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Amma's Gospel: A Pervasive Influence
|by Aju Mukhopadhyay|
Gospel comes from God-Spell which is considered as Truth. Four books on the Life and Teachings of Christ in New Testament by Mathew, Mark, John and Luke are called Gospels. Those are Biblical Gospels. Here what the grandmother of poet Rajender Krishan spoke were her traditional knowledge and realization according to Hindu Spiritual view. Truth is the same everywhere but it has many facets. What she uttered were Truths to her hence they were taken to be her Gospels. The title of the poetry book under discussion is justified: Amma’s Gospel.
She suffered the blunt of partition of the country and other hazards of life yet earned one of the greatest respects from all due to her profound wisdom and practical knowledge; fearlessness and utmost faith on and devotion to God. Like many learned ancients of our country she acquired spiritual knowledge and wisdom to lead her clan and their life.
Rajender Krishan (aka Raj Chowdhry)
Poet Rajender Krishen has passed a simple, unostentatious life so far. He studied in Chandigarh and graduated in Delhi, both in India. In the course of time he achieved some commercial expertise and acquired knowledge of poultry farming, sales and marketing including the allied subject of advertising. In his working life he settled in New York. After ten years of stay there with family he founded not a big MNC but a tremendously popular literary website; Boloji.com which accommodates all kinds of thought encompassing such varied subjects as literature, politics, economics, religion, spirituality and all sundry areas of human interest. He is mostly known as the Chief founder or main support and Editor of Boloji.com, run from USA dealing mostly with Indian affairs. This debut poetry book has helped us to know him as a poet. His poetry is the reflection of his life influenced by his Amma.
His poetry is the reflection of his simple life and lofty ideas imbibing the knowledge and teaching of his beloved grandmother, Ratan Devi, who seems to be his main inspiration and muse. The poetry in this book has acquired superior thought and quality; truth of revered ideas and strength of faith acquaired from her when she lived and after her demise whenever the poet invoked her presence and wished her utterances to guide him. A good number of poems in the book are on her life and faith. Poems based on her ideas and utterances has acquired superior quality among the total creative actions recorded in the book.
The book begins with a poem titled Om (AUM) the most sacred sound in Sanskrit; a mystic mantra of the Hindu religion and of Tibetan Buddhism. It means the supreme God, the eternity. The short poem moves round this idea. The poem, Ammaji, presents the glimpses of her life and motto whereas Amma presents some of her unforgettable teachings and commands, her guidance. Caring tells about her concerns for all in the family; she sheltered each one in her heart; each felt secured and safe with her. “Her gestures reinforced /a sense of belonging /and caring commitment.” (Caring 69) When Corona raised its ugly head, stared and started its macabre dance, the poet invoked Amma’s guidance and felt secured again remembering her often repeated utterances: “Love yourself by being true to yourself.” (Healing 72) She asks them not to fear even the king of death, Yama, to be self-controlled, self-reliant and disciplined in the face of all dangers. Whenever the poet loses contact with his beloved grandmother he concentrates on her deep eyes in the fading sepia colour of her photo hanging on the wall and realises that they speak the same truth with the same verve; “What is heard /in the serenity of the silence.” (Connection 75)
The golden advice of the Amma, often repeated here and there in the book is,
“Love yourself.” Everyone does that though it seems to be a selfish act. But the next line asks one to stand erect straightening the spinal cord; not only physically but ideally; it refers to honesty, sincerity, modesty and mostly, to be aware of oneself. The true meaning of it may go deeper into human relationship.
