It was like a stream

by Akka Mahadevi

English version by A. K. Ramanujan
Original Language Kannada

It was like a stream
     running into the dry bed
     of a lake,
               like rain
     pouring on plants
     parched to sticks.

It was like this world's pleasure
     and the way to the other,
                         both
     walking towards me.

Seeing the feet of the master
O lord white as jasmine,
     I was made
     worthwhile.

-- from Women Writing in India: 600 BC to the Present: Volume 1, Edited by Susie Tharu / Edited by K. Lalita

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

You know, there is always a question people are hesitant to ask, or just don't think to ask... So let's ask it now:

What in the world are these poets and mystics really talking about? Is there anything real behind all of these esoteric poems and sacred scriptures?

Once we step away from heavily laden words like God or heaven or enlightenment, we have to ask if these are just lovely word games and endless philosophical speculation.

I guess all of that is a roundabout way of asking the blunt question, What is the real point to a lifetime of spiritual striving?

Here's a little secret not often mentioned in church or mosque or synagogue: In deepest communion, when the mind is still and the heart open, we are flooded by such an immense, ecstatic joy that nothing else can compare to it.

Let me say that again, because it is not some pretty philosophical notion; it is real, and directly perceived: When the mind is still and the heart open, we are flooded with an immense, ecstatic joy beyond describing.

That flood brings with it a profound sense of life. It is a sense of being alive that is utterly new, unknown until that moment. It is as if we experience what it means to be alive for the first time. Christians speak of this as the rebirth. Eastern traditions speak of it as awakening. That flood -- it feels like a rushing stream -- finally slakes a deep thirst we didn't know we had.

It was like a stream
     running into the dry bed
     of a lake,
               like rain
     pouring on plants
     parched to sticks.


In other words, yes, these poets are actually describing something real. It is something felt and tangible. The spiritual journey is not about withering discipline or theological correctness, clinging to a dusty ideal unto the grave. It is about life! And a very real deep, mysterious delight!

The theologian reformulates other people's descriptions sugar, and tells himself he is content. But the mystic is only satisfied with tasting it.

The spiritual journey is about discovering the very real sweetness that you are.

O lord white as jasmine,
     I was made
     worthwhile.



Recommended Books: Akka Mahadevi

Speaking of Siva The Shambhala Anthology of Women's Spiritual Poetry Women Writing in India: 600 BC to the Present: Volume 1 Sacred Voices: Essential Women's Voices Through the Ages





It was like a stream