In my community growing up I always felt left out because everyone was on the path of knowledge and they were all very smart and able to debate and study and understand the texts. I went much more by emotion and couldn't really defend my understandings of things. (I did really enjoy listening to the Stillman brothers talk philosophy, though. Those are some smart men!).
I focused much more on the idea that you serve a master as God without questions and with total faith. In my understanding, for a woman, that would be her husband. It is still my belief that if one serves someone with absolute devotion, the soul is purified, even if the "master" is not worthy of it.
However, the older I got, the more I noticed my intellectual side. I could not put aside my tremendous curiosity and my desire to know everything about everything. (Not that I was being asked to, it just made it difficult to simply serve). Also, modern life got in the way. I was not married. I'm still not married. I lived away from home when I went to college, so my father was not there for me to practice this on.
I'm glad I moved out for college. I learned so much about myself and became a new person. There's some poetry that I wrote during that transition that I'm going to share with you today.
Even though I've always believed that God is within us and is us and is not a separate being at all, I also understand the value of worship. It is, as my paralegal class says, like a legal fiction. Something we know is not true, but we act as though it is in order to move forward. Worship and devotion is very valuable for approaching the idea of God because it can be too much for our minds to take in that we are ourselves God. In Hinduism there is the idea of a large Self and a small self. The large Self is usually called Atman (although in Sanskrit the word atman means ones self, whether the large or the small). The large Self is who we really are and the small self is who we think we are, a collection of habits and labels held together by ignorance.
So then I found some groups that focused on devotion and I discovered that I was much more "path of knowledge" than I had realized!
The point is that I wrote some very devotional poetry. I was inspired by Mirabai. Mirabai is a poet from the 1500s. The story goes that as a child she saw a statue of Lord Krishna and was very drawn to it. She decided that he would be her lord and she wanted no one else. Nonetheless, she was married off. She was a good wife, but continued her intense devotions to Krishna. The family found it embarrassing and several plots were put in motion to murder her. Poison was put in her food, for example. And each time Krishna himself saved her. He turned the poison into honey, etc. Finally she decides to kill herself because her family is unhappy with her. She tries to throw herself into a river, but Krishna physically grabs her and brings her back. From then on she wandered streets, begging her way (as many holy people do in Indian tradition) and singing songs about Krishna. Her poetry is sensual and beautiful, speaking of Krishna as a lover and her separation from him.
These poems were all written nine years ago:
The darkest night, thick with covering,
is your hand.
The warm earth I bend to touch
is your feet.
The endless sky is your forehead.
The sunset clouds are your eyes.
The opening flower bud is your mouth.
The stars are the white splendor
of your teeth.
The small, round cloud drifting through
the sky alone
is your face as you meditate.
The cold rush of the ocean onto the sand
is your touch.
The breeze that lifts the new leaves
is your breath.
The cry of birds, shrouded in vines,
is your voice.
The leaves falling from the trees
in the deep forest is your laugh.
The honey that drips from trees
is your scent.
The planets are your necklace.
Your praise trickles from mountain streams.
The trees speak your name as I pass.
The rain on my closed windows
is the sound of your fingers tapping the door.
The idea stands between us.
It is more solid than rock
and wider than a mountain.
I am little and you are great.
I can never reach you.
The idea looms and from behind it
I hear your breath.
There is nothing real in this world.
Nothing to look at but you.
Nothing to love but you.
are the bodies.
Your voice whispers from afar
and I leap up to follow it:
to run over fields, up hills,
through forests, across deserts.
And your voice is still distant.
Because it is muffled
though my skin.
You are in my own heart.
My soul comes free of my body
soaring and tumbling
through the sky like the sea gull.
The vast planes stretch on forever,
dotted with snow.
The rhythm of life is far away.
The sun bursts through the clouds,
called forth by the perfect mantra hum,
revealing itself and reaching out gold
to cover the earth.
Thrust to new awareness
as though my soul had lived under water all these years,
seeing through only murky water.
Suddenly the world looks different
until the river pulls me back down.
I give you this flower from my garden.
I give you the last drop of water from my hair.
I give you the mornings
and the evenings.
I give you the moments.
I offer all my sorrows and all my joys.
The greatest offering is the tear wiped off
and held trembling on the fingertip.
God accepts it
and gives the gift of liberation in turn.
There are actually 112 of these in the notebook I found!