In every culture one greets the other on first meeting. Usually it is a formality. We in India say Namaste or Namaskar; just uttered like any other type of addressing, It doesn’t go beyond Hi or Hello but Amma asks one to remember that he or she salutes the inner being of the person saluted, not merely the personality that stands before one for the inner being is the Divine, a witness which lives in every living body which is considered as a temple that shelters the divine. One salutes the divine presence of the man before him. “The Witness reclines /in the temple divine” (Greetings 59)
We get Amma’s conception of the indwelling God in every living being as the Leela. There is much talk about Krishna’s Leela or play as he seems to have played the most with Radha and other Gopis. That every being breaths from birth until death and does everything in cyclical order as we find in cycles of Nature proves something or someone is behind such continuous activities and movements throughout the universe in innumerable varieties. All who believe in the presence of God as the super organiser behind such everything and everyone are atheists / theists irrespective of their respective religions. Leela of the God is an Indian conception from the beginning of the cosmos. Amma tells us the story of such Leela. The poems Leela and Cyclical (52-55) complete each other.
Amma’s explanation in reply to quest of life and death remains enigmatic.
When the questioner looks askance she advises him to keep silent to realise the trith of such things. It seems really mystic beyond lucidity. But then, life seems to be such at some points. And perhaps silence only gives the answer according to the capacity of the seeker. Amma remained a symbol of maturity as represented by an age old banyan tree, the image focused on the page. “That what remained unsaid /was her unpretentiousness” (Maturity 79)
And from the mouth of that matured lady comes another golden advice:
These very words making a beautiful poem with metaphoric use of wild horses galloping emanets from the age old wisdom of a matured Amma who remains so throughout the book. When she doesn’t hold the reins of the wild horses the poetry becomes more logical and argumentative.
From Shiva (89), a good lyrical and mostly rhyming poem, begins the time for composing poems without the Amma behind them for almost half the length of the book. There are some good examples of prose poems, more prosaic than before..These poems fall mostly under the category of observation (128); poems based on thought.
Today (93), The Present (95) and Now (97) tells of the same thing that though fleeting, the present is the best to live in; “A fleeting moment /yet is an eternity /in itself (Now 98) Amma had already reminded them about it. “Remember /Life is in the now /of cause and effect /Not in the past nor in future (Quest 58). She still peeps up in some poems.
There are poems full of spiritual aspirations and fragrance imbibed from the Amma. “Unpredictable yet wonderful /is the swinging grandeur of life” (Unpredictable 101). Gurdwara is a good poem. So is,
Maya (132) is a very short but good poem but the whole is not so short. Though Illusion is the focal point it requires an elaborate study under the guidance of the great Sankaracharya whose philosophical basis is Maya; according to him the whole phenomenal world is an illusion.
When under the cloudy spell of Corona Pandemic everyone is bewildered how to overcome it,
It seems to be the only humorous and satirical poem in the book.
Sometimes there are utterances which strike a careful reader as in the last poem, “Until the vacation is over” (Renuncition 149) The poem is about loss of interest in material possessions of one who proceeds through stages of advanced age. Lastly he “immerses in pure relaxation, /until the vacation is over” (Renuncition 149) Does it refer to the sojourn of the soul on earth which is not its home proper?
Some of the poems, specially at the beginning, have the lyrical quality with some lines rhyming, but most of the poems are examples of prose poems; thoughts and ideas dominate them. Language of the poems are simple and clear; mostly they aren’t decorated with literary ornaments and images. Poems have come out of life’s experiences, ideas and expectations rather than becoming examples of artistic creations for their own sake. With superior wisdom Amma’s uttterances tend to become her teachings; moral or ethical. But most of the poems surpass such teachings as they are more spiritually oriented than remaining ethical only. Poems in general are didactive but they have it by their spiritual qualities. Age old Indian spirituality has its influence on both the Amma and aka Raj Chowdhry, the poet. The planning and production of these poems aren’t as are usually found with other poetry books. These are not fables nor sermons proper nor composed to teach only.
All those who have played their part from planning to publication of the work have already been acknowledged. I specially mention the nice artistic work of illustration of each poem by Niloufer Wadia which has enriched the production of the book as its added charm. Poems in this book have the quality of leading a seeker of spiritual path with their special flavour.
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Comments on this Article
Chandra Mouli T.S.
01/08/2022 12:54 PM
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