At the end of the kali-yuga, the great
destroyer of the worlds, God manifested as the destructive principle Shiva,
does a dance called the
He appears, blue-bodied with ten arms, with lightning and
fire appearing from every pore in his skin, and does a dance in which the
universe is finally destroyed.
The moment of cosmic death is the waking
up of Brahma, the
Creator, for as Shiva turns
round and walks off the stage, seen from behind, he is Brahma.
Vishnu is the preserver the
whole state of the
Unity of the
godhead being manifested as
many, many faces.
deeply," said Vijaya, "and as you breathe pay attention to this smell of
Pay your whole attention to it; know it for what it is - an
ineffable fact beyond words, beyond reason and beyond explanation.
Know it in the raw.
Know it as a mystery.
prayer - those were the three
things that Muhammad ibn 'Abdullāh
loved above all others.
The inexplicablity of incense,
compassion and beyond them,
the mystery of
mysteries, the One in
plurality, the Emptiness that is
Suchness totally present
appearance, at every
point and instant.
So breathe," he repeated, "breathe," and in a final whisper, "breathe ."
murmured the old mystic ecstatically.
Together they moved forward,
climbed and, ¾ of the way up the altar stair sat down side by side in
the penumbra between darkness and the
Quietly Robert began to talk about Shiva-Nataraja, the
Lord of the Dance.
"Look at his image," he said. "Look at it with these new eyes
that the moksha-medicine has given you.
See how it breathes and pulses,
how it grows out of brightness into brightness ever more intense.
Dancing through time and out of time, dancing everlastingly in the
Dancing and dancing in all the
worlds at once. Look at him."
Scanning those upturned faces, Will
noted, now in one, now in another, the dawning illuminations of delight,
recognition, understanding, the signs of
worshiping wonder that quivered on the brinks of ecstasy or terror.
"Look closely," Robert insisted. "Look still more
After a long minute of
silence, "Dancing in all the worlds at once."
"In all the worlds.
And first of all in the world of matter.
Look at the great round halo,
fringed with the symbols of fire, within which the god is
dancing. It stands for Nature, for the world of
mass and energy.
dances the dance of endless
becoming and passing away.
his cosmic play. Playing for the sake of playing, like a child.
this child is the Order of
His toys are galaxies, his playground is infinite
space and between finger and finger every interval is a thousand million
Look at him there on
image is man-made, a little contraption of copper only four feet high.
But Shiva-Nataraja fills the universe, is
eyes and see him towering
into the night, follow the
boundless stretch of those arms and
the wild hair infinitely
"Nataraja at play among the stars and
in the atoms.
At play within every living thing,
every sentient creature,
every child and
Play for play's sake.
now the playground is
conscious, the dance floor is
capable of suffering.
To us, this
play without purpose seems a kind of
What we would really like is
a God who never destroys
what he has forged.
If there must be pain, let it be meted out by
a God of
righteousness, who will punish the
wicked and reward
the good with everlasting happiness.
But in fact the good get hurt,
the innocent suffer.
Then let there be a God who
sympathizes and brings comfort.
But Nataraja only
His play is impartial to death
and life, of all evils as well as of all goods.
"We should consider every day lost on which we
have not danced at least once.
We should call every truth false which was
not accompanied by at least one laugh."
In the uppermost of his right hands he
holds the drum that summons
Look at the uppermost of his left hands.
Brandishing fire by which all that
has been forged is forthwith destroyed.
He dances this way - what
the epiphany !
that way - and oh, the hideous
fear, the terror,
Then hop, skip and jump.
Hop into perfect health.
Skip into cancer and
Jump out of
material life into dissolution,
out of dissolution again into
For Nataraja play is an end in itself, everlastingly
He dances and the dancing is his maha-sukha, his infinite
and eternal bliss."
