Monday, 3 February 2014

The Significance of Stains

Are you not ashamed of yourself? you should be!

As a young girl studying in a convent school, one was often chided with this idea and as with much else that one is exposed to as a child,  this kind of thinking becomes embedded in the subconscious and judging one-self based in this way affects the psyche till such point as it drags you down. When, as Kabir says, the fabric of our being becomes so marked that, the inner guidance, which I refer to as the poet, or inner voice, cannot kindle that passion for living because the garb or fabric of being,  is dampened with stains of shame.

गुरू बिचारा क्या करे सबद न लागे अंग ।

कहे कबीर मैली गजी कैसे जागे रंग ।।
                                                                             - Kabir

                    Guru bechaara kya kari sabad na laage ang

                        Kahe Kabir maili gajji kaise jaage rang

          If the poet's words don't  
          arouse your passion.
          She is not to blame.
          It's fire cannot be kindled
          if your garb is dampened
          with stains of shame. 

For years I have been working with the idea of stains. I have studied the stains or marks in my tea-cup which led me to explore the idea of stains in the mind - those things which mark us in our own perceptions is what I call stains. The stuff that does not make us feel good about ourselves, diminishing our self esteem and therefore extends to reflect those thoughts of guilt, embarrassment and pain and at some level also blame where there is anger and resentment for someone’s behaviour, which affects our sense of self.

I also found that textile-saint-poets Kabir, Namdev [Maharasthra] and Dariya Sahib of Bihar also referred to the stains or ‘daag’ in the mind which must be cleansed to find passion in life and the New Age philosopher Wayne Dyer also says that “Happiness is not something you get in life. Happiness is something that you bring to life.” This pretty much says the same thing to me, which implies that in order to feel happy and bring that happiness to life, one’s sense of self has to be uplifted, which infers that it has been diminished and in this sense, the significance of these ‘stains’ in reducing our sense of self becomes huge.

After years of photographing the marks in my tea cup or saucer, I wanted to study them, make them as I found them but this was a tall order. I don’t really like the finished effect of a drawing on paper, there is something about fabric that brings things to life for me in a way that paper and canvas cannot. And while I could have used soft pastels to get a good likeness of the marks that fascinated me, like I said, paper was not the medium I was inclined to work with, so this got shelved and then another year later, which is today, I suddenly came up with the idea of using some fabric on the saucer, beneath my tea-cup to let it absorb the marks that would otherwise mark the saucer. And this exercise was revealing.

First and foremost, it showed me that the stains came, in the first place, because I poured the tea into the cup rather carelessly. I used four layers of muslin cut in approximately four inch squares, loosely tacked together. And while the top fabric seemed to be faithful to the liquid tea as it dropped onto the saucer-covered-fabric, in the lower layers, this spread as if to say that unless you clean up the mess made with your carelessness, the stain gets bigger and bigger with age, with the various skins that one develops through life. Ultimately this blotch becomes unrecognizable and then also more difficult to resolve.

I am not sure how I am going to develop these marks but I am certainly not done with my exploration. Held up to the light, each layer reveals its own outline of the mark that is growing, like a feint outline. The photos I have taken do not do justice to what I can see with the naked eye and neither do I think that as the mark dries that it will remain as strong. So one thing that does come to mind is that I want to trace these lines with thread, to let them show through the fabric layers to bring out the point – a very significant point, I think, that if you don’t clean up the mess or deal with things as they crop up, then the stain gets larger and larger, impinging needlessly on your sense of self.

I know it is tedious to be so particular about putting things into perspective and sometimes I feel very hemmed in by a habit that I have formed in trying to do this.  Actually, I have to because otherwise I find blocks in the channels of connectivity to the source of energy that makes life sublime, effortless and magical. And while I can see there is a contradiction here because it does require effort to achieve this kind of connectivity, I have to confess, it’s better than feeling stressed and unable to figure out what is going on....or why something is occurring when it was not what your intent was to achieve.....etc.....etc.... I think you get my drift....

