Jung, Yoga Text, yoga and the wounded heart

You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

— 1 Peter 1:19


The relation of art to yoga has been a concern of mine OYer the last forty years. 1first began to reflect on this relation wbile still at art scbool after reading a book on Cbristian yoga1and an essay by Ananda Comaraswamy, wbicb proposes tbat eYery form of art is a yogic sadhana or spiritual searcb.^ During the years that 1was associated with the ashram ofFather Pede Griffiths, 1reflected on the relation of tbe Cbristian icon to the Hindu and Buddhist understanding of the mandala as a way of meditation.

spiritual in art is concerned witb the process of “incarnation”—the ظ Word hecomes flesb and pitcbes His tent amongst us. ^ i s is the process that is also at the beart of Eastern spiritual techniques.

‘ ١ See Dechanet. Also of interest is Ravindra.
2) Coomaraswamy writes: the important part once played in Indian thought by the .)״ )concept of Art as Toga, a subject sufficient in itselffor a whole volume26-30

Koninklijke Brill NV, L€؛d€n, 2008 DOl: 10.1163/156852908X270926

/- Sahi /Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42—76 43

Carl c. Jung understood the image that we have of Jesus as a reflection of our innermost Self, ^ i s inner Self is م$ك related to the child as an arche- typal figure of the Self that remains playful, imaginative, and is the source of all our creativity. Meister Eckhart similarly spoke of the Son of Cod م .being born in our heart, and in that way becoming present in our life divine Child is born into the world and is received into the womb of Mother Mary, ^ i s womb is the space of Creation itself because, as the liturgy expresses it, that reality which the whole of the cosmos could not contain was contained in the womb of Mother Mary. It is this process of birthing that is at the heart of the creative process.

II A t as Prayer and Meditation

Sometimes people ask when the religious artist sets time apart for prayer. But foe art of making an image is itself what prayer is about. Prayer is not just a matter of asking for something. Rather it is what happens when we are open, and receive an image of the Lord into our hearts. The artist, if he is a painter of religious themes, must himself be a man of prayer. That is why a majority of the icon painters were themselves monks. م Hesychasts played a prominent part during the “iconoclastic controversy” as defenders of images (see Matus). It might seem strange to the modern Western mind that those who cultivated a purely spiritual and abstract view of both them- selves and exterior reality should be at such pains to preserve the tradition of icons. Mysticism, as often understood in the West, is the negation of images, even mental ones, ^ i s was a position that we find well expressed in the apophatic tradition of Christian mysticism. But it is important to note that though the Advaitic philosophy we find in India says that the ultimate reality is beyond name and form, there has been nothing comparable to the Western “iconoclastic controversy” in Eastern religions (see Dehejia). Here the icon has a place, not as representing the ultimate truth but as a way of reaching towards that truth. It is for that reason that images based on what is called the mandala or yantra in Hindu and Buddhist meditational prac- tices have an important and vital role in the process of stilling the mind and bringing it down to foe seat of the heart.

-dark night of the soul,” foe “cloud of unknowing,” these are experi“ م enees beyond foe province ofwhat can be imagined. But essentially, I believe that in Eastern experience (and by this I mean not only Eastern Christian but Hindu and Buddhist experience, too) there is no dark night of the soul,

44 /. Sahi/Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42—76

for the cloud is the light-bearing cloud in wbicb the disciples witnessed tbe Transfiguration. Darkness, I feel, has a different significance in the Far East from the darkness tbat seems so world denying in European climes. Dark- ness in Indian thought, for example, is related to the womb, and it is from tbis darkness that ligbt emerges, ^ u s we find in the Isa upanisbad a concept of darkness that leads to anotber type of knowing and seeing:


Into blind darkness enter tbey
That worsbip ignorance;
Into darkness greater tban that, as it were, tbey That deligbt in knowledge…

Knowledge and non-knowledge—
He wbo this pair conjointly knows, Witb non-knowledge passing over deatb, Witb knowledge wins the immortal.

Into blind darkness enter tbey
Wbo worship non-becoming;
Into darkness greater than that, as it were, they Wbo delight in becoming…

Becoming and destruction—
He who this pair conjointly knows,
With destruction passing over death,
With becoming wins the immortal- (Isa Upanishad 9, 11, 12, 14)

The Yoga of Imagination

In wbat follows 1 explore the yoga of the beart. What do we mean by the “beart”?م heart is not just a pbysical organ; it is an imaginative concept wbere the opposites that we relate with the buman personality and self- understanding are integrated. It is in the heart that we find the possible coming togetber of mind and body, the rational intellect and the psycbic world of intuition and feeling. ظ concept of the heart is found in many spiritual traditions. In biblical tradition, the “heart” is associated very mucb with imagination (yetzer). In India, the heart {hridaya) is regarded as the inner spiritual space of consciousness.

/- Sahi /Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42—76 45

In the modern world, the psychosomatic concept of the heart has been identified with tbe dimension of experience that pbilosopber Henry Corbin called “the imaginai.”^ Corbin made a distinction between the “imaginai” and the “imaginary.” م “imaginary,” for bim, belongs to what is often referred to as “fantasy,” tbat is, a virtual world tbat is essentially unreal and bence misleading. But the “imaginai” is a way of apprehending reality tbrougb a faculty ٥٢image-making that is essentially evocative and creative. Similarly, the poet and tbeoretician Coleridge conceived of an essential difference between “imagination” and “fancy” (50). For bim, “fancy” is con- cerned with memory and is a reproduction of impressions that have been received in the past. Imagination proper, on the otber hand, is concerned with the future and has a propbetic dimension.

IVظH e^^ite ofFriendship

^ e r e is a quality ofbeauty that unfolds wben tbere is a real spirit ofunder- standing and friendsbip. ^ i s is the living pulse at the beart of creation, which links the manifestation of diversity to an ultimate experience of the unity that underlies all natural forms. By being the eternal friend, the ind- welling Lord or Sat Curu found at the heart of the mandala accompanies the disciple on the spiritual way witbout destroying the individual freedom of eacb seeker. To he a friend is to he a fellow pilgrim. We recall the image of Jesus on the way to that final destination which culminated not on the cross but in the resurrection. After his deatb, be appears as a stranger to two of bis disciples on the road to Emmaus. He sbares witb tbem an under- standing of the meaning hidden at the heart of biblical tradition and sbows tbem bow every image in the books of the propbets points to the trutb of his life and death. Having given tbem the key to his story, be makes as tbougb to continue on his patb, reluctant to stop witb tbem at tbeir resting place in Emmaus. But the pilgrims invite the wise stranger to join tbem. Only later do tbey come to recognize him in the breaking of bread. But at the very moment of recognition, be disappears. It is tben that his friends, wbom be had reprimanded for being “slow of heart to believe,” now con- fess: “Did not our bearts burn within us, as he talked to us on the road?” (Luke 24:13-32)

3) On the concept of the “imaginai,” see Hillman 237 n. 86 and Corbin, “Mundus Imaginalisd

46 y. Sahi/Religion and the Arts 12 (2008) 42—76

The yoga of the heart is ultimately to he found in an openness that sees reality through a shared vision on the Way.م yoga of foe heart is about deep feelings that cannot he simply defined by dogmatic statements. It is a way ofunderstanding that works through images and intuition rather than through rational or discursive thought. It is a way of being hospitable and of meeting God, not through a direct vision but through a friendship that unfolds slowly hy traveling together with Christ on the journey of life.

