Continuing the Sacred India Tarot Archive, by Rohit Arya and Jane Adams. This post is quite a ragbag, because into it arrived two vintage Himalayan mountaineers: Siva tries on their faces to further tease Parvati, perhaps. Or … an essay on India’s charm for we romantic Brits.
This post belongs with “Solomon” (23 March) which is over in Aquariel, my other blog.
While assembling Solomon and (to conclude) a gist of his Song, I thought of Parvati in her Himalayan forest, watering the trees and being visited by the wise.
Rohit’s Notes (2004) – Eight of Lotuses: Siva Masks Himself
“Siva appears as a smug, self satisfied Brahmin, to test the poor girl, indulging in much abuse of his qualities, nature, life style and appearance. Parvati responds with anger, as shown in the comic strip below. This indicates both the Karma which kept them apart, and the fact that when such happens, the illusions which separate people no longer hold sway. This is the only card where Siva is not shown in colossal stature, and he is not bejeweled or crowned.”
As a Capricorn child, I am bound to identify with the Daughter of the Mountain. My love letter is to the universe, for all hearts to read. Let it be!
Here I am, Parvati by the Star pool, listening to Rahu, fishing away for Siva, and pestered by a sage or two !
Why not take all the time it needs? The sages who come along are interesting, and sometimes they pretend to be Siva for a while, which is fun. Siva’s masque fits any of them. He puts on a different face, pretending to be Rahu’s Head Exchange … Siva the god of Love is a holy terror among the wives of sages ! Siva shines through Rahu. Rudra is sometimes Rahu. They seem to pass through one another. None of them is really Siva. This is the Glory and Freedom of Siva.
Rahu’s appearance presages Parvati’s future child with an elephant’s head – Ganesh.
Wives of sages get left alone a lot in the forest. Up the path through dark stems and columns of sunlight, who comes next? What matted lean stranger, with loincloth, waterpot and glowing eyes? Any day, the unexpected ! The call of strange birds, through Himalayan valleys: the clambering rhododendron giant: nocturnal mist lifts off the ground, as Surya begins His work for the day.
I think Parvati’s nectarous ecstasy was greater in her expectant Solitude, sleeping out at night and fasting on the ground, than in all the future days of her marriage with Siva on Kailas. Of course they would squabble, whenever they came off the peak. That was the fractious energy field required to conceive their children, Skanda and Ganapati.
My loveliest experience in India, was not Gurus. I didn’t really take to them, other than Ramana. It was sitting in Ramanananda’s cottage the other side of Arunachala Hill: the tall medicinal herbs in his garden – all of them collected from sages’ samadhis – the rocks in his fireplace, his watercolours of the Hill, his old put-put scooter and excellent idiomatic English. Friar Tuck in horn rimmed specs and orange skirts welcomes staff-bearing kindred spirits. He is busy raising funds to restore Annamalai Temple: piles of paperwork perch precariously on pebbles, rudraksha beads and sacred ash. Through his parlour, men and women sadhus potter and pass the timeless hour: their laughing Vedic intellect, the Path to Liberation and the heat.
In modern India and the loosening of some of its brackets, an ancient freedom speaks as it always has. Off the beaten track, Ramananda’s caravan among wiry eucalyptus, catches what breeze it can. He told me that in summer, if you throw an egg on the wall, it fries, and that he is not really a Swami, he is the Self.
The train stops again. Through the wide windows, time and tall herbs pass by. In Siva’s fiery light, no caste or custom confines the eccentric delight of elder India.
It is also my friendship with Belgian Mira when she stayed with me for a short time in London; we laughed about our menfolk. She like Parvati waited by the Ganga many many moons with cloth and waterpot, till Harilal Poonja returned along the path – her Siva whom she married: their daughter Mukti.
FOR MIRA AND POONJA
With a ghee lamp butter from the cow is burned, leaving nor ash nor carbon. With a ghee lamp the cow is burned; pure is Vedic light from the Sun she gives. Fire, brave ship in water shining. Sun, bright fire in the sea. Water, deep peace of night. Fire is in the wood. Fire sleeps in the wood. Fire from the Sun is present in all beings. Let there be peace to all beings: to rocks, plants, rivers, animals and people. Let there be peace. His soul is to her love released. In the flower childrens' fire, Master's body fell, was licked and torn, eaten, feasted. Let there be peace to all beings.
from Poems of Eclipse, 1999
THE RIVER LADY
The wisdom of an elder, beautiful woman plays among the cows. The Daughter of the Mountain nomad knows not what'll happen next. With her Master's zest she parries the prurient in the bud with deft shield and sword to tease and pierce. Because like Parvati, she by Ganges waited outside time, her spouse, an old, old river through her flows, a gravitas. A terrible compassion in her stands. Master's eyes are palpable in her round feminine face with wide laughter wrinkled - a soft river apple blooms. Bhakti in the West is not well understood. The soul of bhakti is the effortless being taken; Master's absence of effort. There is no lineage, no permission for the river. It overflows its banks, within my house. The room is filled with the river lady's way of hen partying here, with Master in our toes. My thoughts are cradled in small sails the river takes to its own. They are brave little ships. They are butter, lit in paper boats.
from Poems of Eclipse 1999
The luminosity of Vedic India, the shining brown river, the Himalayan myths and legends, the paradoxical political scene … remain bright and eternal in Parvati’s soul. I feel the sound of the river and the old wrinkled stones and the sun’s heat even now. I travel sitting still! Waiting for Siva is the Himalaya in my soul: the coming and going of this, is beauty. Nobody need wait for Siva. Siva is the perfume of all the whispering leaves.
