Sep 23, 2023
Sep 23, 2023
“The infinite burn worldly love, rub the ashes and make ink of it, make the heart the pen, the intellect the writer, write that which has no end or limit.” Guru Nanak.
Amma’s Gospel  a collection of 45 pieces of poems strung together, with art contours illustrated and meticulously interpreted by Niloufer Wadia and composed by Rajendra Krishan. Besides being a man of letters, grit and wit, he is an ardent lover of poetry, photography, visual art and many other literary genres. Per se, he has dedicated this book to his grandsons / granddaughters avidly as an aficionado. There is little about the book that briefly introduces the poet to dear-dear readers by unfolding the purpose and significance of Amma’s Gospel. Academic turned bureaucrat P C K Prem of Himachal Pradesh (India), by his sagely words of wisdom, has written rather a full-length ‘Foreword’ (9-27) which helps readers to comprehend the basic tenets of Amma’s Gospel. Ten ‘Previews’ (151-165) also throw ample light on the art / artist and the purpose of this creative mission. There is enough scope in these dispersed ‘Previews’ for extracting views, reviews and comments on / of / about the gems further scattered across ‘Amma’s Gospel. As a matter of fact, in Amma’s world everyone is happy and considerate. No harm befell on anybody. All are strong to live long and healthy lives with plenty of children to enliven their homes. Trees and flowers bear fruit in every season with mild rains and winds. There is complete amity among all sections of people. All are righteous and eschew lies.
The book opens with the sacred syllable ‘ Om.’ The poet avers and the artist draws the same - ‘Om / The only verse / Manifesting eternally / The universe’ (32-33). Truly, being timbre of the universe, Om is supposed to be the first / primeval sound. The first syllable prefigured to foretell the creation of the universe. Also, Omkara, as is intoned in daily prayers – Omkaram Bindu Samyuktam Nityam Dhyanti Yoginah, as per latest discoveries of cosmologists, is the Blue-Dot on which the Devotees, Yogis or Seekers of truth meditate to enter into for liberation from the mire of life-death cycle. So, meditation on sacred and secret syllable Om, unlocks the mysteries and realities of macrocosm laid dormant within the microcosm. When realization dawns knots of ignorance-non-truth are cut asunder. And emancipated being shines in one’s own light.
The poet proceeds and lets us know value of deep rooted traditional and cultural rites, hailing the Supreme through customary mode of salutation-‘Salutations to the one / That pervades the entire cosmos’ “Namaste” (34-35). Being reciprocal this mode of Greeting, sanctifies both the giver and the receiver. Both are blessed because - ‘As I honor that space in thee / Where dwells / The very cause of life / Of love / Vibrating and enriching / Humility, compassion, fortitude’ (35).
The same theme has been further elaborated in another poem ‘Every time whoever you meet / Remember to always greet / With a smiling face / And folded hands ‘ “Greetings ” (39). Ingrained human virtues if followed sincerely sans mendacity one is bestowed the same esteem as is given to the deity installed in the pious sanctum-sanctorum of a temple. The poet is well adept in envisaging beauty of the infinite into little finite spark called human body. The poem thus besides conceptualizing man in his earthly abode, throws ample light on his / her divine origin simply branded as finite-infinite relationship - ‘to experience and realize / that in every organism alive / The Witness reclines / in the temple divine’ (39).
Through love’s rectitude the poet moves ahead to depict divine dynamics, pranks and frolicsome nature of the divine player. A person who is always conscious of divine presence in the feel of limbs, muscles and sinews never disregards the glory of the Supreme Master- ‘Who is in control of this phenomenon ? / The Master Puppeteer ! / Invisible and mysterious / ...always within / from birth to death.’ “Leela” (43). This continual remembrance of the divine the poet calls Simran is akin to realization of the highest state perceived by Indian Yogis while being engrossed in meditation. The world and the cosmos in tandem stands by to witness the mysteries and miracles, the poet calls the ‘Leela’ of divine dancer.