While yoga is primarily concerned with yoking or bonding (see sec. IX helow), it is revealed in the constant interplay hetween the one and the many, between unity and duality. Yoga demands the recognition o ï difference even as it affirms the power that integrates. It is in this principle that true friendship is horn.

V TheTreeoffoeCross

legend of the search for the True Cross follows an almost dreamlike م sequence of images that trace the origin of the wood of the cross back to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life which were at the center of the Garden of Paradise. Seeds from this tree were taken by the son of Adam and Eve and planted in the grave of Adam from which a tree grew up.م wood from this tree served for the huilding of the Ark of the Covenant and the Temple of Solomon. ظ wood from this tree was used to make a bridge over which the Queen of Sheba stepped when she came in search of Solomon. Finally, it was from this wood that the cross on which the Savior died was made, and it was this wood which appeared to St. Helen, mother of Emperor Constantine, when she went to Jerusalem to search for this Cross ofLife. In this sense, foe “Stations of the Cross” can be said to lead us back to the primal Garden of Creation. They are fulfilled in the Garden of the Resurrection.

^ i s search for the True Cross is itself a way consisting of the many images which link together the living organism of the biblical narrative. Each event in the continuing journey ofthe Tree ofLife down through the ages marks foe path ofthat principle of vitality which links the primal tree in the Garden of Eden to the final tree on which Christ died on Calvary. Each station on this journey is like one ofthe chakras or mandala patterns symbolizing the whole cosmic body of salvation history. ظ tree becomes a symbol of the heart of that body because, as Jesus himself said to his disciples, “I am the vine, and you are the branches” (John 15:5). t r o u g h

/- Sahi /Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42—76 47

this co^inuing Tree of Life flows the sap—the prana or life energy that keeps the whole body alive.م tree image is botb latent in tbe seed and also Anally manifest in that tree wbieb symbolizes the wbole universe. In the same sense, the beart in its psycbosomatic reality is the microcosm of the wbole body, wbicb replicates in its totality the seed symbol that lies bidden at its center. ظ full-grown tree is the seed in the same way as the wbole circle is already present in the point or drop (bindu) from wbicb it spreads out its many branches.

VI Meditation on the Cross

-mandala has traditionally been used as an aid to meditation. By focus م ing on the center of the mandala, the mind is brought to the reality that holds all the differences that we experience togetber. ظ center is the place wbere the image ofthe Lord is found. Around this center we find the space of “creation” witb its four cardinal directions and its outer circumference, wbicb comprises the outer limits of our consciousness. Here are often rep- resented tbose elements tbat are most amhiguous and indicative of all tbat lies on the peripbery of the conscious mind, ^ e s e are irrational, cbaotic images that seem to lurk in the sbadows of our searcb for unity and order but still need to he recognized and included in the wboleness that com- prises our self-awareness.

In kundalini yoga, for example, the energy we associate with sexuality and fertility in general (symholized hy a serpent that lies coiled up at the base of the spine in foe region of sexual organs) is aroused but also trans- formed into a conscious energy. Art in that sense, as all culture, comes out of this energy as a suhlimated form ofthe life force. It is in this sense tbat we are to understand foe mysterious injunction that “foe serpent should he hffed up” (Exod. 7:8-12; c£ John 14 و: ). The serpent is a creature that lives on foe ground, or even under foe ground, in holes tbat lead to foe very heart of foe eartb. But this serpent can also lift itself up, and on occasion is seen to climh up into foe branches of a tree. The image of a snake wrapped round anotber snake, or a vertical staff, is found in very ancient cultures both in India andinEurope,anditsymholizesaprocessofhe^g (foeartofmedicinesince ancient Greek rimes has been characterized hy foe caduceus home hy Hermes— a wand featuring foe figure ofa serpent twined round a vertical pole).4

4) Cf. Sahi, Child and Serpent 159—67.

48 Sahi / Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42-76 VII The A^ehetypal Image

My work on religious symbolism arose out of my interest in the ideas of the psychologist Carl Jung and his understanding of the relation between what he called the integration process and the structure of the mandala as understood in the Buddhist and Hindu traditions of yogic meditation. Jung found that the form of the mandala is universal, but that the contem- plative traditions that are to be found both in Christianity and in Eastern faith systems like Buddhism and Hinduism had given the mandala a mean- ing that relates to an inner process of transformation, ^ i s process is known both to the monastic branches of Christian spirituality going back to the Desert Eathers and to the yogic teachers of India. Jung-and a group of friends and collaborators like Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell, Heinrich Zimmer, CiuseppeTucci, and others—also showed that this deep knowl- edge of the way that the unconscious functions was known to human beings from the very dawn of consciousness, as it is the process whereby unconscious images are made conscious in what we understand as the evo- lution of civilizations. م symbolic form that is associated with foe struc- ture of the icon is the mandala (which in Sanskrit means simply “circle”), ^ i s mandala icon brings together unconscious material and conscious understanding or interpretation.

VIII ^rey Look on One Who Is Pierced

My own efforts to give shape to a Hindu-Christian iconography has been based on this search for the archetypal, especially in the search for spiritual wholeness which is found in foe typology oficons but also in the tradition of the Hindu and Buddhist mandala? Mandala structures underlie the symbols that we find in foe Gospel of St. John, where sacred geometry and number symbolism are very important, as they were also in Eastern tradi- tions of art. In this connection, Pythagorean and Orphic schools played an important part in shaping foe symbolic systems of the Gnostics, probably deriving a number of their ideas from ancient Asian symbol systems linked to Buddhist and “Jaina” schools.

A very important symbolic form that came to have a very particular significance in early Christian iconography was that of the mandorla, or

Cf. Sahi, Stepping Stones.

