A Survey of Metaphysical, Spiritual, Transcendental and Platonic Love
Indian literature has reached at its apex of creation with the contribution of regional and national writers and poets. Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar is regarded as one of the silent yet promising pioneers of the young poetic movement of the 21st century Indian writing in English. In his poetry he not only expresses his passion for renascent beauty of spiritual or platonic love but also sets a superb standard of poetry for all eons to follow through excellence of his thoughts and brilliance of his style and the versification which is also, in one way, the emblem of the exploration and amplification of spiritual dimension of human life, and at the same time, the seer realization of true and impeccable love with its pristine beauty. In spite of being an eminent Indian poet, he is also a noticeable short story writer, an eye-catching reviewer and a distinguished critic, all rolled into his poetic personality. His poetry seems a synthesis of Shelly’s romanticism, Keats’ sensuousness, Yeats’ mysticism and Eliot’s wide learning with bulk of spirituality. Living with harsh realities of this materialistic world, Jha knows very well how to carve an ideal world of beauty, peace, spirituality and eternal bliss through his inventiveness.Thanks to the freshness of his theme and style, he has the stark simplicity displayed with ability in his writing- an amalgamation of emotional, intellectual, metaphysical, spiritual and transcendental love, evocatively enough to arrest a reader’s attention towards the beauty of his poetry. The aim of this paper is to draw attention or to focus on one of the predominant and most recurring themes in his poetry- LOVE, the transmission of metaphysical, spiritual and platonic elements. His inexhaustible treasure of aesthetic beauty of poetry has been awarded for many times.
Bhaskaranand Jha, Poetry, Metaphysical, Platonic, Spirituality, Transcendentalism, Love, Physical Beauty, Spiritual beauty.
Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar is one of the most promising young Indian poets writing in English. His poetry reflects true temperament of his contemporary age through the prism of his wide-range of creativity with scintillating expression. He is significantly known as a trilingual poet who composes poems in Maithili, Hindi and English. Born and brought up in a small village of Kharka Basant under Jalley Block of Darbhanga district of Bihar he took his master degree in English Literature with specialization in Linguistics and Phonetics from Lalit Narayan Mithila University, Darbhanga (Bihar). He has great craving for writing from his early age; he used to write on the vital and current issues in various newspapers. His poetic career started with the publication of his first poem- “If Wishes Were Horses” in Indian Nation way back in 90’s. Now he is frequently published in “various national and international magazines both printed and online.” (Jha ) One of his poems on Nelson Mandela has been included in the academics syllabus prescribed for the school students of Philippines. He is also a contributor to Epitaphs (An Anthology of Epitaphsby the Living Poets Worldwide), The Criterion: An International Journal in English, IJML (International Journal of Multicultural Literature), and The Anvil (Forum of Literature & Academic Research in English) etc. Some of his poems are posted on literary websites like www.voicesnet.com, www.museindia.com, www.poetrysoup.com www.ielforum.org, to name a few ones. Besides, he is also the part of several anthologies like: Purple Hues, Whispering Winds, Just For You My Love,I Am A Woman,The Significant Anthology, Umbilical Cords, A Divine- Madness vol. V, Poetic Prism 2015 etc.