And as Dariya Sahib Saint of Bihar says:

                रे मन सुिमरि ले सतनाम के िफरि औसर टरी।
                काया कागज हाथ हरि जनि जासि अवघट मरी।।
                समुझि लीजे चरन सतगुर काटु जम के सरी।            
                निहकलंक तन निरबान पद भौ प्रेम बाती बरी।।
                ब्रह्म जागेव भर्म भागेव कर्म काटवे करी।           
                अमी सरवर पिवन लागा मिला निरमल जरी ।।
                तप्त तन के त्रिमिर छुटेव फूटि जम जुथ डरी।
                दरस से प्रतिपाल कीन्हो सकि्त पाएन परी।
                गुप्त मंतर जंतर कीन्हो ज्ञान गुंगा गरी।               
                त्रखा बुताने प्रेम रस बसि रहत गागरि भरी।।
                दनि के दुख तुरंत मेटेव कष्ट कागज फरी।
                कहें दरिया दाया सिर पर क्रपा करि जन तरि।।

                re mn sumire le satnaam ke phiri ausar tari
                kaaya kaagaz haath jani jaasi avghat mari           

                sumijhe leeje charn satguru kaatu jum ke sari
                nihaklank tan nirbaan pd bhau prem baati bari
               brahm jaagev bharam bhaagev karm kaatev kari
               ami  sarvar pivan laagaa milaa nirmal jari
               tapt tan ke trimir chutev phooti jum juth dari
               daras se pratipaal kinho sakit paayan pari
              gupt mantar jantar kinho gyaan gunga bhari
              trakhaa butane prem ras basi rahat gaagari bhari
              dani ke dukh turant metev kasht kaagaz phari
              kahe dariya daaya sir par kripa kari jan tari

                    Repeat, again and again. Endlessly
                    beckon the purifying spirit by name.
                    Lose not this opportunity of time in frame.

                    The fruition of desires; your mistakes
                    and choices are determined by thoughts
                    held in rein, beyond this conscious mind.

                   So call out by name, again and again
                   as you sift through the dust beneath
                   the feet of your experience and mine

                   for the compassion to heal
                   wounds of ignorance, inflicted upon
                   yourself and made another blind.

                   Only when, these marks left by pain,
                   have faded in the knowing light, will love
                   shine forth to share the secret of it to gain.

                   Chant silently, repeat again and again
                   beckon the purifying spirit by name
                   and awaken to the universe’s treasure

                  far greater than illusions that limit
                  the pleasures yet known to those
                  who hope to quench the thirst for love

                  through hearts that deny the divine.
                  Repeat again and again, beckon
                  the purifying spirit. In all humility,

                  urges this poet-saint,  battle
                  the dark stains of judgement.
                  Stand rooted in faith and it will

                 rip through your travails with
                 the drunken splendour of bliss.
                 A love so true, words cannot define.

creative interpretation of re mn sumire - gopika nath


History tells us that Dariya Sahib was a mystic; a saint who lived in the eighteenth century in Bihar. Some say he was Hindu while many refer to him as a Muslim tailor whose father was also a tailor. He opposed and strongly condemned idol worship and animal sacrifice which brought upon him the wrath of the orthodox Hindu community of his village. The local pundit categorized him as a highly dangerous man, whose devotional practice had made him insane. When upset about one of his disciple’s attempt to remove their goddess from the temple, hiding her and leaving her hungry for three months, the villagers threatened to sacrifice him to appease the Goddess. In response he said : Don’t be afraid of those who strive to prosecute.  Sing, every step of the way, that name of the eternal within. 


  1. Stains, wherever they appear, are a patch of colour that distinguishes themselves from the surroundings. They usually speak of issues that are unresolved, but as time goes by, they grow fainter, or maybe our memory of them blurs. Whatever be the context in which they appear, once the reason is no more, the stain too, leaves the body and the mind. Am I not right? The post brings thoughts that are washed by time, Gopika :)

  2. Dear Julia, If things have been dealt with maybe the issues don't bother us so much but I am not quite sure what your question means - if the context and reason is no more - is very ambiguous and it really all depends upon the way you feel about things and how aware you are of what it is that you feel. All I know is that if I were to put these fabric-saucers stained with tea into a cupboard [ as one often does with thoughts that are bothersome - we put them into some obscure cupboard of the mind] then chances are they would rot with time - mould would grow and eat into the fabric and then cleansing it would mean a lot of pain - the fabric could disintegrate almost entirely. If this were the fabric of the mind then it stands to reason that time does not necessarily serve us unless we are willing to deal with the experience that created the issues that mark or mar our sense of self.

    Our thoughts generate experiences that re-play similar kind of situations and experiences and I cannot image the context or reason can be no more unless considerable amount of work has been done to resolve the issue.

    perhaps if you clarify what you mean by context and reason is no more, I would understand better where you are coming from.

    Thanks for writing in, it made me think.....