Sep 28 2012
Whatever It was
by Devara Dasimayya
English version by A. K. Ramanujan
Whatever It was
that made this earth
the world its life,
the wind its pillar,
arranged the lotus and the moon,
and covered it all with folds
with Itself inside,
to that Mystery
indifferent to differences,
to It I pray,
— from Speaking of Siva, by A K Ramanujan
/ Photo by FallenKnite /
In this poem Devara Dasimayya almost appears to be describing a piece of architecture or sculpture: the earth as the base, a pillar topped with a lotus and the moon, draped in a folded material “of sky.” And some mysterious “It” is both makes this structure and houses Itself within the creation.
We can understand this poem as a description of the body and its spiritual energies. The body’s fundamental material, its “base” material, is earth. The wind or vital breath is its pillar, traveling up the energetic column of the subtle spine. The lotus is the crown chakra and the moon is the brow chakra, often called the third eye. To be “covered… with folds / of sky” is to be surrounded and filled by akasha or the subtle ether that permeates all space. Akasha is sometimes described as being in “folds” as an early metaphor (appropriate to a weaver) that suggests how distant points of the same fabric can touch, Point A can touch point B by folding the cloth together until they meet. A more contemporary idea is the hologram, where every point contains the whole image within it, thus every point contains or is connected with every other point. The etheric akasha is the same way; it is holographic — through this subtle substance of awareness, all points touch.
And within this magical compilation of forces, dense and subtle, that make up the body — “with Itself inside” — resides “that Mystery.” God, here, is not an external being or force, but a presence within. The truth of the mystic is to look within for the Divine.
In Devara Dasimayya’s vision, God is “indifferent to differences,” that is, the Eternal is perfectly whole, complete, still. The Eternal One witnesses the fluctuations of dualistic experience without being tainted or disturbed by it. There is no fluctuation amidst the fluctuations. There is a universal oneness amidst the endless variety.
To that “It” does the whole universe pray…
Dasimayya addressed his poems to Ramanatha, or “Rama’s lord,” a reference to Shiva as worshipped by the divine hero-king Rama.
Tradition says that Dasimayya was performing intense ascetic practices in a jungle when Shiva appeared to him and told him to stop punishing his body. Shiva urged him instead to work in the world. Dasimayya renounced his extreme practices and took up the trade of a weaver.
Like most Virasaivas who followed him, this gentle saint taught a life of complete non-violence, even teaching local hunting tribes to renounce meat and, instead, provide for themselves through pressing and selling olive oil.
Dasimayya became a famous teacher, eventually giving initiation to the wife of the local king, who was a Jain. Dasimayya engaged in several debates with the powerful Jain community and, through a series of miraculous events, managed to convert large numbers to the worship of his loving vision of Shiva as the eternal God.