Modern age is the age of cyber web or digital age and the impact of this digitization or globalization on the poetry clearly is witnessed in the poetry of 21st century. Some of the poets are writing only for name or fame but Bhaskar Jha occupies a noteworthy or vivacious place among them on the basis of his spiritual and moral values modern man is utterly indifferent to. He stands aloof and apart from other 21st century Indian poets, in matter, method, manner and metre. Love is the central motif and dominating theme in his poetry. He is prominently influenced by John Keats, P.B. Shelley, T.S.Eliot and W.B.Yeats. Therefore, his poetry has the kaleidoscopic scope but the light through which his poetry shines brighter is originally his own. Perhaps, it is for this reason that while reading his poems readers feel not bored but enjoy the real aspect of poetic aestheticism and rhetoric comprehension. Metaphysical, spiritual, transcendental and platonic love as the thematic pattern of his poetry paves the way for mysticism, divinity or sublime infinity. His fluency of poetry is so powerful that it flows with the current of time being assimilated with the present happenings, events and incidents. Asked about his poetic inspiration he replies by dividing it into two types: outwardly factor and internal factor. Worldly “circumstances, relationships, attitude of the people, social happenings etc. shape his outwardly inspiration” (Jha) and his internal inspiration includes “agonising thoughts, feelings and his reaction to that, then to defeat the mood of despondency, taking resource to metaphysical musings, getting inward to find solace” (Jha). According to him writing poetry means speaking the language of love:
The language of heart- LOVE, realization of the call of soul and, of course, perceiving of the divine light emanating from the service to humanity –all this indicative of a poet’s poetic creed and crest. Poetry, in fact helps us release the emotional burden locked on the one hand, it also affords us a pleasurable relief. The creative activity that results into poetic output is the core and crux of our existence; it keeps charging us and churning out, visibly or invisibly, the essence of life in a way of beautiful writings, be it poetry or whatever. In all the cases, writing poetry is always spontaneous as it is free flow of self and soul as a part of the whole. (Jha’s FB timeline)
To him poetic flow is as natural as fragrance to a flower or rain from the sky or waves in the sea or leaves to the plant. His poetry has proved that he is gifted galore with what Wordsworth called “spontaneous overflow” because “he writes poems sometimes with heart and sometimes with brain and sometimes with both” And for conveying his spiritual message “he uses catchy lines, expressions and images” (Sanjay). He himself accepts that
In his poetry social issues, romance and love are well tackled with equal passion resonant with profound spirituality and intricate mysticism. His poems are stunning and enlightening, buoyant sometimes and intense at other times and always have a deep meaning beautiful enough to touch heart of avid readers.(Jha)
Modern age seems emotionally and morally barren because it has nothing to do with love, faith and care due to the lack of spirituality. Everybody is carrying an axe to grind but no spiritual values and this lack of spiritual virtues has made the modern world what Matthew Arnold, the famous Victorian age critic has described in his masterpiece work “Dover Beach” like: “a land of dream/so various, so beautiful, so new” (Tilak 122) but in reality there is no, “Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light” (122) where modern man is ignorantly struggling without having a certain aim. The same thing Jha has described for modern man in his poem, “We are not what we are” “We only carry the look /That we wear for the world, /What we feel and think /Remains ever as senselessness” (We are not what we are). He points out that “absence of deep insights” (We are not what we are) is the cause of this spiritual barrenness and for true lovers this insight sparks for each other through their hearts in the form of love “as outpouring of your heart/ in me insight flow”( Restless I am For You). Throwing light on human miseries he remarks too much indulgence in mundane goals and affairs, vain pride and vanity etc. are the main factors responsible for human agony. However, he comes up with a solution to it in his poem, “Art of Cordial Living” by suggesting the way of ideal living:
The less we speak ill,
The more a good heart talks
Cordial ties form well,
Inside us all happiness walks;
With a lot of peace
Joy, zeal, and comforting feel,
In our restless mind,
And our life with healing weal.
The above poem tends to be a universal remedy which works like panacea for those who are suffering from diseases of worldly vanities like pride, earning and spending and so on. The poem shows the way of happiness, “the less we speak ill, the more a good heart talks” we should abolish our vices so that our good heart (mutual understanding or spirituality or spiritual love) can lead us to a way full of joy, peace and happiness.” Today’s man is living in a world full of selfish elusions and for this disdainful atmosphere his poetry is like a beacon also for those who want to know what is True Love. Though Jha does not leave his readers in vague rather it seems that he is carrying the torch of spiritual growth and throws light of true love on their path by guiding them about the cause of their existence.
In Greek philosophy there are four kinds of love: Agape; known as “love of god for man and of man for god,” Eros; signifies “love mostly of the sexual passion”, Philia; embodies “affectionate, regard, friendship”, and Storge; represents “love affection especially of parents and children”(Google). On the practicalities of his poetry Jha may be regarded as a poet of transcendental love or a poet of true love as in his poetry all the characteristics of physical and spiritual love are epitomized minutely and attributively. So far as the question of his poetic genius is concerned, it rests on his paradigm shift of thoughts and feelings from physical aspects of love to metaphysical dimension of love which distinguishes him from his contemporaries. It is no exaggeration rather truth that like a thesaurus that embodies different shades or features or meanings of love, his love poetry deals with transcendental theme of metaphysical love and spiritual or platonic love.
The word metaphysical is the combination of two words- Meta and physika, physics, represent “beyond”, “upon” or “after” and “physique” (Google) hence it may be said that the love which is beyond physical nature, is called metaphysical love. Coming on the term- the spiritual love, it has derived its origin from the French word “spirituael” and Latin word “spiritualis” (OxdDic.) related to the human spirit rather than the body or physical things. In this way the love that avoids physical pleasure is called spiritual love. While the term platonic love can be defined as a relation in which there is no physical involvement or encounter but of souls. According to sources available on Google /web, it is said that Platonic love has its origin from Plato’s dialogue Symposium, in which he categorises Eros into two parts- Vulgar Eros and Divine Eros. The former is earthly love or physical love and the latter is Divine love. The concept of Divine Eros is later transformed into the term of Platonic love. In other words, Divine love is usually spoken as platonic love. (G. S.)
