CHAPTER - 28
Generally she abhorred nakedness. There should never be the least exposure of any part of the female body. Even when she took her bath, she never removed her undergarments. She hated to see her own body naked even when she was alone. She did not open the other book for fear that it might contain more shockers. She sat motionless for half hour thinking and thinking. Then she stood up, and marched with a sprightliness along the wide verandah. And entered the room where the Swamiji had already started his painting. The tree was in formation on the canvas in his improvised studio. She was silent for a minute, and then asked,
"Is it Art, Swamiji, to paint the female form naked?"
"Why, Bharathi, what is the matter? You look angry and morose. Your face is not what it used to be", Jitendra stared at her, a little taken up.
"Swamiji, I saw in one of the two books you gave me two naked women. Is it open to painters to paint naked females? Is it not awful, dirty, repulsive and profane in the extreme? I think it is a sort of blasphemy against the sacred Art of painting". Bharathi gasped.
"You saw two such paintings?"
"Go and look again, Bharathi, you will be seeing a few more in them". Jitendra said coolly and in quite a matter-of-fact way. He didn't seem to bother at all about her agitated feeling. So casual was he and so uninterested. "Go and see into the albums."
"Bharathi stood speechless and benumbed.
"You said, Swamiji, I would be seeing a few more in those wretched books? You really want me to see them?"
"Yes, Bharathi, I do want you to see them. See them again and again till it no longer bothers you and till you take it all as quite normal and regular in the Art of painting. Why do you get agitated? It is like seeing anything else, like walls, rocks, trees, the sky and the birds and the towers of Pattabhiram temple. See them over and again and get used to them. There is nothing wrong in studying and painting the female anatomy and trying to extract out of the contours some of Heaven's bliss through the canvas".
Jitendra could understand. It was quite like Bharathi. For girls like her, it was natural that these paintings would be abominable. It would give them nausea. Naturally they would tremble. But when they know what an amount of the sacredness of Art there is in it, and how the rhythm of God is brought out of these Nudes on the canvas, they might surely calm down and in time come to appreciate. He now explained to her:
"Bharathi, painting the Nude is a recognized and important branch of the Painting Art. It has absolutely nothing to do with sex or sensuality. To an artist, God expresses Himself in Beauty. It may be Beauty of form, beauty of thought, beauty of soul, beauty of mind, beauty of emotion, beauty of power, beauty of Nature and the like. But it is all food on which the spirit of the mortal Man grows and touches at moments the fringe of the Infinite and the Eternal. Female bodies are among a few objects in which this Beauty is wrought in great abundance. There are splendid females whose bodies provide ample scope for the exposition of God's Power. In the Nudes which have come to be known as classics and all-time masterpieces, you see a cosmic power triumphantly on the swell. God speaks his mighty rhetoric through them. By God I mean not a Person, but a Power. The Power of which consist all the universes and by which they are all sustained. It is that which makes you and I speak. It is that which has brought me and you together. It is that which forms the knowledge and wisdom in all the Holy Books. I have already given you some albums which contain paintings from famous masters. Look into them. They will contain landscapes, dinner parties, social settings, card-plays, rural scenes, Nudes, portraits of men and women high and low and the like. In all of them the painters have painted much more than the outward forms. The objects painted are infinitely more than what they look like. In each of them a power has been realized which bears a proportion to the strength of the artist's vision. The more power you realize in it, the more of God is seen there. The women whose Nudes have been painted in these pictures do not know how infinitely larger they are in terms of God-power than what they are in physical shape. When a painter works out more and more of Beauty from an object he pa ints on the canvas, he is bringing more and more of the splendor of God. Read Sloka No. 41 In the tenth chapter of Bhagavad Gita entitled "Vibhuthi Yoga". I would advise you to read the whole chapter. Think and think about what is said there. You will then know what it is that should be brought into Art and what it is that should be realized in it." He smiled and nodded. She left. She decided never more to be upset by these Nudes.
The other book contained mainly lessons in a graded form. There were landscapes and a few portraits and a few naked women too. But they were either finished or part finished. But they were all teaching exercises. Any way her dread of the Naked Female was on its exit after the next two days. She told herself that she would learn to critically appreciate the Nudes from the Art point of view. After a few more discussions with Jitendra during the next few days, she studied the Nudes with what she thought a scholarly attention as she did the other pictures. In the next few days she had become familiar with all the Nudes in the albums. They had all become her thickest chums and best friends. She studied their history and exchanged her own life-story with them. In the night when she had retired to her bed, all these Nudes sat with her. They talked to her and she talked to them They all enjoyed each other's company. They all formed a company of spiritual entities. They all brimmed with a God-power the respective painters had given them. But she had not yet attained to that status. Would the Swamiji paint her naked, and bring out all that was God in her on the canvas. She wanted to see herself on the canvas extended into godhood and become a goddess like the rest. She would come on a par with other famous Nudes that now kept her company. She might even excel them and achieve a primacy.