To a person who is devoted to the cause of divine manifestation prayer forms an inevitable part- a routine recourse for mundane existence. Prayer does not spring up from heart until or unless we accept our lack of knowledge-the ignorance, the sense of piety that directs us to reason our innate flaws, the realization that we are mired in the muck of worldly imperfections and our foolhardiness to judge Almighty’s all-encompassing nature. The poet very succinctly answers all the why’s and how’s allied to prayer - ‘In quest of wisdom, admitting foolishness / With thanks, knowing that / Offering gratitude brings fortitude / With yearning to be in his grace.’ “Why Pray” (49). Prayer, thus, if done sincerely, by cleansing the inner soot and filth, actually does wonders. It is also efficacious in warding off all malignant forces lurking and covering the hinterlands. The seeker of truth or the Sadhaka moreover, gets bestowed with benign miraculous powers to wield them at his will. Leads further the kindly light to enlighten the darkness of ignorant existence. That is why legends have sung paeans in praise of Prayer. We see devout Hindus doing their Sandhya Vandana thrice a day - ‘Good health to meet / the purpose of every day / Wisdom to differentiate / Between right and wrong.’ (49). So let us pray, pray in unison, says old and benevolent Amma of the text.
Consecutively, the poet deals with the cyclical theories of natural evolution, portrays ideals circling round-around the eternal axis of life and death. This evolutionary process accommodates all species of embodied beings - the Jivas called life formats. The poet in a laconic way goes ahead to narrate the tenuous tale of our earthly sojourn which binds us involuntarily in ever widening bond of physical and philosophical charisma. However, as the poet does, we do not forget to allocate our accumulations and dreams to posterity so as to keep our lineage or pedigree safe in the genetic order of our native cultural and traditional values. What’s more, the time and the space and the environs we live in leaves a greater impact on our physical and mental makeup, on our brain and brawn - ‘Within the governing / norms and customs / of the social environs / where the individual lived.’ “Cyclical” (54). The poet through Amma-the protagonist in a way explicit, moves further to convey the implication pertaining to the whole creation as the only Leela - the manifestation of two primal entities - Purusha and Prakriti. The poet seems to have derived inspiration from Samkhya philosophy elaborated exclusively in The Bhagavad Gita.
Samkhya in Sanskrit means enumeration. As such, it enumerates in empirical way the whole creation that stems from two facets: Purusha is pure consciousness, the soul, self or spirit, while Prakriti is primordial matter. Thus, Samkhya adopts consistently pluralistic spiritualism, atheistic realism and uncompromising dualism of matter and eternal spirit. In totality it is a science for liberation or emancipation - the Moksha. The poet very scrupulously goes on narrating artistically the search of man for his roots in civilization and pertinently asks - ‘Is it all pre-scripted?’ (54).
The mapping of the universe by present day scientists to discover some particles, some clues for the existence of unknown and infinite energy - the supreme master, still looks shrouded in mystery, who if truth be told, can be envisioned taking repose, reclining on the serpent bed of timeless milky ocean, waiting for an impending incarnation and unnamed evolutionary cycle amidst ever widening silence and chaos, to fill and free the world with His infinite pranks - Leelas.
Subsequently, the enlightened poet appears with Amma - the leading spirit of the poem, to deliberate on aspects philosophical such as the multiplicity of life - ‘Is the tiny space / encapsulating the cosmos / where life lives majestically / in myriad forms and impulses.’ “ Quest ” (58).The theme stays to hover around multiple debatable aspects of life as: the creation -its joys and wonders, the purpose, quest for salvation, meditation by distancing from the physical and the ultimate realization –‘All conceptual debates / of birth, death, cycles, salvation / known and unknown / will adjourn and merge / abyss of silence / ’ (59). Amma then closes the chapter of debate by arguing that life was, is and will remain a perennial quest to know what is beyond the visible-the invisible within.
The poet in his quest of divine aesthetics and artistic beauty looks a little bit subjective - ‘Amma spent / a lot of time / with us… / When I, my siblings / and cousins were / growing up’ “Word ” (61). The entire thematic construct spins around two entities - Amma and the poet. Amma as preceptor and the poet as an apprentice sincerely follows her precepts to rejoin a positive premise on matters as - meditation, concentration and visualization. The catechism goes on and we see both the seers in a state of awareness making out etymological root meanings and deciphering the whole science of the seed sprouting from the inner core of the word - ‘Imagine if one contemplates / on the word of words / would not one / get the key to unlock / the supreme potential within / that encapsulates / the absolute existence.’ (63).