Saht / Religion and the Arts 12 (2008) 42—76 49

almond shaped form, created geometrically by tbe intersection of two arcs, giving rise to a seed or flame-like image, ^ i s form is found in nature in the sbape of petals, fish, and even the eye. It was ^rticularly favored by foe Orpbic schools, which saw in it a symbol of life and even the opening into the womb. Essentially this form, wbicb looks like a wound, is the original beart mandala.م modern Italian artist Lucio Eontana has explored the

Figure 1. Seeking Forgivenessfrom the Suffering Tree (from the tribal myth called the Karam Kahani in Chotanagpur), 1998. Oil on canvas, 35″ X 71″. Author’s collection.

50 /. Sahi / Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42-76

م ^.aesthetics of this spear-like incision that has a very dynamic import mandorla was used as the halo of light around the Transfigured Lord, and we find it in the Tympanum structure over the door of many western Gothic Cathedrals, as for example at Chartres (see color plate و, Cosmic Druni). In fact the characteristic Gothic lance-like window uses the geometry of this pointed arch, which was known earlier to Islamic architects and was intro- duced into the West after the Crusades. At this time, the meeting of Euro- pean and Oriental cultures resulted in interesting new art forms, preparing the way for the Renaissance.

IX The Surya Namashkar and the Via Crucis7

”.which means “to join ,زمم word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit root م
^ i s root term can he traced back to an Indo-European base, wbicb appears
also in tbe Latin jug, as found in “conjugal,” “conjugate,” etc. It is also said
to link with the word “yoke.” It is in tbis context tbat some Indian Cbris-
tian tbinkers like Vandana Mataji have spoken of the concept of “yoking” found in biblical tradition as linked to yoga. So wben Jesus said to his disciples, “Come to me, all you wbo are burdened, for my yoke is easy…” (Matt. 1 1 0 و -29ت), one could render this as, “Come to me you wbo are burdened, because my yoga is easy.”

Otber scriptural passages can he found wbere “yoke” is linked to burden and work (Gen. 27:40, Lev. 26:13, Isa. 9:14, etc.). In Indian thought tbere is the notion of Karma Yoga, or the “yoga ofwork,” discussed at great lengtb in the Bbagavad Gita (especially cbapter 3). 1 find interesting the ancient idea that Adam was a tiller of the soil and that Justin said, in the second century A.D., tbat Josepb, the fatber of Jesus, was a maker of plougbs and yokes. In the early cburcb, 1 believe, the cross was related to the plougb, and Jesus carrying the cross was in a sense represented as the arcbetypal tiller of the soil, yoked to the cross as an animal that ploughs a field. It is images such as tbese that inspired me wben 1 started the series of artworks on “Jesus the Yogi,” wbicb 1 describe below.

6) SeeBailo,particularlyhisseriesentitled“Concettospaziale,”“Attese,”and“Nature-zolle,” illustrating the “First spatial Art Manifesto” (198-205).
7) For an in-depth study of the Surya Namashkar (classic sun salutations), see Brahmachari Amaldas and Fainadath.

Sahi / Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42-76


Figure 2. Surya Namashkar, 1994. Linocut design representing the different gestures of the “Salutations to the Sun” in the form of a mandata. 17″ X 20″. Author’s collection.

At Shantivanam Ashram,8 where the Benedictine monk Dom Bede Griffiths finally settled in South India, I once met a monk by tbe name of Amaldas wbo was particularly interested in yoga. He learned many ideas on the importance of a “spiritual yoga” from Fr. Griffiths, wbo had in turn

8) Shantivanam, an ashram in Tamil Nadu dedicated to the Holy Trinity (hence its name in Sanskrit, Saccidananda), was founded in 1950 by two French priests, Fr. Henry le Saux


Sahi / Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42-76

Studied the works of Sri Aurobindo, founder of an asbram in Pondicherry ؟”.and a well-known author on the subject of “integral yoga

Brother Amaldas’s yoga practice at Shantivanam involved performing the Surya Namashkar (classic sun salutations) on tbe banks of the Kaveri River near the asbram. One day I sketched him doing tbese different asanas, or body postures, and asked him what be thought about as he per- formed this morning greeting to the sun. He mid me tbat be thought about Jesus’ journey to the cross, the Via Crucis, wbicb presumably had taken place in foe morning since be was judged very early in the morning before dawn (Peter had denied him thrice wben the cock crew), died on the cross at noon, and was finally taken down from the cross before the end of the day. In that sense, even from early times, tbere is a link between the journey of Jesus to the cross and foe hours of the day. Also, from early times, Sunday has been celebrated as the day of the Resurrection, and Jesus regarded as the “Sun ofJustice.” It is clear that ancient sun worsbip did get incorporated into the Christian liturgy, as we see also in the feasts of the liturgical year.م feast ofJobn the Baptist on mid-summer’sday (June 24) replaced an ancient Celtic feast in honor of the sun, and six montbs later foe Cburcb celebrates foe birtb of Jesus in mid-winter on foe feast of the ancient “Sol Niger” (Dec. 25) just after foe darkest day of the year. It is this movement of the sun tbat also lies bebind many symbols related to foe Trinity, or foe “tbree steps of the sun.” Jesus descending into bell is like foe sun going down into foe underworld—an arcbetypal story otb- erwise recounted from foe standpoint of foe divine feminine in foe ancient Hindu myth of Savitri (wbicb I develop below) . ظ three steps of Jesus are to he found in foe ancient formula that we find in foe lit- urgy—namely, that Cbrist lived, died, and rose again from foe dead, ^ i s pattern of three steps (,tripadam in Indian mytbology) is also basic to dance movement.م greeting to foe morning sun thus goes back to very ancient sun worsbip. Indeed, at foe beginning ofthe Bhagavad Gita, Krishna teaches Arjuna:

(Abhishiktananda) from tbe Abbey ofKergonan and Fr. Jules ^ n c b a n i n , a diocesan mission- ary In 1968, Dorn Bede Griffiths took over this ashram, and he remained there until he died. Sri Aurobindo develops his seminal ideas on integral yoga in The Synthesis ofYoga. Insofar رو as the word “yoga” means ‘،to bring together,״ I would say it is intimately related to the idea ofthe “integration ofthe self״ advanced by Jung in his works on psychotherapy and healing. See Jung, Integration.

