The drum with no drumhead beats

by Namdev

English version by Nirmal Dass
Original Language Hindi

The drum with no drumhead beats;
clouds thunder without the monsoon;
rain falls without clouds.
Can anyone guess this riddle?

I have met Ram the beautiful,
and I too have become beautiful.

The philosopher's stone turns lead into gold;
costly rubies I string with my words and thoughts.
I discovered real love; doubts, fears have left me.
I found comfort in what my guru taught me.

A pitcher will fill when plunged in water,
so Ram is the One in all.
The guru's heart and the disciple's heart are one.
Thus has the slave Namdeva perceived Truth.

-- from Songs of the Saints from the Adi Granth, Translated by Nirmal Dass

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Namdev starts this song with a riddle: a drum sound "with no drumhead", and "thunder without the monsoon"... We have the reverberation, but without an initiating event. In deep meditation an inner sound is heard resonating everywhere. In various Indian traditions this primal sound is called shabd or omkara.

And his riddle also tells us that "rain falls without clouds." The rain that falls is amrita, the bliss-filled drink of divine communion. This is an actual substance, though a subtle one. When the mind is entirely clear and purified ("without clouds"), this "rain" descends from the 'sky' bowl of the skull, touching the tongue with indescribable sweetness, warming the heart, and filling the awareness with a transcendent joy.

And my favorite lines:

I have met Ram the beautiful,
and I too have become beautiful.

In this state of bliss and profound unity, you recognize that you yourself, as an individual being, are a pure emptiness, without any substance of your own. Finally seeing this, you take on the nature of the Divine Reality you are touching -- and that presence is vast, radiant, whole, and "beautiful." It is beautiful, and you are of that same beauty!

The philosopher's stone turns lead into gold

It is that contact that transmutes the "lead" of the ego identity into the "gold" of awakened awareness.

A pitcher will fill when plunged in water

In such an immense ocean of "real love" and wholeness, doubts and fears dissolve. The individual ego-self is like a pitcher that has been carrying a small amount of water -- and suddenly it is tossed into the deep. The pitcher is filled with water, surrounded by water. The separating walls of the ego become meaningless, since the water of that divine consciousness is both inside and outside with no difference... Suddenly you see a world of drowned pitchers, the same water filling and surrounding everything.

Ram is the One in all.



Recommended Books: Namdev

Songs of the Saints from the Adi Granth Namdev, His Mind and Art: A linguistic Analysis of Namdev's Poetry Hindi Padavali of Namdev





The drum with no