The Spirit Moves . . .

September 11 (1921 – 2015)

Dear Grandfather!

It has been almost a century since you passed away. In the 39 years that you lived, you dedicated your life to our country and to our people. You opened their eyes, showed them the light of knowledge, and set a new path for a great future for the land. What were your goals? What were your dreams for the country? What were the principles that you lived by? What were your ideals, that you set for our people? What was the culture that you cherished and taught to the men and women of this country?

THE SPIRIT MOVES . . . It has been moving through TIME all these nearly-hundred years .   .   . watching the Earth, and especially, watching his Ancient Land with unbounded love and compassion.

THE SPIRIT MOVES . . .  to his birth place, where a mature woman, looking at the sky, is talking to him.

THE SPIRIT WONDERS .   .   . “What does this mean? Was I not clear enough in explaining all these issues when I wrote about them? . . . Did I neglect my country? Did I leave my country and the world in too much haste?”

HE PONDERS . . .

“ ‘Revolution of tenderness’ – A voice is heard from the final mass in Cuba in the City of Santiago. The Pope’s call to the people.”

“Thousands of people are moving across Southern Europe as they flee war and persecution in Africa and the Middle East.”

.  .  . There are still people who do not have a land for themselves; there is still poverty, hatred, sickness, and death . . .

More . . . and .  .  . more. . .

“Yes, I still have much more work to do.”

The Spirit comes down to Earth, to the village of Ettayapuram, to communicate to the woman who is his own flesh and blood – desperately talking to the poet.

Suddenly . . .

Lightning flashes . . . Dark clouds gather, and the deafening noise of the thunder rolling above is heard.

Rain pours down on the dry land of the village of Ettayapuram.

The woman’s heart is filled with wonder, with a beautiful feeling that she has never before.

Grandfather! Is this you? Are you trying to communicate with me?

“Is Poetry a powerful enough tool to accomplish my goals?”

The Sprit’s moving finger begins to write . . .

Bharati – Gnāna Guru

A Prayer on His Birth Anniversary (December 11, 1882)

“An offering to Grace

A Temple of Love

The Sun that dispels the darkness in my heart

Rain to the fields of our great country

Wealth to the destitute who know not how to acquire wealth

Fire to base slavery”

– Bharati’s Poems: Nivedita Devi

I fall at your feet on your birth anniversary

– To attain Freedom from the tangles in the forest of my heart,

I pray that you show me the Light of knowledge and wisdom.

S. Vijaya Bharati

Nivedita

 

 

Immortality (Sept. 11, 1921)

Just before his death, Bharati made a trip to Karungalpalayam near Erode. He had been invited to speak at the anniversary celebrations of the local library. The topic that he chose to address was a curious one: the possibilities of eternal life while living in this body. Following his trip, he wrote an article in Swadesamitran on August 4, 1921, describing his visit and transcribing parts of his speech on conquering death and gaining eternal life.

Death came to him within a month. Perhaps, being a great soul himself, he was unconsciously aware of what was going to happen to him. Perhaps he wanted to let the world know of his findings on the theory of immortality, and his new definition of the word.

The word “Immortal” means “living for ever (not mortal),” “divine,” “worthy of fame for all time,” “a person of enduring fame,” – says the dictionary. Bharati used such words as “Devan,”“Amaran,” “Amaranilai” to encompass a whole new concept, and one of unfathomable depth. It comprehends the timelessness and continuity of creation – the continuity of time which has neither beginning nor end – is essentially unchanging – and eternal in the widest sense of the word. It is more than what the dictionary specifies as eternal – that a person’s name and fame last forever.

Nor is Bharati’s concept in the immortality of Hindu thought, which is clearly explained in the Bhagavad Gita as the “eternal” existence of the soul (atman). In “Sankya Yoga,” Bhagvan says to Arjuna:

Atma lives for ever; it is indestructible; it is immeasurable. Even so, they say that its ‘forms’ have an ending.”(Ch. 2; slokam 18)

“It is not born, nor does it die at any time. . . when the body dies, it is not killed.”  (Ch. 2; slokam 20)      

“Like discarding old clothes and wearing new clothes, the atma discards worn-out bodies and takes new ‘forms.’ ” (Ch. 2; slokam 22)

But Bharati, in his Introduction to Bhagavad Gita, takes Sri Krishna’s advice, “the brave hero who treats joy and sorrow equally does not deserve to die,” (Ch. 2; slokam 15) and explains that the essence of the Gita is, “eternal life – to live eternally in the body like Markandeya.”