Sahi / Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42-76

I revealed this everlasting yoga to Vivasvat, the Sun, the father oflight. He in turn revealed it to Manu, his son, the father of man. And Manu taught his son, King Ikshvaku, the saint, ^en, it was taught from father to son in the line of kings who were saints; but in the revolutions of times immemorial this doctrine was forgotten by men. Today I am revealing to thee this yoga eternal, this secret supreme: because of thy )و -1ت4 love for me, and because I am thy friend. (Bhagavad Gita

^is meditationontherisingsun-which canherelatedtotheconceptofthe “morning star” that rises in the heart, as St. Peter puts it in his second Epistle (1:19),andtothedawnmeditationthatwefindinlndia-is closelylinkedto the Gayatri Mantra, one ofthe oldest mantras found in Hindu tradition, ^ i s mantra, which has a universal significance, could he translated as follows:

Divine Word, ^is earth,

  • ,sky م
  • ;star-filled space م
    That Eternal Being,
    Light manifested through the Sun, awakening the whole creation. Supreme Being, Creator,Bestower of Wisdom and eternal Life,
    Effulgent light of God,
    We meditate and adore thee,
    And may our minds and hearts, our consciousness Be directed to that,

    Receiving illumination^

10) Ό Μ Bhur

Bhuvaha Svaha OMTat Savitur Varenyam Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi

76—42 )2008( 12 Saht /Religion and the Arts 4و

The Gayatri Mantra is often recited in Christian ashrams as part of the morning prayer. ظ sacredness of light is found in all religious traditions and can he linked to a sense of the importance of vision, which is not only a physical sense, but is also an inner spiritual faculty.

In my series of charcoal drawings on the Surya Namaskhar, inspired by Brother Amaldas, I have explicitly linked the gestures performed as greet- ings to foe rising sun with foe “Stations of the Cross,” featuring foe figure of Jesus in various yogic postures (figs. 9—و). ^ e s e postures of the body attempt to find a spiritual reality embodied in Creation. For, although yoga is a physical practice, it is deeply connected with foe imagination, or the way that we understand the body as a vessel or vehicle of the spirit. In that sense, yoga has a cosmic dimension and is concerned with foe transforma- tion of Nature into a deeper experience of the spiritual force present in all of Creation. م body is thus not only something external: within foe body there lies foe world of the imagination, ^ e r e is a profound link between soul and body, and foe gestures of the body symbolize inner spiritual atti- tudes. It is in this way that we can understand an “inner landscape.” Yogic postures can show us the body as a tree, a mountain, some animal like a snake or lion, or even as a seed. And foe act of touching the earth can itself embody an inner humility-or kenosis—that honors the earth.

One of the yogic postures is called Halasana, which means the posture of the plough. A yoke links animals, or connects the conscious creature with the earth, as when a plough is used to turn the soil, fixed as it is to a yoke.م plough is a very ancient symbol of agricultural work, and it is said that the Indian village plough is essentially foe same implement that .)و.was used in foe Mohenjodaro civilization (fig

In yoga it is imagined that there is a serpent power resting at foe base of the spine. As we already mentioned in “Meditation on foe Cross,” foe pur- pose of kundalini yoga is to help this serpent energy rise up towards the conscious mind, reminding us ofthe words in Johns gospel: “As Moses hfied up foe serpent in foe wilderness, so must foe Son of Man be hfied up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (14 :و). One important yogic

Yo Naha Prachodayat”

Cf. the reflection on this mantra in Tagore’s essay “Meditation,” 152-54. Also see Panikkar 38-43.

/. Sahi / Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42-76

أبمث 0 لق


ء ف ث ب م


ه Jesus Nailed to the Cross” (from the Sanskrit“ آه ,Halasana drawing, 10.5″ X 14″. Authors collection.




. Charcoal


posture embodying tbis force is called Bhujanga, meaning tbe snake form rising from tbe earth. Here tbe body ه ل $ itself from tbe ground, bending upwards. By this action energy is released from the dormant body of the yogi. I relate this asana also to the way Jesus lihed bimself after falling under tbe weigbt of the cross (fig. 4).

In the Bbagavad Gita, yoga is also related to sacrifice. Yoga is a work, but a work where pbysical action itself becomes a sadhana, a spiritual searcb. The Vriksha asana represented in fig. 5 is a posture of “Self-Offering” which I bave related to tbe figure of Christ on tbe tree of tbe cross (Vriksha = “tree” in Sanskrit), م eye in the background of this figure reminds us that, م.tbrougb yoga, the body itself becomes a way of seeing, or darshana

56 /. Sahi / Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42-76 بمج

ت ء و ب ة ؛م ك م ح ن م ح■

ا ه م·-*/،ث ق مح

. ؛מ؛؟”‘ س،م؛م ت؛مءمبم:م’

Figure 4. Bhujanga asana, or “Rising Serpent״. Charcoal drawing, 10.5″ X 14″. Author’s collection.

body is not just sometbing materiai; it is aiso self-conscious. It is tbrougb the body tbat we come to realize an inner spiritual presence ovAtma (fig. 5).

Ayogic posture that brings the body back to an almost fetal posture reminds us of tbe need to return to the lap of tbe Mother. م maternal lap is com- pared to the seat of wisdom. The word “seat” is in fact derived from “seed.” seed is laid in the lap of Motber Earth. In fig. 6, we see the yogi bent over م in tbe posture of a fallen seed and enveloped witbin tbe folds of a large fisb. While this asana relates to Bhishma in foe Mahabharata., wbo offered himself voluntarily to be lrilled as be refused to take sides in foe battle, I relate it to Jesus as a seed tbat must die (Jobn 12:24) and descend into foe beart of the

/. Sahi I Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42-76 57

Figure 5. Vriksha asana (the tree posture), or “Self-Offering,2000 ״. Charcoal drawing, 10.5″ X 14″. Authors collection.

earth for three days and nights (the time Jonah remained within the belly ofa wbale), before being raised to new life (Matt. 12ت9وتLuke 11:29).

Nidrasana (Sanskrit nidra = “to lie down, to sleep”) is a fundamental yogic posture. It is the position we take wben we sleep. In fig. 7, Jesus appears laid in the tomb. In tbis posture the body is at rest and, like the energy lying in a seed, is preparing to come again to life. Death in this way can he understood as a form of sleep. Deatb is not a final destruction of the body but a condi- tion in which the buman vessel lies bidden for a while in the womb of mother earth. Yoga is concerned witb rebirtb, with a life force that is con- tinually trying to renew the physical world.

58 /. Sahi / Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42-76 ث’سزس


بم/ i r

بجيأقيءأآأأم:ممح.إابم مه ׳ممحةت’تغإ

بم- مح-ء؛نحهء
Figure 6. Vira-asana, or “Jesus Falls״ (Sanskrit Vira = “hero who offers himself”), 2000.

Charcoal drawing, 10.5″ X 14″. Author’s collection.

A third version of the return to the lap of Earth is fig. 8, here entitled “The Sun of Justice at the ^reshold of Night and Day.” Behind this image of the bent body we see a mask-like form. It is as tbougb a new person were now about to emerge from tbe navel ofthe croucbing form, kike the sprout tbat comes from the broken seed, the bent body here appears like a root out of wbicb a new form of life emerges.

