At the end of the kali-yuga, the great
destroyer of the worlds, God manifested as the destructive principle Shiva,
does a dance called
appears, blue-bodied with ten arms, with lightning and fire appearing from
every pore in his skin, and does a dance in which the universe is finally
The moment of cosmic death is the waking up of Brahma, the
Creator, for as Shiva turns
round and walks off the stage, seen from behind, he is
the preserver the whole
state of the Unity of the
Godhead being manifested as
many, many faces.
deeply," said Vijaya, "note the smell of incense.
Pay your whole
attention to it; know it for what it is -
an ineffable fact.
Know it in the
Know it as a mystery.
Perfume, women and
These three things
Muhammad ibn 'Abdullāh loved above
The inexplicablity of incense, the
mysteries, the One in
Suchness totally present
in every appearance, at every
point and instant.
So breathe," he repeated, " breathe," and in a
final whisper, "breathe ."
"Shivayanama," murmured the
old mystic ecstatically.
Together they moved forward, climbed and,
¾ of the way up the altar stair sat down side by side in
the penumbra between darkness and the
Quietly Robert began to talk about Shiva-Nataraja, the
Lord of the Dance.
"Look at his image," he said. "Look at it with moksha-medicine
See how it
breathes and pulses, glowing in brightness ever more intense.
Dancing through time and out of
time, dancing everlastingly in
Dancing and dancing in
all the worlds at once. Look at him."
Lips quiver in awe on
the brink of ecstasy or
Robert insisted. "Look still
After a long minute of silence, "Dancing in all the worlds at once."
"In all the
worlds. And first of all in the world of matter.
Look at the great round halo,
fringed with the symbols of fire.
It stands for
Nature, for the world of
mass and energy.
the dance of endless becoming and
It's his cosmic
play. Playing for the sake of playing, like a child.
But this child
is the Order of Things.
His toys are galaxies; his
playground, infinite space of millions light-years.
Look at him there
on the altar.
The image is man-made, a little contraption of copper only
four feet high.
But Shiva-Nataraja fills the universe, is
eyes and see him towering
into the night.
The boundless stretch of
those arms and the wild hair
"Nataraja at play
among the stars and
in the atoms.
At play within every living thing,
every sentient creature.
Play for play's sake.
now the playground is
conscious, the dance floor is
capable of suffering.
To us, this play without purpose seems a kind of insult.
What we would really like is
a God who never destroys
what he has forged.
If there must be pain, let it be meted out by
a God of
righteousness, who will punish the
wicked and reward the
good with everlasting happiness.
But in fact the good get hurt,
the innocent suffer.
Then let there be a God who
sympathizes and brings comfort.
But Nataraja only
His play is impartial to death
and life, of all evils as well as of all goods.
"We should consider every day lost on which we
have not danced at least once.
We should call every truth false which was
not accompanied by at least one laugh."
In the uppermost of his right hands he
holds the drum that summons
Look at the uppermost of his left hands.
Brandishing fire by which all that
has been forged is forthwith destroyed.
He dances this way - what
the epiphany !
Dances that way
- and oh, the hideous fear,
Hop into perfect health.
Skip into cancer and
Jump out of
material life into dissolution,
out of dissolution again into
For Nataraja play is an end in itself, everlastingly
He dances and the dancing is his maha-sukha, his infinite
and eternal bliss."
"Eternal bliss," Robert repeated
but questioningly, "Eternal
"The unenlightened hold
a sense of moral outrage at
the thought pain mixed with
pleasure is an integral part of Nataraja's dance."
sickness," Robert resumed at last.
"Old age, decrepitude, death.
I show you sorrow. But that
wasn't the only thing the Buddha showed us. He
also showed us the ending of sorrow."
"Shivayanamar" the old mystic
"Open your eyes again and look at Nataraja up there
on the altar.
In his upper right hand, as you've already seen, he holds
the drum that calls the world into existence and in his upper left hand he
carries destroying fire.
Life and death, order and disintegration,
But now look at Shiva's other pair of hands.
lower right hand is raised and the palm is turned outwards.
that gesture signify?
It signifies 'Don't be afraid; it is LIFE ! '
How can anyone in his senses
fail to be afraid?
anyone pretend that evil and suffering and death are
Nataraja has the answer. Look now at his lower left hand.
He's using it to point down at his feet. And what are his feet doing?
Look closely and you'll see that the right foot is planted squarely on
a horrible little subhuman creature -
the demon, Muyalaka.
A dwarf, but immensely powerful in his
malignity, Muyalaka is the embodiment
of ignorance, the
manifestation of greedy, possessive selfhood.
Stamp on him, break
his back! And that is precisely what Nataraja is doing.
Trampling the little monster
down under his right foot.
Notice it isn't at this trampling right
foot that he points his finger; it's at the left foot, the foot, as he dances,
in the act of raising from the ground.
And why does he point at
That lifted foot, that
dancing defiance of the
force of gravity - it's the
symbol of release,
of moksha, of liberation.
Nataraja dances in all the worlds at once.
"And now," Robert went on
after a moment of silence, "I want you
to look at the other statue the image of Shiva and
Look at them there in their little
cave of light.
shut your eyes and see them again -
How beautiful! And
in their tenderness what depths of meaning!
What wisdom in the sensual
experience of spiritual fusion and atonement!
Eternity and compassion joined in
marriage to the many.
The relative made absolute by
its union with the
samsara; manifestation of
Buddha conscious in time."
The old priest
lighted another stick of incense and softly, in a succession of long-drawn
melismata, began to chant
something in Sanskrit.
On the young faces Will could read the marks
of a listening serenity,
ecstatic smile that
welcomes a sudden insight,
a revelation of truth and
"Liberation," Robert began
again, "the ending of sorrow, ceasing to be what you ignorantly
think you are and becoming what you are in
For a little while, thanks to the moksha-medicine, you will
know what it's like to be what in fact you are, what in fact you always have
What a timeless bliss!
But, like everything else,
timelessness is transient.
Like everything else, it will pass.
And when it has passed,
what will you do with this
What will you do with all the other similar experiences
that the mokhsha-medicine will bring you in the years to come?
Will you merely enjoy them as an evening at
the puppet show?
Will you then go back to
business as usual?
Back to behaving like the silly
delinquents you imagine yourselves to be?
glimpsed the breadth and depth of
your being, will you devote
your lives to the business, not at
all usual, of being
what you are in fact?
All elders can do is guide you with
storytelling; all Utopia
can do for you with social arrangements is
provide you with techniques and
all that the moksha-medrcine can
do is to give you a
succession of beatific glimpses,
an hour or two,
every now and then, of
remains for you to decide whether you'll co-operate with grace and take those
opportunities on the Road
to the Redemption of your Eternal
Here and now, all you have to do is to
follow the crow's advice:
Pay attention and you'll find yourselves, gradually or
aware of the great primordial
facts behind these symbols on the altar."
The old priest waved his stick of
At the foot of the altar
steps the boys and girls sat motionless as statues.
- adapted from
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