An Apology to my readers. The unrevised two comments on Krishna Katha got loaded by mistake. Their corrected versions are now placed in the public domain. Sorry for inconvenience.
IN SEARCH OF IDIOMS TO EXPRESS MYSELF: KRISHNA KATHA
(by Shiva Kant Jha)
Years rolled, but I carried the memory of what I felt I had seen in those moments which I try to portray in a few lines.
I got caught in the affairs of the world, to think and do things which Lewis Caroll would call, about the kings and cabbage. But off and on I could recall a little of the darshana that had left me amazed but exploring; but for what ? I knew not. Moments seemed figure themselves into days, weeks, months and years in the continuum about which I had no clear vision. But I realised that the pleasure of that memory was obsessive and over-gripping. This inner quest enriched me in ways without number, but I could not express anything about them in the manner we are accustomed to do in our worldly intercourse. I needed right idioms to express, I needed right metaphor to express, what passed in my mind. My reflections have enabled me to find in Krishna both ideas and idioms; I have found in Krishna Katha the right metaphors, or what T.S. Eliot calls an “objective correlative”, and he explains this concept with utmost precision in his The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism (1922):
‘The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an “objective correlative” ; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.’
I realised that only in poetry I could express what I had seen. I feel no better instance of the capacity of ‘poetry’ to explore the ‘wonder’ of the cosmic flux can be conceived than what we get in Krishna, and Krishna Katha. I felt our great rishis and poets had realised. Bohr realised this whilst trying to understand and express the inner word of an ‘atom’. It is amazing, and baffling, that moments come, points are reached, when the art of understanding has a common tryst: whether it is an atom or a galaxy; whether it is a piercing thorn or a rose petal caught in the curl of a damsel’s cheek, or the cosmic flux of waves and particles, or the be-all and end-all in the mouth of Krishna in his cosmic manifestation (vishwaroop) about which the Bhagavad-Gita says in its Chapter 11, that even Arjuna could not bear to see. After seeing the Lord of the Universe, Arjuna breaks into fine poetry with the imageries richer than those I ever read, and thought about (see shlokas 28-29 of the said Chapter. )
I was amazed when years later I read about Niels Bohr’s paper On the Constitution of Atoms and Molecules. J. Brownoski writes in his Ascent of Man (at p. 340) that Bhor said to Heisenberg, ‘When it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The Poet, too is not nearly so concerned with describing facts but creating images’. Brownoski aptly commented: ‘That is an unexpected thought: when it comes to atoms, language is not describing facts but creating images. But it is so. What lies below the visible world is always imaginary, in the literal sense: a play of images. There is no other way to talk about the invisible – in nature, in art, or in science.’ He found that ‘Niels Bohr had built a world inside the atom by going beyond the laws of physics as they had stood for two centuries after Newton.’ He developed his ideas within the frame of reference that the atomic physicist had found for his quest. He said:
‘When we step through the gateway of the atom we are in a world which our sense cannot experience. There is a new architecture there, a way that things are put together which we cannot know: we only try to picture it by analogy, a new act of imagination. The architectural images come from the concrete world of our senses, because that is the only world that words describe. But all our ways of picturing the invisible are metaphors, likenesses that we snatch form the larger world of eye and ear and touch.’
I have told you about T.S. Eliot and Niels Bhor because their ideas have helped me to understand a little of that I call ‘Krishna’. Do not laugh at me, my readers. I know what vexes you, or makes you laugh at me. I do not erect the barriers of time and space in my quest reflecting on the ideas and emotions which come to me. The cosmic grammar has no frontiers.
( at Indirapuram: Oct.6, 2013)