Tag Archives: devotion

What’s in a Name?

They say that these are revealed Names, that ancient Rishis pulled these from the depths of consciousness and placed them in this world as gateways to that Infinite Abode. They say there is something invariably healing about these vibrations, that they melt the ego as they ripple through our being. They say that these Names are perfect forms of God, that the Name and what is named are one and the same.

All I really know is that these are Names of my Beloved, and by saying them sweetly I partake in the language of the heart, engaging in an eternal love affair.  I know that  countless devotees have cried their pain, suffering, yearning and joy into them, a reminder that this love affair is bigger than me. It’s as if we are all Gopis partaking in Krishna’s dance, each one of us simultaneously claiming Him as our own. I am connected to a tradition of lovers that goes back millennia.

And I know that they do work.

They remind me that my Beloved is here, right here, in this world, in this body, in the depths of my being, in the face of every person I meet…

And what more could I ask for, but to be granted the possibility that at any given moment the Beloved might reveal Herself? 

These Names are the Names of Love, and by saying them I engage in the most exquisite love making.

Maharajji said, “Go on saying your false Rams. One of these days you will get it right.”

So how do we say it? There are so many ways to say a Name.

Is it a chore list, something we ought to do? A magical incantation, a spell cast to bring the gods under our sway? Is it like rubbing flint, waiting for that one time when it will catch flame? Is it savory like morning pillow talk? Does it burn with yearning the way a flame leaps for air?

Or is it like the Gopis, whose ecstatic love moans reveal to us the potency of the Name, whose vocal emanations show us the healing vibratory power of the Name, who brought the Beloved completely under their sway simply by the power of their devotion, to whom nothing else existed except Krishna’s blissful form, who first ignited a tradition centuries ago when they screamed:

Śrī Kṛṣṇa!


nirvanarupa

The word, “nirvāṇarūpaṃ,” rests in the first line of Tulsidas’s devotional poem, “Rudrāṣṭakam.” It is a compound word that means, “the form of nirvana.” It is referring to Lord Shiva, and the particular book I am reading translates it as, “eternal bliss personified.”

That is a lovely translation, one that plays my body like a sarod, my bones ringing in sympathetic harmony to the glories of creation. It is like a spell cast on my knees, weakening their very muscles until they collapse to the ground. It has become my muse for the night, and it inspires the question, “What is the verbal root of nirvana?”

Studying Sanskrit is another way for me to practice my devotion. I have a restless mind, the kind that would enjoy scrabble or a crossword or filling silence with meaningless words. I study Sanskrit for the same reason I write poetry. I am not disciplined enough to sit and meditate on the word “nirvāṇarūpaṃ” for 5 hours straight, but I find my own strange way, following inspiration like bread crumbs as I traverse the depths of the heart. First I find the page I need from the tomes of Sanskrit grammar.  Loosening it from its binding, I then meticulously fold it into an origami murti and place it on the altar of the wind.

Nirvana comes from the root √ “to blow.” It is in the past passive participle form “na,” meaning “blown.” It has the prefix “nis”, which here means “out.” Nirvana is final liberation, a state reached when the last trace of desire has been “blown out” or “extinguished.”

I quite like the translation of “eternal bliss personified.” It’s a poetic one that inspires devotion, reminding us that worship of the Beloved’s form is the highest bliss. The gods in heaven rain down flowers on the poet who translates it this way, knowing as they do how it captures the devotional mood. Tulsidas sings with them in a unison of praise, for he also writes in this bhāv. His words are arrows of fire. They melt the thoughts of even the most restless mind.

This flame reaches its climax at the Rudrāṣṭakam’s end. My eyes wince at the brightness of the page, and the night sky mistakenly prepares for the Sun. Lifetimes of longing are awakened in an instant when I read those glorious words, “O Lord! I do not know yoga, japa, or ritual worship. O Shambhu! I simply bow to you at all times and at every moment.”