Ecstacy in the experience of divine art

Have we ever wondered what the court of Indra might have looked like? This is a heavenly city among the clouds, floating in space, brimming with activity and carefully placed well beyond the radar of human consciousness. It’s a city so beautiful, where the magic of life and the miracle of consciousness can be sensed in every pulse of one's own awareness.

They say it is a land of purity, of super men, whom we call Devas, celestial beings with superior knowledge of life and an ever pulsating consciousness that can be an intoxicant to enjoying divine experience. This is the land of super powers, who not only spend their time creating a balance of goodness in the global aura that surrounds the universe, they are constant worshipers of the supreme beings, the core of all spiritual power, the trinity and with this realization they create a world that glitters in such beauty, its too breath taking for us to even sense.

And in this divine court that glows in such light that equals a million suns, where air is so fresh, water is so crystal clear there is music that reverberates from the instruments played by the celestial Gandharvas to whose beat dance one of the most ravishing Apsaras described in the Indian scriptures.

They are not just beautiful in their divine femininity, they are not oozing sensuality on the floor, no none of this... they are the very embodiment of beauty describing a very different consciousness. In their divine glow, and in their graceful movements they dance on the royal floor of Indra's court waking up the divine senses to the superior arts of divine love in the form of dance coupled with an intellect that supersedes any earthly knowledge we know today. These are women of superior power, with sharp intellect that can challenge any being, with beauty that can overwhelm the onlooker and with grace that can weaken any mortal mind. And they had their place in the heavens, of respect, of power, and of divine love for the supreme, untouched, protected, and honored.

Back here on mortal earth, men tried to create one such ambiance within the temple walls and as close to divinity as possible. Women were associated into the temple arts of love, of divine music, of dance that relived the presence of the supreme beings and accentuated their mythological exploits.

They came to be known as Devadasis, the divine women, the Lord's attendants, who were married to the very Lord himself and had dedicated their lives to the divine entertainment of the Lord, creating a similar mortal court of Indra back here on earth. Their qualifications were difficult to achieve, and unless they dedicated their lives from childhood to this divine art of love, they probably never reached such levels of high honor.

But there was a flaw in this system, and we forget mortals are mortals, no matter how superior their education into the truths of the sacred texts is. When it came to describing beauty, the focus apparently shifted, from the love of divine art in grace, and dance and music to the very sensuality of the woman who displayed it. The more the woman displayed her grace, and her beauty in the arts, the more she probably attracted the spiritual men who worshipped the Lord within these walls into the mortal sensual world of beauty.

The difference between superior beings and mere mortals is very apparent in the truth of this tradition. Supreme beings focus on self consciousness, on accentuating their enlightenment on divinity where the body if any doesn’t really count. It is about the superior rise in consciousness. Mortals don’t take too long to fall prey to their pleasures related to the mere flesh and bone. The more beautiful the flesh, the more they want the power to control it, losing every sense of control on their self consciousness.

And this practice over time, has led the way to "divine prostitution" maybe well within the very walls that were meant to attribute these arts to the Lord himself. The cult degenerated, the women reduced to mere toys of sensual pleasure with male supremacy overpowering their existence. Maybe some enjoyed it, some didn’t, but none the less the very death of honor and protection to the women in this practice displays their hypocrisy of the human mind and its complete weakness.  

The men in this world were the best intellects the mortal world apparently produced, they were the closest to the Divine Lord, they had dedicated their lives to the study of superior knowledge to lead the way to lesser mortals and yet, when all knowledge failed and the animal power of the body took over the divine consciousness of the mind, is there any honor left in these men?

Whether the women were a party to this crime or whether they were forced to submit to the celebration of this derogatory art, or whether they lived in a free society where the art of divine expression of sensual love was not a taboo is a debatable topic. None the less, we lost the heavenly beauty of the realization of self consciousness in the experience of these arts that have been so carefully brought down the ages and knitted into our society.

What we need to realize is where honor really lies, in animal instinct that governs and overwhelms of sensual existence or in divine thirst for supreme awareness that makes this very sensuality appear like a decease. To all the confused souls who search for the divine truth on this planet, whose minds are unstable and flutter from one sensual pleasure to the next, isnt the truth within the quality of thought we harbor?