He further insists: “Immortality; this is the secret of the Vedas.”

Bharati was fascinated by the concept that the limitlessness of “time,” which is infinite, could be captured in the physical body of the human being. He thought it was possible to accomplish that possibility in human life. His in-depth studies of the Vedas and other religious scriptures – his associations with the Siddhas in Pondicherry – and the findings of the great scientist Jagdish Chandra Bose – made him believe in this theory, and he dedicated his life to investigating the possibilities of living forever in the physical body. These concerns preoccupied him throughout his life.

One day, Bharati heard a beggar walking in the street and singing a song:

“The breath that stays regular and constant in sleep, may turn its course and never come back”

Bharati’s immediate reaction was one of intense concern:

“If the body is so unreliable as this, how can anyone begin anything great in one’s life and complete it in one’s life-time? We must accomplish a great deal in life: we need to acquire knowledge – we need strength of heart – we need education, fame, and wealth. . . we need to live a happy life. We have great desires in our hearts. To fulfill them, we need to establish a strong foundation and build them over a period of time. . . But, we need to wait for the ripeness of time to do this. If the next minute is uncertain, what can we possibly achieve?” (Bharati’s Essay: “Amirdham Theduthal”)

In my mind, considering myself a relatively ignorant person, not knowing anything much about matters related to spirituality, the following question arises: Did my grandfather not know about the realities of life? Was he not aware of the inevitability of death? How could he have the idea of conquering death and becoming immortal in the body? Especially when he had seen his mother die when he was five, and his father die when he was fifteen, witnessed these deaths with his own eyes. He knew that our ancestors had lived and died, that their bodies were buried, that their ashes were dispersed throughout the soil. He knew that human history had proved that all living beings, human and non-human, were mortals. In Hindu thought, there is supposed to be a three-fold process of creation (beginning), protection (existence), and destruction (the end) of the world itself; three “eras” occupied a specific, pre-determined time frame, and all existed. An ending of all creation would inevitably happen at the end of kali yuga – on schedule.

Then, how could Bharati sing,

“Oh, Yama, I consider you a slender blade of grass, just come close to my foot, I will push you a little”?(Bharati’s Poem: “Kalanukku uraitthal)

Yet Bharati, in his essay, “There is No Death for Man” (Manidarukku Maranamillai), notes that his convictions were totally agreed upon and approved by the scholars in the meeting at Karungalpalayam.

“I only know one thing . . . that is, men can live eternally without encountering death. . . I proved this theory with supporting evidence: the Vedas and Puranas, religious scriptures, European scientific findings, and from the conclusions of the great scientist Jagdish Chandra Bose.” (Bharati’s Essay: “Manidarukku Maranamillai,”

Of course, what gave him the conviction to say this, were the stories of Markandeya, Prahlada and the helpless elephant who was caught by the crocodile. And he had read the experiences of the Vedic rishis, Siddhas in Pondicherry, who were believed to be living deathlessly in forests, mountains and caves, especially Kullachamy, who showed him immortality (amara thanmai); and the new findings of the scientist Jagdish Chandra Bose.

Bharati raised an interesting question:

“It is possible to control the body; is it possible to control life (uyir)?”

He also provided an answer:

“Control the body; you could control life.

Control life; you could control the mind.

Control mind; you could control Shakti.”

He explained this further with an example:

“There is a cotton pillow in front of me.

It has got a shape – a standard ‘form’ (niyamam).

Shakti is keeping it in its form, protecting it from behind – without destruction.

The same pillow can be protected as long as the human race exists.

If the pillow is renewed every now and then, Shakti will remain in the

shape of the pillow.

If it is not renewed, its shape will change.

A dirty, torn, old pillow – remove the cotton from inside and put it in a new case; throw away the old case.

Now, the “form” is destroyed.

If the form is protected, Shakti will be living in the form.” [Bharati: Katchi, 2. Shakti (5)]

Bharati emphasizes here the importance of maintaining the body by which controlling the mind and capturing the soul (atma) in the body is possible. The temple of Shakti, the body – is destroyed only when it is not protected from the clasps of demons (asuras : ignorance, fear, sorrow, sickness, doubts, worries, ego etc).

In Bharati’s drama Viduthalai – the devas assemble together and discuss the problems of the mankind, and try to resolve them; the Brahma had ordained that this be done; the devastating situation on earth must be changed and the strings that tie the humanity be untangled.