Yoga can he ultimately understood as the emerging form of Silence. It is a way of awakening an inner body. Yoga is concerned witb breatbing, with slowing down the processes ofthe pbysical body to awaken an inner con- scious shape. The Buddba sat under the tree of Wisdom, or Bodbi Tree,


جمتةت .ء،م*سمء*تتت ؛

م ح د ء ؤ م ‘ حؤ ؛ ص ث لإءهةةمحت؛قثة

/. Sahi I Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42-76 59

ء م ح و ي; ر.

Figure 7. Nidrasana, or “The Seed Dies,2000 ״. Charcoal drawing, 10.5″ X 14″. Author’s collection.

and it is here that he gained enlightenment.ظ last asana of this series could he thus he associated with Jesus rising from the grave on the third day, his body glorified (fig. 9).

X The Wounded Heaft؛ Inner and Outer

Climate change has now become a global issue. Wbat do we understand by “cbange,” and how does it relate to our respect for nature? م “Book of Cbanges,” or / Ching,٠ uses a complex system of images to relate tbree


/. Sahi I Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42—76 *«M^٦،٠؛ ؛،٧١


Figure 8. The Sun ofjustice at the Threshold ofNight and Day, 2000. Charcoal drawing, 10.5″ X 14″. Authors collection.

domains: nature, the individual person, and the social community, which includes the way that the whole state is functioning (Wilhelm, Change). What is experienced as outer, objective nature, and wbat we are conscious of as inner subjective nature, are botb bound togetber as we reflect on nature both outside and within mankind and buman consciousness. It is this mutual relationship that gives rise to art and constitutes tbe impor- tance of art in linking man to nature (see color plate 2, Season Wound). م ”.Cbange is an essential coefficient in what we call “transformation pbilosopber, artist, and scientist Jobann Wolfgang von Goetbe was par- ticularly concerned witb processes in nature wbicb govern the cbanging structures of natural forms. Gregory Bateson also addresses tbese questions

Sahi / Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42-76 61 ءإقء ؟*؛؛ttesiii؟ رمم بم:،اسم؛،م,لإيلإنمءصدب






‘■ بجآمبح ,ر



حةةةققو: Figure 9. Samadhi, or “Risen Lord,2000 ״. Charcoal drawing, 10.5″ X 14″. Authors collection.

in his work ٠٨ Mind and Nature. What we are terming “consciousness” م ,spans a world of phenomena that reach far beyond the buman mind human mind is affected by cbanges tbat bave their origin in tbe cosmos and, conversely, the framewmk of the human mind affects our wbole physical environment.

The poet Gerald Manley Hopkins coined the word “inscape,” by wbicb be meant an inner landscape that is, at «ne level, a reflection of the world we perceive outside in nature, but at anotber is a principle of inner conscious ordering that affects our very way of seeing, ^ e r e is also a link between tbis “inscape” and the structure of language—the intuition Hopkins referred to wben talking about “instress.” Instress, according to bim, is an aspect of tbe


ط ءأ؛ث׳

62 Saht /Religion and the Arts 12 (2008) 42—76

way in which human language responds ro rhythm, which governs the pat- terns of nature and change. It is this mysterious instress that lies at the heart of poetry. Poetic vision, which arises out ofthe creative imagination, is deter- mined by instress. Instress affects the way that language is structured by pro- viding tbe spoken word witb a recitative rbytbm. ^ i s concept is probably close to wbat Indian aestbeticians like Ananda Vardbana (nintb century) called dhvani, or “resonance” (see Amaladass). ^ i s principle of resonance is a kind of empatby wbereby the human beart responds to external stimuli, ^ i s indeed constitutes what one migbt term “aesthetic experience.”

In his well-known book Art Experience, Professor M. Hiriyanna, the famous modern Indian pbilosopber from Mysore, notes tbat there is a link in Indian metapbysics between tbis sense of resonance felt in the human heart with the rest of creation and what is understood as an experience ofthe innermost Self, or Atma vidya.n I also see a link between the poetic vision of Gerard Manley Hopkins and that ofthe Indian poet Rabindranatb Tagore, wbo presents his understanding of art in a series of lectures published in a book entitled Personality.م term “personality” in the tbougbt of Tagore relates to a deep sense of being that is not the ego but lies at the level of an inner Self that is a Divine Presence.12

St. Paul, in turn, speaks of nature—and indeed the wbole of creation— as groaning and travailing.

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing ofthe sons of God… We know that foe wbole creation has been groaning in tra- vail togetber until now; and not only foe creation, but we ourselves, wbo have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Rom. 8:19, 22-24)

^is sufferingthatwefindincreationispartofacosmicprocessoftransforma- tion, often referred to in Buddhism as dukkha. In Christian art this suffering is understood as a form of empathy: a doorway leading to a new understanding ofthe inter-connectedness of all forms oflife. The condition of being wounded has both an ecological and a social dimension (see color plate 4, Healing the Wounded Penitent). In India there has been a great deal of reflection related to what is called “Dalit Theology.” The term dalit (as we shall see below) implies

.)82-6( ”See chapters on “Indian Aesthetics” (43-54) and “Experience: First and Final ) ״ 12) See Tagore, especially chapter 2, “The World of Fersonality.”

Sahi / Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42-76 63 one who is crushed like the earth itself-broken by the cultural realities of a

social order that enslaves and marginalizes those who are exploited.

XI The W ounded Healer

A wound—a pbysical or mental injury-is the way that we understand the human condition of suffering. In tbe book ofGenesis, the Lord God curses tbe serpent: “He sball bruise your head, and you shall bruise his beel” (Gen. و1تو). The word “bruise” implies a wound caused by crusbing. In Jeremiah we are mid:

For tbus says the Lord:
Your bruise [hurt] is incurable
And your wound is grievous.
^ere isnonetoupholdyourcause No medicine for your wound
No healing for you. (30:12)

And yet in Isaiab we hear:

But be was wounded for our transgressions.
He was bruised for our iniquities.
Upon him was the chastisement tbat made us wbole )و:وو( .And with his stripes we are bealed

XII Wonderful Wound

We speak of a “gaping wound.” In that sense a wound represents an open- م .ing, or gap. We migbt even relate it to the concept of the womb womb can turn into a wound. And yet even a wound can become the sign of a “birtbing process.”

