"Breathe deeply," said Vijaya, "and as you breathe pay
attention to this smell of incense.
Pay your whole attention to it;
know it for what it is - an ineffable fact beyond words, beyond reason and
Know it in the raw.
Know it as a mystery.
and prayer - those were the three things that
'Abdullāh loved above all others.
The inexplicable data of
breathed incense, touched skin, felt compassion and beyond them, the mystery of
mysteries, the One in plurality, the Emptiness that is all, the Suchness
totally present in every appearance, at every point and instant.
breathe," he repeated, "breathe," and in a final whisper, as he sat down,
"Shivayanama," murmured the old
moved forward, climbed and, three quarters of the way up the altar stair sat
down side by side in the penumbra between darkness and the light of the lamps.
Quietly Robert began to talk about Shiva-Nataraja, the Lord of the
"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 in all the worlds at once. Look at him."
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 closely."
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.
the dance of endless becoming and
It's his lila, his cosmic play.
the sake of playing, like a child.
But 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 light-years.
Look at him there on the altar.
is man-made, a little contraption of copper only four feet high.
Shiva-Nataraja fills the universe, is the universe.
Shut your eyes and
see him towering into the night, follow the boundless stretch of those arms and
the wild hair infinitely flying."
"Nataraja at play among the stars and
in the atoms.
At play within every living thing, every sentient
creature, every child and man and woman.
Play for play's sake.
But now the playground is conscious, the dance floor is capable of
To us, this play without purpose seems a kind of insult.
What we would really like is a God who never destroys what he has
Or if there must be
pain and death, let them
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
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.
uppermost of his right hands he holds the drum that summons being out of
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 !
Dances that way - and oh, the hideous fear,
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 life.
For Nataraja play is an end in itself,
He dances and the dancing is his maha-sukha,
his infinite and eternal bliss."
"Eternal bliss," Robert repeated but
"For the unenlightened there is no bliss, only the
oscillation between awe and
a sense of outrage at the
thought that pain mixed with pleasure is an integral part of Nataraja's
dance - our dying as our living."
"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
priest cried triumphantly.
"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
But now look at Shiva's other pair of
The lower right hand is raised and the palm is turned outwards.
What does that gesture signify?
It signifies 'Don't be afraid;
it is LIFE ! '
How can anyone
in his senses fail to be afraid?
How can anyone pretend that evil and
suffering are all right, when it's so obvious that they're all wrong!
Nataraja has the answer. Look now at his lower left hand.
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 ignorance, the
manifestation of greedy, possessive selfhood.
Stamp on him, break
his back! And that is precisely what Nataraja is doing.
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
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 Nature."
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 have been.
What a timeless
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
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 incense.
At the foot of the altar steps
the boys and girls sat motionless as
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