The drama takes place in the Heavens, and the time of action is the end of kali yuga, and the characters are Indra, Vayu, Agni, Light (the Sun) and a few other powers.

The devas are determined to destroy demons and “free” humanity from their suffering. They decide: “let us find someone on earth and assign this task to him; we will give him our powers and he will deliver the humanity from danger and destruction.”

The divine powers found the “deserving” person named Vasupati on earth, in the land of Bharat, in the Pandya kingdom and was born in the Brahmin class, which was void of dharmas.

Vayu gave him “life” (uyir);

Indra gave him strength in mind;

The Sun gave him light in his intelligence. (Bharati: Katchi, 6. Viduthali)

The man was, Bharati!

He writes in his Journal of Thoughts, the “mantras on the plane of Self”:

“I am God, I am God, I am God. I am Immortal. The hours may pass, the days may roll, the seasons change, and the years die away, but I change not. I am firm, fixed, ever alive, ever real, ever happy. I do believe in all this, for I know all this to be true. I know myself to be Immortal, because I am God.”

“I shall not die. I have no Death. No, not even this body shall know death. How can my body die, when it knows no illness? How can it die, when it is ever recuperated, ever refreshed, ever quickened by the deathless Me? How can it die, when I am God? Do the Gods die? They do not.”

“And I am a Sada-Nishta (a mystic). Hence I cannot conceive of Death. I can only think of an endless joy, the joy of existence. And this joy is mine for ever and ever.” (Bharati’s English Writings: “Bharati’s Journal, Thoughts”)

 

 

“Om Namo Narayanaya” – September 11, 1921

Today, the 11th of September 2013, is the death anniversary of C. Subramania Bharati (1882-1921). It is a religious observance in our custom to celebrate the death anniversary of our ancestors. I would like to dedicate to my grandfather, the last chapter from my book Amaran Kathai, a biographical novel about his life, as a tribute to his memory. I believe that nothing could be more appropriate than offering him my appreciation in this way.

Amaran Kathai is a novel based on Bharati’s life, and presented against the historical background of the Indian Freedom Movement, which he helped to ignite in South India. I would say that the novel is actually more of a biography than a novel, in the sense that it is more factual than imaginary. Most of the important events in Bharati’s life that are described in this novel – political, social, and personal –are factual, recounted with a touch of the imagination of the artist.

The genesis of this novel is an interesting story. Having written short biographical works on Bharati before, I wanted to write a truly detailed biography of this extraordinary man who was a Mahakavi, and also a personality of dazzling colours – a nationalist, hero, historical figure, revolutionary, social reformer, humanitarian, mystic, and above all, visionary who “saw” the future of India and the world. But I realized that it would not be an easy task; it would be challenging to portray such a personality in the usual form of a biography, which has certain inherent limitations. I was afraid that a mere narration of the incidents in the life of the poet, or a descriptive elaboration of his social background and the historical events of his times, might not be enough to understand the extent of his genius or his greatness as a poet. I was concerned that a traditional biography might end up as a kind of news reporting, purely informative, rather than portraying a complete picture of the poet’s personality.

I therefore decided not to pursue the idea of writing a biography in the traditional sense, but, instead, to write a novel about his life. I thought that, in a novel, I would be able to bring out all the different shades of his multifarious genius – the different aspects of his personality – his craftsmanship as a poet, his longing for freedom as a nationalist, his emotional force as a revolutionary, the depth of his faith and devotion as a bhakta, his love and compassion as a humanitarian, and his visionary insights as a gnani.

The Chapter in Amaran Kathai that I am posting today narrates the last day of Bharati’s life in his physical body. As my mother, Thangammal, recalled, “In those days, he was always thinking of Narayana and was always chanting Narayana namam (name).” He wrote his last poem, “Om Namo Narayanaya,” at this time, which reveals his disposition or state of mind in his last days. Both the poem and the last chapter from Amaran Kathai are attached to this Article (see links).

In this final chapter, I have incorporated Bharati’s poem “Om Namo Narayanaya,” a few excerpts from his writings (“Katchi”), and the fascinating story of the demon king Hiranya and his young son Prahalada. The poem is written as a dialogue, a samvadham, that occurred between the father and the son. Hiranya threatens his little son with unimaginable cruelties, but Prahlada, in return, answers only, “Om Namo Narayanaya.”