A hymn says: “Hide me in your wounds, o Lord.” ^ e r e was a medieval devotion to the five wounds of Christ. We sometimes find these five wounds of the crucified Lord represented in a kind of mandala. On foe circumfer- ence o f the circle we find the extremities o f the crucified body o f c b r i s t – a s in foe image of the “Vitruvian man” wbo, witb arms and legs extended, is depicted as toucbing the outer circumference of an all-containing circle.

64 Sahi / Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42-76

سص· ءمبم׳


Figure 10. Birth in the Cave, 2007. Acrylic on handmade paper, 18″ X 26″. Author’s collection.

Here we find the nailed palms of the extended hands, and the soles of the feet, which are م$ك nailed together. م fifth wound is at the very center of the body, as in the pierced side of the Lord, whose body was “opened” by the lance of the soldier. According to tbe Gospel of St. John, this fifth wound is at the heart, from which also flows both blood and water, which وت9 ا4(.( together symbolize the life-giving elements

body is like a vessel, and the wounds are like openings into that body م through which the life of the body flows out. Another way of looking at this

/. Sahi I Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42—76 65

image is to say that the body is a fountain. At tbe center of tbe fountain is a spring, and this spring gusbes out in four directions, each of wbicb can he understood as a source. And so tbere are five sources of life in the fullness of the body. م wound is tbus conceived of not only as an injury but also as a source of outpouring life. م wound is equated witb the vessel of life— the fountain from wbicb all that is living has its source (see cover image).

wound is the ultimate mystery. As suggested by the figure “Birth in م the Cave,” the wound is like a cave— a guha. By association, the term guru (teacber) can itself be understood as a person bearing sucb a mystery: be is wounded in tbat he is burdened or impregnated with light. In Vedic tradition, tbis wound (wbicb is also the container of light) is called Ka, wbicb indicates the question “What?”^ Thomas, the disciple of Cbrist wbo doubts, is invited by the Risen Lord to “put a finger into the wounds of the ”؛Saviour-tbe hand into the side of the pierced Lord, and believe

XIII Jesus the Dalit

Jesus is the “rejected stone” wbicb is finally chosen as the “cornerstone” that holds the wbole edifice of creation together (Matt. 21:42). Jesus is botb the bealer and the person wbo is himselfwounded and abandoned by society. He is betrayed not only by Judas but by all his disciples wbo run away, leaving bim to die on the cross. Only some of the women and his beloved disciple (wbo remains mysteriously nameless) accompany him to the foot ofthe cross (see color plate 5, Traversing the Heart). On the cross, the dying Jesus cries out: “My God, my God, wby have you forsaken me?” It is in the process of dying that Jesus enters into that empty, forsaken space in wbicb the wbole of Creation finds its meaning and fulfilment. It is this space or Sunya (Sanskrit for “emptiness” or “void”)^ that is also described as tbeTao or tbe Way.

13) The term “Ka meaning “Who?” or “What?” appears as a refrain in the famous creation myth of Rig Veda 10.121. The name “Ka ’ was later applied to Prajapati, the active Creator who reflects on “the hidden, or unknown Creator,” which is also understood as the “Golden Germ.” Wendy Doninger O ’Flaherty, in a commentary on the Rig Veda, writes: “‘Who?’, Ka, is the name ofthe Creator, a name explicitly said, in later texts, to have been given to Prajapati… The original force of the verse is speculative: since the Creator preceded all the known gods, creating them, who could he he?… The Creator in this hymn is called Hiran- yagarbha, a truly pregnant term. It is a compound noun, whose first element means “gold” and whose second element means “womb, seed, embryo, or child” (26).

14) The Sanskrit word Sunya is related to Punya, the fullness which is a blessing. Thus, for example, in the Buddhist idea of Buddah’s begging howl, the emptiness of the howl is also


/. SahiIReligionandtheArts 12 (2008) 42—76

Thirty spokes converge on a single hub.
But it is in the space where there is nothing That the usefulness of the cart lies.
Clay is moulded to make a pot,
But it is in the space where there is nothing That the usefulness of the clay pot lies.
Cut out doors and windows to make a room But it is in the spaces where there is nothing That the usefulness of the room lies.

Benefit may be derived from something.
But it is in nothing that we find usefulness. (Lao Tzu no. 11)

XIV The Dalit Madonna

icon of the primordial Mother has occupied a very central place in the م human imagination. م mother represents the ^-encompassing sphere into which the newly born person is received. She represents a kind of vessel in which the life of a future consciousness is nurtured. On the one hand, she enshrines an emptiness that leaves space for the divine to enter the human heart and home; and yet she also embodies a fullness that gives form and substance to a new revelation, or epiphany. In one sense, she is like foe door- way that leads into foe shelter. She is also foe inner courtyard, which is both open to foe skies above and enclosed by walls all around. Here, in foe typical village household, many of the intimate tasks of the home are performed, such as foe storing and preparing of provisions and food for foe family. Here foe grain is pounded and made ready for cooking on foe family hearth.

figure of the Mother is intimately associated with the harvest and م foe preparation of food.م feminine embodies a practical wisdom with- out which foe life of the community would not be possible. But there is also a profoundly ontemplative aspect to this maternal presence. She not only nurtures and sustains, she also embraces and adores. In that function she is like foe household shrine. She gives a shape and orientation to all that is most

that from which all creatures are fed. Ananda Coomaraswamy saw in this image a link with the Christian understanding of the Holy Grail.

Saht / Religion and the Arts 12 (2008) 42—76 67

mre ü . Dalit Madonna, 1978. Black ink drawing, Authors collection.

Spiritual in the human soul. م longing for a reality that reaches beyond foe mundane and worldly is given a form, too, by foe figure of the Mother.

Contained within fois complex image ofhuman opposites-sucb as fitllness and emptiness, practical cares of foe home and profound spiritual aspirations- is a certain native humility. م word “bumility” derives from “bumus”- i . e . , coming from, and belonging to, foe earth, ^ i s concept is also implied by foe term dalit, which has at its root foe word dal, meaning foe earth.

At this juncture, one migbt ask wbetber it is possible to speak of a Dalit aestbetics. م word “aestbetic” seems to imply the refined and expensive. It carries with it all foe trappings tbat cbaracterize a leisured and elitist life- style, ^ i s world of the dominant and privileged is often described by the

68 Saht /Religion and the Arts 12 (2008) 42—76

word lalit, wffich means refined. We are familiar with the institutions known in India as LalitKala, or “Fine Art.” Lalit implies playful, in a way very close to lila, which in Sanskrit means “play,” “sport,” “pastime,” “amusement.” In contrast, dalit means “broken,” “split,” “torn apart,” “scattered,” “trodden down,” “crushed,” and “destroyed.”

