Speaking Of Shiva

November 3, 2010 at 9:15 PMNov (Friends, Literature, Music, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

The tone of the voice and the content of the speech, both convinced me that he was an astrologer cum priest. I opened my eyes and the typical red mark on his forehead was like an official stamp on my conclusion about him being an astrologer/ priest.

I got down from the upper berth, where i was sleeping, brushed my teeth and occupied my seat in the train, on my way to Bareilly, with this astrologer/priest on my right.

He had got into the train before i woke up and already had created a group of devotional listeners to his early morning sermon/ lecture. The lecture on world and the ‘other’/ ‘higher’ world and self and the ‘other’/ ‘higher’ self, was making its way into me, through my ears, how much ever i tried to distract my mind from the time and space i had occupied.

“If you worship to God and do not give alms to the beggar and the poor, you do not get moskha (salvation). If you intend to get moskha you need to give alms to beggars and the poor. Saying prayers to the God will not get you a place in the heaven but if you help the poor, your place in heaven is ensured. You can cleanse every sin of yours but if you insult a poor or fail to help him, you cannot cleanse that sin,” the priest/ astrologer went on.

This whole idea of ‘buying’ salvation by giving alms and taking the help of the poor, by helping them, to ensure a place in the heaven and in total walking to the destination of God by stepping the path of poor and poverty reminded me of a poem from the latest collection of poetry by U.R.Ananthamurthy Sir.

The poem titled Chandala-Shiva- which is a convergence of a demon named Chandala and lord Shiva, speaks of an incident where sage Aadishankara while walking in a dense forest meets Chandala. Being a Namboodari Brahmin, Aadishankara expects Chandala to make way for him, as he is used to such respectable treatment. Chandala refuses to make way, even after Aadishankara, through gesture, asks him to.

“You are a soul and i too am a soul, nothing more nothing less. None of the two are the supreme soul. So tell me who is superior and who is inferior?” With this question put forth by Chandala, a realization dawned upon Aadishankara. At this point, the poet says, Chandala turned into Shiva.

The poet further explains that we should not mistake it as an episode where Shiva came to Aadishankara, to break his ego, in the form of Chandala. It was Chandala himself. But with the realization Aadishankara was able to see Shiva- the God- in the demon named Chandala.

With the ability to see Shiva- the God- in Chandala, the ‘being’ of Aadishankara was transformed. And it is ‘being’ and not ‘giving’, ‘buying’, ‘helping’ which brings one closer to God and also brings abouta change in life, to mean collective life and not individual life. and brings heaven on earth.

Ullavaru Shivalayava Maaduvaru
Naaneena Maadali Badavanayya.
Enna Kaale Kamba, dehave Degula
SHira Honna Kalashavayya.
Koodlasangamadeva, Kelaya
Stahvarakkalivuntu, Jangamakkalivilla.

[The rich
Will make temples for Shiva.
What shall i,
A poor man,
Do?

My legs are pillars,
The body the shrine,
The head a cuploa
Of Gold.

Listen, O lord of the meeting rivers,
Things standing shall fall,
But the moving ever shall stay]

This vachana by the 12th century port and social reformer Basavanna, says A.K. Ramanujan, draws a distinction between ‘making’ and ‘being’. The rich can only ‘make’ temples. They many not ‘be’ or ‘become’ temples by what they do. Further what is made is a mortal artifact, but what one ‘is’ is immortal.

By ‘being’ a temple and this ‘being’ able to see God in fellow ‘being’s, even demons and poor, the life ‘become’s heavenly (a better place to live) and not by ‘making’ temples or ‘giving’ alms, ‘helping’ the poor. This world is not to be seen as a path to the ‘other’/ ‘higher’ world but this world should be transferred into the ‘other’/ ‘higher’ world.

Shivanu bhikshakebanda needu aare tangi
Ivanantha cheluvanilla nodu baare tangi.

[Lor Shiva has come asking for alms, sister
Come see for no one is as beautiful as he is]

We should look at the above lines from a Kannada folk song the way we looked at the poem of Ananthamurthy. Here it is not to be seen as Shiva coming in the form of a beggar but a beggar appearing as Shiva or one being able to see Shiva in a beggar.

Quoting these lines from the folk song D.R. Nagaraj, possibly being disillusioned by the experiments of Communism and Socialism in the world, wrote: ” How much ever socialism takes a pro-poor stand, it can never see a beggar as the God himself or a God in a beggar. Looking at the beggar as a poor soul oppressed by all sorts of oppression might appear politically correct to us. But, being aware of the possible criticism saying i am romanticizing and spiritualizing poverty, i say that in a society which cannot see the beggar as Shiva or a Shiva in a beggar, in such a society a permanent beggarhood for the beggar and poverty for the poor is ensured.”

12 December 2009

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