Tagore then spoke. “You have heard Krishna, now Lord Vishnu’s eighth incarnation, Shiva.
He will come down to us from Mt Kailash, from talking with squabbling ascetics.
Lord Shiva will speak a different language.”
Pointing, he said, “He will come over that rise. You shall be granted a vision few souls have ever seen. Learn from it. Prepare for the dance of the universe,” looking deeply into my eyes, with a seriousness that made me wonder what new experience I was about to have,
so far from home, my suburban town, so typical of modernity, Rochester.
While I looked, I saw a beautiful female glide down through the pines, along with, and alighting next to, Narada, leader
of heavenly musicians. Leaning toward Tagore, I asked, “Master, who is this being of surpassing beauty?” “Saraswati,”
he replied, “Consort of Brahma, patroness of the arts.” Standing on a lotus blossom, floating above the forest clearing,
she began to play the vina, lifting all into another region of reality.
Suddenly I saw Shiva Nataraja, a vision, an effulgence of light, in sacred grove,
a whirl of dance, poised within a circle of fire, on the edge between two worlds,
his swirling locks revolving with his movements, long coils of hair flying about,
the divine music of the universe, soaring, as of the heavenly spheres, whirling, in serenity supreme, beyond
this world, right foot planted firmly on a dwarf of ignorance, dread symbol of our worldly nature, sunk so low from the lofty heaven
of our goal. In one hand, he held aloft a flame of fire, burning away illusions,
our maya; with another, he beat the drum of creation, marking time, upon a lotus,
his third arm signaling peace, assurance, dispelling fear, his palm open toward us. Lord Shiva looked upon us, calm, benevolent, enjoying his creation, OM the syllable
he intoned through movement, divine energy flowing, destruction returning chaos
to order. Into and out of samsara, flowed creation, rhythm of life, joy, his footsteps relieving the suffering of his followers, perpetual conflict,
good and evil, knowledge and illusion, nourishing the universe, Creator
and Destroyer, lover and ascetic,
husband and hermit, his third eye gazed out on all, so he danced upon the crossing point of two times, holding us spellbound, as he whirled upon the flower of wisdom and enlightenment, enlightening us,
ending one Age to begin another, enumerable kalpas passing as we watched, his raised leg a sign of liberation,
moksha of the soul, release, from the burning flames that arched around him,
sat, chit, ananda, truth, consciousness, bliss, his forth arm crosswise, compassionately granting his favor to humanity,
releasing all from the round of samsara. Before his glorious image we all instinctively bowed down in awe and joy, submission and surrender, humbling ourselves before his visionary dance,
Shiva Nataraja, medicine wheel of Bharat. As he had come to us,
he suddenly began to fade, disappeared, taking with him the forest circle of gandharavas and apsaras. Oh, how I wished I could have followed them, Saraswati, too, leaving Tagore and I standing together under the pines, a fresh breeze coming down the mountainside, as from Mt Kailash.
Tagore looked at me for a while,
held his head up slightly, saying nothing,
and then walked a few steps away, peering out towards the valley below, mountains far away. While he stood there silently, I said nothing, still too overcome to know what to say,
waiting for him to find the words
that might be right after what we had seen, experience beyond what words can capture. With his long hair slightly blown by the wind, still looking across the valley, through the pines, his back to me, he said, robe flapping,
“When young, I used to come up here alone. Slipping away from my father, long ago.
Here, take this bloom of red oleander, a token of our journey,” holding it out.
Nodding, I slipped it into my breast pocket, still dazed, failing to thank him for his gift, while he continued, breeze furling his robe….
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