I did not tread the shores of Mother Ganga in this lifetime, nor visit Badrinath. The memory is planted from other lifetimes, who knows when or where ? Badrinath where Ganga rises, and the mountain-girt sanctuary of Nanda Devi and the Valley of Flowers, are on the watershed, on the direct trail to Kailasa in the north, the shining peak.
Let Nanda Devi be my mantra ! She is the goddess of nanda, a male sanskrit word for joy. In the 1930s, the Himalayan explorer Eric Shipton opened up the dark Rishi Ganga gorge to the secret flowering meadow and snows around Her beautiful high fang, till then inaccessible … “Rishi” means “Sage”. The Sages’ silence flows from there, and the mountains are devic beings.
If my thoughts seem to stray, it is because Parvati and Siva invoke for me this landscape and its archetypal resonance. Translating Parvati’s visions on an empty tum, to my inner world in England, I am inspired by the early Himalayan explorers as they mapped the sacred trail among the high Ganga sources around Badrinath, seat of Vishnu. I have their books and their old photos. It is an INVOCATION : to touch upon, and to marvel. The trail crosses the watershed. Its great peaks are Kamet and Nanda Devi, on the way to Kailas in Tibet.
In the book with Sacred India Tarot deck, Rohit writes:
“Siva, vanquished by Parvati’s great tapasya, and even greater love, still has a puckish desire to test her. If she was not discouraged by indifference, perhaps she will be by disgust? Appearing as a young Brahmin, he professes loud astonishment that she is wasting her life and beauty on that fellow Siva. Is he any sort of goal for decent people? His family and background is unknown, his ornaments are serpents, he lives in cemeteries with weird goblins, and he certainly has no money.
“This is a peculiar form of Bhakti called Ninda-Stuthi – Abuse-Praise! It is coded language for spiritual initiates. Siva has no money because he is the lord of the world. He lives in cemeteries because that is where every human ends up. He has no family and is of uncertain background because He is the origin of the world, and so on.
“‘He encompasses all things, though he is but one. Whoever knows him, Siva the Auspicious, wins peace for ever.’
Rohit continues: “While Parvati does understand this language, her great love for Siva made these contumelius epithets unbearable. She began to objurgate this insolent man – scolding and rebuking sharply in a whirlwind of offended love. “The stupid and envious always say malicious things about the Great Ones of the world. What is beyond the limited understanding of shallow minds, is condemned. To speak ill of great souls is a sin, to listen is to participate in that sin.’
The last bonds of impeding Karma snap at that moment, and Siva concedes defeat. The devas are relieved. Parvati has in her meditations, worked out their negative Karma too.”
Finally, embedded in his interpretation, Rohit concludes, “This is an end-of-Karma card … Whatever goes at this time, let it go. It has no more Karma with you. Seek new horizons in life.”
Looking for a picture in Frank Smythe’s The Valley of Flowers (Hodder & Straughton 1938) about his exploration near the Nanda Devi sanctuary, I discovered this marked paragraph:
“It was the first time I had travelled alone in the Himalayas, and the experience after the last two caravanserais to Mount Everest, was more than refreshing. For the first time in my life, I was able to think. I do not mean to think objectively or analytically, but rather to surrender thought to my surroundings. This is a power of which we know little in the west, but which is a basic of abstract thought in the east.
“It is allowing the mind to receive rather than to seek impressions, and it is gained by expurgating extraneous thought. It is then that the Eternal speaks; that the mutations of the universe are apparent: the very atmosphere is filled with life and song: the hills are resolved from mere masses of snow, ice and rock into something living. When this happens, the human mind escapes from the bondage of its own feeble imaginings, and becomes as one with its Creator.
“My pen has run away with me. It often did when recording my impressions in the Valley of Flowers, for it is impossible to continue along conventional channels when the country on either side is so fair … …
“The silence was complete save for the light, almost imperceptible hiss of the burning logs. Presently even that died, and the fire shrank to a heap of glowing embers. The cold stole up behind me; suddenly I was chilly, and my pipe was out. A few minutes later I was warm in my eiderdown sleeping bag. The last thing I saw before closing my eyes, was a bright star poised on a distant ridge, looking at me through the door of the tent.”
My adventure invites fellow travellers. I am a poet, an artist and a seer. I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.
This blog is a vehicle to promote also my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books). Watch this space.
All art and creative writing in this blog is copyright © Janeadamsart 2012. May not be used for commercial purposes. May be used and shared for non-commercial means with credit to Jane Adams and a link to the web address https://janeadamsart.wordpress.com/