Revelation, silence, spontaneity and tranquility also get expression at the desired phases of the dialogue that revolves round to bring the householders together on social events. The successive junctures further sanctify Amma’s devotional feelings those have left a lasting imprint on poet’s parentage, his nature and nurture – ‘Amma’s parathas: An unforgettable taste / reminding to chew good / not to be eaten in haste’ “Amma” (65). These and such other personal touches reveal the implication of Amma’s long standing observances of life and times besides signifying command, love, generosity religiosity and mysticism. The artistic beauty thus grows in its innate contours and the poet like Amma, is never defaced by wear and tear of time’s vagaries, instead holds a mirror to show to futurity a way for prosperity, abundance, enlightenment and redemption. As a matter of fact, Amma’s ideals resemble with Greek concept of Ataraxia which implies abstaining from unnecessary desires and remaining content with simple things and pursuing virtuous habits.
Another point that needs discussion is poet’s aesthetic sense of clarity meticulously maintained. It is because he applies common sense, reason, caution, discretion and avoidance of reckless narratives - ‘Death is inevitable / Sleep with gratitude / for the ultimate dawn’ (66). Amma’s caring is sharing for one and all in the family. She nurses well, preaches through her didacticism to elevate moral and material wellbeing, comforts and accomplishments. As the book was published in the surging wave of apocalyptic epidemic called covid-19, the poet seems well equipped with Amma’s therapeutic salvos to be hurled for dispensing with uncertain and picky state of affairs. These include references to mythological God of death - Yama and Patanjali’s curative device called Yoga for the discipline of the body as well as the mind. Besides self-love, cleanliness, commitment, perseverance and poise are unruffled tools of Amma to fight against the impending imp of debacle and misfortune. Amma’s conscious image of being watchful against external foes and brand-new connections with global state of affairs lend another dimension to her silence and serenity. Her silence and self-esteem are powerful accessories to resist the evil of temptation and lure. Whenever, she breaks her silence to argue grace comes ahead instinctively to guard her expression, to give her thoughts strength and to her pensive feelings a loving audience. Thus her peerless maturity and wisdom grow into a discreet object for members of her clique.
Additionally, the poet concentrates on household relations where ancestral values govern to hold sway. But the gradual deterioration under the influence of rampant promiscuities and lawlessness is occupying the front seat so as to intensify melancholy and wretchedness. This growing intolerance among families, friends, clans and societies is spreading wings to reach up to national as well as international boundaries. To cope with situations as such, the poet tersely evokes Amma’s grand and compassionate vision - ‘The folks rooted to / unity of family values / do understand that / the charity of kindness / tolerance and love / begins at home.’ “Compassion” (81).
Destination simply means intention, purpose or objective but Rajender Krishan here hones his creative abilities to establish the principles essential for a well-organized family set up. Through the relation between an elderly father and a toddler, the poet wisely professes - ‘But remember always / to simply emulate / not to replicate / for my guidance / is merely a path / not a destination.’ “Destination” (83). But he does not wish to thrust his ideals on his children, it is because times are changing and ages progressing. At such a juncture he prefers to put in practice over and over again the basic guiding principle called laissez faire - ‘So that they experience Freedom / to walk on a path / that will lead them / to the destination’ (84). He further avers that parenting is a mere guidance and destination the ultimate emancipation or realization of the self.
Another virtue is ‘Poise ’ (87). It is a quality – an attribute. The sense of sang-froid when applied to practical purposes of life provides proficiency in day today affairs besides balancing the ground for greater accomplishments in the days yet to dawn. One who maintains complete equilibrium, always listens to the voice of conscience, is never disillusioned by roaring falsities, therefore, gains clear transparency which expands his outlook and vision - ‘One who knows how / when and what to speak / where and why to be quiet / in all humility grows strong / to rein the wild horses / galloping in mind’s racecourse’ “Poise” (87).
Another poem draws appositely the image of hirsute Lord Shiva from Hindu pantheon who as Nataraja in the unity and multiplicity of the cosmos dances to the tune of His Damaru symbolizing auspiciousness of creation, while His trident simulates destructive forces to sustain the Universe - ‘River in tresses / Flame in eye / Nectar on crescent / Poison in throat / Ashes on body / Revelry with ghosts.’ “Shiva ” (89). Patience and forbearance is the trait of Shiva’s devotees. So, Shiva’s stead the bull Nandi is shown waiting outside the temple with faith, devotion, fortitude and reverence.
