I Am Being Written
Published on October 4th, 2018 | by Harmonist staff5
By Ananda-mayi Dasi, originally published at Ruminate, a place where writers, artists, believers, and seekers share stories, poetry, and art, including the stories and work of those who are nudged forward, backwards, and sideways on the spiritual journey.
Before I became a monastic, I was a poet. It’s an awkward thing to say, since “poet” isn’t really an occupation, a job that can be quit at will. It’s more like a condition, a solidification of the mental waters out of which individuality arises, a persona that forms seemingly without choice. I think that’s why, when I talk with my friends, most of whom are also poets, and a quiet moment cracks the door between us, they often ask with trepidation, “But, are you still writing?” I think they’re really asking, “Are you still you?”
Usually, I explain that I don’t have much time for writing now. The monastery is a busy place. Gone are the borderless hours of graduate school when I spent the night’s whole silence searching for a single perfect word. Here, we rise before the sun and wake up our Deities who employ us in their service. As earth’s god, the sun, appears on the visible horizon bringing earthly life and taking it away, we pray for the appearance of our eternal God within.
While my response to my friends’ concern is true, it’s not the whole truth. But how could I communicate, across the broad field that sometimes appears to separate human hearts, the inexpressible mystery: I don’t write much anymore; I am being written.
Poetic as that might sound, it’s not always a comfortable position. Against my intuition, I have the tendency to thrust creativity, who is shy by nature, onto my mind’s altar, alongside her shadow, individualism. I want to be uniquely loveable, extraordinarily special. Consequently, I often don’t want to offer myself to the ongoing mystery of my life’s creative potential, which is beyond myself; rather, I want to be the creator.
But what world would such a god create? If I want to be the creator, I have to be the destroyer as well. The pleasure of my creation entails the pain of others who have their own desires. In a world of many gods, one living being is food for another (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.13.47). Is that really joy? And if not, is that really creation, which in its purest form is an act of love?
Just as love is born from the womb of sacrifice, true creativity—love’s expression—is possible only in a heart of devotion. A potter sits at her wheel, a writer holds his pen, a musician strums his harp, and an actor poses in her costume and mask, but every true artist assumes the same posture within: she folds her hands, bows her head, and prays.
In my spiritual tradition, Brahma, the god of creation, is pictured walking down and down the stem of the lotus from which he is born, searching layer upon layer of creation for his creator (Srimad Bhagavatam 3.8.19). He is preoccupied, not with his own creative power that organizes the material universe into form, but with his search for the ocean of creative potential from which he is created.
At the bottom of the lotus stem, Brahma hears God’s voice speaking a single perfect word: tapa, meaning “sacrifice.” So, Brahma returns to the center of the lotus flower, sits, and embarks on an inward journey of prayerful mediation. This is the beginning of spiritual life as well as the beginning of creative life proper. When we stop moving in pursuit of temporary enjoyment and start moving inward in pursuit of lasting joy, the potential for selfless love awakens. And, when creativity arises out of the fullness of selfless love, it does no harm; rather, it serves only to expand that love.
When God eventually shows himself to Brahma, he appears as Krishna: God in his original form as the ultimate object of love, and thereby, the ultimate creator. As devotees offer themselves to Krishna, he reciprocates, creating a world in which every aspect of aesthetic experience—every scent, sight, taste, tactile sensation, and sound—arises out of one-pointed love for him, and increases that love unlimitedly.
We can understand, then, why Krishna instructs Brahma, the god of creation, to become a devotee. Brahma’s earthly creation is like a sandcastle, a momentary joy washed away by the ocean of time. Later, the builder wonders if she ever built anything at all. But a devotee’s heart is an eternal creation.
I am a sadhka, a practitioner on this spiritual path, which means I seek to follow the sadhus, the saints in my tradition who have cultivated love for Krishna—the real poets. I mentioned that we get up early here. Every morning before dawn, we offer arati to Krishna. We offer each of our senses, represented symbolically by incense, a candle, water, a flower, and a fan. Then, as we go about our day, we try to live the arati ceremony, step by step. First we offer our senses, then our minds, and finally our very selves in selfless love to Krishna.
Day by day, as we try to live a life of devotion, we find that something begins to change. We find that within the loving sacrifice of service to Krishna, a new self begins to emerge—an inherently kind, joyful self. In the world of spiritual practice, we are created through service and sacrifice. Here, devotion is the most creative act.
So, the next time my friends ask, “But, are you still writing?” perhaps I will reply: What poem could I write when I am now the poem itself written by the perfect effort of imperfect devotion?
This article was originally published at Ruminate, and is reproduced here with the permission of the author.