"Eternal bliss," Robert repeated
but questioningly, "Eternal
"For the unenlightened there is no bliss, only the
oscillation between awe and
terror and a sense of moral
outrage at the thought that pain
mixed with pleasure is an integral part of Nataraja's dance - our dying as
"Suffering and sickness," Robert resumed at last.
"Old age, decrepitude, death.
I show you sorrow. But that
wasn't the only thing the Buddha showed us. He
also showed us the ending of sorrow."
"Shivayanamar" the old mystic
"Open your eyes again and look at Nataraja up there
on the altar.
In his upper right hand, as you've already seen, he holds
the drum that calls the world into existence and in his upper left hand he
carries destroying fire.
Life and death, order and disintegration,
But now look at Shiva's other pair of hands.
lower right hand is raised and the palm is turned outwards.
that gesture signify?
It signifies 'Don't be afraid; it is LIFE ! '
How can anyone in his senses
fail to be afraid?
anyone pretend that evil and suffering and death are
Nataraja has the answer. Look now at his lower left hand.
He's using it to point down at his feet. And what are his feet doing?
Look closely and
you'll see that the right foot is planted squarely on a horrible little
subhuman creature - the
A dwarf, but immensely powerful in his malignity,
Muyalaka is the embodiment of
manifestation of greedy, possessive selfhood.
Stamp on him, break
his back! And that is precisely what Nataraja is doing.
Trampling the little
monster down under his right foot.
Notice it isn't at this
trampling right foot that he points his finger; it's at the left foot, the
foot, as he dances, in the act of raising from the ground.
And why does
he point at it?
That lifted foot, that
dancing defiance of the
force of gravity - it's the
symbol of release,
of moksha, of
Nataraja dances in all the worlds at once - in the world of
physics and chemistry, in the world of ordinary, all-too-human experience, in
the world finally of Silence, of
Lumière Infinie .
. . "
"And now," Robert went on after a moment of silence, "I want you to
look at the other statue the image of Shiva and the Goddess.
Look at them there in their little cave of
shut your eyes and see them again -
And in their tenderness what depths of meaning!
What wisdom beyond all spoken
wisdoms in that sensual experience of spiritual fusion and atonement!
Eternity in compassion with time.
The One joined in marriage to
the many, the relative made absolute by its union with the One.
Nirvana identified with
samsara, the manifestarion in time and flesh and feeling of the Buddha
The old priest lighted another
stick of incense and softly, in a succession of long-drawn melismata, began
to chant something in
On the young faces before him Will could read the marks
of a listening serenity, the hardly perceptible,
ecstatic smile that welcomes a
sudden insight, a
revelation of truth and beauty.
"Liberation," Robert began
again, "the ending of
sorrow, ceasing to be what you ignorantly think you are and becoming what you
are in fact.
For a little while, thanks to the moksha-medrcine, you
will know what it's like to be what in fact you are, what in fact you always
But, like everything else,
timelessness is transient.
Like everything else, it will pass.
And when it has passed,
what will you do with this experience?
What will you do with all the
other similar experiences that the mokhsha-medicine will bring you in the years
Will you merely enjoy
them as you would enjoy an evening at the puppet show, and then go back to
business as usual, back to behaving like the silly delinquents you imagine
yourselves to be?
Or, having glimpsed, will you devote your lives to
the business, not at all as usual, of being what you are in fact?
All that we older people can do
with our teachings, all that Pala can do for you with its social arrangements,
is to provide you with techniques and opportunities.
And all that the moksha-medrcine can do is to give you a
succession of beatific glimpses, an hour or two, every now and then, of
It remains for you to decide whether you'll
co-operate with the grace
and take those opportunities.
But that's for the future, Here and
now, all you have to do is to follow the mynah bird's advice:
Pay attention and you'll
find yourselves, gradually or suddenly, becoming aware of the great primordial
facts behind these symbols on the altar."
The old priest waved his stick of
At the foot of
the altar steps the boys and
girls sat motionless as statues.
- adapted from
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