From divinity the poet turns to mundanity by gathering commonplace experiences: the fragilities of life and the fleeting features of time in the poem “Today ” (92). Concurrently, we see the poet marching forward to depict ephemeral reality of cognitive method when clue escapes and in a jiffy another thought is added to the former. How beautifully veiled life appears under the canopy of time - ‘The perception of the present / the natural gift from God / remains perpetually camouflaged / within the diurnal shades’ “The Present” (95). He further counsels to cross the boundaries of time and space and come out of the canopy to experience the non-dual eternal reality beyond the phenomenal. What is more, in order to continue his quest of the eternal Rajender Krishan goes up to explore the dimensions of space - ‘Plausibly / the real now / is a giant void / or a black hole’ “Now” (97).
In these darker phases he avidly travels to the past and to his predecessors for satisfying his hunger by glorifying it. The present though appears elusive and mystifying contentedly rests to envision a distant future. How pithy and compact is the poet-‘How does one / truly come / face to face / with now / that seems to be / a fleeting moment / yet is an eternity / in itself ?’ (98).
As in some earlier poems “Unpredictable” (101) focuses primarily on the world being a mere play of the invisible Lord wherein the whole lifetime is spent in solving the endless chain of magical enigmas. Some cajole others seduce, some mystify others tempt, some embrace others coerce, some accept others reject, some sustain others annihilate. Somehow this chain of contradictions comes to a halt at the lotus feet of the preceptor-the Guru, who not only shows the light but also leads to ultimate liberation or illumination. The consecutive poem “Gurdwara” (103) further explains concepts or precepts such as-‘The Guru will destroy / Your most precious possession-the ego’ (103). Thus by dispelling darkness of ignorance, by igniting the mind, we by preceptor and his precepts are initiated to ascend step by step the stairs of realization leading to non-dual blissful existence - ‘Notwithstanding / the challenges / …fluctuating doubts / knocks and bumps / encountered / in-between / Awesome is / the experience / …grasps the proximity / to the destination’ “Steps” (107).
The successive phase brings the poet closer home to devotional cult of Vaisnavism amply painted by R.N. Tagore in his art and lyrics, Sufi Saint poets like Jalaluddin Rumi and 16th century Bhakti Movement of India. How mystic the poet appears in explicating the divinity - ‘The one beyond infinity / permeating the cosmos’ “Devotion” (111). Whom ‘The brush fails to draw / and the lexicon fails / miserably to articulate’ (111) Such is the nature of our inexplicable Lord revealed to devotees whose overwhelming obeisance, compliance, devotion and love always to bring together horripilating tales of ecstasy and Grace.
Abruptly the tutor poet moves to the marvels of manifestation - ‘An inherent marvel / of illusory chaos / is the logic of nature’ “Nature” (113). The dynamic forces conspire and notch the static to create awe and wonder in the wander-land we call the world - ‘One is amazed by this duality / as the singularity of oneness / that the Gurus talk about’ (113). However, this dichotomy of nature is resolved by deep insight into mystical terrains – ‘The mystic hears in silence / …remains calm / …wisely smiles / …conquers all’ “The Mystic” (115). Moreover, what gives momentum to poet’s thought process is the driving force that boldly encounters the challenges of life by overcoming imminent obstacles. Such persons are called by the poet either ‘God sent catalysts’ “Impetus” (117) or ‘the true Karma yogi’ (117). They like a spider weave for themselves net of Karmas absolutely responsible for forming their ultimate destiny. It is because the law of Karma is the law of destiny.
Accordingly, to live righteously under guiding light of scriptural tenets is the only motto of the protagonist, who tries to interpret life - ‘This four-letter word / encompassing dynamic vibrance / mysteriously challenging’ “Life” (119). Then provides some connotations relevantly to conclude - ‘Life-the eternal mystic / moves on / with its own conundrum / of paradoxes, riddles, puzzles / in myriad hues / of vagaries and variables’ (121). Thus, life a configuration of five elements subjected to change and mutation in its transitory nature uncovers weird liveliness, hollowness and catastrophic meandering similar to irresolution of Hamlet - ‘to do or not to do’. The process of being and becoming goes on till the Jiva surrenders in all humility to get free - ‘…the witness within / the only sovereign / unperturbed and carefree / as the eternal concept / of independence’ “Independence” (127).