The Dalit ki mata (“Mother of the Dalits’) is a term now often applied to Mary. She is a woman who is typically taken for granted, not recog- nized. Nevertheless, she becomes the vessel for a new hope in humanity. She is humble, homely, but also the bearer of another kind of wisdom, another concept of fullness.

-Madonna” helps us in discovering an inner jour ء’مه“ image of the م ney towards spiritual wholeness—a journey which has been very important in the Hindu tradition-while simultaneously affirming a concern for the outer problem of what we are doing to our environment and to a society that depends so much on its natural resources.ظ image of divinity in feminine form has been a very important aspect of Indian folk imagina- tion. Too often Christian imagery has focused on the masculine represen- tation of the divine, leaving out the spiritual importance of the feminine figure. Indian art and culture has tried to conceive of spiritual reality in terms that include both feminine and masculine characteristics, ^ i s is an important aspect ofyoga-namely, that it aims at realizing the conjugal coming together of the opposing life forces we find in nature.

XV The Feminine as Heaiing spaee

Ultimately, yoga integrates the cosmic and meta-cosmic dimensions of spir- ituality. م yogic process is profoundly alchemical. It transforms ffie material and physical into something spiritual. What is dark and opaque is trans- formed into translucency and light. It is in ffiis context that yoga has been understood as being related to ffie sun and to an inner awakening that brings life and light to nature. We find this process described through myths as ffie marriage of heaven and earth, ffie light of the sun, and ffie material substance of our life here on earth.

ancient story of Savitri, daughter of the Sun, draws on several folk م legends from the oral tradition.15 In this myth, Aswapati, a childless king

15) One version of this myth is found as a multiply embedded narrative in the Mahabaratha, Varna Parva, Section CCLXL1 (Pativrata-mahatmya Parva) and continuing right up to sec- tion CCLXLVIL


/. Sahi / Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42-76 69


Figure 12. SorrowfulMary (meditating on the sign ofjonah, with the whale in her womb), 1987. Sketch for a picture in the series on the Song of Songs. Chinese ink on paper, .”9.5 x”7

70 /. SahiIReligionandtheArts 12 (2008) 42-76

who ruled in North India, prays with his wife for a child, offering oblations to tbe Sun tbrougb the Gayatri Mantra. As a result tbe queen conceives, but tbe goddess Gayatri (wbo personifies the mantra)16appears to the king and tells bim tbey will bave a daugbter, not a son. م king is also told that the cbild is to he called “Savitri” (after the Sun wbo is addressed in the Gayatri Mantra as Tat Savitur, the one wbo awakens) and treated in every way as equal to any male. Wben the girl is born, she is dutifully treated like a son and taugbt the Vedas. But wben she grows up, nobody wants to marry her, as everyone is afraid of a woman who is so wise. Finally, one day sbe goes out in search of a husband in her chariot and in a forest finds a young man, the son of a blind hermit wbo later turns out to he a king, ^ i s boy is called Satyavan, meaning “the true one.” Savitri falls in love and decides to marry him but later discovers that one year after their marriage, he will die. So on tbeir first wedding anniversary, when Satyavan is preparing to light the sacrificial fire, Savitri accompanies her beloved into the forest wbere be goes to cut wood for the fire. Suddenly overcome by exbaustion, be comes to rest his head on ber lap, where he dies, cradled on the lap of bis wife.17

Yama, the Lord of Deatb comes to fetcb bim, and Savitri hands her busband over to Yama; yet she insists on following him to the underworld. Yama repeatedly tries to persuade Savitri to go back to life, but she refuses to leave her beloved Satyavan. Finally, when Yama reaches the lowest bell of his kingdom, he turns round to find Savitri there. Amazed at her unfiincbing fidelity, Yama tells Savitri she may ask of him wbatever boon she wants, as she is his bonoured guest. She asks for a child. He is deligbted and grants her wisb, but she replies tbat she cannot have a child witbout her busband. So Death reluctantly returns Satyavan to her, and Savitri brings him back to life.

^ i s myth, recounted again in great detail in an epic poem by Sri Aurob- indo (see Ghose, Savitri), represents Holy Wisdom, “Daughter of the Sun,” who goes down to the underworld to recover her dead lover, a manifesta- tion of primal man. It is much like a barrowing of hell but by a feminine figure in this case. Savitri is Shakti, the primal energy oflight that goes down into the underworld to recover the buried seed of life. That is how I have

16) Aithough the Sun is usually thought olas masculine in Hindu lore, in many tribal cul- tures it is pictured as feminine, whereas Chandra, the Moon, appears as masculine.
17) The image of Satyavan lying on the lap of his bride brings to mind Michelangelos Pietà, with Jesus lying on the lap of his young mother.

Sahi / Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42-76 71

interpreted this myth in a series of paintings18in relation to the theme of the Song of Songs: “For love is strong as death” (8:5-6; see Mariaselvam).

Sri Aurobindo has termed this journey of descent “integral yoga,” a dis- cipline to be distinguished from the yogic ascent into spiritual wisdom, ^ i s is, rather, a downward movement into the unconscious, reminiscent of the orientation ofJungian psychotherapy. It recovers wisdom from the depths, ^ e r e is a fundamental link, of course, between the womb that gives life and the tomb to which the body returns after death (see Sahi, Child and Serpent 55-44). We find this profound sense of the maternal space of the Cosmos reflected in many aspects oflndian symbolic thought-all ofwhich brings us back to the significance of the cave, or guha, as a space within Mother Earth that is both a source of life-giving waters and an entry into the underworld. It is in that sense that the cave also represents a wound that needs to be healed.19

One may also detect a link between the underlying spirituality encoun- tered in the “yoga of art” and the Franciscan understanding of “creation.” St. Francis of Assisi composed a “Canticle to Brother Sun” (1224-1225 CE) in which he gives expression to a vision of the complementary sym- bols we find in nature (see Leclerc). Francis composed this joyful greeting to creation in the form of a conjugal coming-together of Sun and Moon, Fire and Water, Earth and Sky. In this way he was drawing on ancient mythic themes, which he proceeded to interpret in a new humanistic way as Brother and Sister, part of the ^1-encompassing fraternity he sought to establish through his three Orders. Soon after receiving the stigmata, he concluded his canticle with a greeting to Sister Death, a figure no longer to be feared but rather welcomed as a friend.

