23 of 31 Questions for Reflection. Today’s question is inspired by reading Dṛg Dṛsya Viveka: An Inquiry Into the Seer and the Seen alongside the life story of the Kashmiri poet saint, Lal Ded.
What questions arise when I focus on “a naked mystic poetess” as an object of Vedanta meditation?
Lal Ded, also known as Mother Lalla, lived during the 14th century in what is now Kashmir. At age 12, she was married off to a family that mistreated her. Her mother-in-law would hide rocks in her rice. To escape cruelty, Lal would leave to retrieve water in the mornings and then spend whole days at the Shiva temples. That’s where she fell in love with Shiva and met her guru, Sidh Srikanth. By age 26, she left her abusive family and renounced all material life. She’d wander the villages speaking devotional poems that were all her own creation, as expressions of love for the divine. She wasn’t intending to create a literary genre, but her spoken verse soon became part of the Karhmiri Oral memory. Her utterances were able to make the lofty philosophies of the Sanskrit literary tradition accessible to ordinary people. People remembered her Vakhs, and they wrote them down. Lal Ded challenged the elitism of Sanskrit scholarship and the patriarchal authority of the Guru. She wore rags or no clothes at all. She never intended to enrich the Kashmiri language, she was just in love with the divine.
Here is one of my favorite Lal Ded vakhs:
“Whatever my hands did was worship, / whatever my tongue shaped was prayer. / That was Shiva’s secret teaching: / I wore it and it became my skin.”
Thank you to translator Ranjit Hoskote, I met Lal Ded on the page in a collection of Bhakti poetry called “Eating God.” Then I met her again, in a dream: we sat by a shining pool of water, and she taught me to lactate at will.
God, I love mystical dreams! Jai Sri Radhe Shyam!
Meditating on naked mystic poetess, a Jnana yogi might ask, “No I, no mine, no this, no mind, only That thou art Tat Tvam Asi तत् त्वम् असि. Now that One is so plain to see, and Infinity cannot be hidden, are clothes necessary?”