Shanti Sadan and Self-Knowledge name
Vol.68 No.3 Summer 2017

Poetic Pointers to Non-Duality

One of the themes that we find in the poetry of Hari Prasad Shastri is how the seeker of truth is open to receiving help from a power far greater than that of our limited intellect and will. This help is sometimes called inspiration, sometimes grace, and its influence, though itself indescribable, is indicated by words like peace, courage, joy, understanding, relief and release. It is an influence that may visit us suddenly and unexpectedly, and it has the power and certainty to dispel negativity and enable us to make further progress on the path to self-realisation.

To be open to this possibility, one needs faith that there is a deeper reality—all-powerful and all-knowing. The non-dual teaching is that this reality, being equally present everywhere, is present within us as our true Self. Thus grace and inspiration do not descend from a region above, but rise, so to say, from the root of our being, when our mind is suitably disposed to allow this inflow.

The key principle is that grace and inspiration have their source within our own being. A verse from the Bhagavad Gita assures us:

Out of mere compassion for my devotees, I, the Lord, abiding in their heart, destroy the darkness born of ignorance by the luminous lamp of wisdom.

In other words, at any time, at any moment, the helping, liberating influence is available—if we are open to it.

Sometimes we may find ourselves feeling helpless and insecure. In a short poem entitled ‘I am helpless’, Hari Prasad Shastri writes:

The river is in flood, the waves rise like hills,
The darkness is falling on all sides,
The ferryman has gone home, his boat is no longer seen.
My love awaits me on the opposite shore,
I have no means to cross the river.

Then the last two lines signify a change—not an infusion of grace, but a turn in our thoughts that will make that infusion possible. He writes:

I still my mind, entering into meditation,
And dwell on the Friend in my own being.

Another short poem, entitled ‘Leave me alone’, paints a different state, that of delusion and self-indulgence, leading to the narrowing and impoverishment of our experience. He writes, figuratively,

Under the impact of ignorance
I embraced the roses as they grew.
The thorns bruised my lips; they became painful and bled.
I caressed the water lilies in the muddy pool.
My breast was darkened, my heart contracted.

But then again, characteristic of these poems, there is a change, as one’s spiritual nature, one’s higher nature, reaffirms itself, despite the helplessness—despite the moral inadequacy. And in the poem, this is symbolised by an upward look at the boundless sky. The poem continues:

I looked into the infinite blue, filled with the silvery light,
And sipped the wine of the azure vault.

And then, through looking in the right direction, so to say, something higher in our being is released. He goes on:

The angels, in the form of stars,
Rained down violets of love;
The sun showered my forehead
with golden lotuses.
... (the birds sang) ‘That thou art, that thou art.’

Another poem confirms that this higher rescuing power is always with us, though our thoughts may stray far from its remembrance; nonetheless it is always knocking at the door of our soul, as it were, waiting for us to make that inner turn. The poem is called ‘Who knocks?’

Who knocks at the door of my soul when I am fast asleep,
When my mind, deluded by appearances,
Imagines them to be objects of delight,
When fame and comfort claim me?
Who knocks persistently
In illness, in health, in spring and autumn?
Who seeks admission into my home?
It is the eternal essence of the soul,
It is atman, it is truth, it is love...
Do not keep the guest waiting,
Let him enter, be united with Him
In a loving embrace, O my soul.

One last short poem refers to this inspiration or grace in terms that are more direct. These are a few lines from a poem called ‘Who visited me?’

Who visited me last night in my lonely chamber?
The world of dream was shattered.
Sleep too was gone. Was I awake?
There was light within and without,
All was peaceful through and through.
I fear no ill nor death;
No love, no enmity
Has since touched my heart...
My soul is rich in infinity, my mind is at rest.
Who visited me last night?

This partnership with the deeper reality of our own being, leads to the dissolving of duality. In the lines of Swami Rama Tirtha:

All desires, great and small, are gone.
I enjoy the direct vision of Truth,
For all veils have now been lifted.