Swami Jitendra had already started the painting lessons. Daily they lasted for two to three hours. He found her very attentive and quick to grasp. She gave off astounding sparks of intelligence. He was sure that if she went ahead with assiduity, she was sure to become a very good painter and make a name. Her passion for the Painting Art soon got overabound. What attracted her most was that every object that came into a painter's hands was much more than what it was and what it looked like. This `much more' was all power. And what was worth noting was that it was all God-power. She wanted to know how much of this God-power was there in her, and how she would look like if she could see it on the canvas with her inner vision.
The Swamiji was still working on the tree in the canvas. She was wondering how much of the tree in the Abstract and of its aloneness he was going to reveal on the canvas. She thought he was going to bring out its beauty on the moral level and render the tree worthy of compassion and charity. She had begun to think more and more of the tree. Soon its physical self was gone in her thinking and it began to ferment as a scrap of energy in the cosmic scheme. Then it went out of her view. She loved the tree, and the tree too seemed to love her. She now came to love the tree as much as Swamiji loved it. She discovered that the tree was capable of communion with her at the spiritual level. It could even return her emotional attachment.
The tree seemed to pity her as much as she seemed to pity it. The tree was far removed from the other trees that stood together in clutters as if they had a collective existence. It stood alone as a sort of waif or a castaway on the moor. It was in an orphaned loneliness. It stood impoverished and lost in misery and was a sordid sight. It stretched its bare branches to Heaven and seemed to implore mercy and save it from extinction. In all these respects the tree resembled herself. Its woebegone state was like her own when she loitered from house to house in rags or slovenly clothes, her body unwashed and dusty. All that untidiness now stood before her. The tree and herself were two different versions of the same misfortune. Suddenly she remembered that the Swamiji referred to the tree the other day when they first stood before it as The Nude Tree. Now its Nudity came and hit right on her soul. Yes, the tree was naked. The tree was another version of herself. Which meant that the Nakedness of the tree was her own Nakedness. And what lots of spiritual loveliness it possessed in its physical Nakedness. She thought that inside her clothes she was naked too. Nakedness had now become for her one of the most lovable things a godly mortal could wish for. She felt like Eve in the Garden of Eden before she met with the temptation of Satan. Nudity had now become for her a lovable fixated obsession. What she loved was the sexless nakedness, the nakedness free of all sensuality, the nakedness that was all godly. And mentally she was frequently going naked with her clothes on.
Jitendra who had begun to paint the tree four days ago was getting on very slowly with his work. There was less work per day till now. Then he began to put in more work because he had begun to achieve a better clarity of ideas. He went step by step. Bharathi stood and watched every moment. For in a sense he was painting one of her own other selves, and in the tree she had already embodied her own identity. At each step when the Swamiji was bringing out the tree on the canvas, she felt a part of her body stripped naked. When the tree had come fully on the canvas, she stood stark naked in her mind as proudly as if she had climbed up to another level in her spiritual progress. The tree was naked. She was naked. Each was a different version of the other. Both were two different versions of the same being.
Bharathi was a great lover of the moonlight. Full moon had a particular fascination for her. It had in it an ambrosial quality that acted like a drug on her. On such nights she hardly slept. She would sit on the steps of her room, and spend hours watching the moon. This was one such night. The moonlight was so brilliant in a starless sky, and flooded her room like silver through the window. She was sitting on the steps of her room as usual. The door was open. Suddenly she felt her corset too tight. She let her hand inside to loosen a clasp. But she felt a mightily rolled stony obstacle glossily coming in the way. She gave up the attempt. She was indeed paintable. Eminently paintable, no doubt. An hour passed. She couldn't get sleep' She thought she would sit in meditation on her bed for some time. She went into the room. She closed the door. The two windows she left fully open so that her beloved sunlight would stay with her all the night. Suddenly she felt strange sensations that gently rocked her and gave her spiritual stimulations of too lofty a kind. She wanted to see how it felt like to be naked. The moon was naked and the moonlight was naked. She removed all the clothes, sat on the bed and went into meditation on the formless, nameless, attributeless and dualityless power that was called God which had no clothing on it. On her whole body there was nothing except the gold of the moon. She was in meditation for about a hour, and then fell asleep. By about five in the morning, she woke up. She collected the clothes that lay about her on the floor. She put them on in a leisurely fashion, and then sat on the cot for a while. She felt drowsy again and fell away to sleep.
Bharathi stood before the easel and remarked:
"The tree has come out very well. Swamiji".
"Yes, but it is just a rough exercise to kill time. I could paint it for a decade, and still there would be lots of beauty and meaning left. But a gifted mind could construct a deal out of what I have left on the canvas. I have done some delicate color-work over the tree, and behind the tree and before the tree which you will see by and by. I have woven on it a weird magic".
"What was it that prompted you to paint the tree, Swamiji, what was the idea?".