A similar spirit can be found in the poetry of the Indian mystic Kabir. Kabir came from the Sufi tradition, but he also embraced the bhakti marga (path of devotion) of Hindu medieval saints. In the spiritual vision of Kabir there is a deep humanism that rejects the narrow asceticism of those Hindu monks who saw the world only as illusory and a source of tempta- tion. He sings: “In the home is the true union, in the home is enjoyment of life; why should I forsake my home and wander in the forest? If Brahma

1S) Sttjyoti Art Ashram for my series of paintings depicting the myth of Savitri in relation to the Song of Songs (1988-1992). These canvases now belong to the Missions Prokura of the Jesuits in Nuerenberg.
.Concerning the concept o£guha as an image of space, see Bäumer )؛1

72 Sahi / Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42-76

helps me to realize truth, verily I will find both bondage and deliverance in the bome” (xl). In the thought of Kabir, spirituality is about receiving and welcoming. It is here also that one might find the essence of an asbramic spirituality, focused on the welcome of tbe guest into tbe bome. Again Kabir says: “^ e r e is one thing in the world that satisfies, and that is meeting with the Guest.”

guest wbo comes to the bome is anotber name for the divine person م who visits the buman habitation. In the book of Revelation, the Lord says: “Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. If any of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to sbare his meal, side by side witb bim” image of the home is very mucb associated witb the idea of an ظ .( 20تو( opening into the inner cbamber, he it a door or a window. It is through tbis opening that the divine enters the buman. In the Song of Songs we have a very mysterious image of the beloved wbo comes knocking at the door in the nigbt:

I hear my beloved knocking:
“Open to me, my sister, my love
my dove, my perfect one,
for my head is covered with dew,
my locks with the drops of night…”

My beloved tbrust his hand
^rougb the bole in the door;
I trembled to the core of my being. (5:2-4)

^ e r e is a symbolic link between the cosmic significance of the bome and the human body itself. Here one can find the essential seeds for an earth affirming eo-spirituality that reinterprets the “metacosmic” worldview of the mystics wbo strove to go beyond all forms and images, by affirming the human imagination as a kind of home to wbicb the divine presence is invited as a guest. In tbe poetic tradition of Indian bhakti, the love of the soul for the divine is like the yearning of the beart for the beloved, wbo is invited to come into the inner space of Creation in order to transform it from witbin. It was in this spirit that the love poetry of tbe Bible, as we find it expressed in the Song of Songs, was interpreted by great mystics like St. Bernard of Clairvaux as describing the inner journey of the soul towards self-integration.

Sahi / Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42-76 73

XVI Conclusion

In this essay, I have tried to link the image of the “cave of the heart,” a metaphor often found in Indian spiritual thought, with the figure of the wounded or pierced Jesus, who is also the wounded healer. My effort has been to bring together these various images of the “yoga ofjesus” and the “yoga of the heart” in relation to an emerging theology and a theol- ogy rooted in the land, ^ e s e poetic metaphors are interrelated, though in a lateral, symbolic way.

In the image ofjesus the Dalit who is symbolically linked to the image ofthe rock struck by Moses, I have represented the mck broken, or crushed, ^ e r e is a complex system of imagery used in Christian liturgical texts that provides a basis for what is known as “typology.” Thus the rock struck in the desert, which yielded living waters, is seen as foreshadowing the pierced body of Christ on the cross, ^ i s rock is also the “stumbling block” or the “stone that the builders rejected,” which finally became the “cornerstone” ofthe arch that holds together the living edifice ofthe spiritual building of the Church.20

Some of these images can easily become stereotypes. Even the idea of the broken and rejected, which has an archetypal significance, may be too rigidly or exclusively applied, for instance, to those who are marginalized in society, hence giving such communities a kind of “label” which might actu- ally prevent individuals from breaking away from their preconceived roles. In the same way, images of femininity, which I have often discussed in rela- tion to ecological issues concerning our use of and attitude towards the land, can also become stereotypes of what it means to be a woman. Many femi- nists resent being reductively characterized as mere human fertility symbols. In my effort to connect the symbols ofthe womb, the cave ofthe heart, and the wound, I have tried to link symbols that are not just applicable to women or to natural forms but are part of a universal language of symbols.

Indian culture has often been characterized as avoiding images of suffering or death, ^ e s e diminishing factors of our existence have been understood as merely negative, or as part of what has been termed maya, or illusion. Imag- inative forms in the Indian spiritual vocabulary have been largely concerned with the forces oflife-the energy that gives birth rather than destroys. And

20) Sttjyoti Art Ashram for images and discussions on Jesus as the stone that was rejected, Jesus the healer, Jesus the Dalit, Jesus the broken-hearted, Jesus living with people, etc.

74 /. Sahi/Religion and theArts 12 (2008) 42—76

yet in folk art, and even tke art that is to he found in the Tantric (esoteric) traditions of India, the terrible and dark images of destructive energies have been represented often in connection with tbe feminine principle. Here tbe womb is also the tomb. Kali, the dark Motber who is also Time and the inevitable cycle of change in nature, is not rejected as “evil” in the way that the sbadowy elements of life are represented in the Judeo-Christian tradition but ratber as a necessary complement to the forces of life.

Symbols are fundamentally ambiguous. To use them as ways of determin- ing peoples or things is to abuse them. م seeming determinacy of images constitutes a fundamental problem, I feel, whenever we try to create visual or imaginative ways of depicting the experience of suffering. Representing the agony of the cross, for example, without including the signs tbat lie bid- den in the suffering-the signs of a coming resurrection-would he just to glorify what is essentially a figure of corruption. م pierced and wounded body of Jesus would not he a source of life if it were not for an underlying tbeology of the bealing power of the Savior. م rbytbmic pattern of natural cbange that leads from growth to final disintegration and death would not he a redeeming sign if we did not also link it to a belief in transformation and the emergence of a new reality out of the old enclosing sbell. Even the image of the golden egg, or germ, would he a glorified prison if we did not also affirm that tbere is a life and energy that breaks out of tbe sbell.

It is in that sense tbat the propbetic tradition always stressed the provi- sional and even inadequate nature of every symbol. The symbol is only a pointer. The moment it becomes a sign ofidentity, it becomes idolatrous and ompromising. The image sbould empower people, and not limit or dimin- isb their self-esteem.م womb is not just a physical function that makes some human beings into mothers: it is a source of life that transforms tbe meaning of every form of embodiment. In that sense every mandala, repre- sented as an enclosed domain, is a symbol of the heart which, like the cave, botb contains and frees the human being to love and self-surrender.

It is in this sense that I have tried to understand yoga as a way of integra- tion. It brings together wbat seem to he divided or opposed aspects of exist- ence so as to point towards sometbing that goes beyond what we understand as the dualities of the reality perceived witb our present consciousness. Good and evil, light and dark, wbole and broken, male and female-these are just names we give to the many distinctions tbat we draw between opposing fac- tors. م importance of the imagination is that it conceives of a world where sucb divisions are only provisional, wbere there is a unity beyond duality that brings all beings into the One.

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