The observant eye of the poet searches widely geographical landscapes, historical changes, differences in lifestyles, in languages-dialects, in the practice of cultural, traditional and social ethics - ‘History is replete with brutal acts / exploiting the peculiarities with / prejudice, hate and manipulation’. “Observation” (129). The mystic in poet wanders further and farther to make a clean breast - ‘That / what was not / yesterday / but is / today / and will not be / tomorrow / If it is not trickery / -an illusion- / then what is it? “Maya” (133).
As per the law of physics all material properties are bound to disintegrate, dissolve or decay. So is mortal life. The poet nicely compares human life to an autumn leaf similar to ageing process - ‘The Autumn saw / my green body turn yellow / and with the flow of winds / I moved on towards / my new journey. “Leaf ” (135). The withering leaf is sad for the tree no more can hold it. The poet is too adept to create human emotion in objects lifeless - ‘ Eventually to become dust / and dissolve into / the eternal embrace / of Mother earth.’ (135). The way of personifying lifeless objects is indeed an apt device.
Another aspect which delineates non-attachment to the fruit of action is poetically dictated to highlight the tenets of the Bhagavad Gita - ‘Detachment is / the ability / to disconnect… / simply be / with the self within.’ “Detachment” (137). It further portrays artistically all the techniques and beauties employed in the practice of meditation called the Yoga of the mind. Such as-‘By being still and silent / Listen ably the vibes / to grasp…nurture / and rejuvenated, fulfil / the purpose of one’s life.’ (137).
The life of a householder, his / her duties and obligations, if righteously discharged lead to heaven - ‘Reaching home / ….If welcomed with / hugs and smiles / sweet home is the heaven / reflecting one’s virtues / and good deeds.’ “Heaven and Hell ” (139). Contrarily –‘…if nagged / and neglected- / wretched hell is the house / mirroring one’s cruelty / immorality and misdeeds.’ (139). Thus, heaven and hell are nothing but images of one’s own good or evil actions - Karmas. The poet seems to re-echo John Milton and many of contemporary British poets.
The poet takes an abrupt turn again in his poetic drifts. The positive virtues now replaced by more distressing attributes such as-remorse, self-reproach and guilt lead him to construe-‘Activity is inherent / so long as one is alive / Ensure no action causes / guilty regrets in life.’ “Guilt” (141). The divine nature when overpowered by diabolic tendencies experiences shame, disgrace and humiliation gnawing from inside feelings of the heart. However, the harm caused by guilt can temporarily be revamped by penance, repentance and apology having an antidote to negativity.
The benign poet moves his ethics forward to further accelerate the value of equilibrium, poise and sense of balance - ‘Gains attained by / subjugation, suppression, / plotting or fixing / for selfish ends / do not stay long, and / degrade equanimity’ “Repudiation” (143). Being selfish denotes being egocentric in self-seeking mode. A quality that brings disgrace to human-self and his sublime motifs and gradually rise to hug corrupt practices - ‘History reveals / opulent royals / and sundry corrupt / confined in their closets’ (143). Therefore, poet’s Amma persistently insists on - ‘Renounce deceit / shun crookedness’ (143).
“Musing” (145) is a pretty good poem bringing into focus all salient traits of poet’s poetic style and diction overall the art of his structural make up and thematic construct. What’s more his poetic practice has a subtle inward motif driving him to create more and more despite outward holdup and flaws - ‘write notable points / then adjudge the scroll / delete the superfluous / sanctify and validate / the final note.’ (145). The ‘Purpose’ (147) behind this creation he argues is a Karmic seed to sprout altruistically. As such, personified Amma being sole representative of fragility, growing in age and ardor, realizing the futilities of mundane existence - its likes and dislikes, finally immerse into the blissful ocean of pure relaxation through “Renunciation” (149) beautifully elaborated in the Bhagavad Gita — “ Dhyanatkarmaphaltyagastyagacchantiranantaram ” (Chapter-12, Verse-12). [*]
 Krishan Rajender: Amma’s Gospel: Setu Publications Pittsburgh (USA)-2020. All subsequent references and citations are from this edition with poems and page numbers given within parenthesis.
[*] Srimad Bhagavad Gita : Gita Press Gorakhpur-U.P. (India)Tenth print-2012.
More by : Dr. Suresh Chandra Pande
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