Jitendra became silent. He reflected. Then he said:
"Bharathi, the moment I saw the tree, I fell in love with it".
This had a stunning effect on the full-blooded virgin.
"Fell in love?".
"I don't follow you, Swamiji".
"The moment I saw the tree, I saw myself in it, Bharathi, my own self. Not in the metaphysical or spiritual sense, which of course was certainly there, but in an everyday practical sense. The tree stands far away from everything in the surrounding vicinity. It stands cut off from its neighbors, from its own world. Isn't it? "
"What else I am as a Sanyasin? I am also the same. I too have cast off all worldliness, I have cast off all the lures and temptations of life. I have cast off all my wealth. All my family-bondages. I have renounced everything. I told you the other day that the tree was Nude. In Vedantic literature it is called NIRVANA, Nakedness. In my spirit I am all naked. There is nothing that sticks there. Neither the world nor worldliness could stick in it or stain it. Whether I am all that or not is beside the point. That is what a Sanyasin is supposed to be. When the soul has cast off all bondage, and becomes free of all sense of duality, it is said to have attained Nirvana. To such a soul there is neither Good nor Bad, neither Virtue nor sin, neither action nor inaction. He could be in clothes or just a Thigambara which means clothelessness, both are the same to him. When everything is made up of God and is God, where is the need for him to see the world as consisting of the many instead of the One. The high and the low are one to him. The tree, the rock, the star, the animal and man are all the same to him. He finds all the same. It is all the One that appears as the many. It is this All-Nakedness, absolute, total Nakedness that is called Nirvana".
"Swamiji, who is a Thigambara?"
"God is usually called Thigambara. He has no clothing. The Akasa, the four directions, the five elements are his garments and nothing else. The term is used to denote Brahman who is always conceived as in a state of nakedness. Neither has Brahman any clothing nor there is any need for him to be in clothing. By clothing is meant bondage and limitations. Brahman is free of all that. That is what a true Yogi too is. And the highest state of Nirvana is freedom from "I am-ness" And "Mine-ness". It is called respectively Ahamkara and Mamakara. When one is free of these two bondages particularly, he is said to have attained the state of Nirvana, nakedness. Do you follow, Bharathi? '
Then Bharathi fell to thinking for a few seconds. And so there was absolutely no distinction between being in clothes and in clothelessness to one who is aspiring after non-duality which is the ultimate state of Godhood.
The wide open eyes of Bharathi would not shut. She looked like one that had understood. She stared at the Swamiji. Her eyes became filmy and moist. The idea of Nakedness had now an added appeal to Bharathi.
Jitendra continued: "The tree has nothing to look up to except the Heavens. Is it not? I too have nothing to look up to except the Heavens. The tree therefore struck me as my own self in another version. When I said, 'I fell in love', I meant I fell in love with my own self. Everyday a Sanyasin realizes that he is still an imperfect self and aspires for a more perfect self. From Imperfection he has to be all the time aspiring after Perfection. I, the Imperfect adore my own Perfect. That is the philosophy of a Sanyasin."
Bharathi felt as if all her clothes were slipping from her and vanishing out of sight.
"Bharathi, I told you I have woven a magic on and around the tree. You will see it now. Please move two steps on the right, Okay, now see the picture. Do you see anything other than the tree?"
"No, Swamiji, I don't see anything. I see only the tree'.
"All right, move a few more steps to the right. Do you see anything other the tree?"
"No, Swamiji, I see only the tree".
"I see, come and stand beside me, half close your eyes, and squint a little"
Bharathi was shocked, stunned, startled, and was thrown off herself. The tree was not there. There was, in its place, a saffron-robed Sanyasin seated on a deer-skin in deep meditation. It could easily be seen that it was the Swamiji, her Guru. It was weirdly terrifying. It was as if Infinity was sitting there clothed in Eternity. She just could not stand the sight. It was overwhelming. A fear seized her and she quivered. She wept.
"Now, Bharathi, please go a few steps farther from me. Turn a little to the left. What do you see now?"
"I now see only the tree, Swamiji".
"Only I wanted to establish in the picture that as a Sanyasin I am no different from the tree. And also in the sense of non-duality, I am not different from the tree. I have combined both the senses in the picture. The making of this picture, for me, is a sort of a Yoga. This is to realize through my Art the Yoga of Non-Duality, which is called "Nirvikalpa Samadhi", That is the state of being free from all Vikalpas, the distinctions and differences between things and beings, I have already explained it to you. In this picture you see that Truth. When you see me, you don't see the tree. And when you see the tree, you don't see me. It is when one practices this Yoga and achieves success in it, he becomes a Yogi. His self dissolves in to the Non-Self, the Cosmic Self. In this picture I am seated in the posture of Nirvikalpa Samadhi. It is this Non-Duality which is called in Hindu philosophy, Advaita. "
After this there was nothing else in her mind except the "Yoga of Non-Duality", That was, "Nirvikalpa Samadhi"