( 1718 – 1778 )
Ramprasad Sen was a Bengali Hindu poet-saint who worshipped
the Divine in its female aspect, as Kali or the Mother Goddess. He was
an exemplar of “bhakti yoga”, charactersized by practice of direct and
intensely personal forms of relationship with the Divine Reality.
Ramprasad’s poetry expresses a passionate mysticism, filled
with intense longing and struggle. He addresses the Mother Goddess in all
of Her seemingly contradictory aspectsas loving mother and “the Dark
One’, as the Transcendental Reality and a disreputable trickster embodying
the forces of “maya” or illusion.
While Ramprasad’s relationship to the Divine Mother seems
at times petulant, irreverent, even blasphemous, such forms of address
and acknowledgment are occasionally employed in Indian devotional verse,
and do not contradict his bhakti orientation. Ramprasad translators Leonard
Nathan and Clinton Seely write:
[This] convention is a means of revealing the power in
that relation, once established, to transform every kind of emotionhostile
as well as loving into devotional passion through the act of total concentration
on the deity. [It also exhibits] what is essential in the relations between
devotee and deity.
For when Ramprasad accuses Kali of indifference, he is
also suggesting her total detachment from the world, the very quality that
he needs to achieve for release, just as when he acesses her of shameless
nakedness, intoxication, and madness, he is, in fact, cataloguing some
of her most potent attributes: the awesome presence of real being, without
the conventional covering of appearance; the joy of true freedom, and its
refusal to be contained in rational or moral categories…. The convention
of accusation and insult, in short, provides Ramprasad with an intensity
and depth of feeling to match the awesome crisis of salvation.
Grace and Mercy in Her Wild Hair:
Selected Poems to the Mother Goddess
Translated by Leonard Nathan and Clinton Seeley.
Boulder, Colo.: Great Eastern, 1982.
excerpt, poems 7 and 17:
Devoted to the Goddess :
The Life and Work of Ramprasad
(Suny Series in Hindu Studies)
University of New York Press
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