How then can the mind experience the divine embedded in sacred art if the mind searches for the grace in the mortal body of a woman instead of searching for divine love in her eyes for the Lord?


Vaital Deul - The art of conquering fear

Vaital Deul temple stands silent along the bustling streets of Bhubaneshwar, it is a contrast from the world we are in today and the world that once was. The landscape of the day has completely changed with buildings rising around this quaint ambiance but the image of this quiet locality must have been quite different during the old days. Vaital Deul, sharing its compound with Sisireshwar temple, would have been shrouded among dense forests with a possible pathway leading up to this shrine.

Tantrik cults have ruled this temple for long and their main deity of worship has been Chamunda devi. While the exteriors of this temple are covered with innocent looking kanyas luring the passerby to these temples, what lies inside looks far more fearsome.

In Indian spiritualism, there is no room for feelings of fear or attachment. In fact our scriptures repeatedly advice us to get over these emotions over a period of time. These forms of Devi and Shiva, of Kali, Bhairava and Chamunda bring in feelings of fear when viewed by the ignorant eye, but to the aspirant who loves and views them in bhakti, the emotions reach a state of sublime that supersedes the average emotions that rule us. Its similar to the emotion of indescribable love a mother feels towards her potentially ugly baby as compare to the judgemental view an onlooker takes towards the same child. We have innumerable examples of Shiva and Shakti in Ghora rupa, displaying actions of gore like consumption of blood and mutilating the body of the sacrificed, living in formidable locations like the shamshan ghat and waking up in the night to be worshiped by their devotees. There must have been a meaning to all this.

Vaital Deul is one such potent example of a Shakti sthal converted to a hard core location for strict, deep rooted tantrik practices for the worship of the Mother, in one of her many forms. The temple itself has a silent aura of mysticism with a luring exterior of the most ravishing Kanyas. But when we step inside, the view changes everything. Shiva, the Durgas, Sapta Matrikas, Varaha, Ganesha form the pantheon that welcomes us, but with a difference. They appear far more scary than what we in "civilized society" are used to. It is almost a reflection of the Jewish Sabbat - the dance with Satan. While the imagery is dangerously close involving sexuality and potential blood rituals, the rules and beliefs are completely different.  

Hinduism depicts the vanquishing of evil in this imagery, where killing is incidental, but the method is explicit. These emaciated sculptures of Chamunda and Bhairava dance around with fire bowls, holding decapitated heads and a sickle for more blood coupled with scenes of copulation all in the name of victory. They scream out not just the destruction of evil but the path to higher super bliss through what appears to be bizarre rituals. But why are they bizarre? Its a method, like any other strong school of thought with its own set of beliefs, just more daring in areas sparingly visited.

Pure spiritualism has no room for bias, lack of bhakti, easy nirvana or just the mechanical art of worshiping a wish fulfilling tree to bear fruit. We have strong contradictions, seriously controversial rules that fight the battle of what pure faith really is. Conquest of fear, of attachment, of temptations and of discipline is the bottom line of all the rituals that build up Hindu spiritual art of worship. Be it the worship of Chamunda and Kala Bhairava or be it the worship of Shiva and Parvati, the mind has to be tamed and the methods could be varied to cross this ocean. To some the path is acceptable within the realm of society and to others the path blatantly addresses human nature in its many aspects.

Vaital Deul temple depicts Chamunda in her gory best, with dancing ghosts and goblins hitting the drums of victory around her. In the darkness of this small temple, with hardly any windows to bring in daylight, the appearance of the Goddess in the lamp light can trigger the emotion of fear and echo the thought of death in our heads for longer than we ever felt it. The thought here is not about death as much as it is about the eeriness of the ambiance that calls death upon us. Vaital Deul has been active in history with blood sacrifices more in the order of humans than lambs and other creatures. The aura of this temple can brings shivers to the mind and the only way a person can beat this creeping eeriness is vanquish the very emotion that encourages weakness out of its presence. Vaital Deul is a good example of a temple that creates the aura of gore and fear to make the onlooker realize their emotions and not fall prey to them. Its a classical test towards attaining higher bliss by inducing contemplation to conquer our mortal emotions.

The thought of contemplation now should ideally change from the fear and shock of the unknown to peace and bliss over the surprises the Supreme forces throw on us to make us realize how inadequate we are to proceed on our spiritual journey.