrit root ‘div’, meaning ‘one who plays’.
Blake sounds very much like a Bhakti or Sufi poet himself, when he says, “A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees” and “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it is, infinite.”
Such words suggest that when we realise how very enormous the world is and how we are but a part of forces far greater than us, we may get some perspective.
This may give us the patience and good humour we need to keep us from going to pieces when tired or unhappy, leave us less irritated by the trials of daily life, more able to accept our mistakes, and so make the days ahead infinitely more pleasant for all.
The views expressed are personal.