Bhakti Song 27 – How Can I Explain

On 17-12-1990, when I went for my evening walk in the Sat-tal ashram, I was meditating upon God, our inability to know Him, and the way we cannot explain Him through any human language. After writing this day’s experience in my diary, again when I thought about this subject, I wrote this song after I retired to bed. I always kept a notebook and pen next to me on my bed and when inspiration comes, I will write down the words even in darkness on the note giving enough space to the word. This song is also written on my bed without light.

 

எப்படி எடுத்துரைப்பேன்

சிந்தைக்கு அடங்கோனை, சொல்லினால் அறியோனை

எல்லைக்கு எட்டாது எங்கும் நிறைந்தோனை-தொல்லோனை

 

ஏதுமொழி கொண்டு எடுத்துரைப்பேன்–என்னை அவன்

அறிவான், அறிவேன் நானும் அவனை அவ்வண்ணமே

 

காலத்திற்கடங்கோனை, கருத்திற்கு எட்டோனை

ஞாலத்தின் ஞானத்தால் நவில இயலோனை–ஏதுமொழி கொண்டு….

 

ஆண் அல்ல பெண் அல்ல அருவல்ல உருவல்ல

அவனியும் அவனல்ல அவனிக்குப் புறம்பல்ல–ஏதுமொழி கொண்டு….

 

நானே அவனாகி நாதமும் கீதமும்போல்

ஒன்றியபின் உண்டோ ஒருபேதமுமே–ஏதுமொழி கொண்டு….

 

English Translation

The one who cannot be comprehended by mind, who cannot be explained by words

One who pervades everywhere without knowing any limitation—the Primordial One

 

By which language will I explain Him? He knows me

And I too know Him as He is

 

The one who won’t be bound by Time, who is beyond the meaning

Who cannot be explained by the knowledge of the world

 

He is neither male, nor female; He neither has form and He is not formless

He is not this world (creation) yet not outside it

 

Once I too become one with Him like the tune and song

Is there any difference between me and Him?

 

Comments

This is one song which will never stand to the strict scrutiny to the theology of Muktiveda. I don’t want to go to the details, particularly about the last stanza. Where angels fear to tread, I should not even think to explain it. Here I found bhakti comes to my help. Sometimes, violating all kinds of conventional understanding about theology/philosophy, it gives some space to individual bhaktas to express their inner feeling without minding about orthodoxy.

Similarly the sentence: ‘He is not this word (creation) yet not outside it’ again brings the topic of God as the efficient cause or material cause. Of course Muktiveda talks about how God created the universe out of nothing (ex nihilo). But can we comprehend a God without this universe itself as His creation? God is not limited, but we cannot understand Him beyond what He has done through creation and action (in history). That is why I said ‘He is not outside it’. I am at presently reading Ananda K. Coomaraswamy’s book: Perception of The Vedas (ed. Vidya Nivas Misra, New Delhi, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Manohar, 2000). Some time I want to keep this book away as his exegesis of Veda compared with other philosophies and Muktiveda is beyond my comprehension. At the same time I don’t want to give up. Though I cannot agree with him in all his exegesis and interpretation, yet some of his analysis is very interesting. His thought on creation is one such. This is bit long and those who have time, interest and patience can read this:

 Despite St. Thomas’ use of emanation (loc. Cit.$) the objection has been made that srsti as ‘emanation’ implies the existence of a ‘materiality’ in God. We can only say, in the first place, that it is with the Spirit that the person fills these worlds, dividing himself (MundakaUpanisad, VI.26), it is by his knowledge of himself that Brahma is this all (Brhadaranyaka Upanisad, I. 4.10); the emanation not of ‘matter’, but of ‘children’ (prajaah, passim), so that ‘He is one as he is in himself, and many as he is in his children’, (SatapathaBrahmana, X.5.2.16). In most contexts, indeed, it might well be preferable to render srsti by ‘expression’, rather than by ‘emanation’ (‘creation’ is in any case inappropriate)….

The problem of a ‘materiality’ in God does not, in fact, arise. On the one hand, it is obvious that all things are, in some sense, in God, because of his infinity (anantatva): in this sense the eternal reasons of all ‘material’ things must be in him. On the other hand, Sanskrit has no word for ‘matter’ in the sense of ‘concrete reality’: for ‘that which fills space in such a manner that it can be conceived of and/or sensed, Sanskrit has only namarupa, ‘name’ (idea, species, substantial form) and ‘phenomenon’ (perceptual aspect, accidental form), or in other words the ‘intelligible’ and the (p.159) ‘sensible’. ‘As far as there are “name and phenomenon” so far this universe extends’ (SB, XI.2.3.3); it is by means of these that the Brahman is manifested, and the world a theophany (ibid.,5). It is true that Sanskrit maatraa (measure) and (nir) maana (measured out) are the etymological equivalents of matter and ‘material’, and that these terms denote whatever belongs to the realm of continuous quantity; but what is thus ‘measured out’ (by the Sun, cf. Blake’s ‘Ancient of Day’@) is not the physicist’s matter’, even in its most mental form, but the possibilities of manifestation that inhere in the Spirit,–‘inhere’, in the sense that time inheres in eternity, eloquence in silence, or measureable space in the space that cannot be traversed. Maatraa is much nearer to the Scholastic ‘species’ as characterized by ‘number’ than to materia thought of as mass. It may be added that the Platonic and Neo-Platonic concept of ‘measure’ (metron) accords with the Indian: the ‘unmeasured’ is that which has not yet been defined, or future; the ‘measured’ is the defined or finite content of the ordered cosmos; the ‘immeasurable’ is the infinite, which is the source alike of the indefinite and the finite, and remains unaffected by the definition of what of it is definable.—notes. 69, pp. 159-60

 

$ Sum Theol. The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. London 1913-1942, 22 vols. Also in Parma ed., 1864.

‘Creation is the emanation of being’, which ‘being’ is God (St. Thomas, Sum. Theol, I.45.I)—notes 76, p. 163

@ There is no bibliography given in this book. Tracing the reference in back pages is impossible. Only for abbreviations publication information is given —db}