“What would you do if I killed you,” roared Hiranya;
“Om Namo Narayanaya, Om Namo Narayanaya,” said the little boy (siruvan).

“I will topple you down from the top of the mountain,” said Hiranya;
“Om Namo Narayanaya, Om Namo Narayanaya,” said the little boy.

“I will thrust you into the mouth of the whale, in the midst
of the frigid ocean,” said Hiranya;
“Om Namo Narayanaya, Om Namo Narayanaya,” said the little boy.

“I will break you apart at the hip and eat you, said the evildoer.
“Om Namo Narayanaya, Om Namo Narayanaya” said the little boy.

The two contrasting characters – the violent, tumultuous, stormy, fierce, raging, wild Hiranya stands in striking contrast to the calm, peaceful, fearless young bhakta. The difference accentuates the intensity of their confrontation. The repetition of the single phrase “Om Namo Narayanaya” highlights the fearlessness of the young boy and his unshakable faith in God.

Finally, Hiranya points to a stone pillar in front of him, and demands of his son, “Show me your Narayana in this pillar.” Prahlada answers, “Narayana exists in this pillar, and he also exists in the tiny twig of a tree.” Hiranya, becoming fierce with violent anger, kicks the pillar with his foot. To his astonishment, Narasimha, one of the ten avataras of Mahavishnu in the ferocious form of the Human-Lion, springs out and tears the evil king into two pieces.

In the explanatory remarks at the start of this Chapter, I have analyzed how an extraordinary event from history could appear to be happening at the present time. Was it just the imagination of the poet in his heightened state of mind? I do not believe so. I believe that these unusual occurrences were real, not imaginary, and that they were actually experienced by the poet.

I translate, below, my introductory remarks to the chapter. These passages are from Bharati’s own translation and commentary on the Patanjali Yoga Sutras:

In his commentary, Bharati uses a few musical terms to explain certain phenomena of creation that the human mind cannot grasp. He wants to emphasize, perhaps, that, in the vastness of creation, the limited human mind and physical senses are incapable of perceiving the wonders of nature to their full extent.

The musical term that Bharati uses to illustrate the levels of the human mind is Sthayi (range). There is also the order with which the human mind functions – the ascending and the descending: in musical language, Arohanam is ascending notes (swarams: s r g m p d n) and Avarohanam is descending notes (swarams: s n d p m g r).

“The phenomena of creation are infinite. . . .

“The Ocean of Sound: the limitless, unthinkable, unending range of variations of sound are infinite. From the sound of the young parrot’s cry to the sound of the moon colliding and collapsing onto the earth – the noise of the wind blowing on doomsday – the roaring of the planets crashing into the Sun and disintegrating into powder – if we can imagine such things happening – of all this varied range of sounds, the human ear can hear only seven Sthayis (the theory and calculation of Jagdish Chandra Bose).

“The Ocean of light:  in the limitless, unthinkable, unending range of light – humans can only accede to seven Sthayis. What man discerns as dark, the owl perceives as light. In the matter of ‘light,’ the owl has familiarity with the ‘lower’ ranges whereas the eagle is able to access the ‘higher’ ranges. The eagle has the power to look directly at the sun.

“Similarly, the ‘Subconscious’ (chaitanya) is made up of infinite ranges of which the human mind, in its usual state, can only reach two or three ranges. Even within these ranges – in its ascending and descending Sthayis – in its various combinations of Swaras – in the variations of Ragas – it is possible to achieve strange and amazing experiences. A few men are able to reach even eight or nine Sthayis, and we call them mahatmas and avataras.

“For those who have ascended a few steps in yoga siddhi, the lower part of the subconscious world opens up and reveals ‘visionary’ sights and wondrous experiences. As the torrent of the river Ganga flows from the originating mountaintops, gushing over the earth, and descending to the nether world (padalam), the wonders of the upper levels of Chaitanya pass through the normal consciousness and descend into the lower Chaitanya, creating unimaginable and wondrous experiences – as the fire that lies in a dormant state below the surface of the earth, climbs up through the mountains and bursts out through the summits – in great men (mahans), the wonders that were dormant in the lower levels of their own subconscious minds, emerge on occasion and create visions or experiences which would ordinarily seem impossible.

“These visions are clearer than the dreams that occur when we are asleep. They are as ‘real’ as the little parrot’s cry, or the owl’s experience of the ‘light’ of ‘darkness,’ or the eagle’s experience of the brilliance of the sun.”