I had my eyes opened to Indian culture by a wonderful novel “Shantaram” written by gifted Australian author Gregory David Roberts (who now lives in Mumbai, I believe). “Shantaram” means “man of peace” in Marathi. It is a real “rip-snorter” of a tale written in beautiful prose and it is based on the real life experiences of the author. It is in production as a movie by Warner Brothers and will be directed by Mira Nair and stars Johnny Depp as the main character.
My dawning awareness of the beauty of Indian culture was grounded in many years of interest and research into Buddhism. The convoluted contours of history and culture are fascinating to follow through time. The great Padmasambhava brought Buddhism to Tibet. With him he took knowledge of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. Over time, the Tibetans slowly transformed the male Avalokiteshvara into the female deity Tara. As time passed and as the flow and influence of Buddhist culture, philosophy and thought continued from India to Tibet, Tara eventually came to be considered as the consort of Avalokiteshvara. So the divine male becomes the female and then becomes coupled to itself through the cultural imagination of Tibet and the slow growth and sedimentation of a historical process.
I later discovered that Tara was actually a manifestation of Kali and so the circle is complete and returns to India, again. I wrote a poem in respect of Kali some time ago now and I hope it finds you happily. I included various icons, themes and manifestations of the goddess.
her lips no answer but question bound
as time and moonlight whisper down
clothed in space and black undone
withdrawn or bare or base in truth
inside, all round, all emptiness abide
darkness’ heart resolved
her pearly sphere and waxing light embrace
in fluid grace from flight into concupiscence,
naked form transgress
this graven arch and veil unloosed or lost
in bliss or wind or flame combined
untamed she wanes once more defined
on warlike perch – this ashen ground,
and draws me in a circle round
my own incineration