Tell me, what are you doing now, Mind

by Mahendranath Battacharya

English version by Rachel Fell McDermott
Original Language Bengali

Tell me, what are you doing now, Mind,
sitting there with a blind eye?
There's someone in your own house
but you're so oblivious
you've never noticed!
There's a secret path
with a small room at the end --
and what an amazing sight inside:
caskets filled with jewels
that you never even knew about.
There's a lot of coming and going along that path.
Go, upstairs, to the highest room,
and you'll see the moon rising.

Premik says excitedly,
Keep your eyes open;
if you want to be awake in yoga
you must travel this secret way.

-- from Singing to the Goddess: Poems to Kali and Uma from Bengal, Translated by Rachel Fell McDermott

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

I love the way Mahendranath Battacharya addresses this poem to his own mind as a third person -- a rather dim-witted third person, at that. The poem becomes a sort of self-instruction while, at the same time, it gets its audience laughing. The Mind is commonly imagined to be in charge, the source of knowledge but, instead, Battacharya (like his fellow Bengali poet, Ramprasad) sees it as the fool messing everything up with its obliviousness and inability to notice what is in its "own house." The "someone" who has crept into his house is the ego, the thief.

This poem reflects the Tantric practices of Mahendranath Battacharya which emphasize a very precise knowledge of subtle energetic pathways that must be traversed by the Kundalini energy when it is awakened. With most people the Kundalini Shakti sits dormant at the base of the spine. Through spiritual practice and devotion, it is awakened as an intense, fiery energetic charge that rises up "the secret way" of the shushumna, the subtle channel along the spine, leading "upstairs" to the skull.

The "small room at the end," the "highest room" is the mystical chamber (sometimes called the Bridal Chamber) contained in the bowl of the skull. It is here, amidst a flood of light, that the Kundalini (the Goddess Energy) joins in union with Siva (the Divine Masculine Energy), producing enlightenment and spiritual ecstasy. This is the real treasure of life, the radiant wealth each of us carries hidden within us, "caskets filled with jewels." Find this room and "you'll see the moon [of enlightenment] rising!"

Recommended Books: Mahendranath Battacharya

Singing to the Goddess: Poems to Kali and Uma from Bengal

Tell me, what are