Book Review: Beatific Vision: Poems by B.R.Nagpal
by Minakshi Lahkar
(New Delhi, India)
DIVINE REALITY AND PERPLEXED PRESENT
This is a collection of beautifully crafted poems which draw on the learnings of a whole lifetime. They offer nuggets of wisdom gleaned from experience, reflection and meditation. The poet seeks to evoke the connection with the higher spiritual reality that is so often manifested in simple natural forms like a tree or a bird. It is a timely reminder that even in the trauma of the present, we can heal ourselves by opening our souls to the bounty of nature around us.
In Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore talks about how the soul is the deepest part of our being. Its well-being is reflected in our bodily and mental health. When we neglect its care, we develop feelings of frustration, anger, self-loathing, guilt and despair which are projected on the world outside. Thus we contribute to create a society that is sick almost to its very core. Disease, of the individual and the community, may be seen as a manifestation of this.
In a similar vein, Swami Rama, in The Art of Joyful Living, talks about the centre of consciousness within each one of us which is the spark of divine energy, the nucleus of the whole universe around us. We can access this true, unchanging, inner self by going deeply within ourselves. It is like the hub of a wheel which remains steady despite the rotation of the spokes – which may be seen as everything about us that keeps on changing.
Nagpal brilliantly shows how the individual may connect to this vital, creative power of the Divine. It calls for an intuitive understanding based on receptivity, sensitivity and openness. It may require the will to seek. In the title poem of the volume, the bhakt prays:
“Lead me to the untrodden paths
They are endless”
Age, gender, class and creed make no difference. Even pain, disability and ill-health are no barriers: in The Day in Radiance, the boy suffers excruciating pain but has a vision of the higher reality; in Tangential Brilliance, it is the lame child who patiently discerns the manifestations of the divine in nature; in The Statues, two women, battling
illness within a mansion, find renewed life-energy from the divine source.
Often it is Nature which powerfully generates the mystical awareness of the divine presence – as in Thou are Vouched, Greenish Yellow Flicker and The Magical Hill. Such moments may occur even in urban settings – in The Backyard the epiphany arises with the glimpse of the moonlight on a potted plant. The sadhak may also reach the vast ocean of the divine presence through devotion (True Path). Thereby he experiences Sat-Chit-Ananda – the consciousness of bliss.
In the later poems, there is a heightened awareness of the malaise of the world – its frenzied materialism and the restless consumerism fuelled by the globalised neo-liberal economy and based on the suicidal destruction of the environment. He points to the savagery inherent within our civilisation as his range sweeps from 9/11 to the US Invasion of Iraq and terrorism in Kashmir (The Savage, The Fugitive, The Fabled Bird). While Nature can regenerate us, it can also humble us with its fury – hence he talks of the Tsunami, earthquakes and volcanic eruption.
In Computer Mind he notes the sinister power of the computer. Yuval Noah Harari in Twentyone Lessons for the Twentyfirst Century makes a similar point when he cautions us how our mindless development of infotech and biotech is quite capable of creating a situation where artificial intelligence will take over our world - a dystopian scenario chillingly envisaged in Philip K Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
At times there are notes of personal sadness, the awareness that his imagination may be stifled by the tumult of worldly life (The Word). He is conscious that he is “benevolently shy and contemptuously disdainful” – perhaps as a coping strategy (Shyness and Disdain). Yet finally there is an acceptance of life based on a deep humility – he will write whatever he can and accept all possible solace from nature. This would have been endorsed by the ancient Stoic philosophers who taught that we must accept what is beyond our control and focus on what is in our hands.
BEATIFIC VISION: POEMS
Delhi: Shree Kala Prakashan, 2020 ***