According to Bhaskaranand Jha, love is the supreme interest for the development of soul and his penetrative insight divulges him the power of love as the paramount fact for salvation. His treatment of love is the standpoint of a spiritualist who glorifies spiritual or transcendental love rather than the tumult of physical passion. His lover is the staunch believer of never ending love on which time has no impact of its own, “Till the time we may or may not” and they“meet, greet respect, feel and touch/ far-stretched pinnacle of the/ Platonic love.”(Elixir of Love). At this pinnacle of platonic love their souls get united, “of heart-throbs in mutual bower of the unified souls.” (Elixir of Love).
For this concept of love, Jha comes next to Thomas Carew who prefers beauty of mind i.e. true love to physical or corporeal beauty. Carew beautifully describes in-depth beauty of true love in his poem “The True Beauty” But a smooth and steadfast mind,/ Gentle thoughts, and calm desires/ hearts with equal love combined” (web). In the same way spiritual breadth of love seems dotted or peppered in Jha’s love poems. His poetry is the concoction of aestheticism and didacticism with an undercurrent of transcendental love. True love does not believe in the physical beauty but it rests on the beauty of inner soul which remains long lasting. In his poem “A Poem on Beauty” he gives preference to the beauty of mind, “My mind is dazzled/ By the beauty/ Emanating/ From your mind…” (A Poem on Beauty). The poem is highly spiritual because the poet’s longing for the absorption of inner beauty of soul,
Aglow with the beauty
Of your soul
Mingled with mine
Feeding and feeling
And grow in me (A Poem on Beauty).
Due to this natural meeting of souls in the poem it seems a part of aestheticism in which an eloquent poet's thoughts about the beauty of poetic muse are expressed in a pure rhetorical and panegyrical way. Her (beauty of beloved) beauty not only pleases “his (lover’s) eyes” but also feeds his power of poetic creation. It is because of her genuine beauty so that the poet is able to sing “a heartfelt paean” and her unification with the poet, increases his idealistic sentiments that marks the spontaneous overflow of poet's heart in the form of “poetry of life”. I ‘ll call it “Magnum opus.”This devotedness for true beauty brings Jha closer to John Keats. In his Endymion keats seeks joy in beauty, “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.” While Jha takes shelter into the beauty of soul. For Keats “Beauty is truth and truth is beauty” (Ode to Grecian Urn) he finds elated beauty through sense but vision of Jha about beauty is more metaphysical as for him beauty is a divine soul or cosmic spirit. Jha’s penetrating insight enables him to see the reflection of this spirit of beauty in the whole cosmos as he writes in his poem “Cosmic Portrait” – “Pristine beauty of a cosmic portrait/ in honour of an unconsummated love”. He is the worshiper of this pristine beauty which titivates the throne of spirituality and it is “the muse of heart” which is“as divine as Christ.” Which heals all wounds of true lovers “with comforting and curing touch of divinity” (To Goddess of Love). The beauty Jha talks about is like a transcendental force or a light just as the whole shebang in human existence or dwelling of a spirit. This spiritual beauty refines lover’s immoral desires and he says,
My eyes reflect
A celestial glimpse
As a replica of Aphrodite
Goddess of Love” (Ocean of Love).
The description of love in his poetry is as gaudy as a butterfly.
His great contribution to the Indian English poetry is his transcendental theme of love which is known as metaphysical love and platonic love. In this regard, Jha’s poetry reminds one of Shelley’s philosophy of love and beauty based on platonic love, in which “all objects of nature animate or inanimate are linked together in a common bond of love that expresses itself in the exalted form of beauty. They all strive for a permanent union with a divine spirit” (Google) “Epipsychidion”, “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty”, “Alaster”, “Adonis” are some of the fine instances of Shelley’s accepted wisdom about Platonic conception of life, love and beauty. Jha’s poem “Platonic Love” seems to be written on the pattern of Shelley’s “Epipsychidion” which is a reverence to true love because of its manifestation of beauty but Jha’s concern is with spiritual aspect of manifest or unmanifest beauty.
In his poem “Platonic Love” a deep appeal for spirituality and Utopia, beautifully is expressed in a distinguished and astonishing style. The coined words are too apt to praise. Jha’s desire of seeking shelter for eternal ecstasy in the divinity of spiritual love finds a beautiful depiction as a true lover. His “long to swim into the “heart” of his beloved is quite praiseworthy. He is mesmerized not by the corporeal appearance but by the “The beauty of” her “soul”
For a fresher bath,
Of all the gross desires
I yearn to plunge
Into the intimate sea of love,
Ensconced with gems
Of eternal ecstasy
... ... ...
A true and pure replica
Of platonic love,
Though the lines- “I strive to carve out/From the rock-hard world /Lost in hatred, /Violence, and conflicts” sound like the ones from Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” but with his determine yearning for spirituality Jha succeeds in finding:
A paragon of Truth
And celestial Beauty
In my life at peace
Ever beaming with delight,
Under the magical spell
Of your soulful, eternal presence...
His poem “Wings of Love” also embodies theme of platonic love “in cordial ambience/ of humanity loves draws people/ close and closer”. He favours marital love because marital bliss of love blesses the couple by “Divorcing pain and pangs/ and sweet strikes and sufferings/ so inevitable in human life”. Its blissfulness is realized only by what he writes, “Of our mutual love and respect/ of fragrance of happy togetherness” (Happy Moments of Togetherness). This Love dwells “in the depth of intimacy/ with soulful mates” (Anchor of Love).
There is no doubt that Jha avoids the physical passion or bodily wants and excitement and tries to assimilate inner (spiritual world of soul) and outer (material world of physique) world in a new way.But he is first an Indian who reveres Indian philosophy. In Indian philosophy, life span of a person is divided into four stages called “Ashrams.” Married life is one of them and being an Indian poet how can he go against it?. He favours marital love for the “… treasuring/ the cultural prosperity / of our country” and “where love and lust are our well being/ a socio-cultural process morally sanctified”(Celebration of Love). He does not contradict the marital bliss between spouses and marital life which is not the alliance of two bodies but the “Union of two hearts and mind/ needs mutual sacrifices in life/ heart be honest in a true mind/ must have a hubby and a wife.” (Test Bed of Love).Love unites all harmonies by making life perfect, pure and pious. True love is never selfish it believes in sacrifice. In addition to conjugal love , he has also treated love of a very high or sublime order because he presents love as a meeting point of two souls not of two bodies only.To reach this meeting point lovers have to pass through a process- “growth of love” with which lovers come in contact with each other:
Love meets and ignites
Two sweet hearts
And unites them
... ... ...
Through and through
The body, mind and soul. (True Love Tests)
Due to this spiritual enlightenment of two souls through body, mind and soul the poet may be called a bold soul with a supreme verve or an enthusiastic and vibrant companion for those suffering from spiritual desolation. He believes in immortality of soul .He feels within himself a divine light that shows within his soul the profundity and immensity of eternity. His soul gets imbibed with that beauty, love and delight for which there is no change and end.
Jha in his poetry crosses the threshold of depth of worldly life only to understand the eternal values of true love as he teaches his mate in his poem “Metaphysical Lovers” that “we are invisible beings/ living in the abode of love/ carved out beyond time and space”. He means that true lovers care not for “stark reality” and “social shackles” rather their “secretly meeting and parting” stops not them “loving each other” because their love is “beyond the Horizon of territorial desert”(web).Just as John Donne, the heralder of metaphysical poetry has emphasised in his poem “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” in which the departed lover consoles his beloved by telling her the importance of true love: “But we, by a love so much refined/ that our selves know not what it is/ inter-assured of the mind” ( Agnihotri 57). Donne compares spiritual love as a “centre” (meeting point) for true lover; “And though it in the centre sit/ yet when the other far doth roam” ( Agnihotri 57).
In his poem “Quest” he avers that he has been in constant search for divine light. Though his heart is all tired of long wait and his eyes are also sunken, yet his quest for divine light is so true that he is still waiting for it with patience and hope. In a way it sounds like tautology. Written in majestic and non pareil style and full of mystic optimism:
Are the eyes, sunken
For her glimpse
He is waiting with serenity and constant hopefulness for the crucial revelation of life’s meaning in terms of universal love. Jha’s ardent desire for achieving divine light or spiritual glory gets artistically expressed - “My soul yearns to demystify/ The intricate cosmic expanse” His quest for earnestly some peace/ some ambrosial solace” and finally he finds it, “in the after-the-storm, calm sea/ of spiritual solitude and beautified” (My Soul’s Quest).
He composes poems not for any equilibrium and harmony of their forms but for his own intelligence, moral and spiritual amusement. True love comes in life with elation, pleasure and serenity through which,
“we feel more elated
emotionally purged purified
for love alone elevates
our soul and mind” (Winter Love).
He is mesmerized by the healing power of love which illumines his way full of dead darkness(worldly complications) and soothes his “sullen soul” by providing soulful bonds and loving ties/ breaking fetters of gloomy heart/ XX X X/ love consoles the unheard sobs/ healing the deep wound of life. (Healing Power of Love). In this connection Jha’s philosophy of love bears a resemblance to that of the greatest poet, dramatist and sonneteer, William Shakespeare whose notion about true love finds wonderful expression in his famous sonnet “Let Me Not to The Marriage of True Minds” where Shakespeare describes the power of true love by writing, “That looks on tempests and is never shaken/ it is the star to every wandering bark” (Agnihotri 43). Similarly, Jha sees love as a solution to all human misery because it is a link between Divinity and mortal and supervises lovers’ way.
Jha writes that true love is the “ocean of bliss” (Oh’ Eternal love) and his lovers strongly believe in the metaphysical existence of soul. That’s why they always remain ecstatically blessed by the healing power of love, divine insight of love, Eternal light of love, which guide them for perennial peace and for the smoothness of soul with a rest in metaphysical existence. True lovers seek their joy in each other’ happiness as his lover cares for the happiness of his beloved. Seeing uneasiness of his beloved he says, “the more unrest prevails in my inner world/ in heart, in mind” because outpourings from her heart gives him “insight”. (Restless I am For You).
Only a blessed lover can enjoy the enchanting beauty of love. He finds his beloved as pure water of love collected in the pool of his heart which nurtures him and he achieves the transcendental truth, she is “ deep insight/ attained/ awakened/ into the transcendental truth” (She). It seems that Jha is blessed with that insight with which Wordsworth got blessed so that he could see the fairy beauty of his wife in his poem “She was a Phantom of Delight” “She was aphantom of delight/ When first she gleamed upon my sight”(Sharma 260). XX X “And yet a spirit still and bright/ with something of angelic light” (262).Having this divine vision Jha’s lover realizes, “sweetness of the beauty/ flow from your heart/ I dip my soul in your love/ woven into my world of art” (Flight of Romance). The feeling and of course presence of love can be realized by the meeting of heart and soul, “Love is sweet invisible relation/ Between two hearts” XXX “At two different places/ but mingled together heart and soul”(Love). These lines remind us of the metaphysical conceit of Donne who has use pulley as an extended metaphor.
In his love poems Jha enjoys each and every specific feature of love emanating from the enlightened mind, pious heart and sublime soul. His focus is always on its purity, its self-restraint and its severe refinement. Hence, the poet deliberates an imaginative world of spiritual or platonic and transcendental love. Impact of Vedantic philosophy can be seen on his elevated, enlightened, illuminated love which leads him to the real ecstasy i.e. the assimilation of one’s soul with eternal divine soul (God)- the ecstasy. With the purity of his mind he is regarded as a virtuoso or soloist who sings for the beauty of mind and soul being rapt into the tune of his inner soul.
He is a scholar who writes poems with so highly ornamental style that no poet can surpass him in terms of theme, forms, content and style. In his love poems he throws himself peeping out into the life of lovers and makes his reader feel their passion and emotion. Undoubtedly, he is one of the most original of 21st century poets of India as in his colourful poetry he transmutes the grasp of platonic love with enduring strength of spiritual love. Spiritual love and platonic love in his poetry are like two souls who transcendently embrace each other. His poetry has proven that he overcomes true love instead of being conquered by corporeal love. It is as rare as to be exclusive especially among the 21st century poets. With his beauty of diction, exquisite melody, utterance, treatment of love, development of soul, penetrative insight, he is nearly always the source of inspiration for others. He tries to discover the cause of human miseries and loneliness and resolves the issue of diminishing spiritual faith. His poetry appeals to the heart rather than head. It is no exaggeration to conclude that his poetic muse rests so artistically showing the virtues of her whole temper that his readers feel, in his poetry, the presence of their muses also owing to the universal elements of love with its multi-dimensional
Besides the virtues of his poetry, he possesses triumphant skill and fine sensibility of a scholar and his mind seems to be deeply impregnated with the teachings of the Vedanta.
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This paper was published in the Volume 8, Issue 1(June 2016) of Cyber Literature